Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Do I live a sinless life?

When we preach holiness the question will always ultimately be thrown at us: “Do you believe that you live a holy and sinless life?”

Holy people – other than by way of a God glorifying testimony – would be reluctant to ‘boast’ in such a way.

In his article ‘A plain account of Christian Perfection’ John Wesley describes the following question and answer discourse (forgive me for bringing the language up to date).

"Q. Can you show us just one example of Christian perfection? Where is the holy Christian?

A. To some who ask such a question one might reply, If I did know of such a Christian I wouldn’t tell you because you don’t ask out of love but like King Herod; you only seek the young child to kill it. However, let me say that there are many reasons why there should be so few, if any, clear examples. Such a person would become a sitting target for anyone wanting to criticise holiness – remember ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

Am I holy? Do I live a sinless life? There have been times when I would have confidently said yes – there have been long periods in my Christian experience where the possibility of sin has seemed remote indeed. At the moment – I resist sin by God’s grace – I fight the devil and win – but the desire to sin is sometimes intense. I believe that when holiness comes our way – when we experience constant and full salvation that desire is eradicated and the temptations we receive rather than being temptations of the flesh are temptations to doubt or to fear – for the infrastructure of holiness would become the natural target of the enemy.

Indeed the very paragraph above may even be indicative of such an attack upon myself!

All great saints (and lowly ones) face such doubts, the way of holiness goes through the valley of the shadow of death and leads on daily basis ton Gethsemane and Calvary – as my quote from La Marechale said…
“Calvary is Calvary today. Christ wasn't crucified in the drawing-room. His was no easy­ chair business.”

"In the cross of Christ I glory,
Towering o’er the wrecks of time;
All the light of sacred story
Gathers round its head sublime.

When the woes of life o’ertake me,
Hopes deceive, and fears annoy,
Never shall the cross forsake me,
Lo! it glows with peace and joy.

Love and prayers

Monday, February 26, 2007

Holiness, faith, sacrifice and La Marechale

How I have struggled with holiness!

I have testified to the blessing of a clean heart but nagging conviction encourages me to disbelieve.

I preach holiness, I teach holiness – I even have a webpage dedicated to its restoration. Without giving way to arrogance - I know none who has a better theoretical (or historical) knowledge of proper Wesleyan holiness.

Like the fallen priest plucked from the flames in Zechariah I stand before God constantly under accusation - never sure if my robes are still dirty or if they have been replaced with clean ones by a ministering angel, never sure if the turban on my head sparkles with the engraved confirmation ‘holiness unto the Lord’ or not.

Last week, following a meal with a close friend (someone who’s discernment and judgement I value) the challenge was put to me that the problem was one of belief – quite simply while I believe in the possibility of constant righteousness for others I see myself (with a kind of inverted pride) as being beyond (full) redemption.

Then this week I came across the following quote from Le Marechale. The quote is lifted from a War Cry article she wrote while in Prison in Switzerland.

'Jesus was crucified: Ever since that day, men have tried to find an easier way, but the easier ways fail. If you would win thousands who are without God, you must be ready to be crucified: your plans, your ideas, your likes and your inclinations. Things have changed, you say, there is liberty now. Is there? Go and live Christ's life, speak as He spoke, teach what He taught, denounce sin wherever you find it, and see if the enemy will not turn on you with all the fury of hell. Make no mistake, in spite of all the science and enlighten­ment of the nineteenth century, Calvary is Calvary today. Christ wasn't crucified in the drawing-room. His was no easy­ chair business. The world needs an army of men and women who can face Calvary, and that means coming down low. Do you shrink from being bated, misrepresented and spoken evil of? It is time you were crucified. Come down, my brother. Come down, my sister. There is such wonderful blessing and peace down here. Make haste and come down. Lose your life. You will never be happy, never be free, never be more than con­querors, until you do.'
It is both a crisis of faith and a crisis of sacrifice!

Yet in spite of my doubts I believe that God is drawing closer all the time – the blessing is within reach – God’s grace and patience is incomprehensible.

“In the past too unbelieving
'Midst the tempest I have been,
And my heart has slowly trusted
What my eyes have never seen.
Blessed Jesus,
Teach me on thy arm to lean.”

Love and prayers


Thursday, February 08, 2007

Dartford for Christ - then the world!

So the Bale family are off to Dartford, a small town on the very outskirts of London. Step out of the hall and you step onto the town High Street - I can't think of a better placed bridgehead from which to mount all out war on the enemy. Lots of social need in the area and of course plenty of people hungry for the gospel.

The SA has a great history in the town...

One Sunday in September 1886, two Salvation Army lasses were brought to Dartford to begin a pioneering work in the town. The early days of the Salvation Army in Dartford were characterised by opposition and hard work. Despite initial opposition, the Salvation Army attracted a strong following in Dartford, local drunkards and criminals were converted to Christianity. A brass band was quickly formed to accompany worship and to attract people to open air meetings.

