Back to School!

I have the ‘blessing’ of being able to lead my last two assemblies in Wick today. Schools work has to be the most challenging, terrifying, yet potentially significant part of ministry that I or anyone could undertake. The privilege is in presenting, in the school environment, just something of the life that there is in Jesus and giving the children an experience of learning about God that is (hopefully) positive and something that they will take through their life with them to analyse and contribute to their own decision making process with regards to the gospel.

Its been my hope that what I’ve offered hasn’t served to innoculate the children, as in, give them a little bit of religion that will keep them free from it from life like my school assemblies almost succeeded in doing when I was a boy!

Of all the things I’ve done in officership so far, schools work is the most challenging thing to me personally, but I have to say that I’ve grown to love not just the children, but working with them. And this, not only at schools, but through the kids work here at Wick which we’ll be sorry to be leaving behind.

God bless Wick’s children.

Parade Ground Battle Ground

The difference I’ve heard many a time is the difference between a parade ground soldier such as you may see standing outside Buckingham Palace and a soldier, for example, fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The parade soldier is standing guard ceremonially in the possible occasion that the ‘enemy’ may confront him, but can spend the time looking pretty because he’s not out to look for a difficult shift. Actually, the armed police at the gate are the ones really doing the real protection job. When the soldier changes shift, he returns to the relative safety of the barracks.

The soldier fighting in ‘the trench’ has to be aware of his enemy coming from anywhere, at any time, and is there to secure the nation under threat against the usurped power of bands of loosely networked assassins. He doesn’t have time to sit pretty. Even in his rest time his weapons are by his side.

Interestingly, the parade soldier and the engaged soldier have the same training, have potential access to the same weaponry, and are both active in the army.

The difference is that the location and role of one soldier makes it pretty much unnecessary for him to use his skills, training and weaponry at all. He is simply standing guard over the establishment and the people who are part of the establishment. Potentially, however, the soldier may actually be deployed the next week to the same environment of the other soldier.

The challenge is this…if we accept at all that we as The Salvation Army have to maintain parade ground soldiers at all, do those who are occassionally deployed in that regard actually have the ability to fight in the trench the next day? To what extent do we have warriors as opposed to ceremonials in our ranks?

When I turn my mind to military bandsmen, what you have there are musicians who have a very minimal military training, because they’re very rarely, if ever, in combat. Their role is often ceremonial. I think that only Scotland can claim to have offensive weapons in their military bands in the form of the bagpipe…many an enemy would run a mile at the sound…however, I digress. Will we ever see the return of the non-ceremonial warfare fighting Salvation Army band? I, personally, live in hope, but I’m not sure if its founded on good ground or if its just wishful thinking.

Flicking through reports in many editions of the Salvationist its perfectly clear to see the distinction between ceremonial Salvationism and militant Salvationism. Having said that, ceremonial Salvationism tends to get more space. In one report, a band plays at a civil function, in another a group of Salvationists raises money for new chairs, in another there is hob-nobbing with city officials.

In contrast, there is the reports of a young officer couple who I know personally (younger than me) pioneering a corps in a land in desperate poverty and no concept of what the Salvation Army is, innovative creative arts programmes to introduce children to faith. Perhaps news of a new soldier who was saved through the Army who hasn’t been brought up through the ranks or transferred from another church. But as I said, militancy difficult to spot in the Salvationist!

So…parade ground or battle ground? Soldiers or warriors? Status quo or trailblazing? Sheep-stealing or soul-winning? Beautiful bands or bazooka bagpipes?

And now for something different…

Sometimes you have to come to the end of a day and try and forget everything you’ve heard. So….lets think about something different. Here’s a challenge for you. Twas in the Times today.

The Coin Trick.

Three people check into a hotel. They pay £30 between them to the manager and go to their room. The manager suddenly remembers that the room rate is £25 and gives £5 to the bellboy to return to them.

On the way to the room, the bellboy reasons that £5 is too difficult to share among three people, so he pockets £2 and gives each person £1 each.

Now each person paid £10 and got £1 back. So, they payed £9 each, totalling £27. The bell boy has £2, totalling £29.

Where is the missing pound?

Leave your answers in the comments! :o) Happy Thinking!

Ding Dong!

So, last night I was in bed. I was sound asleep. All of a sudden I find myself awake, very awake. Was that the door bell? No, surely not. I close my eyes.

There it goes again. This time we’re both awake, squinting at the clock. Its 2.45am and there is someone at the door. I’m lying there in denial and saying nothing. But it rings again and the Commissioner begins to bark. (yeah, we have a dog called Brengle).

