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