Daily devotions


Never give up - 4

Guest blogger: Sven Ljungholm. Meet Sven Ljungholm in a series of articles. Sven was leading an air company many years before he became a Salvation Army officer. He served in USA, Sweden and as one of the pioneers when the Salvation Army restarted its work in Eastern Europe.

Our Moscow offices were located in a building that was part of the immense Russian Kremlin complex. It was two doors from the impressive suite of offices that housed the Minister of Social Protection, Madame Ella Pomfilova. She was a regular un-announced drop-in to our office and twice brought a very special visitor, President Boris Yeltsin's wife, Naina. Our discussions centered on the social service needs of the Russian people, partnering with local educational institutions in the training of social service professionals, and establishing a daily feeding program to Moscow's 80,000 elderly, poor population.

The need for volunteers in Moscow was no different than what we experienced in St. Petersburg (the city of Leningrad's name had changed during the course of the preceding 12 months).

Among the many students, government employees and professional social workers who came to our aid was Igor. Igor was a man in his late 30s, one of our first recruits and sworn in as a soldier by General Eva Burrows. He walked with the aid of crutches, wore large, thick-lens spectacles, and often appeared to be teetering, off balance, perhaps due to his rather large head and upper torso. He had though a gentle and endearing manner; he seemed particularly well suited to act as our uniformed volunteer receptionist and telephone operator. His appointment to that position ensured that he would not be required to move about the offices too much, and afforded him a necessary and respected role.

There was constant traffic in and out of our offices. Visitors included government officials from many nations; Ambassadors, a delegation from the Vatican, and countless NGOs, all seeking information on how best to aid in the distribution of medical equipment, medicine, food and other urgently needed supplies. The country was bankrupt and without even the most basic social services structure.

Igor worked feverishly to answer the telephone and to coordinate the visit of the many who came to us for information. We had become the unofficial representative of the Russian government in disseminating, coordinating, and establishing the necessary roles of many foreign NGOs. However, there was also a personal area of very real concern... Igor. His daunting and ever increasing responsibilities seemed to wear on him. When there was a lull in telephone calls or slowing of traffic entering the offices’ double-doors, Igor would place his large head on the desk and simply doze off. Whenever necessary, a gentle prod brought Igor back to reality, and for the next few minutes he was again wide-awake and active. As the weeks and month wore on, it became clear however, that Igor's strength was waning. But who could possible deny a man of such gracious spirit and dedication his appointed role?

It was spring, 1993, and Igor was at his desk, putting his head on the desk between telephone calls. This day though was different. The telephone rang, and visitors came calling, but by late morning Igor wasn't responsive. No degree of trying to rouse Igor brought any sign of life. The local medical team, with a clinic in our building, was called and subsequent to examining Igor announced to a stunned group of his colleagues that he was dead. We later learned that Igor was well aware that his time in this world was limited, and even more so if he took on any strenuous activities. Igor had been warned that the simple act of leaving his apartment might be too strenuous and deemed a health risk.
 Although no one ever alerted us to his delicate medical conditions there were many days when I thought seriously of asking Igor to resign his role as the unpaid, official "office coordinator". The daily demands on Igor seemed to be taking its toll on him. Thinking back I now know why I didn't do so. His appointment to that highly visible position wasn't really made by me, it had been made by a much higher authority.

Igor worked in one of the nation's most respected, historical and honored buildings, not at the direction of his government or me; he was appointed by the King! Igor worked and died in Royal service and now wears the Crown of Life.


Never give up! - 3

Guest blogger: Sven Ljungholm. Meet Sven Ljungholm in a series of articles. Sven was leading an air company many years before he became a Salvation Army officer. He served in USA, Sweden and as one of the pioneers when the Salvation Army restarted its work in Eastern Europe.

To my mind one of the saddest portions of the New Testament is the 4th chapter of 2 Timothy. In re-reading it this last week Paul’s very last words ever written leaves us asking, did Timothy make an effort to “come before winter” and see his mentor? Did he risk traveling on the autumn seas to one last time see Paul before he was led outside the gates of Rome and beheaded as the sun rose over the Roman hillside? We don’t know the answer, however, it’s a challenge we’ve all faced, and it's repeated again each year. In our case it’s the personal investments we are asked to make as we sow seeds each autumn in accordance with what the Lord requests of us. For us it’s the resource of time and talent to be planted for eventual harvesting some months later; the type of investment made by others that brought and kept you and me in the fold. Perhaps young Timothy said to himself, ‘Paul should know that I have my hands full… how can he assume I can drop it all and run errands for him?! I’m already busy tending to the many requests and expectations he’s placed on me!” Do you remember the unfulfilled promises made last autumn or the year before? I'm certain we all can...

