Tag Archives: christ

Intentional Living

By: Danni Eickenhorst, Midland Division

The Salvation Army’s Temple Worship & Community Center in South City is working to truly know every facet of the community in which they minister. The surrounding neighborhoods are marked by violence, high incidences of drug use, school dropouts, teen pregnancy and marked poverty.

When several buildings being used for transitional housing across the street lost their funding, a new program was developed to better serve the community. The 11-units owned by The Salvation Army became difficult to upkeep without funding, so they had to be sold or repurposed.

The Salvation Army’s Divisional Commander Major Lonneal Richardson worked with Envoys Steve and Ketsia Diaz of Temple and decided the best use of the buildings would be to use several of them for an urban ministry program. In this program, called the Intentional Living Program, Christian individuals with a heart for leadership can live in the units rent-free in exchange for donating their time and talents to The Salvation Army and other neighborhood efforts.

Upon launching the program, the envoys moved their family into one of the units so they could become more effectively ingrained in their community.

“Without living among the people you serve, it’s difficult to effectively minister to them, especially if you’re driving in every day from the suburbs,” said John Aho, Community Partnerships and Program Development Director for Temple.

Aho, the children of Salvation Army pastors who often served in inner-city churches, came to St. Louis to serve in the Intentional Living Program as an unpaid volunteer. “Jesus came into the world and experienced it, and lived among the people. This program allows us to experience the same challenges our friends, clients and soldiers face every day. Instead of dictating principles from on high, you do it from their level, where they live – where you live,” said Aho.

The program continues to grow and has created a unique bond between the neighborhood and The Salvation Army. “With the additional Christ-centered community-focused volunteers we now have at our fingertips, we have been able to work more hands-on with schools, neighborhood associations, arts organizations, local businesses and other non-profits to strengthen the community. Those of us who are in the program are essentially good role models, planting seeds in the community among the youth. We are showing the kids that you don’t have to quit school. You don’t have to get married young. There is another option.”

As a result of the Intentional Program’s intensive neighborhood focus, Temple recently received a Thomas Lyle Williams Grant and matching funds from the Dana Brown Charitable Foundation which will allow them to fund a CHOICES program, allowing neighborhood adults and children to come to the community center to take elective courses that will broaden their horizons, helping to stimulate interests that may lead to future career choices – such as sound engineering, dance and drama.

“We are doing big things in Benton Park West and the surrounding communities,” said Aho, “and we are actively recruiting for more people to join us in our work.”

Those with a heart for leadership interested in giving a year or more to an inner city neighborhood, offering hope to the hopeless and help to the hurting are encouraged to reach out to John Aho at 314.771.3460 for more information on the Intentional Living program, or visit www.sastlouistemple.org for more information.

Genuine Holiness: Serving God & Staying True to Yourself

By: Captain AmyJo Ferguson, O’Fallon (MO) Worship & Community Center

ImageThe usual Christian approach to purity involves this sort of heaping on of the good while eschewing the bad.  If I can listen to the right music, watch the right shows, read the right books, and do the right things while simultaneously avoiding all the wrong stuff, I’ll somehow attain some level of purity.  I suppose this works out pretty well if one really enjoys the Gaither Vocal Band, Lifetime original movies, Janette Oke, and scrapbooking, because those are the things that the church has deemed “pure and right.”

We probably take this approach from the many “Garbage In/Garbage Out” sermons and devotionals that we were exposed to in the late 80s and early 90s.  We use verses like Philippians 4: 8 (“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”) to justify our “try harder” theology.   We keep believing that one day we will be holy enough to vote Republican. I recall one particularly trying time when the party I was traveling with decided to listen to the same two worship CDs over and over again on a six hour journey.  These CDs featured 10 two or three minute songs first with vocals and then again without vocals.  I found myself praying for some sort of temporary deafness as the two adults in the front seat sang, “Ha la la la la la la hallelujah” for the 3rd time.  As they began the 4th time through and I didn’t enjoy it any more than the 1st, I began thinking, “Is there something wrong with me?”

There are people like me who vote a mixed political ticket, love the Ramones, adore Kurt Vonnegut and Lawren Harris and worship Chris with our whole heart, yet we struggle with the church’s idea of holiness.  We are supposed to “be like Jesus” even though Jesus never dealt with a computer, radio or television.  We are supposed to fully consecrate ourselves to Christ and to act in his service.  How does that work out in a two party system where all too often the choice seemingly comes down to morally straight or socially responsible?   I’m afraid that the reason why a whole bunch of people have given up on this holiness thing is that they feel trapped between the church sanctioned ideas of purity and their own sense of good taste and ideology.  Churches are full of “followers of Christ” who in frustration have given up on actually following Christ and that problem extends beyond just the music we listen to and the books that we read.

