Taggart

‘There’s been a murrdurr’

I’m a big fan of the TV series, Taggart, set in Glasgow, for obvious reasons. I love the dry Scottish wit. I love seeing bits of home even although you can’t turn on to that particular street from that particular hill because its the other end of the city! Know what I mean? I love how they recycle the baddies. You know, its been on for years and years and the same villains appear as different people several times. Great.

I am sure the villian on tonights episode appeared as a masonic architect in another episode!

Anyway, as I say, they recycle the baddies. So do we. Christians are bad at dealing with sin. We say we’ve dealt with a thing, that we’ve saught cleansing and yet we recycle the same sinful passion, giving it a different identity, new setting, and many are caught in a cycle of sin. Thats not the freedom that Christ set us free for, thats still slavery.

However, its not only in a persons life that the baddies re-occur. I reckon that you should be able to go to every church and find the same person. You know…for example, I think of the 6 corps I’ve been involved with over the last 10 or 11 years. There are individuals who have different names, accents, sizes but they are the same characters…most of them good, but I suppose you always remember the ‘baddies!’

God, give us eyes to see what you see.

Advertisements

As a boy

I picked up a set of sergeant stripes this afternoon…hoping to make a few, so we’ve bought some stripes. Anyway…reminded me of Jean.

Jean was my Songster Sergeant at my home corps, Kilmarnock…probably still is if she hasn’t gone to Glory. When I was there she would probably have been in her mid to late 60s. She was very quiet, softly spoken. A slightly uneasy person in conversation, but with a strong motherly interest.

Back in the day, I used to get a bus to the Army on a Sunday and to pretty much everything that was on in the week. I’d often meet Jean on the bus because she lived in the next village to me. She’d have her same usual questions every week. 1)How are you son? and 2) how are things at home?

I’d tell her. Her response was always ‘yes, I’ll pray about that’ and I’ve no doubt she did.

I used to sit in the band in the meetings, on the euphonium bench…only a trombonist away from the Mercy Seat and I’d often go. I needed to. I had pain that I couldn’t deal with, difficulties I couldn’t face, realities to harsh. I’d go and cry and cry and cry to the Lord and he’d meet me there.

Of course, Jean came too. Not the recruiting sergeant or the songster leader or even the officer, or any one else really, but Sergeant Jean. And she’d speak so quietly I’d never actually hear what she said in prayer, but she prayed and the Spirit ministered.

I’d get up from the Mercy Seat, pick up my Euphonium and play the last tune through blurred eyes and I’d often watch Jean standing opposite in the songsters standing very still, not always singing, sharing a burden with me. There were others like Jean who supported me in those times, but I am not sure there were others who carried my burden in quite the same way as she did.

At training college, I wrote her a letter. It had very few words. Just a thank you, because thats all I needed to say…she knew the rest.

Relationship. Fellowship. Community. Care. Empathy. Love. But the greatest of these is love.

Appraisal Again

Had my second officer appriasal again today. Slightly different this time because it was being done by a differnet bloke, but still incredibly affirming experiences. I can understand why some folks run a mile for these things, but the provide a lot of opportunity for reflection.

There are the bits we all know that we’re not hot on. Some of those things we can work on, some of them are part of who we are and its not always best to tamper with that if you are to be true to what and who God has called you to be.

This thing with ‘first corps’ is thats its the ground where you make most of your mistakes. We’re onto our second ‘first corps’ – we’ve had two very different corps in very different settings and with extremely differnet people making up those corps. We are blessed in that we have some patient and understanding folks under our leadership.

It does the heart good to be reminded that, actually, you’re doing a pretty good job, that God is moving and that the Kingdom is being built in may ways.

Turn up the Heat 2

More heatwave musings…

I’m a black and white sort of person. I think that grey is a colour that is avoidable by clear instruction in most cases! :o) I make that statement to add context to some comments about unequally yoked relationships.

Now obviously, if a partner is saved after marriage and the unsaved partner is willing to stay with the saved partner, Paul instucts them to remain as they are…afterall covenant is significant. It is an unequal yoke still the same, but it is not a situation that one can prevent and so the saved partner simply has to respond to the situation with much prayer and positive verbal and lifestyle example.

However, if one is saved, the clear instruction is not to marry outside of the Kingdom thus creating an unequal yoke. That is, of you’re a Christian, don’t even think about marrying a non-Christian. Why? Because it is very very very difficult. Reading that in scripture I don’t see how you can be fudgey about the issue. Surely if you have someone’s best interests at heart your desire is to share that essential truth with one about to be married to a non-believer.

