Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Reasons and excuses

People are often called upon to give reasons for there actions but often those reasons sound like excuses.
For example here is the reason someone gave about why they didn't come into work. "I forgot to take in the Sunday paper, so after initially leaving the house I thought it was Sunday. By the time I had realized that it was in fact Monday, it wasn't worth coming in".
Reason or excuse?
I wonder how the shepherds explained the fact that they left their sheep on the hillside whilst they rushed off to Bethlehem to see a baby. Telling your boss that an angel told you to do it, seems a poor excuse, except of course, it happened to be true and history reveals that they did in fact have very good reason for their trip.
In John's introduction to Jesus he comments on the way in which people reacted to his coming. In Chapter 1:12 he says, “He came He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.”
Some of the stories of those who either welcomed Jesus or rejected him are outlined in the gospel narrative. Whether their actions were based on good reasons or excuses is a matter of discussion and can challenge us to look at our own responses to Jesus and to his call upon our lives.
Take Joseph for example.
Joseph who had plenty reason to separate himself from Mary and her baby. What man wouldn’t be confused and hurt by the fact that his fiancĂ© was pregnant knowing that he wasn’t the father? On top of that the girl seems to have taken leave of her senses by claiming that no other man has been involved and the pregnancy is the result of divine intervention, the child being the longed for Messiah.
He was bound to be upset, but he didn’t go down the route of disgracing Mary either by divorcing her publicly or going even further and have her stoned for adultery, which would have been his right. However it was also his right to handle the whole thing quietly and simply walk away. As a kind and gentle man he that is what he chose to do. The Bible says, “And 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.” (Matthew 1:19)
That was the reasonable, understandable and acceptable. But through a dream God presented Joseph him with reasons to accept Mary’s story as true and to bring the boy up as his own son.
He is reassured by an angel that Mary is telling the truth and that the baby is to be called Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.
Joseph understood clearly what God expected of him, and was ready to obey! He would take Mary to be his wife and suffer the cutting remarks of a child conceived prior to their wedding. He would obey in spite of the fact that this child would be born under a cloud of adultery.
To avoid lashing out when we are hurt takes a great deal of self-control. Joseph is to be commended for the fact that he didn’t react to Mary’s news with angry impulse but with a thought-through plan that would minimise the damage and save face for everyone. It often takes self-control and good sense to do a good thing but it takes faith to do what you know is the right thing, the best thing, especially if you have the perfect excuses not to and nobody would blame you for not taking the risk.
Joseph rejected the excusable reaction but he also went beyond the reasonable reaction and accepted God’s call to make an obedient reaction.
There will be many times in life when the easiest thing will be to make a decision that comes from an emotional response or because it is the most convenient thing for us. Once made, even if we know in our hearts that we didn’t really do our best, we can ease our conscience with excuses. Then there are other times when we act with a clearer head and heart and convenience isn’t the issue but we settle for less than we feel we God is calling us to do because he calls us to go beyond the sensible, reasonable and culturally acceptable course of action.

Joseph is my kind of hero. He made no excuses and went beyond reason to be obedient to God.

God bless


Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Mood or Mindset

Here are Alan's notes from 27th November 2011. We probably won't have time to use them in cell groups before Christmas but it might be good to reflect on the Bible Reading and thoughts again in our own devotions. I will post notes from Sunday 4th December tomorrow

How festive are you feeling?
Do you have to get into the right mood for Christmas? What does it take for you to feel Christmassy? Cold weather? Log fires? Mince pies? Carols? Sprouts? Well maybe not sprouts!
There is essentially nothing wrong with the lovely traditions of Christmas which generate a happier atmosphere and a sense of well-being. In fact I get a bit fed up when we Christians get a bit poe faced about it all. But surely Jesus came to do more than change our mood for a season but came to change our minds and hearts for eternity.
In the Bible when the word mind is used, it does not just mean mental exercise or brain power but includes your whole attitude, your demeanour, your mind set—the whole way you live your life. It includes your internal thoughts and attitude as well as your external actions. It involves how you think, feel, and act.
In his letter to the Philippians Paul tells us that we don’t just need to know the mind of Christ, i.e, his opinion on stuff but we should have his mind. In other words it would be a really amazing thing if we could adopt his outlook, his attitudes, his response on everything.
1. Anything
“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: who being in very nature God did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but made himself nothing taking the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness and being found in appearance as a man he humbled himself and became obedient to death even to death on a cross.”
Why did Jesus Christ trade his rightful place in heaven for possibly something as inhospitable as a cavein Bethlehem. He could even have been born in the street. There is no cosy stable in the biblical account of his birth.
It was because the human race although given a perfect environment and opportunity to live for God messed it up. We messed it up so badly that with out intervention we face eventually being cut off from God, who is the source of all goodness for eternity.
But God was prepared to do anything that didn't deny his character to help us. He was prepared to take our mess upon himself so that we could get out of it. In Jesus, he placed himself in the same position as every human being and even lower.
A missionary told the story of two rugged, powerful mountain goats who met on a narrow pathway joining two mountain ridges. On one side was a chasm 1,000 feet deep; on the other, a steep cliff rising straight up. So narrow was the trail that there was no room to turn around, and the goats could not back up without falling. What would they do? Finally, instead of fighting for the right to pass, one of the goats knelt down and made himself as flat as possible. The other goat then walked over him, and they both proceeded safely.
Jesus saw us as trapped with no way to help ourselves. By dying for sinful mankind, He let us "walk over Him" so that we could experience forgiveness and receive eternal life.
2. Everything
The scale of what Jesus has done for us and wants to do for us suddenly becomes immense. When we really understand the coming of Jesus then we know we can't just adopt a mood of niceness until Boxing Day but that we must let him take hold of everything we are.
The old hymn puts it, “Love so amazing so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.
This is not about paying Jesus back for what he has done. Jesus is not a loan shark, who gives us what we need when we are down on our luck but is on out back forever getting as much out of us as he can squeeze for ever and ever.
Those of us who are parents will know that the arrival of your new baby changes everything. It bears no comparison with babysitting or helping at toddlers. You don’t just find there is a little more to do. You change. You have changed your status to mother or father. You think differently about yourself as a result. The way you live your life changes, decisions have to be made with consideration to how this will affect the baby. We know that a baby isn’t just for Christmas but for life.
Paul said this his letter to the Corinthians in the Message translatio:
“Jesus included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived in their own. Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at Jesus the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore, Now we look on the inside and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start is created new . The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from God who settled the relationship between us and him.”
3. Anyone
You can’t say after reading Paul's words that Christianity can ever just be about getting in a good mood once a year. Do you notice in those words that Paul talks about getting a new way of looking at things? In this he not only means how we view Jesus but also how we think about other people.

The rest of that passage from 2 Corinthians says. “God settled his relationship between us and him and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. We’re speaking for Christ himself.”
If we are going to speak on behalf of someone else we had better know them and their mind, their approach.
We have seen that Jesus approach was to selflessness, servant-hood and unlimited sacrifice.
We reflect this in the last item on our Prayer Beacon list of values.
“The cross is a demonstration of the sacrificial love of Christ and we believe that he calls us to acts of compassion and social justice. Pill Corps should be a place where action is taken to minister to those who are in need or who are hurting, both in our own locality and beyond.”
God bless

Alan and Carol

Friday, 25 November 2011


Believing that God created human beings for relationships Pill Corps is committed to being a place where authentic and honest community can be built. As a prayer beacon we want to share our prayer space as much as is logistically possible and show hospitality beyond our own fellowship in as many ways as possible.

When we make our statement that as a Prayer Beacon we want to be a sharing community, a place where authentic and honest community can be built it’s a very good intention but I suppose the next question is “Yes but what does that actually mean? What does an authentic and honest community really look like?

Anyone who has done a jigsaw knows that it is always easier to complete the puzzle if there is a picutre to follow on the box. It gives a framework and an idea of how the pieces might fit together.

In terms of what an authentic Christian community might look like 1 Thessalonians 5:12-18 is the picture on the box of the puzzle.

1. Respectful
The first thing Paul deals with is the relationship that this family has with its leadership and the relationship of leaders to their family.
It is clear from the Bible that God has ordained leadership for communities including the local church.

Leadership in the Christian community works best when two things are balanced. Those who lead work hard, provide loving care but also are prepared to give a challenging word when needed. On the other hand, it is the responsiblity of the community to value leaders and “hold them in the highest regard in love.

