Thursday, December 03, 2009

Out of the mouths of babes and infants...

I was listening to an interview the other day with the Bishop of Croydon whilst driving my daughter to school.

The Rt Rev Nick Baines was defending his book 'Why Wish You a Merry Christmas?' (This book sets out to return the Christmas story to "its heart")

In the book, Baines says "most carols are OK", and accepts they have a difficult task. "They try, within the constraints of several verses and an easily memorable tune, to capture something of the story of Christmas or the mind-boggling idea of God becoming human and living among us," he writes.

But even accepting these lyrical hindrances, the bishop believes some carols are lacking in substance. He is particularly critical of nativity play favourite Away in a Manger, asking: "How can any adult sing this without embarrassment?"

"I always find it a slightly bizarre sight when I see parents and grandparents at a nativity play singing Away in a Manger as if it actually related to reality. I can understand the little children being quite taken with the sort of baby of whom it can be said 'no crying he makes', but how can any adult sing this without embarrassment? I think there are two problems here: first, it is normal for babies to cry and there is probably something wrong if they don't; secondly, are we really to believe that a crying baby Jesus should be somehow theologically problematic? Or, to put it more bluntly, is crying supposed to be sinful?"

Suddenly my daughter Bethany, who is only 11 years old said "stupid man, doesn't he realise it's just a metaphor used by the poet to illustrate the fact that Christ brings peace to the world!"

Out of the mouths of babes and infants...

Christmas grace and peace, A

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The best of both worlds…

It would be interesting to know if the name 'Brindley Boon' means anything to young Salvationists today – especially those outside the UK and Canadian Territories? (Brindley is pictured with his wife Nina)

In these days of contemporary worship songs, mentioning some of the songbook classics he penned still might not even raise a flicker of recognition: 'Spirit divine come as of old', 'For thy mission make me holy', 'Weaver divine, thy matchless skill', 'I would be thy holy temple,'.


In addition Brindley wrote many band pieces, a history of the ISB and two books on banding and singing 'Play the Music Play,' and 'Sing the Happy Song.' He was also the main organiser of the 1978 International Congress.


Colonel Brindley Boon was promoted to glory this year at the grand age of 95 and his autobiography has just been published 'The best of both worlds'.


The Amazon product description says of this book "In 'The Best of Both Worlds', Salvation Army officer Colonel Brindley Boon delves deep into memories covering nine decades to provide a record of an extraordinary life. His twin loves of music and journalism provide the framework for this fascinating autobiography. But, more than that, every experience he recollects seems to shine with his love for God and his desire to serve Him."


In the book, especially the earlier part, Brindley describes a Salvation Army I can only imagine yet one I would have loved to belong to!


Certainly it was an Army obsessed with music yet at the same time it was equally obsessed with soul winning. It wasn't music or evangelism it was both and evangelism always took precedence.


Reading the book was a cathartic experience for me and I feel refreshed and better able to focus on what really matters as a consequence of Brindley's memoirs.


My Dad was appointed to the Editorial Department on IHQ in 1963 at which time 'Uncle' Brindley was already an established and stalwart Army journalist.


Reading the book showed me just how much we have lost our way as a movement and the quicker we can get back to basics the better.


Deportment matters, professionalism matters, discipline matters, regulations matter, uniform matters, respect for leaders matters – all these things matter. They are not all that matters or even the most important things but we diminish their value at great cost to ourselves.


In those territories that are growing the above qualities are still valued and very visible.


Maybe they should put Brindley's book on the curriculum at Western Training Colleges J


Grace and peace, A

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Minster and autumnal madness!

Could there possibly be a more picturesque appointment in the UK other than Minster? Minster is a small village about five miles from the coast in Kent. It gets its name from the Abbey (which still functions today) in the centre of the village. If you ask Sister Benedict nicely she will give you a guided tour. The village has everything you might need – dentist, doctor, library, corner shop, newsagent – even a dog groomers! The Army hall is 4 years old and the previous hall is in the process of being changed into a community shop. The Corps is spiritually alive and growing with a mixed aged congregation of about 80 and a small ensemble band. The village has a total population of 3000 making the 80 that attend the Army just under 3% of the local population – is there another Corps in the entire Army world that can boast such a statistic? If Regent hall managed to attract the same percentage of their local population their weekly congregation would be in excess of 100,000! We are here for a week's leave, guests of the Corps Officer Denise Cooper. We've had a lovely week and are ready to return to the war in Dartford.

Minster seems to be in a time warp (the village not the Corps!) there are no traffic restrictions here, parking is free and most people seem to walk everywhere – which brings me on to 'autumnal madness' – like the village of Minster the summer of 2009 (at least in the UK) seems to have got stuck in a time warp too. Yesterday I saw a butterfly, there are roses in the garden coming into bud, the grass is still growing and there hasn't been a day yet when I've desperately needed a coat. Although next week is November the trees are clinging to their leaves and we've yet to have our first frost. What is happening to the weather and who is to blame? Although there are still some sceptics out there who think that global warming and climate change are natural events I side with those who think they are a consequence of human activity.


The truth is we have a responsibility to protect our planet just as we have a responsibility to protect our values. Minster looks idyllic and seems to have retained some of those values yet amongst the quaint cottages is a betting shop and 5 pubs. No doubt behind the chintzy curtains alcoholics still sleep off their binges, husbands abuse their wives, children are neglected and gamblers count their losses. Appearances can sometimes be deceptive. Within a few weeks a storm will shake the leaves from the trees, the frosts will come, the fires will go on and we'll all start getting ready for Christmas.


Time marches on, the planet and our communities develop for better or worse and we make our contribution. One day time will stop for us and we will be asked to account for our lives. Those sins which are forgiven will be ignored, the time we have wasted over which we have wept with repentance will be put to one side – but the life we've lived since we last sought forgiveness will be weighed in the balance. With God appearances are far from deceptive as Paul told the Galatians "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows" (Galatians 6:7). As we approach Christmas and 2010 let's heed the advice of Ephesians 5:5-17 " Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is."


Grace and peace, A

Thursday, October 15, 2009

In his time...

Recently I was in conversation with Lee (see blog below) about smoking. Lee has given up so much in the last 8 months that I really didn't feel he needed to get into a battle with nicotine on top of everything else. I shared with him the testimony of the Jesuit writer John Powel (recounted in 'He Touched Me: My Pilgrimage of Prayer') about smoking. Powell had tried to give up smoking on many occasions unsuccessfully then one day as he reached for the first cigarette of the day he unexpectedly heard a quiet voice within say 'no more cigarettes John'. He obeyed the voice and has been nicotine free since. I suggested to Lee that when the time was right God would take the desire to smoke away just as he had removed his urge to drink.