At this point, some pastors would suggest that we “surrender it all.” I would rather suggest this: Stop pursuing some preconceived notion of righteousness and go on a whole-hearted pursuit of God.  Romans 9: 30 – 32 “What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone.”  Jesus never really fit into the accepted norms of his day, perhaps the most holy of us don’t exactly fit in either.

Who is Jesus?

This blog by Major Wood is the first in a series of blogs that tackles the question “Who is Jesus?” Read, enjoy and share – and give us your feedback and thoughts as you consider his interpretation of this question.

“Every Time My Heart Beats”

By: Major Kris Wood, Officer Maplewood

I was driving in my minivan the other day, the radio was off, the only sound I needed was the sound of my 4 year old daughter humming to herself.  She was creating a tune that was not quite musically accurate but there had never been a more beautiful sound to reach my ears.  The sound of children singing makes the hardest hearts quake.  It was a beautiful day. The trees were in the process of turning from the green of summer to the colors of fall.  The sky was as clear and cloudless; the blue reflected off of my daughter’s eyes as she gazed with amazement at the glory passing her side window. 

“Daddy, Jesus is talking to me,” she said.  She said it as if it was a common occurrence, not something supernatural or incredible.  I got the feeling that she was used to Jesus talking to her.  “What’s he saying?” I asked.  I wanted to encourage her so that I could understand where her mind had wandered as we drove in the minivan and she hummed her tune.  “He told me not to drink alcohol,” she said.  I was surprised.  I expected her to repeat what she had heard in church; “Jesus loves me.” 

“That’s a good thing to remember,” I said.  I have to admit to being at a loss for words.

She hummed her tune for a moment, contemplating something profound.  I watched her through the rear view mirror.  Her right hand was twirling her light brown hair in circles.

“Jesus talks to me every time my heart beats,” she said.  Again, there was a frankness to her statement that made me feel like she was in constant conversation with Jesus.

I had to ponder what she was saying and still focus on safe driving.  Her last statement hit me as something more profound than a four year old should utter. 

“Does he talk to you all the time?” I asked.  I saw her shake her head in response; as if I were a total idiot.

“No, Daddy.  I said; ‘Jesus talks to me every time my heart beats.’  My heart goes, ping, ping, ping; and Jesus talks to me.”  I had been scolded by my daughter; put into my place.  How could I be so slow as to not understand that obvious truth? 

I turned the corner and drove a block farther down the street where my office is located.  There was nothing that I could think to say or ask, so we rode the remaining distance in silence.  Then, she spoke once again; “Daddy, do you talk to Jesus?”

“Yes.  I talk to him all the time,” I said.  She thought for a moment.

“Does he talk to you through your heart beat?” she asked.  Great question indeed. 

It is obvious to me that my daughter talks to Jesus.  She knows that he is real.  Somehow she has made the connection with him, yet so many ask the question, “Who is Jesus?”  They do not seem to know what my daughter understands; Jesus is real.  I recently asked people on Facebook to answer the question:  “Who Is Jesus?”  I have received responses from all over theUnited Statesfrom people I know well and people I do not know at all.  I have heard over and over the standard answers that Christians around the world give for that question:  “The Son of God, My Lord and Savior, Lamb of God, Emmanuel, God With Us, The Human Manifestation of The Creator God, God’s Gift To The World.”  All those are true Biblical statements about who Jesus is, but they do not reach the place where a personal connection is made, like when my daughter said, “Jesus talks to me every time my heart beats.”  She seems to have tapped into the mystery that goes beyond definition.  In some miraculous way, Jesus is real to my daughter.  She does not know or understand any of those descriptions that people have given of who Jesus is; but she knows Jesus. 

Who do you say Jesus is?  Is it a standard answer that comes to mind or is it the unspeakably personal feeling of being connected, in touch, with the eternal?  Jesus asked his followers who they said he was.  Simon Peter answered by saying, “The Christ, the Son of God.”  (The Messiah).  Yet, later when Jesus spoke to Peter he asked Peter personal questions that probed to the heart of the man.  “Do you really love me?” he asked Peter.  Peter replied, “You know I love you.”  It was a personal, even painful interaction for Peter since only a short time before he had publically denied knowing Jesus or being one of his followers.  To Peter, Jesus was more than just the Messiah, he was his friend.  Is Jesus your friend?  Many people know about Jesus.  Many others have heard about Jesus, but Jesus desired to have a personal relationship with each of us that goes beyond labels and titles.  Jesus longs to speak to you through the beating of your heart.  Every beat, every breath, every thought, every movement; they are all a gift from God.  They tell us that we are still alive; they allow us to live.  At the very center of living we find a person, not distant and unknown but close and caring.  We find someone who loves us in ways that cannot be put clearly into words.  We find acceptance, caring, love, peace and hope.  Most of all, we find a forgiving and welcoming friend.  It is time to move past the religion of Jesus, the things done in his name, the impact his life had on the world and all that those things imply, and find a personal friend.

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