Aren’t we all very much the same? How can my corps officer, Pastor or church leader possibly expect more from me? I’m carrying a full load and doing more than most!

Some things must be done “before winter” or they will not and cannot be done at all. There are doors of witness and ministry that open before us, individually and as a Christian body, and if we do not act on them, will be forever shut by springtime. Sometimes we must respond and act now. As this new worship season of service begins, in what area of your life is God calling you and me to act…to come before winter?

The story is told of the famous conductor George Solti rehearsing the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the 1812 Overture. He was asking repeatedly, as they rehearsed the Finale, to ‘play it as loud as you can!’ But it wasn’t enough and he asked again, ‘play it as loud as you can – please, play it as loud as you can!’ When they finally reached the top of an incredibly loud crescendo he said, ‘now play it louder still!!’

Never give up!

Yes, I know- I’ve been there often in life and have said in my mind, please don’t add any more to my plate, only to reevaluate both the need and the resources and in the process recalling that great truth that we have His eternal presence.

Thomas Merton said: “A true encounter with Christ liberates something in us. A power we did not know we had, a hope, a capacity for life; a resilience, an ability to bounce back when we thought we were completely defeated, a capacity to grow and change, a power of creative transformation.”

Do you recall that holy moment when you were sworn in as a SA soldier? Chances are that the scripture read was the end of Paul’s masterful and edifying letter to the Ephesians where he concludes with this most important exhortation: "Finally, be strong in the Lord and his mighty power." It is this instruction that precedes his famous words about the whole armour of God.

The SA used to be immersed in the language of warfare. We can garner much by studying and learning from our roots; to fit ourselves for battle! Paul told the Ephesians that, as believers in Christ, they were engage d in a cosmic battle. "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”. The battle can’t be put on hold…

For the clock of life is wound but once.
And no one has the power,
To tell just when the hand will stop,
At late or early hour.
Now is the time we have.
Live, love, toil, work with a will,
Do not wait for tomorrow,
For the clock may then be still.

Pray, asking for His eternal presence to guide you as you deliberate where you will give more time and support this season…

Galatians 6:9 (NIV) 9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Never give up, and for the sake of our gospel, come before winter!
Sven Ljungholm

Read also:
Never give up!
Never give up! - 2


Reflections on spiritual life - 2

Guest blogger: Harry Brocksieck
Harry and Barbara Brosckieck are retired Salvation Army officers from the Central Territory in the USA. They have also served at the Eastern European Training College in Finland.

Reflections of an old codger on developing the spiritual life.

6. Living in the present:
Present : noun - the here and now - the current time or moment

The NCCA is looking for its champions in basketball (go Michigan State and for the women anyone but UCon). I am blessed that Barbara enjoys sports as much as I do so we have watched many basketball games .The commentators have observed the following a number of times:
· "The coach is telling him to forget what just happened and get into the game.’" Or
· "He has to forget what just happened and get on with playing the game."
These comments are said after:
1) A player has just missed his 3 rd three point shot but he is a good 3 point shooter and the team needs him to keep shooting 3 pointers. OR
2) A player has made a terrific play and is still focusing on his wonderful achievement when the play is now at the other end of the court and he needs to get on the defense.
Both need to play the game now - not even the game that was 10 seconds ago!
Get into it! Be in the present!!

"Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead...." Philippians 3:13

Colonel Pepper, one Saturday morning, asked Barbara the question, "Barbara, do you take this man to be your lawful wedded husband... for better, for worse?" (Barbara did not realize how bad the ‘worse’ could be.) Over these 44 years hurts gathered and piled up would make a barrier too high for us to climb over and too thick to burrow through but living in the moment with its possibilities, opportunities and rewards makes the ‘now’ rich and full and the ‘better’ he promised her.

Soon after we retired we had officer friends visiting when they received a call from an officer relative. Our friend said, "We are visiting the Brocksiecks, they live in the beautiful Rocky Mountains." I could hear the response from the phone, "Tell him to enjoy the mountains, it is the closest he is going to get to heaven." He was obviously less impressed by where he had been appointed.

