Search This Blog

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

The trap of manipulative worship

When does worship become theatre? And when does the Holy Spirit become a smokescreen for pure emotional manipulation?

As someone who has led services and meetings before, I can understand how meeting plans are put together. Sensitive and deliberate song selections, placed specifically to follow a sermon or thoughtful moment, songs and atmosphere to enhance prayer times...and of course the dreaded altar call...

What is true worship?
So I've recently been reflecting on true worship... and where exactly do we draw the line between genuine Spirit led worship and emotional manipulation... and I don't think I have the answer.

Sermons themselves could be seen as manipulation...after all they are written and preached in order to get a response... whether that's encouraging Spiritual growth, participation in the service, encouraging the congregation to stay faithful, or to evangelize, or even just to encourage and inspire... whatever its purpose, is the fact that a sermon is trying to elicit a response and deliberately works towards that aim in itself manipulation?

Every part of a worship service is included or intended for a reason...or perhaps I'm being just a little bit cynical...but think about it; even a noble and righteous purpose like bringing others to faith is, in its own way manipulative when we use strategies and tactics to achieve this goal...

So should worship just be a personal thing? Just ourselves and God, no music, no sermon, no multimedia etc?

That sounds a bit puritanical and dare I say it boring for my liking... the problem, if you're anything like me; is that we're all human and actually all those things above help make worship accessible and help us reach and connect with God...a powerful sermon designed to inspire and encourage can (believe it or not) be inspiring and encouraging; reflective and sensitively placed music can enhance prayer times and of course even that dreaded altar call can, and often does draw people closer to God and reinforce our commitment and focus on God.

Just for entertainment?
Sowhat's the difference between all the different aspects of worship and dramatic music in a movie? We all I'm sure, are aware of the effect music can have in a movie...think of the greatest theme tunes... I'm thinking Jurassic park, Star Wars, Indiana Jones (ok so everything by John Williams) but how many other films use music...well probably somewhere around the 100% mark; dramatic moments, scary moments, heroic moments and so on are all enhanced by back to that question again what's the difference?

Getting the motivation right
Well, in my opinion, it's the motivation that makes the difference, and the source of our desires and reasoning for trying to achieve a response.

If our hearts and desires are in sync with God, then our actions must follow on. Worship is put together in a certain way to help us all connect and meet with God easier. The motivation is (or at least should be) to worship and honour God above all. In movies or secular entertainment the motivation is to entertain for the sake of entertainment and of course to make money... now I'm not saying that in Church we don't sometimes cross that line...I think it would be naive to think we always get it right; sometimes I'm sure worship leaders pick their favourite songs for the sake of it, or try to elicit a response for the sake of it, maybe even for the sake of their own egos or to push the boundaries or any other number of false motivations because of course, like all of us they are human...

So I suppose this is the challenge of today's post: to work hard and pray hard to ensure that our worship is and remains God centred and focused at all times... this includes both leaders and those of us in the congregation... both have to take responsibility and action to stay connected to God, to make our worship genuine and not just going through the motions...

Wrong worship
For some food for thought here's a funny but thought provoking​ video that was recently shown to me during a leadership training weekend: 'Wrong worship'

Including hits like: 'I will sing of your love on Sundays', 'I surrender some', 'Saviour, I don't need a savior'. 

As I said at the start, I'm not really sure of the answer, or where the line is... the only thing I'm sure of is the need to guard against false worship and promote true and God centred worship...
All your churches and experiences will be different, any thoughts you have please comment below or on the Facebook page by clicking here:

I would love to hear your feedback and comments on this blog, and of course feel free to sign up with your email address to avoid missing new posts (if viewing on a mobile device you may need to click on 'view web version')

Please like and share the Facebook page:

Take a look at Inspired by Faith on Twitter: (@InspiredFaith88):

Disclaimer: the opinions and comments expressed in this blog are personal and do not necessarily represent the views and policies of the Salvation Army

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Diary of a grumpy night shift working Christian

So once again I find myself on the night shift at work...and once again life seems to stop and the world passes me by...