After holding open air meetings in Dartford for more than twenty years, a dispute arose with the local authorities regarding the Salvation Army's use of the Bull Centre (outside the Royal Victoria and Bull Hotel) for their street services. A general ban on outdoor meetings in Dartford was introduced and the police were ordered to ensure that the ban was enforced. The Salvationists ignored the new ruling and continued to hold their street meetings. A number of their members were summoned by the Dartford police for obstruction. Rather than pay the fine imposed by the local Courts, some of the Dartford Salvation Army Corps members elected to go to prison at Maidstone. This incident caused a public outcry.

The imprisoned Salvationists were given a hero's welcome when they were released from prison and returned to Dartford in triumph. Possibly the largest crowd ever to assemble in central Dartford greeted the Salvationists. The dispute was later settled at a formal meeting between the Salvation Army, the local council and the Kent Police.

A local newspaper report from the day reported the incident like this:

In defence of the Salvation Army - wild scenes on the streets of Dartford

There was a massive and fervent response to the arrest of Dartford's Salvationists. A defence committee was formed to co-ordinate the protest campaign. Public meetings of protest attracted large crowds; protest marches were held and banners, slogans and posters appeared all over the town.

Banners declared 'IMPRISONED FOR CONSCIENCE SAKE'; 'DEFEND RELIGIOUS AND PERSONAL LIBERTY' and 'WE DEMAND LIBERTY TO PREACH CHRIST'. 15,000 people gathered at Dartford Station to welcome home the prisoners when released from jail, two of them still wearing their prison uniforms bearing broad arrows.

During the course of the exuberant celebrations the Dartford police were stoned and pelted with rotten fish heads and bad eggs. Hooligans used the occasion to vent their spleen on the local constabulary. Dartford's Superintendent Poole was pelted for four hours. Policemen were stoned to the station. There were violent speeches at the Drill Hall - a torrent of rancorous abuse."
Sadly there is no band at the Corps now and some over-zealous Officer in the past decided to sell all the instruments! However the Corps does still sell 'War Crys' round the pubs and that is something I am looking forward to.

Read the following in my devotions this morning...

"The LORD said, "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt."

God bless, redeem and sanctify the people of Dartford!

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

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Take the land!

Tomorrow farewell/marching orders are issued to Officers in the UK and for the first time in 17 years my name will be mentioned in dispatches!

Along with a whole host of other Officers we will receive our appointment.

At our family devotions this morning we read the following scripture from Joshua 1: 3-9

"I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Great Sea on the west. No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. "Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."
My understanding is that the ‘law’ for a Christian can be summarised in just two commands –

'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with your entire mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbour as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
The first command is of course a call to holiness and is for the serious believer the minimum requirement of Christianity.

I believe that if we as a couple are obedient to this command that God will fulfil the promise quoted above from Joshua.

Wherever we go - as long as we are ‘careful to obey’ and are ‘strong and courageous’ - will be the ‘promised land’ and we “will be prosperous and successful.”

This promise is for us and for all Officers.

Monday, February 05, 2007

I can't post a comment to my own blog at the moment - so this is for Graeme and anyone else interested in the myth of cultural relevance.

Graeme says

“...the methods by which the early Army evangelised were very much reliant on cultural relevance. I believe that ignoring this fact actually devalues the work of those early pioneers.”

The early pioneers had no strategy – they were reactive to the Spirit within them. They acted naturally. Apart from ‘The darkest England’ scheme you will find no record of any of the pioneers either together or individually drawing up a strategy. They did what they did because they were so inspired. Take Railton for example - perhaps our greatest pioneer - an effective evangelist in Africa, Turkey, Germany even Japan and China - he had no plan or strategy (true he was an incredible linguist) but apart from that all he had was his poverty, a heart full of love and the courage to preach.

I always think we tend to forget the purpose of that very first spiritual gift given at Pentecost – it was the ability to communicate with people who had a different language – the gift was cross cultural communication.

Graeme continues “We need people who are prepared to seek ways to put across the very real message that the majority of people in this world are going to Hell. What are the ways of doing this in a culturally relevant way? How can we take the modern day cultural icons and redeem them for use by the Kingdom, in the same way as throughout Christian history those who have gone before did? I am strongly committed to the cause of holiness, but the Lord is leading me to ask the questions about the methods we will use into the future in order to communicate and fulfil the divine charge of Matthew 28:19-20.”

I am glad that you are ‘strongly committed to the cause of holiness’ and that you are asking questions about the methods we will use to communicate in the future – both of these points are very encouraging.

But if you look back at the history of revival the leaders did not deliberately set out to hijack the cultural icons of their day - whether it's Edwards, Wesley, Caughey, Finney, Palmer or Booth they had no plan. The simply followed the leade of the Spirit.

I think that true holiness will answer the questions you are asking – holiness gives us all the Spirit’s gifts and collectively they are our armoury in the area of communication.

I believe we’ll find the answer to these questions on our knees just as our forbears did. I am certain from the content and tone of your posts that this is where you often are!

I hope this response doesn’t sound anti-intellectual – I just think it is so important that we don’t let our own creativity get in the way of what God wants us to do – I have seen this happen in the UK.

