Think Again!

‘Salvation is found in no one else,

for there is no other name

under heaven given to mankind

by which we must be saved’

(Acts 4:12, NIV)

Easter is a time for us to reflect upon the incredible, extravagant and measureless grace of God. Through Christ He provided a way for mere mortal human beings to be both reconciled to Him and enabled to enjoy the matchless benefits of a personal relationship with Him.

Sadly, for many Easter weekend may not represent anything more than an opportunity to have an extended break from the relentless pursuit of other personal goals and ambitions.

We live in a world resolutely turned towards materialism, to the almost total exclusion of the other elements we require in order to find fulfillment and purpose—to be complete and totally satisfied. Modern society offers us many of the things we need from a material perspective, but these are not enough to ensure happiness and freedom.

If you think material possessions bring happiness, then think again! You only have to take a look at society today to see the negative effects of materialistic consumerism.

Despite all that we have, modern humankind remains unsatisfied, seeking to find the point of our very existence and trying to find assurance that there is something after death.

In the midst of that context, the Christian message is unique because the message is not about a set of doctrines and beliefs but about a person, Jesus Christ.

We recognize the fact that we are not perfect people, but Easter brings the hope of new life—one that has been changed and transformed. The fact that we are imperfect is not, however, an excuse to justify a life of continual sin and rebellion.

Sadly, we recognize that some people in society have turned their backs on the Church because they feel that Christians are lacking in credibility. We preach love, yet the Church can be the most unforgiving place. We preach spiritual values, yet in reality Christians often aspire to material wealth, power and influence. We preach justice for the oppressed, but how many of us actually do anything to make a difference?

The Apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 3:23 that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”It is because of sin that man is unable to enjoy a relationship with God, and this explains why so many of our contemporaries are unsatisfied and seeking.

Despite a world that appears to be resolutely materialistic, we do see much evidence of people who search for meaning, who seek spiritual answers to the most preoccupying question of all: is there life after death? Could it be that many in our world today are trying to fill the spiritual void and find ways through their own efforts to reach the eternal paradise?

Jesus came to reconcile the world to God—this is the primary reason for His incarnation. Everything else resulting from the presence of Jesus in the world and in our lives is a direct result of us being reconciled to God.

Jesus came to fill the void that separates us from God. What is absolutely extraordinary—and what we need to remember every day of our lives—is the incredible fact that God in Jesus took the initiative in order that we might be reconciled to Him!

It is for this reason that Jesus willingly paid the price so that people like us who were considered to be “enemies” could be reconciled as a result: “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation” (Colossians 1:21-22, NIV).

What more do you need? Is Jesus not sufficient for you? If you have discovered the blessing and peace that only Jesus can bring then you will agree with the songwriter* when he says:

When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll,
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Chorus
It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

For me be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live;
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
O trump of the angel! O voice of the Lord!
Blessèd hope, blessèd rest of my soul!

General André Cox, international leader of The Salvation Army since 2013, directs the Army’s work in 128 countries.

*‘It is Well with my Soul’ by Horatio Gates Spafford (741, The Song Book of The Salvation Army).

6 Gifts of the Resurrection

Our God is a gift-giving God. We remember this at Christmas, when we celebrate the gift of God’s Son, Jesus. It is right to talk about Christmas at Easter and Easter at Christmas because God’s gift of salvation would be incomplete if Jesus hadn’t risen from the dead.

The Bible records instances of God’s gift-giving nature since ancient times. When in the Early Bronze Age He called Abraham out of the city of Ur in Mesopotamia, the Bible states that during Abraham’s journey, the Lord appeared to him and said, “This is My covenant with you: I will make you the father of a multitude of nations… And I will give the entire land of Canaan, where you now live as a foreigner, to you and your descendants” (Genesis 17:3-4,8).

Jesus personified God’s gift-giving nature. “Come to Me and I will give you rest,” He promises. Jesus taught us to pray to God to “Give us this day our daily bread.” John, one of Jesus’ dearest followers, heard Him say, “Ask for anything in My name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father” (John 14:13). And John gives us the triumphant truth that, “For this is how God loved the world: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

In his letters to early churches, Paul announced the bad news that “The wages of sin is death” and the good news that “The gift of God is eternal life.”

FORGIVENESS is one gift this good news offers. It is a basic need and longing of every human heart. If God were to hold our sins against us—and we all have sinned—then there is no hope of anything else from God. The foundation for every other blessing is that God will not hold our sins against us. Everything hinges on forgiveness!

How is the Resurrection of Jesus Christ connected to forgiveness? “He was handed over to die because of our sins, and He was raised to life to make us right with God” (Romans 4:25).

If Jesus had not been raised from the dead after dying, His death would not have justified us before God. In raising Him from the dead, God could look upon Him and see us through this perfect sacrifice.

