Sunday, May 31, 2009

Happy Birthday Church!

What a fantastic Pentecost!

I woke up this morning with the refrain running through my head "somebody prayed for me" and I really sensed that someone somewhere around the world was doing just that – praying for me! The thought absolutely blew me away – someone, somewhere was going to the throne of grace and asking God to give me power! Thank you Jesus for intercession!

Then this morning I preached on the word 'one' – the disciples were of one mind in one place with one vision and objective. Yet in spite of their unity and their singularity of thought they were still one big mess of weakness, fear, doubt and self loathing. However it is in 'the moment of my weakness when my need for power is great... that the Holy Spirit hears my prayer!" Hallelujah. God visited us with power, there were four seekers and the Mercy Seat was bathed in tears of repentance and consecration.

Then tonight we went to the enrolment of Brother Kyle (he's the guy in the picture). Kyle's a new convert who came to Christ simply because his RE teacher invited him to the Army. Kyle, in his testimony, gave us a brilliant definition of holiness (especially from the lips of a babe in Christ) when he said he didn't just want to come to God during the high times or even just in the low times but that he wanted to give God all the stuff in between – fantastic!

It made me think of the Message's rendition of Romans 12:

"So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him."

Kyle has God's anointing all over him and I'm certain one day he will have red epaulettes on that brand new uniform of his.

Again God came with power and the Mercy Seat was lined with seekers (I lost count!) Among the seekers was a College friend of Kyle's she got saved tonight after she'd been fished by Xander! Praise God!

Brothers and Sisters God is moving, fasten your seatbelts revival is brewing in the west.

Grace and Peace, A

P.S. When the meeting concluded the soldiers brought out coffee, tea and Krispy Kreme Donuts :-)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Holiness, liars, lunatics and Lords!

I've almost finished reading (again) the first volume of the official history of The Salvation Army by Robert Sandal when I came across the following quote. It's taken from the Christian Mission Conference Minutes 1877 (although still The Christian Mission the annual conference had already by then been renamed 'Council of War'.)

"Holiness to the Lord is to us a fundamental truth; it stands to the forefront of our doctrines. We write it on our banners. It is in no shape or form an open debatable question as to whether God can sanctify wholly, whether Jesus does save His people from their sins. In the estimation of the Christian Mission that is settled forever, and any evangelist who did not hold and proclaim the ability of Jesus Christ to save His people to the uttermost from sin and sinning I should consider out of place amongst us." (Volume 1 Page 209)

It's 7pm and I've cycled down to the hall for a time of prayer. This need for prayer was brought on by the realisation that had I been around in 1877 I wouldn't have qualified for the role of Evangelist in The Christian Mission!

Of course I believe in holiness... let me explain.

We've been doing 'SA 1010' at Dartford and last Wednesday evening we considered among other things C.S. Lewis's 'Christian Trilemma' that basically says:

Jesus claimed that he was God. If his claim wasn't true then either he lied or he was mad. However, if it is true then he is Lord! We only have three options – he is either liar, lunatic or Lord?

In the discussion during the session I took Lewis's logic a step further – if we say he is Lord and yet deliberately disobey him then we must be either liars or lunatics.

You see once we have settled the question of his Lordship then absolute unadulterated surrender must follow.

So I come back to the quote above – yes of course I believe in holiness but does my lifestyle prove my belief? I know the answer to that and it is a resounding no! So unless I want to go down in history as either a lunatic or a liar something has got to change!

I brought Booth's "Ladder to Holiness" to the hall with me and have just gone through it (again) during my prayer time. The corner I often seem to find myself in is getting tighter and tighter – I am like a pot-holer I can only go forward. I either wriggle on or I die a lonely death 20 meters beneath the surface!

To be honest I can't really see any other way to go?

So...once more...

"My all is in the Master's hands
For him to bless and break;
Beyond the brook his winepress stands
And thence my way I take,
Resolved the whole of love's demands
To give, for his dear sake."

Grace and peace, A

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Holiness and justice...

I've been reading Strickland and Robert's 'Just Imagine' it's a challenging read and one I would heartily recommend. Those of us who are Salvationists in the overweight West need to read a book like this at least once a month. The last time I felt a book shake me up like this was when I read 'Be a hero' by Court and Campbell.

The biggest risk we run in the west is that Satan will lull us into becoming complacent, apathetic and lazy - people who have become deliberately blind and deaf to the truth. Although somewhere in the back of our minds and at the bottom of our hearts we will be aware that things like hunger, poverty and injustice run rife they'll be buried between so much obsolete evangelical ephemera we won't hear the cries or see the tears of those we're called to redeem.

