Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Suddenly Word will no longer post to Blogger and there seems to be no remedy. I have searched the internet and emailed both companies but no one seems to have a solution so regrettably I am moving my blogs to word press. Starting tomorrow 'Beyond the brook...' will be hosted at http://beyondthebrook.wordpress.com/ and The Salvation Soldier's Armoury at http://thesalvationsoldiersguide.wordpress.com/
Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible!
Grace and peace, Andrew.
Saturday, September 25, 2010
A few years later God spectacularly changed my life. He forgave me for the bad things I’d done, filled me with his Holy Spirit and provided me with countless opportunities to serve him. Sometime later, remarried with two more children I decided to apply once again to become an officer. The route back into Officership was (quite rightly) long and circuitous. Eventually in 2007 my commission was re-issued and Tracey and I were sent to Dartford, a deprived urban town on the outskirts of London. Undoubtedly this appointment was a good reintroduction to ministry and God blessed us there.
Imagine my surprise when three years later we were appointed to Rayleigh in Essex just a short drive from Hatfield Peverel the scene of my dramatic downfall. Furthermore, in the 22 years that had passed, DHQ had relocated from its old premises in Walthamstow to a brand-new building in the car park of Hatfield Peverel Hall! Apparently, when this new appointment was first discussed, neither my old DC, new DC nor the personnel secretary took my history into account. So that is how on Thursday I found myself sitting in Hatfield Peverel Hall attending a training course on effective supervision. The irony of the occasion did not pass me by!
Today, I find myself in an almost identical situation to the one with which I was presented when I took up my appointment 22 years ago. Though Rayleigh is certainly a bigger town and a bigger Corps than Hatfield Peverel it is situated in the sleepy country lanes of Essex and when I look at the opportunities that surround us and the personnel that support us I cannot help but draw comparisons between the two appointments.
Praise God, the strongholds that dominated my life in 1987 have been well and truly demolished. However I would be lying if I did not admit that demonic snipers occasionally still lurk in the ruins of those strongholds and now and again from their insidious vantage points fire successful pot-shots.
There is (as in any appointment) incredible potential hiding within the people that make up Rayleigh Corps and the ingredients required to bring about revival are all to hand. God's grace and power is as super-efficient as it has ever been the needs of the community are, as always, evident and the willingness of the people to be led is refreshing - the one thing over which God has no control is the quality and consistency of my own consecration.
The damage that the enemy achieved at Hatfield Peverel is untold, according to the current CO most of the main players in the Corps back in 1987 (although now old and frail) are still active - I have often wondered how many people, how many potential converts, how many seekers after holiness were seriously wounded as a consequence of my actions. Although I am confident that God has forgiven my sin and removed it from me as far as "the East is from the West" the thorn that is Hatfield Peverel remains firmly in my side! Somebody once suggested to me that Paul's thorn was the fact that he had actually killed Christians and participated in their persecution. Did I kill any Christians or potential Christians at Hatfield Peverel? All I can do now is commit everything to God and hope that in his mercy he will be true to his promise to ensure that "all things work together for good".
I would not want to be anywhere else other than Rayleigh at the moment, however I must admit that being so close to my past does cause me some discomfort - but perhaps that is the way God wants it to be. I don't think, other than in the months that followed my conversion, I have ever been so wary of compromise and the dangers associated with giving "the devil a foothold". Certainly this appointment has driven me deeper into the arms of Jesus and I praise God for that! I feel almost as if God has deliberately presented me with a second chance, an opportunity (by his grace and in his name) to reclaim the years that "the years that the locusts have wasted."
The truth is, regardless of the past, "without holiness none shall see the Lord", my downfall 22 years ago was quite simply an absence of holiness and the cause of my success during my second sojourn in Essex can only ever be the presence of holiness. Hallelujah!
Grace and peace, Andrew.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
If you find yourself stuck in traffic, don't despair. There are people in this world for which driving is an unheard of privilege.
Should you have a bad day at work; think of the man who has been out of work for years.
Should you despair over a relationship gone bad; think of the person who has never known what it's like to love and be loved in return.
Should you grieve the passing of another weekend; think of the woman in dire straits, working twelve hours a day, seven days a week to feed her children.
Should your car break down, leaving you miles away from assistance; think of the paraplegic who would love the opportunity to take that walk.
Should you notice a new gray hair in the mirror; think of the cancer patient in chemo who wishes she had hair to examine.
Should you find yourself at a loss and pondering what is life all about, asking what is my purpose? Be thankful. There are those who didn't live long enough to get the opportunity.
Should you find yourself the victim of other people's bitterness, ignorance, smallness or insecurities; remember, things could be worse. You could be one of them!
Monday, August 30, 2010
I always find the holiday season something of a difficult time. Don't get me wrong, it's lovely to go away and relax and as the Bible reminds us rest is a commandment! However, it's very easy with a break in routine to forget to do those things which are essential and consequently to take the things that matter for granted. In addition, in many Salvation Army Corps August signals the postponement of all weekly activities which obviously leads to less fellowship with other believers. Together these two ingredients, a disjointed and a irregular quiet time and a lack of accountability, can become a dangerous mix.
I remember reading somewhere (I think it might have been in "mere Christianity" by CS Lewis-although I'm not sure) that one of the devil's greatest and most potent weapons is "normal life". In other words, watching the television, interacting with friends, lying on the beach, going out for meals, playing with the kids, going to the cinema etc can (although all these activities are innocent in themselves) distract us from that essential dependence on Christ which is critical to all effective Christians.
This dangerous complacency can (and will if left unchecked) distance us from Christ and his will for our lives and endanger our effectiveness and even ultimately threaten our personal salvation. Not only do we stop praying and spending time with the word of God we also begin to take for granted the blessings which he has given us - blessings which should be treasured.
Job was a God-fearing and conscientious believer who, when he found himself bereft of family, friends, wealth, status and health, was able to say with absolute confidence "even if he kills me yet will I trust in him." This irrepressible faith does not come to us by chance but is the result of a determined, passionate and disciplined effort to maintain "contact with the life giver."
God has given me so much; a beautiful wife, sensible children, a fulfilling vocation, a nice home, money in the bank, good health... to be honest my blessings are too many to number. Yet I have been guilty over the last few weeks of taking them all for granted and also of neglecting God's Word. Today is the last day of our holiday and I thank God for bringing this dangerous slip into complacency to my attention.
Thank you Father for your grace and patience, for your constant and undeserved love and for the power which is able to keep me free from sin, forgive me for taking these and so many other blessings for granted and for neglecting to spend time in your presence. Amen.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Back in 1990, with no faith to speak of, coming out of divorce and living on my own in a one room flat I started working for Maidstone Borough Council. At the time I was very low, very lonely, somewhat confused and on anti-depressants (this was 4 years before my conversion and a few months before I met Tracey.)
One of my colleagues was 'Big' Roy, an affable, straight talking 57 year old man. He was responsible for Health Promotion and I was responsible for Environmental Promotion and economies of scale dictated that we often promoted our two subjects together. When I got saved it became evident that Roy had no time for religion – you can imagine we had some interesting debates!
