Living in a Material World

In 1347, the French port of Calais was under siege by the army of Edward III of England. The townspeople expected Phillip VI of France to rescue them, but help didn’t come, and starvation was at the door. Edward III made the people of Calais an offer. He’d spare the town if six of its prominent citizens would surrender to the British. Eustache de Saint-Pierre, a wealthy leader in Calais, volunteered. He and five others, barefoot and clothed in rags, put nooses around their own necks and walked out of the gate of Calais with the keys to the city in their hands. This moment of heroic self-denial was captured by Auguste Rodin in his sculpture, “The Burghers of Calais.”

The sacrificial act of the Burghers of Calais does not end with the surrender of the six men, the moment of humiliation Rodin captured so brilliantly in his sculpture. Subsequently, King Edward threatened to put them to death, but his wife, Queen Philippa, is said to have intervened on behalf of the six men and their lives were saved.

Self-denial. In 2017, the phrase sounds ancient, an echo of a bygone age. Yet it’s a concept taught by Jesus, and the words are found in a Scripture passage that many of us memorized from the King James version of the Bible. In Matthew 16:24, we learned these words: “Then said Jesus unto His disciples, ‘If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.’”

As we often see in the teachings of Jesus, he gives us a command but offers few details about how to follow that command. “Deny yourself,” Jesus says. But what does that mean? What does He want us to do? Get a Tall rather than a Venti at Starbucks? Give up chocolate for Lent?

Over the centuries, Christians have interpreted His words on a continuum from Lenten sacrifices to the corporal mortification and self-flagellation as demonstrated by Silas in “The Da Vinci Code.” Does Jesus expect us to literally hate ourselves, to deny our identity? Jesus told us we were to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, so it’s doubtful that Jesus was talking about self-hatred.

These words of Jesus might be easier to understand and to follow by hearing them in a contemporary voice, such as the New Living Translation. “If any of you wants to be My follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow Me.” Give up your own way. That’s something twenty-first century people can understand, for we certainly know what it means to demand to get our own way. We want what we want when we want it. We’re not used to giving up our own way, but at least we can imagine what that might look like.

That is what Jesus is asking us to do, to give up our own way, to lay down our life for a friend, to turn the other cheek, to pray for our enemies. In today’s idiom, it’s no longer “all about me.” We are to deny ourselves, not for our own religious pride or self-satisfaction, but for the sake of others.

Paul gives us some insight into the “how-to” in his letter to the Romans, chapter 15 (VOICE). “So now what? We who are strong are not just to satisfy our own desires. We are called to carry the weaknesses of those who are not strong. Each of us must strive to please our neighbors, pursuing their welfare so they will become strong. The Anointed One Himself is our model for this kind of living, for He did not live to please Himself.”

Methodist pastor Dean Snyder explains it this way. “We do not deny ourselves for the sake of self-denial. We take up a cross that claims us and we follow Jesus. We take up a commitment for which we decide that we will live and die. We give ourselves to something. We give ourselves to Christ.”

As the Burghers of Calais experienced, self-denial is expressed in the willingness to give up our own way for the sake of others. Most of us are unlikely to be called upon to make the dramatic sacrifice of these six ancient men. Instead, we are offered small, daily decisions that allow us to choose for our brother and sister, our neighbors, and even our enemies. In doing so, we find for ourselves the truth of Snyder’s words: “We take up the cross, and we follow Jesus, and we lose ourselves. And we find ourselves.”

Major Jo Ann Shade of Ashland, OH, is author of Transformative Change, Honesty, Responsibility, Courage, Humility (Copyright ©2014, Gracednote Ministries) and a regular War Cry contributor.

One Psalm – Two Prayers

Would I purposely, intentionally, twist Scripture around to make it say what I want it to say? I’ve met people who do. It happens when a person wants God to help him but on his own terms. These are the people who are saying, “This is what I intend to do with my life and I want God to bless what I have already decided to do.”

When I look at Psalm 5:8, I read, “Make straight Your way before me” (NIV). These are the words of a man who wants to know God’s way so that he can walk in it. It is his prayer. He is saying, “You are the center; You are God; I will go where You want me to go.”

David, the writer of these words, wasn’t always faithful. He made some serious mistakes in his life. But his heart was right. He knew that he could not run his own life successfully. He saw what happened when he went off on his own.

Here he is asking God to make the pathway clear. He is asking God to show him what to do. He is asking, “Which way shall I turn?” Not all professing Christians are asking God to do that. Instead, they are praying their own version of Psalm 5:8. They are saying, “Make straight my way before You.”