The thing that hit me today as I was reading was the link between justice and holiness. Sometimes God gives me an order and I see it as a call to righteousness. For example 'don't drink coffee' - because the command is seen as a holiness issue my conscience spends years debating the reasonableness of the request as I question whether it actually came from God in the first place or from that streak of ascetic self harm which runs through many primitive Salvationists!

Today the penny dropped as I realised that sometimes the command to alter our lifestyle is actually a call not to righteousness but to justice – the command isn't 'don't drink coffee because drinking coffee is a waste of money and worldly' the command is actually 'don't drink coffee because most coffee is harvested by slaves!' Strickland and Robert's make the point that in scripture the word justice and righteousness are often synonymous.

So I think I'll have to revisit that list of outstanding commands I have in my internal spiritual pending tray and instead of assessing them on the basis of their 'reasonableness' look to see if there is actually a link to justice.

As I type another example immediately springs to mind – is it unreasonable to give up watching football? Probably, at the end of the day we have to be 'in the world but not of it' and the last thing God wants us to become is miserable, self-righteous, kill-joys.

But then looking at the matter from a social justice perspective – how many teams are sponsored by breweries or casinos? How much money is gambled on football every week? How many wives and children are at this very moment suffering because the man of the house has gambled this week's house-keeping on the outcome of some fierce relegation battle? During the last World Cup Germany actually erected hundreds of 'legal' brothels close to football grounds in order to service the demands of men attending games. How many of the prostituted people who 'worked' in these brothels were trafficked or forced into such service against their will?

Holiness is much more than just an issue of self denial, indeed it is more than just a commitment to a simple lifestyle it is about living a life where my impact on the misery of others is minimised to the greatest extent possible. It's a life where the clothes I wear, the food I eat, the way (and distance) I travel, the place I bank, the shoes I wear, the hot drinks I consume are only enjoyed where that enjoyment is not funded by someone else's misery.

Righteousness and justice are the hallmarks of genuine holiness and without genuine holiness 'none shall see the Lord!'

The Saviour of men came to seek and to save
The souls who were lost to the good;
His Spirit was moved for the world which he loved
With the boundless compassion of God.
And still there are fields where the labourers are few,
And still there are souls without bread,
And still eyes that weep where the darkness is deep,
And still straying sheep to be led.

Except I am moved with compassion,
How dwelleth thy Spirit in me?
In word and in deed burning love is my need,
I know I can find this in thee.

Orsborn (SASB527)

Grace and peace, A

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Write it on your banners; get it on your knees!


I've been in hospital since Sunday with my youngest daughter, Bethany (she's home now) which has given me the chance to catch up with some outstanding projects. I have been trying to update the text from Railton's 'Heathen England' into contemporary English.

Xander recently returned from 'Fullness' a UK prayer and fasting retreat (Carol and Alan Young were also there). Before Xander had gone away we had been discussing the inescapable relevance of prayer to any truly successful ministry, obviously his weekend away simply confirmed this truth.

When we consider the early success of the Army it is all too easy to play down the significance of 'all nights of prayer', the following (updated) quote from Heathen England confirms this truth.

"In connection with these Councils, Nights of Prayer have also been held, attended by hundreds of people whose secular employment prevents them from spending long hours in prayer during the day. It is these Nights of Prayer, perhaps more than anything else that has united us in belief and purpose and empowered that holiness which is essential to our existence. If the Army were to develop an enthusiasm for anything other than holiness and living God's way, it would sadly become either fanatical or worldly. But everywhere these "All Nights" have tested the mettle of our teaching and practice and have given rise to one united testimony to the power of holiness which can be heard throughout the whole country. This has resulted in spiritual benefits that just can't be calculated. In spite of cruel reports to the contrary not one single person has been harmed by these nights of intense prayer."

"Write it on your banners; get it on your knees – victory, victory, victory!"

Grace and peace, A

Friday, May 08, 2009

Happy Spiritual Birthday!

Today is my spiritual birthday! 15 years ago on the 8th May I was delivered from demonic oppression and fully baptised in the Spirit of God. When I look back on those early days of my new life they seem almost fictional rather than factual.

There was a natural hunger within for me God and 'with eyes wide open' to his mercies it wasn't difficult to 'present my life a living sacrifice' – indeed full consecration seemed the most natural thing to do!