The struggle
At the time of writing it's about 3pm I've not long got up... I've eaten too much and I'm watching rubbish daytime TV.... for the rest of the TV/dinner....then rinse and repeat for 7 days...

Night shift week always goes super quick, I don't have the will or the energy to be sociable or do anything much... I'm generally a little bit grumpy and not the easiest person to be around.

So where does this leave my Spiritual walk and life? Well like the rest of my life it feels like it's on a break. It takes a real effort to do anything other than vegetate in front of the TV...I almost feel like I've locked myself away for a week.

God isn't going anywhere!
What I'm reflecting on while I'm sat here though, is that God doesn't lock  Himself away...when I'm grumpy and grouchy God hasn't abandoned me or decided to avoid me... if anything it's the other way grouchiness doesn't stop God caring about me.

The only way I generally manage to stay in touch with people is on Facebook (speaking of which don't forget to like and share the Facebook page by clicking here) and as we all know that isn't the best way to build and maintain genuine relationships... Facebook is definitely no substitute for a real conversation...and that's the important thing...God obviously accepts and loves me despite my grumpy old self and tired, worn out night shift working self...I can talk to God when I'm feeling like this, I can even give God the occasional thought and remember Him occasionally in my grumpiness, but if I'm honest I know God doesn't want what's left of my time and some half hearted grumpy conversation...He wants my best. The best of my time, the best of my energy and the best of who I am.

God wants our best
I'm sure I'm not the only shift worker out there. This is an important message for anyone who struggles balancing shift work and life with faith and actually for anyone with busy lives who faces the same struggle to balance everything they've got going on..God needs to come first, He needs, wants and deserves the very best of who we are, our gifts, talents, time, energy etc.

All that being said...we are only human, there are going to be times when we don't feel our best, when we're tired and not the best of company, times when it's a struggle to get out of bed and actually do anything productive, and times when life is just passing us by. We're not always going to be the life and soul of the party...and actually that's ok...but don't make it a habit...if you're not careful life will really pass you by, you'll find yourself slipping away from people, even from God... although don't forget forget that although people might drift away from you...God won't...

For those stuck with a grumpy, grouchy night shift worker...please remember that shift workers need love too... don't forget us, and show us the little bit of grace we need and above all... don't let us get away with disappearing and letting life pass us by.

In every area of life, whatever it is that saps your energy and drains you, don't forget that God loves you, always and completely, He is patient with you, He will accept you and your prayers even when life is grinding you down, He hear you, love you, walk beside you, and lift you up...but that isn't an excuse to let life pass you by and not to do everything you can to give God the absolute best of who you are... because who you are is an amazing person. You have been created, developed, and equipped to continue to be an amazing person, you are someone who is absolutely loved by God, someone He is desperate to have a genuine and deep relationship with. You're His best friend, His favourite child... don't ever forget how amazing you are, don't let life pass you by stay close to God and always give Him the very best you can...even if the best at the time is a grumpy, grouchy night shift worker like me.

I would love to hear your feedback and comments on this blog, and of course feel free to sign up with your email address to avoid missing new posts (if viewing on a mobile device you may need to click on 'view web version')

Please like and share the Facebook page:

Take a look at Inspired by Faith on Twitter: (@InspiredFaith88):

Disclaimer: the opinions and comments expressed in this blog are personal and do not necessarily represent the views and policies of the Salvation Army

Monday, 4 June 2018

How to build Spiritual muscle... the old fashioned way

Today's post is about strength, courage, determination and above all hard work...all things that are a bit out of favour with today's 'quick fix' fascination. But all of which are vital if you want to build strong spiritual muscles that will help you navigate and thrive and keep you moving forward through the hostile and often difficult journey of faith and life.

This is a personal message to myself... I hope others find encouragement and inspiration through it...but really this is me telling myself off and giving myself a kick up the backside, not letting myself give up and ordering myself to put in the hard work and effort it will take for me to be the very best version of myself I can be. Not because of my own ambition but because I believe that God has given all of us the skills and talents to fulfill our potential and occasionally I need to be reminded of this...and inspired to put these skills to work.