In my own life my two biggest enemies have been lust and gambling (closely followed by pride and selfish ambition). Although these strongholds have been comprehensively demolished by the Holy Spirit temptation still lurks in their ruins and occasionally sallies forth in attempt to ensnare me once more. When it comes to holiness our big sins are easy to identify what takes more time is identifying and surrendering the doubtful things. For me, one of these doubtful things has been coffee. I have tried on many occasions to give up coffee but without success. Recent circumstances have led me to heed my own advice and leave the matter in God's hands.

Coffee seems to be the cement which holds church fellowship together; coffee is entrenched in our very fabric. Go to a Christian conference and coffee is available on tap. Hold a meeting, get together with a potential convert, network with other agencies , go to a church service, attend an Alpha Course, got to a bible study and coffee is there constantly oiling the ecclesiastical cogs. In addition, with the advent of Fairtrade there is almost a moral obligation to support the ethical coffee market. Then there is the fact that the local coffee shop is often the hub of the community - a suburban watering hole where all levels of society find neutral ground – therefore the coffee shop is an excellent place to witness. Then last week I read an (accredited) article about the benefits of moderate coffee consumption. Anything over two cups a day is likely to have an adverse health impact but keeping your intake to just two strong cups a day (preferably taken before noon) can have a very positive effect. Apparently, coffee is full of antioxidants and can limit your chances of heart disease and Alzheimer's. In addition there is a chemical in coffee that destroys the bacteria that causes tooth decay (incidentally all of these claims are equally true for dark chocolate!)

So maybe if Paul was writing to Timothy today rather than encouraging him to take a little wine with his food he might tell him to get down to Costa Coffee or Starbucks!

So (with an absolute clear conscience) I'm going to follow the example of Railton rather than Finney and start knocking back the black gold (but no more than two strong cups a day!)

If God isn't happy with my decision then he will let me know and whisper quietly in my inner ear as I reach for the coffee pot one morning. In the meantime I am not under law but under grace.

"17For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men." (Romans 14)


Grace and peace, A

Monday, October 05, 2009

Lee, Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Amazing grace!

God's amazing grace never ceases to amaze me!

Just over 8 months ago Lee walked into the Army hall at Dartford – why? Cynics would say because he was drunk, homeless and hungry - believers would say because God had made an appointment for him!

We found him a home, bought him food and booked him into detox. He came out of detox and got saved – thank you Jesus! The first couple of weeks after detox were literally hell for Lee but he (with our support) prayed his way through and eventually God completely removed the desire for alcohol from his heart and mind. Lee hasn't had an alcoholic drink since February!

This week I am at Brunel Manor (once the home of the famous engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel) in Torquay with Lee. One of our corps folk works for a charity who sends deserving people away on a retreat for free. The break was planned for earlier in the year and the gentleman in question was going to go away with Lee. However, Lee couldn't make it at the last minute so it was postponed. The man had already booked his holiday from work and couldn't change it at the last minute I went in his place.

It will be a good chance for us to relax but also to continue discipling Lee.

Tonight I stood next to Lee in a bible study he was so eager to attend! To think that only eight months ago he was a homeless alcoholic with no hope and now (thanks to God) he is a born again Christian who has a hunger for Christ which is contagious!

To hear him singing loudly songs that he doesn't know! To watch him listening to biblical concepts that must be alien to him and then to hear him say how 'relieved' he feels just to be here has quite honestly blown me away.

Please pray that this week will be a momentous week in Lee's pilgrimage (he has brought a lot of baggage to this retreat, by God's grace he'll be going home with a lot less!) Pray too that this will be a momentous week for me as well and please find the time to thank Jesus for his wonderful love and the amazing miracles he still does today - Hallelujah!

If that doesn't brighten your day then nothing wil!

Grace and peace, A

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Another William Booth...

The Daily Mail is not my favourite newspaper, it tends to be conservative, middle class, sensationalist and unreliable. It doesn't generally print news but merely comments on it. However, in a recent edition it ran the following story:

A vast study of youngsters' wellbeing in 30 industrialised nations ranked Britain among the worst for health, lifestyles and school standards relative to public spending levels. Under-age teenagers in Britain are more likely to get drunk than those in any other country, and the proportions of teenage mothers and single-parent families are amongst the highest in the survey. In "risky behaviour" - a combination of drinking, smoking and teenage pregnancy - Britain's performance is worse than all nations other than Turkey and Mexico. Educational achievement is low given the billions poured in by Labour, with more than one in 10 youngsters aged 15 to 19 not in school, training or work. This is the fourth highest rate in the 30 countries. Only Italy, Turkey and Mexico perform worse. . . The report, published by the economic think tank the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, compared data from 30 leading countries on children's welfare. . . Teen drunkenness, as measured by the number of youngsters aged 13 and 15 who have been drunk at least twice, tops the league table at 33 per cent.


By coincidence (I think not!) the letters page in the same edition contained correspondence from Derek Hanna, of Newtownabbey, Co. Antrim. It said:

One of the nation's greatest sons, William Booth, once said: "The chief danger of the 20th century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, politics without God, salvation without regeneration and heaven without hell."

According to Mr Hanna what hope does the UK have? That God will raise up another William Booth, or another John Wesley.

What set Wesley and Booth apart from other men and women?

Booth was once asked (close to the end of his remarkable life) what was the secret of his success, was that he had given everything to God when he was a young man? He replied (words to the effect of – I can't remember the exact quote) that there was nothing extraordinary in his giving everything to God, such consecration was not uncommon, what set hi apart from other men was that he never took anything back!

We need holiness, we need it now and we need it to be not complete but consistently complete.

"O thou God of every nation,
We now for thy blessing call;
Fit us for full consecration,
Let the fire from Heaven fall.
Bless our Army! Bless our Army!
With thy power baptize us all."

Grace and peace to all who love Jesus!

A

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Courage

What is real courage? Is it leaving all to go and live among the poorest of the poor? Is it being tortured for one's faith? Is it facing ravenous lions or gladiators or is it simply standing up and refusing to compromise when one is clearly in a minority?

Not according to William Booth.

The following quote is taken from an extensive article in The Officer Magazine (1895) the article was printed across several editions.

"Perhaps the highest form of courage of which the human soul is capable is that which goes up with boldness to the throne of grace, claims a full salvation at God's hands, and power to maintain and fight for it day by day. That dares to walk in the light of God, relying upon His arm for all the grace needed for a holy, conquering life.

We want the courage that will face the rebellious world of today, come out from it, renounce its riches and fashions and recreations and follies, which will despise them, and which will reject its friendships as being enmity with God. We want a courage that will recognise and resist and defy the devil. We want a courage that will trample on the daily desires of the flesh for ease and luxury.

