Tag Archives: Journey of renewal

A passion for what is good

We always find time for things we like and are passionate about. Some people live with open doors. There are always people coming and going, food being eaten and conversations going on. That happens because there is a passion for people in that family. When children come with their friends and empty the fridge it might disturb plans a bit, but parents with a passion for relationships accept it.

I usually find time for a morning walk in a city I am visiting and have no problem attending to my plants on the balcony. These things are an extension of who I am – I am curious and I like flowers and to taste sweet home-grown tomatoes. When I talk about passion in this context, it is a positive force for good. It is not a passion that makes me selfish or that harms others. It is within my power to control it so it will benefit me and people around me.

What we now call the Christian Church, people who walk with Jesus, came into existence because God put a passion in the hearts of the disciples. The Holy Spirit came into them personally and into their fellowship and suddenly there were no problems at all with telling the world about Jesus. Even a prohibition from the top Jewish leadership, which forbade them to speak about who Jesus really is, was ignored. They just couldn’t help sharing about what they had seen and heard and what it meant to others.

This life in us, this passion, should still be our motivation. I know that there are moments and days when I don’t like doing what has to be done. There are situations when I act more from my sense of duty than living out a passion. But if duty and pressure from others is your main motivation, then you seriously need to look at changing that.

We get some good advice from chapter 5 in the book Journey of Renewal. In the Message translation, Jesus is quoted as saying: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

How do we learn “the rhythms of grace”? How do we get passion back into our lives? The answer is not about doing an activity. The answer is simply – spending time with Jesus. Prayer is one of my favourite ways of spending time with Jesus and with the whole family of God – Father, Son and Spirit. The fruit of that personal relationship is that I easily get inspired praying for and with others.

It might not be part of your personality to be passionate about prayer. Don’t let that stop you understanding that there is both a need and a way to develop your prayer fellowship with God. You will get some inspiration from this magazine. If you lack passion, your only and simple prayer for the following weeks can be just this: “Dear God, take me on the road with you where I will receive passion from the Holy Spirit in my prayers.”

This text has been published in Die Heilsarmee magazin #8/2017

Proportions and relationships

One of the first drawings children make of a human being mainly consists of a big head, while hands and feet are just short lines. In German it is called a Kopffüßler. In Swedish a huvudfoting. (Both meaning a head with feet.) In English, the word is a stick figure.

The proportions make sense, because from the head come smiles, encouragement and verbal communication, all things that are important to a 3 to 4-year-old person. On the other hand, it is safe to assume that children are fully aware of what people really look like. They have experienced arms that hug and legs that run to them. This image is just a stage of their development.

This image came to mind as I was thinking of the expression the body of Christ. Paul uses it when he talks about the fellowship of believers. Jesus is the head and the people in the Church are the different parts of the body. When writing to the Christians in Corinth Paul addresses a problem. Some parts of the Church, the body, are looking at themselves as being more important than the others. If we were to draw a picture of what he describes it would be like a stick figure but with a big eye or ear instead of a head.

His point is that none of the evangelists, teachers, musicians, people doing social ministry or any of the others can say that they are the most important part. The uniqueness of the fellowship is that we make up one body where we all need each other. If there is any part more important than the other, it is the head. Christ is the head and no part should take his place of authority.

This year, when there have been or will be elections in many European countries, I wish that society in general would learn from the image of One Body. It seems that some ideologies are very eager to amputate the weak and vulnerable parts of society. Others are angry and envious and will try to harm the strong parts.

In order to have a healthy society we do well to continue building healthy small fellowships. If we practise good relationships and build a balanced body of believers in our families, in church and in the ecumenical fellowships, society as a whole will be influenced.

We are not short of available advice and practical help to achieve this. Paul ends 1 Corinthians 12 by introducing the most excellent way for the parts of the body to function well. The way is love, which he writes beautifully about in chapter 13. In Ephesians 4:15 he says that when we speak the truth in love we will grow and become the mature body of the head, that is Christ.

More practical help is given in chapter 4 of the book Journey of Renewal. That journey starts with considering the people around us. Who are we making this journey with and how are our relationships? It is worth noting that the name of our congregations, “corps”, is taken from the Latin word corpus, which means body. I recommend you to start your journey of renewal and use chapter 4 to grow in the quality and strength of your relationships with people.

It is natural for a body to mature and develop. The image of our fellowship we want to pass on is not a Kopffüßler,  a stick figure but relationships that reflect the beauty of Jesus.

This text has been published in the Heilsarmee Magazin #6/2017

Roof and basement. Passion and Spirit.

One of the many issues that I have come across as a Salvation Army officer is decisions connected to repairing houses. One of my first lessons was that the roof and the basement are priorities.

Sometimes we need to check why life is developing in the wrong place.

Even houses that are fairly new and look well-kept can be affected by mould and rot. The construction can look very good but because of things like wrong materials and poor ventilation, the people living inside fall ill. The conclusion is simple: everyone prefers to live in a house that is solid, healthy and good to look at.

It is said that the Church, or a Salvation Army corps, is not the building but the people. Using this analogy for our fellowship is useful – and even biblical. The simple conclusion is: we all want our fellowship to be strong, healthy and attractive, so, let us look at advice from God for this.

