I wonder…

I’ve been asking myself this week why I am theologically conservative. That might not have been the question at the top of your list this week, but for some reason its at the top of my mine. By theologically conservative, I mean that I’m a bread and butter theology man…’regular’ evangelical theology does me just fine.

What does that mean? I believe in the absolute authority of the bible and that its the word of God, the trinity, the uniqueness of Jesus Christ both in terms of salvation and his divine and human nature. I believe in good old repentance, faith and generation being necessary for salvation. I believe that we can be holy and that we must. I believe in original sin, including a 6 day creation and a physical Adam. I believe that God’s grace is readily available at all times and in all places and is not restricted to any form. I believe that the power of pentecost is just as powerful today as it was 2000 years ago. I’m your typical evangelical. I believe in a literal Heaven, a literal Hell, a literal Judgement at the end of the world. I believe Jesus will come again and that we’ll reign with him. I firmly believe in the Great Commission and see the church’s role as one of completing that until Jesus declares it finished.

I debated two years through Bible college and a year through Training College for the ‘regular’ position. I’ve debated in almost every other setting you can think of too. I continually get perplexed by those who find it difficult to believe these things. For me, knowing God is not about questioning God, probing God, stretching God, bending God, accommodating God. Its about God questioning, probing, stretching, bending and making no accommodation for me other than being willing to hear my prayer.

I can present pretty much every theology contrary to the ‘regular’ so I’m by no means ignorant or uninformed. I am, however, narrow-minded. I seek to bring down any arguement that sets itself up against the gospel, just like old Paul said he intended to. You see, I’m just not willing to compromise what appears to be very clear from scripture. I’m narrow. I don’t claim to be a know it all, and I certainly don’t do any of my debating from an arrogant stand-point, regardless of what folks may think. I am simply jealous for God and his Word and I’ll defend it ’til the cows come home. If confidence is often mistaken for arrogance in this world, then I’m happy to be arrogant.

But….Why? I cannot think of any other than this: Jesus saved me from sin and Hell, both living and eternal through his obedient death on a Roman cross.

It was for me. By his stripes I am healed. By his blood I am redeemed. By his Spirit, I’m made clean.

Who am I to question that? I’ve only every asked God ‘why?’ once. I’ll don’t believe I’ll do it again.

I know for many its not that clear cut…but here is an invitation…and its an invitation to simple faith and trust: believe Him today.

We all do it….

Whether we like it or not, we wear uniforms all the time. I mean by that, ‘we are what we wear’ so often. Let me give you an example of church uniforms I’ve picked up on:

– go to a new trendy, ’emerging’ church, the uniform for men is smart jeans, shirt, ‘Gap’ style pullover and a scarf round your neck (not forgetting your suede covered bible)
– go to a collection of leaders from a city’s evangelical churches, the uniform is chinos, checked shirt and pullover with the obligatory sensible shoes. The women will be sporting smart trousers, jumper and a sleeveless over jacket
– go to a trendy charismatic shirt and the uniform is smart trousers and a shirt with the church’s logo on the left breast.
– go to a trad baptist church, the men will be in a grey suit with pastel coloured tie and the women will have a long skirt and a turtle neck jumper with smart suit-like jacket
– go to your trad C of E, the men have their slacks and tweed blazers, many of the women will have their loose fitting flowery skirts, jumper and sensible outdoor coat that come down just below the bottom
– go to the neo Salvation Army corps, the hoodie reigns alongside the ’emerging’ uniform as above

But, all these people will tell you that they couldn’t go to a church that wears a uniform :o) Even when we are dressing casually, what we wear speaks a lot about who we are.

Yet, Salvation Army uniform is still hotly debated (there would probably have been more response to this post than the last post about human trafficking if I hadn’t put in this sentence in parentheses!).

I remember General Larsson, speaking in his ‘welcome’ speech as General, talking about the fact that we must be a visible Army…that we have always been a very visible part of the body. But he also went on to say that its not so much the style, but the principle of the thing. The one size fits all (and no, I’m not talking SP&S sizing policies here) clearly doesn’t fit all and the modes of warfare we engage in require different equipment. He says this:

“A force that is visible– We are a gloriously visible part of the Body of Christ. We even witness by what we wear. It is the principle rather than any particular style of uniform that is important. Many young Salvationists of today, even in their informality, are showing their grasp of the principle. The principle of visibility needs every encouragement.”

I’m trying to encourage the flexible principal at Pill. We are totally not trying to promote no uniform, on the contrary, I’m trying to encourage people to be identified as a salvationist Christian more than just the two hours in the week they wear their serge suit.

blessings
Andrew

Slavery

We rejoice that the British Government passed a bill to abolish the slave trade 200 years ago today. We mourn that the illegal slave trade is more active today than it was then.

As the people of God, we turn our hearts towards the disenfranchised, the poor, the abused and we petition the Lord for the change. But then, we ask that the change will be in us, that we will fight to the very end to see justice, mercy, equality, and freedom. Its in our bones, in our DNA, we must fight.

There are many important political battles to be distracted by, but none so shocking, none that should attract greater attention than the reality of slavery, of men, women and children in the 21st Century.