This is the person who is praying, “I want God’s blessing on what I am doing.” He prays, “Please bless me and help me as I go about doing what I want to do and running my life the way I want to run it.” These praying people are very sincere—and very wrong. Often they end up having an unhappy life.

Will Decide What I Want To Do

The person who decides to go his own way is the person who is saying, “I am the center; I will decide what I want to do. If it seems right to me, then it must be right with God as well. God gave me a mind, an ability to determine what is best for me, and He will be pleased with me if I do what is best in my own view.

“I make things happen. If I don’t do it, it won’t get done. I don’t need God to interfere unless I get into difficulty. Then I will call on God, and I expect God will answer me and help me get out of my tough situation.

“And if God doesn’t help me then He is either not a loving God or He is not an all-powerful God, or maybe He is not God at all. When something bad happens to me, I’ll assume that God has failed me. My problems are God’s fault.”

This person keeps trying this and trying that, going first in this direction or that direction, trying to make sense out of a confused life, always wondering why life is so difficult.  He is the center of his own world and wants God to help him with what he has already decided to do.

If a difficulty comes, he cannot understand it. “I asked God to help me; I asked God to bless me. Why didn’t He? I’m so angry with God.”

Does this mean that life for the faithful follower is always easy and good? If I pray, as David prayed, “Make straight Your way before me,” will my pathway always be smooth? The way wasn’t always smooth for David. He prayed that prayer when he was surrounded by enemies.

One way puts God at the center; the other way puts me at the center.
BOTH WAYS SEEK GOD BUT FOR TWO OPPOSITE REASONS.

He Sanitized The Story

We live in a fallen world. There is corruption and disease and pain everywhere. We aren’t taken out of this world, but we have the certainty of God’s help when we follow His pathway through this difficult world.

I once interviewed an elderly missionary who had lived through famine, war and sickness. It was a wonderful story of God helping him as he lived in obedience. He was a man who prayed and lived by Psalm 5:8.

But I made the mistake of sending the interview back to him to check for any inaccuracies. He rewrote the interview. He took out all the parts about the hardships he lived through on the mission field.  He sanitized the story. When I asked him why he did that, he replied, “I don’t want people to think that when you follow Jesus, life might be hard.”

Well, that’s the point. Life is hard. Following Jesus is what gets us through when life is hard. Following Jesus doesn’t somehow remove us from all of life’s failings and pain. Following Jesus is letting Him lead as we go down the pathway He has chosen, the pathway that He wants us to follow.

So, there are two ways of praying Psalm 5:8. There is the person in this fallen world praying to know God’s way so that he can follow God’s way, and there is the person in this fallen world who intends to go his own way, to choose his own pathway, but who wants God to go down that pathway with him.

Praying Psalm 8 can go two ways. One way puts God at the center; the other way puts me at the center. Both ways seek God but for two opposite reasons. I keep asking myself, “How am I praying Psalm 5:8? Am I saying to God, ‘Make straight my way before You’? Or am I praying ‘Make straight Your way before me’”?  The difference between the two prayers matters.

Roger Palms of Fort Myers, FL, is a former editor of Decision Magazine, and author of 16 books and hundreds of articles.

 

Self-Denial Works: An Interview with Colonel Ted Horwood

While life in Tanzania is extremely hard, territorial leaders Colonels Ted and Deborah Horwood face challenges with undaunted optimism. The Salvation Army has been active in Tanzania for more than 80 years, and in 2008 it was established as a territory. The country is one of the world’s poorest in terms of per capita income. About 44 percent of the population of around 50 million is under 14 years old. Many do not have enough to eat or water safe to drink. The economy is 80 percent agricultural, but only four percent of the land is arable. Despite living under such hardships, In this conversation with Lt. Colonel Allen Satterlee, Colonel Ted Horwood discusses how his optimism is based on the vital services the Army offers where need is so very acute, how the light of the Gospel shines in this corner of God’s kingdom and how ministry there holds important implications for the Army’s mission.

War Cry: How did you become interested in serving overseas?

Col. Ted Horwood: Prior to becoming an officer, there was a time at a Salvation Army camp when I really began to grow in my walk with the Lord. My future wife, who was also working at that camp, was sensing a draw towards ministry overseas. When we got married, that was on our hearts. We attempted to find a way through the Army, but there wasn’t a good vehicle for that. But our hearts were still focused, and it only came to fruition by a miracle.

We went into training college at a time when they didn’t send new officers out to the mission field. We made it known to the territorial commander, Commissioner Paul Rader, so they sent us out to open the work in Guam. They threw us the keys to a 15-passenger van and said get on with it. We felt that if we had the interest, desire, ability and the accessibility to serve overseas, God would put us on an amazing trajectory.

