Thinking about the decade

Lots of reflection going on in the old SA blogsphere (aka Salvosphere) about significant happenings in the last decade. I’ve been thinking from the context of my own territory, noting some of the things that have stood out (good, bad and indifferent). Not commenting…just highlighting some biggies.

1. Starting with a recent one: the resignation of Major Chick Yuill, Russell Rook and Phil Wall from significant roles in the UK Territory. These guys are still around, but no longer in places of influence in the Territory…all doing their own thing outside the movement.

2. Massive impact of 24/7 prayer movement on the UKT. Championed by the excellent leadership of Commissioner Alex Hughes, but fuelled by so many passionate people. Add in this one the impact of Roots. Linked to this, the promotion to Glory of Major Jo Norton. Significant happenings, all of them.

3. The creation of Alove “The Salvation Army for a New Generation”.

4. The impending sale and relocation of William Booth College, Denmark Hill which, when I was in training, was as good as happening to the extent that we were getting ready to literally re-locate. Change of territorial leadership, decision quickly reversed.

5. Removal of some key support positions at DHQ level, such as property, fundraising and PR. These have had significant impacts on the work on the local fronts, and the workload of officers and other DHQ staffing.

6. Significant disappearance and subsequent (very) gradual return of officers from management posts in Salvation Army social service centres.

7. The publishing of the Strategic Mission document and the fact that now no-one will know what I’m talking about. What Strategic Mission document? Like wise, the peak of the 2020 vision concentration and the subsequent dissappearance of any reference to it.

8. The rank thing has already been aired, but the disappearance of the new but now defunct Lieutenants system in the UK is significant for many folks. It was pretty fully embraced in this Territory. Non-officer spouse arrangement fully engaged in this Territory too.

9. Four Territorial Commanders in 10 years for the UK (if you include 1999) in the form of Gowans, Hughes, Clifton and Matear. Two progressive radicals, two restorationist radicals. We’ve almost had a microcosm of what has happened Internationally in the Territory….still stating facts! No comment! Also commented elsewhere, the last three Generals have, at some point, been in territorial leadership of this territory.

10. New IHQ building in London which gives us all an opportunity to pop in for a very expensive sandwich, a peak at the General and the Cheif through the windows as you walk past between St Pauls Cathedral & the Tate Modern along the Millennium Bridge, and a nosey to see which IHQ commissioner eats what for lunch through all the glass.

Holy Christmas to all Army Renewal Readers

18This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. 19Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

20But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

22All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23″The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.”

24When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

Matthew 1:18-24

Freedom for Christmas

Have you all seen the film Braveheart? Good film. There is one particular scene in the film I like. The Scottish Army are assembled and looking at their opponents, a wee bit doubtful of their chances of winning and are about to turn round when Wallace rides on with his face painted blue and white and gives is probably fictional speech.

“You’ve got to fight as free men, and free men you are.

“What will you do without freedom? Will you fight? Fight and you may die, run and you’ll live, at least a while. And dying in your bed many years from now would you be willing to trade all your days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives but they’ll never take our freedom.”

It’s all very passionate stuff.

We’re getting very close to Christmas, only just round the corner. Went to see my little girl in the nativity….you know shepherds, kings, donkeys, inn keepers etc etc. All very pretty, but quite unlike the original scene, I imagine.

I was reminded of that passage in Luke 4 that shows us that Jesus came with a huge agenda, and it was a freedom agenda. A massive message for the poor, for the captive, for the sick, for the blind, for the stranger, the lonely, the whoever….actually, for me. Jesus is declaring his intentions to bring release and freedom where it matters most…to the very heart of who we are. Freedom from our sin that presses against us, separates us, and freedom from ourselves who so often mess things up. However, this isn’t just something he started working out later in his life and through his death on the cross.

God made a huge statement to us when he worked it out for Jesus to be born in a manger. On that night, I don’t reckon it was much of the case of the typical manger scene. I reckon it was a cold, smelly, dirty, messy barn…totally not the place where you’d want to give birth to your first born, and certainly not one fit for Jesus as the King of Kings.

I’m encouraged by the muck, because it shows me that God meant business with Jesus. Yes, he wants to bring great messages for the poor, the oppressed, the captive, sick and blind…but most of all, he was willing, 14 years ago, for the presence of Jesus to be born in the muck, sin and mess of my life.

He stood before me, as a young guy willing to run away from life and said I’m here to fight for you, in you and through you. In the bible, the gospel writer John puts it all in perspective with one sentence. He said, God became human and made his dwelling among us….or, in other words, God became one of us and moved in next door. God came as a smelly, burping, puking, screaming baby into a dark dingy, smelly, animal infested barn to a young woman who was just about grasping what it was all about supported by step-dad, Joseph, consumed with the thoughts of what his neighbours would be saying now.

This Jesus grew up, not to be a big religious hot shot with a big hat, cape and an attitude to match with chauffeur driven camels, but a simple carpenter come wandering rabbi who had no-where to call home, who was hated by the authorities and misunderstood by everyone he was close to. Crucified as a criminal on a roman cross as he died for the very reason for which he was sent in the first place.
Instead of coming to the world as a saint with bright lights behind his head, he comes like a man carrying our bail money on our back. John encourages us to recognise that we are in need of a real Jesus.

