Saturday, December 27, 2008

Rest that’s an order!

December is the CO's busiest month! Add to that the complication of a death in the family and one of my children admitted to hospital and the limited time in one's meagre allowance of hours is quickly eaten up. If the early Salvationists had a failing (and they hadn't many!) it was their inability to rest. In the 1880's to rest in the Salvation War was seen as cowardice and neglect of one's duty. The primitive's attitude to rest can be summed up in the following verse written by Horatius Bonar in 1843:

"Go, labour on: spend, and be spent,
thy joy to do the Father's will:
it is the way the Master went;
should not the servant tread it still."


Look at the following quote from O&R's for Field Officers (1908) on the subject of holidays (which were only really permitted where ill-health demanded it):


"The Army does not allow Officers to be absent from their duty merely for pleasure or recreation. The field Officer who could contemplate spending his time for personal pleasure would prove thereby that he had lost the spirit of the war – if he had ever possessed it!"


And again later in the same chapter:


"When on furlough the FO must not take part in such sight-seeing, pleasuring or amusement, or anything else as is unseemly for an Officer. Things may be lawful for others which are not so for him."


It is quite clear that such an attitude to rest was not only foolish but it was in direct conflict with the instruction of God (as set out in scripture) and against the example of Christ who knew the benefits of contemplative rest.


To resist the natural urge to rest is (according to God) as sinful as adultery, murder, lying or worshipping idols. When we break the command to rest we take ourselves outside the providential care of God (as we do every time we sin).


This disregard for rest among our forbears resulted in many of them (Booth and Railton included) being disabled for long periods (sometimes months at a time) as a consequence of complete physical and mental breakdown.


2008 has been a busy year – September to December has been particularly busy. I am on furlough until Monday January 5th (apart from Sundays of course) and I intend to rest, enjoy myself, play with my children, ride my bike, watch football on TV, walk and generally do nothing. On Monday 5th I will re-enter the fray, batteries recharged, armour polished and all guns blazing. As far as the Salvation War goes the next few days are the equivalent to a homeland pass. The war goes on but for me there is time for a short break.


Of course I will still pray and read my bible and by God's grace live a life of holiness - if the call comes I will be ready to return to the front (if and when my help is requested) but it is my intention (circumstances willing) to rest.


I need not feel guilty and the battle will not suffer by my absence – the command to retreat comes not from me but from my Commander-in Chief.


Grace and prayers, A.

P.S. The picture's not me!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

So here it is...

Gifts!

What do we do with them? Love them, loathe them, exchange them, treasure them... give them away again as a gift to someone else?

What makes for a perfect gift?

The quality of a gift depends upon three key factors:

How well does the giver know us?

How much does the giver love us?

What resources does the giver have at their disposal?

A combination of perfect knowledge, absolute love and unlimited resources results in the gift of all gifts!

Psalm 139

1 O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me.

2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.

3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.

4 Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O LORD.

5 You hem me in—behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.

6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

Romans 5

6You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

John 3:16

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Ephesians 3

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Infinite knowledge, infinite love and infinite resources – the incarnation – the gift of all gifts!

Have an excessively happy Christmas and a peaceful and successful New Year.

Grace and peace, A,

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Two things...

First of all another great quote from O&R's for Field Officers (Corps Officers) 1908:

"No duty that the F.O. has to discharge in the whole course of the War is of greater importance than that he shall be ready to give an answer, clear, positive, and confident, to the question which will be so often put in his hearing or proposed to him personally, "what must I do in order to be holy?"

Secondly, some New Year's resolutions...

I once saw a poster outside a church in September which said 'Worship Jesus now and avoid the Christmas rush!' I thought I'd apply the same logic to New Year's resolutions and make them now and avoid the rush on the 31st!

I'm so bad at keeping the promises I make to myself that I'm not going to list my resolutions – although I might blog them in six months (if I've managed to keep them!)

However, there is one resolution I will share.

In 2009 I am going to make holiness my first object in life. I am going to take it apart, study every component, put it back together again, fully understand it, experience it, share it, preach it, teach it and by God's grace live it!

2009 must be the year when I begin to permanently live 'beyond the brook'.

Holiness will prove to be the salvation of The Salvation Army and those of us who consider ourselves to be salvation soldiers must live, eat and breathe holiness.

