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Wednesday, 10 February 2016

The Church is...

               

Anyone who uses the Google search engine will probably be familiar with the 'suggestions' feature which provides a list of suggested searches as you type based on most popular searches... Some are quite revealing...

I thought I would type in: the Church is....and see what popped up.
The results as you can see from the picture above are interesting.

It got me thinking, what is the Church? To some a charitable organisation, to others a place of corruption or as the picture says: a place 'full of hypocrites.' To some a place of safety to still others a place of bad memories and hurt feelings.

Recent days on a certain Facebook Christian blogging group have seen some concerning attitudes displayed; arrogance, personal attacks and an assumption by some that any differing opinions are 'false, 'pagan' 'dangerous' and need to be censored, attitudes that are somewhat less than Christ-like have been displayed.
Perhaps it's no wonder that people outside the church struggle to see us as a reflection of Christ when all we seem to have done is argue and fight amongst ourselves for the last 2000 years...

But that isn't the whole story, the church can be responsible for the greatest acts of kindness and service, that isn't what gets reported though; there only seems to be interest when things go wrong or we screw up.

The Church tries to be all things to all people but as the old quote by John Lydgate says:
"You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”.

So I suggest doing and being the one thing that matters...a reflection of Christ...let us emulate His love, His courage, His service and His sacrifice; we may not always get it right... Wait scratch that, we WILL not always get it right, but let's do our best and start with ourselves, cut out the fighting and bickering and commit ourselves to being Christ-like and Christ-centred. Of course we will still fall out and disagree, but let's disagree as mature Christian adults as brothers and sisters in Christ. Then when we ask people the question 'who do you say we are?' They will see Christ reflected in us and long for that light in themselves.


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Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Service with a Smile...

Anybody who has worked in retail will be aware how irritating clichés like 'the customer is always right' can be...I know that it's the foundation of customer services, but quite frankly it's more often than not used as a weapon for customers to make unreasonable requests and use this ultimate, final and all purpose answer to apparently check mate any customer service assistant into submission.

A phrase I much prefer is: 'Service with a Smile' it inspires confidence, calm and charisma; now, I'm not really interested in happy salesmen, but I wonder if we ever think about this principle in our Spiritual lives?

Psalm 100:2 says:
"Serve the LORD with gladness; Come before Him with joyful singing."
The Christian life should be a celebration, a life of joy and fulfillment; so why does it sometimes feel like a chore, why do we sometimes serve out of a sense of obligation or reluctantly because it's expected of us?

I remember sitting for hours at a checkout with a forced smile plastered across my face, willing the shift to end and determined to stay positive and approachable despite being asked the same questions about the weather for the 5000th time in 2 hours...Christian service should never be like that. As a salesman represents the brand or company they work for, so Christians represent the King and God that we serve; do we want people to see through us? a God who begrudgingly guides and protects us, who loves us out of a sense of forced responsibility or duty or do we want them to see a God who created us and loves us; genuinely and completely because it is His good pleasure to do so.
He loves us all for a reason and that reason is Love!

You may be the only Bible some people ever read...so go forward in your Christian walk with joy and love and remember who you represent and in whose name you serve. Don't be the bored grouchy sales assistant... Be the inspirational, devoted and loving reflection of the most amazing, devoted and loving God.


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Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Friends of Happiness, Soldiers of Grace (What is the Salvation Army?)

If I was to ask you what is the Salvation Army, what would you say?

I guess it depends on your experiences of the Army or the context in which you have encountered us. To some we are a social services organisation, others a church, some people even see us as simply a musical group appearing on the streets at Christmas.

I suppose we are all of these in different ways and in different contexts. My favorite description of the Salvation Army is from our founder William Booth; this is from a speech which if anyone is interested can be found on YouTube:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=AA0pCYKGbYI
(The audio is a little fuzzy due to the age of the recording but clear enough)

The description that Booth gave us at the start of this speech is "The Salvationist is the friend of happiness"

He goes on to talk about serving the Lord with gladness. I love this idea, the media and sometimes even other Christians would have us believe that Christianity is something to be mourned when in fact it is something that should bring great joy, we are forgiven and sanctified by God, we are His people and His friends surely this is something to be celebrated that should spur us on to a life of contentment, joy and ultimately freedom.

However, the Christian life does not end with our own happiness, but must continue with our service to a fallen world. Another quote from William Booth from his book 'in darkest England and the way out' published in 1890. This is a truly remarkable book, which although now out of print is available to download to tablets, phones and E-readers for free. if you want to know why Salvationists do what we do and what we believe, it's in these pages, as well as the foundation for modern social services.
So to the quote, the nature of Salvation service:

"We want a social lifeboat institution, a social lifeboat brigade, to snatch form the abyss those who, if left to themselves, will perish as miserably as a crew of a ship that founders in mid-ocean." 

I hope you will forgive a second quote from the same book on the nature of our fellow man:

"Let us recognise that we are our brother's keepers, and set to work, regardless of party distinctions and religious differences, to make this world of ours a little bit more like home for those whom we call our brethren."

This is the point of the Salvation Army, and really of the whole of Christianity, while we may fall and fail often as all we are is imperfect human beings, this is what we aim for to be joyful in our knowledge of and relationship with God, but to also be servants, without prejudice or judgement an Army that brings out the best in ourselves and in our fellow man. To be both: 'Friends of happiness and Soldiers of Grace'

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Sunday, 10 January 2016

Your story, Our story, His story

I have what can only be described as a borderline obsession with books, something that drives my wife to distraction, I love the epic stories that transport us to new worlds of adventure and excitement, from Epic fantasies like Lord of the Rings, or historical swashbuckling tales like the Three Musketeers, they have the power to inspire and transform.

But what about our own stories? I wonder if sometimes we think our stories are unimportant or not worth telling or just boring. We read stories of early saints and trailblazers and ask ourselves where we fit in to such an epic history of faith, power and adventure.

The stories and experiences that make up our lives and walk with God are far more important than we realise, as the title of this post says: they are YOUR stories as individuals, they are OUR stories as Christians and fellow pilgrims on the journey, and most importantly they are HIS stories...Christ's story; this didn't end on the cross or the resurrection or even the ascension, we are the body of Christ; wherever we go we take Christ with us and His story continues.

You may feel that your story isn't worth telling, but it is not just yours it is a story of humanity and whether you believe you play a large part or a small part, your place in the story is yours, and yours alone, God has placed you where you are for His purposes, only you can fulfill the role that God chose you for.

So what do we do with our stories and experiences?
1Peter 3:15 says:
'But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,'

Our stories are there to be shared and told to those we meet, not just great stories and acts of faith we have heard, but our own personal sometimes humble stories because they are our experiences; no one can take them away from you or tell you they didn't happen because they are yours.

If anyone reading this thinks they don't have a story to tell, then let me tell you that if you are a Christian, beloved of God and forgiven for your pasts and sins, from anything you could have ever done and restored and reclaimed by God, sanctified, a sinner called by name and a child of the King of kings...believe me; that is a powerful and inspiring story worth telling over and over again.