Saturday, May 31, 2008

Holiness alone delivers success!

Folloowing on from my blog a couple of days ago on holiness I came across the following snippet from The Officer Magazine, March 1894...

"The last two or three issues of the USA "Cry" to hand have contained correspondence with reference to "what constitutes a successful field officer?" following figures are given as an example of an officer's work, and as showing the possibility of lifting a "hard go" :-

Seven Months Preceding

Total attendance at meetings 7,532
Total attendance of soldiers 1,655
Number of open-airs 21
Number of soldiers at open-airs 217
Number of souls saved 4
Number of soldiers on roll-call 20
Number of recruits 0
War-Crys 75
Soldiers in full uniform 6
Soldiers wearing S's and badge 8

Seven Months Captain Well Saved

Total attendance at meetings 19,238
Total attendance of soldiers 4,930
Number of open-airs 100
Number of soldiers at open-airs 2,216
Number of souls saved 60
Number of soldiers on roll-call 39
Number of recruits 6
War-Crys 150
Soldiers in full uniform 14
Soldiers wearing S's and badge 32

I think no one would deny that the above record is a success. Now, how was it done? “Visiting," says one. No, not at all, for the captain was alone nearly all her term and had too much other work to make a speciality of visiting. "Open-air work," suggests another and we admit that to a great extent; but the root of the matter is neither visiting, open-air work, soldiers' meetings, singing, speaking or anything else but the grace of God, given to those who seek it to the exclusion of everything else. All other things are branches, leaves and blossoms on the tree of Salvation Army service; but the root, the trunk which makes and holds up the branches, blossoms and fruit is a daily consecrated body, soul and spirit."

Holiness will prove to be the salvation of the Salvation Army.

Love and prayers


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Reinforcements and cold hard cash!

Last Sunday at Dartford we enrolled a new Junior Soldier (John Machan our first male JS for 12 years!) and commissioned 9 Junior Musicians. Reinforcements in the great Salvation war - hallelujah.

Normally the Corps has 3 War Cry stands a week (hopefully rising soonto 4) 2 of these stands I do on my own and the other is shared with a soldier at the Corps. This week due to circumstances beyond my control we had to cancel 1 of these.

These stands deliver 4 main benefits to the Corps:
  • They are an opportunity for evangelism
  • They make the Army visible
  • They povide me with 7 hours of static 'prayer walking' (how about that for a classic oxymoron!)
  • They raise money for our growing community relief programme.
Cancelling 1 stand left us down about £100 for the week. Lo and behold a man walked into the hall this morning and donated £200 - so we're now £100 up! God is good - Hallelujah.

"No retreating, hell defeating..."

Love and prayers


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Derelict, defunct or just undevoted?

Most Christians don’t win. They might win occasionally but they don’t win consistently on a daily basis. In spite of a plethora of scriptural promises that ought to ensure that we are ‘more than conquerors’ we continue to experience the occasional lapse (some more than others).

This tendency towards ongoing defeat is true both on a personal basis and also on a corporate basis. Our Corps do not win battles consistently – we win the occasional skirmish – a soul here and a soul there – but as for revival…

The Salvation Army, together with the wider Church, is also prone to defeat, in fact as I consider the performance of individual Christians, Corps and Denominations the phrase ‘could do better’ seems like a massive understatement – at least it does if you make Acts 2 your benchmark.

A quick review of our personal and corporate performance as believers calls to mind the following words…

“We have not served Thee as we ought,

alas, the duties left undone,
the work with little fervor wrought,
the battles lost or scarcely won!”

This lack luster performance bothers me – in my own life it terrifies me. I have enough knowledge of revival and holiness to know that something is seriously out of kilter.

Why are we so familiar, both personally and corporately, with (at best) half hearted victory and (at worst) defeat? Why is it that we seem to have “been made liable to destruction”

In Joshua 7 we see a contest that ought to have been no contest. We see an Army of superior skill, experience and numbers defeated by a substantially inferior enemy. Had this been a game of football the Israelites would have been odds on to win (that is if you could have found a bookie that hadn’t closed his book). Yet the Israelites lost because they had “been made liable to destruction”. If God has made you “liable to destruction” then you are destined to defeat no matter how much the odds appear to be stacked in your favour.