We want a courage that will confess our Lord and glory in His salvation and proclaim deliverance from sin by Him before the whole world. We want a courage that will tell the truth, the whole truth, the plainest truth and most soul-cutting truth, on the platform, on the streets; that will warn men of the evil of sin and beseech them to flee from the wrath to come, no matter what sacrifices may be threatened or involved thereby."

According to Booth – "the highest form of courage of which the human soul is capable" is simply being holy.

To meet the conditions of holiness - to comprehensively renounce sin (and all things doubtful), to completely surrender all to God, to establish - and ten to maintain those links which will continuously fuel holiness and finally to embrace the consequences of such a commitment – according to Booth that takes guts – real guts.

No wonder there are so few holy men and women alive in 2009.

God grant us the grace to find such courage.

Amen.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Poole and humble beginnings...

While on holiday in Bournemouth I visited Poole to research the 'Bartletts' and the 'Gibbs' these are my ancestors on my Gran's side. Sadly the earliest records at Poole SA only go back to the 1920's. There was a reference to the funeral of a Mrs Wynn Bartlett in 1985 who must have been a relative but nothing else.

There were, however some cuttings from early Army SA periodicals about the earliest days of the Corps – including in 1878 a visit from 'Mr Railton (William Booth's secretary)'. There was also the testimony of a local fisherman – my great-grandfather was a fisherman and was saved by 'The Mission' – it is quite possible I was reading his testimony!

Walking around the town it was strange to think that it was here that my Great grandparents got converted and joined the 'Army of the Lord'. It is encouraging to know (although in reality has no significance) that my ancestors on both sides were in it from the start. My maternal great grandparents linking up with the Army in Penge at the turn of the last century and my paternal ancestors converted fishermen in Poole probably in the 18870/80's.

The picture above is of the 'Custom House' where the early pioneers held their open-air meetings. Maybe it was here that my Great Grandfather knealt at the drum or was encouraged to attend 'The Temperance Hall' (this was the building used before the pioneers were able to secure their own hall.) My Great Grandparents lived in a (now demolished) slum area in 'Love Lane'. This (as the name suggests) was the red-light district. Maybe it wasn't an open-air meeting that first led my forbears to Christ - perhaps it was a 'slum and gutter brigade'.

I wonder where I would be now if those early pioneers had been less faithful than they were in preaching the gospel!

Father, make my heritage significant for your kingdom, help me to ensure that the passion and courage of those who led my ancestors to you not be in vain. Through your spirit make me an effective soul-winner like they were. Amen.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

No more blogs until September...

Tomorrow my daughter goes into hospital (just an overnight stay) then on Saturday we are off on furlough for 2 weeks. When we get home Bethany has to go into hospital again. So I won't be blogging at 'Beyond the brook' until early September.

I pray that wherever you are God will make you aware of his presence and use you mightily for the extension and defence of his kingdom.

Grace and peace, A

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Obligated to defeat...

Holiness requires the surrender of all that is doubtful in addition to all that is sinful. Anything less that absolute surrender leaves us 'liable to defeat'. If we are holding on to things which God wants us to surrender then not all the prayers, bible study and fellowship in the world can save us – we will be defeated!

Willis Howell sent me a great quote the other day from John Piper:

""The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. It is not the X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of the triviality we drink in every night.... And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth. For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable."

How many recently launched Christian lives have sailed out of the harbour of conversion and immediately crashed on the rocks of compromise? Usually the rock that sank the boat was something small and insignificant like a cup of coffee or a football game. It is the doubtful things that usually bring us down rather than the sinful things.

There is nothing in the bible that suggests that owning property or being wealthy is a sin, indeed some people have built a whole theology around the opposite belief but if Jesus thought the best way to survive the snares of this world and the attack of the enemy was a simple life of poverty then maybe that's the way wise Christians still choose to walk.

Father, save me from the trappings and distractions of this world, save me from the doubtful things, help me to identify the 'apple pie' in my life and lay it on the altar of consecration.

Today's scripture:

1 Chronicles 22:1-23:32

"Then you will have success if you are careful to observe the decrees and the laws that the Lord gave to Moses for Israel. Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged." (22:13)

Psalm 91:9-16

14 "Because he loves me," says the LORD, "I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.

15 He will call upon me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honour him.

16 With long life will I satisfy him
and show him my salvation."

1 Corinthians 2:6-2:16

12We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.

Grace and peace, A




Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Do what you know to be right!

Yesterday I was in conversation with the Lord and were discussing (as we often do) 'doubtful things'. Sanctification requires the surrender of all things sinful and doubtful. In other words if you can't justify a particular use of time or money then it has to go on the altar! The problem is that many doubtful things by their very nature are difficult to qualify. In addition where does one stop? If it is a 'doubtful' use of one's money to buy a daily newspaper what about having a TV? If it is a doubtful use of one's time to watch a football game what about participation in sport? The last thing I want to do is to become a prisoner to a cold form of ascetic holiness that has nothing whatsoever to do with God.

As we were talking the Lord said "why not focus on the things you know are wrong – start there!" This very obvious statement struck me like some esoteric revelation from on high.

How many of us struggle with God over whether we should or shouldn't take caffeine yet give into lust? How many of us avoid eating meat but indulge in gossip? The enemy loves to distract us with the minutiae of our faith in order that we never deal with the more obvious and pressing aspects of spiritual obedience.

In Isaiah 1:16-17 we read:

16 wash and make yourselves clean.
Take your evil deeds
out of my sight!
Stop doing wrong,

17 learn to do right!
Seek justice,
encourage the oppressed.
Defend the cause of the fatherless,
plead the case of the widow.

It seems to me that the emphasis here is absolutely right – 'stop doing wrong' – this is something we can do right away, we know what things are wrong, there is no debate that needs to be had here! Then, 'learn to do right', the doubtful things will be revealed to us with absolute clarity as we, through grace, live in the love of God. In addition, our lives will become concerned with social justice, for there is no holiness without a concern for social justice.

Today's scripture readings:

1 Chronicles 16:37 – 18:17

Is there a link between verse 18:6 and 18:11? I think so.

"The Lord gave David victory everywhere he went." (v6) "King David dedicated these articles to the Lord, as he had done with the silver and gold he had taken from all these nations." (v11)

Psalm 91:1-8

1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5

"27But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29so that no one may boast before him. 30It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord."" (1:27-31)

"2For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. 4My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, 5so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power." (2:2-5)

Grace and peace, A



Monday, August 03, 2009

Laurens, power and dry bones...

Last Sunday I preached on 'power' this Sunday we were blessed by a flying visit from Major Alan Laurens. The Major also spoke on power. Is the Lord trying to say something to Dartford? Major Laurens also compared the Corps to Ezekiel's 'dry bones'. This is the second time this prophetic word has been given to the Corps. Ray, the Pentecostal minister, delivered the same word at a recent 'churches together' prayer meeting.