In spite of this, I had a great deal of admiration for Roy; he was loyal, happily married, hard working and generous. Last year Roy got cancer and for a while things looked touch and go but Roy being Roy made a good recovery although the adjective 'big' was less applicable than it once was J
A couple of weeks ago a mutual friend rang me and told me that Roy's cancer had returned and that he had also contracted septicaemia and had been moved to a local Hospice. Roy had specifically asked for me to visit him. At the end of our visit I politely acknowledged his dislike of religion but said that I would like to pray for him, with tears in his eyes Roy replied 'that's why I asked for you because I knew you would pray for me'. I held his hand and prayed for Roy, I thanked God for his friendship, for his influence on my life and for his courage and I asked God to relieve his pain and give him peace. I also asked God to have mercy on his soul and to receive him into his kingdom. Roy squeezed my hand tight and struggled to hold back the tears.
The bible says we are saved by faith; sometimes all we have to do is push through the crowd and touch the hem of his robe. Roy, the big passionate atheist, asked me to pray for him. He asked me to speak to what he had always claimed was a non-existent God on his behalf. In this simple act he both acknowledged God's existence and his power to save.
Yesterday morning I heard that Roy had passed away and I have no doubt that he is now safe in the arms of Jesus.
Of course if Roy had died in a car crash or of a heart attack maybe things might have been different – I don't know. All I do know is that when Jesus talked about the kingdom of heaven and its citizens he usually spoke about prostitutes, publicans, tax collectors and sinners, he spoke about the 'halt and lame' about those that lived in the alleys and the lanes.
When it comes to heaven and hell things aren't always as cut and dried as they might seem.
Faith saves us and faith is nothing more than a humble recognition that we need God – it seems to me that in his simple hope that I would pray for him big Roy did just that... humbly recognised and verbally expressed his need for God and I believe that was enough to save him.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
In 1997 the UKT Church Growth and Planned Giving Department launched an essay competition titled "Do you see what I see?" Salvationists were asked to visualise what the Army would be Ike when 20/20 Vision Is effectively accomplished. Whilst I'm packing this week I came across the runner up entry, "Dreams and Visions". The competition was judged blind (i.e. the judging panel had no idea who had written the essay) maybe that is how my entry got through! It's interesting (from my perspective) that I wrote this article only two years after my conversion and at a time when the small call we attended was experiencing a powerful refreshing. In the space of six months the Corps had gone from approximately 25 to 30 people attending a meeting to well over 100. Many people were getting saved at the time and it was indeed a wonderful thing to have been part of all. Anyway, I don't think this is essay has ever been published on the Internet and so for those who might be interested in reading it here it is. I have resisted the temptation to change the article and it is published here as it was first published in the UK Salvationist on 13 December 1997.
Grace and peace, Andrew
Dreams and visions
"The optimist is right. The pessimist is right ... Each Is right from his own particular view, and this point of view is the determining factor in the life of each. It determines whether it is a life of power or of impotence, of peace or of pain, of success or of failure," said R.W. Trine. He was stating the eternal truth that what we believe today has a significant bearing on tomorrow.
Spiritual health has always been associated with 'dreams and visions'. At Pentecost Peter quoted Joel, who clearly predicted that the hallmark of God's ultimate blessing would be young visionaries and old dreamers.
Spiritual death, on the other hand, has always been associated with a lack of vision. The Book of Proverbs declares that 'where there is no vision the people perish' (29:18 Authorised Version).
What The Salvation Army will be like in 2020 is dependent on where we see ourselves now. Today's priorities are the building-blocks of tomorrow. The fruit harvested in 2020 will be the result of seeds sown in 1997. As General George Carpenter said, we will always be what all our yesterdays have made us.
Accepting the foregoing as fact we are faced with thousands of possible permutations. The Salvation Army is made up of territories made up of divisions made up of corps made up of soldiers. Every cog within the machine is unique and therefore the collective elements (or corps) within that machine will also be unique.
For the sake of brevity I am going to focus on only two of many potential scenarios.
My comments are generic and not targeted at specific corps or individuals. These visions are not portraits lovingly painted but ugly caricatures, harshly drawn in the hope that they will provoke debate. Individuals who see themselves or their corps portrayed in this essay have no need to defend themselves to anyone other than God. If the cap doesn't fit then please don't try to wear it!
As a Salvationist I see the development of two separate movements within our organisation.
The first was accurately predicted by Samuel Logan Brengle and is primarily secular. Its priorities are intellectual achievement, social acceptance, attention to detail and musical expertise - all of which are commendable in their own right.
This Army, as Brengle says, will never fail for want of resources. It will feed from within, nurturing recruits in its own nurseries and rescuing the wounded from other corps.
The high feasts of this Army will be large musical celebrations, justified on the grounds of building bridges into the community. The music presented will be, on the whole, exclusive and require the possession of certain qualifications if it is to be fully appreciated.
The unsaved targeted by such an Army will develop positive relationships with the Movement but will remain onlookers. Admiring and respecting the old lady from a safe distance, they may even lend financial support but they will never become converts or disciples.
Recognising its inability to integrate fully with its audience, this army will experiment with compromise. Total abstinence will be up for discussion on the basis that man-made morality should always come second to what on closer inspection might prove to be biblical pragmatism.
Uniforms, titles, flags will be fanatically protected yet this Army will be neither evangelistic nor militant. It will be insular and incestuous - its parochial attitude marked by pride and blind loyalty.
It will be an Army that meets once on a Sunday with no literature evangelism and no open-air work, the
majority of soldiers funding a minority workers who continue to maintain in-house community service
There will be no Bible study or prayer other than the liturgical remnant still recited on a Sunday.
The social services of this Army will be isolated from the corps programme and rely heavily on funding from outside agencies. The restrictions placed on them by funding will sound the death knell of any remaining evangelistic enterprise.
It will be a justifiably proud institution, self-sufficient, respected and accepted at the highest level of society but, as Brengle warns, it 'will no longer be shepherds of the lost sheep' and 'God will no longer be with it'.
The second vision I would like to resent will be born in the unsuspecting manger of poor corps.
Such corps, as a result of economic reality, will lose their additional financial subsidies and find themselves threatened with closure. Like the prodigal they will discover that lack of funds and impending death has wonderful way of bringing you to your senses. Even so, some will curl up and die.
Others will rediscover the truth their forebears prospered on and this truth, when applied to their circumstances, will set them free. The truth is that 'God's work done God's way will never lack God's provision'.
Such corps have never been hampered by the chains of musical expertise, the bondage of ceremonial uniforms or the doubting which so often accompanies educated liberalism.
Over the years they have become the homes of the disenfranchised within our Movement - misfits who tried every corps within the division until they settled here. They felt at home here and they stayed.
Here it doesn't matter whether you sing in or out of tune. As far as the band is concerned the only qualification is to 'make a joyful noise' (it doesn't even have to be 'unto the Lord').
Here you can wear brown shoes with uniform. Here you feel not only accepted but used. The decision to stay is not spiritual but practical.
Physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual poverty combined with a naive hunger for something better has often proved to be the breeding ground for revival.
At first this Salvation Army will take God at his word because it doesn't possess the capacity to entertain any other possibility. God will bless its inherent humility and soon its members will believe not by default but through experience.
This Army will grow for two reasons. One, The Salvation Army was raised up to reach such people. Two, because they share a culture with those around them.
Contrary to popular opinion, the artistic highlight of many secular social occasions is still a drunken rendition of 'The Birdie Song'. Ultimately this Salvation Army will speak to all sections of society just as it did once before. It will be both militant and evangelistic. It will learn (painfully at first) from the pitfalls of previous revivals and insist on making disciples as well as converts.
In moral terms there is little to choose between these two Armies. The first Army is smart, organised, polished and respectable; its troops unquestionably sincere and committed. The second Army merely confirms the principle that God's glory is better served when the material he works with is (in worldly terms) inferior.