Jesus paid the debt of sin each of us carries, a debt we could never repay ourselves. Such cleansing from sin through God’s forgiveness answers the most basic longings of the heart.

Each of us also longs to find someone to count on, no matter what. Someone totally trustworthy. Someone who will never disappoint you or let you down. Someone who will always be there. We look for this because we are made for it. God put the first man and woman in the Garden of Eden so they could glorify Him by trusting Him for everything they needed.

Christ’s victory over death shows Him to be a most trustworthy, dependable, ever-present Savior. In dying for us, He proved His love for us. His Resurrection proves that He has the power over every enemy of life and over every spirit of darkness and despair. We have a Savior who will never let us down. He is absolutely trustworthy. We can rejoice that “Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).”

In this complicated world of ours where knowledge and opinions abound, many conclude that there is no absolute truth—that something can be true all the time and everywhere whether or not people know it or like it. Jesus came to say “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life,”(John 14:6). And then He rose from the dead to prove His claim. Jesus can tell us what is absolutely true because in the Resurrection God proved Him to be absolutely true.

By defeating the ultimate roadblock to human freedom and possibility, He proved Himself to be, in His Words, the “Alpha and Omega,” the Beginning and the End. His is an eternal perspective, with which He can see all, know all, and decree that which is absolutely true and real and beautiful.

In this complicated
world of ours, many
conclude that
THERE IS NO
ABSOLUTE TRUTH

Each of us wants our lives to count for something, to be well spent, to have a purpose. We don’t want to come to the end of our days and say it was all in vain, empty, pointless, useless, pitiful. Does the Christian life really provide such purpose and significance?

If our hope in Christ is only for this life, and we hope in vain for life after death, we are not only to be pitied but considered insane and driven by hallucinations. But Jesus has been raised and is alive and reigns as King of kings and Lord of lords forever and ever. All our obedience, our love, our self-denial is not to be pitied, but is positively enviable. As Paul puts it, “Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (1 Corinthians 4:17 NKJV).

“Let my life not be in vain!” That’s the longing of our lives. “O Lord, let it not be misspent. Let me not come to my grave and say, ‘I’ve wasted it!’”

Since our life in Christ gives us purpose, we also have a mission. Every headstone has two dates: Born and Died. In between is a dash. The dash is the most important. It’s what you do between the two dates for Christ that counts.

Paul ends his discussion of the Resurrections by saying “Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor in not in vain in the Lord” (15:58 NKJV).

Because Christ is raised those who have fallen asleep in Him, those who have died in the faith, have not perished. Hallelujah!

They are alive. They will live forever. They have received the gift of eternal life. They live the way Christ lives. As He said, “There is more than enough room in My Father’s home… When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with Me where I am” (John 14:2). God’s gift grants us entrance into the joy of the Master.

The greatest news in all the world is that “He was raised on the third day.”

Alleluiah! Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed!
“Thanks be to God for His
indescribable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15).

Commissioner David Jeffrey is National Commander of The Salvation Army in the United States.

For God So Loved…

Since God has created everything and owns all of creation, what really costs Him anything?

In less than a flash of light, God could recreate everything so that our solar system had two suns, our feet were replaced by fins, our lifespan was measured by centuries instead of years. He who created the atoms and ordered them into molecules could easily make the ground soft so that we never scraped our knees or make our every wish come true. God could change the laws of physics so that the vast distances of the universe would be nothing more than a casual stroll in the park.

Science fiction depicts alternate universes where our identical selves are living out completely different lives because of decisions or actions that took place differently than in this universe. But God really could constantly make alternate realities and we wouldn’t even know it because all our memories would be based in the alternate life. One could go on and on with this. If it were in God’s nature to toy with us or treat creation like a video game, alternatives would be the law and not the stuff of imagination.

Nothing in all of creation really cost God anything since He already owned everything. But God allowed for an exception.

In creating people, God placed within us the capacity to choose. Choice only exists if there are alternatives. For reasons only God can understand, He wanted creatures who chose to love Him, not beings programmed like robots that had to behave a certain way. We know from what the Bible tells us and from our own experience that as a race and as individuals we have often chosen very badly, tragically at times. And even when we choose well we find that we are hardly as consistent as we wish we were.

 IT WAS A CHOICE

God could have washed His hands of us from the start, but He did not. He chose to do something to provide us the alternative that would not only be the best for ourselves, but would also allow us to reach the goal He intended for us in the first place: to love and seek fellowship with Him.

Before the foundation of the world, God had already made up His mind that we needed something from outside of us that would come into us and make us different. This plan of rescue is what we call salvation.

How could God do this in such a way as to prove His deepest love?