Why we need to build spiritual muscle
The Spiritual life is an amazing and truly worthwhile journey...but it was never meant to be means being vulnerable, exposed, opening ourselves to ridicule and sometimes takes a strong foundation in Christ, resilience, hope and bucket loads of determination and focus.

If you want to see a great example of physical strength...I would really recommend watching the 'Worlds strongest man' competition. If you've never seen it then basically it's a competition in which contestants have to compete in some ridiculously difficult events lifting cars, huge boulders, pulling get the idea...

These are some big guys and I don't think I've ever watched it and thought..."I could do that"
Those athletes have not become that strong has taken each of them hard work, patience, pain, determination, struggle, injuries and pain to get where they wanted to be...

Now of course it's important to note that we are not talking about physical strength...but the principle is the same... the Spiritual life of a Christian can be difficult, lonely and can grind you down if you let it... people won't always understand, you'll probably be ridiculed and dismissed...of course we serve a God who is much bigger and greater than all of that...but we have to learn to tap into His strength, listen to His voice and find comfort in His heart...

This isn't a natural response... we're human and fallible and desperate to do everything by ourselves and in our own strength.... building Spiritual muscle is training yourself to respond face everything with instinctively turn to Him not just when things are tough but all the walk in harmony with Him through your whole life... like a tree planted by a river (Psalm 1:1-3) constantly fed and empowered...

How we build Spiritual muscle
When I think of training or growing as a Christian I always think of Psalm 144:

"Praise be to the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle. He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me." (Psalm 144:1,2)

This always helps me to remember that our God TRAINS us for war... he isn't a magician who snaps His fingers and does everything for us... He's the God who wants us to grow and develop into the best versions of ourselves that we can be...of course God can instantly give us what we need and strengthen us and empower us in the moment...but most of the time it takes patience and hard work to develop ourselves... it's not a destination but an ongoing process of learning and growth that lasts our entire lives and beyond.

Most of my heroes are people that have spent time in the wilderness, that are human and imperfect but determined to be better and then they are or were... it's this determination, the never giving up, whatever they've faced that makes me admire them so much... sometimes life sucks... sometimes we want to run away and give up... this is where our spiritual muscles (or lack of) will show...

Like a bodybuilder or athlete.... building our Spiritual muscles is going to take time, and hard work... it's going to take us getting knocked down and hurt, bruised and battered...but you become stronger when you keep getting become stronger when you become closer to become stronger when you learn to instinctively trust in the God who is greater than anything and everything you're going to face...

It's important not to get impatient or frustrated...of course ambition in itself is not a dirty word...when it's focused on God's heart and God's will it gives us the drive to keep getting better... that being said, don't force it, build the foundation on Christ, on the word of God, the Spirit of God and the heart of God, work with those who inspire you, be willing to take a hit, to fall and to fail and above all to keep getting up...but it will take time and effort...but if you're feeling discouraged don't forget that well known wise man you learnt about in Sunday school all those years ago who built his house upon the rock...and what happened to the other guy...

I would love to hear your feedback and comments on this blog, and of course feel free to sign up with your email address to avoid missing new posts (if viewing on a mobile device you may need to click on 'view web version')

Please like and share the Facebook page:

Take a look at Inspired by Faith on Twitter: (@InspiredFaith88):

Disclaimer: the opinions and comments expressed in this blog are personal and do not necessarily represent the views and policies of the Salvation Army

Friday, 1 June 2018

Salvationists Assemble!!!

"There was an idea, Booth knew this, called the Salvation Army Initiative The idea was to bring together a group of remarkable people, see if they could become something more. See if they could work together when we needed them to to fight the battles we never could."

- Nick Fury (outrageously ripped off and paraphrased)

Before we get started I'll admit that this is probably the cheesiest post I've written...but I think it's an important message so I hope you'll stick with me.