We have a wonderful alcove of Aspens in our back yard. I made a sandbox for Devyn and Dylan, our grandchildren, there. I have started building a swing Barbara wants in this lovely setting. I was talking with my friend Dallas about building projects. I said to him, "I get about 2/3 finished with a project and I don’t want to complete it. It is a real chore to finish the projects I start." As I contemplated this it dawned on me why this was so, so I said to him, "I think I don’t want to complete projects because I don’t want to be embarrassed by the results." Wisely Dallas suggested that this probably comes from my father when I was growing up. "Your dad would look at things you had done and he would want to encourage you to do the best possible - no doubt thinking that someday you would be on the job and your boss would expect high quality work " so your dad is encouraging you to do better work. However, the way you received it was, "your work is not very good, thus you don’t want to finish these projects because you don’t want to be criticized." So as I work on these projects I am still affected by the ‘encouragement’ of 50 years ago. I wonder what Steve and Kevin have to overcome as a result of my parenting.

I am teaching Recruit’s classes at our corps. When we got to the doctrines on sin and salvation it is wonderful to be able to share after discussing the terrible results of sin in our lives the wonderful solution God gave us in Christ. However, the question comes up several times, "God forgives but how do I forget?" My answer is that the Holy Spirit often brings to our minds the sins we have committed until we learn the lesson He wants us to learn as a result of that sin. When we have learned the correct lesson the Spirit will help us remember the lesson and not the sin. So if you continue to be reminded of your sin ask the Spirit what lesson He wants you to learn. Learn it, apply it, and practice it until both you and the Spirit rejoice at the applied lesson that has helped you grow. Sins forgiven but remembered are devastating until they are transformed by the Spirit into lessons that help us grow.

One of the dangers of reflecting is to dwell on the past - some memory banks dwell mostly on the negative. Others may dwell on successes but I expect that is usually somewhat distorted.
You may see my accomplishments as a father, husband, friend, CO, DYS, DS, CC, TP, S/P, differently than I so I won’t give you the very long list of wonderful things I did. But to equally remember them and focus on them will also lead to some exaggerated implications.

In reality I have not had a problem of living in the past. I have not been caught up in reviewing and reliving events of the past - good or bad (at least not yet). My problem is living in the future. I used to revel in the magazine ‘the Futurist’ I wanted to be the first SA officer in space. I wanted to use technology to get us into the future. I lay awake thinking about want I was going to do, what projects to undertake, how to do them, the reactions of those who would benefit from the future. I still have to work hard at living in the present.

I did not make any New Year’s resolutions this year. An article in the War Cry by Whitney Hopler caught my attention. The by-line is :' God is always up to something new - and He wants you to join Him.’ She lists the following :
· Avoid nostalgia
· Don’t linger in any place God is calling you to leave
· Practice centering prayer to direct your attention toward God in the present moment
· Don’t limit God. Nothing is impossible with Him.
· Be willing to take risks.

Her thoughts help me to focus on living in the present. Each moment is full of opportunity. God wants to do a new thing and it is in this moment. My relationships are much more exciting when I live in the moment. By taking advantage of the new opportunities with friends as we share this moment together - not the past or the future but the present.

Living in the present: Living , plural noun - quality of life, emphasizing how real, intense or thorough the moment is

Reflections on spiritual life - 1

Guest blogger: Harry Brocksieck
Harry and Barbara Brosckieck are retired Salvation Army officers from the Central Territory in the USA. They have also served at the Eastern European Training College in Finland.

Drama of God: Drama - a real life event or situation that is particularly exciting or emotionally involving.
Daily at 5 PM the hermit celebrates the Eucharist. As we talked about this - he knowing that we do not celebrate the Eucharist as he does - I asked, "What does this do for you? If you had to put it in other words how would you describe this event for you?" His response was, "It gives me a daily dose of the full salvation story - repentance, acceptance by God, holiness, being in God. It is God in the whole for me and for the whole world. It is the drama of God!

A. When preaching every Sunday this was easier to experience - Wednesdays from 6 - noon was spent preparing next Sunday’s sermon. The text chosen was part of that drama with the challenge to help people see how it fit into the whole and into their lives. The challenge of presenting the drama of God to the congregation was a great burden that was both refreshing and fulfilling.

B. It has been a joy to present the drama of God to the Recruits class this spring.

C. Sunday morning worship in our corps can explore the drama of God:
· Our corps music director is a gifted musician - school music teacher, professional pianist and becoming in his godly character. The music group of 8-10 he leads as part of the worship often reaches this great idea of God through the words of God, salvation and the Kingdom. Some of the ‘praise and worship’ choruses talk of the transcendence of God - God is big, powerful, but out there. We don’t often get the whole drama of God - the personal opportunity to share in His majesty and holiness. The song 'The long black train’ was a bit of a stretch but the drama was there and they enjoyed singing it. We get a better dose of the drama of God, I think, when he uses the music he has written or the songs from the songbook.
· The person who introduces the songs during worship sometimes grasps the drama of God in a few words.
· The corps officer opens the Scripture and presents at least part of that drama. We sometimes have an altar call and in those moments of silence or movement we usher in the greatest drama as God comes to a person. That coming infuses the whole congregation.
· Our Sergeant Major is a wonderful godly man who often summerises the drama of God by his closing remarks.

