Christmas

The last week got a bit heavy with no time for blogging…such is the joy of officership the week before Christmas! But hey, we had a fantastic end to the Christmas campaign. We’ve had excellent evangelistic opportunities all through the season and have had tonnes of visitors to the Army…many returning visitors, some for the first time. Hallelujah! We don’t want to settle though…we must keep in mind that no-one was saved and that we must press on for salvation. We must not rest on our laurels!

I, personally, had a very special Christmas. I spent Christmas with my father for the first time in nearly about 23 years. We didn’t make a fuss of it, but I think it was on both of our minds. We just enjoyed the time.

Looking forward to the New Year now…we have a month of prayer coming up in January, followed by a corps review. Also, we have a few soldiers to make (maybe a few adherents, but not if I can help it :o) ).

So, praise the Lord. I hope you’ve had a Holy Christmas…

Andrew

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Delirious?

This morning is the ‘morning after the night before’. Went to see the Christian rock band ‘Delirious?‘ last night….and….it was rockin’!

It was a really intense worship experience, really enjoyable. Our little Salvation Army gang looked and sounded as if they were enjoying themselves.

There was something primitively salvationionist about the evening. Raw passion for God expressed in thunderingly loud and intimately quiet times of worship using the music stlye of the day…I forgot to take my flag.

If you get a chance to see them on this current tour, its worth paying the £12.

:o)

I should try the lottery…

Captain Gordon Cotterill thinks that I should try the national lottery! Last week I entered a competition on the Salvation Army UK website to win a pair of tickets to go to ‘Celebrate Christmas’ Carol Service at the Royal Albert Hall….and guess what….I won!

The challenge was to tell of the most unusual place you’ve ever had a carol service:

“the most unusual carol service I can recollect was during my time serving in inner city Glasgow a couple of years ago. Each week we were involved, with another church, at a soup run in the red light district. From talking to the girls and their ’employers’ that they’d love a carol service, but they were unwilling to come to a hall or church so we decided to throw a street party and carol service on the soup run evening closest to Christmas.
We had live music and carol singing, dancing, tables full of food and drink (non-alcoholic of course!). As well as that, we actually convinced the police not to turn up and they agreed to monitor the street party, in the middle of Glasgow’s red light disctrict, simply by camera although we suspect they might have had some units on standby! There was no violence, every one had a great time…and more than that, the girls had a night off which is the most beautiful result of a prostitues carol party!
We saw several girls come off the streets and into regular employment and into healthier lifestyles through that soup run on the strength of the willingness to throw a party that no-one else would throw for them.
that is definetely the most unusual carol service I’ve had the privelege to attend!”


Unfortunately, I can’t go to the carol service tonight, but hopefully some friends associated with Poplar Corps will go in our place.

Hey…maybe I should try the lottery :o)

Carols!

So, today we had our main Carol Service in the town next door. It went well (with the usual few glitches….like Mary and Joseph forgetting to bring Jesus and Jesus subsequently being passed along the band to appropriate costumed child!) It was great to see people there that we’ve contacted through street carolling. Things are falling into place well this Christmas in that sort of way. God is good.

We had a guest speaker, Philip Jinadu, a city wide evangelist who came and preached with clarity. We pray that his message would resonate in hearts.

It wasn’t a polished perfect service, but I feel that God will use it mightily.

I’ve been really proud of our little band and songsters responding so well to a busy carroling programme. I guess there may be some in the corps who think it will be a bit too much but our ministry is so vital at this time of year. Many larger corps near us have nowhere near as busy a programme!

I remember the impact that discovering that the most influential person in my pre-Christian life was a Salvationist at Christmas time. That man playing in a Salvation Army band made me get myself into a Salvation Army hall to find out what it was he had. I guess thats why our Christmas ministry captures me. It was another link in the chain that lead to my salvation the October afterwards. I love it…I’d carol til the cows come home if it will being one person a few links closer to the cross! Oh God give us the heart for witness, keep us from bowing out.

On another level, it has been a significant week in a lot of ways. God seems to be sending a family back to us (5 adults and 4 kids) and I’ve been glad to spend a lot of time with them this week. They will need a lot of encouragement and welcoming back gently, but this may well be an answer to our prayer for workers for the field.

The quirky thing is that God’s been using me tonnes pastorally this week (there..I admitted it) and I’ve enjoyed it (see, I admitted that too). I guess the difference is that it dealing with real issues and not simply unholy grumbles.

So…here I am facing this week and I need God’s sustaining grace to run the race this week.

My heart is bursting for souls. Come on God, do your work!

in Jesus,
Andrew

Incarnational Community

Both the Christmas story and the goings on in our country at Christmas remind me of this disintegration. Having spent two Christmases in the east end of Glasgow, we were painfully aware of community disintegration.

We were blessed to be included in the ‘This Morning’ Pass the Parcel toy appeal each year and so had an abundance of toys to distribute…and we needed them. We were also blessed to have some good health workers for the local authority who sent us in the right direction for families in the most need.