One man's dream is another man's nightmare and you may choose to dismiss both of the above scenarios as unlikely. But if we want a Salvation Army in 2020 then we must 'make the future in the present'.
Already corps once threatened with closure are seeing spiritual rebirth and growth. This is the Lord's doing and only he can take the credit.
However, corps which dispensed with the praise meeting because the band played to the songsters and the songsters sang to the band are now looking to do away with the salvation meeting on the same grounds. Literature evangelism is disappearing and open-air evangelism is on the decline. In contrast our music festivals become grander and greater by the minute.
Look and you can see two brothers struggling like Jacob and Esau for their father's blessing. One bullish and blind, the other weak and wily.
One sees that blessing as his by right. He is strong and disciplined and has earned it. The other has always looked to his mother (in this case the bottomless purse of THQ) to protect and further his ambitions.
Who will win this struggle? I believe it will be the weaker. Why? Because if you reminded him that Christ came to call the unrighteous he would find comfort in the thought. If you said the same to his brother he would take offence.
The first Army is the Army of the optimist. He thinks his position is unassailable and he's right. The second Army is the Army of the pessimist. He thinks he will fail and he has.
Ultimately the Army of 2020 will be the Army that God calls. God is not bound by tradition but the Bible does prove him to be consistent.
When it comes to armies he prefers to start with the bare minimum. The soldiers he calls are amateurish, unskilled and usually led by a coward. If you don't believe me, ask Gideon.
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Today, whilst unpacking, I came across my 'evil day' box. This was the result of a brilliant suggestion by the late Commissioner Denis Hunter – the idea was to put into the box all the encouraging notes (etc) you receive over the years. In mine I have a Youth Council's commitment card I signed in 1977! The hospital name tags from my two youngest daughters, birthday cards and Father's day's cards made by my older children (when they were much younger). Poems and letters I sent to Tracey (going right back to the earliest days of our relationship), marching orders – too much to mention. As I looked at all the various items and dwelt on the memories they conjured up it made me realise that time is going by fast, frighteningly fast. It also made me think about all the mistakes I've made, the missed opportunities and times of deliberate and reckless disobedience.
Later, I found myself sitting at the computer and penned the following poem – poetry helps me process my thoughts when my brain (and heart) unexpectedly becomes overloaded. As General Carpenter said 'we are what all our yesterdays have made us' and life is too short to be shortened even further by regret-induced fear. God is with us, so whatever lies behind let us 'press on towards the prize that is ours in Christ Jesus'. Whatever it involves, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer the Christian's life ought to be 'life in all its fullness' so let's learn to praise God in all circumstances.
Time, like a firework, all anticipation,
Exploding in a one-off spectral splash,
It only has one shot at detonation,
One piercing scream, one fleeting flash.
There are no brakes to grip the passing years,
No gears that back away from bitter tears.
No way to pause the happy days or play again,
No way can we delete those times of pain.
The paths we never should have walked.
The lips we never should have kissed,
The words we never should have talked.
The meetings that we should've missed,
The things we overdid or underplayed,
The loneliness - and need to be alone,
The broken vows and new ones made,
The souls so missed who used to make us moan.
This is our life that burns before our eyes
And as we fly through foggy firework skies
The very least we ought to try and do
Before we fade and fall is catch the view.
There is no time for looking back
Despite our hoard of time-consuming frets,
This is our life whatever it might lack
Don't spend it all on might-have-been regrets.
Out of the box our fuse is well and truly lit,
The 'oohs' and 'ahhs' that echo through the night
Remind us as we soar that this is it.
The sparks behind that flicker bright,
Are pushing us toward the distant sun.
So what's the point sad pessimist?
Death may be near but life is just begun!
So let's embrace each unexpected twist and turn
Not worried by the speed with which we burn.
For Christ came not to skulk and frown
He came to heal our hurts and to forgive
He came to give us life not put us down
And every day that we refuse to live
We bang another nail into his hands
And freedom smarts and looks the other way
And all of heaven fails to understand
Our sad unwillingness to seize the day!
Grace and peace, Andrew.
Monday, July 19, 2010
I try to complete reading the entire Bible through once every year, I use a Bible reading plan that requires me to read a portion of Scripture from the Old Testament, the New Testament and a portion from either the Psalms or Proverbs. Occasionally, the Scripture I read can be very appropriate to the circumstances in which I find myself and then there are those other occasions when I sincerely hope that what I just read has no prophetic significance whatsoever. This week Tracey and I and the girls move to a new appointment in Rayleigh and the first verses I read in the Old Testament this morning were in the book of Amos:
" 'Your wife will become a prostitute in the city,
and your sons and daughters will fall by the sword.
Your land will be measured and divided up,
and you yourself will die in a pagan country." (Amos 7:17)
However, as I continued to read through to the end of the book, the passage did begin to adopt a prophetic tone to which I could positively respond.
Amos was called to minister to a nation that had become complacent in the extreme and a nation where social justice and national integrity were hard to find.
Verse 5 of chapter 8 refers to a people who are eager to complete their religious duties as soon as they can in order to get back to their various commercial enterprises. Verse 5 also calls into question the moral honesty of those commercial practices. Verse 6 openly condemns them and compares them to a people prepared to trade human lives for mere possessions. Yet it was verse 11 that really brought me to my knees:
" 11 "The days are coming," declares the Sovereign LORD,
"when I will send a famine through the land—
not a famine of food or a thirst for water,
but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD."
With the possible exception of what's going on in Stockholm at the moment is this not a fair description of the Salvation Army in the Western world? Are we not in the midst of a spiritual famine where we seem unable to properly grasp and understand the implications of God's Word?
As I read these words and pondered over them prayerfully I was reminded once more in a powerful and humbling way that the only path to revival for us is that painful path of corporate and personal repentance. Like the Jews who made up the congregation of Amos we have become complacent and negligent and the only way to reverse this trend is to get on our knees, cover ourselves in dust and ashes and sincerely repent.
One last quick thought, before I go and do some much-needed packing and cleaning, verse 11 of chapter 9 brings hope and I believe that the wording of this promise has special significance for the Salvation Army today:
11 "In that day I will restore
David's fallen tent.
I will repair its broken places,
restore its ruins,
and build it as it used to be,"
If we repent, if we turn from our foreign gods, smash our idols and consecrate ourselves then God will restore us, however this verse refers not to a palace or a house but to a 'tent'.
The Salvation Army will be rebuilt but not as it is now or in the pattern of some contemporary architect of religious methodology but 'as it used to be'. Tents belong to nomadic people whereas houses and palaces belong to those who dwell in cities. Does this verse indicate a return to a simpler and more reactive mission? May God make his word clear to us?
Grace and peace, Andrew
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
This morning I woke me early as I got up to spend time with him.
I repented, put on my spiritual armour, believed in his presence and worshipped his holy name.
This is the way every day should start. To go into any day without first spending time with the Lord and his word is like a soldier stepping into no man's land and expecting not to be shot.
The devil, our adversary, prowls around like a lion looking for someone to devour...
1 You showed favour to your land, O LORD;
you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
2 You forgave the iniquity of your people
and covered all their sins.
3 You set aside all your wrath
and turned from your fierce anger.
4 Restore us again, O God our Saviour,
and put away your displeasure toward us.
5 Will you be angry with us forever?
Will you prolong your anger through all generations?
6 Will you not revive us again,
that your people may rejoice in you?
7 Show us your unfailing love, O LORD,
and grant us your salvation.