Lord, fulfil this word in our time, show us the conditions attached to these promises and send us power!

Amen!

Today's scripture readings:

1 Chronicles 15:1-16:36

"Worship the Lord in the splendour of his holiness"! (16:29)

"Then all the people said "Amen"" (16:36)

Psalm 90:11-17

Romans 16:1-27

"Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him— to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen." (16:25-27)

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Leaders and the led.

When I attended my re-acceptance conference as a Salvation Army Officer one of the interviewers asked me the following question: "Andrew, we don't foresee any difficulty with your ability to lead but what about your ability to be led – are you willing to be led?" I responded by saying that I had no problem with being led by a 'leader' but I wasn't going to be misled by some namby-pamby, limp-wristed individual who didn't know where they wanted to go and to be truthful wasn't even very sure of where they were!

Leadership is a gift and a rare one at that. I could probably count on one hand the number of proper leaders I have served under – both in the Army and during my time when I worked in local government. Great leaders attract great followers, inspire apathetic followers, motivate lazy followers and scare off those who have no desire whatsoever to follow. 1 Chronicles talks about David's 'Mighty men', his warriors and the famous 'three'. It also mentions Benaiah who was considered more famous than the 'three'. 1 Chronicles paints David as a magnet who draws those to him who need to be led. Without David maybe the 'Mighty men' would have simply been 'men'?

We need leaders! Leaders that inspire, set an example to their troops, leaders who motivate, encourage, correct and develop those under their control. We have a few of these leaders in The Salvation Army but we need more? What about you? Is God calling you to be a leader of his people?

"We are yours Oh David!

We are with you Oh son of Jessee!

Success, success to you

And success to those who help you,

For your God will help you." (1 Chronicles 12:18)


Today's scripture:


1 Chronicles 11:1-12:22


Psalm 90:1-10


My 'atheist' son as a young Salvationist once went to the Mercy Seat where he gave God a day to prove his existence or he would stop believing in him.


I take heart from the following verse "For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has gone by..." (Psalm 90:4)

I know that – in his time – God will answer Ben's prayer – Hallelujah!

Romans 14:19-15:13

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." (v13)

Yes Lord, answer this prayer now!

Grace and peace, A


Friday, July 31, 2009

Goals, gongs and scriptural paradoxes.

Yesterday I was listening to a news report about the 2012 Olympics in London. The reporter was explaining how the athletes, as part of their training, set personal targets and log their performance on a daily basis. If they fail to meet a target one day then they try and compensate the next. These targets don't just relate to physical activity but include things like diet, meditation, rest and sleep. Every evening they analyse and record their physical, emotional and mental state and any weak areas identified are targeted with new aims and objectives. In addition they use this intense introspection to identify areas of compromise where potential distractions might be taking their focus away from that illusive gold medal.

The report brought to mind two passages of scripture:

1 Corinthians 9:25-27

"Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize."

And:

Hebrews 12:1-2

"...let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith."

What do I want out of life? I want to be holy. I want to be a successful soul winner. I want to live in the love of God. I want to abide in Christ. I want my life to be nothing other than a perfect reflection of Christ. I want to be a champion of social justice. I want to be a prophetic voice to The Salvation Army. I want to be a mighty warrior... and so I could go on.

All of these objectives are far more worthy than that of becoming an Olympic champion. Yet how does my regime compare to that of an athlete? Is my diet, sleep pattern, training schedule etc as focussed as theirs?

If I ever met an Olympic athlete I would undoubtedly recognise them by their visible commitment to their goal. That commitment would affect their whole life, the time they went to bed and got up, the food they ate and the amount of leisure time they had – all of these things would be impacted by their Olympic dream.

What about my dream, what about the Kingdom of God? Isn't that worth as much as a Gold medal?

Today's Scripture Readings:

1 Chronicles 9:1-10:13

David's mighty men – imagine being listed in the bible as a 'mighty man'! I don't know who these men were or what they did – but here are their names, preserved for all time in the eternal word of God.

Lord, may I, through your grace, find my name so listed when I stand before you in your kingdom. Amen!

Proverbs 18:17-19:2

"It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way." (19:2)

This September I am starting an MA in theology – those who know me may well be surprised as I have always been something of an anti-academic! I'd much rather be surrounded by ignorant practitioners than knowledgeable theoreticians. However, people seem more likely to listen to you when you have a few letters after your name and so at the Army's behest I've agreed to undertake this study. This will be in addition to my role as a Corps Officer - if I'm honest, (and where can I be honest if not in my journal?) I'm quite looking forward to it J

Romans 14

"For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (v17)

"Everything that does not come from faith is sin" (v23)

To me these two verses present something of an internal contradiction. This is something I will have to continue to battle with. I will either have to find 'righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit' in some parts of my life or I will have to surrender them. There is no room in my life for doubtful things. I think the key is found at the end of verse 17 "in the Holy Spirit" – our standards of behaviour and chosen lifestyle have to be determined here – in the centre of God's love. Holiness is the outcome of my relationship with God as well as the basis for it.

Grace and peace

A

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Gentle exchange

I had a dream last night in which God asked me to surrender some recently acquired habits – to some people these things would be perfectly acceptable pastimes – but God could see that they had the potential to shift my focus and take my eyes of Jesus. Anyway, it's not these activities that I want to discuss but the manner in which the request was made. Jesus didn't demand but asked me to surrender in the most gentle and disarming way. There was no struggle here – he could have asked for anything and I would have given it. The exchange was one of absolute love. I have never had such a gentle nor as effective an interaction with Christ. Needless to say that, through his grace, I have gladly complied with his request. It is a truly wonderful thing to be loved by Christ!

Grace and peace, A

Today's bible readings:

1 Chronicles 4:9-5:26

Proverbs 18:6-16

My mouth has always been one of my greatest strengths and one of my worst weaknesses. I am an impulsive (and compulsive) speaker! A friend of mine once said to me 'Andre your mind is like diamonds in mud, we all hang around and listen because every now and again a diamond falls out but most of the time all we get is mud!'

I want to introduce some quality control into my talking!

Today's reading from Proverbs chapter 18 mentions the mouth three times:

7 A fool's mouth is his undoing,
and his lips are a snare to his soul.

8 The words of a gossip are like choice morsels;
they go down to a man's inmost parts.

13 He who answers before listening—
that is his folly and his shame.

I have been guilty of all three of these things: speaking foolishly, gossiping and answering before listening (indeed even before the other person has finished speaking!)

"Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips." Psalm 141:3

Romans 11:5-11:32


Monday, July 27, 2009

Teach me how to love thee

The more I study holiness the more I realise it is about love more than everything else!

It will undoubtedly involve self sacrifice and obedience but they must be responses to God's love.

We have to be 'in Christ' to be effective.

