Sunday, October 28, 2007
The point that really hit me was that none of this can happen unless we are purposefully and continuously putting God at the centre of all we do and all we try to be. I have heard of the 'ichurch' concept before, but the description of it that we heard today really challenged me. I found an atricle online that describes this type of church:
“Have we become so co-opted by our consumer oriented age, that we treat our church like a place we shop? Have we come to a place where we want church to be like our iPods—a place of personalized choices. Do we come and consume until we find something better down the street to meet our needs? Sometimes I feel like our church is just one more brand out there. And I wonder if we have moved from a Christianity that was about relinquishing our desires, submitting to a community, learning to accept the blemishes and love those God has called us to love—to a Christianity that is all about meeting my needs, providing choices, and leaving if change does not happen on my timeline."
I touched on this concept in a previous blog of mine: consumerism. If you have time, it might be worth a flick through as it adds to my thoughts today! I think there is little doubt that we have let church become altogether 'me' focussed. Are we so concerned about making sure that it is a place where we can go and find enjoyment, or friendship, or see things being done the way we want them to that we forget who we are there for in the first place? Are we so desperate to try to make church fit our own needs that when it fails to do that quickly enough we are prepared to walk out on it?
It sounds harsh, but the truth is that the Bible doesn't suggest that Christianity is all about getting what we want from it. Rather, it talks about denying ourselves, taking up our cross, that the man who loses his life for the sake of Christ and the gospel will gain it for eternity. In the words of Paul; "But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ...I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ." I don't think that Paul would have chosen imprisonment, or Stephen would have chosen to be stoned to death, but they accepted these things humbly for the sake of Christ and the building of His Kingdom.
Now I am not for a minute suggesting that we should just endure all the things we don't like about church, in fact I think we should be seeking what God wants for His church, (which may I just say is absolutely 100% dependent on prayer), but I do think we need to be careful about making sure we are just not trying to make ourselves feel better about being here.
Why was I challenged? because I realised how guilty I am of that. Sometimes I get frustrated by the slowness of change, by the seeming apathy in the Church about saving souls for the Kingdom of God, and the apathy about making a positive impact on our communities. And even if the problem isn't apathy, it still doesn't seem to be leading to much action...yet! A few times I have felt so frustrated that I have even wondered whether God has finished with the Salvation Army. I have wondered whether it is worth me putting any effort into because I just can't be bothered with trying to work for the Kingdom in a movement which is so resistant to the things that I think need to change.
That makes me just as bad as the people who resist the change because they don't think they will like it, or it is outside their comfort zones. Perhaps I have been trying to create an 'ichurch' and that is why my frustrations eat me up inside. Perhaps, however good my intentions, I need to stop thinking I know it all, and give it back to God, and let Him change us in His own time, in His own way. Perhaps I need to stop thinking about me and where I might fit into it all, and start focussing on what 'it' is all about...simply, God. How dare I think I have the right to up and leave or rather in my case, not give my life to it, when it is not suiting me or fitting in with my needs and my desires. Its utterly selfish and I need to repent of it.
But then the problem is, 'where does my responsibility to voice my opinion start, and when does it become 'ichurch'?
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
My feelings of gult mainly stem from my frustration at myself for not being the person I want to be, for feeling passionately that things need to be done but never doing anything about it except getting on my soapbox. For this reason, I always considered that this sense of guilt was acceptable, because God wants me to do those things, and be that person.
However, I am now uncertain. I think there is a distinction between a sense of guilt, and a sense of responsibility, but that these often get mixed up. If that is true, then perhaps it is responsibility I should be feeling and not guilt. The person concerned went on to describe how Jesus always convicted people, but never condemned. That Jesus shows us our weaknesses and our sins but in a loving way that encourages rather than tears down. All this seems fair and reasonable. (For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:17)
And yet I look at some Biblical examples: Annanias and Saphira who died instantly because they had lied about how much they were giving; God sometimes called people's worship and sacrificial offerings detestable to him because of the state of their hearts; and most significantly, "To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked... Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent... To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne... Revelation 3:14-21 (selection)
I worry sometimes that we focus so much on the 'nicey nicey' stuff of God that we forget that He is also a judge. A judge who has every right to 'spit us out of his mouth' because we are lukewarm, and tells the church in Laodicea that He actually will. If we sin, but don't feel guilt, will we ever fully understand grace? Surely guilt is a natural response to sin?
BUT the person I was speaking to is one of the wisest people I know! So I am questionning...is it ever right to feel guilty as a Christian?
Sunday, October 07, 2007
Comissioner Linda Bond is a truly inspirational woman. A woman with a heart after God's own heart and an incredible capacity for believing in the promises and purposes of God. Tonight, she opened our eyes to the purposes, the mission and the calling of The Salvation Army, reminding us of why we exist and who we exist for. I am being completely honest when I say that she spoke my heart in her preaching.
Most who read this will know that I have been struggling so much lately with the unshakable feeling that we are just 'plodding along' as an Army (and generally as a Christian body of people in the west), that for whatever reason, we seem to be making limited impact on a desperate world. More on this in another post, but tonight Linda spoke about the longing we have for 'another pentecost'. The longing William Booth had that I am sure we share today. The desire to become just like the Acts 2 church - dedicated and purposeful, and seeing the daily addition to their number of those who were being saved. That is my passion, my desire, my longing. It was almost a relief for me, like a breath of fresh air, to hear someone preaching prophetically and so powerfully about the very things that trouble my heart and mind. To hear someone else putting those thoughts and, yes, even emotions into words. And not just words, but words of hope, that suggest a future for the Salvation Army. Words that suggest that revival is possible, no not just possible, but probable. To hear someone so faithfully hoping and belieiving in that possiblity is such an encouragement.
The 2020 vision statement of the UK territory of the Salvation Army is:
We will be a Spirit-filled, radical, growing movement with a burning desire to lead people into a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, to actively serve the community and to fight for social justice.
That is the vision of the Salvation Army. Is it the vision of Salvationists? The vision is incredible, mind blowing, and exciting. I want to be part of that movement. I want to be one of those people seeing that vision turn into reality. I want to see people being led into a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ on a regular basis. I want to see, and be a part of, the Salvation Army getting stuck in with its community, serving and reaching out and showing them 'God in Flesh', (more on that later!). I want to fight for social justice and see the lives of the poor and broken-hearted transformed by the saving love of Jesus Christ. But, I need to believe that God can do this, and most importantly, will do this. Commissioner Linda Bond was so passionate in her belief that the Salvation Army will see revival. If God is to ever turn any of my passion or longings or hopes into reaility, I have to believe in His desire to do that too. I have to believe that God will revive His people, revive His Church, and with His spirit working through us, to save the souls of the lost and wandering.
So...my personal vision statement can only be...
I will be a Spirit-filled, radical, growing Christian with a burning desire to lead people into a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, to actively serve the community and to fight for social justice.
And my prayer can only be:
Father God, please annoint the Salvation Army to live out this vision. Please pour out your Holy Spirit on us as a Salvation Army and fill us with the passion and determination of Paul and other apostles from the early church. Father God, please send revival to the Salvation Army. And Father God, please annoint me, as a member of this movement, to be part of that vision becoming a reality. Please pour out your Holy Spirit on me and fill me with the passion and determination of Paul and other apostles from the early church. Father God, please send revival to me.
After all...I am a Salvationist am I not?
Monday, October 01, 2007
Most improved = Jude (went from last to 7th!) Congraulations Jude.
In case you are wondering, I have slightly altered my method. When I get two or more people who have blogged the same number of times, I now base it on the most recently updated. Its more scientific that way!