Sunday, March 31, 2013

Featured Blog - Lieutenant David Jones

On Fire For Jesus:  I Just Don't Get It

The CROSS Road at the Tomb & Ascension

What is your salvation story?  What are the endings and beginnings that mark the transformation that occurred in your life when you put your faith in Jesus Christ?

In his book "Necessary Endings" Henry Cloud asserts that there are endings that are absolutely necessary to experience new beginnings in life, relationships and business.  Our faith journey is no exception, as it involves an ending when we come to the end of a self-driven life and emerges with a beginning when we enter into a Christ-driven life.

When I put my faith in Jesus I said, "It is no longer I who lives but Christ who lives in me!" Unless I die to my passions, desires and will, I cannot really experience the beginning of God's will and power in my life.

This has been a growing realisation as I have pursued a pathway to holiness...

"The first word in the Christian vocabulary is not struggle - but surrender; not one more try - but to yield to the divine will; not one more effort and this time you will make it - but to submit to another. For the gospel of Jesus does not begin with a call for a man to do something to save himself, but to cast himself without reserve upon him who has already promised to be his Saviour." (General Frederick Coutts)

The resurrection and ascension of Jesus is a significant CROSS Road of endings and beginnings where the disciples see the fulfillment of the salvation story for them and the rest of humanity.

1.  The death of Jesus was the end of His physical life, yet the beginning of His resurrected life.

"Why do you look for the living among the dead?"
  • The resurrection fulfills the promise of the gift of new life.
  • To embrace this new beginning, there needs to be an ending - a surrender of life to Christ!

2.  The departure of Jesus was the end of His earthly mission, yet the beginning of His Church's mission.

"Stay in the city until you have been clothed with power on high."
  • The ascension fulfills the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit.
  • To embrace this new beginning, there also needs to be an ending - a submission of life to Holy Spirit!

The CROSS Road at the Ascension was an ending and beginning that saw the birth of the Church which put flesh on Christ's continued mission through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

Saturday, March 30, 2013


There is much to be said about work taking over a disproportionate amount of our lives; when what we do becomes more important than whom we are or those closest to us.


Volunteers commit to a purpose not a pay packet, they embrace a cause not a career, and they are motivated by a vision that is driven by internal rather than external rewards.

Friday, March 29, 2013

The CROSS Road at Calvary

"Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all."

On Good Friday our CROSS Road brings us to the foot of the cross.  It is at this intersection where we encounter the worst of humanity and the best of God's divinity;  where hatred and love collide, and where grace and forgiveness reside.  It is here that the paradox of life and death defies our mortality - the weak become strong, the defeated are victorious and the broken are made whole.

The CROSS Road at Calvary presented Jesus with two significant cross roads that demonstrated this "Love so amazing, so divine" that it presents you and I with our own cross road that "demands my soul, my life, my all."

The first CROSS Road at Calvary was one of forgiveness:  Jesus response to his accusers could have been one of hatred, yet He chose forgiveness.

"Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."" (Luke 23:34)

The second CROSS Road at Calvary was one of judgement:  Jesus response to the accused could have one of judgement, yet He chose grace.

"Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."" (Luke 23:43)

Because the CROSS Road at Calvary was met with forgiveness and grace, Jesus broke the bondage of sin the defines our choices according to the weakness of our human nature.  He demonstrated the heart of His Father, which redefines our choices according to the power of His Spirit!

How do you choose to respond the cross roads that converge in your life?  What are those cross roads?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The CROSS Road at Gethsemane

“Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”” (Luke 22:39-46)

The first CROSS Road at Gethsemane was faced by Jesus. Here, in the garden Jesus was confronted by the paradox of His humanity.

  • Weakness of His flesh
  • Willingness of His Spirit

The second CROSS Road at Gethsemane was faced by the disciples. Here, in the garden the disciples were also confronted by the paradox of their humanity.

  • Weakness of their flesh
  • Willingness of their spirit

Today, you and I face the same CROSS Road at Gethsemane:

"Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Matthew 26:41)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Living In Agreement With The Saving Activity Of God

"Because the human life and work of Jesus was in entire agreement with the life and work of the Father, the human activity of Jesus exhibited a perfect parallelism to the saving activity of God himself, but more than that, his activity on earth was itself the saving activity of God at work among men and women."  (Thomas F. Torrance)

In other words, because Jesus lived His life in alignment with the will of His Father, He manifested the saving activity of God through His life and work.  There is something incredibly powerful about a life that is lived in alignment with its purpose!