I struggle with this. I know how to pray for people and situations and my prayers are answered but I'm not sure I'm that good at just being 'still' and knowing that God is all that he says he is.

"Teach me how to love thee, teach me how to pray..."

Today's bible readings: I'm a busy person, definitely a Martha rather than a Mary! In recent months I have become painfully aware that the only thing that really matters in life is to regularly spend time in the 'presence and power' of God.

Lord, teach me how to handle silence and inactivity, teach me how to pray, 'teach me how to love thee... better day by day'

Larnelle Harris sums it up well when he says...

"I miss my time with you,
those moments together.
I need to be with you each day
and it hurts me when you say
you're too busy,
busy trying to serve me
but how can you serve me
when your spirit's empty?
There's a longing in my heart
wanting more than just a part of you.
It's true; I miss my time with you

What do I have to offer?
How can I truly care?
My efforts have no meaning
when your presence isn't there.
But you will provide the power
If I take time to pray..."

1 Chronicles 2:18-4:7

When Paul said to Timothy that "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness" he hadn't recently read the first few chapters of 1 Chronicles. My bible reading plan takes me through scripture once a year and I have to confess that the last two day's OT passages have left me cold!

Psalm 89:19-29

David's understanding of God was almost Christian in its familiarity and intimacy 'He will call out to me, 'You are my Father, my God, the Rock my Saviour.'(v26)

Romans 10:1-11:10

"If you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame." For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" (Verses 9-13)

Where would we be without Paul – if you could only have access to one book in the bible which would it be? For me it would be a difficult choice between Romans and 1 John!

Grace and peace, A

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Families and fundamental things!

Yesterday sounded a severe warning!

We had a great family day – went out shopping, had a lovely meal at a Garden centre, laid turf in the backyard, planted flowers and even rounded off the day playing Monopoly!

However, when I got up in the morning I got straight into the day without sitting down with the Lord, praying, reading his word and listening to him. I always intended to but just didn't get around to it! This will have given the enemy an opportunity to undermine my relationship with the 'life-giver', would have weakened me, made me less effective and (if I allow the practice to continue) set me up for a fall.

I am a 'morning person', I like to get up when the sun does and most days God wakes me long before the rest of the family have even thought about getting up. This gives me the opportunity and time to make my devotions the first thing I do in the morning! Thank you Lord for pointing this out, I pray that you will keep me ever alert to the gradual influence of the enemy and keep my eyes focussed on you.

Today's bible readings: 1 Chronicles 1:1-2:55,

Psalm 89:14-18

"Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you." (v14)

Holiness and social justice are inextricably linked, to try and maintain one without the other is impossible!

Romans 9:22-10:4

"What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the "stumbling stone." As it is written: "See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame." (9:30-33)

Holiness is not about what I do or sacrifice it is about love, it is about my relationship with God. Of course holiness will include self-denial but such acts of sacrifice must always be a response to God's love and not done out of a sense of cold duty! If I give up coffee because God asks me to and I want to please him – Hallelujah! If I give up coffee because I think that such a sacrifice will in some way or other save me from the enemy – ouch!

There is a magic formula for victory and it is called grace – it comes through prayer, bible study, and fellowship with other Christians – it comes through abiding in Christ. There is no other way to enjoy a 'career of uninterrupted victory over sin' than to 'maintain contact with the life giver' – Amen!

Grace and peace, A

Friday, July 24, 2009

You are always there...

Some days God the Holy Spirit seems to compensate for my emotional and spiritual tiredness. Some days I seem to float through the day unaware of the pitfalls and perils all around me. It's almost like being on spiritual anti-depressants – as if God in his mercy – seeing my plight has decided to numb me to the presence and influence of the enemy. Today has been such a day. I've managed to get a lot done, caught up with administration, answered emails, made phone calls – generally caught up with everything. The devil has been barking at me from a distance but God seems to have encased me in a bubble which the enemy can't penetrate. Today I remembered to put my spiritual armour on – I try and do this every day but sometimes I forget. Maybe it was that act of spiritual self defence that protected me. On reflection it almost certainly was; thank you Jesus for the provision of such wonderful and practical resources.

Today's bible readings: Hosea 10:1 to 11:11

Can't help but think of The Salvation Army and its current state of rebellion when I read the following verses from Hosea 11:

1 "When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.

2 But the more I called Israel,
the further they went from me.
They sacrificed to the Baals
and they burned incense to images.

3 It was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
taking them by the arms;
but they did not realize
it was I who healed them.

4 I led them with cords of human kindness,
with ties of love;
I lifted the yoke from their neck
and bent down to feed them.

Psalm 89:1-13,

6 For who in the skies above can compare with the LORD ?
Who is like the LORD among the heavenly beings?

7 In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared;
he is more awesome than all who surround him.

8 O LORD God Almighty, who is like you?
You are mighty, O LORD, and your faithfulness surrounds you.

Romans 8:8:39

Do you not agree with me that Romans chapter 8 stands at the heart of the bible like some great industrial generator – masses of metaphorical steel and concrete, huffing and puffing with power beyond comprehension, ceaselessly driving the whole gospel forward!

The spirit of God actually prays for us – using our feeble words and groans!

"26In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will."

Everything that happens to me God can take and use to our mutual benefit!

"28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

In Jesus Christ I am irrepressible!

"37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Thank you Jesus – Hallelujah and Amen!

Grace and peace, A



Thursday, July 23, 2009

All the memories of deeds gone by...

Today has been a day when 'all the memories of deeds gone by, rise within me and thy power defy.' It is very difficult to live with a converted addict – whether their poison is alcohol, slot machines, drugs or sex. Sin that has been forgiven still has power and the enemy will do everything it can to use memories of the past to inflict misery and pain in the present.

With me this happens in two ways:

First of all I find myself re-running mental recordings of all the wicked things I've done in my life (this usually happens when I'm lying in bed or standing in the street selling the War Cry!) The enemy urges me to focus on the stupidity of my actions and on the pain they caused others.

Secondly, he uses innocent events to resurrect feelings of mistrust in those I love. For example, I may be late home one night and unable to contact Tracey (or maybe just not think to call) and then the enemy puts all kinds of ideas into her mind "where is he?" – "what is he up to?"

The first method of attack I can (through the grace of God) deal with by following the advice of Paul and "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." Spiritual warfare also quickly sends the enemy scurrying!

The second method of attack is more difficult to counter and requires a great deal of discernment and wisdom – the truth is that even now I can fully understand why trust is so difficult – because I am, like all sinners, always only one decision away from disaster.

Praise God – time heals!

Praise God – 'love covers a multitude of sins!'

Praise God – 'we are more than conquerors through him who loved us'

"He breaks the power of canceled sin,

He sets the prisoner free;

His blood can make the foulest clean,

His blood avails for me."


