Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Young's analytical discourse on deceiving hearts...

Carol Young has set my mind working overtime…

I am committed to seeing proper personal holiness re-established in The lives of ordinary Salvationists and I accept Railton’s definition of holiness:
“I conclude that to be holy is simply to be given up to God, and that man cannot become holy in any other way than by giving himself up, and not only wishing to become, but becoming wholly the Lord’s.” (GSR Christian Mission Magazine May 1873)
Carol raises an important point about the heart’s ability to deceive, and says…

"I am delving into "heart matters" at the moment which you can read about on my blog. The Bible tells us that the heart is deceitful above all things. With that in mind I am sure that we can kid ourselves quite easily about the level of our devotion and even really mean it when we say that we give our all. We just don't expect God to take us that seriously or realise how precious something is to us until we are at the point of letting it go. We can then wriggle out of turning our words into action quite easily by comparing ourselves with others."
It is certainly difficult to place the ‘consecration’ bit of ‘entire consecration’ into a contemporary setting. What does it mean to surrender all in the 21st century? These are old questions and the debate has rattled on for years. However, there are some pointers we should heed, for example take ‘worldliness’ - in 2000 years of Christianity worldliness was always seen as something that should be avoided but in the last 50 years it has dropped off the radar completely! Was the church wrong? Is morality determined by the attitude of society rather than by the bible?

I recently read the following in Isaiah 1:16-17
“wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.”
This verse (for me) settles the crisis/process debate once and for all. I can’t stop doing something by degrees – fulfilment of the command ‘stop’ must include actual cessation! Neither can I ‘learn’ instantly. Stopping should be instant (crisis) and learning should be gradual (process). There is so much biblical support for this view one could write a book on it!

The ‘sin’ that Israel was guilty of was largely two-fold, idolatry and a lack of concern for the marginalized – the prophets are full of this stuff.

The problem we have is that our definition (or maybe I should say appreciation) of holiness has been largely shaped around our moral history rather than God’s power . Herbert B. puts it very well – “All the memories of deed gone by, rise within me and thy power deny”. As a result of our inability to be good and because we see no one else being good we think that goodness (this side of the Jordan) is something we should strive for rather than expect to achieve.

Carol is right to mention the unreliable nature of the heart and that is why holiness depends upon God fulfilling his promise in Ezekiel (11:19-20)
“I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God.”

However, as with most biblical promises there are conditions attached and in the preceding verses we read…

“And you will know that I am the LORD, for you have not followed my decrees or kept my laws but have conformed to the standards of the nations around you." (verse 12)

“They will return to it and remove all its vile images and detestable idols.” (verse 18)

We are in a catch 22 situation! In order to obey we need a new heart, in order to get a new heart we have to repent, repentance means a practical commitment to obedience… but we will always struggle to obey from out of an old heart. Where do we go from here – I would suggest Romans 8!

  • God’s not going to condemn us for trying (verse 1)
  • If we fail along the way Jesus has carried the can for us (verses 3-4) ).
  • We must yield to the Spirit (verses 9-17).
  • We must faithfully obey (the whole chapter!)

With the comfort of knowing that we are allowed to ‘learn to do good’ and with the awareness that we must immediately stop ‘doing wrong’ let’s (in faith) dump everything we know is wrong and consecrate everything that is left as and when we are prompted – once we ask God to define ‘all’ it’s amazing how quickly he starts to demand - in fact in some cases the whole ‘process’ can take place in a moment.

This is an important debate and coming to the proper conclusions will determine how quickly we are allowed to enjoy the revival which we are all so eagerly waiting for!

Yours, set apart by Christ, for the lost, in the Army. A

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Saviour while my heart is tender...

Saturday night - Commissioning - Wembley Conference Centre (no air conditioning!) - hot - humid - late...

I notice that my nephew, who's Mum and Dad split up last year, is getting into the prayer meeting (he's twelve)... I ask him if he'd like to go to the cross and pray? I'm not sure which comes first the enthusiastic yes, the tears or the enormous look of relief on his face.

We go and pray, I pray for him as I would pray for an adult, I lay hands on him and sense God's power moving down my arm, through my fingers and into his young frame. The tears flow, the spirit flows and Danny verbalises his own prayer - God hears and responds.

