Wednesday, June 23, 2021

The Salvation Army is shake, shake, shaking...

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There's a significant, seismic shift happening in The Salvation Army in these days. One may suggest that's true across the church more broadly, but I'll allow others to witness to that. 

I've heard some describe it as a 'shaking' of the church. Others have said, it's the start of a new reformation. Someone told me recently, "I think we're on the brink of an awakening". 

It's near impossible to tell you what it's all going to look like 20 years from now. What will The Salvation Army look like in 10 years? God only knows. I don't even know what the world is going to look like in 12 months! 

The shaking is the only word I can think of, to describe what God seems to be doing. Every little thing, God is shaking it. Does it matter? Is it about the Kingdom of God? Is it bringing light into the world? Is it a man-made construct that holds people back in religious institutionalism?

Old ways of doing things: Shake, shake, shake.

A formal uniform in a post-militaristic society: Shake, shake, shake.

A Sunday gathering that expects the unsaved to come to them: Shake, shake, shake.

A Bible study that has shut the door to people that aren't like them: Shake, shake, shake.

Fail to treat everyone the way God would have us: Shake, shake, shake.

Music that is old and stale that expresses nothing new to an inquisitive world: Shake, shake, shake.

All that matters is your stats: Shake, shake, shake.

A form of Christianity that celebrates conformity and religious duty: Shake, shake, shake.

A Christian who can't worship Jesus, unless the minister wears a tie: Shake, shake, shake.

God must think anything is permissible: Shake, shake, shake.

Any form of evangelism that doesn't look at holistic salvation of an individual: Shake, shake, shake.

Maybe God's ok with sin? Shake, shake, shake.

You don't have your hair up when you preach: Shake, shake, shake.


Now, I'm not trying to stir the pot (even though I probably offended many in the last few paragraphs). I think you can blame God for the shaking. See, I'm actually quite afraid. Scared even. A little anxious. Even at the age of 39, I hold dear to many things. I already have a few decades of Salvation Army history under my belt. I have precious memories. I have rich stories of the Spirit of God working in different Salvation Army settings. 

But despite that, God is shaking things. Some of the methods might stick and be around in a generation or two, but I sense the shaking that God is doing right now, is causing some ways of thinking and doing to become irrelevant and superseded by the new thing God is wanting to do.   

So, if you've come this far with me, you may agree that the holy discontent among Salvationists is at an all-time high. We are discontent. And that's not because of some leader, or even some bureaucratic process that frustrates us. It's because we aren't who we're meant to be (yet). And we're trying to discover it. 

God is helping us along by shaking the very foundations of our movement. The foundations that became somewhat set in stone some years after William and Catherine went to be with the Lord. 

God is not finished with The Salvation Army. God is refashioning us. God is remolding us; reshaping us. And while we celebrate all that God has done through many a faithful believer in years gone by, (There is much gratitude for all their work), we know God is up to something.

The core belief we have is that God is love. So we trust, what Christ has in store. We trust, through faith, that the shaking is not just for our benefit, but for the salvation of the world.  

We must allow God to make new wine in new wineskins. The problem is, we're trying new things and putting it back into old wineskins. We try to squeeze innovative ideas for the Kingdom, into the frameworks that we created decades ago. Take a new idea, birthed by the Spirit of God, and allow it to ferment and exist within a new way of operating. A new framework. A new, God-inspired way of working. Don't put new wine into an old wineskin. 

There's a detangling happening. Some of us, are navigating our way through change, and learning to detangle ourselves from the expectations of man, and learning to live and serve for an audience of one. No power struggles. No unrealistic expectations upon the shoulders. No backstabbing other leaders. No putting down another colleague. Just a raw, authentic work of God, that is calling us back to the boundless salvation found in Jesus Christ. 

I'm learning to trust the Lord in these days. I'm learning to have faith in what he's doing. I'm choosing to not be afraid. The words in Psalm 46:1-2 sum up some of my thoughts:

"God, you're such a safe and powerful place to find refuge! You're a proven help in time of trouble ~ more than enough and always available whenever I need you.

So we will never fear. Even if every structure of support were to crumble away. We will not fear even when the earth quakes and shakes, moving mountains and casting them into the sea.

For the raging roar of stormy winds and crashing waves cannot erode our faith in you." (The Passion Translation)

The Salvation Army is shake, shake, shaking... Will you embrace what the Spirit is doing? Will you be courageous enough to embrace an awakening within the people of God, that will absolutely transform the world around us, with the incredible mercy and love of Jesus?  

[All views are my own and don't necessarily represent any official position of The Salvation Army]

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

We Need Another Pentecost

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O for a passionate passion for souls,
O for a pity that yearns!
O for the love that loves unto death,
O for the fire that burns!
O for the pure prayer-power that prevails,
That pours itself out for the lost!
Victorious prayer in the Conqueror's Name,
O for a PENTECOST!

- Amy Wilson Carmichael


We need another Pentecost. 

Not because we need the Holy Spirit to come upon the earth again, and not because William Booth sung about it over 100 years ago. 

We need another move of the Spirit in our day. We need it. 