We read in Luke chapter 6 that everyone who hears what Jesus says and understands what he means is like a person building a house on a solid foundation. Hearing is an individual responsibility. Understanding is also personal but I think it develops mainly through the exchange that takes place in a fellowship. From that foundation, of hearing and understanding Jesus, we can go into action and start building.

Paul talks about this process of building a strong fellowship. When the people in Corinth argue about who the best builder is, Paul points out that the most important part is the foundation. He is very clear. The only alternative for a foundation is to know what the message, life, death and resurrection of Jesus means.

The church has a twofold foundation: on the cross as well as solid on the ground.

Then Paul mentions that various teachers do their part in building on that foundation. For example, our faith needs the structures of doctrine, we fill the interior with fellowship and expressions of ministry and we can do that using various methods (materials), according to Paul.

However, is that enough? Paul changes his picture from a building in general to the specific building of the Temple. He says, “You are that temple” (1 Cor. 3:17). The context makes it clear that he is addressing the fellowship as a whole and not an individual.

What is so special about the Temple? He says, “God’s Spirit lives in you” and that is what it is all about. The Holy Spirit, the wind, the air, the breath of life. The Spirit of Jesus.

Now we can summarise the three key elements of a strong fellowship of believers: 1. the rock-solid foundation of all that God has summed up in Jesus; 2. a variety of ministry that reaches up to God in prayer and worship as well as reaching out to people with the Good News in action; 3. the fresh ventilation through the wind of the Spirit that is expressed in good fruit and gifts.

To help you in this ongoing life and work, I recommend the new book Journey of Renewal, which is now available in German. It is like a checklist for a healthy ministry. An illustration shows that in the centre of everything that happens is the issue of personal Passion and Spirit. Passion and Spirit are perhaps to our lives what the roof and basement are to a house. Keep them in shape and the rest will be good.

This text has been published in Die Heilsarmee Magazin 5/2017

The annual check-up

I have made an appointment with a new dentist. Moving to different countries (or even places within a country) means finding new dentists and doctors.

My dentist in Cologne comes with recommendations. I expect my annual check-up will be a good experience. Only then will I know if any measures need to be taken. Why do I have to do this? Do I have to? No one is forcing me! It is just the natural and necessary thing to do if I want healthy teeth.

I live, I eat, I look after my teeth (although there is room for improvement there) and I go to the dentist for regular check-ups in order to prevent decay and to have a life without toothache.

This is how The Journey of Renewal, the Accountability Movement of the International Salvation Army, works.

The book is now available in German. It will be distributed to all corps and centres and if you are interested in the ‘health’ of The Salvation Army where you are, you can buy it and read it.

It contains information, motivation, biblical reflection and ways of practical application. It should be applied individually, in your personal development, and it can be used as a good tool for groups.

The Journey of Renewal material works like my annual dental check-up. If everything works as it should, you will be encouraged. If risk areas or greater problems are discovered, you will be glad that there are tools to apply to assist in the healing process.

No one is forcing you or your corps to read the book or go through the process. However, if you want to follow Jesus with passion and in the Spirit and if you want to be part of a corps, a fellowship, that stays healthy year after year, then you do well to start this Journey.

The German booklet costs €4.

On this link, you can read more and download the book for free. In English.

Beyond Dynamissio

Sometimes words grow on you. The message you hear is like a potplant that is put into the ground, where it develops roots and spreads out into new meaning.

At the Dynamissio conference in Berlin I heard the speaker Ruth Padilla DeBorst talk about the event described in Luke chapter 4, when Jesus spoke in the Synagogue of his home village.

He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

18 ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19     to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’[f]

20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’

The speaker commented on the fact that the listeners were aware of God’s promises and they expected that they would be fulfilled. However, the expectation was mainly about THEM being blessed. God’s people in a land occupied by the Romans, should be first in line when it came to freedom from oppression.

They didn’t expect God´s love and favour to include all sinners, like Roman soldiers and people from Samaria, as well as the crowd of the poor and sick that Jesus hung out with.

That was then, and how is it now?

I find myself thinking that I have a tendency to expect the same things, the same blessings as the people in Nazareth.

In theory, I am all for Jesus coming to the poor, the prisoners, the blind and oppressed, but what do I and the established Christian fellowship really long for, pay attention to and dream about?

We want our meeting halls and churches filled with people, we want new soldiers and members and followers of Jesus. We pray for leaders and generous supporters. Yes, the truth is that our hopes and expectations are that God will move in this country and keep our organisation, our church going and growing. Bless us! Come to us!

Ruth Padilla DeBorst said that Jesus came to go beyond human expectations and desire for comfort. She said “Life can only be enjoyed by sharing, not hoarding or consuming”.

If I reflect on the language that we sometimes use in churches and The Salvation Army today, we often have a tendency to talk about expecting more and better things from God for ourselves. That might not be completely wrong, as such, but the proclamation in Nazareth reminds us that FIRST we should share hope, life and freedom in Jesus with all those who are going without these things.

“We shall not save the world. Jesus has already done that. We need to be saved from a world of overabundance and self-reliance.” This quote from her talk summarises that we can trust God to build his Church as we go with his revolutionary love and grace to where it is needed.A tool that the Salvation Army has developed to address this issue, of keeping our focus where it should be, is the Journey of renewal material.