Jesus, thy fullness give,

My soul and body bless;

Cleanse me from sin that I may live

The life of holiness.


 

In white, in white, walking in white;

He makes me worthy through his blood

To walk with him in white.


 

With full salvation might,

My heart and mind make strong;

Help me to live and do the right

And part with all that's wrong.


 

Give me full joy and peace,

Eternal inward rest

Lead me to Calvary's holy feast,

There let my soul be blest.


 

Saved from the power of sin,

Kept by thy grace secure,

Let all without and all within

Be pure, as thou art pure.


 

William James Pearson (1832-92)

Grace and peace, A.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Uninterrupted victory over sin!

I came across this great quote the other day in the 'Orders and Regulations for Field Officers' (1908 edition):-

"Holiness is not an end of war with outward sin but a career of uninterrupted victory over it."

Isn't that a fantastic statement!

We should make 2009 the year of holiness.

Next year's Salvation Army Officer Cadet Session is called 'The ambassadors of holiness' so let's declare 2009 the year of holiness too.

15 years ago when I first got saved I hardly ever heard holiness mentioned but its status has been steadily increasing among Salvationists in the years since then – especially in the last decade.

What is holiness? It's not about asceticism, it's not about Puritanism, it's not about isolation – it's simply about supernatural victory over sin.

What is the central ingredient of Christmas?

When you consider the incarnation, the visit of the shepherds, the loyalty of Joseph, the obedience of the kings – what is the common denominator? The answer is the supernatural power of God.

What makes holiness possible? The answer is the same – the supernatural power of God.

When the Holy Spirit descended upon Mary the result was Christ – the most perfect and comprehensive expression of God's love there could ever be.

When the Holy Spirit descends upon us and we cry out with the same faith and courage as Mary did and say with absolute surrender 'let it be done to me as you have said' then Christ is born in us – 'Christ in us the hope of glory'!

Let's preach holiness.

Let's teach holiness.

Let's expect holiness.

Let's experience holiness.

For without it none of us will ever see God!

Grace and peace, A

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Help needed!

I need help!

A while ago under clear conviction from God I surrendered certain things within my life. Among these consecrated items were caffeinated coffee and football (watching not playing!)

I have no doubt whatsoever that these acts of surrender were done in obedience to God and the conviction that drove me was inescapable.

Now here's my dilemma…

Having been obedient recent events and new revelation seem to be suggesting that I can have some of these things back.

I've felt the spirit warning me against adopting a kind of puritanical self-righteousness which could turn me into - at best a kill-joy and at worst a man who rejects pleasures and joys which God intended to be part of 'life in all its fullness'.

Football is immoral for oh so many reasons – gambling, players wages, participation on a Sunday and so I could go on. However I don't think anyone is going to go to hell because they watch football – if they are then my DC (Chelsea) my Divisional Director for Evangelism (Chelsea) and our current General (Spurs) are in need of our urgent prayers.

Coffee is also dangerous on many fronts – it's an addictive drug, its production has implications for social justice (unless it's fair trade) and it is (if it comes via Starbucks) expensive.

However, refusing coffee and asking for water in itself can draw attention to one's advanced spirituality and become a source of pride. In addition, recently both coffee and the coffee house (especially for teetotallers) have become the hub of the social wheel – coffee is the oil that seems to lubricate the wheels of the contemporary church.

So where do I go from here?

Of course holiness is much more than just a tick list of things we should give up. Holiness is a balance between self denial and accepting what's 'put before you' and not calling 'unclean' what God calls clean. Christianity is also a celebration of life set free from the restraints of legalism – we are not under law but under grace!

At the end of the day doesn't a 'fasted lifestyle' have to be a reflection of Christ's presence within us rather than a puritanical legalism we force upon ourselves?

I want to do what's right and not what I think is right especially if my self denial is potentially an affront to God's generosity and a possible area for pride in my relationships with others?

What should I do?

I'm certainly not prepared to go to hell or minimise the effectiveness of my mission for the sake of a double espresso and a game of football but perhaps Christ's injunction to be 'in the world but not of it' means I have a responsibility to engage in the community in which I'm called to serve (within – of course- the confines of obvious morality).

What would Jesus do?

