31 December 2009

Ten Quotations for 2010

1. "Self-praise is for losers. Be a winner. Stand for something. Always have class, and be humble." - John Madden (American football coach)
2. Jeremiah 29:11 (New International Version) "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
3. "You must pray with all your might. That does not mean saying your prayers, or sitting gazing about in church or chapel with eyes wide open while someone else says them for you. It means fervent, effectual, untiring wrestling with God...This kind of prayer, be sure, the devil and the world and your own indolent, unbelieving nature will oppose. They will pour water on this flame." - William Booth
4. "It's not what you know, it's who you know" - anon
5. Proverbs 11:14 (The Message) "Without good direction, people lose their way; the more wise counsel you follow, the better your chances."
6. "Whenever you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (creator of Sherlock Holmes)
7. "I call you up whenever things go wrong. You're always there. You are my shoulder to cry on." - lyrics to 'Never Be The Same Again' (Melanie Chisholm, Rhett Lawrence, Lisa Lopes)
8. "Nothing ventured nothing gained. A lonely heart that can't be tamed. I'm hoping that you feel the same. This is something that I can't forget." - more from 'Never Be The Same Again'
9. "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing." - Stephen Covey (author)
10. "With Christ Into The Future" - title of a song by Generals John Gowans and John Larsson, included in the musical 'The Meeting'

Happy New Year.

24 December 2009

Soldiership - part nine: Covenant

"I now call upon all present to witness that I enter into this covenant and sign these articles of war of my own free will, convinced that the love of Christ, who died and now lives to save me, requires from me this devotion of my life to His service for the salvation of the whole world; and therefore do here declare my full determination, by God's help, to be a true soldier of The Salvation Army."

I hope you have been encouraged by my personal insight into soldiership in The Salvation Army, a covenant agreement which I signed way back in 1988 and am still happy to accept today... Perhaps you have been challenged by some of the things mentioned in this short series - if so, why not talk it through with a Salvationist? You might even want to get in touch with me; drop me an email, chat things through... after all, as a 'seeker after truth', perhaps we can discover some truth together...

I hope you will have a happy Christmas.

22 December 2009

Soldiership - part eight: Truth

"I will be true to the principles and practices of The Salvation Army, loyal to its leaders, and I will show the spirit of salvationism whether in times of popularity or persecution. "

I really like this particular phrase. In a world where 'wrong seems right' it's often difficult to determine what is truthful. Misinformation abounds. Half the circulated 'facts' I get via email or Facebook turn out to be wrong (it's worth checking out some of these circulars before passing them on - try snopes.com for a start). As a seeker after truth I tend to take things in and ponder over them for a while before making my own decision - I've learnt to my cost that people, even friends and family, can often take a wrong turn, doing the wrong things for the right reasons. I don't want to be one of them.

So I will be true to the principles and practices of The Salvation Army, a movement which has been tried and tested, and holds fast to many tenets which many find to be unfashionable in the 21st Century. Because I've tested them and found them to be true...

Philippians 4:8 (New International Version)
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

19 December 2009

Soldiership - part seven: Commitment

"I will be actively involved, as I am able, in the life, work, worship and witness of the corps, giving as large a proportion of my income as possible to support its ministries and the worldwide work of the Army."

We've discussed some of the distinctives of The Salvation Army's outreach before, however we now centre our thoughts on our own individual commitment to the Army's outreach. Over the past few years I have been fortunate enough to see (albeit from a distance) the many and varied opportunities that are available for outreach in our own movement. The only true limitation we have is our own willingness to push the boundaries; to leave our own comfort zones and try and do something new for Him.

What difference can one person's commitment make? Oh, plenty. Just do what you can and as well as you can. He will multiply it. And will provide any resources that you can't see. Just rely on Him.

Matthew 6:30-34 (The Message)
"If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don't you think he'll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.
"Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes."

"God's work, done in God's way, will never lack God's resources"
(J.Hudson Taylor)

16 December 2009

Soldiership - part six: Back to Basics

"I will be faithful to the purposes for which God raised up The Salvation Army, sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, endeavouring to win others to Him, and in His name caring for the needy and the disadvantaged. "

Remember my last blog entry? This is how we need to be identified - by who we are, individuals who are 'chosen to be soldiers'. We need to be identified by the things that we do ... caring for those marginalised in society, winning souls for the kingdom. This is why I'm a Salvationist! I hear so many taking about the Army's roots - reflecting on why William Booth started the movement back in 1865. There's talk of going 'back to basics'.

Those basics include the wearing of distinctive uniforms (serving a number of purposes); active participation in the social work which is part of our evangelical outreach; participation in a mission where 'each has a vital part of play'. This last point is very important to me, as each and every soldier needs to have their own ministry within a Corps outreach. All of us are mobilised, all have a job to do, all 'endeavouring to win others for Him'. There's no room for bystanders in our Army!

13 December 2009

Soldiership - part five: Addictions

"I will abstain from alcoholic drink, tobacco, the non-medical use of addictive drugs, gambling, pornography, the occult and all else that could enslave the body or spirit."

Arguably this is one of the most common aspects of Salvation Army soldiership ever brought up as a discussion point by non-christians. It seems to be a big deal... is is easier to define Salvationists by what we don't do rather that by what we do?*

Yet, have you ever personally known someone whose life had been wrecked through addiction to porn (I have)... someone who couldn't function in the morning without taking a shot of booze (I have)... someone who had to lie, cheat or steal in order to find their money for their fruit machine habit (I have). It's only when you get down to individual lives that you begin to see why Salvationists take such a hardline stand.