The impact of my conversion upon my Corps was profound. I was the first of many who were saved and sanctified as a result of what became known as the 'Strood refreshing'!

The last 15 years has been a series of ups and downs, victory and defeat, success and failure. There haven't really been any grey moments in that whole fifteen years – I've either been an on-fire Pentecostal covenanted warrior or a rampant backslider!

If I draw a timeline of those 15 years then it becomes very clear that the high points coincide with those times when my commitment followed God's line rather than my own.

As I blogged yesterday, I am resolved to do things on God's terms however eccentric those terms might appear.

When I was saved I was given the following verses from Judges: ""The LORD is with you, mighty warrior... Go in the strength you have and slay the Midianites. Am I not sending you? "

Perhaps I may be from the smallest clan and the least member of it, maybe I have been threshing grain in a wine vat fearful of my enemies, maybe the sheep around here run whenever I approach (fearful that I might need just one more fleece) but none of that matters for God is sending me and the battle is his!

Happy Birthday to me! Thank you Jesus!

Grace and peace, A

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Complacency, carelessness and confession!

It's probably a dangerous thing to write a blog like the one I'm about to write late at night! However, morning, noon or night I have never been the sort of person who hides his heart away but one who prefers to wear it on his sleeve.

I am disappointed and angry with myself.

I have become complacent and maybe even a little lazy of late. I have become careless and allowed my weapons and armour to get rusty. My devotional disciplines have been slack – in short I have allowed "the world to squeeze me into its own mould."

The difficulty that I have is that contemporary Christianity and in particular the approach and lifestyle of contemporary Christians lulls me into a false sense of security and distracts me from my own understanding of the 'way of holiness'.

Sometimes the path down which I think God wants to lead me seems unnecessarily harsh when compared to paths walked by other people obviously more righteous than I am! The lifestyle I feel drawn to seems unrealistic (maybe even unnecessary) in 2009.

However, scripture encourages us to "work out our own salvation in fear and trembling' not each other's!

The requirements of holiness are (to my mind) unequivocal – the surrender of all things doubtful as well as all things sinful. Others may not feel the same, their understanding of holiness might be quite different from mine but at the judgement bar I will only be required to answer for myself.

So it's a couple of hasty steps back from the precipice of dangerous failure into the arms of holiness once more.

I must, from now on, keep my eyes fixed on Jesus – he is my benchmark, my teacher, comforter, healer and Lord and I will follow him!

Under the circumstances I couldn't help but be drawn to the following verses from Hebrews 12:

"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. 2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

4In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons:
"My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
6because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son."

7Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? 8If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 9Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! 10Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

12Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13"Make level paths for your feet," so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed."

Grace and peace, A

Monday, May 04, 2009

The smallest of beginnings…

I've decided to read through the official history of The Salvation Army again, I'd forgotten how gripping these books actually are.

The following quote is just crying out to be blogged!

Written by William Booth in 1865 round about the time he had just agreed to preach in the tent meetings in Whitechapel:

"We have no very definite plans. We shall be guided by the Holy Spirit. At present, we desire to be able to hold consecutive services for the purpose of bringing souls to Christ in different localities of the East of London every night all the year round. We propose holding these meetings in halls, theatres, chapels, tents, the open-air and elsewhere as the way may be opened or we seem likely to attain the end we have in view. We purpose to watch over and visit personally those brought to Christ, either guiding them to communion with adjacent and sympathetic churches or ourselves nursing them and training them to active labour."

A couple of weeks before he wrote this William was about to leave London for an evangelistic tour of Derby. Had he gone to Derby then the Army may never have come into being. However, that's not the point I want to make.

Look at Booth's vision – what was it that he was hoping to do? He was going to preach to the lost in the east end of London, disciple them, link them up with local churches and possibly employ them as evangelists, that was it – yet look at what grew out of that simple plan.

In truth, he had no plan, no vision, and no hope beyond a humble attempt to meet the demands of the 'great commission'.

As I return to active service tomorrow (following a public holiday) I don't have to come up with a strategy or a mission development plan all I need to do is to "be guided by the Holy Spirit… hold consecutive services for the purpose of bringing souls to Christ…in halls, theatres, chapels, tents, the open-air and elsewhere as the way may be opened … watch over and visit personally those brought to Christ… training them to active labour." If I do that and encourage my people to do the same then within 2 decades Dartford Corps ought to be opening up its first overseas outpost!

Grace and peace, A