Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Allister Smith on Holiness and Revival!

Allister Smith on Holiness and Revival!

“The problems of the world and of the Church are fundamentally spiritual, and therefore their solution must be a spiritual one. As each Christian seeks after holiness, and longs for a clean heart filled with the love of Christ, so revival will be brought nearer. Let us each exclaim:

"The greatest need of the Church and the world is my personal holiness". There are any needs in the world-political, econo­mic, cultural-but the deepest need is the spiritual redemption of humanity, and this calls for a revival of holiness among Christians. By becoming worldly and prayerless and lacking in vision, the Church is unable to help mankind in this hour of dire peril…

A revival of holiness will bring joy back to a depressed Church, and faith back to a doubting, uncertain Church. It will transform a timid, apologetic Church into one that will boldly challenge the blatant evils and blasphemy of these times, instead of maintaining a shameful silence. Wickedness increases alarmingly on all sides because the Church has lost its power to protest, and its power to pray…

What are we waiting for? Here is the message, so clearly taught by Jesus and set forth in the Word of God, which can transform a weak and dying Church, and give it again an authority before which sinners of all classes, rich and poor, educated and ignorant, will quail and tremble. A Church that is sanctified and transformed, that teaches and lives holiness, will be used of God to bring about the biggest revival the world has known, and to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord. That revival is prophesied by Joel and is surely coming. But it will have to be a revival of holiness. Any other revival will be spurious and short-lived…” (The Ideal of Perfection, A. Smith)

I agree completely - Hallelujah!

Yours set apart for revival


Friday, March 23, 2007

Holiness - essential and possible!

About a month ago there was a series of threads on my blog relating to holiness…

I thought the debate had gone cold until the following anonymous comment arrived today beneath an entry entitled ‘Do I live a sinless life?’ (Originally posted on February 28th). The comment was in response to another anonymous commenter who goes by the pseudonym ‘Teackles’.

“Teackles, you should not be so timid. This is not just "your interpretation" it is the interpretation of the great majority of Christians (both now and down through the ages) that we will continue to sin throughout this life while we grow in Christ. Yes we strive for holiness, but in our broken way, as you say, and we will continue to struggle with sin, because Sin - the brokenness of all creation - is still a problem. Our depravity means that even our minds and our wills are compromised by the brokenness of the world. So my own decision to consecrate myself will never be perfect - this ability too is compromised by the fall. My ability to receive God's revelation - this is limited. Escaping this condition is not simply a matter of our choosing to submit to Christ; we are caught up in the drama of salvation-history, and the full consecration will be enabled when Christ has returned and brought to full fruition the redemption of all things.”
When I read these words I couldn’t help thinking of the words of Herbert Booth when he wrote (SASB 303):

“All the memories of deeds gone by
Rise within me and thy power defy;
With a deathly chill ensnaring,
They would leave my soul despairing.
Saviour, take my hand, I cannot tell
How to stem the tides that round me swell,
How to ease my conscience, or to quell
My flaming heart.”

This sentiment expressed by Booth seems to mirror that expressed by the anonymous contributor above when he/she says “we strive for holiness, but in our broken way… we will continue to struggle with sin, because Sin - the brokenness of all creation - is still a problem.” However this is only verse two and the song writer concludes with the following stanza.

“All the rivers of thy grace I claim,
Over every promise write my name;
As I am I come, believing,
As thou art thou dost, receiving,
Bid me rise a free and pardoned slave,
Master o'er my sin, the world, the grave,
Charging me to preach thy power to save
To sinbound souls.”

My saviour from sin is neither death nor the return of Christ – but Jesus himself, as Paul puts it ‘Christ in me’ is the key to holiness. As long as I am committed to Christ, believe in him, trust him and obey him then I am saved from all sin. The fact that the ‘majority’ of those in the church do not agree with this truth doesn’t stop it from being true. The problem is that most of us find it easier to measure Christianity by our experience (‘all the memories of deeds gone by’) rather than by the truth of God’s word.

Personally, I find this comment encouraging and worrying – encouraging because it clearly identifies the strategy of the enemy and worrying because it is, as the writer suggests, a majority view.

As Wesley said (SASB 407)

“Though earth and Hell the word gainsay,
The word of God can never fail;
The Lamb shall take my sins away,
'Tis certain, though impossible;
The thing impossible shall be,
All things are possible to me.”

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

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Born in revival?

Recently I visited Penge SA Hall. The hall was built in 1894 and is a typical fortress fronted red brick building. The front door opens onto a busy market and on market day it is not hard to imagine what the life of a Salvationist must have been like in Penge in 1900.

According to the 1901 census my great grandfather, Thomas Taylor, who was a milkman, lived at 104 Beckenham Road, Penge (sadly the original house was destroyed by a doodle bug 0n 2/8/44 and is now a betting shop!).

There is a brass plaque in the lobby of Penge Hall commemorating those who died during the 1914/18 war – one of the names listed is Albert Taylor (the elder brother of my grandfather).

In the Corps history book there is an entry for August 27th 1924 that reads “Cadet Ernest Taylor farewelled for the Training Garrison” (incidentally Brigadier Albert Orsborn was the DC at the time). Ernest was my Granddad and aged 29 he entered the ‘Overcomers session’ (had he gone in, in 1924 his sessional name would have been the ‘aggressors’!)