Personally I cannot bear laziness and I know I have to be careful because with my tendency overwork I have to watch that I'm not judgmental about other peoples work ethic. Still don't you think it shows lack of respect to the community if leaders want people to do the work of the kingdom if they are not prepared to do some of it themselves?

But at the same time it is also disrespectful of the community towards a leader if they are taken for granted. Over the years I have sadly met those who walked away from leadership, not because the work was too hard or the decision making difficult but because they just couldn't take the relentless criticism anymore. Respecting leaders doesn't mean we can't disagree with leadership, it doesn't mean we don't give feedback but we do it with courtesy and dignity.
As brother and sisters in Christ, leaders are among us and at the same time “over us in the Lord. This can be a tension apart from Christian love. It demands grace and the power of the Spirit to be evident in the whole family.
2. Building each other up.
There are some important words and phrases here about how we're supposed to be treating each other; urge, warn, encourage, help, be patient, try to be kind.

William Ward once said: “Flatter me and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I will not forget you.”

We can all see the need to be kind and encouraging to one another but some of those words are harder words, like urge or warn. Being kind to one another doesn't mean we have nothing to offer each other by way of correction and guidance.
When we spend time trying to help an individual, one of the first things we realize is that people don’t change as fast as we want them to, which is why Paul slips in the instruction, “Be patient with everyone.”
There are people in the community who will hurt us. What do we do when that happens? Whatever you do, refuse to retaliate. Instead we should practise kindness. Kindness is an underated quality. We tend to applaud people for their talent or their vibrant personality, their wisdom or their creativity but without kindness, a community is like an engine without much oil.

3 Positive Attitudes
We can't have a good community if we're the kind of people who are always looking for things to criticize. Negativity makes us miserable. It's just easier to be close to someone who's joyful, isn't that true? It's just easier to be close to someone who's thankful.

Paul warns us not to put out the Spirit's fire. The Holy Spirit is someone's life creates positive attitudes in abundance. Paul calls them the fruit of the Spirit in his letter to the Galatians. The Greeks had a race in their Olympic games that was unique. The winner was not the runner who finished first. It was the runner who finished with his torch still lit.

Paul recognizes that a community that puts all the things he has suggested in place is a miraculous thing. It is relationships that operate on a deep level and we almost gasp at the expectations he puts before us.

He qualifies his high expectation by ending not with a call for everyone to make a greater effort at all this but by referring to the activity of God.

God is among us creating a sanctified community that shines out in the world because of the quality of the life that is shared.

It is God who creates authentic community around us as we cooperate with him. What the blessing says is, "The one who called you is faithful, and he will do it." What ultimately matters in the life of a family of beleivers is that we don't just muddle along together but we let the grace of God to truly sanctify our relationships.

God bless


Saturday, 22 October 2011


"Pill Corps seeks to offer an environment where spiritual growth is encouraged through good teaching, training and equipping. As a Prayer Beacon we aim to use all our experience and our facilities to become a resource for training and development in prayer.”

When we make this statement we have to recognise that all of us who have already made Pill Corps our spiritual home are all at different stages in our understanding of God and his purposes. However we also want to be a welcoming place to people who have yet to surrender their lives to Jesus Christ as their Saviour. In fact we want that people can come among us know that they are coming to a place of discovery, a where they can ask questions and be helped to find answers.

It is said that there are five top questions that human beings really need answering.

1. What is my purpose in life?
2. Am I valuable?
3. Who is my provider?
4. Who controls my destiny?
5. What am I responsible for?

In the story of Jesus we find those questions are addressed and Jesus giving his answers to them. Of course we might want to ask why the answers of a Jewish peasant who lived 2000 years ago matter. What gives his answers to life’s questions any more weight than those of anyone else?

We would not be the first to ask such a question. People constantly challenged Jesus about his qualification to become a spiritual leader. Yet other people recognised that Jesus had a kind of natural authority. Even when he was as young as 12 people were stunned by his grip on things and the answers he was coming up with. The other thing about Jesus was that not only did he talk sense about life, he backed up what he said by doing some amazing stuff.

He surprised a lot of people by telling them that they had God’s approval even though in the eyes of society and according to some of the religious teachers they were thought to be no hopers. In fact it was widely believed that if you had a disability it was because you or your parents had done something really bad. Jesus shut a lot of them up, by restoring the sight of blind people, healing very sick people and even raising the dead!
Jesus countered some of his critics by saying, “If you don’t believe what I am saying, judge me by my actions.”

Surprisingly Jesus also talked a lot about himself. He said things like “I am the way, the truth and the life.” He was kind of setting himself up not only as having answers but being the answer to the meaning of life itself. In using the phrase I am the way, the truth and the life, he was saying that he was more than an ordinary man. He was claiming to be God in human form. That’s a pretty arrogant claim, a pretty mad claim or a pretty fraudulent claim, unless it happens to be true.

When Jesus died a horrible death by crucifixion, his followers were pretty disillusioned and wondered about the truth of all his words. But then the man who had said “I am the resurrection and the life.” rose from dead! He had done it again. He backed up his answers to questions of life by a very powerful action. If Jesus could conquer the greatest mystery of all, death itself then he was definitely worth knowing, worth following, worth committing your life and your whole eternal future to.

There is plenty of evidence to suggest that Jesus Christ really did rise from the dead, evidence from the Bible, evidence from history and evidence from experience. If we are truly assured that Jesus is not just a figure from history but alive today and who is who the Bible claims him to be then life-long learning from him about life needs to be a central part of our experience.

Those of us who have found answers to life's big questions in Jesus, long to help others to do so as well. At the same time we are all aware that there is still so much more for us to know. As disciples of Jesus we recognise that he is constantly leading us onward into a closer, deeper, stronger relationship with him. Following Jesus never becomes boring because he keeps on surprising us with the depth of his character and the height of his love.

God bless


Friday, 14 October 2011

Prayer Beacon value: PRAYING

It is obvious that a church should be about Jesus. Pill Corps believes it can be place where people can meet with Jesus and be changed by him. Prayer is not just about adding effectiveness to what we do but is about friendship with Jesus. In any relationships intimacy grows from time spent with the one we love. As a Prayer Beacon we practise a rhythm of prayer, through which people may encounter Jesus.

Bible Notes from 24th September

The writer of Psalm 84 writes with intensity about his desire to be in the presence of God, to be with Him.

Meeting with the living Jesus through the Spirit, who takes us into the presence of God, is at the heart of what we are about. If the divine presence is missing then we are missing the whole point of our existence as a church. Experiencing the presence of God is not an empty hope. In fact we can even expect more than a once in a life-time spiritual experience. We can live with him.

1. We want to dwell with him
Some relationships between boys and girls never get beyond the disastrous first date but for others there is a progression in the relationship. They don’t just want to go on dates they want to share an intimate life together for the rest of their lives.
Psalm 84 was used when pilgrims made their way to the Temple, where they believed that God’s presence rested in a special way. But David recognised that the real blessing was not a yearly visit.
v 4 says; “Blessed are those who dwell in your house they are ever praising you.”
The word dwell means linger, hang out implies that you want to stay there!

We don’t want to have appointments with Him from time to time, like a client with therapist. We don’t want to go on dates like a boy and girl starting a romance. We want to go on more than a legal arrangement of parental access to our Father God, we want to be able to live with Him, know Him, turn to Him not just for the rest of our lives here on earth but forever.

2. We want to pay any price.
And for that opportunity to be near God we are prepared to pay any price, take any position.

Psalm 84:10 “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord than dwell in the tents of the wicked.”
Athough we are willing to be doorkeepers it is not what God actually offers. In His story of the prodigal son, Jesus tells us that as the son made his way home he rehearsed his speech that he would say to his father. He would beg his father to let him be a hired servant, even a slave if he could just be allowed back into his father’s household. But when the son arrived expecting that he would be a servant he was welcomed as a son and given the privileges of a son.

Paul says in Galatians, “God sent the Spirit of his son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba Father.” So you are no longer a slave but a son and since you are a son God has also made you an heir.”
We deserve to be treated as servants, to sit at the back as onlookers to the glories of heaven instead we are invited in and treated as sons and daughters of the King of Kings.