I can't help to wonder what the impact would be on our world if those who bear the name of Christ, that is Christians, were to live their lives "in entire agreement with the life and work of the Father." Imagine if Christ followers were to "[exhibit] a perfect parallelism to the saving activity of God."  What would the Church look like if its "activity on earth was itself the saving activity of God at work among men and women?"

Maybe we would see the same power and presence of the Holy Spirit seen in the Acts 2 church in the 21st century Church as "the Lord [adds] to [our] number daily those who [are] being saved." (Acts 2:47)

Monday, March 25, 2013

The CROSS Road at Jerusalem

"When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:" (Luke 19:37)

The first CROSS Road at Jerusalem was faced by Jesus.  Here, at the road leading into Jerusalem Jesus had two choices as he was about to cross the point of no return...
  1. Retreat from Jerusalem - turn back now and save Himself 
  2. Enter into Jerusalem - proceed and save humanity 
This CROSS Road at Jerusalem presented Jesus with a decision that would have eternal consequences!

"Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!""Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!  Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples!" (Luke 19:38-39)

The second CROSS Road at Jerusalem was faced by the crowd.  Here, at the road leading into Jerusalem Jesus experienced the choices of the crowd who proclaimed two voices...
  1. The voices of praise - those who received Him
  2. The voices of protest - those who rejected Him
This CROSS Road at Jerusalem presented the crowd with a decision that also had eternal consequences!

Today, you and I face the same CROSS Road at Jerusalem...

  • Will we praise and receive Jesus?
  • Will we protest and reject Jesus?

Don't think that because you are a Christian that this CROSS Road doesn't apply to you!

  • It is easy to praise Jesus on Sunday, but protest against His will for your life on Monday
  • It is easy to receive Jesus when all is calm, but reject Him when you are in crisis

Remember, the same crowd who crowned Jesus as king on Palm Sunday called for His crucifixion on Good Friday!  

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Featured Blog - Major Sam Hancock

Tales That Tell:  A Pharisee Fail

What's Your Blind Spot?

This week I participated in a leadership development program which was a week long intensive presenting insightful and practical leadership principles and resources.  This included a feedback process where data was collected and compared from a personal and key stakeholders survey to identify leadership strengths and areas for development.  The "Life Styles Inventory" feedback report revealed the gap between how I view myself as a leader and how those I work with experience me as a leader. While for the most part the results were affirming, aligning with my self evaluation, the survey highlighted a couple of areas where there was a misalignment between the two.  This misalignment between how I view myself and others experience me is called a 'blind spot'.

A 'blind spot' by very nature is something that we cannot see.  Life is filled with 'blind spots'.  There are 'blind spots' on the road that present a hazard to traffic.  'Blind spots' occur in business making corporations financially vulnerable in the marketplace. Relationships experience 'blind spots' resulting from or leading to a breakdown in communication.  Spiritually, 'blind spots' can lead to a crisis of faith and politically, 'blind spots' can cost governments an election.  When a 'blind spot' remains unidentified it can seriously derail what success looks like for you.

This week I was given the gift of open and honest feedback that revealed my 'blind spots' as a leader.

Do you know your 'blind spots'?  The irony of this question is that unless you have received similar feedback, then the chances are you don't, otherwise it would hardly be a 'blind spot'.  Feedback can be confronting and evoke a feeling of vulnerability, but it is my firm conviction that feedback is essential to our growth and development.  For years I prided myself on my self awareness, but it is what I don't see that has the potential to cause me and those in my sphere of influence the most damage.

Discovering your 'blind spots' can be the difference between success and failure in your leadership roles, relationships, spiritual journey, career or any other significant arena of life.  Discovering your 'blind spots' takes humility and courage to hear what you don't want to hear.  Discovering your 'blind spots' opens an opportunity to realise your full potential by providing a platform for personal growth.

"When you can truly understand how others experience your behavior, without defending or judging, you then have the ability to produce a breakthrough in your leadership and team."  (Loretta Malandro)

Friday, March 15, 2013

He Who Got Us Here, Will Get Us There

I am inspired and deeply encouraged by courageous leaders who have a strong faith, clear vision and firm convictions!  The Salvation Army was founded by such leaders and it's advancement depends upon such leaders. 