Yes, theologically speaking, the Spirit hasn't left. I get that. I understand your point. But it's like a large bottle of water sitting on the table in a restaurant. The water may well be there, but only those who are drinking the water experience the benefits of that water.

The Spirit of Jesus is among us. We can sense the Spirit in moments of worship and response. We hear the gentle whisper when we tune our hearts to the Lord. 

But, we need another Pentecost. 

Not because we don't have the Spirit here with us already. Not because we don't occasionally sense the prodding of God upon our lives.

We need another Pentecost. 

We need it. Desperately.

The Fire Upon Ever Nation

Have a quick look at the first time the fire of God came upon the disciples after the ascension of Christ. We read in Acts chapter 2, verse 8, that a crowd came together in bewilderment, because those who were gathered each heard the message of Jesus spoken in their own native tongue. 

The fire of God came upon the people gathered and all of a sudden every nationality could understand there was hope found in Jesus Christ!

We pray for the fire of God upon every nation. Every people group. Every tribe.

The Fire Upon Ever Believer

As you make your way through Acts chapter 2, you read of a man, named Peter, who preached a powerful message, where over 5,000 people chose to follow Jesus. This is the same man, who, when in the temple courts before the crucifixion of Jesus, couldn't even stand up for Jesus. 

He was suddenly bold. In Acts chapter 4, you read of Peter standing in front of the Sanhedrin (71 members, including the High Priest), and he yells out, 'It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.' Boldness came upon him. 

What's the difference: before the cross and after the cross?

There was a spiritual shift in Peter's life. A switch was turned on. A pilot light was activated. It's the fire of God. It's what early Salvationists called being baptized in the Holy Ghost. 

We pray for the presence and power of the Holy Spirit to be upon every believer.

A Holy Discontent   

Maybe someone reading this is sensing a similar thing to me. You're fed up with playing church and rearranging chairs and giving the walls the occasional lick of paint. If you're like me, you love the church. It's God's primary vehicle for transforming the world. But, you have a holy discontent. 

There is a mighty move of God stirring up the faithful. You can hear the wind a-blowin'. You can feel the coals a-burnin'. A big move of God is coming. 

Not everyone will be ready for it. Some may even miss it. They'll be plodding along, trying to photocopy song sheets, and running their closed-off bible studies. 

Though meanwhile a new and powerful move of the Spirit will breathe life afresh into the weary bones of tired ecclesiastical gatherings. 

The move is coming. Whether you recognise it, validate it, or embrace it. Another Pentecost is coming. The revolution now begins. 

More leaders will step up and step forward.

Believers will embrace the calling of God upon their lives.

New people of all generations and every nation will turn to Christ.

Righteousness will be hip again.

The depth of love that we have for each other will grow.  

Vibrant new expressions of ministry will multiply.

This Pentecostal fire, (while scary for some and misunderstood by others), will embolden what is already happening. God is at work, and this fire will further empower the church in these days.

Salvation to every nation! Salvation to every generation! 

*****

If you are passionate about starting a new expression of ministry, I want to encourage you and resource you. Please let me know in the comments and we will pray for you!

Thursday, April 1, 2021

I'm Feeling Lonely This Easter

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KEVIN!!

That’s the cry you give when you get on a flight and suddenly remember you’ve forgotten your 8 year old son, and left him Home Alone. ­­­Though don’t worry, if two robbers like Marv and Harry come and try to break into the house, Kevin will have it sorted. He'll simply head off to the $2 shop and get all the knickknacks he needs to provide a secure and safe house for the week.

Let me tell you straight: I’m not a big fan of being lonely. I'd rather crack a few jokes with a group of friends and have a good 'ole belly laugh. When I get a belly laugh, it can wobble for hours. I don’t know about you. You step into a crowd, look around, and realise deep down, you’re alone. People might smile at you and wave hello. People might be friendly towards you and that’s nice. Though sometimes you’re looking for friends, not just people who are friendly. That feeling of loneliness is hard to describe, but underneath the fake veil we put over our faces to protect our self-esteem, we can feel it. And it hurts.

Let me be vulnerable with you for a moment. I’m two and a half months into a new Salvation Army appointment on the other side of Australia. I’ve met new faces, lots of incredible people and am enjoying serving the Lord in this new space in Morley. But I woke up the other morning, just feeling lonely.

I feel like I want to qualify a few things. I don’t always feel this way. And the feeling will probably pass. And I’ll make some friends and the world will keep spinning. But in one moment recently, I felt lonely and alone.

Well, to be frank, I’m not alone in my aloneness. According to the Australian Psychological Society (2018), 1 in 4 people were reporting that they were experiencing loneliness. This report is back in 2018. Throw us Covid-19 and lock us in our houses, take away some of our liberties, and some rightly label it the loneliness pandemic.


Alone at Easter

My mind is then cast to the event of Easter week, and as I read the scriptures, I saw line after line something that I had never seen before.

Jesus went into the garden of Gethsemane, alone.

Jesus went back a number of times to see if his disciples were praying, and they weren’t and I wonder if Jesus felt… alone.

