Saturday, August 12, 2006

Railton's Rest

Off to Margate for a two week break. When he wasn't travelling the world for Jesus this was where Railton rested. Margate was his local Corps and this was where he had his family home. Decided to read Finney's Systematic Theology while I'm here.

Had a phone call from'M' this morning - she has been living with us for 4 months but she is now back home in Tobago with her new baby.

Obviously no Blogs for two weeks.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


I was recently putting together a Power Point presentation for a talk on the history of waste disposal (oh the joy of secular employment!)

I was preparing a slide on 'toshers' and 'scavengers'.

Both of these occupations existed in 18th and 19th Century Britain.

"Toshers" worked in the sewers, a dangerous and smelly way to make a living, but lucrative as they found coins, bits of metal, ropes and bones and sometimes jewellery. "Mud-larks" scavenged on the river banks, and made a comparatively poor living. "Scavengers" used to dig through midden heaps (piles of decaying refuse - including sewage - at the end of a street) to find things to sell.

I was looking for suitable pictures that would illustrate these three archaic occupations - thinking that the best I could secure would be some Victorian engravings - when up popped all three occupations alive and well in the developing world.

Wouldn't it be great if the 2 billion or so nominal Christians on the planet were 'moved by compassion' and decided to do something for the 'widows and orphans' (not forgetting the hungry and oppressed) in this world.

"Unless I am moved with compassion
How dwelleth they spirit in me?
In word and in deed burning love is my need,
I know I can find this in thee."

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

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Sing a new song unto the Lord?

I received a copy of ‘The Red Book Sessions” by “The Singing Company” yesterday. You can get your own copy here. It is an excellent CD and I have thoroughly enjoyed listening to it – I have to say that as a middle-aged Englishman some of the voices are a required taste but once the ear becomes acclimatised the end result is inspiring.

I have had concerns for some time know about the quality of some of our contemporary worships lyrics. A few years ago (round about the time that the Berlin wall collapsed and the Cold War ended) the Army’s exclusive use of the official song book in worship ended. Now when you visit a Corps you cannot assume that the ‘song book’ is the automatic first choice of the congregation (in some Corps it is not used at all.)

This is not just a shame it is a tragedy. Whilst I enjoy singing contemporary worship songs, especially songs like “The power of your love”, “All I once held dear” and “Refiner’s Fire” the available repertoire has a big hole in it which could be plugged by the use of the ‘song book’.

Generally speaking, most modern Christian songs could be accurately categorised as “Praise and Worship” – nothing wrong with that, indeed the arrival of some of these songs has been a timely reminder to The Salvation Army of the need to worship. However, contemporary worship songs are short on sentiments like; consecration, commitment, personal holiness, sacrificial living, obedience, evangelical urgency, intercession – indeed many modern worship songs enable the singer to spend a few minutes away with angels, before the throne, without having to consider the quality of their own life in terms of practical Christianity at all.

The Salvation Army has rich (maybe even unique) heritage among the churches for producing songs that challenge and inspire the singer. A good example and one of my personal favourites would be Walker’s classic (SASB 482)

"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.”
Incidentally I don’t know if Walker was a Salvationist but the important thing is that his sentiments have been preserved in our song book. Now I am told by people (better qualified than me) that this song is no longer culturally relevant and is incomprehensible to younger generations. That may well be true but the sentiment remains valid and is absent in the vast majority of modern worship songs.

Another example (used by “The Singing Company”) would be Robert Johnson’s (SASB 696)

“See the brazen hosts of Hell,
Their art and power employing,
More than human tongue can tell,
The blood-bought souls destroying.
Hark! from ruin's ghastly road
Victims groan beneath their load;
Forward, O ye sons of God,
And dare or die for Jesus.”

I recently had a conversation with one of the organisers of Roots UK and asked him why we rarely sing a Salvation Army song at Roots (there is almost an unwritten policy at Roots UK that the official songbook is not used!). The answer I received was fairly predictable and mirrored the opinion voiced above that such songs are largely incomprehensible to young people and those outside our ranks. Incidentally when I questioned the inclusion of the song “Be thou my vision” surprise was registered at the fact that the song had originally been written in the 8th Century (and only translated into ‘modern’ English in 1905)

I suppose the solution is to write new songs which contain the sentiments of active commitment, practical holiness, love for the lost, the struggle for social justice, urgency etc but dressed up in contemporary words. We need modern Salvation Army songs that remind the church of their need for consecration and holiness in much the same way they reminded us of our need to worship.

If anyone is interested I could write the lyrics but sadly I am to musical composition what GSR is to nominal Christianity – if any budding musicians would like to help then email me at and we’ll see what we can do.

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

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

You will obey!

I have been reading Andrew Murray’s "Power for your life" – it is a challenging and practical book on the church’s essential need for a Pentecostal baptism of the Holy Spirit, Murray says

“The most essential element of the true Church after Pentecost is a membership baptised with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Every heart was filled with the experience of the presence of the glorified Lord. Every tongue and life witnessed to the wonderful work God had done in raising Jesus to glory and then filling his disciples with that glory. The baptism of power is not just for preachers, but for every individual member of Christ’s body. This will draw the attention of the world and compel confession to the power of Jesus.” (Andrew Murray: Power for your life, chapter 6)

Murray also stresses the importance of obedience as a condition which must be met prior to any such baptism. This has been particularly relevant for me. Having been brought up in a free church protestant tradition ‘obedience’ was always seen as something of a dirty word. Faith has always been pushed to the fore with obedience being forced to sit in the back where he can be monitored with the suspicion he deserves. I have always puzzled over this – of course faith is important, it is essential but what is the hallmark of faith? How do we know that faith is real and not just some token intellectual acknowledgement of Christ’s lordship? True faith will always deliver obedience and obedience will qualify us to receive Pentecostal power.

“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. (James 2:14-18)

"If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth.” (John 14:15-17)

God has taught me (not just through this book) that obedience is essential, obedience is the key that unlocks his power and blessings, if we want ‘another Pentecost’ then we will get it when we show some determined ‘obedient faith’.

Without obedience God can give us nothing, as Christians, faith in Christ is the fuel of our obedience, faith comes by hearing and doing. I think we’ve done quite a lot of hearing (although it might be better described as navel-contemplating) perhaps it is time to ‘do’

As the old song says…
“If you want boldness, take part in the fight;
If you want purity, walk in the light;
If you want liberty, shout and be free;
Enjoying a full salvation.”

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