He could have prescribed a regimen like a doctor who tells us to exercise more and eat less. But then we would become slaves to the regimen. And as with exercise and diets we would have good days and bad days.

He could have dispatched an angel to the rescue but then that would be sending one created being to help another. Salvation was not going to come by divine delegation.

No. Salvation would cost Him something. But since God owns everything, since all possibilities are open before Him, since all that is must obey Him in an instant, what could possibly cost Him anything?

The Resurrection sealed the offer of an alternative
to our life we have so terribly mucked up.
WE DON’T HAVE TO LIVE LIKE THAT ANYMORE.

The Bible answers that question. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son… (John 3:16). What God did not own, what He could not recreate, the only thing in all of the imaginable universes and circumstances that cost Him anything was His Son. There was only one Son. There could be only one Son. Another Son could not be created. And since the Son is a coequal person of the Trinity that is God, it was God who was given. This is staggering. The only thing that could cost God anything cost Him everything.

A RUN ON THE BANK 

Someone said that when Jesus came, it was God pulling everything out of His pockets and then turning them inside out. But it was more than that. It was emptying the bank account, throwing the clothes out of the drawer, handing over the keys to the car and abandoning any means to replace any of it. But that’s still not enough to describe it.

Jesus came and lived with the likes of us. The likes of us.

Think of your worst moment. He came for you in that moment.

Think of the most horrific crimes of humanity. He came for us in those crimes.

Think of your worst fantasies of violence or lust or greed. He came for you in those fantasies.

Our gratitude was shown by beating Him mercilessly, crushing a crown of thorns on His head, riveting His hands to a splintered cross and then standing around mocking Him in His pain. But He gave and gave and gave again until on the cross He gave His last breath. “It is finished,” He said.

God could have left it at that, but He had another great gift coming. After a couple of the darkest days in the history of humanity, He gave to us that glorious moment of Resurrection. Christ was already free but the Resurrection showed that His gift to the human race had not yet been bequeathed until that moment. When the stone rolled away, it was not only to let Him out, but also to let us into the Kingdom of God.

God proves His love by giving the only thing that cost Him anything. The Resurrection sealed the offer of an alternative to our life we have so terribly mucked up. We don’t have to live like that anymore.

It doesn’t matter that God could create alternative universes or change around the creation where we now live. He has given you this life, this moment, this opportunity. If He is speaking to you now, will you turn away from the only One who has fully known you but loves you completely? He came for you. For you.

This is the day of salvation. Come home.

Lt. Colonel Allen Satterlee, Editor in Chief

Definitely Not A Motorcycle ‘Gang’

Normally when you hear or see a motorcycle gang, the image of fierce, mean renegade outlaws could be what you conjure up. But not the “Sons Of The Savior” Motorcycle Ministry, some of whose members are also soldiers of the Hendersonville, North Carolina Corps.

That’s because: 1.) they don’t consider themselves “a gang” (theirs is a ministry); and, 2.) these men and women are all born-again Christians. When they are not taking on a project to benefit the community or their corps, they are roaring down the open-road—and even then their witness is most evident by the Gospel-patches adorning their leather jackets.

The Founding Four members—Roy Snelson, Gary Benfield, Robert House, and Scott Justice—were brainstorming ways to give life to the “aging” Men’s Fellowship Club at the Hendersonville Corps. Some of the younger members wanted to do more, and as they talked, they realized they all shared a love for motorcycles.

“Originally we wanted to call ourselves ‘Sons Of The Son,’ but another group had rights to that name, so we tried a few others on,” says founding president, Roy Snelson. “We really wanted to keep the ‘SOS’ or ‘SOTS’ acronym, and Gary (Banfield) suggested ‘Sons Of The Savior.’ The name stuck.”

The ‘Sons’ are male and female, and they spend about as much time doing good in the corps and in the community as they do on their hogs. Membership quickly grew; and you don’t necessarily have to own a motorcycle to join in the fun. The oldest member is 55; the youngest, 21.

“At least one member of the ‘Sons’ is on the road ever day,” says Gary Benfield, who rides a 2015 Harley Davidson Road King. “We try to group up on Saturdays and after church on Sundays—we ride as much and as often as we can.”

“This started out as a fellowship, but it quickly morphed into a ministry,” says one member, who rides a 2000 (all-chrome) Road King. “This is a brotherhood, and without a doubt it is the best. We love each other and we love serving the community.”

Robert House is another Founding Father. He sports a Kawasaki Vaquero 1700.

“It is important for me to get with a group of guys who love the Lord, and that I can trust,” Robert says. “We do a lot of good around town, but it’s really to show everyone what Christianity is all about!”

One young couple caught the fever, although Shawn Briggs is a multigenerational biker. “My mother was a biker (and a tattoo-artist!) and she rode with her dad. She passed her love of riding on to me,” Shawn says.