8 I will listen to what God the LORD will say;
he promises peace to his people, his saints—
but let them not return to folly.
9 Surely his salvation is near those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.
10 Love and faithfulness meet together;
righteousness and peace kiss each other.
11 Faithfulness springs forth from the earth,
and righteousness looks down from heaven.
12 The LORD will indeed give what is good,
and our land will yield its harvest.
13 Righteousness goes before him
and prepares the way for his steps.
Grace and peace, Andrew.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Somewhere along the way I appear to have lost my "devotions". I have not had a regular "quiet time" alone with God and his word. Consequently, to be quite honest, I feel sick. Let me explain what I mean by that , I feel under the weather, nauseous... as if I'm going down with something - not in a physical sense but in a spiritual sense.
Starting today I have reintroduced into my timetable what ought to be at the top of every daily "to do list" - prayer and Bible study!
I have also, carried out a little spiritual health check on myself and found myself wanting in more than one area. Consequently I have made some other decisions about my current lifestyle and attitude.
How easy it is to carry on with the duties of ministry and yet be slowly fading away within. Thank you Jesus for bringing this to my attention and thank you for the grace that you so freely give that enables me to put the past three weeks behind me and start again.
"There He was just waiting in our old familiar place
An empty spot beside Him where once I used to wait
To be filled with strength and wisdom for the battle of the day.
I would've passed Him by again but I clearly heard Him say
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 will I have to offer how can I truly care
My efforts have no meaning when your presence isn't there
But You'll provide the power if I take time to pray
So Ill stay right here beside You and you'll never have to say...
I miss my time with you." (Larnelle Harris)
Grace and peace, A
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Sunday, June 13, 2010
The month before Officers take up a new appointment is a very difficult time. It is easy to become the victim of a whole host of mixed emotions. There is of course a natural eagerness to move on to pastures new and to get on with the job that is waiting there. There is also a natural reluctance to leave behind one's current mission. When a farewelling officer looks at the appointment he or she is leaving there are a number of thoughts that go through one's head. There are of course those successes for which you praise God; those people who have grown spiritually during your time on the bridge, those people who have got saved, those people who have received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and entered into the blessing of holiness. Then there are those who haven't developed as well as they could have done, there are those who haven't grown at all and maybe even some who decided to go elsewhere during your stay - as one prayerfully considers such people there is sometimes a sense of unfinished business.
As I prepare, together with Tracey, to leave Dartford and head for Rayleigh I must confess that I am to a degree, plagued by mixed emotions. Could I have done better? Could I have done more? Could I have spent more time in prayer and more time actively engaged in mission? Whoever we are, and whatever our commitment, the answer to questions like these will always be yes. There is always more that could have been done and it is far too easy to allow our attention to be drawn to the failures rather than to the successes. I for one am not prepared to allow such feelings to get the better of me. Whatever appointment one receives as a Salvation Army Officer one always knows that it will come to an end, there will be a moment when the boxes go on the wagon and you shut the door of the quarters for the last time.
Dartford has in many ways been like a first appointment to me, as is the case with first appointments it has been something of a learning curve. It has been good to see people get saved and to see people growing in grace but I would not be telling the truth if I did not admit to some disappointments. I am disappointed that we were unable to achieve more, I'm disappointed that we didn't see revival and I'm also disappointed that there have been occasions during the last three years when I have (albeit momentarily) taken my shoulder from the plough, times when I have been distracted by "the sights that dazzle and the tempting sounds I hear". I am delighted that we are being followed by quality people, people who have proved themselves in circumstances and situations far more challenging than those which Dartford will present them with. This will be their first appointment and no doubt it will be something of a learning curve for them as well.
At the end of the day the ministry of a Corps belongs not to the Officers who come and go but to the Soldiers who remain. The mission of Dartford Corps belongs to those few enthusiastic stalwarts who come week after week, faithfully turning out on duty even when their age, health or other demands upon their time might be encouraging them to slow down.
The next few weeks will be very busy as we attempt to tie up loose ends, finish packing, clean the quarters, weed the garden and generally prepare the way for a smooth transition and an uncomplicated start to Graham and Zoe's ministry. As the days go by there will be little time for the introspection I have described above. It is therefore a wonderful thought that at the end of the day the future of Dartford Corps (or for that matter any other Corps that the Army may entrust to our care) though influenced by God in us and hopefully inspired by God in us must ultimately stand on its own two feet. The future depends not on who, or who may not be appointed here but on the determination of the soldiers to get rid of their idols, repent of their sins and stay connected with the life giver.
God's plans for Dartford and for Rayleigh - indeed for the whole Salvation Army - are plans "to succeed and prosper, not to fail" if we ensure that at all times we are doing our utmost to "love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, body and mind" then we can with confidence leave everything else to him.
Grace and peace, A
Thursday, June 03, 2010
"What if The Salvation Army should in any locality become as utterly useless as so many parading soldiers on the battle-field? What if a force, say, from one hundred to two hundred strong, should appear in the streets of a big city, and go through all the manoeuvres of a whole Sunday without stirring anybody?
What if that force should be always singing and saying with all the emphasis that a big Hall and Band can give it that they will follow Jesus all the way to Calvary and never getting any farther on from one year's end to another! Surely it must be worthwhile for everybody to ask himself, 'What am I doing? Am I truly fighting, or only parading?' Let us just look into the matter a little.
There cannot be fighting except in presence of the enemy. Those who only get to such Meetings or to such parts of Meetings as consist merely of the saints, take no part in the fight by so doing. And those who are present in any Meeting where fighting goes on, but who remain silent, cannot claim that they were fighting because they kept believing for other people to fight and win. The peculiarity of The Army's system is that it gives every individual a chance not merely to come on parade, to show himself, or herself, fully uniformed along with his comrades, but to do something that offends, troubles, hits (maybe even win), some of the enemy.
Do you grapple with any enemy outside yourself? When did you last have any struggle with a resisting soul, to bring: that soul down at the Saviour's feet? Do not comfort yourself by saying, 'I live right' or 'I keep on believing'. That only amounts to keeping your own self in order so that you are at any moment ready for parade. That is undoubtedly a very good and necessary and blessed thing; but it is not fighting to save other people, and you may go to your grave a useless parade Soldier after such a life, and have a big Army funeral, and yet everybody may be puzzled, at your funeral, or in 'The `War Cry,' or in Heaven, to know what to say of you, after all your professions of being a Soldier of Christ.
Do you say, 'I get little or no chance to do anything in the Meetings? That may be horribly true in some places. If so, you will surely use very eagerly every chance you can get, though it may be when there are very few people present. If you are not faithful to the little chances you get, expect God to take even those away, and to allow you to be made to sit and listen all the rest of your life, if ever He lets you get even that wonderful privilege But The Army teaches you to fight, not merely in Meetings, but when you are quite separate from every comrade: In the very room where you sit reading this; in the very shop or work-place where you have to spend the most of each day, there may be a soul on the way to Hell. Your duty, as a Salvationist is to fight that soul, and fight you can and will, if you are true to God and The Army.
You will fight against the wish of everybody to keep God out of sight. What a jolly place this world would seem to most folk if they could only get God clear out of the way for good and all! Why does the very thought of God spoil everything to them so? Because the mere thought of Him brings up all the feeling of the schoolboy who is playing truant, or the man who is neglecting his master's work. The world will not have any suggestion made that God is looking, or that God wants to be consulted about anything. Now, he wants His Soldiers to get just right there across the world's path at every turn, and hold up the red flag, sound the foghorn, block the way, and force everybody to remember that they are not their own after all, but belong to Him and must either obey Him, or rob Him. Do you ever do that sort of thing to anybody anywhere?