I believe that the Israelites in Joshua 7 are a metaphor for the contemporary western Salvation Army and Achan is symbolic of many contemporary (western) Salvationists. We have “taken some of the devoted things; (we) have stolen, (we) have lied, (we) have put them with (our) own possessions. That is why (we) cannot stand against (our) enemies; (we) turn (our) backs and run because (we) have been made liable to destruction.” Consequently, God “will not be with (us) anymore unless (we) destroy whatever among (us) is devoted to destruction.”

The early Salvationists were very quick to point out that holiness was the secret to their success; they credited holiness as the source of their consistent victory.

Holiness requires a complete surrender of all we have to God. Those things which God has “devoted to destruction” we must give up – that means everything that is sinful and everything that is doubtful. Secondly, we must surrender all that is left to God. This means all our time, talents, money, passion, influence – even our families and personal relationships – everything we have must be fed into our love for God. We must ‘Love the LORD our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our strength” and the reality of our absolute commitment must be evident to “our children” we must “talk about it when we sit at home and when we walk along the road, when we lie down and when we get up.” They must see, our brothers and sisters in Christ must see and the lost must see that Jesus is not only first and last in our lives but also everything in between.

We must respond to the words of Paul, so ably paraphrased in ‘The Message’…

“So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it.”

I have come to the realisation slowly and painfully that have (individually and collectively) been made ‘liable to destruction’. God will not give us victory until we have dealt with the consecrated things we have hidden away in our everyday lives. Perhaps, if you belong to a church other than the Salvation Army, you might need to prayerfully debate what those things are, however if you’re a Salvationist (especially if you’re an Officer) there is no need for a debate for our covenant demands an absolute surrender.

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.

O hear, thou God of Heaven,
the vows that now I make!
to thee my life is given,
'tis for the lost world's sake.
to serve thee I am ready,
though friends and foes despise,
I now present my body
a living sacrifice.

I want this experience for myself, I fed up with occasional failure, fed up with a hit and miss Christianity that sometimes wins but too often loses.

There is obviously no other way to secure victory than to give God everything - so by his grace that is what I am going to do – no – that is what I am doing from this moment on. I give everything to God. I refuse to be held back any longer by those who say that such a commitment is unreasonable, old fashioned or no longer required. I want to see revival (both in me and around me) I want to see Dartford on fire, I want to see my Corps explode like a scatter bomb of fruitful evangelism – not only successful where it is but also planting cells and outposts in other places too!

I want this, God wants this and he has promised that I will be ‘more than conqueror’ – if I pay the price.

By his grace I will – God help me!


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Relaxation or false religion?

So Manchester United won their third European Cup to go alongside the Premier league Championship they secured a couple of weeks to go.

I promised myself that at the end of this season I would re-examine my commitment to football… so here goes.

Football is played on a Sunday and to watch it on a Sunday is breaking the Sabbath (I know we’re under grace not law but shouldn’t we have at least one day set apart for God?)

Many football teams are sponsored by Gambling companies or breweries.

A lot of people bet on football games (with the advent of spread betting done over the internet this has bound many people in serious addictions).

Footballers are paid obscene amounts of money.

Watching football doesn’t get anyone saved.

The early Salvationists were obsessed with saving the lost! They didn’t have any other interests apart from soul saving. They didn’t go to the theatre or watch football or spend time at parties - all their time was given to the task of getting people saved.

Football and the whole culture that surrounds it, is definitely of the world and in 1 John 2:15-17 it says:

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.”

If we really desire to see the onset of revival, doesn’t the fulfilment of that desire demand that we focus on the job in hand and turn our attention away from the ‘tempting sounds’ and the ‘sights that dazzle.’