3. We need to know who is in charge
We are called to dwell with God. He lives with us, we live with Him. And that sets up a question of authority. If we are living with the Lord, we need to know who is in charge.
Jesus said; "If you remain in me, and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given to you.
This means that when we ask Jesus what he thinks about something he is very unlikely to say, "I don't mind, whatever." When we welcome Jesus into our lives and make room for Him to live, it is not as a silent guest with no opinions or commands, but as an authoritative head of the household whose opinions matter more to us than anyone else's and whose commands are the law of our life.

4. We sometimes feel like moving
What He offers us now is His presence but the accommodation we share with Him may sometimes be hard and difficult for a time although he promises that our permanent heavenly dwelling with Him will be perfect.

The Hebrew people during their 40 years in the desert often got mixed up. They looked back on Egypt which was their prison as a paradise. They then made the mistake of looking upon their present position as a permanent one, when God was actually moving towards the fulfilment of His promise. What they needed to do was rest in the presence of a God who was leading them to a Promised Land.

Your accommodation might be other than you would wish it. You may have unresolved problems, feel misunderstood, be in the midst of change or a million other things. The only promise Jesus gave us was; “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

God is not an acquaintance or even a friendly neighbour. He’s not just a relative we spend every Christmas with and communicate with on facebook. He is our home address and in a miraculous way, we are His.

Cell questions
1. What is your most recent experience of being aware of God’s presence in your life?

2. What description of a Christian’s relationship with God do you find best describes your own relationship with him? (e.g friendship, father and a child, shepherd and sheep, Master and servant, King and citizen etc)

3. What is the most comforting thing and the most uncomfortable thing about having Jesus living with you?

4. Jesus is not a silent guest in our lives, what has he been saying to you lately?

5. We sometimes have to live with Jesus through difficult circumstances, which at times feel permanent. Pray for anyone in the group or for people who we know are going through difficult times that they may be aware of the promise of Jesus to never leave them or forsake them.

God bless


Thursday, 13 October 2011

We are looking forward to the launch of Pill Corps as a Prayer Beacon on November 11th. Emerging from the 24/7 Prayer Movement, specialist prayer centres known as Boiler Rooms have been set up in numerous places around the world. Boiler Rooms are very experimental and regularly re-invent themselves to explore new territory and structures.
In the UK Sanctuary 21 based in Durham is an exciting example of a Salvation Army Boiler Room.

However there are now established Corps that are sensing a call to focus all the elements of their life and work through the lens of prayer. They are becoming known as Prayer Beacons. The first one in the UK is Banbury Corps. Prayer Beacons seek to apply Boiler Room principles and practices in the context of familiar and recognisable Corps settings, humbly desiring to help others to move deeper into prayer.

Pill Corps has been a praying corps for many years and the transition to a Cell based model of doing mission has strengthened this. You can read more about the Pill Corps' journey towards becoming a Prayer Beacon at

One of the things we were concerned about with adopting the title of Prayer Beacon was that it might conflict with our cell-church principles and practices or that we might find ourselves struggling with two sets of values to work from. The opposite is true. When we put our existing values as a Cell based corps alongside the Prayer Beacon values we found they matched perfectly and both express the DNA of the Salvation Army in a clear and confident way.

In our Sunday gathering and in our cells in the lead up to our launch as a Prayer Beacon we are re-visiting these values and I hope to blog the messages and cell notes as regularly as I can.

God bless


Monday, 3 October 2011


I am reading a book by Henri Nouwen called Creative Ministry. In a chapter on teaching and learning, he refers to the writing of Bernard Longeran who referred to the fact that people often prefer darkness to light and sees how that parallels a physical condition called a scotosis which results in a scotoma, or blindspot.

Henro Nouwen comments how this works out in practice

"Scotosis means long and fierce discussions about justice and equality while we hate out teacher or ignore the needs of our fellow students. Scotosis means endless academic quarrels in a world filled with atrocities amd much talk about hunger by people suffering overweight. Scotosis allows church people to indulge in comfortable discussions about the Kingdom of God while they know that God is with the poor, the sick and the hungry and the dying."

Where do we start to change that? Perhaps it is facing up to the idea that we have been blind to our own blindness.

God bless


Thursday, 29 September 2011

Re-opening the wells

News has reached my ears that a rumour is abroad that the "Old Wells" have run dry since it is July since I put anything new on it.

I actually don't always find blogging an easy thing to do. It's not that I don't have any thoughts or that there is nothing to say. People who know me well say that I always have something to say! It's just that sometimes the things that are uppermost in my mind cannot be shared because of the senstive nature of pastoral ministry. At other times in life there is just so much other stuff going on that there is no time to write about the stuff that is going on. It's has been all of that that has prevented me blogging in August and September.

Anyway I hope to be back regulalry from October and to blog as often as I can with a weekly Cell Group notes, some of the exciting things happening in Pill and hopefully just some general musings about walking with Jesus.

And since now I've started and it feels good to be back, I'd just like to say that today I have been married to Alan Young for 32 years today. How we have managed this is by the grace of God and the fact that we laugh a lot!

A few weeks ago Alan was leading the morning meeting at Pill and introduced the first song, "How great thou art" by very seriously saying, "This is a special song for Carol and I because we had it at out wedding!" to which my response was, "No we didn't!" Obviously the years with me have taken their toll on his little grey memory cells, either that or there is another wife somewhere, that sang this song with him:)

The song we actually sang was "I know thee who thou art" by Albert Orsborn and (now he's remembered) Alan could really say that it is a very special song for us because we also sang it on our Covenant Day before our Commissioning in 1982.

Here's reminder of the words.

I know thee who thou art
And what they healing name
For when my fainting heart
The burden nigh o'ercame
I saw thy footprints on my road
Where lately passed the Son of God

They name is joined with mine
By every human tie
And my new name is thine
A child of God am I;
And never more alone since thou
Art on the road beside me now

Beside thee as I walk
I will delight in thee
In sweet communion talk
Of all thou art to me;
The beauty of thy face behold
And know thy mercies manifold.

Let nothing draw me back
Of turn my heart from thee,
But by the Calvary track
Bring me at last to see
The courts of God, that city fair
And find my name is written there.

God bless


Wednesday, 20 July 2011

The Jewel of holiness: Liberty

"Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty."
(2 Corinthians 3:17)

Here are Alan's notes from our series on another aspect of holiness, spiritual freedom or liberty.
The connection of holiness and liberty or freedom is part of our Salvation Army history. Brengle’s books on holiness were published by the Army as “The Liberty Library”
Pauls words above were written to a people who were falling into a trap of trying to live up to particular standards and meet the expectations of others in order to try and re-establish a right standing with God. It was paralyzing their Christian experience.

Holiness is simply about letting the Spirit of Jesus have His way in our lives. It is not about earning His approval but receiving power and grace from Him to follow Him.
There is great liberty in this.