The world does not at all object to your parading to a certain extent. They will even admire your march to your Hall; indeed some will come a long way to see it, if you are properly uniformed, and have a big Band which plays (Oh, I beg their pardon) renders nice music, provided you never drum so as to disturb baby, or sing anything disagreeable loudly enough to be heard in the pubs, or interfere with anybody else by any direct looks at them, or words to them. That will be a parade, and you may do all that as often as you please for anything the world or the Devil cares. The world will even listen to your singing and speaking with pleasure, and clap their hands to the whole performance, if you will only make such melody as can occupy all the hearers' thoughts, or say pleasant things so eloquently that the speech can form the topic of discussion in public house or drawing-room afterward, without hurting anybody's feelings. But if you will go bawling about Hell and damnation, the Judgment-Day, the wrath of the Lamb, and suchlike horrible things, it will no longer be a nice 'parade, but a fight, 'and the world will try to get far enough off not to hear any of it.
Do you fight, or do you parade? Do you remember early days in your soul's life when your very wife and children used to dodge you, or get up any sort of reading, conversation, or play to prevent you having the chance to speak to them about Jesus and their souls?
Did the people who worked with you, or rode with you, or even passed you in the street, continually wonder what would be the next attack you would make upon them? Did people hide in corners of the Hall, and round corners of the streets, for fear you should fire right into them some of the red-hot Gospel shot you always carried? Is all that now long past? Is nobody, not even the most open sinner, afraid of you; and are you still trying to persuade yourself that you are all right?
Then you have become an out-and-out parade Soldier. There may be nothing about you that anybody finds fault with. If you have got enough money to help your Corps regularly and heartily, and one of those nice, sweet homes that a Full Salvation has made, with every sign of earthly joy and comfort, you may even be counted amongst 'the best Soldiers of my Corps' by many a parade Captain. But the Lord of Armies, who used to be so delighted with every struggle you made for Him, sorrows over you as over a Soldier who has been made prisoner.
You have learnt to parade, it may be, largely by the fault of others, but the result is that you are now the prisoner of custom and ease and doubt. You cannot believe you will ever be again the hot fighter you once were? Ah! Then let me label you a never-though-it-it prisoner in one of the Devil's Nooitgedachts*. You never thought when you were rushing into the fight every night that you would ever get so cold as to think it enough to stay out one evening per week, eh? And now you never think you will be all that you were once more. But God is mighty enough, and wise enough, to make out of the most hopeless, useless parader a conquering Soldier. Will you let Him do it for you?
* A reference to the 2nd Anglo-Boer WarChallenging stuff,
Grace and peace Andrew
Monday, May 31, 2010
On Saturday our family was entertained in the home of some delightful Officers from India who are currently serving on IHQ. We had a quite exceptional day and the hospitality we enjoyed was of the highest standard. These quiet and unassuming Officers left Tracey and myself feeling incredibly humbled. Their willingness to step out of their comfort zone, to embrace another culture and language, to expose their vulnerable daughter to western fashions and values and their readiness to be tied to desks when their hearts long for frontline mission and opportunities to evangelise was truly overwhelming. Indeed it left our own (hitherto considered enthusiastic) passion in the shade.
It was an inspiring and thoroughly enjoyable afternoon.
I asked these Officers (both first generation Christians) if they had been disappointed with the Salvation Army in the west, no doubt they had travelled to London – the birthplace of the Army – with a degree of expectancy – had their expectations been met? Why I asked this question I'm not sure, it's was a bit like an adolescent asking a girl (who is way out of his league) to go out with him when in his heart he knows the best response he is going to get is 'I think you're really nice but I like you like a brother - let's just be friends.' There was an impending sense of pessimism as the Major paused before he confirmed my fears. Of course they had been disappointed. His innate graciousness forbade him from amplifying his answer but it was all there in his eyes. Where was the fire, the vision? Where were the new converts and soldiers? Where was the passion, that burning desire to 'save the sheep'?
In Dartford we have two ministers who are running Methodist churches in the area, both of these gentlemen hail from countries in what we once patronisingly called the third world (i.e. countries that had no political alignment with either capitalism or communism). Post cold-war we often use the adjective 'developing' to describe these countries. A hundred years earlier these areas often attracted the prefix 'dark' or 'darkest' a reference to their unchristianised status. We sent missionaries to these countries to illuminate their apparent darkness with the light of the gospel. Now they are returning the favour; as Africans, Indians, South Americans and Asians answer the call to venture into the remotest reaches of the heathen west preaching the kingdom of God as they go.
Fortunately the simple faith we passed to them they have preserved and now offer back to us, they see (with great sadness) our weary apostate and liberal state and offer the healing balm and energetic tonic of the gospel.
Thank God for their willing obedience, their readiness to sacrifice themselves. May their faith be rewarded with a revival in the west, maybe (God willing) starting in 'Heathen England' – let it be!
As Railton once said 'Courage comrades, it is still the will of God to save our nation.'
Grace and peace
Friday, May 21, 2010
I have had the most remarkable week!
After fifteen years of searching for holiness I think I have finally discovered the truth that 'set's us free'. Any regular reader of my blog will appreciate how intense this battle has been and how vacillating my own moral performance has been during this time. My dithering and indecisive pilgrimage has seen me swing between the extremes of puritanical asceticism to liberal moral abandonment.
Last week somehow – I'm still not quite sure how it happened everything seemed to fall into place.
The stumbling block for me has always been the 'doubtful things' – identifying, exposing and rejecting the sinful things in my life has always been relatively straightforward – but when it comes to the doubtful things it has always been more complicated. Of course the problem is that a refusal to surrender what is 'doubtful' will always leave us quite incapable of surrendering what is sinful. Achan's sin – hiding those things which ought to be devoted to God among our own possessions – is, I am quite certain the curse of the contemporary church. It is our inability to settle the holiness question that holds us in our current state of fear, confusion and impotency. In short, our own version of Achan's sin leaves us 'obligated to defeat'.
Last Friday I finally got to the point where I was willing to surrender all. God's grace had put me in a position where I was willing to make a consecration that was "both entire and real" as the old doctrine book says.
" To be entire it must include the body, with all its members and powers; the mind, with all its faculties; the heart, with all its capacities; also goods, money, family, influence, reputation, time, ability, life, indeed everything. To be real it must be not in imagination or sentiment merely, but everything must henceforth actually be used as belonging to God and not to ourselves." (SA Doctrine Book 1923)
Having got to a point where I was willing to make such an absolute surrender I had a moment that within the context of my own personal struggle was Abrahamic in its immensity. With my arm raised, ceremonial dagger poised over coffee, football, crosswords, TV and the myriad of other distractions that make up my own collection of doubtful things – God held my hand! I felt; genuinely felt that in the face of my sincere willingness to surrender all God actually gave me some of it back. God didn't want me to surrender half of the things on my list but what he did want to know was whether I was willing to give them up.
At the end of the day as Samuel taught "to obey is better than sacrifice'. When it comes to holiness the one – possibly the only – condition that God sets before us is our genuine acknowledgement that he is first in our life. Keith Green puts it succinctly in his classic song:
To obey is better than sacrifice,
I don't need your money, I want your life.
And I hear you say that I'm coming back soon,
But you act like I'll never return.
To obey is better than sacrifice.