Then Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss and in the gospel (Matthew 26:56) you have this gut-wrenching line that says… ‘Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.’ They had left him all… alone.

Imagine that feeling.

Arrested and alone.

The feeling of being lonely doesn’t stop there. When Jesus is nailed to the cross, on that hill in Calvary, God forsakes Jesus.

And Jesus is alone.

As he took on the sins of the world, people were deserting him. The disciples had run away. The religious leaders mocked him. Soldiers divided up his clothes.

My heart is captured by the reality what is happening. Jesus is brutally murdered and everyone had turned their backs on him.

Stop and pause for a moment. Have you ever felt alone? Jesus has experienced this very thing. 

On the Third Day

We are fortunate that the story doesn’t end there. Jesus conquers sin and death and rises from the grave! What an incredible story of resurrection power!! Jesus is alive! Without wanting to skip over the resurrection let me fast forward a little further. Picture for me, the resurrected Jesus who is now standing on a mountain about to say some last words to the disciples, before he ascends into heaven.

Even if you’ve read this before. Take a moment:

Matthew 28:16-20 16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Jesus calls the disciples to a world-changing kind of mission. Now, that’s incredible in and of itself. But that aside, did you read the last verse?

You and I might, at times, or even often, feel lonely. But Jesus promises that he will be with you and never leave you or forsake you. That’s not some nice theological sentiment, it’s a rich promise from the Lord Jesus Christ.

There’s so much more to say and so many questions to ask. Like, what’s our role in befriending someone who’s lonely? What can we do to care for those around us? How can we truly love our neighbour and heal the broken-hearted?

While at times I feel a part of the loneliness pandemic, I can experience the powerful and awe-inspiring message of Easter. God loved the world so much, he sent Jesus into the world, so that through him, we are no longer alone. We are set free and loved and saved and bought with a price.

Through Jesus Christ, we now have a relationship with the Father in heaven.

And that’s good news.

Because...

I’m not alone.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

How long will it be, Salvation Army?

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Are we there yet? The children cry out. How long before we get there? We don’t know the answer. The journey is long and precarious, and full of winding twists and turns. We experience great highs and find ourselves lamenting at the struggles. We yearn for better days ahead. We know they are coming. We see glimpses of them. We can taste and smell revival, in the distance, but it’s just seems to be out of reach.

How long will it be Salvation Army? How long before we see a great move of God? How long before we witness the fullness of the transformative work of the gospel of Jesus Christ across our land?    

The question of “how long” is not a new question. When Jesus comes down the mountain (with Peter, James and John) still shining radiantly after being in the presence of Almighty God, he connects again with the other disciples. The teachers of the law and the disciples were arguing. The reason they were at verbal loggerheads was because there was a boy who was oppressed by a demonic spirit and no one knew how to help. Let’s pick up the story in Mark 9:16-19:

“What are you arguing with them about?” he asked.
 
A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”

“You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”

Jesus is indignant. And when we consider previous chapters in Mark’s gospel, where the disciples couldn’t understand the miracles of Jesus, we assume Jesus is a little frustrated towards the disciples. How long will it take before you understand, that you have all it takes within you to help bring freedom to this boy? But instead, you’re arguing. You’re complaining. You’re caught up in theological pontification.

Forgive me friends, but as I read this recently, my mind went to this beloved movement of which I am a part. I was convicted as I considered The Salvation Army, and my role within it.

How long will I argue about meaningless mind-numbing aspects of Salvation Army life, while I forget about the big picture of God’s kingdom?

How long will I moan and groan about change while the train to transformation is leaving the station?

How long will it be before I value unity over uniformity?

How long will it be before I value relationships over regulation?

How long will it be before I value salvation over stagnation?     

There is hope

The story is not finished in Mark’s gospel. There’s light at the end of the tunnel. As Jesus heals the boy from the oppressive spirit the following conversation is happening in Mark 9:22b-24:

But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”

Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

There’s a similar statement recorded in Matthew’s Gospel in relation to the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:26 – With man this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible).

Everything is possible for one who believes; Jesus is telling the father of the sick boy. While the disciples and the teachers of the law are going around in circles debating theological ideas, Jesus is bringing freedom to this boy. And he’s showing the disciples, that anything is possible if you believe.

So I bring my mind back to The Salvation Army. I know that God is challenging me. While I may debate ideas and may question, “HOW LONG?!” I know something deeper.

Jesus is speaking and saying: Everything is possible to the one who believes.

I hear little whispers from Jesus:

Can I turn The Salvation Army into a dynamic missional movement once again? Yes, I can!

Can I heal the hurts and pain of the years gone by? Yes, I can!

Can I do a new thing, that sees The Salvation Army move from surviving to thriving? Yes, I can!

With man or woman this is impossible. But with God, all things are possible.

You and I may wrestle at times with unbelief regarding what we think God may do in future days, but we can be certain of the promise: Everything is possible for the one who believes.

We’re not there yet. We all know that. But friends… revival is coming. God can do greater things. Get ready for it as you pray and believe that Jesus is still at work amongst us.

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