Born To Be Mild

It stands to reason: if the 1960s pop hit Born To Be Wild could describe John Potter before he got saved—his born-again experience several years ago made John a “new creature” in Christ, urging him to be more like Jesus everyday.

John spent many of his adult years in California, where he was a foot-soldier in what he calls, “an infamous motorcycle gang.” Today, he’s traded his black leather jacket for a Salvation Army uniform—his long goatee and numerous tattoos notwithstanding.

He still has his Harley Ultra Classic, on which he says he “now ride for Christ!”

For 25 years, John rode among that notorious bike club, doing things for them as he was told—things that he admits were shady, if not downright illegal.

“I was wild,” John admits. “For two and ha half decades of my life I rode with a bunch of bad guys with little or no remorse. I wasn’t afraid of anything or anybody.”

John says that he “never fully understood” the awfulness of what he was doing as a “foot-soldier.” Something must have begun to happen in John’s heart during the last few years he rode with the gang. He became under conviction by the Holy Spirit, and in those last months, John was planning to do the unthinkable: walk away from that “brotherhood.”

He did just that, about six years ago, when he turned his handlebars toward Wyoming. He went home to Casper.

“I hit town on a Saturday evening, and Casper was pretty much shut down for the night,” he says. “I saw a motorcycle in front of the Salvation Army Hope Center, so I pulled over and went in.”

With no money and only a couple of uncashed paychecks in his pocket, John was hungry but had no way to pay for a meal.

John Potter“I spotted a gallon of milk in the cooler and I said to the Salvation Army worker, ‘I’d do anything for that milk. If you could give me until Monday to cash these checks, I’ll come back and pay for it.’”

The lady’s unexpected reply floored John: “We don’t sell this stuff. We give it away to anyone who needs it!”

In addition to the milk, John got a hot meal. It was just too much for him to imagine! The Salvation Army does nothing but good for so many people; and here John had spent most of his life, until that moment, doing so much bad to so many people.

“I immediately felt that this is where I belonged—2500 volunteer hours later I was still happily working alongside these Salvationists,” he says.

That was five years ago. John had given all those volunteer hours over the course of a little over a year. By that time, the corps officer offered John a job, as a regular cook and warehouse manager.

Today John cooks all the meals at the Army’s center, some 150 per day and 600-700 each week. He is also on a four-man team for the Army’s Casper Emergency Canteen. In disasters involving the Intermountain Division, John estimates that his team has served “a half-million meals—easily.”

John knows that riding away from that “hellish” brotherhood resulted in a real, eternal brotherhood with other followers of Christ.

 

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By Major Frank Duracher

Athletes for Christ

At their best, athletic pursuits build character. To achieve your best time in a race, orchestrate a winning drive, drill the puck into the back of the net, arch a ball to the exact spot where your teammate can head it into the goal, comes after arduous training, sacrifice, coaching, practice, goal setting, recovery from failure, not to mention the aching muscles, tests of will, the fear of failure. The athletes featured in this issue of the War Cry have earned the respect of their peers and the public for representing for us what is best in ourselves. While they have achieved celebrity status, that is not the main point. God calls each of us to train our minds, hearts and bodies so His indwelling spirit can propel us to live faithfully and do good works. May these stories of athletes inspire us to overcome sin and adversity and to run our own course in obedience to Jesus’ call to “Follow Me.”

Jesus Has Always Been There

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that “the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” The measure of the Seattle Seahawks’ quarterback, Russell Wilson, is not where he stands in moments of triumph and success, but where he stands at times of failure and defeat.

Early in his professional career as an NFL quarterback, Wilson has seen both sides of the championship coin. One year removed from leading the Seahawks to the Super Bowl championship, Wilson found himself on the losing end of an epic gridiron battle, due to what many said was an ill-advised play, in the final seconds of the 2015 Super Bowl.

While many would grant this young player the freedom to express frustration and anger over a blown play, Wilson instead rose above his critics and accepted full blame for the call. Rather than shrink away into the shadows and allow time to pass, Wilson was found a mere two days later visiting young patients in the local children’s cancer center— something he does every week regardless of the outcome of what happens on the playing field.

At just 26 years old, Wilson seems to have his priorities straight. During media day prior to this year’s Super Bowl game, Wilson expressed that his faith was everything to him.

He has also said that “at the end of the day, we are all looking for someone to comfort us, somebody to be there for us at all times. Jesus has always been there. He’ll never leave you, never forsake you.”

Despite his desire to be known as a successful athlete, Wilson acknowledges that there is more to life than football: “In terms of my legacy off the field, I want to be a Christian man that helps lead and helps change lives and helps serve other people.”

Much of what Wilson does to express his faith is simple and heartfelt. On Twitter (@Dange RussWilson), he shares verses of Scripture important to him as he grows in his faith in Christ.

A few years ago, along with several other Christian teammates, Wilson released a video and accompanying smartphone app called “The Making of a Champion,” which aimed to help people realize the God-given potential they have within. In it Wilson candidly describes growing up as a wayward kid and how he came to his faith. He indicated that Jesus came to him in a dream when he was 14 years old. Wilson says that in this dream Jesus told him, “You need to learn more about Me.” So, he says, “that Sunday morning I ended up going to church and that’s when I got saved.”