I get up and go down stairs and head to the kitchen for the rolling pin (very Christian of me). I try to peak out the window. I see nothing. The bell rings again. The dog barks again!

I make my way into the hall way, can see the figure standing there but no idea who it is through the glass. I’m guessing, by the persons stance that this man is either drunk, on drugs, or is a deranged axe murdered without an axe. Funny what your brain does at 2.45am.

I call out ‘who is it?’ No reply. I get down and peer out the letter box. The man bends down and says ‘Its just me!’

At that, I lay down my lethal rolling pin and open the door to Jim (not his real name). I say ‘Jim, what on earth are you doing here at this time of the morning?’ At this he stumbles drunk half-way through the door. I manage to get him stable and he starts to re-count the same woes that I hear from him every week when I encounter him in the pub.

Jim was wrapped in an Army flag and dedicated as a baby and covenanted himself as a Junior Soldier. He tells me that he’s coming too the meeting next week. Its always next week. God is always pulling him to the Army.

We have the same talk as we always do about his woes. I put my clothes on, bundle him into the car and drive him all the way home. I pray with him at the door. I give him my business card to remind him that this encounter has happened at all.

“Come and see me when you’re thinking clearer” I tell him. He promises he will. This time, he might.

Flash Back

I was looking at some reports the other day on child poverty in Scotland and came across this picture. Immediately, I recognised myself. No, its not actually me, but all at once a whole flash flood of my childhood came rushing back at me.

You know, it was only as I grew up I realised how much of my childhood was not only less than normal, but harmful. There are some scars that are slow to heal even with the most Gentle Father administering the ointment. And you know what? I don’t think my mum knows what she has done because she herself is still so damaged by the life and lifestyle she has had.

I’ve gone through a whole period of years of forgiving my mum, and I truly have. Its probably why I can love her now where before I never could. Every time I speak to her on the phone all I hear is her pain. She’s still living the hell that I’ve been rescued from. And what’s more, without repentance, faith and trust in Jesus, her hell will continue in ways unthinkable.

I come back to my question of a few weeks ago. Who is reaching the likes of my mum? How many of our corps could welcome her with open arms, just as she is and believe in the gospel enough to believe she can change by the grace of God? What will we do (or not do) to reach a person like my mother.

There were, sadly, Salvationists in my early life who pronounced their benediction on my salvation before it even began. To some, I was too troubled, too far gone, a risk, a threat. I thank God, however, for the Jesus-hearted folks who invested their time, love and heart in the likes of me.

The thing that troubles me with some evangelism today is again from the church growth school which says that a church should go for the people they are most like. The place where that falls down is that God has done a good job on generations of us in the church and we’re often middle class, educated and comfortably well off. Who is there then to reach the poor?

Will the real Salvation Army please stand up.

Stomping on Darkness

Here in Wick we’ve stopped closing our blinds when we go to bed. The simple reason for that is its still daylight so it just seems wrong! Here is the pic to prove it. This was taken at 11pm tonight. It hasn’t been doctored or changed in any way!

Dispelling darkness must continue to be a key aspect to our mission and not just dispelling it with good works, campaigning and ‘shining our light’, but engaging in active warfare prayer. Paul reminds us that our battle is with spiritual powers in heavenly places (cf Eph 6) We conquer in Jesus’ name through the blood.

It means we don’t just help the poor, we pray against the spirit of poverty.
It means we don’t just clean up the alcohol, we pray against spirits of addiction.
It means we don’t just preach the gospel, we pray against the blinding work of Satan.
It means we don’t just increase our presence in poor areas, we pray against the variety of spiritual forces keeping those area poor.
It means…..a whole lot more.

We don’t just pray in our buildings, we get out there and stomp around, lay hands on things, claim back ground, march and worship in the streets, cast out demons…basically, we go out and usher in the Kingdom of the Lord and his Christ.

If you’re reading this and you don’t think the above will make the slightest bit of difference, the only suggestion I can make is that we continue to ask the Lord to reveal to us what can only be discerned spiritually. We so often look at things from a worldly and human point of view. We forget, not only demons, but the angels the Lord assigns to battle in the heavenly realms against the agents of satan. We’re on the winning side, ours is the mop-up operation.

Our meeting leader today asked us ‘who do you say I am?’..no, not her, Jesus. When we come to the concept of Christian warfare, who do we say Christ is in it? Is he a Jesus who never tackled a demon, a spirit, the devil or a corrupt authority or government? Or perhaps to you he is only gentle Jesus, meek and mild.

Lets continue to pray in the Kingdom.