Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Salvation Army: Stop Holding On!


There's a stirring of God's spirit upon The Salvation Army in these days. There's rumblings of change and a Godly, holy discontent rising up among many, who want the best of all God wants for this movement. 

Though, there's a warning in all this. We need to stop holding on. Let me write that again: We need to stop holding on. Let me explain:

This Easter I gave the microphone to a 28-year old young man to preach about Jesus on Good Friday. He spoke eloquently about the death of Jesus, the freedom that is found in his name. He spoke of the thief on the cross (Luke 23:39-43), and that because of his response to Christ, today he would be in paradise with the Lord. 

On Easter Sunday, my oldest daughter, who is 15 years old, joined Major Jo Brookshaw on the stage and helped paint an incredible painting of freedom found in Jesus. She was bubbling inside, because of the thought of being used by God in ministry, to impact many lives.

Now, I know what some of you are thinking: "Okay, what's your point?"

My point is, that as a leader, I made a conscious choice to not hold on. To give the next generation a go. To pass on the baton and have someone younger step up and use their gifts for Jesus. 

We need to raise up the next generation. We need to empower, equip and release the next generation to reach people with the powerful, life transformative gospel of Jesus Christ. 

But I fear, that some of us are still holding on.

We're holding on to fear of the future. 

We're holding on to the 'ways things have been'.

We're holding on to naïve hope that the glory days will come back and it will look like it used to look.

We're holding on in vain that the Army will sound like it used to sound.

We're holding on to the form and not the faith.

We're holding on tightly to the orders and regulations that made the Army what it became.

But, friends, I feel like I'm preaching to someone right now. If there's one thing you and I need to hold on to... If there's one thing that is most important and most critical, to hold on to and not let go of... it's Jesus Christ.

In Jesus we find our way as a people of God. In Jesus we find our purpose, our calling and our mission. The work of God will always look different in the next generation. I mean, we know that right? We don't worship like they did in the 1st Century synagogue in Ephesus. The style of our gatherings don't look like the desert fathers of the 3rd Century. Our service to God doesn't look like Calvin or Luther in the days of the reformation some 500 years ago. 

I believe so strongly, that God is raising up a spirit-filled, innovative, holy people once again, who seek to lead people to Jesus, make disciples and reform the very fabric of society that they work in.

So by all means. Hold on...

But make sure it's to Jesus Christ.  

If you are bold enough to pray with me... Let's pray:

Dear Jesus, 
We want to hold on to you. We want to fix our eyes on the author and perfector of our faith. Nothing else satisfies our soul. No outward expression of faith, can compare to the inward power of your grace and mercy upon our lives. Our hearts are set upon you Lord. Change us. Empower us. Give us wisdom in these days, as we navigate being a Jesus-people in an ever-changing world. We love you Lord, and we pray fill us afresh with the presence of your Holy Spirit. In Jesus' mighty name. Amen.

Friday, March 8, 2024

The People's General - A New Tribute to General Eva Burrows

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I was sitting around a table on the tenth floor overlooking the city of Melbourne. I was privileged enough, as a cadet in those days, to be sitting next to General Eva Burrows. There was always something special about that hand of hers that would reach out and touch your arm. You felt cared for, supported, uplifted and inspired all in one simple gesture.

Other Salvationists have their memories. For me, it's the treasured email my wife Jo and I received after the birth of one of our children. From General Eva Burrow's perspective, it would've taken a couple of minutes; a few lines of text. But for me, it was a retired world leader, taking a few moments to congratulate us, and offer a prayer of blessing. Once again a simple gesture that brought joy to my heart.

I remember the times I would see her at large Salvation Army gatherings, and she would not miss a beat; she'd look over and mention one of my children's names and ask how they were. She'd remember what corps we were serving at and ask, 'How's Craigieburn going?' A simple gesture.

The date was May 2nd, 1986, when the first Australian-born woman was elected General of The Salvation Army. During the next few years General Eva met with Presidents, including President Ronald Reagan, President Fidel Castro in the Caribbean and President Daniel T. arap Moi of Kenya. She preached about Jesus right across the nations, from Canada to India, and South Africa to the Pacific Islands, in her homeland Australia, and of course, across the countries of Africa that she loved so dearly.

There are many aspects of the life of General Eva Burrows that are worthy of a mention.

