Sunday, July 28, 2013

LEADING FROM THE TRENCHES: Principles or People?

LEADING FROM THE TRENCHES: Principles or People?
Jesus demonstrated non-judgemental love for people by leading in the tension between principles and people through a perfect balance of grace and truth that put a higher value on people over principles.

Saturday, July 27, 2013


Panic usually results from being crippled by crisis, when you are unable to see a way through, whereas, resilience comes as a result of persevering through crisis because you hold fast to the belief that there is a way through.


If an idea is worth communicating, then it is worth making the effort to effectively present it in a way that maximizes its impact.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Human Trafficking Repackaged?

Disclaimer:  This post is a personal reflection expressing my own opinions, which may not reflect the official position of The Salvation Army. You can find official statements on asylum seekers by The Salvation Army at or

In the wake of the recent Australian government policy shift on asylum seekers, many Australians are left reeling over the perceived inhumanity of our Prime Minister's tough stance on people smugglers and "boat people".

While detention centres and off-shore processing has been the strategy by both sides of politics in one form or another, this recent move has seen the Australian government broker a deal with the Papua New Guinea government to transfer unwanted "boat people" to our neighbours with no chance of settlement in Australia, regardless of the legitimacy of their claim for asylum.  

In other words, we have come up with an economic arrangement to offload unwanted human cargo with a no return policy attached!  

As offensive as that sounds, it characterizes how Australia's political behaviour appears not that far removed from the behaviour of the people smugglers they are attempting to deter.  People smugglers relocate vulnerable human beings for economic advantage, whereas this new policy plans to relocate vulnerable human beings for political advantage.  While the two operate on different sides of the law, human beings are still being traded and transported with little regard for their basic human rights into another form of captivity and increased vulnerability.  Whichever way I look at this new asylum seeker policy, I am left wondering if it inadvertently falls into a politically justified form of human trafficking?

Beneath the distorted justifications for this policy, you can't escape the fact that an economic deal has been brokered with another country to trade human beings, who are not breaking the law, into an oppressive situation against their will.

This point of view may well be overstated and even a little controversial, but I hope it compels us as a society to critically assess and challenge any policy that increases the vulnerability of people who are exercising their internationally recognised right to seek asylum, which is not conditional upon their mode of transport.  We need to strip away politics and set aside prejudices so that we can reengage in a meaningful discussion that puts human rights back on the agenda to find a more appropriate and unified response to this human catastrophe!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Le Tour Lessons

As we approach the final stage of what has been an exciting year at the Tour de France, there are many life lessons that can be learned from these extraordinary athletes. I've sat up and watched each stage into the early hours of the morning marveling at the physical endurance, mental toughness and team tactics of cyclists putting everything on the line for a podium finish on the Champs-Elysees in Paris.

Amidst the phenomenal efforts by these professional cyclists at the top of their sport have been suspicion of doping, horrific crashes, over zealous fans and controversial tactics.  While it would be tempting to allow these distractions to overshadow the achievements of this event, they do provide some challenging insights worth considering.

1. Suspicion of Doping - It is a tragedy that the actions of drug cheats in any sport robs spectators and sporting heroes of the joy of simply enjoying a victory, without being suspected of cheating.  Chris Froome hit out at reporters who questioned his amazing acceleration on Mont Ventoux saying, "To compare me with Lance is wrong - Lance cheated, but I'm not cheating. End of story."  If only it was that simple!  The reality is we do not live in isolation of other people's actions.  It is naive to think that we can live our lives, our way, without consequence to the lives of others.  Maybe if we took more notice of the classroom discipline method of punishing the whole class for the behaviour of one student society would be less individualistic and hold a greater value for community accountability.

2. Horrific Crashes - When you ride at high speeds within inches of the rider in front of you, accidents are inevitable.  Pushing limits and taking risks are a necessary part of the equation of winning.  No cyclists who have played it safe have ever won the Tour de France, just as no person who has lived a risk free life has ever accomplished anything of significance.  To see cyclists get back on their bikes and continue to race with injuries is inspiring and challenges us to never give up, no matter how hard we fall.

3. Over Zealous Fans - Throughout the Tour I have been frustrated and at times angry at the way spectators have been in the face of the competitors.  They have ran alongside them screaming and yelling, put obstacles in their way, risking their own safety and the safety of the riders.  Yet, despite the obvious aggravation by some competitors, they have remained focused on their goal and have not allowed themselves to be distracted.  The paradox is that I admire the raw passion of the crowd, even when it is idiotic, and I respect the determination of the riders that is unshaken by the crowd.  Passionate people inspire greatness not only in the Tour de France, but in every arena of life!

4. Controversial Tactics - The desire and pressure to win can drive teams to adopt questionable tactics that can seriously damage the reputation of riders and the sport. Riding across the line of another cyclist in a sprint or taking on food after the exclusion zone on a hill climb may win short term gains, but diminishes the value of the advantage at best or results in penalties at worst.  Either way, when the character of a rider or team takes a hit, the focus on their competence becomes blurred.  Many successful sporting stars, executives or politicians are remembered for all the wrong reasons because they allowed winning at all costs to compromise their integrity.

Beyond the insights gained from these distractions, the real appeal of the Tour de France is the pinnacle of human achievement that pushes through pain barriers over three weeks of grueling riding through the stunning countryside of France.  Vive le Tour!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Monday, July 15, 2013

Saved to...? Further Reflection

"Saved to Serve" or "Saved to Save"?

Earlier this year I explored this question in response to a Facebook discussion initiated by Major Stephen Court in my blog post Saved to...?

Last night, in response to Commissioner Floyd Tidd's radio interview with John Cleary on ABC Radio, I rekindled the discussion evoking seemingly polarized views from Salvationists and supporters of The Salvation Army.