I believe the man in the street only wants to know these people as 'the down and out', 'the drunk', 'the gambler'. By their labels. Our way is to get to know them by name, to live alongside them, to show them there are other ways that you can live. That's why we seek to walk the path we do.

*If you want to know what I would rather they asked about, wait for part six...

10 December 2009

Soldiership - part four: Time Management

"I will uphold the sanctity of marriage and of family life. I will be a faithful steward of my time and gifts, my money and possessions, my body, my mind and my spirit, knowing that I am accountable to God."

This is one issue I've had to face up to myself this year. Do you have the same problem? Do you rest when you're supposed to rest? Work when you're supposed to work? Read the Bible as often as you ought? Pray? Share quality time with your spouse, your children? You know, you can sometimes be so busy trying to keep busy that you eventually end up being no use at all to anyone!

Thankfully I've learnt this lesson this year, and have taken steps to reprofile my life as a result of this. I'm not quite there yet, I've still got some more work to do in this area in 2010. I would like to encourage my fellow Salvationists that it is OK to sometimes think of yourself rather than of others all the time. I see many of my fellow soldiers falling by the wayside because they don't get the balance right. Perhaps they should realise that part of your Christian commitment is in fact in maintaining your own marriage and family life, as we can see above.

7 December 2009

Soldiership - part three: Relationships

"I will maintain Christian ideals in all my relationships with others; my family and neighbours, my colleagues and fellow salvationists, those to whom and for whom I am responsible, and the wider community."

Yet another good starting point for a debate... are we of one mind, united against a common foe? Well, I must admit, not always. However, it's how we work through our differences to reach resolution that should define us, and I guess that it's the inability of some people to talk through 'pinch points' that leads so often to arguments, bitterness, broken covenants. As Christians we should work to resolve these issues with love and understanding. After all, we should be taking that same attitude out into our community...

I guess we are often so used to fighting battles that we often start to fight each other... let's not forget who is the true enemy here...

Ephesians 6:12 (New International Version)
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

4 December 2009

Soldiership - part two: Integrity

"I will uphold Christian integrity in every area of my life, allowing nothing in thought, word or deed that is unworthy, unclean, untrue, profane, dishonest or immoral. "

This is where we get down to a particularly challenging aspect of soldiership, which is how your spiritual life fits in with your daily life. In a previous blog I quoted a definition of Integrity as "doing the right thing even though there's nobody looking". This definition has particularly helped me get to grips with this particular aspect. It's easy to keep your commitment sitting in the Hall on a Sunday but not quite so easy late at night at home during the week! Living up to Christian standards every day of the week can be a challenge to any Christian, but it's particularly true of Salvationists who tend to be very visible in their own community (this can be turned to an advantage - more on this later). The secret of success is in personal discipline... which needs to be the subject of a separate blog entry...

It's also very interesting when you dig a little further into this subject, by turning the negatives that we need to avoid into positives that we need to embrace. We need to be pursuing things that have merit, are clean, true, consecrated, honest and moral. For a 'seeker after truth' (as I often style myself) I don't have a problem with pursuing truth - however one person's opinion of 'truth' can be so different from someone else's!! It can be so confusing... wrong can often seem right...

So here's the great challenge - and it's particularly a challenge in the 21st Century! Ask yourself whether each and every aspect of your life fits those positive headings. That TV show - that magazine - that pastime - that regular habit. And if you have difficulty confirming whether that particular thing is true, or clean, or moral - perhaps there's some doubt - then why not take steps to give it up? It could well be leading you away from God - or at least preventing you from following Him to the fullest extent.

Interesting, therefore, to see that this sort of self-examination was encouraged by William Booth for his soldiers ever since the earliest days of the Army. Maintaining Christian integrity is therefore a constant battle for all Christians - but then Salvation soldiers are not afraid of a bit of a battle...

"We are called to take His light
To a world where wrong seems right."
(a line from 'People Need The Lord' by Steve Green)

1 December 2009

Soldiership - part one: the Holy Spirit

When signing their Articles of War, prospective Soldiers of The Salvation Army are confirming that they have "accepted Jesus Christ as [their] Saviour and Lord", and that they "now by God's grace enter into a sacred covenant". There then follows a series of statements which form part of their covenant agreement, the first of which is:

"I will be responsive to the Holy Spirit's work and obedient to His leading in my life, growing in grace through worship, prayer, service and the reading of the Bible. I will make the values of the Kingdom of God and not the values of the world the standard for my life."

I am very clear in my own mind that it was the prompting of the Spirit of God that led me to my own commitment at the Mercy Seat those many years ago. Salvationists often say they are 'chosen to be a soldier' (see 2 Timothy 2:4) and that was particularly so for me. I responded to His prompting, was obedient and made my commitment. That's where my particular adventure began, as I tried to explore where God wanted me; what He wanted me to do. After some exploration of various avenues of service, what has become very clear to me is the fact that it's not about what you can do as a Christian, but who you can be...

The Spirit's leading is all very personal - your spiritual path is unique to you; truly a one-to-one relationship with the Almighty. Once you realise that, you gain a hunger for the Bible, as this essentially begins to become a personal love letter to you. And the adventure still continues...