Easter Outreach Idea

I came across a really creative idea tonight over at Lifewords. The link isn’t to Lifewords, but to the linked site from there. Lifewords is the new name for the Scripture Gift Mission who do very attractive (and free) scripture booklets and small tracts.

Anyway, the community Easter meditation idea is fabulous. The link takes you to a page with eight posters with eight thoughts, meditations and scripture readings. The idea is that you put these onto a hard backing, laminate them, and display them in eight seperate people’s gardens (with their permission, of course).

You then prepare a leaflet telling people about the project, the location of the boards, and see if you can get your community going on a little devotional walk! They suggest you display them for the three days of Easter (Fri – Sun).

I’ve discovered this a little late perhaps to do it here in Pill, although we might do something with it….I’ll think about it! Its probably too late for you to do anything with it too, but hey, you’ll have something for next year already!

Thoughts:
– you could try using shop windows instead of gardens…the only downside is if shops have shutters.
– if you have eight churches in your community, you could try a church for each sign.
– if you have a large front garden area, stick them all in there at once, encourage people to come and walk around.
– do duplicates and make sure you have a replacement if one goes missing

If you give it a try, let me know how you get on. If I can think of a way to do it, I’ll post about it.

Blessings

Andrew C

Essentials

Every now and again you get the ‘interesting’ opportunities in a community to speak about the Army at all sorts of places. Today I visited the ladies group at a local baptist church.

On my first visit to these groups, I generally give my testimony, sing a couple of solos and give a gospel message using the flag as a prop. It gives me the opportunity to tell my story again. The second visit, I usually talk about special moments in ministry – usually involving to ministry to the poor and ‘un-desirables’. People can debate scripture and the existence of God all they like, but they cannot deny our stories.

As the years go by I find myself becoming more and more distanced from my past. In many ways that is good, but I am always determined never to forget what it is like to be lost. I am determined never to stop marvelling at the way God has transformed my life. I am determined to sing my salvation song forever.

I came away from my meeting today with £10, a bunch of daffodils for my wife and some valuable thoughts…not just from the meeting, but in reflecting on what I’m about:

1. God has plucked me out of a living hell as well as an eternal one through his Son.
2. I will never understand lack of urgency in mission…from anyone…and I’ll always act to counter it by stripping away apathy. Hell is hot and it gets fuller by the day. I find myself getting angry about this, and I’m not always sure that the anger is misplaced or wrong. Its more what you do with it I suppose.
3. I will be confident in ministry because it is God who has given me it and it is him who has shaped, and continues to shape it, to be what he wants it to be.
4. I must continue to embrace prophetic ministry, even when that is unpopular, when I’m misunderstood, misinterpreted or misrepresented.
5. Although I’ve perhaps not always communicated well or demonstrated as fully as possible where I’m coming from, I’ll continue my ‘crusade’ to transform our concepts of pastoral care, resisting at all times the ‘clericalisation’ of the pastoral ministry in favour of every member ministry.
6. I’ll continue to shout about freedom as an essential part of holiness and discipleship to see believers living as fully Christian lives as possible.
7. I’ll never understand or accept worldly values that creep into the salvationist mindset
8. I’ll continue to advocate gift-oriented ministry and a widening awareness of spiritual gifts in general….but especially the gift of prophesy. Paul said he though it was one worth eagerly desiring!

Every now and then you have to capture these things, write them down and allow them to speak to you afresh.

yours
Andrew

Momentum

The challenge that presents itself to any officer moving in these days when we get to know months in advance that we are moving and months in advance where we are going is the challenge of what to do with the remainder of the time! We’ve got about 4 months in all left at Pill and there is SOOOOOOOOO much that I’d still love to do and see.

I’m being fairly successful in putting Wick to the back of my mind, so much so that it doesn’t seem possible that we will be moving there soon! I’m just so aware of the little time we have and I either slow down in these four months or we go with a bang! The corps might prefer slow down…but I’ve never been a slow down kinda guy when it comes to mission. There is also the issue of ‘has everything been dealt with as much as it possible can…is there anything hanging still?’

Its a challange to a corps too. I can see corps people starting to slow down momentum…I think its one of the downsides of having an Army which is still very much driven by officer leadership instead of local leadership. Having said that, our wards are going great guns…we just need to see mission activity beginning to spring out of them.

Still…we have corps council tomorrow…we’ll see what we can dream up for the next few months! In spite of the difficulties of the winter for the corps and for us personally, I’d love to see us really flourish in enthusiasm, worship, and to have a real sense of joy and thanksgiving for the coming closure of this chapter of corps history. What a better way to celebrate it than in the soul winning? The Lord is inviting us to look up from our recent circumstance and see him n all his glory, to pray, to make heaven on earth and be about our Master’s business.

I’ve been like the Joshua over these last years. We’ve come so far, we’re just landing on the other side. I don’t want to finish off remembering the difficulties we faced crossing the Jordan, we want to rejoice in the new land God has given us!

Lord give us you heart, your passion, your motivation, your love, your holiness, your grace, your victory and help us live on your promise!