It is exciting to look around The Salvation Army today and see an emerging generation of leaders who are filled with the Holy Spirit and possess a spirit of 'Primitive Salvationism' - which has been described as, "Charismatic-flavoured, mission-focussed heroism; Term describing a strain of Salvation Army philosophy based in 19th century fundamentals of Booth, Railton, Booth-Tucker, and others, and re-emerging in the late 20th century throughout the west."  However, it is frustrating to see another generation of Salvationists who cling to traditions that have long passed their used-by date and are culturally irrelevant.  They resist the very essence of what made The Salvation Army an 'unstoppable force' in advancing the kingdom of God.  They fight so hard to protect what we have become and forget the level of risk, reckless abandonment and raw faith that earned us the reputation we celebrate today.

Therefore, as a leader who is uncompromisingly committed to God's calling to lead The Salvation Army into the future, I find myself drawn to like minded and spirited leaders who have the courage to challenge anything that inhibits The Salvation Army from being all that God has raised us to be.  One such leader, Major Gary Grant, wrote a blog post recently that has generated quite a lot of debate about these issues - What Got Us Here, Will Not Get Us There.  His post expresses a heart and will to reverse the decline and reposition The Salvation Army for revival!  While his message is provocative and has evoked many strong emotions among supporters and critics, I believe it is a prophetic voice that should be echoed throughout the Army world.  

This blog post serves as an echo to that voice!

Gary's post, "What Got Us Here, Will Not Get Us There," speaks soundly into what needs to change:  "It's insanity to think, that if we keep doing the things we have already done, that we will get a different result. All that we have done so far, in previous weeks, months and years and even decades have given us the results we are seeing right now. If we think for one moment that things are going to change, by doing the things the same way as we have already done them, then there may be a need for seeing a therapist."

This post, "He Who Got Us Here, Will Get Us There," speaks into what needs to remain.  While this might sound like a contradiction on the surface, it is far from it!  For it has nothing to do with 'what' The Salvation Army has done, but everything to do with 'who' has led us to this point in our history.  When we discuss the rich heritage of The Salvation Army and the formation of our mission we naturally think of people like William and Catherine Booth, Samuel Logan Brengle and the like.  However, the central "person" who inspires and empowers who we are as a movement across all generations is the Holy Spirit!  It is the Spirit who stirred the heart of William Booth in East London.  It is the Spirit who empowered Gore and Saunders to leave their homeland and expand the mission of The Salvation Army into Australia.  It is the Spirit who motivates Salvationists to enter into some of the darkest places and stand alongside some of the most broken people in our society.  Yet, it is the Spirit who is resisted, grieved, and dare I say, disobeyed every time we allow our past to inhibit our future!  

The Holy Spirit leads those who will listen and obey into an adventure of faith towards an unknown future of hope and promise.  This future may be unknown and scary, pulling us away from all that is familiar, but the same Spirit who went before us goes ahead of us, so we can be "confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:6).  If we want to finish the journey the Spirit has started, then we need to be prepared to go where we haven't gone before, do what we haven't done before and be who we haven't dared before!!  Let us resist the Spirit no longer and believe that "He who got us here, will get us there" - wherever there may be.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

10 Conflicting Christian Concepts

Social networks provide an interesting insight into the spiritual climate of the Church through faith perspectives that are publicly expressed by those who are the Church.  It seems that despite denominational differences in the way Christians express faith, there are some common concepts about Christianity that form an ethos of the Church that is out of alignment with the character of Christ and the true nature of His kingdom.  Based on my observations through social networking - including Facebook, Twitter and blogging - I have formed a list of what I consider to be "10 Conflicting Christian Concepts" that contribute to a misconception of Christianity and the Church.

I endeavour to challenge these conflicting concepts about Christianity by asking a thought provoking question that compares each of the "10 Conflicting Christian Concepts" (in no particular order) with relevant Scripture verses.  The Scriptures presented in response to each question have been selected to paint an alternative, and I believe biblical, picture of Christianity.  However, they only scratch the surface, so I encourage you to read the Scripture verse presented in context with the verses around them to gain a more complete biblical picture.