D. Barbara and I have our devotions separately first in the morning. Then we have breakfast and this year for our shared devotions we are using the SA songbook. We purchased the CDs of the Chicago Staff Band and the Norridge Citadel Band so we have accompaniment. The words of the songs in the SA Songbook give us a rich picture of the great drama of God.
A mighty fortress is our God.
A bulwark never failing;
Our helper he, amid the flood,
Of mortal ills prevailing
For still our ancient foe…
Jesus came down my ransom to be; O it was wonderful love!
Clear to faith’s vision the cross reveals beautiful actions of love;
And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me who caused his pain… (John 19:28-9)
Emptied himself of all but love (Philippians 2:7)
My chains fell off, my heart was free (Acts 12:7)
Alive in him, my living head (Romans 6:11)
Bold I approach the eternal throne and claim the cross, through Christ, my own. (Hebrews 4:16)
Years ago my friend Wally shared his research with me connecting the phrases in the songs to Scripture (note above) .

E. Prayer at meals always starts with Steve, Kevin, Kristin, Devyn and Dylan then others that are on our minds and hearts. As we think of each one we don’t know which part of the drama of God they need today - prevenient grace, saving faith, repentance, forgiveness of sins, justification, reconciliation, adoption, growth in Christ, restoration from backsliding, holiness of life, freedom from original sin, healing, blessings from God. However, God knows and we trust Him to apply our prayers to your lives.

Drama of God? Exciting, tense, and gripping events and actions in a real-life situation.

Blessings Harry

Other blogpost from Harry Brocksieck
Reflections of an old Codger
Reflections on Creativity
Reflections on physical exercise


The most important minutes in a Christian´s life

I believe that the most important minutes you spend as a Christian, are the minutes you set apart to be together with the Lord: "But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you" (Mt 6:6 NIV).

Why do we so often forget to find time for the quite time with Jesus, while we find time for so many other things? Perhaps because it is so easy to transform the living meeting with God to a have-to-do-activity like brushing your teeth.

This article by Pam Farrel from Discipleship Journal wants to help us to revive our quite time with God.
"20 Ways To Wake Up Your Quiet Time
Behind closed doors, many of us yawn through our quiet times. Somehow, our routine time with god slowly and quietly degenerates into a boring, predictable rut. As spiritual cataracts grow over our sleepy eyes, we may grow disinterested and frustrated. Such seasons demand a fresh view of the creator. Like any good relationship, quiet times with god need a little variety. Instead of rolling over and hitting the snooze button, try one of these ideas for your next quiet time."

Read more>>


Never give up! - 2

Guest blogger: Sven Ljungholm. Meet Sven Ljungholm in a series of articles. Sven was leading an air company many years before he became a Salvation Army officer. He served in USA, Sweden and as one of the pioneers when the Salvation Army restarted its work in Eastern Europe.

I just took a short break during grading student’s final essays to watch interviews with winners and, well there are no losers in the ‘special Olympics´. What struck me is their universal determination to complete their mission; press on to finish the race. As I listened I was struck time and again by the words, "complete", "finish", and "victory".

My mind went to a competition in which I had great interest, the annual New York City Marathon, one held back in the 1970s to be exact.

Finnair was the official sponsor, and I was the airline’s Regional Manager USA. The organizers of the marathon and I met many times over a period of two years, to coordinate all the details of the event. The final number of runners exceeded 20,000, and there were many highlights that these many years later live in my memory.

The Finish line (spelled Finnish for that particular race due Finland’s national airline being the major sponsor) was in Central Park. Thousands of New Yorkers lined the 26-mile marathon route cheering the runners,

With a good number of them crowding the sidewalk along Central Park West, about 25 miles into the race, which borders the park. Thousands more were waiting inside the park itself. As you can imagine, there was great excitement among the throng of people as the first runner made his entry into the park nearing the finish line. The roar was deafening, camera shutters clicked, TV crews jostled for a better angle, and the Mayor of New York was escorted to the dais ready to crown the victor.