Yet, I know of many salvationists that I am sure they wished someone had emphasised this scripture to them! I can think of several in my home corps and some in the current corps where I know that there are people who would loved to have someone explain this concept. I think one barrier to this is to do with my last post..we don’t often do strong shepherding. But more than that I just don’t think we always see scripture as difinitive in the areas we don’t want interferance.

I can think of one particular Christian, a male, who was getting married to an ex-salvationist…now not only opposed to Christianity, but to the Army aswell. I remember a mature Christian brother sharing concern about an unequal yoke but the advice was spurned. His service in this particular corps, his personal faith, his work, his giving and even his personal witness suffered as result of this union…and this all for love.

To avoid these situations more and more I believe we need to teach it to our youth at the ‘dating’ stage. Not only for any future marriage prospects, bot for the whole dating stage itself. If Christian dating relationships can go off the rails now and again, how much more can an unequally yoked relationship go off the rails?

Then there is the leading of the Holy Spirit – I remember shortly after becoming a Christian, lifestlye changing rapidly and suddenly, one of the most stunning girls in my year at school asking me to go out with her (I was thinner and better looking then). She had been attracted to Jesus in me and mistaken if for me actually. Now, I had gazed adoringly at this girl for years before becoming a Christian yet my immediate instinct to her question was to say ‘Thanks for asking, that means a lot, but actually, I can’t.’ Non-one had taught me that..it must have been the Holy Spirit.

So…I guess I am saying we should be more intentional in instructing people in Kingdom principles when it comes to the marriage game. Better still, lets consider that Paul had it sorted when he encouraged people to stay single!!! :o)

Turn up the heat

Yep…its hot. Heat plus myself being Scottish (used to the cold) and a few stone over what I should be, isn’t a good combination for me. So…I get myself a big fan, stay in as much as I possibly can and do a power of thinking (which is always dangerous! :o))

I’ve been reflecting on pastoral care. I’ve often said that I am not naturally or spiritually gifted as a pastor in the biblical sense. When you take Ephesians 4 ministries and stick one on me, pastor is not the first one you come up with by a long shot. As I said a few posts ago, I’ve made certain stands with regards to ‘pastoring’ but more especially with regards to so called ‘pastoral visitation’ that have proved unpopular which is not surprising considering the current context of The Salvation Army in these days.

Yet, as I said, in spite of not being your ‘sit down and have a random chat about nothing’ sort of level of pastoral care person, pastoral care is very much at my heart in the sense that my soldier’s freedom is always in my mind, their faith and its development is always high on my list.

The thing is that we have a church culture that isn’t open about the things of God in a lot of circumstances. I have a lovely little book by William Booth on my desk, written in 1881 which has a very stark section on pastoral care. He outlines that the peripheries of corps life, community gossip and idle chatter are not best profitable and he encourages direct conversation about the spiritual life of the person you’re visiting.

Now, thats the kind of pastoral care that, actually, I perform rather well in. Don’t ask me, ask those I’ve ‘pastored.’ Its not that you don’t have a desire to understand people’s situations or that you’re not interested in their wider family, or their views on corps life…its just that pastoral care is not about that in a biblical sense. Those sort of relationships are the ones that are built in the context of community…and the vast majority of people in church don’t rate community very high up on their agenda. This is why we have people threatened at the idea of a Ward System (the Army version of cells). Its too ‘in yer face’, involving levels of sharing, accountability, openness and …believe it or not…relationship!

I still maintain that it is still impossible for an officer or an officer couple, even in a corps the size of ours (58 soldiers, 13 adherents, 9 junior soldiers and a few handfuls of ‘friends’to be effectively discipling and ‘pastoring’ every person. Of course, there is always that level of responsibility to make sure everyone has the opportunity to be pastored and discipled, but that doesn’t mean that you must do it yoruself. I also believe that officers who hoard pastoral work to themselves are selling their people short of ministry.

Pastoring and discipleship can’t be separated I think. The more people are discipled, the less they need someone to come and pick up the pieces of their life for them. Why? Because growing and maturing faith is able to meet the challenges of life. Plain and simple.

The irony of delegating pastoral care, utilising others, is that its taboo in current Salvation Army culture. Its seen as evasion of responsibility rather than exercising responsibility. Thankfully we are on the road to seeing shared pastoral care as a reality. Whether it will work will depend on people’s willingness to be open to it and on their ability to look at something afresh. Therein lies the challenge of leadership!