So, here we go!

How do you reconcile...

...Complacent Christianity with the charge Jesus had against the Church in Laodicea?
"I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!  So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth." (Revelation 3:15-16, read 3:14-22)

...Corporate Image with Paul's letter to the Corinthian church addressing their pride?
"We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe...We are fools for Christ." (1 Corinthians 4:9-10, read 4:6-17)

...Cautious Faith with this description of faith that is all about risk and stepping into the unknown?
"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." (Hebrews 11:1, read 11:1-40)

...Controlling Leadership with the servant leadership modeled by Jesus?
"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:  Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant." (Philippians 2:5-7, read 2:1-8)

...Ceremonial Religion with Jesus' rebuke of the Pharisees obsession with rules and rituals?
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former." (Matthew 23:23, read 23:1-36)

...Compromising Truth with this declaration of absolute truth by Jesus?
"Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."" (John 14:6, read 14:5-14)

...Conditional Discipleship with Jesus' call to abandon everything to follow Him?
"If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters - yes, even his own life - he cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:26, read 14:25-33)

...Contentious Worship that is more concerned by form and style than the Spirit of worship?
"Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.  God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23-24, read 4:19-24)

...Consumerist Church with the sacrificial giving of the early Church?
"All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need." (Acts 2:44-45, read 2:42-47)

...Christ-less Spirituality with Paul's preaching about the divinity of Christ to the Colossian church?
"See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.  For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority."  (Colossians 2:8-10, read 2:6-12)

It is my hope and prayer that the inability to reconcile these "10 Conflicting Christian Concepts" with the character of Christ and the true nature of His kingdom will prompt a rethink about Christianity and the Church through a renewed encounter with Jesus Christ.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

To Speak In Tongues Or Not Too

I saw this statement by Joseph Prince advertised on Facebook the other night, which got me thinking:

"Want to live stronger, healthier and wiser? Well, you can! Discover how you can live just such a victorious life, at peace with God and yourself. The key is the tremendous God-given gift of tongues. Through it, you allow the Holy Spirit to move more powerfully in your life, equipping and enabling you, helping you discern even between life and death. So listen and lock onto this incredible gift today. You will see your powerful Helper assist you in praying perfect prayers, and the wonderful works of God—constant wholeness, wisdom and perfect peace—manifest in your life!" - Joseph Prince

I want to preface this post by making it clear that it is not written against the ministry of Joseph Prince or the Pentecostal tradition, rather as an alternative reflection on a spiritual gift that has polarised many in the Christian church. My own spiritual journey has been deeply impacted by Joseph Prince through his book 'Destined to Reign' and by the leadership and ministry of a number of Pentecostal pastors and theologians.  The above quote simply provides a platform to express my biblical understanding of the gift of tongues and its relationship to being filled with the Spirit.

The elevation of the gift of tongues as the primary sign of being filled with the Spirit and somehow giving more spiritual power than the other gifts or being a means of getting closer to God, creates a tension for Christians who do not possess this gift.  I have encountered many Christians that don't speak in tongues who doubt the presence and power of God in their lives because they feel they are viewed by those who do speak in tongues as second class Christians.  In some churches, such is the importance of the gift of tongues, people are encouraged to manufacture or mimic the gift until they have it!

When key passages of Scripture about the gift of tongues are interpreted through the lens of a personal experience of this gift it is easy to see how this would shape a persons theology about tongues.  Those who have the gift of tongues and who agree with the above statement by Joseph Prince, naturally want others to share the same glorious experience that they have had.  However, experience alone is an inadequate foundation to form a theology that places a spiritual expectation on other Christians to possess the same gift and share the same experience. As someone who does not have the gift of tongues, but is very much filled with the Spirit, I interpret the same passages of Scripture about the gift of tongues through a different set of lenses than those who do.

Below is a brief summary of how I biblically understand the gift of tongues, not to dismiss its validity as a spiritual gift, but to keep it in proper perspective to the other gifts of the Spirit.

Acts 2:4-6 - "All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other tongues (languages) as the Spirit enabled them.  Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.  When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in their own language."