Tuesday night I went to a united church prayer meeting and on Wednesday I watched the European Cup – which made me feel more intense, which roused my passions more?

I recently said that I was going to attempt to live like a 1908 Salvation Army Officer – such a man certainly wouldn’t have wasted his time watching football.

I’m not saying that watching football is a sin but perhaps it is doubtful and holiness demands that I surrender everything that is both sinful and doubtful.

So I’ve got three months before the new season starts – three months to consider whether this is a healthy hobby or a debilitating distraction.

One thing however seems certain – I can’t really sing ‘my all is on the altar’ if a little bit of my heart is always at Old Trafford!

Love and prayers

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Salvation Soldier's Guide

I don't want to sound like a stuck record but The Salvation Soldier's Guide is an incredible resource for Salvationists (especially 'Primitive Salvationists')

The Salvation Soldier's Guide is a collection of bible readings for the morning and evening of every day in the year. The selected readings are particularly relevant to the Salvationist's.

The original readings were taken from the King James Version and very few copies of the original 'guide' are still around. I am posting these readings ecery day but taken from the New International Version.

If you have no bible reading plan I would heartily recommend the The Salvation Soldier's Guide - if you already have a reading plan then the 'guide' is an excellent supplementary source of inspiration.

The Salvation Soldier's Guide can be found by following this link.
Happy reading, may God bless The Salvation Army - Hallelujah

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Yesterday's Army for today?

My good friend Carol Young sent me some material recently that came out of an ‘all night of prayer’ she had attended. Some of it was for private consumption and some I am sure will find its way into the public domain via her blog (The Old Wells).

However, in a discussion afterwards, on the phone, she mentioned that (I think it was a quote from a book) the Army’s early success was directly related to the fact that it perfectly reflected the needs of the day.

Last night I was walking down Dartford High Street thinking about today’s needs and what a Salvation Army that met them might look like.

Dartford High Street is pedestrianised with a kind of cobbled effect road service. The shops are mainly made up of cheap cafes (what we in the UK call ‘a greasy spoon’) betting shops and pubs. We also have the obligatory ‘Primark’, a bingo hall, two amusement arcades (slot machine parlours) and two pawnbrokers. The people that walk up and down the High Street are primarily poor (though not as poor as some in the UK) and many of them look harassed and lost.

In Dartford (as in the wider UK) gambling, teenage pregnancy, violent crime, prostitution are all rife and on the increase and alcohol costs less than bottled water - it is very easy to get seriously drunk in Dartford for less than £3.

It would seem that in spite of new technology, sexual liberation, sexual equality, human rights legislation and political correctness, post modern Britain doesn’t actually look that different from how it looked 140 years ago.

So I’m going to attempt an experiment in consecration – that sounds less sincere than it ought to – I’m not playing games here, what I’m about to do I have been prayerfully considering for some time.

It seems that the primitive Salvationists in their attitude to things like worldliness, Sabbath keeping, evangelism, fighting for social justice etc actually got it about right.

Now I have a copy of O&R’s for Field Officers 1908, an early doctrine book, a copy of ‘Heathen England’, a Salvation Soldier’s Guide, Cadet’s Lessons and countless other instructive books from those early days.

I’m going to attempt to live my life as I would have been expected to live it if I had been a Salvationist about the turn of the century. I’m not looking to utilising old methods (unless they still work) but I do want to recreate that primitive spirit that enabled our pioneers to be so completely focussed in what they did.

I’ll use this blog to let you know how I get on.

Love and prayers


Thursday, May 08, 2008

A Bible especially for Salvationists!

I’ve been bringing ‘The Salvation Soldier's Guide’* up to date and publishing the results at a new blog (follow this link).

I must admit that I have been amazed at the obvious thought that must have gone into the selection of verses for each day.

I consider myself to be pretty familiar with the word of God having read the Bible through cover to cover at least 10 times ( I started using a reading guide that takes you through the whole bible in one year about ten years ago!)