Walkers on the Christian pathway are called to walk in liberty. Galatians Chap 3 verse 1 says, 'We are called to freedom', and verse 16 of the same chapter tells us to 'walk by the Spirit'.
Lloyd John Ogilvie writes that in his opinion the "truly free people he has met have been the people who have dealt with their past, experienced forgiveness, are not tied to compulsive patterns of behaviour for their own sake and are dependent on the opinions and criticisms of others to dictate their future."
There are however, many Christians who believe in Christ but are halted in their walk with Him because they are uptight. They are still distressed by mistakes made in the past, unsettled by the criticisms of others and as a result that make no progress.
We can deal with this by saying well nobody perfect, why try or we go the other way and say; "I'm going to try hard and I'm going to do my best, live a holy life without blemish."
The outcome is either licence or perfectionism and neither works. Before long both leave us feeling trapped by failure and the future holds little hope.
But this is not life by the Spirit. If we live like this we are living as if Good Friday, Easter Morning and Pentecost never happened.
We were recently at Commissioning and that always brings back memories of our early days starting out as green Lieutenants. One of our treasured pieces of equipment that we relied upon to help us in our ministry was Carol’s imperial typewriter. I have never learned to touch type but even my slow tapping of the keys was better than writing out sermons in longhand. After about 4 years or so we were able to afford to buy an electric typewriter and it was great but it took some getting used to. In fact we still kept that old Imperial typewriter and it took me a while to handle the new machine. It went so fast and it seemed to take over and I couldn’t control it. Your brain somehow seemed to be half a beat behind your fingers.
Then when we got a word processor, we then couldn’t bear to get rid of the old electric typewriter for ages and still used it for a while. But then technology because to move so fast and we got used to embracing change. Some Christians are like that, comfortable in the familiar routine of their good deeds and church going, feeling secure in a system of earning spiritual brownie points. They don’t know how to handle something new.
Paul had to remind the Galatians of this in Galatians Chap 3 verse 3 and the J. B. Phillips translation says; 'Surely you can't be so idiotic as to think that a man begins his spiritual life in the Spirit and then completes it by reverting to outward observances'.
We do not need to walk with the reins of self-improvement hampering us but we can be led along an unknown future pathway with the in-built power of the Spirit directing us, but we must trust him and let Him lead.
It has been said that there are many willing people, those who are willing to work and those who are willing to let them.
1 Corinthians Chap 3 and verse 9 which says; 'we are labourers together with God so we are called to work for Him'. However there is a great error that many Christians fall into and that is to let their work for God become God. The one concern of a worker in God's business is to concentrate on God. Anything else will lead to them becoming burdened by all they have to do and the stressful workers eventually become paralysed workers.
The work will take their time and energy and will instead of being a channel through which God's life is poured it is a road away from His presence. The further we are from God's presence the more we will feel the burden of the responsibility, and the frustration of our inability to achieve what we set out for.
The scandal going on with the News of the World in these days has highlighted an issue that can happen in big organisations. The defence of the bosses’ at the top has been that people lower down the pecking order, when acting both immorally and illegally were acting independently of their management and their knowledge.
The worker for God who loses personal connection with the one they are working for will soon either become puffed up with their own self-importance and then fall flat on their face, or they will become so burdened they will become resentful and complain.
Where there is a constant touch with God there is freedom. There are some kinds of work where the employer is never seen but where the worker is not only required to see and work with the boss but also to live in. Workers for God are of course the second kind. They are required to "live in". Live in the realm of the Spirit. Here there is no sole responsibility on you for the work, only the responsibility of co-operating with God. The initiatives, campaigns and workload will be His.
Although a person can worship on their own they can do it more naturally and effectively with other people in the body of other believers.
The writer to the Hebrews exhorted Christians not to stay away from the services but to help the whole group continually offer up to God the sacrifice of praise that is the tribute of lips, which acknowledge His name.
I am convinced too that we really need the liberty of the Spirit to touch our worship and make us freer. Everyone is different and will want to express worship differently. Some have more extrovert personalities than others do and we must never get to the point where someone is condemned because they prefer to worship in a more conservative or more liberal way than us.
What concerns me is if we long to be more expressive but because of shyness or fear of what others might think, we are inhibited. One of the things that marks a Spirit filled Church is freedom in prayer, testimony and joyful praise.
Worship is a matter of will, whilst fear, embarrassment and shyness are emotions. Psalm 29 says; 'Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness' it doesn't add when you feel like it or when no one can see you.
Many people are ruled by their minds and their emotions and sometimes the stress of that is such that it affects the physical. But God's plan is that man should be ruled by His Spirit that is his Godly part for the Spirit of man relies not on a man's own resources but on God.
It is our will, which chooses which, will rule our life and it is our will, which chooses which, will rule our worship. Our body may be tired; it doesn't feel like praise, our emotions are fearful, our minds distracted by many things but the Spirit says; 'God requires me to worship Him' whether I feel like it or not.

Set my spirit free that I might worship Thee,
Set my spirit free that I might praise Thy name.
Let all bondage go and let deliverance flow,
Set my spirit free to worship Thee.

The Spirit will give us freedom but we choose whether we want it. If we do we will no longer be paralysed but mobile and usable. It will transform our daily walk with God, our work for God and our worship of God. Let’s allow the Spirit touch the paralysed limbs of our spiritual experience and give us liberty.

God bless


Sunday, 17 July 2011

The Jewel of Holiness -Wholeness

There are three aspects of wholeness that I believe are helpful in our understanding of what it means to live a holy life.
1. All encompassing
Holiness is everything that God is. Holy is a word that you can put in front of every aspect of his nature. If we talk about his love, it is holy love, if we talk about his wisdom it is holy wisdom, if we talk about his power, it is holy power and so on. And when we see God’s love, his power, his kindness it is breathtakingly beautiful. This beautiful God said, “You shall be holy unto me for I the Lord am holy."

Jesus, as a human being, perfectly reflected God’s beautiful holiness. When we see him see the Father and we also see what a truly holy life looks life. Most of us have places in our homes where we hide rubbish or unsightly things. In our house they are called glory holes. Jesus lived a life without any “glory holes” Every thought, every deed, every word, everything about him could be said to be holy and his life is a beautiful life.
If we are to be holy as God is holy, then we will need to be like Jesus. True holiness will “beautify” every part of us. There must not be any aspect of our life where we say to God, I don’t want you to put the word holy before it.
So we are to be holy Salvationists but also holy wives and husbands, holy parents, holy neighbours, holy workers, holy friends, holy in our leisure, holy in our study, holy in our goals and aspirations. The theme of Roots 2010 was a good one it was “Wholly holy”
It is the plan of God to invade every area of your life with his beauty. This includes your spirit, your mind, intellect, will and your body.

2. Integration
Wholeness also speaks about something that is truly connected and integrated. If we only outwardly conform to holy living but inwardly we are in rebellion at some point we will fall apart. Some Christians try to live chameleon type lives. They try to merge in with the background they are in. So they are one kind of person at work and another at home or at church. But even if Christians are outwardly consistent but inwardly rebellions they will eventually find the stress of the conflict between the two, too much.
Paul talks about the work of Christ being one of reconciliation. "God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself." (2 Cor 5:17)
To reconcile- literally means to mend what is broken, to put back together again.
It is the work of Christ to pick up the brokenness of our lives and re-integrate us and bring us back to harmony.
3. Free from disease
The Bible likens the nature of sin as being a disease which all men have.
"Sin, like a venomous disease, Infects our vital blood; the only balm is sovereign grace, And the physician, God." - Isaac Watts
The idea that sin is like a disease is found both the Old and New Testaments.
Isaiah 53:4-6
Matthew 9:10-13

The bottom line is that people do not become sinners because they sin. They sin because they aresinners. Well sin is a deeply ingrained problem for mankind. Brengle describes it as “a big dark something in him that wants to get mad when things are against him, something that will not be patient, something that is touchy and sensitive; something that wants to grumble and find fault; something that is proud and shuns the shame of the Cross, something that sometimes suggests hard thoughts against God; something that is self-willed and ugly and sinful.”
The NT calls this big dark something many different things but it is so real that Paul calls it the “old man”
If this dark something is not dealt with, then it leads to death. We know that Christ has stepped in and he has by his shed blood stopped this sin being life threatening but many Christians are of the belief that we will never be really free of “the dark something” in us, this “old nature” this “sin disease” this side of heaven. It will remain in you and war against you till you die. They are not altogether gloomy because they believe that the new life within you from Christ will help to subdue it and repress it.
Some of you here have diabetes, which without insulin would kill you. Modern medicine means that you can live with the disease but it is still a part of you. You have to manage it. At the moment there is no “cure”
But if we apply that spiritually, to me that is less than satisfying. Surely the gospel can go further than offering us sin management. Can we not be cured?
The New Testament seems to offer that possibility.
Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life” and he add, “and have it to the full” (John 10:10)
“If any man is in Christ he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor 5:20)
“You were taught with regard to your former way of life to put off your old self which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:22-24)
1 John 3:9 “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning because he has been born of God.”
The criticism against this view is of course that the Salvation Army teaches that once a person has been sanctified then it is impossible for them to sin. Doesn’t the letter of John also say in chapter 1:8 “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”
Let’s use an illustration. One of the tragic things we saw in Romania was babies with HIV. Many of them had been given blood transfusions of either infected blood or dirty needles and they were infected with HIV. There were then no effective ant-viral drugs and many of the babies we saw died with Aids.
All human beings are infected with a propensity to sin. Untreated and living in the world it is inevitable that they will be sinners. These days, the onset of Aids can be avoided by people with HIV if they have access to anti-viral drugs. It cannot yet be cured.
However for all people who are sinners, the blood of Jesus affects a total cure. Not only does it save them from death, it also rids them of the actual disease within them, if they apply it. They can be free, they can be whole again, they do not have to live with sin-disease any more.
However the virus of evil is still out there, sin is still in the world. The blood of Jesus cleanses us from sin but it does not provide us with an immunity to it. God does not take away our freedom to re-infect ourselves. He does not take away our free will.
It’s a bit like an HIV sufferer having been cleared of HIV choosing to engage in unprotected sex with strangers or taking drugs through a dirty needle.
The difference is now there is a choice. Hopefully I choose not to sin, before I couldn’t do anything else but sin.
We live in a sin contaminated world, we have an enemy who comes against us and tries to make sin attractive to us again. The difference is that if we have dealt with our “old nature” we are now fighting against an intruder from without; not an enemy within.
But we are not left alone in this. When we become Christians the Spirit of God comes to dwell in our hearts. God does not only take something out but places his life and power within. So when we are faced with temptation to let sin back in the Spirit of God within us resists that. The inclination within us now is towards goodness not evil.
There is a new gravitational pull in our lives. Sin used to pull us down, but now the Spirit pulls us up. This is why Paul encourages us in Ephesians 5:18 to be filled with the Spirit.