Later in the evening he says to my wife "when I was at the Mercy Seat I felt the power of God come down and claim me" Hallelujah!

The same night, my youngest daughter Bethany asks to go to the cross and pray I take her by the hand and as we walk down the steps she looks up at me and says "I know what I want to do with the rest of my life - I want to be an Officer" - she is 8 in September!

Then this morning I read Gordon's blog and discover that God was moving in the hearts of other children too.

Then on my way to work my IPOD delivers the following song...

Saviour, while my heart is tender,
I would yield that heart to thee;
All my powers to thee surrender,
Thine and only thine to be.
Take me now, Lord Jesus, take me,
Let my youthful heart be thine;
Thy devoted servant make me,
Fill my soul with love divine.

Send me, Lord, where thou wilt send me,
Only do thou guide my way;
May thy grace through life attend me,
Gladly then shall I obey.
Let me do thy will, or bear it,
I would know no will but thine;
Shouldst thou take my life, or spare it,
I that life to thee resign.

May this solemn consecration
Never once forgotten be;
Let it know no alteration,
Registered, confirmed by thee.
Thine I am, O Lord, forever,
To thy service set apart;
Suffer me to leave thee never,
Seal thine image on my heart.

The tears flow again... this time they're mine.

Yours set apart by Christ, for the lost, in the Army.


Sunday, July 23, 2006

Do we really mean it

I have just returned from the UK Commissioning – an uplifting, challenging and inspiring weekend. There were many moments of real anointing (not just high emotion but genuine invasions of the soul by God the Holy Spirit!). The preaching in particular (from Cmmrs John and Betty Matear and Lt-Colonel Vic Poke) was perceptive, incisive and showed real evidence of discernment, passion and courage.

However… there were two moments during the weekend when I felt a divine frown – maybe even a bit of a glower from on high.

The first was the declaration of faith made by the Captains to be, I am sure everyone meant what they said and I have no reason to doubt their wholehearted acceptance of the doctrines – yet if you dip into any of the many SA discussion forums that are around or hang out at an Officer’s fellowship it will not before long before you hear Officer’s openly challenging – even dismissing – some of the doctrines. In particular doctrines 1, 5, 9, 10 and 11 seem to be considered optional by many of those who bear the red felt on their shoulders.

The second came when the congregation sang:

All my days and all my hours,
All my will and all my powers,
All the passion of my soul,
Not a fragment but the whole
Shall be thine, dear Lord,
Shall be thine, dear Lord.

The use of words like ‘all’ and ‘whole’ make this a real Railtonian commitment to all-out, no-holds barred, life or death warfare. This is not an itsy-bitsy, namby-pamby, limp-wristed, half hearted wink in the direction of consecration – this is hardcore holiness.

I wonder how many who sang the chorus genuinely meant it? If the truth were known then the passion, time and powers of the average Salvationist is shared out between TV, sport, materialism, leisure, and personal ambition (etc. etc.) with what’s left being tossed in the direction of nominal Christianity. The bulk of us are like the Jews of Hosea’s day (8:2-4):

“Israel cries out to me, 'O our God, we acknowledge you!' But Israel has rejected what is good.”
Whilst moved and pumped up and enthusiastic and left chomping at the bit by the two days these two occasions made me smart . Do we honestly think that God is going to honour such blatant hypocrisy? What must he think when he hears our words and at the same time sees where our priorities lie.

Maybe we should have sung the following instead:

“Too long at ease in Zion
I've been content to dwell,
While multitudes are dying
And sinking into Hell.I
can no more be careless,
And say there's naught to do,
The fields are white to harvest
And labourers are few.”

I remain set apart by the grace of Jesus for God in the Army for life!


Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Yesterday I lost my temper with my 10 year-old daughter. I don't mean that I got angry I mean that I lost my temper.

It was all to do with 'missing' homework (and needless to say it wasn't the first time we had this conversation). It all started reasonably enough but within minutes slipped into an undignified shouting match. Basically, she had lost her homework but blamed her Mother for the loss - "I left it on the desk a week ago and Mum has moved it! She has lost my homework!"

I was ashamed at the way I behaved - I didn't hit her, I didn't swear, I wasn't rude and I didn't let the sun go down on my wrath - but I was so angry (too angry!).