Probably drink coffee and watch football – he was, after all, described as a 'glutton and a drunk' – one thing is certain however, he would have refused the legalistic approach of the Pharisees and sought to reflect the love of God in every environment in which he placed himself.

Maybe football and coffee are in themselves possible avenues to effective evangelism, maybe they are both ok in moderation.

As Idols they would have to be demolished but if they are no more than aids to legitimate relaxation and socialising maybe they're OK?

I'm genuinely not simply trying to rationalise here, this is a serious dilemma. We are all on a steep learning curve and God's revelation changes direction at his will – for coffee and football read Isaac!

Maybe God is looking for unconventional Christians – Christians who drink coffee, watch football, have tattoos and piercings but only in strict accordance with the freedom he gives us – I've no desire for a a tattoo or a piercing but I can see that in certain communities having them might actually help.

Does any of this make sense or I am just looking for excuses?

Answers please…

Grace and peace, A


 


 

 

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Life, love and death...

Tracey’s Mum is dying in hospital. Promotion to glory is probably hours away rather than days. Although she has been unwell for some time the end, as is so often the case, has come somewhat suddenly. The whole situation has set a series of confusing and complicated thoughts racing through my mind. Partly because I will miss Lola, partly because it is distressing to see Tracey upset and partly because the 25 year anniversary of my brother’s death was only 3 days ago.

If it was me lying in bed surrounded by angels eager to lift me to heaven what would I be thinking? I can only assume that God in his mercy encourages the dying to look forward rather than back if heaven is, as the bible says, a tearless place. However, in those brief momentary lapses when I would slip back into the physical realm I imagine that regret would be my principle thought. The things I hadn’t done, said, sacrificed, achieved or completed would fill my mind.

Tracey’s Mum passed away as I was typing these words – I’ve just had a phone call. She died at 10:20pm.

Death focuses the mind in a way that nothing else can. It forces us to review our own priorities and demands that we put our own house in order. It asks the question and insists upon an answer – what matters most?

It is not what I do or say, it is not what I surrender or embrace – it is about where I am - for it is only by abiding in Christ that I can be certain that my life meets with the Father’s approval. To love God with all my heart is all that matters.

Usually, Albert Osborn, Herbert Booth, John Gowans or Charles Wesley has a word for such occasions – in this case the prize goes to Osborn:

I must love thee, love must rule me,
Springing up and flowing forth
From a childlike heart within me,
Or my work is nothing worth.
Love with passion and with patience,
Love with principle and fire,
Love with heart and mind and utterance,
Serving Christ my one desire.

All that matters is the quality and quantity of time I spend in God’s presence – externals are unimportant it is the transactions that take place within that matter not those that occur without. It is only when we truly love God that we can even begin to obey his commandments.

May God forgive me for trying to build a kind of ‘bolt on’ Christianity and may he help me to draw closer to him, to die to self, to live life abundantly and to act in full accordance with his will motivated and empowered by nothing other than his love.

Grace and peace, A.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

I'd forgotten how life used to be without the Internet!

For about a week now we've had no internet connection at home and we have all been lost!

Xander can't vlog, the girls can't do their home work, Tracey can't play 'word twist' on Facebook and I've just had to do 11 entries in my 'Soldier's Guide' blog.

The internet is the source of so much information - train times, admission prices, stock availability - you name it - where do we turn first in 2008? The world wide web.

Imagine what life would be like without the Holy Spirit!

Christian's can't function without the annointing - they might look the part, they might be the shiniest motor in the showroom - but like a brand new Rolls Royce or Ferrari - they're not going anywhere unless they've got fuel.

Why do we try and live without the Spirit? Probably because 'maintaining contact with the life giver' takes effort, sacrifice and discipline.

I've missed the Internet but I don't need it - I can survive without it. But oh how I need the company and constant inner presence of the Spirit!

Spirit divine, come as of old
With healing in thy train;
Come, as thou did’st, to sanctify;
Let naught of sin remain.

Come, great Spirit, come,
Make each heart thy home;
Enter every longing soul;
Come, great Spirit, come.


Spirit divine, purge thou our hearts,
Make us to understand
Thy bless├Ęd will concerning us,
And teach us love’s command.

Spirit divine, cleanse thou our souls
With pentecostal flood;
Breathe into us the life that shows
The Father-love of God.

Grace and peace, A