The Heroes the world needs:

Maybe you're already humming The Avengers Theme tune ...and hopefully you'll forgive the shamelessly ripped off and plagiarised quote from Nick Fury...but this really was the idea behind the Salvation be an organisation of heroes, faithful champions who would storm the forts of darkness and fight against hate, injustice, homelessness, social inequality, faithlessness, and hopelessness.

Or to put it in the Army's founder, William Booth's own words, in his famous 'Vision of the Lost':

"Does the surging sea look dark and dangerous? Unquestionably it is so. There is no doubt that the leap for you, as for everyone who takes it, means difficulty and scorn and suffering. For you it may mean more than this. It may mean death. He who 
beckons you from the sea however, knows what it will mean - and knowing, He still 
calls to you and bids to you to come.

You must do it! You cannot hold back. You have enjoyed yourself in Christianity 
long enough. You have had pleasant feelings, pleasant songs, pleasant meetings, 
pleasant prospects. There has been much of human happiness, much clapping of 
hands and shouting of praises - very much of heaven on earth.

Now then, go to God and tell Him you are prepared as much as necessary to turn your 
back upon it all, and that you are willing to spend the rest of your days struggling in 
the midst of these perishing multitudes, whatever it may cost you.

You must do it. With the light that is now broken in upon your mind and the call that 
is now sounding in your ears, and the beckoning hands that are now before your eyes, 
you have no alternative. To go down among the perishing crowds is your duty. Your 
happiness from now on will consist in sharing their misery, your ease in sharing their pain, your crown in helping them to bear their cross, and your heaven in going into the very jaws of hell to rescue them."

Click Here for a shortened but dramatic reading of this vision for the lost and the mission of Salvation Army and wider Church.

What it means to be a Salvationist:

This is what I believe it means to be a Salvationist and of course a Christian from any denomination...we are called to take a stand against injustice, hatred and all the other things I listed above...

Check out this post from the archives about what I believe the role and importance of the Salvation Army Soldier truly is (including Officers, Adherents and members)
No Soldier left behind

The days of sitting back and avoiding conflicts are gone...the world needs us. Just as in William Booth's day, the needs of our fellow man are crying out to us. We must decide how we will respond...right wing hate groups seem to be everywhere as is 'casual' racism, Brexit is dividing communities, terrorism haunts our steps, gun crime seems to be on the rise, and our politicians and leaders appear to be only interested in themselves and not the common good...if we're looking for examples of heroes and champions...they won't be found wonder we seem obsessed with superhero movies at the moment...we seem sadly lacking in real world heroes.

That's where we come in...we are called and empowered to be beacons and lighthouses in the storms of this world, guiding people to God as is the entire Church of course.

But...and this is a big'll never find an active lighthouse in the middle of a field, miles from the ocean... because that's not where they're needed... that's surely what Booth's vision is all about... meeting the needs around us where THEY are, instead of where WE are and where WE are comfortable.

Sometimes being a hero and fighting against all the things that we are called to fight against; means stepping out, being unpopular, leaving our own comfort zones, and taking the fight far behind enemy lines...we spend so much time and energy as a Church trying to attract people into our buildings and events... when really we should be putting this effort into inspiring and encouraging those within our congregations to get out of our buildings and out into the streets where the battlefield really is... otherwise we're just lighthouses in a field, giving light to each other...which for the record is definitely not a bad thing... it's important and necessary to build each other up and be beacons for each other, keeping ourselves on track, on task, on the right path and of course in the light... but that's not where our mission should end!

As C.T. Studd put it:
"Some want to live within the sound
Of church or chapel bell;
I want to run a rescue shop,
Within a yard of hell."

Developing the hero inside:

So my advice and encouragement for those interested, is to build yourselves, strengthen yourselves, trust and believe in God. Do what you need to do to reach your potential... heroes are not built overnight...Iron man spent years perfecting his armour, Captain America spent years building his character, determination and integrity before the super soldier serum gave him his physical powers, Thor had to experience life without his powers to discover who he really was and could become, Hulk had to learn to embrace his powers and potential to become more than a mindless beast... and the list goes on...every hero took time and effort to really reach their full potential and become true heroes.