We believe that it is the privilege of all believers to be wholly sanctified that their whole spirit, soul and body may be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."


God bless


Friday, 15 July 2011

The Jewel of holiness

One of the reasons holiness is so difficult to define is not so much that it is a difficult subject or a complicated one but because it is so multi-faceted. When you look at in in the light of the Holy Spirit it sparkles with an array of colours, each one beautiful in its own way. If you ask one person what is holiness, they might say, “It’s being like Jesus” Another might say, “It’s being empowered by the Spirit.” Another might say, “It’s being set apart for Jesus.” None of those definitions are wrong but they only present one aspect of the truth. If we only talk about holiness in terms of being empowered by the Spirit, we might miss an important truth about purity. If we only talk about being set apart for Jesus, we could think that holiness is only about what we do rather than the transformation that takes through the Holy Spirit to produce a fruitful Christ-like life.

Over the next few days I hope to post some thoughts on different facets of the jewel of holiness based on a recent series we did at Pill Corps. So here is the first,

The words "sanctify," "saint," "hallow," and "holy’ all come from the same reek root hagizo or hagiazo (ha-geed-zo) which are to do with separation. In the Bible sanctification has to do with separation from something and to something.
In our life with God this is seen in at least two ways. It is to do with the nature of relationship we have with God itself and it has to do with what we do with our lives as a result of that relationship.
When two people make their vows at a wedding, we say they enter into the “sanctity” of marriage. We say this because we believe that because God ordained marriage and anything that has God’s stamp of approval upon sets it on a higher level than what mere mortals think is a good idea. But there is a sense in which the couple also sanctify their relationship. One of the things they promise to do is to “forsake all others” There is a separation from all other romantic relationships.

At the same time we know that a marriage is not much of a marriage if all the arrangement is that two people agree not to fall in love with anyone else.

Marriage is more than separating ourselves from other people. Marriage vows go on to state that each party will honour, love and commit to one another in sickness and health, till death us do part.
In the same way, God calls us into a sanctified relationship with himself. He calls upon us to forsake all other gods and to worship only him. The other gods in our lives we know are not just traditional idols but anything to which we give love, above him.

One of the things that we need to establish in our lives is how exclusive our relationship is with God. Although it is possible to have a sanctified relationship with God from the moment of our salvation, many Christians only realise as they start to walk in their new relationship with God, how many idols there have been in their lives and that they need to consciously sever the ties they have with them.

For the new Christian it is their guilt and condemnation that at first occupy their attention and often only later do they see the need for further cleansing. The realisation of this dawns upon many people gradually. Others become aware of it in a moment of revelation by the deep conviction of the Spirit. However the revelation comes, decisive action needs to be taken. Often the biggest revelation that people have, is that the god they most need to remove from their relationship with God is called Self or the Ego.


The second challenge for the believer is that we are called to live a life of separation from the patterns of the world and to follow a pattern of life holiness which has Jesus Christ as the model
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God" (Romans 12:1, 2).

One of the things that has marked out the life of the Duke of Edinburgh, for nearly 60 years is that he has dedicated his life to be of service to the Queen. In doing so he put his own as a naval officer aside and commited himself to being his wife’s consort. Some would see that as a sacrifice, others would tell you that such is his relationship with the queen that it is something he would do gladly and with joy. However judging by the Fiona Bruce interview for his 90th birthday on BBC1 he will not tell you which it is.
Sanctification is about being useful in the service of God. To onlookers this dedication might look like sacrifice as in order to service God , some other pursuits may need to be left behind.

However for the Christian the desire to serve a God whom they love passionately makes it feel like a privilege. Their only concern is whether or not they are fit for purpose.
The truth is that they are not. In the OT objects set aside for worship were said to be sanctified. There were special ceremonies, a process by which they were fit for use. There is a need for them not only to be willing but also for them to be enabled.
Our lack of righteousness is a barrier to a relationship with God. But we know that that is where Jesus offers us hope. His shed blood covers our sin so that when God looks upon us, he looks upon us as if we were clean.

We sing about this in the second verse of the popular song “Before the throne of God above”

Because the sinless Saviour died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the just is satisfied
To look on his and pardon me.”

But how can we really be of service to God has only provided a way for us to be declared righteous but not actually righteous? It would be like declaring someone competent for active service in the military when the reality is that they are unfit, or declaring a car has passed its MOT when its engine doesn’t work.

God has done more than provide a way for us to be declared righteous, when we are not but a way for us to be made righteous. Salvation is a work for us but it is also a work in us.

For true sanctification to be really a mark of a person then there is a need for an inward work of grace to stabalise a wayward heart, to cleanse a contaminated heart and to equip and unfit heart
Here is the promise. "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

he state of entire sanctification is a state of total devotion God. It is brought about by the baptism with the Holy Spirit, which cleanses the heart and fills it with the Holy Spirit who empowers the believer for life and service. Just as we are powerless to save ourselves we are powerless to be as pure and clean as we need to be. The transformation of the heart is the work of the Spirit. How do we obtain the power we need for this transformation? The answer is that our purity is received in the same way as our pardon. It is by grace, through faith.

The result of the act of sanctification is a holy heart. You may make mistakes and do the wrong thing occasionally, you may say the wrong thing at times -but your heart’s intent is only for good. It is pure. It is holy.

God bless


Tuesday, 12 July 2011

God's Messenger: Amos (Pill Corps 10th July)

Sunday Morning message outline (Alan Young)
It was a Golden Age, a prosperous time. The stock market was up, interest rates down and there was a housing boom. Enter Amos, with a message no-body wanted to hear. It was time to measure up. Amos 7:1-9

God would test the people of God to see if they were in line with his purposes What he discovered did not make comfortable reading.

God’s people were living in times not dissimilar to our own in the West. If God did the same thing among us today would the church today come out unscathed by the enquiry?

1. Spiritual Awareness
Officially religions prospered and worship was very polished but rather that being about connecting with God it was really about impressing other people whilst at the same time keeping God sweet. See Amos 4:5

Many celebration services today are planned to make the congregation happy rather than to please God. It is possible to focus on the presentation of the service more than on the presence of God.

Amos response was “Woe to you who are complacent in Zion, and to you who feel secure on Mount Samaria, you notable men of the foremost nation, to whom the people of Israel come!” (Amos 6:1)

The people of Israel at that time also had the mistake idea that background, pedigree and adherence to a religion gave then animmunity to God’s judgement and discipline. Amos challenges that kind of thinking.

2. Lifestyle
People also separated what happened at the religious ceremonies from everyday life.
Judah and Israel had taken on the shape of the culture instead of giving shape to the culture. Amos addresses the issue of greed, promiscuity, excessive drinking, gluttony, enticing young people break their pledges of abstinence, the silencing of criticism and all that is before Amos even starts on social justice and corruption issues. Whenever we take the shape of the culture, our true identity becomes lost. Righteousness is sacrificed, holiness becomes obsolete and passion is extinguished.

3. Social Conscience
Amos is most famous in Scripture for addressing; social conscience. All the time they were at worship at those great shrines, singing their songs they were planning their exploitation of others for their own ends. Amos 8:5
Amos rages against the unfairness he sees in this society.

“They buy and sell upstanding people. People for them are only things- ways of making money. They’d sell a poor man for a pair of shoes. They’d sell their own grandmother! They grind the penniless into the dirt; shove the luckless into the ditch.”
Listen to this you who walk all over the weak, you who treat poor people as less than nothing, Who say, “When’s my next pay check coming so I can go out and live it up?
How long till the week-end when I can f out and have a good time. Who give little and take much and never do an honest day’s work. You exploit the poor, using them and then, when they are use up, you discard them.” (Amos 8:4-6 Message translation)

Wesley Campbell and Steve Court list what they call the 7 Deadly Sins against humanity in the 21st Century.