As the winner neared the tape I could read the number pinned to the front of his shirt, and I quickly scanned the program to see who he might be; others did the same. Then there was an audible gasp; the winner was a total “unknown”… He broke the tape, slowed, and made his way to the dais, and there, in front of thousands watching live, and millions by TV, the Mayor placed the victor’s crown on his head. The victor was ecstatic as the crowd roared its praise for this hitherto unknown marathoner. Soon other runners crossed the line, but the roar of the crowd was now less frantic....

It was less than 5 minutes later that a buzz stirred in the official’s tent. There was something amiss. Then the loud speakers announcement came; “THE WINNER IS DISQUALIFIED! HE DIDN’T PASS ALL THE CHECK-POINTS”! All along the marathon route were stationed check-points, and there the marathon officials were placed to monitor and make certain that each and every runner had completed each stage of the race. Well, it turns out the "winner", shortly after beginning the race had dropped out, donned a trench coat handed to him by a friend, went to the nearest subway station and boarded the uptown train and stepped off near Central Park. There he waited until the advance runners were in sight, discarded the trench coat, and then set off running again, and came in “first”.

It was in the evening, some 12 years later and my wife and I were now serving as Salvation Army officers in mid-town Manhattan that I went out for ice cream with my children on 2nd avenue. The children were aged 10, 12, 14, and 16. Our corps, which is also where we lived, had served as an unofficial rest station for Salvationists and others as the building was approximately half way through the course. As we exited the candy shop we saw some distance away, a legless man, with some sort of rubber devices strapped to his knuckles, slowly and painstakingly making his way north on the side walk, on the stubs that were his "legs". That in itself was rather strange, but more so was the fact that he was wearing an official NY Marathon contestant’s number on his sweatshirt.

As he was about to pass us I asked the man if I could speak with him for just a moment, introducing myself as a former chief spokesperson for the official sponsor of the NY Marathon. We chatted for a few moments and I learned that he had flown in from California to compete. I then asked him rather sheepishly, how far did you manage to “run”? I assumed he had made it several hundred yards at least. Without hesitation he replied, “Well, I’m still running, and I figure I’ll cross the line tomorrow afternoon sometime, assuming we don’t chat for too long”! We both laughed and off he went…

Immediately on my return to the quarters I contacted the local and national media to alert them to a story that I believed everyone would want to follow. It didn’t take them long. When the 10:00 pm news was broadcast a few hours later, every station in New York led with the story; cameramen had located him some blocks up the street from where I spoke with him. And the next day, three days after the "winner" crossed the line, another winner did the same, this time a true winner! And again, the media and the Mayor were present.

While some seek to take a short cut in life, others, those stronger, with resolve, honesty, discipline, and delayed gratification push on. And this late arriving hero was the perfect example

All will know the name Dag Hammarskjold, a Swede, and who was the UN Secretary-General. He died in a plane crash in Africa in 1961. I will leave you with two of his quotes. They are from his book, Markings, a copy of which my father gave me some years ago. I often turn to it for inspiration...

"Never look down to test the ground before taking your next step; only he who keeps his eye fixed on the far horizon will find the right road", and, "The only kind of dignity which is genuine is that which is not diminished by the indifference of others."

In a search for ultimate values, one high on the list must be a respect for the dignity of all mankind. As Christians we have established checkpoints and among them are constant reassessments of our values. They are what set us apart from the world, raise our awareness of responsibilities, and move us ever closer to the goal; the victor's crown! John H W Stott shared in a conferencce I attended 'that the greatest indictment that can be levied against the church (the Army) is that we are no different than the world.' The world needs to see a difference. Commissioner Christine McMillan, director of the recently established SA Social Justice Commission, now headquartered in the Corps building I refer to above, said in an interview in this week's Salvationist that we can effect a difference in the world by living our values, 'It's learning to have a different lifestyle ... It's now looking out into the world and living not only from a point of moral righteousness but also looking at the world from a moral deficit'. It's running the race not only with the purpose of winning the race, but completing it and making a difference by maintaining integrity throughout; no shortcuts, no pushing others aside, no moving the finishing line.

"...in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:37-39


Never give up!

Guest blogger: Sven Ljungholm. Meet Sven Ljungholm in a series of articles. Sven worked was leading an air company many years before he became a Salvation Army officer. He served in USA, Sweden and as one of the pioneers when the Salvation Army restarted its work in Eastern Europe.

Since my stroke, now a year ago, I have reread some of my favourite sermons, all by others I hasten to add. One shared, ' I recognize the stark truth that our lives are divided into yesterdays, todays, and tomorrows'. Prior to the stroke it was often the unfulfilled promises of my yesterdays and worries over the daunting realization that tomorrows were ever fewer, and consequently, was robbing me of living my potential to the fullest. So what’s left? Today!