Yet even I have found myself encountering verses in a whole new light. The context into which verses are placed, the other verses they have been chosen to compliment and their overall relevance to Salvationists has been amazing.

If you don’t have a regular reading guide then I would heartily suggest that you could do a lot worse than this one.

Love and prayers - A

* The Salvation Soldier’s Guide was a pocket sized collection of bible readings for the morning and evening of every day in the year intended to ensure that Salvationists read from the whole bible and not just the New Testament. It was also meant to be small enough for a workman to take with him on his shift and read to his colleagues.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Revival has come to Dartford!!!

Last Sunday Revival came to Dartford! However, this wasn't Revival in the Pentecostal sense. On this occasion Revival was the name of a Christian from Zimbabwe who had come to the meeting to be the witness at the dedication of a little baby girl - Vanessa (also from Zimbabwe).

In fact we had over 50 visitors all of whom heralded from that troubled country. It was a fantastic meeting and our African visitors certainly added to the occasion in a memorable and stirring way.

It was grteat to have Revival with us but not as great as it would have been if this blog entry had been about the arrival of that more familiar form of revival.

I've been thinking a lot about revival and it seems to me that there are three common denominators within the church which can be identified during times of revival.

The first is the fact that Christians during times of revival believed that salvation was important - they believed that the converts they made were actually being saved from a fate worse than death. They believed in heaven and hell and therefore as a consequence there was a compassion and urgency about their evangelism.

Secondly, believers during times of revival are obsessed with saving the lost! They didn't have any other interests apart from soul saving. They didn't go to the theatre or watch football or spend time at parties - all their time was given to the task of getting people saved. This obsession of course was directly linked to the first point above - if people died without knowing Christ then there was the possibility they had gone to hell. Believers in times of revival work with the same committment and sense of urgency that people would work to rescue someone from a burning building - the consequences (both for themselves and the lost) of apathy and laziness were unthinkable.

Finally, revivals seem to happen when the church appears to be on the brink of collapse. Healthy churches don't appear to be visited by revival (if you follow my drift). Because of this widespread apostasy revivals seem to start with just a few people for whom points 1 and 2 above are true.

Well the good news is that the third criteria we (in the West at least) seem to possess in abundance. I guess revival (not the one from Zimbabwe) will come to Dartford when a few of us have discovered the first two.

Plenty to think about....

Love and prayers

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Cycle lanes, fading paint and self righteousness

On Thursday I was standing outside Macdonald’s selling The War Cry (as I do every week) and it crossed my mind that the white lines that marked out the cycle lane needed repainting.

The other week a cyclist nearly ran over a policeman who reprimanded him for cycling without care – the cyclist pointed out that the policeman was actually walking in a cycle lane. The policeman – a little embarrassed – apologised and waved the cyclist on his way.

As all of this was wandering through my mind (it took about a second) two workmen turned up and started repainting the lines!

It made me think how in contemporary society the moral markers which are supposed to be put down by the church have become faint and hard to distinguish. This has led to confusion within the church and encouraged some Christians to arbitrarily judge those in society they consider to be sinful. However, without clear markings how will sinners know that they are in the wrong?

Far too many times I have watched Christians acting in an unchristian way towards the lost – especially homosexuals, prostituted women, those with addictions, the performers (and recipients) of abortions etc. How can we be so quick to blame the world for wandering off the straight and narrow without clear markings?

As things stand we run the risk of looking as daft as the policeman wandering in the middle of the cycle lane – however, for us the potential consequence is much worse than public embarrassment.

Our self righteousness and apathy, all too often leads us to see the world as bad and ourselves as good. Yet the great commission has placed upon us the responsibility to preach the gospel in a way people can comprehend. In other words it is our job to make sure the white lines are visible.

The whole thing called to mind the following verses from Jeremiah 2:34-35

“On your clothes men find the lifeblood of the innocent poor, though you did not catch them breaking in. Yet in spite of all this you say, 'I am innocent; he is not angry with me.' But I will pass judgment on you because you say, 'I have not sinned.'
I think we need to go and look for our paint!