Today's bible readings: Hosea 8:1 to 9:17, Proverbs 17:25-18:5, Romans 8:1-17

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death." (v1&2)

"You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you." (v9-11)

"For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory." (v15-17)

Grace and peace, A

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

All change...

I've been keeping a journal since April this year. The journal is an honest, no-holds barred record of my personal spiritual pilgrimage. It is (as one would expect) a record of ups and downs, highs and lows and victories and defeats. This morning I read through the journal from the beginning and although I can see steady progress the narrative actually betrays far too much inconsistency in my relationship with God.

I've been blogging since February 2006 and my posts also reflect something of a vacillating approach to Christianity. Both my journal and my blog expose a man who at times has been "tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine".

If I were asked to list just three Christian essentials in 2009 I would without hesitation say (in no particular order) lifestyle, accountability and holiness.

By holiness I mean a life that is born out of and sustained by an uncompromising and all consuming love for God. By lifestyle I mean the evidence of that love clearly visible in the way I live and the choices I make. By accountability I mean a fulfilment of John's command 'to walk in the light as he is in the light' – to literally turn the torch of judgment upon ourselves and to do so in the most public arena possible.

I want to bring my blog and my journal together in a way that will increase my accountability and thereby fuel my love for God and constrain my lifestyle. So starting today I am going to start posting my journal entries in my blog – in effect I am going to turn my blog into an online journal. Obviously this is a risky undertaking but one that I feel compelled to do.

God knows all about me so there is no real point in hiding anything back.

My Journal has always included the scripture passages I have read that day, any insights or revelations received, confession and prayer.

So here we go: Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Bible Readings for today:

Hosea 6:1-7:16, Psalm 88:10-18 and Romans 7:7-25

1 "Come, let us return to the LORD.
He has torn us to pieces
but he will heal us;
he has injured us
but he will bind up our wounds.

2 After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will restore us,
that we may live in his presence.

3 Let us acknowledge the LORD;
let us press on to acknowledge him.
As surely as the sun rises,
he will appear;
he will come to us like the winter rains,
like the spring rains that water the earth."

It is definitely time to return to the Lord! God has certainly used me in the past and still does today but when I compare what might have been with what has been then the analogy of being 'torn apart' is not far from the truth. The same goes for The Salvation Army – even without our full cooperation he will take and use what he can – God is at war and that means he will always make the best use of whatever is to hand. However, there is no real glory in my warfare or that of the western Salvation Army... but if we 'press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.'

We've just endured a 36 hour power cut! No TV, no internet, no PC's, no hot water, no showers etc. It set my mind thinking of that old SA phrase 'maintaining contact with the life giver' – we lost our power because kids vandalised the power supply causing a fire which substantially damaged the power infrastructure for Dartford. How many times have I(through a careless sin or thoughtless act) vandalised the lines which connect me to God?

I must maintain the supply!

That means being obedient to God at all times, spending quality time with him and his word. Without a direct supply of divine power my ministry will be non-existent and my holiness seriously flawed.

Father forgive me for wilful spiritual vandalism, usually carried out when I am bored or distracted – help me to 'maintain contact with the life giver' at all times.

Amen

Grace and peace,

Friday, July 17, 2009

‘Sin in the camp’ from the top!

The recent Salvation Army has produced a written statement endorsed by all international leaders. The full text will be published in SA periodicals but in the meantime you can find the full text here at Jin Knagg's blog.

Below is a quote from the statement:

"... a vision of the worldwide Salvation Army kneeling in repentance, prayer and rededication at the Mercy Seat. We have spoken together of all that this might mean for the Army, seeking new grace, new spiritual power, new divine prompting, and asking for and receiving afresh God's mercy....

... Also we affirm our conviction that, to be truly useful to God, the Army needs to be pure and free from sin, and that senior leaders must, by grace, be effective role models in this. We feel the urging of the Holy Spirit to examine our own hearts afresh to see if there be any wicked way within us. We want to yield again to the demands of divine love, to return to first things, to cast aside distractions unpleasing to God, and to be in a relation of entire obedience to the Father. We acknowledge our constant need of grace.

We renew our sacred vows and covenants as both soldiers and officers of the Army, thanking God from our hearts for the privilege of the calling he has placed upon us. We declare again our availability and our readiness, as senior officers, to go anywhere to do anything at any time under God and within the structures of the Army, seeking only the advancement of his Kingdom. We acknowledge our humanity and weakness, seeking the unique strength that God provides when we are weak and he is strong. We confess our limitedness, knowing that God is all sufficient. We abandon explicitly any desire that has sprung up in our hearts to place self first. We ask for the prayers of our fellow Salvationists to help us in this renewal of our covenants as soldiers and as officers, and in so doing we recognise our vulnerability and our personal need of divine help. In sharing this Spiritual Statement with Salvationists everywhere, it is our hope and prayer that it will be received with humble and understanding hearts, and that by the abundant grace of God it will be used to inspire and prompt others to seek with us repentance, with renewed purity and holiness in Christ."

In his first interview as General Shaw Clifton said in response to the following question:

Do you have a sense of where that breaking and moulding needs to happen? What strategies do you want to use?"

"It is too early to be specific, but this High Council has mandated the next General to find appropriate, loving ways of asking The Salvation Army some fairly awkward, difficult questions. We are all exercised by the Army's inability to grow numerically in certain parts of the world. We rejoice that in many places the Army is rapidly expanding. Globally we are bigger than ever before and getting bigger. This High Council has mandated me to ask: If God is withholding numerical growth from parts of the Army, why is that blessing withheld? Rather than discussing strategy, method, ceremony or even identity, I have a deep sense in my heart that God wants us to follow the example of the Old Testament prophets when they sensed God's blessing was withheld. The prophets went to God's people asking: Is there sin in the camp? Now that is a very difficult and pointed question. One has to be very tender and sensitive before even raising it but perhaps God is saying, ever so gently and ever so lovingly: I love you, Salvation Army, but would you please look within and see if there is sin in the camp, and if there is anything that causes the blessing to be withheld we must deal with it. Some issues will be personal to individual Salvationists, others will be corporate. I would like to find a way as General of being a catalyst and put that biblical question to Salvationists. We may find that as we draw nearer to him, closer to him in purity and righteousness, the blessings begin to flow where at present they sometimes appear to be withheld."


I'd never noticed before (until I read the text again this morning) that General Clifton said "this High Council has mandated the next General..." The call to repentance came from our leaders, it was a corporate call from the very top of our organisation.

On Wednesday night at a united churches prayer meeting in Dartford - knowing nothing of this leaders' statement - I urged the church ministers gathered in our hall to repent both personally and on behalf of the denominations they represented. I then went on to offer a prayer of repentance on behalf of TSA.