I want more than Sunday and Wednesday nights,
Cause if you can't come to me every day,
Then don't bother coming at all.
Holiness is about giving God our lives, placing him first, and having a relationship with him. It's not about what we do or even about what he does – it is about us dying and him living in our place. I'm not a huge fan of 'The Message' as an Englishman some bits of it are too American for me but there are some passages that are really quite brilliant. One such passage is Peterson's paraphrase of Romans 12:1-3
"So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you."
If the proof of the pudding really is in the tasting then God with infinite patience has finally enabled me to experience holiness. This week has been the most positive, peaceful, effective week I have had since the early days of my conversion. The phrase used to describe a section in the old song book keeps on coming back to me ''holiness enjoyed' and yes, I have watched TV, drunk the occasional cup of coffee and completed the Telegraph cryptic crossword!
This week I have enjoyed a ''career of uninterrupted victory over sin', I have enjoyed 'maintaining contact with the life giver', I have enjoyed 'the peace of God' and I have found beauty in the simplest of things, this week I have enjoyed singing the following words with the confidence that only grace can give:
"Heaven above is softer blue,
Earth around is sweeter green;
Something lives in every hue,
Christless eyes have never seen;
Birds with gladder songs o'erflow,
Flowers with deeper beauties shine,
Since I know, as now I know,
I am his and he is mine."
The impact of this new life has been evident not only in my own heart and actions but evident in the life of my family. An atmosphere of domestic organisation and calm seems to have descended over our home.
After so many years of struggle and confusion I think that this is actually holiness – and the most amazing thing is that I didn't actually discover it at all – it was (like salvation) the free gift of God, he gave it to me last Friday, no angel voices, no tongues of fire, no trumpet blast - not even a 'still small voice' - he just dropped it into my heart almost unnoticed.
"Thank you Lord for saving my soul,
Thank you Lord for making me whole,
Thank you Lord for giving to me
Thy great Salvation so rich and free."
Much grace and peace, Andrew.
Tuesday, May 04, 2010
'It could be you' is the catchphrase of the UK national lottery and if ever a slogan made spurious claims then this one does! Of course there is a possibility that it 'might be you' but the odds are incredibly slim. Indeed, if an apparently healthy man of 40 goes into a newsagents on Monday morning and buys a lottery ticket he is 40 times more likely to die of natural causes by the following Saturday than he is to win the jackpot. If the same man went into a casino and placed £1 on no 7 and won and decided to leave his winnings on number 7 for six more spins and won every time – that feat (statistically speaking) is 12 times more likely than winning the National Lottery jackpot.
People don't play the lottery to win they play it to hope. As long as they have a valid ticket in their pocket then there is always a possibility that it might be them. As long as that hope remains alive then they can dream. They can fall asleep working out how they will spend their money. They can make fantastic plans and there need be no limit to their imaginations. If, when the National Lottery began in 1995, you've bought a ticket for every draw (and never won) you will have spent over £1500!
If you spent £1,000 each week buying lottery tickets you would, on average, match all six numbers about once every 270 years.
And if you do want to play the lottery - please don't select the numbers 1,2,3,4,5,6. Camelot has reported that 30,000 people pick those numbers each week.
In reality, not playing the lottery and saving £2 every week, would probably (with investment) give most punters a greater financial return.
Gambling is a mug's game and yet the number of the gamblers in the UK is increasing at an alarming rate.
One of the most popular methods of betting at the moment, especially among young people is playing 'Fixed Odds Betting Machines' (FOBs). These are the "virtual roulette" machines you find in high street bookmakers, and although they have been specifically designed (and the software written) to take punter's money and make bookmakers a profit they are still incredibly popular. The bookmakers love these machines. They account for a huge part of their profits nowadays. They have been described as the crack cocaine of gambling, and, as with real roulette, gamblers have no chance of beating the odds. Over time, the machine always wins. Also a gambler can bet up to £100 on one spin.
Why do people insist on putting their money into schemes that (in reality) offer nothing but bankruptcy and despair? Because there is always an outside chance, a very slim hope that it just 'might be you'.
Of course I know that real hope can only be found in Jesus Christ and that's why I stand at the station every week with the War Cry.
Peter encourages us to be "always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have."
As I stood by the lottery sign this morning, even though it couldn't think or speak, I was aware that it was without doubt a more effective witness than I was. To be an effective and innovative evangelist takes effort and thought – standing outside the station with the War Cry is certainly better than nothing but if I'm going to be a real threat to the sign I stand next to every Tuesday (and defeat the evil it represents) I need to do a lot better!
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Te other night I was having a passionate debate with my son (Ben is 26 and an atheist). We were talking about morality, Christianity, life, death – you name it! The telephone call lasted just under two hours!
In our hopes and dreams, in our aims and objectives and in our motivation Ben and I are poles apart. He believes that as he only has this one life and that as one day he will close his eyes and simply cease to exist he needs to cram as much 'experience' into this one as he can. His only restraint is his belief that we should all 'do unto others as we would be done by' – beyond that simple maxim there are no limits.
Of course we are still Father and son and share that unique sense of love and companionship that can only be found in a Father/son relationship and of course I continue to pray for his conversion.
As our conversation continued he played his trump card – the atheist's trump card!
It goes something like this...
"If everything in the bible is true (as you say it is), if the people you meet every day (including your friends and family) are possibly going to spend eternity in hell, if God is all powerful and has given you the ability and authority to be effective in ministry, if you have access to the gifts of the spirit, if poverty and social injustice hurt God, if you are going to be made accountable one day for the way you have invested your life – if all of these things (and I could add many more statements) are true why isn't your life completely dominated by your faith? Why do you (most of the time) look just like anyone else on the planet? You drink coffee harvested by slaves. You wear clothes stitched together by child labourers working in oppressive and dangerous conditions. You tolerate the illegal activity of brothels, which 'employ' trafficked women, in your town. You show no real care for the environment. You watch sport sponsored by breweries and gambling companies. Your life is no different from the lives lived by so many other people because your God and his demands are not really real!"
I've never understood why atheists don't use this argument more often. If I was an atheist I wouldn't waste my time pointing out inconsistencies and contradictions in the bible I'd simply hold up the life of the western church. I'd point to Christians and highlight the obvious fact that although they say they believe their apathetic, lazy, self indulgent and worldly lives prove that they don't.
I came off the phone bruised but not beaten, recognising that the only argument that will win the day in our increasingly global society is lifestyle!
When I start to actually live my life as if God and his demands upon me are as real as the demands of my TV set or newspaper or favourite football team then maybe I'll have won the right to argue for his existence. Until then I need to spend much more time 'walking the walk'.
"Do you see, do you see
All the people sinking down
Don't you care, don't you care
Are you gonna let them drown
How can you be so numb
Not to care if they come
You close your eyes
And pretend the job's done
"Oh bless me Lord, bless me Lord"
You know it's all I ever hear
No one aches, no one hurts
No one even sheds one tear
But He cries, He weeps, He bleeds
And He cares for your needs
And you just lay back
And keep soaking it in,
Oh, can't you see it's such a sin?
Cause He brings people to your door,
And you turn them away
As you smile and say,
"God bless you, be at peace"
And all heaven just weeps
Cause Jesus came to your door
You've left him out on the streets
Open up open up
And give yourself away
You see the need, you hear the cries
So how can you delay
God's calling and you're the one
But like Jonah you run
He's told you to speak
But you keep holding it in,
Oh can't you see it's such a sin?