War Cry: What have you learned from serving overseas?

Col. Ted Horwood: The body of Christ doesn’t look the same. People understand who God is based on their context. The way Africans understand God is completely different from how an American or an Asian or somebody from Latin America understands God. We shouldn’t force a theology that has been developed in the Western world as if it is relevant for everybody in the world. We should understand that God is present in a community in rural Africa or Indonesia just as He is in rural America. It’s important for us as outsiders to come and learn about how they see God.

War Cry: What has been your greatest personal challenge?

Col. Ted Horwood: Living overseas is wonderful, but the cross you bear is frequently in your immediate family. Our children grew up in Malawi in a very rich environment. As they get older, you feel the separation—that they need to commit to American culture or the American education system. I wouldn’t want to put anybody off by saying that’s too big of a sacrifice. We all need to pick up our cross daily and follow Christ.

One of my concerns in the body of Christ, particularly in North America is that being a Christian is quite simple. It doesn’t require the same sacrifice. I want to feel the cross. I want to make that sacrifice for my service for the people of God and as a minister of the Gospel. I want to acknowledge how other people live, to be empathetic and to minister to them where they’re at. There are challenges, but I want to have them because they help warm our great Christian faith and strength in the Lord.

War Cry: What has been your biggest blessing?

Col. Ted Horwood: We’re living our dream. There is rarely a day that I don’t wake up and say, “I’m the most fortunate person I know.” The Lord has put us on an amazing journey, unique in a Salvation Army context—perhaps in any context.

War Cry: Describe The Salvation Army in Tanzania.

Col. Ted Horwood: I often say you can plant a Salvation Army flag anywhere in Tanzania and it will grow a corps. It’s a very fertile area of the world. Having said that, it still has its challenges relative to economies, education and aspects of development, but the Army is growing. The Army is strong, is vibrant and has amazing potential.

War Cry: Is there any one Salvation Army operation that is an example of what the Army is about in Tanzania?

Col. Ted Horwood: This territory strikes at the heart of The Salvation Army’s mission. We have a school for children with disabilities and children with albinism— two of the most vulnerable populations in Africa. We recently were able to provide surgery for six of the children. The children at the school are with us for up to eight years. Most of them come from very poor families. We’re providing physically transformative opportunities through access to better healthcare and surgeries they could never afford otherwise. We’re able to provide the education and opportunities that are so important, particularly to vulnerable populations of children who are often discarded. We provide spiritual formation as well. The children participate in corps meetings, and they have officers who are praying for and ministering to them. We’re touching the fullness of humanity. We also have a residential anti-trafficking program that strikes at the heart of our Salvation Army mission, reaching the most vulnerable in the population, providing psycho-social support and the elements that bring them healing.

War Cry: What is your greatest need in Tanzania?

Col. Ted Horwood: The greatest need is for partnerships* because they not only speak to our willingness to show respect, but also allow sharing of resources or specific capacities. That is a way forward for the Army in the majority of the world.

War Cry: What do you wish people understood about Self-Denial and World Services?

Col. Ted Horwood: Is there Self-Denial anymore? What is our sacrifice in the body of Christ? What are we? For us to live is Christ and to die is gain, so what does that mean to live Christ today? We can forget about it within a comfortable and convenient North American context.

Recognizing what God is doing around the world and wanting to invest in it in a way that it costs us something is a perspective we undervalue. Why do we give? Do we recognize that we’re giving to God through The Salvation Army, or are we getting a little bit jaded?

If we believe in the mission of The Salvation Army, do we act according to our hearts as Salvationists?  Who are we as Salvationists? What do we believe that God is doing uniquely in The Salvation Army? Do we believe that communities need The Salvation Army? Do we bring something different because of who we are as Salvationists? Do I want to invest in that? Do I want to be part of that? Why we give is important to explore.

People have the resources to give. What they need are better reasons to give. They need to realize the impact that they’re having. I’ll take people’s position over their donation. I’ll take them participating in our ministry over writing a check, because I want them to experience what I’m experiencing here. I want them to understand who the officers are and how they live.

I sure would like the soldiers to know how their contributions, how their participation at a local corps, is affecting Tanzania Territory. I wish they knew that kid who got an operation which changed his
life or that young girl who is getting an education and will not have to become a wife at 14 years old. They would want to participate so much more in what God is doing around the world through the Salvation Army ministries.

*Salvation Army territories form partnerships to support Army services and ministries in the developing world and where needs are pressing due to natural disasters or emergency situations.
Visit www.SAWSO.org for more information.

Lt. Colonel Allen Satterlee, Editor in Chief