Another sermon reminded me that it's a matter of how to make each day a creative beginning; explore God’s promise that we can receive a new mind and strength every morning. These were necessary reminders.

Just a few days subsequent to my stroke a visitor to my hospital bed prayed these words, ‘Sven I pray for your physical recovery and may the year ahead be the best of your life!” A year(?), when what I really felt was best for me was often; “take me home”. The best (?) , when hospital staff were overheard whispering, “he was lucky to make it, but he’ll never walk again”! Well, with God's help, and the assistance of a group from Exeter Temple Corps, and family back home I was determined to prove them wrong, and let the actions and activities that followed be a witness to His daily promises and provisions.

Since then, in the four months of my forced immobility, I have shared in driving almost 3,000 miles, flown across the Atlantic twice with another two crossings in a few weeks, and boarded/flown 11 flight sectors ranging in distance from a few hundred miles to several thousand. And last week completed teaching 14 various nine week classes in international marketing and concurrently. Business ethics classes. And in 4 weeks I plan to drive across much of Europe. Yes, I still have a wheelchair but it's been in the boot of the car since my arrival here 3 weeks ago, and used only twice!

I share the above not as some example of uniqe strength, but rather resolve found deep within and buoyed by the strength of the Lord. In fact it pales when I compare my stats with others of and beyond my age. Did you know that of the 38,000 competitors that completed the grueling 26 mile NY Marathon last year, hundreds of men and women were aged from 65 to 80?! Granted, not all were stroke sufferers but there were no doubt many who ran simply to prove that they had overcome the odds.

My father wrote a songster piece some years ago and the words of the chorus are;

Major Sven Ljungholm (Musical Salvationist)

The Apostle Paul put it this way in Philippians, chapter 3:13-14; "Brethren,I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Paul knew that glorying in success and thinking 'well, when I was young...it was this way for me, or when I was back in the earlier days, I did this and this and this.' Paul could have done that for he was quite a success; a noted scholar with a degree from the University of Tarsus, a famous orator, member of the Sanhedrin, and colleague of the famous Gamaliel, and a member of the freedmen's Temple; a freed slave! Nor did he get hung up on defeats and past hurts... we can assume from his station in life and as a Rabbi he would have been married and have had at least one child. One ought not argue from silence, but we can assume that both had been lost through some sad circumstance. Yet he kept pressing on each day toward living it with the desire to become more like Christ seeking new victories to find.


Cultural Relativism or Absolute Truth

Guest Blogger: Randy Savage, Professor. Malone University. Former Salvation Army Officer, USA East.

There is a significant, and to many, a troubling, increase within Judeo/Christian movements to accept cultural relativism and reject absolute truth. Arguments are made in favor of a more liberal understanding of absolute truth leading toward relative truth. The infallibility of Scripture standing as the authoritative Word of God is being minimized in favor of political correctness, personal preferences, and acceptance of culturally driven activities and lifestyles. The evolution of requiring more tolerance toward alternative lifestyles and utilitarian ethics challenges the basic fundamental principles of God’s will.

Scripture clearly outlines God’s plan for every human being as demonstrated in the early fellowship experience of Adam and Eve. Imagine God coming down in the cool of the evening to walk with us in the Garden. As sin is introduced in the Garden of Eden, the world is led from the perfect will of God into a desperately warped and skewed view of truth, right, and justice.

Despite the influence sin has on the whole of human existence, the basic fundamentals of absolute truth, authority of Scripture, and supremacy of God is still valid today even though many refuse to accept that premise. Sin is sin irrespective of our religious world view, the same as God is God even though many reject Him. God is holy, yet to our finite minds this is but a micro-spec of understanding in light of an infinite God.

Certain natural laws exist based on God’s design. Plants grow when watered. Leaves fall in the change of seasons, and new buds and leaves come in the spring. One particular natural law established by God is that man and woman were created by God for the purpose of procreation. The issue of same sex marriage, sexual intercourse between people of the same sex, and other deviant sexual activities are diametrically opposed to God’s plan. This issue is a clear example of the affects of sin in the world.

Be careful that you do not read hate or intolerance into this. This is purely fact as described by God and outlined in Scripture. Where deviation from this truth comes is in our disagreement of the infallibility and authority of Scripture. Scripture demonstrates through historical evidence and prophesy that many will depart from the fundamental truth of God’s plan. The Apostle Paul addressed this issue in his second letter to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:1-9;

1 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. 6 They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, 7 always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these men oppose the truth—men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. 9 But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone.