In a recent article on The Huffington Post, columnist Candace Russell writes about the magnetism of the quarterback’s Christian faith. She explains, “Russell Wilson’s brand of Christianity never feels judgmental or fueled by hate. On the contrary, it is full of a joy so contagious that even if you don’t follow the same religious tenets you can’t help but feel the power of positivity that his faith radiates. His love for his God is private and personal while at the same time being completely revealed in the way he lives life every day.”

Shouldn’t this description fit the way we live our faith as well? Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 2:14- 15 that as believers we ought to spread the aroma of the knowledge of Christ everywhere we go. Whether in good times or bad, whether winning or losing, our goal should be for Christ to receive the glory. It’s clear that this is Russell Wilson’s aim, as well.

One CDL Down; One to Go!

Leon Cottman was ready to commit suicide. He had it all planned. He intended to walk to Delaware State Highway 113 and simply “step off the curb in front of the first 18–wheeler that came along.”

No, Leon did not meet his prearranged end that day, and he is now a sober, born–again believer in Jesus Christ. But what he wants to do with his life now—well, that’s an iRony worth hearing.

Leon had been serious about killing himself. He had even chosen a nice suit to wear to meet his death. He slipped his coat on. His hand was on the doorknob; he was ready to leave home for the last time. It was at that moment, Leon says, that his German Shepherd, Titus, “gave me a look as if to say, ‘Why are you doing this? You need help!’”

Whether God would use a dog to change someone’s mind about killing himself can be debated, but you won’t be able to convince Leon otherwise.

“I sat right down and started looking through the phone and made over a dozen calls. No one seemed able to help someone who is both an alcoholic and a crack addict,” Leon explains. “Finally, someone asked me my condition at that moment, and I told him that I was dressed and ready to walk out my door to throw myself in front of a truck.”

That got someone’s attention. Within 20 minutes, the authorities were at Leon’s home and committed him to a 24–hour emergency crisis center. While at that program, a counselor asked Leon what he would like to happen.

“I need some kind of in–house treatment program,” he answered desperately.

“You mean like The Salvation Army?” the counselor suggested.

Leon was told that the Army operates Adult Rehabilitation Centers (ARCs) across the country. One of the nearest ones to him was in Baltimore.

So off Leon went to be admitted into the program at the Baltimore ARC. It was life changing. You might say that Leon has the first of two “CDLs” under his belt. The first CDL means “Christ Delivers Liberation.”

The new Christian successfully graduated from the program earlier this year, and he intends to stay sober and saved for the rest of his life.

And the second CDL? That’s where the iRony rests… Leon wants to become a fulltime driver of semi–tractor trailers! He intends to earn his commercial driver’s license.

“I want to show the devil that I can control the very thing he wanted to use to run over me,” Leon says with a victorious smile.

He recognizes that becoming a truck driver would be a sort of psychological victory, like spiking the ball into the endzone.

“God is working on me in a mighty way,” he adds. “He’s teaching me to be persistent in abiding by the rules He wants me to follow in life.”

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By Major Frank Duracher

America’s Generous Spirit

The annual Red Kettle Campaign collected more than $144 million over the Christmas season, exceeding last year’s total by 6.3 percent. Thanks to the support of donors and corporate partners, the money raised helps The Salvation Army provide food, shelter and social services to nearly 30 million Americans in need this year. The funds are used in the local communities where donations are given, so the Army can apply and adapt programs and assistance to address specific needs. For example, this year’s proceeds make possible more than 10 million nights of shelter and roughly 58 million meals, as well as after-school and substance abuse programs.

“The economy continued to face strong headwinds, which could have resulted in a loss for us and greatly affected our programming, but the generosity of the American public helped us avoid that,” said Lt. Colonel Ron Busroe, National Community Relations and Development Secretary.

Donations through salvationarmyusa.org totaled $24.91 million, a 16 percent increase from 2013.

— Find out more at salvationarmyusa.org/ usn/news/124th_Red_Kettle_Campaign

Burning the Ships!

In 1519 Hernan Cortes, Spanish explorer, landed on Mexican soil. He and his 600 Spanish troops were commissioned to take Mexico for Spain. In a swift move to stave off any thoughts of retreat, he commanded that his fleet be burned. Can you imagine being one of those six hundred men on alien soil standing there watching your only lifeline to the ‘old life’ being burned at sea. The only recourse was to make progress deeper into this unknown land; to fight, survive and claim it for the crown. The ships were gone, they had to fully commit or die.

I am not justifying any other actions of Cortes. Some of his decisions were down right brutal. That being said, I do believe that there is something here for us today.

Spiritually speaking:
Have we burned our ships in the act of a full commitment to Christ?
Or
Are we still looking back longingly at the places that we used to live before we accepted this new life in the form of Salvation? Do we (even subconsciously) consider this “commitment” to be temporary while all along we have a fall back plan in case it just doesn’t pan out? I believe even Jesus had disciples in His day that had one foot in the new life while the other foot was still firmly grounded in the old.

Luke 9:57-62 57
As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head. 59 He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” 62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

The cost of following Christ is high! The commitment level of such a calling is total or none at all. We cannot have one foot in the new life while our other foot is firmly planted in the old life. Either we are all in or we are not in at all. Perhaps it is time that we burned the ships. Perhaps it is time to burn that which holds us back from making that full commitment to Christ. Don’t allow the old life to pull you in another direction any longer! His path, His calling is the path of true peace, of true redemption, of true love. When we burn the ships, we can no longer turn back from His will for our lives. He wants a relationship with us that requires our full commitment to Him. Are you willing to burn the ships in an act of full surrender to Christ?

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By Captain Scott Strissel