Month: March 2008
Good Friday Witness
A little snippet of our united churches Good Friday walk of witness and open air. The baptist pastor (carrying the cross) and I arranged the event…the first ever to have happened in Caithness apparently! There was a howling gale blowing, as you might be able to tell, but we’re used to that in Caithness.
We had hail and snow before we stepped out of the church to assemble…it was completely dry for the march and the open air service. As I said the ‘Amen’ of the benediction of the open air service, the snow began again. Nice one God!
We have good support from across some very diverse churches in the town. Baptist, Salvationist, Church of Scotland, Free Church, Independant, Episcopal, and maybe even a Roman Catholic or two.
The preacher is the Rev William Wallace (!!!) who is a local Church of Scotland minister.
(PS…check out my skill on the bass drum!)
Hallelujah! What a Saviour!
High School ministry
We’ve been praying for months for their to be an opening in our local High School. Serving around 1000 pupils, its the only high school in the town. The links so far have been tenuous.
Out of the blue (or as a result of prayer….take your pick) we get a phonecall last week asking if I can come and talk to the first year pupils (age 12-13) in their Easter assembly.
Well…that was today! Just back from it now and it went great. Used a silly scenario about a fight over the last easter egg and what the punishment should be for each offending party in the fight to lead on to talking about justice, the price that Jesus paid and the reason he paid it.
You can’t do much of a gospel appeal in a High School, but I see a lot of these kids in various places outside school.
I thank God for the opportunity to start building that relationship with the school. When Ieft, the headmaster said ‘if there is anything you want to do in the school, just let me know.’
Thoughts on Intimidation
Yesterday, in general emailing chat with someone, the Lord just gave some helpful insight about intimidation…for them, but also for me.
A very human reaction to difficult situations is to step down. I know myself, in my best moments, I’m fuller in faith than most, but in my worst, I’m desperate.
I believe it’s called Elijah syndrome. You know, Elijah takes his stand, is part of a significant thing in the nation but then a couple of hours later he finds himself under a tree and he’s thinking and praying and wrapped up in concern. He steps away from the situation because he fears it’s just got out of his control and that its going to take his life. He sits there saying ‘I’ve been trying to be so faithful to God in all this, I’ve done what you’ve asked and I’ve been zealous and bold, but its no good, it has to end.’
God comes to Elijah and says to him ‘what on earth are you doing here??’ He repeats his saga to God. Here is what God tells him to do: Stand on the mountain and feel the presence of the Lord because he’s about to pass by. The wind and the storm and the earthquake come, but God isn’t in it. God is in the small voice that whispered to him to come and stand out of the cave.
God then gives Elijah the plan, showing him that he had a next step in place already. The next step wasn’t a B plan because Elijah had bailed out, the next step was part of the original plan but Elijah just didn’t have the confidence to trust him with it when all seemed to be failing and things were getting worrying. The bailing out wasn’t necessary, because God had it in hand. God basically restores to Elijah that He is in control, inspite of Elijah, and that he still has his purposes to accomplish, which included him.
What happened to Elijah is that he was intimidated. He went from great moments of boldness and confidence, to withdrawing in a fit of depression because he was intimidated. In Elijah’s case it the next step was a change in season in ministry and he misinterpreted it as the end of his life, as a huge crisis, where God was simply preparing him for a new season of ministry (in training up Elisha in Elijah’s case).
Like Gideon, appointed of the Lord to lead an Army against the enemy, he hid to avoid the responsibility. He saw himself as contributing nothing and unable for anything but the Lord calls to him and says ‘Stand up you mighty warrior…what you doing down there.’
In some aspects of that, I’ve just been there myself. But, God places friends in your life for good purposes. Within a couple of hours of sharing my doubts on this blog and considering throwing in the towel, I had Stephen Court come through on email saying “don’t quit. Stay and fight. It is possible. It is worth it.” That’s all he said and I realised what was happening….I was being intimidated by the enemy into silence, into avoiding the call of God on me.
When we fear something, fear stops us. But what intimidation does is it keeps us plodding on, but relegates us to a place where we’ve become silent, we become watchers from the sidelines because we fear the risk of speaking. The word intimidation itself means ‘to make timid.’
Paul reminds us that God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, love and a sound mind/self-control (2 Tim 1:7). He goes on in that chapter to remind Timothy that suffering is part of not being timid and that the most important thing is our God ordained task with the assurance (in v12) that he is able to keep and keep safe all that we entrust to him in terms of our lives and our effort. He exhorts us to keep sound teaching, to guard what revelation has been given to us by the Spirit’s power.
To whom much has been given, much is expected. God help us all.
My S2S design
Having made comment about the new S2S t-shirts being a little bit too subtle for me, with my limited computer skills, have put together a design which shouts a bit louder.
I’ve not intention to get em printed, but if anyone wants to offer….