Shawn’s girlfriend, Christy Day, says she absolutely loves sitting on the back of Shan’s 2000 Road King Custom.

Some of the things they do in the name of Christ include:

  • Salvation Army Angel Tree
  • Toy Runs
  • School Backpacks
  • Hydration Tents at Christian outdoor events
  • Groceries for needy families
  • Pay power bills
  • Man Prayer Tents
  • Witnessing

That last item is especially important to the Sons.

“When we ride to a location, we never take the way back home,” Roy admits. “That’s because people are curious when they see us riding and we answer their many questions. Whether we’re eating an ice cream cone or drinking a cola, we tell them about our love for the Lord and what He can do in their lives as well. We offer to pray with them.”

Roy straddles a 1999 Harley Davidson Fat-Boy.

“Look past our tattoos, bandanas, and leather jackets,” he says, “and see that we are a group of brothers who love Jesus!”

This is by no means the only Salvation Army motorcycle clubs—there is at least one in each of the USA Eastern, Central, and Western Territories. Most clubs have their own patch and are incorporated.

However, offshoot “Sons Of The Savior” chapters are springing up in Fayetteville, North Carolina; Phoenix, Arizona; Hilo, Hawaii; and an innovating branch at the Charlotte Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC).

“In fact,” Roy shares, “our clubs are planning to meet near Camp Walter Johnson (North & South Carolina Division) and roar into Men’s Camp in May! Wouldn’t that be a fine sight (and sound!) to see some 30 Christian men on their bikes rumbling into camp?”

(For more information, please visit www.sonsofthesaviormm.com and on Facebook, Sons Of The Savior M/M.)

—Major Frank Duracher, Assistant Editor

 

 

Third Time’s The Charm

Being appointed twice to the same spot happens from time-to-time in The Salvation Army. But Majors Juan & Lydia Mercado (at center, right) found that third time’s the charm!

It rarely happens, but every once in a while, a Salvation Army Officer (married couple or single) might be appointed to a post or position where they’ve served before. Circumstances change and the volume of responsibility may have increased due to (prayerfully!) the growth and increase God sends on any particular corps, adult rehabilitation center, or staff position.

It’s possible, and sometimes it does happen—but by and large the majority of Officers serving in one city will probably never be reappointed there.

Isn’t it iRonic, then, for Majors Juan and Lydia Mercado to have a unique distinction of being named as Corps Officers in Guayama, Puerto Rico three times!

Juan and Lydia and both from Ponce, Puerto Rico, and were practically newlyweds, married only two years, when in 1992 they entered the USA Eastern Territory’s College For Officer Training in Suffern, New York. As members of the Crusaders For Christ Session of cadets, the Mercados were commissioned as Lieutenants in June 1994.

Their first appointment was as Corps Officers for three years in Mayaguez. In 1997 they became Corps Officers in Caguas until 2004.

“That’s the first ‘Marching Orders’ we received to come to Guayama,” Major Juan says.

They served in the old Guayama Corps from 2004-2006 (years before the Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center opened). From Guayama, they became divisional youth leaders for Puerto Rico & Virgin Islands Division (2006-2008) and Greater New York Division (2008-2011).

“Then we returned to Guayama as administrators of the Kroc center, which had by that time opened,” Major Lydia comments. “The only difference for that first year we had a set of Officers who served as Corps Officers.”

“But then in 2012,” Major Juan adds, “we were given the added responsibility of Corps Officers when the Lieutenants were needed in another appointment—so technically, that marked the second Marching Orders to assume the Corps Officer role.”

Major Juan Mercado teaches an Adult Bible Class at the Guayama Kroc Corps.

The Majors chuckle at the thought of not having to “march” very far.

Another set of Officers came for three years in 2013, relieving the Mercados of corps officership and allowing them to focus entirely on overseeing administration of the Kroc itself.

“But then, in 2016, that set of Officers transferred out, and we were given our third assignment as Corps Officers in Guayama,” he says.

The good news is that the corps family at the Kroc Corps loves the Mercados; and the Majors’ love for their people is just as evident.

Major Lydia Mercado welcomes worshippers to the Sunday Morning Service at the Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Guayama, Puerto Rico.

They do take a little bit of gentle ribbing about “coming back” to Guayama as often as three times. It’s all in good fun. Like, they’ll keep coming back until they get it right—that kind of thing.

One soldier was commenting they love the Kroc Corps, and how his family will be a part of the Army’s mission and ministry in Guayama for many years to come.

“Even after the Mercados are moved away!” this soldier says.

“Don’t worry,” another soldier quickly chimes in, “it won’t be long until they’ll be back again!” (LOL)

—Major Frank Duracher, Assistant Editor

iRONY

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