In 1925 he was appointed to Peterborough where he met my Nan, she entered training and the two eventually married. Sadly, while she was at Clapton Training Garrison her sister died leaving four orphaned children. My Nan went to the Mercy Seat and was advised by Olive Booth to return home and bring up the children. Grandad left the work, married Nan and became a faithful soldier and local Officer. They both regretted their decision to come home until the day they died.

In 1908 the Penge SA history book refers to a great revival (a quick search on Google shows that 1908 was a good year for revivals!) The history book says that many hundreds of local reprobates got saved including ‘drunkards, card sharks, wife-beaters and boxers…’ It also mentions that the poor Adjutants running the Corps at the time could barely keep up with all the visiting required to sustain the revival.

In 1908 my Great granddad was 40 and together with his wife and five children (including my 13 year old granddad) were living half a mile from the hall and by 1914 (only 6 years after the revival) were definitely involved at the Army.

Does this mean my own spiritual DNA was formed in the gene pool of revival? Sadly the trail goes cold although the assumption would be reasonable. Regardless of how my forbears got saved I wonder how many people are going to heaven today simply because their grandparents or great grandparents were plucked from the fire by the early Army.

Maybe my great-grandfather was staggering home down Maple Road past the market stalls and costermongers when he heard a Salvationist challenge him about God and eternity, maybe he knelt at the drum or actually went inside and found God there.

Conversely, I wonder how many people have gone to hell because we no longer preach with the urgency of our spiritual ancestors.

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?

(questions asked by my granddad's DC)

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


Saturday, March 10, 2007

Ezekiel 36 & 37 - A word to the dry bones:

Ezekiel 36 & 37 - A word to the dry bones:

The following came to me during prayer a few months ago and has been simmering away until tonight when I made the decision to commit it to paper and publish it on the internet.

The Salvation Army in the western territories has through its conduct and actions soiled its own commission, the commission I gave it when I raised it up to save the world. This turning away from my mission has angered me and caused me to scatter their evangelical efforts and withhold revival. (36:17-18)

Once, the lost and marginalised were yours by right and winning converts was like shooting fish in a barrel. In spite of persecution, hardship and great personal cost my Army went out to those furthest from the reach of my kingdom. The lost have scorned my name and belittled me because of your double standards, compromise and hypocrisy.

So for the sake of my name – not yours – I am going to restore you. Once again the name Salvation Army and holiness will be synonymous. I will do this for my sake, for the sake of my holy name which you have belittled. Once again those on the very edge of society, the unloved and friendless will know that I am God – I will prove myself through you (even though you are not worthy of your calling). I have chosen you and once again your name will be associated with mine. (36:22-23)

I am going to set you apart once more, I will make you stand out from the crowd and lead you back to your original mission. I will baptise you with fire, I will thoroughly wash you until every stain is gone. I will destroy your idols. The things you believe make you respectable and worthy I will smash. I will restore your passion for the lost; I will give you a new heart. I will take away your cold unbelieving heart and give you a heart that desires to obey me. You will go back to your original calling, once more street evangelism, slum and gutter brigades, pub raids and prayer mats will be used to attack the kingdom of my enemies and you will win souls like the Christian Mission. You will be filled with pioneer enthusiasm for militant evangelism. You will be my soldiers and I will be your general. (36:24-29)

It is time to reap, open the doors of your citadels and come rejoicing bringing in the sheaves. No longer will you be despised and rejected, no longer will you be dismissed as an historic curio, you will win the lost and everyday I will add more to your ranks. You will go out into the streets and revival will rain down upon you, you will splash in puddles of revival like children playing in the rain. Yet the more I bless you the more you will repent. The more I use you the more ashamed you will become. If withholding my blessing forced you to your knees in repentance then my new Pentecost will provide the light required to see your sin in all its grotesque glory. You will be victorious but this new humility will allow all praise to pass to me. (36:30-32)

Once again your Corps will be so numerous you will run out of names for them! You will simply add numbers to the end of a city name as you did when you began. The urban areas will be your field and the wasteland and backstreet will be your vineyard. These dark corners will become like a new Eden. My kingdom will come to the cities, and the addicted and oppressed that I set free through you, will do my will! I have spoken and I will do it! Wash the streets, remove the burnt out vehicle, and prepare the way of the Lord. (36:33-36)

I will listen to the prayers of Salvationists once more; I will unblock my ears and focus my attention on them. I will swell their ranks and they will know that I am God. (36:37-38)

Salvation Army can you live, can I trust you once more with such a calling as this? You are so dry, look, walk up and down the aisles of your halls, and mingle midst your musicians and soldiers, look how dry you are – can you live again? Preach, prophesy, command yourselves in my name to stand up and fight again. I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD. (37:1-6)
Then when you are ready I will send that other Pentecost of which you are always singing – I will breathe on you and you will feel my life in your bodies and you will stand once more – a vast Army! (37:7-10)

NO more pessimism, no more hopelessness, no more negative reflections, there is work to be done, there are battles to be fought, there is injustice to rectify, there are souls to be won. I will open up the graves of long dead pioneers and new Railtons, Tuckers, Cadmans, Evas and Kates will take up their crosses. Preach and prophesy and say to your soldiers: 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: O my Salvation Army I am going to restore you and then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will take you back to the place where we first met and then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.(37:1-14)

God redeem, bless, set apart and use the Army!