So…that is my heat induced thoughts on that topic!

Whooosh!

Its alarming how quickly things can change. We are three years out of Scotland now.

I was watching a programme on BBC Scotland the other day (via sattelite) and it was followed by the BBC national news. Now, by this time I had forgotten I was still on BBC Scotland so ended up watching ‘Reporting Scotland’ which is the BBC local news.

Apparently the Socialist MSP, Tommy Sheridan had resigned leadership of the Scottish Socialist Party and was now facing a court trial on some sort of sleaze charges for visiting some sort of brothel in Manchester. What amazed me is that (in a non-surprised kinda way) it was sex that brought him down. I don’t necessarily agree with his politics, but he was a man of strong principal in public life, he stood for the oppressed, and he was a bold politician (even if he was slightly conroversial and anarchic, certainly not a loyal citizen of Her Majesty either!).

Rightly or wrongly, he often went as far as being arrested and spending time in prison for his political beliefs yet risked everything on a seedy night in a brothel.

I wonder if we are guilty of prostituting the values of the real Kingdom away on things of much or little value?

Officers Covenant

In case you didn’t know…the Officers Covenant:

MY COVENANT

CALLED BY GOD to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ as an officer of The Salvation Army,

I BIND MYSELF TO HIM IN THIS SOLEMN COVENANT: to love and serve him supremely all my days, to live to win souls and make their salvation the first purpose of my life,

to care for the poor, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, love the unlovable, and befriend those who have no friends,

to maintain the doctrines and principles of The Salvation Army, and, by God’s grace, to prove myself a worthy officer.

Done in the strength of my Lord and Saviour, and in the presence of The Cheif of the Staff, the Territorial Commander, training college officers and fellow cadets.

Impressed

I’m impressed. I felt in my spirit that I should share the prophetic word below with the General…so I did. Its not something I normally do, or have ever done. I didn’t for a minute guess that he’d reply, but he did (within 24 hours) in spite of the fact that he is out of the office and the fact he’s the general!

I’ve send emails of a more urgent nature to officers much ‘lower’ than the General and waited a lot longer (if you get a reply at all!).

One more…

Had a good day yesterday, enrolled a soldier…fine young teenager with a lot of potential. Praying that God will engineer circumstances that will enable her to prosper in her ministry.

We had some visits in the meeting from other corps for the occasion…they all sat in a clump. Several people commented to me how static they all looked. We had a fairly lively meeting yesterday morning, lively worship, and they all stood there, hands at their sides, straight faces and wondering what had hit them. We at Pill think we’ve got a long way to go in worship, but I was reminded that we’re getting places that others have yet to go. Anyway, it was a good meeting.

Do you ever come across those people who love to spoil everyone’s enjoyment of a meeting? You know, the ones who express their disgust at children making a noise, or someone asking a question in the meeting, or even someone shouting hallelujah? They don’t enter into worship and come to the meetings just waiting to be mortally offended (again). We have one particular person who walks out of maybe 50% of our meetings and make a fuss as they go. Phenomenal people really…content to dwell in a state of misery, lacking any degree of joy. We are at pains for them, because there experience is not one of freedom in Christ, but of bondage.

The baffling complexities of corps life!

Labour Again

This came to me in prayer. Test it, weight it, keep what is of value, the rest is me!

O Salvation Army you chose to neglect the hardship of labour which I have decreed will bring forth fruit from your womb.
The barrenness of your womb matches the barrenness of your hearts which takes heed not to my holy standard.
I would see you in my presence if it were not for the wall that offends me, the sin that grieves me.
For the birth I gave you on the streets of this nation has been despised of you and you desire higher courts that you might ease your pain.
Like Ceasar of old you have taken the knife to the belly wherein the burden of souls lies and castrated it, spilling life into death.
O that you would sweat and toil and wail and mourn and pray and work and breathe my presence, for my presence will be sweet comfort in toil.

O Salvation Army come and find your place in my court through the alleys and garbage of the hearts of men which you have healed in your toiling by my grace. Lift up your head and see the land prepared. Take up your tents from where you have settled them and pioneer a new place for this is what my plan is for you.

Arise from exile of ease and labour until the Lord of Lords shall come in His Glory. Then you shall see me and rejoice for my hand will be upon you for you ahve done what is righteous in my sight.

The Lord has loved you with a covenant love which is unfailing and with that strength of commitement to you He calls you to rise that you might be find favour in His sight.