It is estimated that about 800 million people live in the condition of chronic, persistant hunger and malnutrition. Every 3.6 seconds someone dies of hunger.

Children in chains
100-200 million children are forced to work worldwide, some as slaves and some to support their families.

Children on the streets
One third of the world population is under 15, about 100 million of them are believed to live at least part of the time on the streets. These are lives lived without parental love and guidance, without education and often in the context of sexual abuse.

The Sex Trade
Commercial sexual exploitation has not been defined as terrorism by UNICEF. Millions of children throughout the world are being bought and sold like chattel and used as sex slaves.

Aids and Plagues
Some 3 million children die each year from vaccine preventable diseases. No fewer than two thirds of todays 15 year old boys will die prematurely from Aids. The United Nations expects that 70 million people will die of Aids by 2022.

At the turn of the 20th century 90 percent of war casualties were male soldiers. At the turn of the 21st century 90 percent of war casualties are civilians, the majority of whom are women and children.

While wars killed millions, there are also totalitarian regimes that have kill more of their own citizens. Many of these deaths were based on religious belief. The World Christian Encyclopedia estimates that 45.5 million Christians were martyred in the 20th century.

Issues of social justice are often tagged on if we have time, or spare resources. Amos points out that if we are not willing to deal with social justice issues then our worship means nothing , our religious practice means nothing and our personal walk with God is going nowhere.

It is not enough to bemoan the state to things?
Amos calls for repentance Amos 5:4
Amos engaged in intercession Amos 7:1-3
Amos demands righteousness and justice Amos 5: 24

Cell Questions
In Amos’ day the people failed to connect with God through worship. Why do you think that was? What helps or hinders your connection with God through worship?
“Whenever we take the shape of the culture our true identity becomes lost.” In what ways should a Christian be different from the prevailing culture around them?
What is your reaction to some of the statistics mentioned in the list of 7 Deadly Sins?
What are some of the ways that we can practically participate in the Salvation Army’s calling to “serve suffering humanity?”

God bless


Wednesday, 6 July 2011

God's Messenger: Hosea

Pill Corps: Sunday 3rd July
Sermon Notes (Alan )
I read this about a married couple of whom it was said, “He took his wife for better and for worse and found out that she was far worse than he took her for!”
That could have been written
by the prophet Hosea except that he started married life knowing exactly what kind of woman his future wife was. He had been told by God,
“Go and take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the Lord.” (Ch 1:2)

God often asked the prophets to do some difficult things and God’s instruction to Hosea was not just to marry this woman and it be a marriage in name only; he was to “love her as the Lord loves the Israelites.” (ch 3:1) Hosea was to let Gomer not only into his life but into his heart, knowing that she would probably let him down, hurt him and bring disgrace to his family name.

God wanted to show Hosea that when his people went astray they not only broke his divine laws they broke his heart. God knew when he entered into covenant with them, that He would be faithful but they would go after other gods, despite their promises. Nevertheless he still went ahead such was his love for them.

Our friend Gram Seed often tells of his first reaction to the message that God loved him. “Why would God want to know a scumbag like me?” Gram has never discovered why God loves him, only that He does. The knowledge that God loved him, even when he was stealing, fighting on the football terraces, locked up in a prison cell and sitting in drunken squalor on a bench in the shopping precinct, redeemed him and transformed him.
God has never loved us on the basis of whether we were good enough or deserving. It is Paul who says, “Whilst we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly.”

1. Recognising the Problem
When Hosea considered his own marriage he realised that the basic problem was that Gomer was not really committed to it and Hosea saw that the people of God of his time had the same problem.
He used many pictures to describe them but we’ll look at two from the bakers shop.
a) A heated oven.
They were like a heated oven whose baker ceases to stir the fire, from the kneading of the dough until it is leavened. (ch7:4)
In the time when Hosea lived the oven in the baker’s house would be left to smoulder overnight, retaining some of the heat. In the warm atmosphere the dough would rise enough to be ready for baking. In the morning the oven would be brought back up to full temperature again ready for the days cooking. However if overnight the bread was forgotten the increased heat would cause the bread to burn and be destroyed.
This is how people are sometimes. On the surface things look normal, but underneath they are ready to flare up and destroy what they made. Gomer was like that.
She married Hosea and everything seemed OK but the longings for her old lifestyle flared up and ruined her marriage. Eventually what is in the heart comes out and declares itself.
It was the same with the people of Hosea’s day in their relationship with God.
On the surface they loved and served God, but underneath there was an underlying fire of selfishness that threaten to destroy.
Sin does not go away unless it is put completely out. Otherwise it smoulders and threatens to flare up again and God seems further away than ever.
The good news is that we have the means through Jesus to get rid of the deep underlying passion for selfishness that just will not go out on its own.
b) A half-baked cake.
In Hosea Chapter 7 verse 8 it says that Ephraim (which is part of Israel) is like a flat cake not turned over. The staple diet in the East then was thin flat scones or pancakes. They were baked by being laid on hot stones and then turned over just at the right time. If not done properly they could end up burnt black on one side and underdone and doughy on the other.
Perhaps this was how Gomer was with Hosea. She was uneven in her enthusiasm for marriage. She wanted the security but not the responsibility. It was how the people of Hosea’s day were with their religion. They took up a thing in a fervour of excitement and almost overdid the religious bit on the Sabbath until the joy was burned out of them and then for the rest of the week they underdid it. They failed to bring God into the picture at all.
There can be unevenness in our character when we don’t allow the Holy Spirit to do a thorough work in us and infuse our life with his warmth.

2. Redeeming the wreckage
The underlying half-baked enthusiasm meant a recipe for disaster for Gomer and Hosea’s marriage. When other men came along with their flattering attentions she yielded to them first with unfaithful liaisons and then with a life of open shame, eventually she ended up in the slave market.
In fact Hosea would have been within his rights to have Gomer stoned to death for the crime of adultery. Yet Hosea also felt God prompting him not to doubt in the face of well-meaning friends who say; “You’re well rid of her,” to go and do something absolutely amazing.
Read Hosea Chapter 3 verses 1 – 3
Gomer had got to the stage where she had sold herself into slavery in order to stay alive, but the only person who had any real claim on her was her husband.
He didn’t have to do it because she belonged to him anyway, but Hosea went and bought Gomer. He paid again for what was already his.
We wonder at the forbearance of Hosea – but Hosea wants to show that if that is how HE acted then how much more is the graciousness of God in the light of His people’s unfaithfulness.
And that is the story of our own redemption. God has a claim on us because He is our creator, yet He pays the price for our freedom, even though we are already His by right.
Through the light of the New Testament we see that God’s love is even greater than Hosea had imagined. For God was willing to buy us back from the slavery of sin, not with a few pence but with the life of His own Son.

3. Restoring the partnership
Hosea has Gomer back with him physically. She has been bought and paid for but Hosea knows she is not really his until she wants to be with his willingly. David Dalziel writes that; ‘Materially it was easy to buy Gomer back. A few coins, a couple of sacks of barley and she was like any other slave, but rebuilding the relationship was another matter entirely.’
Anyone who has dealt with a rebellious child, a betrayal of friendship or who like Hosea has known the pain of their partner being unfaithful - they will know something of his dilemma. However much we love them we cannot force the return of our love. The only power we have is to go on loving despite everything.
After getting her out of the slave market Hosea wisely leaves Gomer alone.
The Good News translation of Hosea 3:3 give us a clearer idea of Hosea’s attitude. “I told her that for a long time she would have to wait for me without committing adultery; and during this time I would wait for her.”
Hosea does not force himself on Gomer. His love is different than the cheap excuse for it found in the market place. What she has done, however she has behaved, her feelings still counted for something and Hosea respects them. Such love, such respect comes from God. It is the kind of attitude that God shows towards us.
When we reject Him, however much He longs for us, God does not force Himself on us. God has the power to make us do anything, but He will not force us to love Him.

4. Releasing the blessing
If she would return to her God then Israel would really benefit. If Israel would return to God. Hosea Chap 14 verse 5b GNB promises, “they will blossom like flowers; they will be firmly rooted like the trees of Lebanon. They will be alive with new growth and beautiful like olive-trees.”