John later tells us that God loved the world so much, that he sent his only son, that whoever believes in him would not perish, but have everlasting life. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

The best way of having a smashing Christmas is to allow Jesus to pay your fine, turn away from your sin, trust in Jesus to bail you out so that when you stand before God as the judge he will be happy to let you go free because your debt has been paid. The biggest challenge of Christmas is to look beyond the baby and see the cross.

Have a blessed Christmas, have a peaceful Christmas…but most of all, have a real Christmas!

Operation Christmas update.

Operation Christmas has been a busy one this year but just stopping by here to give a little report.

We had a good crowd of around 50 in for the dedication of little Teara and for our Advent celebration which really helped get Operation Christmas off to a good start. All were given invitations to attend Alpha in the new year.

Our Blast! Kids’ drop-in family night went really well…great to see parents come along and play with their children, mix with other parents and get to know us a bit. A really positive night all round. The following week, over 40 children attended our Blast! Christmas Party and the kids had a great time. Really great to be building up links with all these children which will no doubt continue into their teenage years as they ‘move up’ through Blast and on to our Friday night drop-in for teens. We thank God for them.

Last night, we had the carol service at the Prison and were chuffed to have around 30 prisoners at the service. There was lively upbeat carol singing like you’ve probably never heard in your life and great live music from the worship band who came in to lead the carols. My talk seems to hold their attention and a few guys spoke to me afterwards about the Lord. We also gifted the guys with a bar of chocolate and a ‘Why Christmas?’ booklet, along with an invite to attend the Alpha Course we’re running in the prison in the new year. We’re praying for a good response to that.

Earlier the same day, a group of prisoners watched the film, The Nativity Story and the message was brought fresh to them. We’ll be talking about the film next Thursday in our group.

Our little corps carol service was a great success again. We had Peterhead SA Band, Aberdeen Citadel Singing Company and the dance school that use our hall came and did a few slots. This is just a low key carol sing along with some ‘items’ and a message (having said that, if was much more ‘formal’ that anything else we do!) We used the ‘Retooning the Nativity’ clip in the previous post in this box and the folks were invited to take God out of the box they may have put him in. All were invited to attend Alpha in the new year. Altogether, it was good to see around 60 folks in attendance, including mums, kids and grannies from our Blast! drop in and some young folks from our youth cell.

Ahead of us now is some more carolling, our Free Christmas Gift Wrapping event, our Lunch Club Christmas meal, and a few prison based activities. Oh…and I’m out on a Street Pastor shift this coming Saturday…that will be a busy night!

I guess all this goes to show that in our ministry as the Army at this time of the year, we can punch way above our weight in terms of our influence. We have a core team here of around 5 or 6. How much can you do with more? Lets continue to use the opportunity of Christmas to point people towards Jesus.

Operation Christmas!

Yes, its that time again. Last year, with only having been in appointment here at Torry a few months, Christmas came too fast, and before we knew it, Christmas arrived. This year we’ve had a longer run at it.

We’re still a relatively small Salvo community here, but we’re going good guns. I just wanted to share a few things we’ve got going on really as a request for prayer for us over these next two weeks or so.

On Sunday 6th, we have our regular monthly celebration which includes the dedication to God of the daughter of one of our former Junior Soldiers, Sara. We’re delighted to be able to make a fuss of little Tearra on Sunday and look forward to sharing with all the family. We’d appreciate your prayers for that event, that the message of advent will shine through.

On Tuesday 8th, we have a family night at our usual Blast! kids drop-in. We’re inviting parents to hang around, play some games with the kids, get into some Christmas Karaoke and munch on a few Christmas pies or two! We’re hoping for a really fun evening and that parents will come and join us.

On Wednesday 16th, we have our community carol service with Peterhead SA band and Aberdeen Citadel Singing Company with contributions from children from the dancing classes which meet in our hall every week. Last years event was really fun, and we’re hoping for more of the same this year. Again, we’re praying for a good time and that we’ll be able to celebrate the Christmas message. We’ll also be inviting folks to come along to an Alpha course we’re starting in January, so thats key.

On Thursday 17th, I am speaking at and part-organising the carol service at HMP Aberdeen, where I’m on the chaplaincy team. We’re hoping that around 60 prisoners will join us as well as some staff and local guests. We’re again, praying for a clear message! We, again, are inviting the men to take up an Alpha course in January. Please pray for this, that men will feel led to respond to the invitation

On Saturday 19th, between 2pm and 5pm we are hoping to bless our community by offering free Christmas wrapping! We’re trying to do small things with great love to bless all that we can.

On top of all this, we are taking part in the carolling programme with Aberdeen Citadel band…the main times for that are each Thursday evening and each Saturday morning. And on top of that, the usual toys, christmas meals, christmas parcels and the like.

Desperate to show God’s love. Thanks for praying for us!!