Further to my original blog post and last night's responses to this question, I offer the following for further reflection...

Historically, it seems conclusive from statements made by William and Bramwell Booth that the two S's worn on Salvation Army uniforms were intended to mean "Saved to Save."   However, theologically and missionally, it seems that some Salvationists are less than convinced, opting for the later adopted meaning "Saved to Serve"; while others settle for a marriage between both, as a demonstration of the integration of the social and spiritual mission of The Salvation Army.

The primary objection that I read about "Saved to Save" is that only Jesus saves!  And the general appeal of "Saved to Serve" is that service is our response to God's salvation, pointing people to the saving act of Jesus Christ through our actions.  Which view is right?  Well, both actually!

It is biblical truth that salvation is an act of God:  "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast."  (Ephesians 2:8-9)
It is equally true that God calls us to do good works in response to His salvation:  "For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."  (Ephesians 2:10)

Both sides of the discussion affirm these basic biblical truths, however, miss the point of the original question.  The question is not about who does what, but what is the fundamental purpose behind what we do.  It is really a matter of determining the why behind the what!  The who is clear, but the why often gets lost in living out the what.

"Who" - Holy Spirit and The Salvation Army
"What" - Holy Spirit convicts people of sin and points them to Jesus, The Salvation Army serves people in their sin and points them to Jesus.
"Why" - So that they may be saved!

Everything we do in the power of Holy Spirit is so that people may have an encounter with the saving grace of Jesus Christ and be restored to right relationship with their Creator.  Therefore, The Salvation Army is a movement of people who have been saved by grace and in faith reach out to a lost and broken world with a message of salvation that is delivered by "serving suffering humanity" so that they too may be saved!  We start with our own salvation and lead people towards their salvation.

A "Saved to Serve" ethos fixates on what we do (us), whereas, a "Saved to Save" ethos fixates on why we do it (Jesus).  So let us embrace God's intention for The Salvation Army to be a "Saved to Save" people "fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith" (Hebrews 12:2).

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Search For Faith & Truth

The inter-faith conversations I have been engaging in recently have presented some interesting relational, evangelical and theological challenges as I have sought to establish a strong foundation of relationship, while giving witness to the faith I have in Jesus Christ.  Evangelically, I need to trust the work of Holy Spirit to guide these conversations towards truth (John 16:13).  Theologically, I need to  be faithful with the truth that has been revealed (2 Timothy 3:14-15).  Relationally, I need to hold these two in tension as I spend more time listening than convincing, as we seek common ground between our faith perspectives (Acts 17:22-23).

I received an email today from one of the Muslim men that I am building a friendship with through our inter-faith dialogue.  He wrote the following in his correspondence with me:

"Religion, if it is to have its natural and proper place in the spiritual life, must be founded upon fact, and the search for and the assimilation of fact is one of the aims of Islam.  Let we, together strive to search for the FACTS, after all only true faith leads to true path which can earn pleasure of God, which is ultimate goal of one’s life here on earth."

On the one hand this statement affirms our common search for truth and relationship with "God" yet, on the other hand, it exposes a fundamental difference in our searching, in that, God's pleasure cannot be earned.  

"The search for and the assimilation of fact (truth)" is most certainly one of the aims of Christianity also, as we study and apply the Word of God to our lives.  From Moses call to the Hebrews to observe and apply the law of God (Deuteronomy 11:18) to Paul's exhortation to continue to live according the Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:14), the search for and application of truth is central to being 'people of the Book.'

"True faith" is indeed the pathway towards knowing God, but cannot "earn [the] pleasure of God."  While I would affirm with my Muslim friend that the pleasure of God is the "ultimate goal of one's life here on earth," it is not my faith that earns His pleasure but acceptance of His grace that enables me to bring Him pleasure through a life that is lived for His glory.  Paul clearly defines the relationship between our faith and God's grace in Ephesians 2:8 -  "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God."

The more we dialogue with each other the more I see how close we are, yet how distant we are in our faith experiences.  I continue to pray that our mutual search for truth will keep leading this inter-faith conversation back to the saving grace of Jesus Christ!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Budget For Mistakes

Among the many people I enjoy conversing with in my role as a Salvation Army Officer are leaders from other organisational contexts who experience similar sort of leadership successes and challenges as I do.  I had the opportunity to meet up with one such leader today, a very close friend who is currently the elected mayor of his city and a small business owner.  His leadership experience and knowledge is diverse and complex with the responsibility of working alongside other elected members of council, while at the same time managing a team of employees.

Our conversation recognised the vulnerability for leaders to admit their mistakes to their peers and those they lead.  Is this vulnerability a weakness or a strength?  Well, potentially both.  If admitting our mistakes is a window into our incompetence, then indeed it could well be a sign of weakness.  However, if it is a display of humility that reflects a solid character, willing to admit when wrong, but uncompromising, even amidst conflict, when right; then indeed it is a strength.  Unfortunately, personal insecurity and corporate competitiveness often creates an unsafe environment to openly admit ones mistakes.

My friend made a profound statement about how he influences his small business environment by sharing with me that he literally "budgets for mistakes."  The genius of this ethos is that it makes it safe for his staff to make decisions and risk failing without damaging the business.  Budgeting for mistakes enables the leader to give away power and empowers followers to have a go.  Budgeting for mistakes creates a culture of innovation where mistakes are acknowledged as a part of the process of growth.  Budgeting for mistakes promotes security instead of insecurity and collaboration instead of competition.

While the bottom line for my friends business is profitability, the principle of "budgeting for mistakes" could and should apply to whatever you define as your bottom line.  Maybe then the vulnerability of admitting our mistakes will be mitigated by a vibrant environment where people are encouraged to try and fail so they will try and succeed!