I’d anticipate these graphics being placed centrally in the middle of a garment like the armybarmy Uni-Ts below. Let me know what you think :o)
Click on the images for a bigger view (there is a crest behind there in case you can’t see it)
The Uni T
Most of you who are avid Armybarmy readers will have noticed the arrival of the Uni-T. Its described as the Army’s first “covenantally accurate and fair-trade informal uniform t-shirt.”
The main idea is that it identifies soldiers and officers….ie, those in covenant as distinct to the multi-plicity of Red Shield wearers these days. You have to be a soldier to wear the soldier’s Ts and an officer to wear the officers Ts.
Stephen Court says:
You know how so many people where various versions of a shield Tshirt that identity gets fuzzy? You don’t know if people are soldiers or friends or clients or customers or donors or… (in other words testimony is shot because some who wear it aren’t even saved; and that means you can’t count on them because they might not be soldiers – it throws the whole thing out the window). These Tshirts are covenantally accurate – they come in Officers and in Soldiers trim.
The also clear up the myth behind the origin of the ‘Ss’ on our tunics…in that the Ts state we’re saved to save.
I like the concept, but not sure I like the style of the end product…not obvious enough for me. Still, I’ve put in my order!
On Covenant and Officership…
I reckon that most people who know me well would know that I am very unlikely to resign as a Salvation Army officer. There are tonnes of reasons for this. This posting also offers some added info to the last post because I’m picking up that people are perhaps getting unclear messages from my cryptic ramblings!
1) I’m covenanted to stay to the bitter end. Like I posted several months ago, words from George Scott Railton: “I intend carefully to instruct my children that if at any time they see The Salvation Army a wealthy, respectable concern, the majority of whose “soldiers” simply go where they please to attend its’ “ministrations,” leaving the godless undisturbed to perish; and if they see another set of people, however they may be clothed or despised, who really give up all to go and save the lost, then they must not for a moment hesitate to leave the concern their poor old dad helped to make, and go out amongst those who most faithfully carry out what the founder of the Army laid down in his writings and acts, may God preserve them from such a day by keeping the Army free from the love of money and ease” – George Scott Railton, An Autobiography, Full Salvation, Jan. 1, 1894. Whilst I might discourage my children from battling with a dinosaur in favour of joining the people God has raised up to take our crown, I myself am committed to being ‘poor old dad’ trying to be faithful.
I’ve always had the ‘you can’t change it from the outside’ mentality. That’s not to say that I’ll just dig my head in the sand and pretend things aren’t like they are. Its much more about poking your head above the trench. This is much more about what is going on for us just now.
This thing for us just now is about the Salvation War, its about advance, its about Kingdom growth, its about how we best serve the lost in our communities, its about how we best meet the needs of soldiers, its about strategic deployment. Its about wanting all those things to be happening effectively. Don’t get me wrong, whilst I may be frustrated with The Salvation Army, its fueling my Bill-Hybels-like ‘holy discontent’ to get engaged further in ‘Army renewal.’
Where thoughts about ‘life outside officership’ are coming from are probably from misplaced fears that the Army won’t want us. It is in this circumstance that we have to have ‘de-mob’ thoughts although we 100% want to be avoiding that sort of circumstance altogether. Got it?
2) If I resigned I’d have no clothes to wear.
3) In spite of the general spiritual and missional state of the Salvation Army in my territory, I believe that even if God has taken his hand off the Army ALL IT TAKES IS THAT WE RE-DIG THE WELLS OF OUR FOREFATHERS TO BEGIN WALKING IN OUR BIRTHRIGHT. This is why Primitive Salvationism for me isn’t an aesthetic thing.
We have wells of soul-saving, saint-growing, humanity rescuing, prayer warrior-ing, spiritual warfare fighting, world changing, society transforming and world winning to undig. Re-digging these clogged wells takes work, sweat and, to be honest, tears.
4)As Captain Stephen Court points out at armybarmy.com, and as I am fully aware, the difference between Booth and the New Connexion and me and the Army could well be covenant. I too can find no example of any sort of agreement that Booth would have entered into in his ordination into the New Connexion. That, however, doesn’t meant to say there wasn’t one and that Booth didn’t break it. I’ve no evidence to support or deny whether Booth was in covenant with the NMC…perhaps if you can find some, we can share it.
However, that aside, covenant is why we’ve not jumped ship and the reason why thoughts about life outside the Army simply become a joke between Captain Tracy and I!!! I won’t be making the choice Booth made unless I’m left with no choice as I outlined before.
The only siginificant parallel that can be made in that instance is one of calling.
5)To resign would discredit the input I’ve put into the lives of officers, local officers, and soldier’s I’ve served with. Covenant is about trust, not only with God, but with each other. I’d never want to make my breaking of covenant anything of an excuse for others to do the same. Its an integrity issue. I’ve taught covenant heavily. If I broke it willingly I’d discredit all that I’ve ever stood for and render myself ‘without a song.’