The world is sleeping in the dark
That the church just can't fight
Cause it's asleep in the light
How can you be so dead
When you've been so well fed
Jesus rose from the grave
And you, you can't even get out of bed
Oh, Jesus rose from the dead
Come on, get out of your bed
How can you be so numb
Not to care if they come
You close your eyes
And pretend the job's done
You close your eyes
And pretend the job's done
Don't close your eyes
Don't pretend the jobs done
Come away, come away, come away with Me my love,
Come away, from this mess, come away with Me, my love." (Keith Green)
Grace and peace, A
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
I am posting Dr. Neil Anderson's 7 Steps to Bondage Breaking today. I believe if you walk through these steps and pray these prayers you will be free! If the Son has set us free we are free indeed. I had to go through these steps when I was first converted.
Step 1) Counterfeit vs. Real Spiritual Experiences
- Go through an inventory of occult and cultic and false religious experiences in your life.
- "Lord, I confess that I have participated in ________________. I ask your forgiveness, and renounce ____________."
Step 2) Deception versus Truth
- Go through an inventory of different ways you have been deceived.
- "Lord, I agree that I have been deceived in the area of ____________. Thank you for forgiving me. I commit to know and follow your truth."
Step 3) Bitterness versus Forgiveness
- Indentify people you need to forgive ( releasing the other person from our judgment and turning them over to the Judge of all the earth to grant judgment or mercy.)
- "Lord, I forgive (name_________) for (specifically identify all offenses and painful memories or feelings ________________.)
Step 4) Rebellion versus Submission
- Indentify rebellion to God-given authorities.
- "Lord, I agree that I have been rebellious towards _____________. Please forgive me for this rebellion. I choose to be submissive and obedient to your word. In Jesus name. Amen."
Step 5) Pride versus Humility
- Indentify ways in which we may be proud or have reacted in pride.
- "Lord, I agree I have been prideful in the area of ______________. Please forgive me for this pride. I choose to humble myself and place all confidence in you. Amen."
Step 6) Bondage versus Freedom
- Identify uses of the body as an instrument of unrighteousness, thus creating a foothold or bondage.
- Sexual, abortion, suicidal tendencies, eating disorders, cutting oneself, substance abuse, etc.
- Make specific prayers of repentance for each.
Step 7) Acquiescence versus Renunciation
- This cancels out any demonic working that may have been passed on to us genetically or generationally from our ancestors.
- You do not have to know what they are.
- Specifically pray for the breaking of the generational curse.
Follow these steps in faith and God will release you from bondage into the glorious freedom that can only be found in Jesus Christ. Satan, I command you, in the name of Jesus to release all who read this from bondage at this moment. Precious Holy Spirit I invite you to come into their new and liberated lives and guide lead them into all truth and holiness. Amen!
Grace and peace, A
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
In addition, in a couple of months, I will be starting an MA in theology. It is my earnest intention that this study will not eat into my mission time and my plan is to try and fit it into the early morning and late evening periods of the day.
All of this means that the pressure on me to finish off current projects is increasing. I have an unfinished book on holiness outstanding and I’ve also been working on contemporising the text of ‘Heathen England’. I am seriously contemplating taking a week’s leave and locking myself away somewhere like Sunbury Court and getting both projects out of the way. This might well be the answer as I always work better to deadlines – especially tight ones!
I firmly believe that my inability to complete the book on holiness is partly demonic. I do not claim to be a gifted writer but I do acknowledge that God uses me in this way and that the results of what I write (under his influence) can have a profound impact on those who read them. I think that this book, written for today’s generation but passing on truths not really properly preached or understood for 100 years or more, could have a significant effect on The Salvation Army. Does that sound a little pompous or arrogant? Maybe, but I assure you that I take no credit for this (currently drawn out) project. I believe that the words are Gods and the holiness they address is needed by today’s church in order to become truly effective.
Holiness – the surrender of all that is sinful and doubtful and the entire consecration of oneself to God – is out of fashion at the moment. Worldliness – considered a sin by the church for 1900 years and then suddenly made legitimate – rattles around our ankles like a heavy ball and chain. A holy church, an unworldly church is a liberated church and one that can reach its maximum effectiveness for Christ and his kingdom. An unholy church will quite simply not ‘see Christ’ – not in its mission, not in its leaders, not in its congregations – for ‘without holiness none shall see the Lord!’
Grace and peace, A
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
I have just returned from a great weekend at Pill Corps with my good friends Alan and Carol Young.
I preached on the 'three legs of holiness...'
Holiness is like a 3-legged stool, if any of the legs are longer/shorter/stronger/weaker than the others then the whole thing becomes unstable and collapses.
What are the three legs of holiness?
Love, Obedience and Sacrifice.
Holiness can only ever be a response to God's love ('with eyes wide open to the mercies of God I beg you brothers to offer your bodies as living sacrifices…').
That response (our love for God) must result in acts of continued and uninterrupted obedience and greater revelations from God ('if you love me you will obey my commandments and I will send … the spirit to you').
Ultimately this mix of love-fuelled obedience will lead to sacrifice (consecration).
The result will be an unbridled embrace of God's will and a rejection of the world and all its ways (materialism, consumerism, hedonism, selfishness etc.)
Paul sums it up perfectly:
"With eyes wide open to the mercies of God, I beg you, my brothers, as an act of intelligent worship, to give him your bodies, as a living sacrifice, consecrated to him and acceptable by him. Don't let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity."
Unless this paragraph summarises our personal Christian faith and practice we face an uncertain eternity and cannot possibly be fully effective for God.
Let's fall in love with God all over again!
Grace and peace, Andrew
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Are children born with certain gifts? Do we come into this world equipped for our God given vocations (should we choose to follow his path)?
Once a quarter at Dartford we have an afternoon 'praise' meeting, which is organised and led by the children, those who want to are given the chance to preach.
Tomorrow, my youngest daughter, Bethany will preach her second sermon (she is only 11).
She came to me this morning with all the aplomb of a veteran preacher and said do you want to read my sermon Dad, it didn't take long because I wrote it down in my sermon book ages ago so I just had to tidy it up – what do you think? I'll let you work out for yourselves what I thought by sharing the sermon below (any typos or bad grammar are hers – the sermon is posted without any sub-editing from me).
Talking is socializing you could not get through life happily without socializing.
Some of you may be like me and love talking. You don't have to know me much to know that once I get going I'm talk, talk, talk if someone is talking to me they don't fit a word in edge ways.
Praying is talking, you're talking to God. Some people love praying like I do talking. I don't know if any of you watch Larkrise to Candleford but Thomas Brown the postman loves to pray! It's important for us all to pray as it would be if god lived on earth in human form how important it would be to talk to him every day. More over some people find it a challenge to pray; but they shouldn't. When you pray you don't have to be formal, like your meeting the queen - even though he's a king. He'll just be happy you're going to chat and don't worry because you can just go on and, he may not talk like you talk to friends but you may get a feeling that just lets you know he's listening! In our bible reading Samuel gets a call from god. It's not a call like you call up your friend to say you are coming to meet them down the town or a call like someone calls you to dinner; but god always calls us in some way. Maybe not so much of a call but you could have a sort of feeling inside you that made you feel all nice or another way, a prayer could have been answered like someone being healed or maybe you make a life changing decision that you couldn't work out before! In a family we talk to each other, if there is a big decision to be made you have a family meeting. We are a family and we should talk to each other and we should talk to God, we should as Thomas brown says in Larkrise to Candleford 'we must endeavour'. Either way God's always there listening and will be there till you're there with him in heaven!