But of course they didn't then spend their time congratulating each other and resting on their laurels (ok... Tony Stark/Iron man probably spent a while congratulating himself) they got to work, they fought the battles ordinary people couldn't, they stepped out and stepped up...they joined the battle where they were needed and despite sometimes having feelings of inadequacy or fear they didn't let anything stop them being who they had to be and doing what they had to do... the same goes for those early Salvation Army and women who gave up everything to serve God and man and fight for those around them who cried out for help... and the same goes for us today following in their spend that time and effort to reach your potential, become the hero you need to be; it is time well spent but don't stop there... get to work and be the hero this world needs you to be... and needs us all to be...

The Team:

Of course to do all this, we not only have to build ourselves and trust God...we have to learn to work together and put aside those things that divide us, to be, not just amazing individuals but an amazing team of heroes, like the Avengers...but in our case, joined together, empowered and equipped by God to save our fallen and hurting world...

So without further ado:

Salvationists Assemble!!!

I would love to hear your feedback and comments on this blog, and of course feel free to sign up with your email address below to avoid missing new posts (if viewing on a mobile device you may need to click on 'view web version')

Please like and share the Facebook page:

Take a look at Inspired by Faith on Twitter: (@InspiredFaith88):

Disclaimer: the opinions and comments expressed in this blog are personal and do not necessarily represent the views and policies of the Salvation Army

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

How to improve church attendance in 5 easy steps

Have you ever wanted a foolproof way to improve church attendance in no time flat?

Perhaps you've found attendance falling and you've decided to take extreme and direct action to solve the problem.

If you want to fill your church and send your attendance figures skyrocketing and you are willing to sell out all that you are then read are 5 guaranteed ways to fill your church week in, week out...

The 5 Steps:
1) Replace hymns with pop music
2) replace your sermon with the latest movies and sporting events
3) undercut the local bars by selling cheap alcohol
4) replace the sanctuary with a casino
5) Remove anything remotely religious from the building we don't want to put people off...

Ok so all of that is a bit tongue in cheek; but I wonder if sometimes it's not close to the truth... we measure success and effectiveness by how many people come through the door, or sign up as members or join our obviously I understand why we use the measures of success...I get that these are helpful things and are obvious ways to keep track of how we're doing...but really they are only one small part of the story...

If our ambition is simply to get people through the door, then no problem...follow the measures above and people will flock to your church...but that's not really the point is it?

Our mission
Our mission is to build the kingdom, not to build a social club...our ambition and the measure of our success should be changed lives and closer walks with obviously these are highly personal things and not really least not in the way we usually measure things.

Christ however, as we know measures things in a different way:

"By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?" - Matthew 7:16

We have to decide what standard we are going to use... whether we will let our own need for approval and measuring of success or whether we will listen to what God wants us to do and measure success His way...or better yet; don't measure success, just be faithful to God's purposes, promises and mission....a bit of a stretch with our human need for approval but definitely something to aim for at least...

Ok so before I get carried away let's back track a bit... there's is nothing wrong with tracking figures, seeing what works, what events or programs are more successful than a point...the danger comes when we put more trust in the figures themselves and our own good ideas and pride that we lose track of who we are and who God wants us to be. If this happens we end up trusting in ourselves and congratulating ourselves and we begin to worship ourselves and our figures, forgetting to listen to God... rejecting ideas because of those age old Christian excuses 'we've never done it that way' 'we've already tried that' 'that's not the way we do things' and so on...

Not the best example!
This is a really dangerous road to travel down...the best example I could think of from scripture is 1 Chronicles 21... King David takes a census:

"Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel. So David said to Joab and the commanders of the troops, “Go and count the Israelites from Beersheba to Dan. Then report back to me so that I may know how many there are.”
But Joab replied, “May the Lord multiply his troops a hundred times over. My Lord the king, are they not all my lord’s subjects? Why does my lord want to do this? Why should he bring guilt on Israel?”
The king’s word, however, overruled Joab; so Joab left and went throughout Israel and then came back to Jerusalem. Joab reported the number of the fighting men to David: In all Israel there were one million one hundred thousand men who could handle a sword, including four hundred and seventy thousand in Judah.
But Joab did not include Levi and Benjamin in the numbering, because the king’s command was repulsive to him."