The events of Pentecost form the foundation for an incorrect understanding of tongues as a sign of being filled with the Spirit based upon what I believe to be a misinterpretation of what was actually going on at this event.  At the beginning of Acts, Luke reminds his audience of the words of Jesus who said, "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.  For John baptised with water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit." (Acts 1:4-5)  Acts 1 provides an important context for Acts 2.  The 'gift' Jesus referred to was not a specific spiritual gift but the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The baptism of the Spirit would empower the disciples to fulfil the Great Commission through the continuing presence of the Spirit of Jesus (see Luke 24:49), which is why they were to wait in Jerusalem until they received His power.  This power is the presence of the Holy Spirit Himself which enabled them to spread the gospel in a language that could be understood, not keep it to themselves in an unintelligible language.  If there was any specific spiritual gift manifested at Pentecost, it was more likely to be prophecy than tongues, as the disciples were speaking in the power of the Spirit to those they were commissioned by Jesus to reach with the gospel message.  In dealing with the misunderstanding and misuse of tongues in the Corinthian church, Paul's response is consistant with this viewpoint, "For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God.  Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit.  But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.  He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesis edifies the church" (1 Corinthians 14:2-4).

This leads to the second passage that is used to interpret the gift of tongues as the 'greater gift'.

"But eagerly desire the greater gifts." (1 Corinthians 12:31)

Here is an example of where the NIV translation does an injustice to the text and to Paul, who is incorrectly interpreted as suggesting there are greater gifts that should be desired and pursued.  Let me begin explaining by giving a more accurate translation of the text:  "And yet some of you keep competing for so-called “important” parts" (The Message). Far from Paul exhorting the Corinthians to desire any gift, let alone so-called greater gifts, he is correcting the wrong thinking of the Corinthians towards spiritual gifts, which makes sense of his introduction to chapter 13 - "Now I will show you the most excellent way" - putting tongues in its correct place in the very next verse.  The structure of Paul's letter to the Corinthians is to highlight their wrong thinking and then to rebut it in the next verse.  We see a very similar pattern of teaching by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount - "You have heard it I tell you..."  In Paul's letter he does this three times (another example is 1 Corinthians 14:22 [Corinthian belief], followed by 14:23 [Paul's rebuttal]).  Paul is very clear in teaching that the Spirit gives the spiritual gifts "just as he determines" (12:11) and that not all possess the same gifts nor is any one gift more important than another, which is well argued by his illustration of 'one body, many parts' (12:12-30).

While there is so much more that could be said about this subject, the point I am making is that spiritual gifts are given at the prerogative of the giver, the Holy Spirit, to fulfil the purposes of Jesus and to glorify the Father.  Being filled with the Spirit is all about belonging to Christ and manifesting His likeness - the fruits of the Spirit - and not about what gifts we have.  I believe we dishonour God and grieve the Spirit when we make the spiritual gifts about something we do or have rather than who we become in Him.  The key to a victorious life is not striving to possess any one gift but submitting to the presence of the Holy Spirit who comes with power upon ALL who confess Jesus Christ as Lord!

“The one thing needful is to remember that to be filled with the Spirit is to be conformed to the image of the Son, and to be conformed to the image of the Son is to be filled with the Spirit.”  (Federick Coutts, “The Splendour of Holiness”)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Jesus of History, Christ of Faith

Who is Jesus? How do you know Him?  
Where do you begin when you try to introduce Jesus to others?

History provides us with one pathway towards an understand of who Jesus was.  Through the eyewitness accounts of Jesus life by the gospel writers we learn about His birth, ministry, where He went, what He said and how He lived His life.  The historical Jesus reveals selective and interpretive facts and events from the perspective of those who journeyed with Him.  This is a reflective discovery of past events, but is that all there is to knowing the person Jesus?

On the other hand...

Faith provides us with another pathway towards an experience of who Jesus is.  Through an encounter with Christ, the anointed One of God, we gain a revelation of the living God who transcends history through the continuing presence of the Spirit of Christ who lives within us through faith.  The Christ of faith invites a response to not just who Jesus was in history but through who Jesus is today.  A knowledge of the Jesus of history is not enough on its own.  It lays the foundation for a transforming encounter with the Christ of faith.

To have an experiential knowledge of God that is life changing, there must be a connection between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith.  "What is important is what happens now! It is not who 'was' Jesus, but who 'is' Jesus and who you can become through Him, now." (David McGregor)