Thank you for listening!
Grace and Peace,
Andrew (and Bethany!)
Saturday, March 06, 2010
One of the blessings of blogging is that it provides us with an opportunity to make ourselves accountable. We say things in our blogs and our words go around the world! People create an impression of the writer based upon what they read and expect them to behave in a certain way.
In June 2006 I published what I called a 'holiness manifesto' – a series of resolutions concerning how I would live my life. The manifesto was a genuine response to spiritual conviction.
Sadly, I have fallen well short of my self-imposed standards; however the conviction that created those resolutions simply will not go away!
So I'm going to commit to it again – a 'manifesto' day of renewal if you like J
- Starting each day with God, I will confess my sins, thank him, intercede for others, seek his will and absorb his grace.
- I will adopt a simple diet and drink only water.
- I will not waste my words or abuse my freedom in Christ.
- I will not neglect my family.
- I will remember that rest is a command and obey it.
- I will use the minimum of natural resources.
- I will fight for social justice.
- I will shop ethically.
- I will hate sin but adamantly refuse to hate the sinner.
- I will review each day in prayer and record my thoughts in a journal.
These resolutions are not a legalistic attempt to win God's favour or earn salvation but reflect a heartfelt compulsion to ensure that my lifestyle reflects my faith.
Love and prayers
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
A couple of weeks ago we had Willis Howell over for tea. I love meeting internet buddies for the first time and I am pleased to say that Willis did not disappoint. It is always good to meet kindred spirits. For want of a much, much better cliché Willis and I definitely sing from the sane hymn sheet!
On Thursday, last week, Xander came to tea – it is hard to believe that it is now 6 months since he went into College and that it is a year and a half since he moved to the UK!
Both of these men need our prayers, a leader and a fledgling leader yet both standing at the heart of the battlefield, both with the clash of steel in their ears and the smell of warfare in their nostrils.
Yesterday I came to Ashburnham for Divisional Officers' Retreat and it would appear that many of my colleague Officers find themselves similarly at the heart of intense spiritual conflict.
Let us not forget to pray for each other, intercession is a mighty and effective gift.
Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.
Before our Father's throne
We pour our ardent prayers;
Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one,
Our comforts and our cares.
We share our mutual woes,
Our mutual burdens bear;
And often for each other flows
The sympathising tear.
When we asunder part,
It gives us inward pain;
But we shall still be joined in heart
And hope to meet again.
From sorrow, toil and pain,
And sin, we shall be free;
And perfect love and friendship reign
Through all eternity. (John Fawcett)
Grace and peace, A
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Working for Jesus Christ in the transformation of people's lives has got to be one of the greatest privileges and experiences an individual can have.
Almost a year ago Lee walked into the Salvation Army Hall at Dartford. Kicked out by his partner, separated from his children, Lee was a street homeless alcoholic who couldn't remember being sober since 15.
We managed to organise detox for Lee at TSA's Grieg House in Poplar. Following this we had hoped to get Lee into residential rehab but the waiting list was so long that we had no option but to support Lee in the local community.
To cut a long story short Lee went to the Mercy Seat and got wonderfully saved! Lee hasn't had an alcoholic drink since March 2009.
Yesterday I helped Lee move into his new house!
We hugged and he thanked Tracey and I for changing his life and then we very quickly acknowledged that the change was down to God and we were simply his servants.
Lee still has a long way to go but hopefully we will get him linked up with the local Corps where he can continue to grow in grace.
Can there honestly be a better job than that of a Salvation Army Corps Officer?
Grace and peace, A
Thursday, February 04, 2010
Speaking as someone with 26 years experience as a parent I can say with confidence that family life has its highs and lows. Last night was an unquestionable high!
In bible study we dealt with the difficult but important subject of spiritual warfare and demonic oppression. My middle daughter (aged 13) asked to sit in and do her homework; I was pleased that although she was doing her homework she seemed to be listening to the bible study as well. My youngest daughter (aged 11) has a downstairs bedroom next to the living room where the bible study was being held. Unbeknown to me she was listening to every word being said and later asked if she could attend bible study in the future. That alone would have qualified as a high but then she went on to share more with me.
She explained that as she was listening she'd understood the enemy's tactics, 'the devil,' she said 'together with all his demons is trying to pull as many people down to hell as he can whereas God is trying, together with his angels, to pull everyone up to heaven.' Bethany decided some time ago that she wanted to be a Salvation Army Officer and has always been very spiritually aware and mature for her years. She went on to say that 'you and Mummy are working with God to help him get as many people into heaven as you can. I know it's always been understood that one day I would be a Salvation Army Officer but tonight' she continued 'as I was listening to you talk, I got my calling, I knew that God was asking me to help fight against sin and the devil.'
In addition, she also told me that as she had been eavesdropping on bible study she had been monitoring an unpleasant conversation on MSN between some of her friends. She told me how she had eventually intervened and brought the conversation to an end and then prayed with the injured parties online.
In the bible study, in the midst of our conversation, we got onto the subject of Paul and his 'thorn in the flesh'. I explained to the group that the enemy will always attack us first at our weakest point; he'll twist that thorn in our side in an attempt to distract us from our mission.
Bethany has a lot of complicated medical problems and she can become critically ill very quickly. As she had been listening she had identified these problems as her 'thorn' and assured me that no matter how much the devil attacked her she would, in the name of Jesus, stand her ground. As she shared with me there was a glow in her face and an obvious excitement in her delivery. This was undoubtedly one of those very special moments that God gives to parents.
As I prayed with her I remembered that time 11 years ago when, as a newborn baby, she very nearly died because her medical needs had not yet been identified. At that time God gave me a promise for Bethany, a verse from 1 Samuel 1: 27 "27 I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him. 28 So now I give him to the LORD. For his whole life he will be given over to the LORD." When I was given that promise I handed my daughter over to God in a solemn covenant – it would appear he is coming to take what is rightly his – Hallelujah!
Grace and peace, A
Wednesday, February 03, 2010
I'm not normally susceptible to advertising but the most recent road safety campaign in the UK has really affected me and impacted my behaviour behind the wheel.
In the advert a middle aged man stares in his bathroom mirror haunted by the image of the boy he killed while speeding. Later he spots the dead eight-year-old while taking a bus, when he gets to work the dead boy is under his desk; viewers then see the driver tormented as the boy's dead body lies alongside his bed as the man tries to sleep. The advert finishes with the slogan: "Kill your speed or live with it."
You can't get away from this advert as it also features on the radio - in the radio adverts young victims tell how their memories linger with the motorists who took their lives.
One says: "At the weekends, I'm there. On holiday I'm there, building sandcastles. I'm there beside his son. At night he tries to forget. But I'm always there. I'm the boy he killed five years ago because he was speeding. And now he has to live with it. Think."
I don't consider myself a dangerous or illegal driver but sometimes I am distracted or in a hurry, now every time I get behind the wheel this series of adverts haunts me and changes the way I drive.
Maybe the church ought to run a similar series of adverts to be played to congregations on a Sunday. It could run something like this: Everywhere the subject goes they are followed by a huge crowd of people – poor, ragged, abused, fat, thin, rich, black, and white – a whole cross section of society.
The voiceover could say something like "We're the people that went to hell because you were too timid to tell us about Jesus, we're the people who starved to death because you were too distracted to feed us, we're the children who were abused because you chose to look the other way, we're the trafficked people who were postituted because you didn't care…"
What might the slogan be?
Grace and peace, A