Truth is often difficult to hear and more difficult to accept. The truth provided by God does not shackle or imprison us, it provides freedom. Sin shackles, and the truth of God in Jesus Christ provides freedom from captivity. Perhaps organized religion has contributed much of the misunderstanding and controversy surrounding the sin issue by creating rules and regulations in an attempt to provide specific direction out of a life of sin. In some respects, contemporary Christianity evolved into a religious sect closely resembling the Pharisees and Sadducees Christ encountered during His earthly ministry. This may have led to much of the current confusion and difference of opinion that exists within the wide spectrum of Christianity. The true definition of Christianity is following Christ and him alone.Irrespective of our personal views on controversial issues, God is in control. He never changes. He does not concede His holiness because people choose to compromise the truth. One day we all will stand before Him in judgment. Our lives will be judged according to the perfect plan of creation. 2 Timothy 4:1 says, “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom…” (NIV). 2 Corinthians 5:10 says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (NIV).

(The article published at fsaof.blogspot.com )


Reflections on physical exercise

Guest blogger: Harry Brocksieck
Harry and Barbara Brosckieck are retired Salvation Army officers from the Central Territory in the USA. They have also served at the Eastern European Training College in Finland.

Physical exercise: noun – activity and movement, especially when intended to keep a person healthy.

How do you make life decisions?
My step-dad helped me choose a life style. From the time I was 4 to about 14 my family spent every Friday and/or Saturday night in a local bar. My step-dad sat on a bar stool, drank, smoked and conversed with anyone who would talk to him. My mother took us along to protect the family income; we sat at a table and entertained ourselves. One source of entertainment was to watch people change over the course of the evening. Some men became much more animated as the evening wore on - unfortunately it was before the TV program - ‘America’s Funniest Home Videos.’ Attractive women would come in and sit as far from the typical scumbags that infest many bars. After about an hour the scumbags would go to the bathroom and seem to forget where they had been sitting and took a seat next to the attractive women. Somehow the alcohol made the scumbags more interesting Sometimes they got so interested in each other my mother had to distract us and they often they left together. After about an hour of drinking my step-dad would buy us a candy bar. Our mother would cut it into 4 equal pieces, five if she wanted a piece or a coke with 4 straws, maybe 5. As I got older I compared two life styles 1) the people at the corps who were very similar to the bar people educationally and in economic status who, during testimony time, tried to remember their week and how God had blessed them and used problems as stepping stones to 2) these who sat in a bar trying to forget their week and problems.

Major Herb Fuqua (senior) taught me that crime had an up side. Our Corps Cadet training program sent us with the soldiers who regularly visited the county jail. One of the guys shared that being in jail wasn’t so bad - 3 square meals a day and you don’t have to lift a finger. However, I became very sensitive to doors closing - leaving the corps building the door shut gently with a soft closing sound but when the door of the jail shut it was a decisive bang and when the locking mechanism made the door closing secure I knew I would rather work for my 3 square meals.

I learned I was "handsome and sexy in my uniform" when I was 14 years old. It was a Friday night on Front Street in Quincy. Ten or so bandsmen, corps cadets and soldiers were in front of one of the more sinful bars on the street. The routine was Major Fuqua took one corps cadet into the bar with him and he started singing with his guitar - he never had to ask if we could do this, we were live entertainment - then the chosen one would give his/her testimony. Major continued to sing while the chosen one would pass out War Crys and take a collection. It was my turn to go with Major into the bar. After I had given my testimony I started from my left contacting each customer. In the center of the bar was a more lighted place and there she sat on what must have been a solid steel barstool. She had a fire engine red satin dress that covered most of her 400 or so pounds. The only things almost totally exposed were her ample breasts. As I got closer she said so everyone could hear, "Honey, you are so handsome and sexy in your uniform, come give me a kiss." Her lips also were fire engine red and the biggest lips I have ever seen. The lesson - consider the source.