I remember one Christmas going to a property at the top of a 15 story block of flats in an area called Royston Hill, which was in our district. Maybe about a hundred people living in that building, maybe more. I had toys for a 3 year old, a 7 year old and a 13 year old and a food parcel. I said good bye to the car at the bottom of the flats, and went into the building. The place smelled like a public toilet. I stepped into the lift and you literally gasped for breathe.

I came to a flat on what seemed like the 29th floor and knocked. As I knocked, the door opened…it was the three year old, half clothed, dirty. I asked her if mummy was in…she toddled off…a few second later the 13 year old, not at school, arrived at the door. I told him why I was here and He invited me in.

As I opened the door into the hall way, the dog had split open a cuddly toy, stuffing everywhere, there was dog food and cat litter all over the floor.

In the living room was mum, swollen eyes and tear stained t-shirt. There was an old second hand sofa and one small table, a lamp without a shade and a one bar electric fire. No telly, no toys, no pictures, a smelly dirty carpet, and some cerial bowls with the remains of breakfast with no milk.

Mum was quiet…I explained why I had come. She explained how sorry she was about the mess and that she’d just been moved there the previous month away from a violent husband and that she can’t cope being on her own.

We had a chat, a prayer, I gave her the toys, went back to the car and brought back some more food. It was two days before Christmas.

We’re looking for community. Eugene Petersen declares in his translation of John, that ‘the word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighbourhood.’ But still, Jesus wasn’t recognised and need a John the Baptist to point him out.

Where is Jesus in these situations? With the broken…waiting for his community of people to follow his example.

Relevance

Today we are so fluent in being fashionable. Why does our impact for Christ often seem so elusive?

In his book, Prophetic Untimeliness: A Challenge to the Idol of Relevance, Os Guiness makes us squirm by saying, “Are we trusting in a culturally relevant gospel? After two hundred years of earnest dedication to reinventing the faith and the church and to being more relevant in the world, we are confronted with an embarrassing fact: Never have Christians pursued relevance more strenuously; never have Christians been more irrelevant… by our determined efforts to redefine ourselves in ways that are more compelling to the modern world than faithful to Christ, we have lost not only our identity but our authority and our relevance… marketing triumphs over mission, reference to opinion polls outweighs reliance on biblical exposition, talk of reinventing the church has replaced prayer for revival… Our crying need is to be faithful as well as relevant.”

The need is great. Every socioeconomic indicator tells the same story. The church is haemorrhaging (we lost a million in a decade) and too few have experienced first-hand someone who truly follows Jesus. Still, many Laodicean-like Christians pat themselves on the back, proud of their postmodern savvy and ‘culturally relevant’ ministries.

Am I arguing, then, for irrelevance? No. There is nothing wrong with being relevant. True relevance brings the biblical worldview to bear on the whole of life with weight and consequence, but today’s relevance airbrushes everything offensive about the gospel and denudes it in the process.

CS Lewis said, “A Christianity which considers itself free to alter the faith whenever the faith looks perplexing or repellent must be completely stagnant.” Culture rather than scripture becomes our authority. 2 Timothy 2:2 tells us that we are to pass down the message to faithful men and women who should be very careful to pass on the same message they received. If we adapt the gospel to fit our times, we’ll have a comfortable, convenient gospel. And it’ll be irrelevant to the next generation.

As an old saint used to tell me, “You want New Testament results? Get a New Testament gospel.” The early church was not persecuted because it worshipped Jesus, but because it worshipped only Jesus. In our day of relativism, we need to be willing to speak about hell. When we’re true to the unfashionable parts of the gospel, the power of the gospel will be on us.
We have a tendency to be historically myopic, failing to learn from the past, and becoming prey to the passing fads of the present.

We will inevitably be maladjusted in this age. We are called to be both for the world and against it, not accommodating culture, but resisting it. Jesus broke through cultural paradigms daily. So must we. This is how the gospel spreads. Being relevant in an age of confusion means wrapping ourselves around the gospel’s timeless message and allowing it to wrap itself around us. We don’t need to make the gospel relevant. We need to reveal its relevance, recovering our confidence in it as the power of God to transform our lives.

24 weeks

Yesterday was the last day of the 23rd week of Tracy’s pregnancy.

Today it is 24 weeks which means one thing….we can no longer have an abortion.

Now, understand this, we totally don’t want an abortion.

But up until yesterday, we could have had one.

Now let me tell you something else…we have seen our baby, clearly defined as an identifiable baby on a scan screen about 4 weeks ago…we have heard its heart beat, seen its arms and legs move on screen.

We have both been able to feel the baby kick and move inside Tracy’s womb but up until yesterday, we could legally have taken the life of this baby.

That is totally absurd.

Legalized murder.

Did you catch that headline of a few days ago…that some babies are still alive when they are incinerated or thrown in the garbage?

That makes my stomach turn. How does the heart of God feel on that one?

Yesterday, we could have killed our baby.