On the face of it, taking a census seems a pretty reasonable thing for a king to do... taking stock of your strengths and weaknesses, resources, making sure the nation is defended adequately, that it's financially secure etc.
The problem as usual is the motivation... this is what ultimately led to David's punishment... David was motivated by pride; he wanted to take the census to satisfy his own ego, to prove to himself how great he was, how powerful and secure... rather than relying on God for his security and confidence.

It's so easy for us to fall into this same trap... when we want to start a new program or organise an event  how often do we start by looking at our resources, efficiency, what people want or expect from I said earlier this in itself is not a bad thing... it's often responsible and necessary but we have to make sure we don't remove God from the equation and forget to prioritise His will over our own...we must always be ready and willing to hear and act on God's voice rather than our own.

So what now?
Hearing God's voice is not always easy... learning to trust Him above our own thoughts, worries, concerns and 'practical' considerations is even harder...but not impossible... That's what discipleship is all about!

Christianity is not about popularity or doing what the world expects of us... It's about connecting to God and doing what He expects of us however strange and counter cultural that might be... that doesn't mean we shouldn't grow, move with the times and become the welcoming, servant hearted, forgiving and loving Church we can be...but we should do this not because the world tells us to but because God leads us and calls us to be better and more like Him than we are.

Check out this old post about what the Church really is, and what it should be:
'The Church is...'

And what the Church, in particular my own church, means to me:
'A Place to call home'

All this aside...if you just want to fill your church building and get some more money in the weekly offering... maybe you should refer to the tips at the start of this post, start a social club and remove God from the equation...on the other hand if you're willing to trust God and put in the time and effort to build yourself and the kingdom then it's going to be a long road but worth it to become the renewed, faithful Church that it is God's call and our duty to become...

"Lord of the Church, we pray for our renewing:
Christ over all, our undivided aim;
Fire of the Spirit, burn for our enduring,
Wind of the Spirit, fan the living flame!
We turn to Christ amid our fear and failing,
The will that lacks the courage to be free,
The weary labours, all but unavailing,
To bring us nearer what a church should be."

- Salvation army songbook 817

I would love to hear your feedback and comments on this blog, and of course feel free to sign up with your email address below to avoid missing new posts (if viewing on a mobile device you may need to click on 'view web version')

Please like and share the Facebook page:

Take a look at Inspired by Faith on Twitter: (@InspiredFaith88):

Disclaimer: the opinions and comments expressed in this blog are personal and do not necessarily represent the views and policies of the Salvation Army

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Press X To Respawn

We all know the feeling; you've been beat down, burnt out, lost your drive, ambition and heart....any casual gamers out there know what to do when this happens to video game characters in the virtual world...'Press X to respawn'...the characters get back up, start again and keep moving forward!

So when we feel like this in the real world, and in our spiritual lives why not use the same principle?

I'm a very casual gamer, and even when I do play...I usually the great Captain Kirk once said "I don't believe in a no win scenario" I like to avoid the hard stuff, change the rules when I can and generally never get stuck in to the nitty gritty...but that's no way to live... it's a half life, a wasted life, a life lived too cautiously to really shine...

you've got to get stuck in, give it your all, make no excuses and hold nothing back...and you'll always succeed...wait a minute...scratch that last won't always fact often you'll fail, and be left battered and bruised, unsure of yourself or where you went wrong...that no win scenario, your own personal Kobayashi Maru (if you don't understand that reference congratulations, you're not as big a geek as me) that Captain Kirk didn't believe in, is alive and kicking...but somehow you've got to learn how to kick back!