Beauty is more than skin deep. As the DS for Chicago my job was to fly to Kansas City, rent a truck and drive a load of supplies given to the SA for use in the corps and institutions. I made arrangements to pick up the truck and caught a plane to KC. The plane was delayed but when the taxi stopped at the truck company the gates were still open and a light was on in the office so I paid the driver and he left. I shivered as I crossed the lot only to find that it was only a night light. I had to find a phone (this was bc - before cells) to call the guy to get the truck. I found myself on a very cold night in a warehouse district with the only thing open was a bar. I opened the door into a dark and very warm place. I told the bartender my plight and was pointed to the phone. The dispatcher said he was at a birthday party but would arrive in about 2 hours. I asked the bartender if I could wait for the man to arrive. He said I could if I bought a drink. So I took my Sprite and sat at a table away from the bar. About 20 minutes into my wait a spotlight came on and a 31 ½ year old woman stepped onto a small stage and proceeded to gyrate in a variety of ways. Unlike the woman in red this one had about 5 maybe 4 inches of cloth covering her. I watched for a few minutes and went back to my book. After her performance she worked the bar and finally came and sat down at my table. She was pretty with pretty brown eyes. I told her who I was and why I was there. She proceeded to tell me her story. She wanted to be a professional dancer - ballet, etc. Introduced to her 25 year old husband-to-be while a sophomore in high school she became pregnant as a junior and soon a second child. She and her husband’s entertainment was to go to a different bar every weekend for the 9 years of their marriage. At one bar a 19 year-old flashy sexy woman took a liking to her husband. They left together and were gone for a week. When they came back there was not room for two women in the same house - she moved to her mother’s, who was watching the kids that evening. Beyond the brown in her eyes was sadness for a lost life, a lost profession but a deep love for her children and an honest desire to be valuable in the world and a hope that had not died. I promised her that God had a wonderful plan for her life and her children if she would seek him. In a future beyond time, I hope to see her fully clothed in white dancing for the Lord. Lesson - always look for opportunities.

Communion, real communion, often comes as a surprise. The Moscow train stopped at St. Petersburg where an elderly gentleman about my age joined me in my coupe. He had a small paper bag for luggage and a 2 litter coke bottle filled with half milk and half coffee. My limited Russian got several facts from him – two grandchildren in St. Petersburg, retired, a space scientist who helped put the Soviet Soyuz system in space. Here we were a Russian and an American, former enemies, talking with each other. Barbara always gave me 4 chocolate chip cookies for my trips to Moscow - two to be eaten going and two for the return trip. It was time to go to bed; I brought out my 4 cookies. I offered to share 2 with him. He offered to share with me his cold coffee - we had communion together. Another trip, this time from Moscow to Helsinki, I found myself with a young Russian woman and her 5 year old daughter returning to her Finnish husband after a visit with grandparents in Moscow. Fortunately English was the language common in the family. It was going to be awkward for me to sleep all night in the coupe with just this woman and her daughter, however, the surprised steward said the train was full and he did not see my problem. So we got to know each other. I got to teach the little girl how to play tic-tac-toe and connect the dots, we played with her toys and we had a good time. The next day at noon as the train pulled into the Helsinki station the little girl handed me her 3’ long stuffed snake. I took it, she said I should put it around my neck, which
I did, she took both ends of the snake and pulled me to her and kissed me on the cheek.

The CSM said to the 5 teenage boys whom he was trying to teach something about being a soldier along with 5 or 6 adults."If you don’t hear anything else I have said in these 10 weeks of classes, hear this. ‘Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you!’ Matt 6:33" I wondered if he knew what he was talking about but I decided to trust him.

This reflection is about physical exercise.

My first jog in the morning was the result of frustration and possibly anger. As I ran my mood was lightened, the frustration gave way, my anger dissipated and when I returned for breakfast I was in a much better frame of mind. So I jogged the next morning too. It had such a good effect on me that I continued, incorporated time for intercessory prayer, and regular conversions with God.

Over the years as I jogged, now walk, this physical exercise has only followed conversing with God and study of the Bible as the best way for me to resolve issues and grow spiritually. So it is now a steady part of my spiritual growth.

One more story - the government was trying to get us to wear seat belts. I naturally resisted until I heard a state trooper say, "I have never unbuckled a dead person wearing a seat belt." That was the final push I needed to start wearing seat belts.

We all know that we need to do some type of physical exercise.

My prayer is that you will begin or continue to improve your spiritual life!

Physical exercise: transitive verb – to undertake physical exercise in order to keep fit and healthy!


Prayer room

Visit our prayer-room (bönekammaren) here>>. In the prayer-room you can post your prayer request (even if most prayer requests are in Swedish), pray and listen to devotional music.


A manifestation of Jesus in Stockholm

18.000 people from all Christian denominations gathered in Stockholm Saturday for a manifestation of Jesus. Open air meetings were held in all parts of Stockholm and after that all participants gathered for a march from the different open airs to a central park in Stockholm where the finale manifestation-meeting was held. (Photo by Stefan Baronowsky)