This is not a promise just for the past but a promise God makes to all of us today. If we return to God He will make something of us. I for one want Him to do that for me because I make a pretty bad job of it on my own. But not only does our redemption release promise for self-improvement. Hosea gives us a picture of how God’s love releases blessing through us.

The one God loves will be a blessing to others. Hosea continues to describe this in terms of trees. He speaks of a tree’s scent and its shade. These are both things that do not benefit the tree itself. They are a benefit to others who are close to the tree. Both things make life for other people more pleasant.
If you have worked outside in the heat when there was no shade around, you know what I’m talking about. One result of God’s freely expressed love in your life is that you will be pleasant for other people to be around. I believe this is what is described as the beauty of holiness. When a person is in a right relationship with God and he is experiencing God’s love - that love overflows into other relationships.
I suppose this message is a very simple one. We might say it is primary school teaching. But perhaps it is not such a bad thing to re-state obvious and simple truths. We will never outgrow our need for God’s unconditional love or His grace. The more He makes of us, the more we realise that we are nothing without his grace.

God bless


Monday, 27 June 2011


Yesterday Alan preached on Acts 12 (see yesterday's blog for the notes) and spoke about the church in Jerusalem intensifying prayer during a time of crisis. One leader had been executed and another was about to be. Persecution was on the rise and at the same time there were hundreds of new converts to disciple so they had plenty on their plate.

Well we have to admit at Pill that we do not have a similar crisis. For the most part, apart from an arson attack last year by one individual, we are accepted and supported by our community. From time to time, like all corps we have pastoral issues to deal with and organisational difficulties to overcome but at the moment (and perhaps I shouldn't speak too soon) there aren't too many bombs exploding in our midst. We are pleased at the spiritual progress we see among our people and the spirit of prayer that continues to grow. So what crisis do we have?

It was this quote from Pastor Ivan Casteel that hit home to me
"Anytime a church is not experiencing souls being saved on a regular basis should be considered a crisis time.”

On that basis we are in crisis. Despite our evangelistic efforts and all the praying that is going on we still await a breakthrough in the making of new disciples. The easy response to this is to "count our chickens" and be grateful that we do not have in fighting and no support but if we are truly the Salvation Army then can we ever be satisfied when people are not saved?
It is not about number crunching but it is about caring about the fact that the majority of our community do not know Jesus and are heading to eternity without him. It should bother us intensly.

Let every heart on the object be set
Lord give us souls, Lord give us souls
Help us to pray till the answer we get
Lord give us souls, Lord give us souls
Give us the faith that will not let thee go
Faith that says yes, though the devil says no
Lord thy salvation in this meeting show
Lord give us souls, Lord give us souls.

God bless


Sunday, 26 June 2011

Night and Day (Sermon and Cell Notes)

From his admission that he didn’t have silver and gold to give a beggar we know that Peter did not have a lot in terms of material possessions but there were some things that he possessed that he could count on night and day, week in week out, whether life was tough or a little easier.
Peter wrote that what he possessed in Christ was an inheritance that can never perish spoil or fade.” (1 Peter 1:4)
Acts 12:1-19 reveals some of the things Peter possessed that we see in this story.

1. The Peace of God
Peter seems to have been able to sleep peacefully in a very uncomfortable place. When Peter wrote in 1 Peter 5:7 that we should, “Cast all your anxiety on him (that is Jesus) because he cares for you.” I have no doubt that he was speaking from his own experience. Otherwise how is it that faced with a trial the next day, which could end up with his execution could sleep?
Those three words, “Peter was sleeping” in v 6 are a great encouragement to me because they show how it is possible for a man to become more and more like Jesus. There was a time when under threat from soldiers, Peter had attacked them with a sword, there was a time when he tried to protect himself with words of denial, there was a time when fear of drowning made him question the quality of Jesus’s care for him and his friends. But now faced with death, just like Jesus slept in the boat Peter can sleep in peace in the midst of a storm of persecution.
When someone dies, they often leave a legacy. The legacy Jesus left his followers is found in John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
Peace is our legacy too. It is Paul who shows us what we should do to receive the peace we have been promised. Philippians 4:4-7 “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

2. Praying friends
Whilst Peter slept peacefully his friends were up all night praying.

a) They prayed together
They could no doubt have prayed as individuals about the situation in the privacy of their own homes but there is something powerful that happens when Christians get together to pray. That is why for our next Pray for a Day by praying we will be scheduling more corporate sessions of prayer as well as giving people space to pray individually.

b) They prayed earnestly
The word used for earnestly (v5) is the same word used for the way Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemene. It contains the idea of something stretched out to the limits, like a muscle would be during intensive training in the gym. They weren’t repeating platitudes they were out to win a battle for the continuance and existence of their church. They were praying until they got answers.

They were urgent because they recognised the seriousness of their situation. They were in a crisis situation. I read a pastor’s comment on this story on the internet which challenged me.
“We have an example in this text of the local N.T. Church in Jerusalem in prayer during a time of crisis in their church. And we can see also in this text that their prayer was miraculously answered. Anytime a church is not experiencing souls being saved on a regular basis should be considered a crisis time.”

Honesty, leads me to admit that on that basis we have a crisis.

c) They prayed specifically
The church was earnestly praying for Peter. They concentrated on the matter that was on their minds. In other words rather than praying; “Lord bless all the sick we need to pray for and all those people we know who are ill,” The Church in Jerusalem didn’t pray; “Lord be with all who are in prison tonight,” they prayed for Peter who was in prison.

3. The Plan and Purpose of God
Peter had seen the crucifixion transformed into resurrection. He had seen the Church’s most ardent opponent, Saul turn to Christ and become a passionate believer. He had seen the Jerusalem Church struggling under persecution not only survive but spread into Samaria and far beyond so he knew God had a plan.
Personally, perhaps he remembered the promise of Jesus that when he was old, he would have to be guided by others. Peter wasn’t yet that old. If he believed the promise of Jesus then he could be assured that God had something other in mind for him than his death the next day.
But trust must always be accompanied by obedience. Peter was given instructions by the angel which he had to obey and whilst the angel kept the soldiers asleep and opened iron doors, Peter had to get up and walk in order to get out. This is a picture of what needs to happen to us all when we find Satan wants to prevent us from fulfilling the ministry to which the Holy Spirit has called us. We must like Peter do the things He asks of us in order to be free. God so often opens doors for us which we fail to go through.

This was not the first time Peter had escaped from prison. In Acts 5:18 – 20 he had been with the other apostles and an angel had let them out with the instruction to go back to the Temple and continue preaching. However just because God had repeated a miracle Peter did not assume that he should immediately go back into the public eye as he had done before.
It is very important that we do not try to relive past experience. God very often wants to do a new thing in a new day.

Also we must leave our vindication to God as well as our survival. Peter may have relished the thought of showing up Herod but this time the right thing to do was to go in hiding for a period. Had Peter been impetuous, as in the old days, he could have triggered the wholesale slaughter of Christians. As it happened God dealt with Herod Himself, once and for all. Peter didn’t have to engineer anything.

Peter was Peter and there will never be another one like him.
We may find ourselves in vastly different circumstances to him, yet the wonderful truth is that we can possess what he possessed. The peace of God that passes all understanding is our inheritance too. It is found through powerful prayer, through trusting in God’s plans and not our own and it is being prepared to obey.

Cell Questions
1. What strikes you about the story?
2. What is your experience of the peace of God?
3. How much of a worrier are you? What do you worry about the most?
4. What is your reaction to the pastor’s statement that if we are not seeing people coming to faith regularly there is a crisis and we should be praying earnestly in response?
5. Who do we need to pray more intensely for at this time, in terms of them coming to faith in Christ?
6. Peter’s trust in God was accompanied by a willingness to obey him when God’s plans seemed to be following a different pattern. What assumptions do we make about how we should act when God has moved powerfully in our lives? What are the new things God is calling us to today?

God bless


Thursday, 23 June 2011

Thursdays in Black

Thursdays in Black is an international compaign uniting people who believe in the fundamental importance of respecting all human life without discrimination. It was started by the World Council of Churches during the 1980's as a peaceful protest against rape and violence, the by products of war and conflict. It is supported by Christian Aid.

Women do two-thirds of the world's work and get paid less than 10 per cent of its income. More than half of women in the world over the age of 15 cannot read or write and violence causes more death and disability worldwide among women aged 15 to 44 than war, cancer, malaria or traffic accidents.