So how do we kick back?
Well we learn that defeats and disappointments will come, we acknowledge the pain that often comes with them...and we embrace surrender...not surrender to the pain or to our situation but surrender to the one who holds everything in his hands...we accept that we have taken a hit, we even accept that we can't keep going the way we are...we put all our cards on the table, open ourselves to God (however impossibly hard that feels) and we put our trust in the God of restoration, and of second chances. We allow ourselves space to grieve and to feel...but ultimately we get back up again in the strength of God himself.

God is no stranger to respawning and restoration both physically and spiritually...let's take a head count:

The dry bones (Ezekiel 37)
Jonah (book of Jonah)
Lazarus (John 11)
Zacchaeus (Luke 19)
St Peter (John 21)
The nation of Israel (Nehemiah 7)
Add to that many, many others including, of course Christ himself (Luke 24)

Our God has an extensive background in raising people up, people who are down, and feeling useless and just about spent in every way; emotionally, physically and spiritually...but it isn't the end, it is an opportunity to become stronger, to grow and become closer to God by allowing Him to take control and rebuild, refocus, rengerise and of course respawn us...and unlike that great scene in the movie 'ready player one' (if you haven't seen it, it's really worth a watch) you won't lose your experience or skills, you will only become a better and stronger version of yourself...there is always an extra life when you trust in God...

Through our setbacks and defeats you will become a better person and a better disciple if you do the hardest thing...get back up and keep moving, keep growing and keep trusting... essentially you're going to level up maybe even evolve to the next level, where the stakes are higher, the rewards are greater, the fall is further...and where you need God more than ever...

And sometimes there is no point to suffering and defeat other than the lessons we choose to take from it and the responses we's easy to stay down, to take the hits and curl up in a ball and never come out... it's takes so much more to get back up and keep going and trusting... all of us who play video games even occasionally will become stuck at a certain need multiple save points, multiple lives, and multiple respawns (I'm looking at you Sonic the hedgehog 2!).... sometimes we give up, sometimes we don't and we eventually succeed... sometimes we get angry and frustrated and use  some unfavorable words (I'm looking at you again Sonic 2!) but until we give up, there is always hope, always a chance to respawn and succeed...if we give up; well, then obviously we are never going to succeed, we will fail and what's worse we will hold onto that failure and defeat, probably for the rest of our lives.

William Booth the founder of the Salvation Army, a man renowned for fire, and vision and passion went through a stage of feeling useless, worthless and defeated before he respawned and found his purpose and mission...he even mentioned it in the now legendary founder's song 'O boundless Salvation'

"Now tossed with temptation, then haunted with fears,
My life has been joyless and useless for years;
I feel something better most surely would be
If once thy pure waters would roll over me."

He went on to recount his respawning:

"The tide is now flowing, I'm touching the wave,
I hear the loud call of the mighty to save;
My faith's growing bolder, delivered I'll be;
I plunge 'neath the waters, they roll over me."

If you've ever felt like all this you're obviously in good company...saints, prophets and are not alone...

So look, here's the truth... failing sucks, defeat sucks, it can be heart wrenching, painful and embarrassing, it can feel like your whole world is falling apart... believe me, I've been there...but it isn't the is an opportunity either to wither away or to rise up to your greatest height...the difference between the two? Whether you will put your trust in God and allow him to take control, to stand up when you want to sink down... ultimately whether or not you choose to quit in frustration press X and respawn.

I would love to hear your feedback and comments on this blog, and of course feel free to sign up with your email address below to avoid missing new posts (if viewing on a mobile device you may need to click on 'view web version')

Please like and share the Facebook page:

Take a look at Inspired by Faith on Twitter: (@InspiredFaith88):

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this blog are personal and do not necessarily represent the views or policies of the wider Salvation Army

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Holy Communion & the Salvation Army

In been toying with the idea of this blog post for a while, and although I'm sure there are probably lots of different views on the issue of the Salvation Army and it's response to communion; I think it's worth exploring and discussing this issue, how it affects our Church, us as individuals; and how it has affected me personally in my walk and life as a Salvationist and the struggles and thought processes I have gone through to Justify the Army's position on this issue with my own faith and background.