It was a painful reminder that holiness is still not complete in my life - I need more prayer, more surrender and more faith.

Even now 24 hours later I still feel mortified about how angry I became.

I am one of the calmest most patient men you could ever meet - nothing ruffles me, I simply take it all in my stride - but when I blow I make up for all those years of calmness. Just because a sinful tendency sleeps in the depths of our heart like a sting ray that doesn't make us righteous.

Holy Christians should never lose control and I did - I wasn't completely out of control (I knew when to stop) but my anger climbed to a pitch which is quite unacceptable.

God has forgiven me, my daughter has forgiven me (and apologised for being the spark that lit the touch paper) and eventually... I will forgive myself.

In the meantime - "Give me a holy life spotless and true!"

Love and prayers


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

I took my children to see the latest Dreamworks animated adventure ‘Over the hedge’ on Saturday. At one point a racoon is introducing a group of forest animals to the delights of urban living – he takes them on a tour of food.

“They always got food with them. We eat to live - these guys live to eat! Let me how you what I'm talking about! The human mouth is called a 'piehole', the human being is called a 'couch potato'. That is a device to summon food (points to a telephone). That is one of the many voices of food (Pizza restaurant responds). That is the portal for the passing of food (front door). That is one of the many food transportation vehicles (Pizza delivery moped). Humans bring the food, take the food, ship the food, they drive food, they wear the food!

That gets the food hot! (Points to microwave) That keeps the food cold! (Points to fridge) That, I'm not sure what that is (points to whipped cream in a spray can) . Well, what do you know? Food! That is the altar where they worship food! (Shows a family saying ‘grace’) That's what they eat when they've eaten too much food! (Shows a glass of Alka-Seltzer) that gets rid of the guilt so they can eat more food (points to an exercise bike)! Food! Food! Food! Food! foooood! So, you think they have enough? Well, they don't. For humans, enough is never enough! and what do they do with the stuff they don't eat? They put it in gleaming silver cans, just for us! Dig in!”
I think it speaks for itself and needs no further comment but for those who need a bit of a nudge try the following from Isaiah 58:6-10
"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. "If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. "
Yours set apart for Jesus


Sunday, July 02, 2006

Some people think it's all over... it is now!

When England were inevitably knocked out of the World Cup on penalties I felt a surprising yet enormous sense of relief.

Once an ardent soccer fan, (like all Londoners I have followed Manchester United since I was six). I had more or less lost interest in football. On the one hand it seemed like a waste of my time and on the other hand there were issues surrounding the game that made me feel better off away from it.

When the World Cup arrived my interest was temporarily resurrected – but there was a distinct difference about the way I felt. There was a deep sense of discomfort within me as I began to familiarise myself with the ins and outs of England’s chances.

I wasn’t comfortable with the knowledge that English football fans (among those from other countries) would be serviced by upwards of 40,000 trafficked prostituted women. I wasn’t comfortable with the thought of replica squad shirts and footballs being manufactured in Asian sweat shops by child slaves. I wasn’t comfortable with yet one more display of decadence and self-indulgent materialism, by the west, in a world of hunger, poverty and social injustice.

Yet I allowed myself to be sucked in and I watched the games. The discomfort never left me and I felt nagged throughout the three weeks to turn of the TV and go and do something useful. I suppose (for me) it was a sin – to clearly hear the voice of God calling something into question and to ignore that voice – I am not saying that watching football is sinful but that my association with the World Cup was a serious compromise. Hence my relief when it was all over.

I came to the conclusion a long time ago that if God is going to do with my life what he wants to do then he needs everything – every minute, every penny, and every influence. Without wishing to liken my self to William Booth and Christmas I shall definitely never spend another June like this!

I think I seem to remember reading the following somewhere…

Called by God to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ as an officer of The Salvation Army, I bind myself to him in this solemn covenant:
  • to love and serve him supremely all my days,
  • to live to win souls and make their salvation the first purpose of my life,
  • to care for the poor, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, love the unlovable, and befriend those who have no friends,
  • to maintain the doctrines and principles of The Salvation Army and,
  • by God’s grace, to prove myself a worthy officer.
May God forgive me for compromise and help me to willingly, moment by moment surrender my all. Passion is a rare and valuable commodity these days and I pray that I never pour it out on the ‘high place’ of football again.