I don’t want anyone to ever doubt that I can be trusted in the war.
So, there are five reasons I am very unlikely to resign.
However, I’d like to throw out a gambit (if thats what you do with a gambit) and ask a question that I’d like to hear responses to.
The question is in regard to the people of Israel and the example that they are for the church. You know that many a time they, as a people, broken covenant with their God. There was always a faithful remnant to the true purposes of God. Many a time, faithful Jews were carried off into exile with their unfaithful Jews and stayed in covenant to God whilst out of the land and out of the temple. The mind jumps to blokes like Daniel. They were a spiritual Israel in a time when there couldn’t be a physical Israel.
My question is this: If it could be possible that Yahweh has lifted his hand or his hand or his glory in some way from The Salvation Army (in my context), is it possible for some to remain faithful to him outwith the land and the temple (i.e the Army as it is recognised)?
I’d dearly love the answer for this to be no, but my thinking is pretty much coloured by the Old Testament references to people faithful to God in spiritual terms when they were somehow prevented physically.
This is a sincere question, I things its one that we primitives especially have to discuss. I’d be interested to hear your responses…answers on a postcard (or, much easier, just his the ‘comment’ button!)
Breaking the Blog Silence
So, the blog has been a bit quiet. I’m having a time of working through a few things in relation to my calling and how it is working itself out.
This is about me and the Army as it is, and the Army I’m convinced I’m called to ‘call forth.’ I have been fearing that, actually, the Lord has lifted his hand from The Army as it is here in the UK Territory. This is really what is at the seat of my initial questioning which began last November. I travelled home from the Territorial Congress with such a heavy heart and a real heart-wrenching fear that The Army that God created no longer exists in the UK. I’ve began to doubt whether The Army can actually ever be again what it was called to be, but to doubt this goes against everything I feel God has been teaching me.
I have a vision of an Army that is true to its calling, to be a permanant mission to the lost. I’m an idealist because I believe God has an ideal for us that we are far falling short of and my voice has always been one of ‘calling forth,’ even in my days as a soldier at my home corps (which was popular with the officers!). For me, The Army is about rescue, its about ‘capturing’ people from the enemy, training them to fight and deploying them.
I believe the Army is a mission to the poor – these are our people and I don’t think we make sense out of the context we were dreamt for. I wasn’t brought up in the Army, I was brought up lost. I remember the pain and hopelessness of being lost. My conversion was miraculous and revolutionary and I was one of those that people used to say ‘oh, your experience will die down the longer you’re saved.’ To be honest it hasn’t, but that’s in spite of many folks attempts to quieten me down!
So, for me, officership was a way that I could spend every waking moment seeing this come to reality. I was called to be a missioner and I hope you don’t think its arrogant of me to say that I believe I’m called to model something different in the Army. I accept that I am “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.” (The Officers Covenant).
In this officers covenant there are three parties. There is God, there is me and there is ‘The Army.’ For this covenant to work, the three have to be facilitating it. To be honest, I will never move an inch from this covenant…I’m solemnly bound. I either need to find a way to work it out in The Army, or I need to work it our elsewhere.
Tracy said to me the other day “you’re trying to do a Booth, aren’t you?” When I asked her what she meant she said that I was like William Booth protesting to the New Methodist Connexion because they insisted in keeping him in a pastoral circuit when actually his calling was to be something else. Its actually my fear that I’ll end up ‘doing a Booth.’ However, something was happening there. Booth was either being disobedient to God, or the New Methodist Connexion were. This is the gamble I find I’m in just now. I’m fundamentally committed to the Army but I’m more committed to God and to doing the kinda ministry that he’s called me to. I suppose God has confirmed to me in my heart is that there will always be a way for me to work out the covenant I’ve made to Him, either in or outside the Army, and for that I thank Him. At the same time, I’d love to fulfil my dream of being able to sit in my nursing home in my full uniform as a grumpy old major and complain the tea is too cold.
There are some changes afoot for us in some way, the implications of which we just don’t know at this time. We’re exploring how we can work things out in the context of our current appointment and trusting God to make the way.
Pray up a storm for us.
A Salute to Major Nicola Garnham
“Earlier today, after a courageous battle with cancer, Nicola Garnham
was promoted to Glory. Over the past days family and friends had gathered at Nicola’s
bedside to share words from scripture, songs of praise and prayers of
hope. At one moment Nicola removed her oxygen mask and prayed,
thanking God for the full and miraculous life that he had given her. To
the end, her life was marked by the presence and power of the risen
Christ. Consequently, while we mourn the loss of a wonderful wife,
mother, sister. leader and friend, we celebrate a life well lived and
commend Nicola to God in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection
to eternal life.”
Soldier of Christ, well done!
Our prayers are with Philip and the children Rebekah, Abigail, Hannah
and Sam together with the wider family and the Raynes Park Community
Church of The Salvation Army.