There is 'sin in the camp' and until we remove 'the consecrated things we have hidden among our own possessions' we will be 'obligated to defeat' - hold a million seminars, enquiries and conferences and nothing will change. If we repent then the Promised Land lies ahead of us!!!

Thank you to our leaders for their discernment, honesty and humility.


May we have ears to hear, minds that understand and hearts that will follow!

Grace and peace, A

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Premature death, hawks and the wisdom of God

27 years ago when my younger brother (who was just 21 at the time) died of cancer I found myself turning to Job for some kind of explanation. David was fit and healthy and once diagnosed was only ill for six weeks.

Recently we have said goodbye to several Officers in the UK who were all promoted to glory considerably earlier than expected – the most recent two being Jo Norton and Christine Budding (who went to heaven yesterday evening). Like my Brother Christine's demise was sudden and unexpected – 11 weeks ago she didn't even know that she was poorly! Jo leaves a husband and a young family, Christine leaves behind her a brother, her close friends, especially the Dare family who looked after her at home up until the day before her promotion to Glory, the Corps she led so well at Carshalton and the Horsham Corps who were so excited that she was due to take command in a few weeks time.

Yesterday a hawk caught a starling in my garden! I couldn't believe it – I know that the Thames isn't that far away and the heath is just up the road but this is urban Dartford and I didn't expect to see a Hawk with its prey in my garden! The Hawk patiently perched on top of the starling with its talons wrapped around the condemned bird's body. It sat like that for ten minutes patiently waiting for its quarry to stop wriggling. Then once dinner was dead it began to rip the carcass apart. Not the most pleasant sight yet strangely awe-inspiring as I watched the strength and majesty of this perfectly designed killing machine. A later inspection of the garden confirmed that everything had been eaten apart from a few feathers and the starling's beak!

In Job 39:26-27 we read "Does the hawk take flight by your wisdom and spread his wings toward the south? Does the eagle soar at your command and build his nest on high?"

Will we ever understand the inexplicable sorrow of premature death – or indeed any kind of apparently unjust suffering? No, I don't suppose we will but what we can say – not with the resigned sorrow of Job - but with a confidence born of Christ and his resurrection "Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him" for "I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God;"

Christine is with God of that there can be no doubt, the Hawk will probably not hunt for a day or two and as life rolls on so death will inevitably put in the occasional untimely appearance – let us make sure that we who are left do our absolute most to squeeze every possible opportunity out of our lives and never take our friends, family and ministry for granted.

May God bless and comfort the bereaved and may God keep us faithful unto death!

Grace and peace, A

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The Great Commission(ing)

At last, Tracey is a fully commissioned and ordained (never quit understood that bit?) Officer in The Salvation Army.

Can there be a higher calling than this - to be a covenanted leader of men and women in a holy war against sin and injustice?

I know that Tracey will (by God's grace) continue to be a fruitful evangelist and pastor and much needed brake to my own somewhat reckless and impulsive approach to leadership.

If I could have custom designed a wife, mother, mission partner and soul-mate to share my life with I could not have improved on the one that God has provided.

20 years ago this November we went out for the first time (to see Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore in 'Ghost') when I got back to my little one-bedroom flat I knelt down at the side of my bed and asked God if Tracey could be my wife. A week later she was going to say she didn't want to see me again but before she had the chance to tell me I handed her a poem I'd written – on the strength of the poem she decided to give the relationship a bit more time – six weeks later I proposed and she said yes!

Sure, we've had our tough times (usually due to my stupidity) but 20 years on we are more in love and enamoured with each other than we've ever been.

If there are any youngsters out there reading this who want to know the secret of happiness then find the right person and marry them, stick with them whatever happens (richer, poorer, sickness, health etc)

Then ask yourself if God is calling you to be a Salvation Army Officer (he almost certainly is if you listen hard enough) and then immediately 'leave everything and follow him'. Again – stick it out – there is nothing glamorous or pleasant about war and Officership will certainly be extremely tough and demanding (if you do it right!)

What's the secret of happiness? Get married (to the right person) then answer the call to full time covenanted leadership in The Salvation Army.

It worked for me – I think I am one of the happiest and most fulfilled men alive :-)

Grace and peace, A

Friday, July 03, 2009

Commissioning beckons...

After serving for 9 years in fruitful full time Corps leadership and training for 4 years as a distance learner the 'eternal cadet' is commissioned tomorrow.

My beautiful wife and equal partner in mission, Tracey, will become a Lieutenant in The Salvation Army. You can imagine the atmosphere at home and at the Corps is at fever pitch. The banners have been made, the whistles polished and tomorrow we celebrate. How it must hurt the Devil when new Officers step out onto the battlefield and in the name of Christ attempt to win the world for Jesus!

Our DC describes Tracey as the most experienced newly commissioned Officer in history! Is that true? What does it matter? Experience, intelligence, gifting, competence – all these things are helpful but without that burning divine passion for souls it counts for nothing. Just as 'love covers a multitude of sins' so it also covers a multitude of apparent failings. The SA's most successful Officers were largely uneducated, illiterate and common (one of the most frequent criticisms of the early SA was its inability to aspirate the letter H).


What use is a diploma or a degree if you don't know how to snatch one of Satan's prisoners from under his nose?


Join me in praying for 'The Witnesses for Christ' (especially tomorrow in London and around the world) as God the Holy Spirit unleashes them on the world, the flesh and the devil.


Forgive for corrupting Shakespeare but I can't resist the following butchered quote from Henry V:

"Cry God for Tracey, England and St. George and let slip the dogs of war!"


Wherever you are sing the following song with me, mean it like your life depends on it (actually it does) and feel the kingdom of Satan tremble in the certain expectation of defeat!


Hallelujah!


"Dear Lord, I do surrender Myself, my all, to thee;
Myself, my all, to thee;
My time, my store, my talents,
So long withheld by me.
I've heard the call for workers.
The world's great need I see
O send me to the rescue,
I'm here, my Lord, send me!

Here am I, my Lord, send me,
Here am I, my Lord, send me,
I surrender all to obey thy call,
Here am I, my Lord, send me.

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.

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.

Grace and peace, A

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Free Taster 3...

"Although revivals ultimately end in the conversion of people opposed to Christianity, they always begin inside the Church. When William Booth boldly declared 'send the fire' in his stirring hymn, he cried to God 'Look down and see this waiting host, give us the promised Holy Ghost, we need another Pentecost!' As we seek another Pentecost we might be encouraged to recall that the first one happened in a meeting attended by a group of fearful, sinful, doubting men and women prone to denial, failure and fear. The weaknesses swept aside by Pentecost were personal to each individual disciple. Pentecost didn't demolish the temple, or wipe out the Pharisees or edit the law – it dealt with the individual. Revival will always be the revival of the individual – the more individuals that are revived, the fiercer the flames of revival will burn.