Eg. Open air meetings - on a Sunday morning at 10 am in front of a double glazed house their pants - but on a Friday night at 10:30 pm in downtown club land (as the drunks and party goers reel onto the streets) they are brilliant - ask Cory Harrison.

Much love and prayers

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Google earth and strategic warfare prayer!

I have just had a great idea - my two girls were messing around with Google Earth. I'd just looked up someone's contact details to send them an email thanking them for writing a song we used in the holiness meeting this morning. Just for fun I stuck their post code in Google Earth and suddenly found myself (from the comfort of a home in South London UK) staring down at Phil Laeger's neighbourhood in the USA!

I suddenly thought that if we all swapped postcodes we could focus prayer on an area of need thousands of miles away from where we are - we could actually look at the area and get a feel for it (did you know that there's a dusty orange baseball pitch a few blocks from the Laeger residence?)

I think this could be a really powerful strategic weapon - I did a quick search for Vancouver so I could pray for the War College - much to my ignorance I didn't even know it was near the coast!

Anybody want to pray for me then please do my postcode is BR5 2AY we're ten doors up from the house with the blue trampoline - next door to us there's a silver car on the drive.

Let's focus as we pray with a clear image of our target - I think this could be really powerful - send me your postcodes and I'll get you in my sights!

Much love and prayer's


Saturday, February 03, 2007

The myth of cultural relevance…

The myth of cultural relevance…

Picking up on the debate below by Teakles, Olivia, ‘No 3’ et al.

The following quote is taken from an article I wrote called ‘The past is good’, the whole article is available here. (JAC Issue 45) - It lays to rest the distracting myth of culteral releavance -

“Some argue that our earliest converts were familiar with the teachings of the bible and that society generally accepted the bible as true. Proponents of this theory would argue that if a Salvationist in 1880 confronted a sinner for long enough with the gospel the inevitable result would be repentance. This theory is well passed its sell by date and in desperate need of dismissal. Many of the Army’s earliest converts had experienced no contact with any kind of religious education whatsoever, many of them were unable to read or write and were accurately identified by the Army as belonging to an un-churched underclass. The gospel preached and the methods used in reality were no more culturally relevant to the un-churched masses then as might be the case today. The truth is that the gospel has never been culturally relevant – this was true when Judaic monotheistic Christians tried to convert polytheistic Greeks and Romans in the first century and it remains so today.

Our need is not to make the gospel (nor the Army) culturally relevant but to simply recognise the relevance of the gospel full stop.

The world needs Jesus, sinners need Jesus and it is the responsibility (and ought to be the natural desire) of the Salvationist to go after them. Without judgement, without hell, without heaven the Salvation Army is indeed redundant. We were raised up to be a mission engaged in the active redemption of the lost – quite literally plucking souls from the fires of hell. Take away man’s universal need for salvation, take away the urgency of our evangelism and we become like a hospital without patients or worse - Doctors without a cure.

In order to rediscover this essential our soldiers once again need to become ‘saved to save’. Collectively The Salvation Army needs to become a living corporate testimony to both the need for and the efficacy of Salvation. The truth is that not ‘one’ but millions of souls ‘remain without the light of God’ and God still requires an Army to go and fight for them.
O is not the Christ 'midst the crowd of today
Whose questioning cries do not cease?
And will he not show to the hearts that would know
The things that belong to their peace?
But how shall they hear if the preacher forbear
Or lack in compassionate zeal?
Or how shall hearts move with the Master's own love,
Without his anointing and seal?

In George Scott Railton’s book “Heathen England” printed in 1877, the old warrior expounding the value of open-air evangelism is asked “How many are considered necessary to undertake a procession?” – Railton’s response – ‘One!’"

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

PS - Olivia thanks for the prayer cover it is needed and appreciated :-)

Friday, February 02, 2007

A song for revival

I wrote the following yesterday whilst sitting at a pavement cafe in Camden.

The sun was shining and the world was going about its business,. The words will fit many tunes - I had South Shields (TB 444) in mind when I wrote it (I was thinking of BB's classic 'For thy mission make me holy') but you might prefer 'Vacant Chair' (TB 449). Feel free to sing along!

Lord your tired Army slumbers
Battle weary bruised and sore.
Friendly fire has hit our numbers
In the fog of holy war.
Compromise and worldly thinking
In the place of Pentecost
Leaves your Army sadly shrinking
From its call to save the lost.

Lord in mercy send your power
Cleanse our hearts with holy flame
Let your spirit in this hour
Makes us worthy of our name.

In the desert of delusion
Far from love’s refreshing rain.
God himself now asks the question
‘Can my Army live again?’
Only God can see tomorrow
Death and shame or Pentecost?
In your mercy see our sorrow
Send us out to save the lost.

‘Mighty warrior God is with you’
In the strength he has supplied,
With his perfect love within you
Crucify your selfish pride.
Now with no more hesitating
Claim ‘another Pentecost’
For a lonely world is waiting
For his church to save the lost.
Yours set apart, by Christ, for the lost in the Army!