An important disclaimer before we go any further: the views expressed in this blog post (and all others I write) are my own thoughts and reflections and do not necessarily represent the views of the Salvation Army.

- The Conflict

I don't come from a Salvation Army background, so Communion was always a natural part of Christianity, never any question in my mind that it was fundamental.

My Christian background was free Methodist... So not a million miles away from Salvation Army outlook and theology... Communion was there and received fairly regularly but not all the time and certainly not week in week out. So there wasn't a massive sudden shock when I began worshipping at the Army...just a developing realisation that it wasn't part of SA worship. If I'm honest this did make me a little uncomfortable and led me to spend quite a bit of time wrestling with this issue and soul searching to find justification and trying to decide whether this was an issue I could live with or whether it was a nonnegotiable issue for me. I'll admit to feeling quite uncomfortable whenever I heard or read the Gospel accounts of the Last Supper:

"And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” Luke - 22:19

When I first started attending the Army I felt that here was a clear instruction that we were not following. And yes, that made me uncomfortable.

- The Army's position

This is probably the right time for a bit of clarification...the Army does not, has not and I pray never will have an official complaint or take an official stance against Holy Communion in and of itself. I have heard rumours of Officers or Corps taking a stand against it...rumours which I truly hope are not true.

The official stand point is that there is no issue with members or Soldiers (or Officers for that matter) receiving communion, simply that the SA does not consider outward sacraments necessary for Salvation and so doesn't offer it as part of worship. I think traditionally this boils down to an over reliance from some churches in William Booth's day of outward signs and ceremonies rather than inward holiness and sanctification. (There is an argument perhaps that we have replaced the traditional outward signs and sacraments with our own traditions and become over reliant on them instead... But that's a discussion for another day and another blog post perhaps)

- The resolution

I hope that by sharing my thought processes and how I resolved this issue someone else might find their own clarification, justification and peace with issue.

Once again though, here's the disclaimer: these are my thought processes, my justification and does not necessarily represent the views, opinions and expressions of the Salvation Army (and certainly not the views and opinions of every Salvationist)

Really the key from the start of my questioning of the this, was the Army's acceptance of the principle of Holy Communion, this gave me the space to consider it and work through it in my own time and in my own way. Had the Army taken a stance against the teaching and principle of Communion and told me that no one should receive it I would have found it much harder to justify and resolve the conflict.

I spent a lot of time thinking about the nature of communion, what form should it take, and how we keep the spirit of communion alive. By all that I mean remembering Christ's sacrifice, and binding ourselves together through one love, one mission and one Lord. It's vital, if and when we do receive Communion that we do it in the right spirit and with the right heart, not because it's what's expected or what helps us fit in...but truly in rememberance of Christ and His sacrifice.

I came to the conclusion that Holy Communion is about more than bread and wine, more than tradition,  more than ceremony, it is bigger and greater than ourselves...too big to be contained by anything on is a state of mind and state of being, represented by an outward sacrament. We honour it by being and remaining in communion with each other, by loving each other and serving each other.

Please don't misunderstand... I certainly don't think that their are no benefits to Holy communion, I think it is a brilliant expression of Faith, commitment and remembrance. It can deepen faith, connect us to each other and to Christ and I firmly and passionately believe it has a place in modern Christianity and modern Salvationism...I'm not going to suggest in what form or how often at this stage.

I've written this blog post, I hope sensitively, because I think for Salvationists it's important to question the Salvation Army's response and position to Holy Communion and how that fits into a key part of scripture and our own faith and theology, not for arguments sake, or to rock the boat but to truly understand why we as Salvationists do what we do and believe what we believe...Salvationists are a strange bunch I think you'll agree...but a lack of certain traditions and sacraments doesn't make us any less called, devoted and committed to Christ and to the mission of the Church.

I would love to hear your feedback and comments on this blog, and of course feel free to sign up with your email address below to avoid missing new posts (if viewing on a mobile device you may need to click on 'view web version')

Please like and share the Facebook page:

Take a look at Inspired by Faith on Twitter: (@InspiredFaith88):