It is no wonder then, that in spite of their many inquiries, the collective denominations that make up the Christian church have been unable to write a strategy for recovery, for the problem lies not in the fabric or the methodology of the church but in the heart of individual believers. Indeed, God can only revive congregations one soul at a time and he does that through holiness.

When Christ speaks about the Church, he uses the metaphor of a body. It is the nature of cells, whether they be healthy or cancerous, to reproduce. Decline will either continue or be reversed according to the health of individual cells. There is nothing wrong with the head or the heart of the church, it is the unhealthy cells that make up the body, through which the head and heart try to operate, that bring about failure."

Grace and peace, A

Monday, June 29, 2009

Free taster 2...

"When contemporary Christians consider the role of the Holy Spirit the emphasis is often based on what he can do for us rather than on what he can do through us. Too often the Holy Spirit is seen as nothing more than a "blessing factory", as a result the connection between the ministry of the Holy Spirit and personal purity is often missed. Of course the Holy Spirit is about blessing - of that there is no doubt - but his main function is to educate and to empower. The gifts we receive from the Spirit are functional not self indulgent, they are given for "the strengthening of the church" (1 Corinthians 14:26)

Whilst the most intense, personal and passionate moments of the Christian life may well be spent relaxing in the embrace of the "comforter", the purpose of such intimacy goes well beyond our own happiness. Love remains the most powerful motive that God has at his disposal and it is not given to us so that we might indulge ourselves in isolation from the lost. Christ's love is always given to us to inspire obedience, in fact if we fail to obey – or at least fail to sense within ourselves the desire to obey – then according to Jesus it never was his love we experienced in the first place."

Grace and peace, A

Friday, June 26, 2009

A free taster...

I'm working on a book on holiness which I'm determined to finish before the end of the year.

For those who are interested here's a free taster from chapter 1:

"The writer to the Hebrews encourages the early Christians to 'make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be Holy...' for 'without holiness no one will see the Lord' (Hebrews 12:14) When individual Christians in a congregation experience holiness collectively, then Christ becomes visible in everything they do. In a 'holy' church, society will see Christ fighting against social injustice, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick, setting the enslaved free and performing all kinds of miracles. In a church like this, Christ will be seen at the local council meeting opposing harmful developments and defending the cause of the vulnerable. He will be seen standing up against politicians and projects that seek to take advantage of the weak. In a church like this, Christ will be seen freely associating with sinners and outcasts, living with and loving those on the very edge of society. In a church like this, Christ will be seen, whip in hand, cleansing the temple and re-establishing the fundamental principles of righteousness.

Holiness can do all of this because it fills the individual believer with a perfect love for God and their neighbour and gives them that all important ability to 'stop doing wrong' and obey. Indeed; unless such deliverance takes place in our hearts, we will remain ineffective and unfruitful because our refusal to consecrate ourselves leaves us 'liable to destruction'.

Understanding the function of holiness brings us to the heart of our problem and its solution. Within the contemporary church, certainly in the developed world, there is a distinct lack of expectancy. Although we read about God's power operating in the past, we don't expect that same power to be evident in our churches today. When the unconverted cross our thresholds - especially if the baggage they bring with them is bulky - we don't expect to see instant transformation. Our first thought when an addict knocks on our door is to try and meet their material needs; food, clothing, a sleeping bag or maybe even a train ticket to another town or city – the last thing we offer (if it is offered at all) is Salvation.

Back in September 2007 'The Salvationist' in the UK carried the testimony of a man who said "I could have been in The Salvation Army 10 years ago , but each time I came they gave me food when what I really needed was Christ!"

Why is there this reluctance to offer the bound freedom, the blind, sight, the hungry satisfaction and the sinner forgiveness? Is it because we don't kreally now the power of full salvation for ourselves? Are we all too often bound, blind, unfulfilled and enslaved by habitual sin ourselves? If God hasn't done it for us how can we possibly expect him to do it for other people? The reality is that we can only share the truth if we have personally experienced the comprehensive liberty it promises. Ruth Tracy puts it succinctly when she says:

Only as I truly know thee
Can I make thee truly known;
Only bring the power to others
Which in my own life is shown. (SASB 435)


It is not our theoretical knowledge of holiness or our familiarity with miracles worked in the lives of others or our appreciation of church history that empowers us – we can only ever overcome through the 'blood of the lamb' and the power of our own personal 'testimony'.(Revelation 12:11)"

Grace and peace, A


Monday, June 22, 2009

The war of holiness

Why is it that the most obvious things always seem to take the longest to sink in?

The war of holiness is not won or lost on the battlefield of temptation, indeed defeat or victory is determined long before we reach the moment of demonic persuasion!

Sincere and well meaning Christians do not want to sin even though they do on a daily basis. The deliberate act of disobedience isn't in the sin itself but in the refusal to obey the unequivocal call to consecration that rings in the heart of every true believer. God demands certain things from us – what he demands of you may be different to what he demands of me but don't be deceived he makes demands! Usually these demands are small – almost trifling – 'spend less time playing silly games on Facebook', 'watch less TV', 'cancel your subscription to cable TV', 'don't watch sport on a Sunday' – whatever his demands may be we will know for however we try and distract ourselves these demands will track us and hunt us down and corner us and will not let us go until we either refuse them or yield.

It is here in our own personal Gethsemane that holiness will happen or stall, it is here that our future effectiveness and fruitfulness will be decided. If we are foolish enough to try and hide these 'devoted things' among our 'own possessions' then whatever we do, however hard we try, no matter how intense our prayer or sacrificial our fasting we will fail for we will have been 'made liable to destruction'.

The following quote from John Piper was sent to me by Willis Howell:

"The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. It is not the X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of the triviality we drink in every night.... And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth. For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable."

Or as God himself puts it in Joshua 7 Salvationists have...

"sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. That is why they cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction."Go, consecrate the people. Tell them, 'Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow; for this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: That which is devoted is among you, O Israel. You cannot stand against your enemies until you remove it."

God demands all; if we try and give him less than he demands then we will give him nothing.

If we can hear God's clear call to consecration then we must stop what we are doing, drop everything and pay attention for until we respond positively we will endure a life of constant defeat, unvarying vacillation, careless compromise and ineffective spiritual lethargy. The nagging and persistent call that constantly harries us at every turn is not our imagination but it is the voice of God. Let us have the knowledge that recognises who is speaking to us, the wisdom to understand his demands and the courage to surrender! If we settle this question we settle them all!

"Then Eli realized that the LORD was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, "Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, 'Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.' "So Samuel went and lay down in his place. The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, "Samuel! Samuel!" Then Samuel said, "Speak, for your servant is listening." And the LORD said to Samuel: "See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle."

Father let the Salvation Army be filled with Samuels!

Grace and peace, A