I will be wearing my black T Shirt today which says:

I will be wearing black today in silent protest and in solidarity with women facing rape, abuse, torture violence. SHOW YOU CARE! as women have a right to be safe and free.

God bless


Wednesday, 22 June 2011

I have decided to post our Sunday morning messages on the blog so that Cell Members who are online can have the notes prior to their cell meetings.

Sunday 19th June
One Day Acts 3:1-4:4

Life in the Spirit means any day can be a day for a miracle
The day started out as routine, Peter and John were on the way to prayers at the Temple and the lame man was on his way to his begging station. But when Peter and John and the lame man met, the disciples abandoned the prayer meeting and the lame man gave up begging forever!
What turned this routine day into a day of miracles? It was the fact that the disciples had begun living a life in the Spirit and life in the Spirit means any day can be a day of miracles.
The lame man had been coming to the Temple for years where God was believed to dwell but nothing changed year in year out. The best the people coming to the temple could do was to give a few coins to ease their consciences as they passed by.
Peter and John confidently offered the man much more.

Their assurance of the presence of Christ and of their position in Christ meant they could act with authority that Christ had assured them he had given them. (see Matthew 28:18-19)
And if we are filled with the Spirit and know the presence of Jesus and our position in him then we too need to recognise that we have all the authority to build God’s Kingdom and to complete the mission that He sent us on!

Life in the Spirit means any day can be a day we are called upon to share our faith
Peter and John were not setting out to do a bit of evangelism, they were just going to pray but when an opportunity arose to share their faith they took it.
Once again Peter is put in the position of explaining something that was already happening to a crowd that had come to see what was going on. I wonder sometimes if this is the problem in the church today. We ask a crowd to come so that something will happen, whilst perhaps if something powerful and life-changing was happening among us, we might have less trouble getting a crowd.

Not many of us have been lame and then healed but if we have had our lives transformed by Jesus then it should show and we will need to explain what makes the difference. Peter acknowledged the healing was down to Jesus. What happened to the man can only be explained by referring to Jesus.
What about you and me? Does it take Jesus to explain the reason we are the kind of people we are? We often come across people who are insecure, or aggressive or ambitious and we try to explain their attitudes and behaviour. Some will say “They are like that because of nature. They belong to this or that family. It must be in their genes. “ Other’s will say that they behave a certain way because of an event or a circumstance which the person is attempting to compensate for. All this may be true but a life of holiness is explained by one thing. Jesus.

Life in the Spirit means any day can be a day we meet opposition
Alan and I had a conversation earlier this week. We do talk to each other sometimes!
“Look at the weather today, says Alan. “It’s horrible, yesterday it was lovely!” And I said, “I can’t believe you. You are nearly 52 years old and you have lived in this country all your life and you are still surprised that the weather can change from one day to the next!
We live in a changeable climate, we should get used to it. There are just some things in life that we should expect.
When God moves there is always opposition. And that is certainly what happened one day in Jerusalem when a lame man got healed.
In the Western world, Christians rarely face persecution to the levels we see in other parts of the world. That does not mean we haven’t been opposed. Satan instead has used other tactics. He has attacked the western church with worldliness, selfish pride leading to compromise in an attempt to gain status and acceptance in the world.
It is a very successful tactic. A martyr can impress unbelievers with his courage and faith; the self-centered, compromising Christian thinks he will win the world by being like the world only to find that the world despises him for his spinelessness.
I have a conviction that complaining about our lost Christian heritage to the world will not be remotely as effective as repenting of our sin and weakness before God.
And having done that whatever the cost, we will speak up for Jesus.
Having successfully arrested the two disciples the authorirites were unable to arrest the influence of the gospel. The number of Christians just kept increasing.

One day.
What a day it was; miracles, crowds, evangelistic results, and preachers in jail. We don’t have many days like that these days but you know I believe that we could if we lived more in tune with the Spirit of God.
When we truly live in the Spirit, any day can be a day for a miracle. When we truly live in the Spirit any day can be a day to speak for Jesus. When we truly live in the Spirit any day can be a day when we might have to sacrifice our own comfort for the sake of the gospel. When we truly live in the Spirit any day can be a day when people accept Jesus as their Saviour.

God bless


Sunday, 5 June 2011

Praying longer than the party

It's 2.30am. I'm in the middle of a night of prayer and it is very quiet now. Until 2.00am our neighbours at the hall were having a party.

My plan for the first part of the night was to soak in pray in the tranquility of our prayer room but the music just got louder and louder until in the end I lay down in the corridor with a pillow over my head to drown out the noise. I must admit to thinking this is pointless, I might be better going home to bed but something in my head said, "Surely you can pray longer than they can party?" So I kept going and in ten minutes their music stopped and mine continued and me and the Lord had a party of our own! And I am blessed and I hope he is too! Sometimes you just have to push on through the noise.

Now back to work. Time to pray for some souls!

God bless


Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Win the world through prayer

I don't think there is a day that goes by at Pill Corps, where one group or another are not getting together and praying.
In this last week we have been on our knees for all the requests that have come in from the UKT and we have poured out our prayers for the Salvation Army mission in Papua New Guinea and Kuwait. We have delighted in the fact that we are not just praying for the mission of other people but we are fully engaged in bringing the gospel to our own community to a wide range of age groups.
The quote of the week from one Mum last week has to be, "Jesus died for me, so what! I didn't know the bloke. Why should I care?" We think its great we are even having those sort of conversations.

It was against the backdrop of news of fellows salvationists and our own endeavours to share the gospel in our community that I read this quote from William Booth, speaking about the Christian Mission in 1876
"We are more and more struck as time passes us with the extreme difficulty of the task we have in hand. Thousands upon thousands listen to the Mission every day in the open air. Multitudes of these are impressed even to tears, and yet it is positively terrible to reflect how few after all, of those who have been accustomed to neglect the house of God are really gained to our certain knowledge for Christ every year. While in no wise disposed to discouragement, we feel very deeply the need for increased prayer, power, effort and labouroers, that larger, very much larger results may be realised"

(William Booth "Christian Mission Work, The Month, Christian Mission Magazine Vlll 1876 quoted in A New People of God - A Study in Salvationism by John R Rhemick)

The Christian Mission has not got any easier and in the west, at least we are not even seeing the results that William Booth felt were so meagre. However, like him we are not disposed to discouragement but feel very deeply the need for increased prayer.

How about you?

God bless


Thursday, 5 May 2011

Messy Church

Pill Corps is among the 400+ churches in the UK who now run Messy Church. I don't want to go into the dynamics of what Messy Church is other than to say that it involves craft, worship, the Bible, prayer and food. We run Messy Church once a month on a Sunday afternoon and in the three months we have been going we have seen at least 8 new families sharing worship with us. One of the best things has been the way it has developed a friendship with a Mum, who has moved to our village from India and is a Muslim. How great is it that we made an Easter garden together, which included a cross and an empty tomb and I had the joy of explaining to her what it all meant?

But I think our corps is messy anyway, regardless of whether we are joining in this latest outreach opportunity, labled Messy Church. Our youth group is messy, not just because they have a tendency to leave crisp packets and sweet wrappers all over the floor but because these unchurched kids are chaotic. They are loud, stroppy and are forever falling out with one another. Yet at the same time they are so, so vulnerable and insecure. I worry about the danger of one of them ending up as a teenage mum, whether one will be able to resist the lure of spiritualism and the anger issues of another are scary. We attempt to introduce them to Jesus and now and then we know that they sense his presence. We keep praying that the Holy Spirit who hovered over the chaos at creation will envelop them and bring each of them new life in Christ.

Sometimes I get up in the morning and I imagine what it must be like to know what the day ahead will bring. Wouldn't it be nice to have a tick the box kind of life, where a task could be started and finished and moved on from?

But for me, officership and ministry isn't like that. A phone call from someone I did prayer ministry with years ago reveals again the necessity of discerning the difference between spiritual oppression and mental illness. And I find myself telling her the same things over and over again. Why do good ideas for meetings come not in the planned prep time but on Saturday, right in the middle of Dr Who? A promise to pray for someone can turn into me nervously giving that person a challenging prophetic word, hoping that they will accept it graciously. When someone comes to faith, another is filled with the Spirit or a corps becomes excited about prayer, it's not just a result, it's another new unpredictable adventure.

Wouldn't it be nice to have a tick the box kind of life, where a task could be started and finished and moved on from?

As they say in Yorkshire, "Would it heck as like!"

No. Give me messy any day of the week.

God bless