Firstly, her resilience. Commissioner John Clinch said of her, 'I have seen her on more than one occasion sitting at her desk following a heavy and demanding period away, grey-faced, bone-weary, head in hands, completely drained. Most people would need a week or two to recover. But one good night's sleep and she is back on the job, full of vitality...'  

She was passionate about renewal. In Henry Gariepy's biography, General of God's Army: The Authorized Biography of General Eva Burrows, she says, 'God has shown me that I must emphasize our need for renewal in The Salvation Army. God seems to have said, 'You've tackled several administrative challenges, you've done quite a lot of clearing away of the organizational problem; now it's time to center down and focus on the great issue of renewal within The Salvation Army and on the mission for which I called it into being.'' She had a deep passion for Christ, and always sought to raise up leaders, care for the vulnerable and make disciples for the sake of the Kingdom of God. 

Thirdly, there was a deep passion for relationships. When General Eva walked in the room, there was something about her demeanor, her smile, her way of connecting that made you feel at ease. You felt cared for. You felt like it was ok for you to be in the room. You didn't feel power-plays happening. You were welcome. Even with thousands of relational connections across the globe, General Eva Burrows remembered your name, she genuinely cared and the love of God was present when she was there!

General Eva Burrows was intently focused on reforming organisational structures and the brokenness of society. Whether it be standing in the queue with black South Africans at the local South African Post Office as a silent protest against apartheid, speaking up about unity at a conference in Melbourne (I was in the room and everyone went silent when she spoke), or standing up for the sanctity of life by writing to the Prime Minister of England, or sitting with the poor and vulnerable on the streets of Melbourne in her retirement years. She believed The Salvation Army had a rich heritage and a clear mission to care for the most broken across our societies. 

The People's General lead by example, and on this International Women's Day 2024, I want to pay tribute. One thing I've realised, just by writing these few paragraphs, is the power of one particular thing...

All it takes is one small gesture to impact someone's life. 

Monday, February 19, 2024

How do you Trust in God?

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How do you trust in God when life is difficult? How do you trust in God, when everything always feels a little pear-shaped? How do you trust in God when your prayers seem like they aren't being answered? 

Micah (our surprise fourth child - pictured here), was born with a cleft palate; that is the the roof of his mouth wasn't formed properly. The first few weeks of his life he was in intensive care, and struggling to breathe. The days were long. The tears were flowing. We said, 'Why Lord?' They were not easy days. 

This photo was taken a few days after his cleft palate surgery (at 11 months of age). We found a moment in between the pain relief when he was smiling! God has been faithful to us over these months. And we're so thankful for so many who have prayed and believed for God's healing upon Micah.

I'm all for praying for God to do a big miracle. Let me say that here and now. I mean God has done big miracles in the past; parting the red sea, letting a donkey talk, bringing the walls of Jericho down, using Elijah to raise someone from the dead. Jesus did big miracles too. It says in Matthew 8:17, that the ministry of Jesus had fulfilled what was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, who said, 'He took our sicknesses and removed our diseases.' People wanted to get close to Jesus, because they knew he could do something significant in their life.

I pray for big miracles, but I want to say something. It can be difficult to trust in God when you don't see the fulfilment of a gut-wrenching prayer that you've prayed about for a long period of time. It can be tough to trust in God, when your prayers have seemingly gone unanswered. 

My faith has been strengthened in recent days, because of a shift in my thinking. God is at work, and stories of transformation are happening around me. Jesus is transforming lives. The issue I have, is I'm always looking for the big miracle. But God is transforming lives, and I trust that God is at work. This last fortnight, we've seen the Lord opening doors of opportunity for people in our church to serve in unlikely places. We saw one young person commit their life to Christ recently. A member of our church preached for the first time on Sunday. God is good!

So, here's my thought. I think we hold two things in tension. Firstly we should pray for the big miracles. All things are possible in the name of Jesus. So lets pray big and believe big. We should also look closely for where God is at work in the small things. It's a 'both/and' scenario. That is, we don't just look for God at work in the small things, and settle in our minds that God can't and won't do the big thing. But we should also look for God in the small matters and be thankful every day.

So then, how do you trust in God? 

You settle in your heart and mind, that Jesus hears your prayers, and that God is with you through the difficult times and the good times. You choose to believe that what Jesus did on the cross, and his resurrection, was so that you could have a relationship with God Almighty. You trust God for the big miracle. And you trust God in the small matters of your life.

As Proverbs 3:5 simply says, 'Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.'

God bless you today. 

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