Sunday, November 5, 2017

SUFFERING SERVANTS PART THREE OF 7

From: THE OFFICER 1991
Captain Howard Webber

Praise
Many of us have considered it at some time. The only thing that prevented me from sailing away at one point in my officership was the fact that I didn't know the where­abouts of a boat big enough for the seven of us in our household! I praise God now that there was no such es cape available, for I have dis­covered (as our opening verse said), that he was there and he did teach me; in fact he has taught me far more than I could ever have imagined.
Much is said about the peace and joy that are the possession of the disciple, but little mention is made of the suffering that is to be his possession too. Much is said of Jesus being the burden-bearer who gives relief to the heavy-laden, but little with regard to the fact that as he takes upon himself our load, it is exchanged for us sharing in his.

Promise
I've yet to meet anyone who has taken 'The world will make you suffer' (John 16:33), or 'Everyone who wants to live a godly life in union with Christ Jesus will be persecuted' (2 Timothy 3:12), out of a promise box. We are selective with regard to the promises of God we treasure and hold to our heart.
         Suffering is not nice; but a better understanding of it, willingness to accept our share of it, and the discovery of how to respond to it, might not only enrich our own relationship with and understanding of God, but make us more effective for him in a most powerful way.
         The focus of our thoughts in terms of God's call tends to be on praying, preaching, pastoring, administration and various forms of caring, but I would suggest that God's call has as much, if not more, to do with suffering with him and for him than anything else. Willingness to suffer for Christ and with Christ is the pre­requisite of true discipleship and at the heart of everything.
         Jesus said, 'If anyone wants to come with me, he must forget self, carry his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his own life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it' (Matthew 16:24, 25).
`If you endure suffering even when you have done right, God will bless you for it. It was to this that God called you' (1 Peter 2:20, 21). The words 'Take your part in suffering, as a loyal soldier of Christ Jesus' (2 Timothy 2:3) have more than a heavy implication that there is a suffering set aside for us that we should bear as Christ, and for Christ, if we are to be true followers of Christ.
When we enlist as soldiers under Christ's command, we join him in his war against Satan and as Paul Rees reminds us, 'soldiers are not only in battle to shoot, but to be shot at!' Being at war, it really shouldn't surprise us either, even though it disappoints us, when some of the fiery darts that inflict the deepest wounds come from a direction that we least expect. Which wounded Christ the deeper, the Judas-kiss or the soldier's spear?


END PART THREE of SEVEN



Major Howard Webber, Retired
Bournemouth, UK

Monday, October 30, 2017

SUFFERING SERVANTS PART TWO OF 7

From: THE OFFICER 1991
Captain Howard Webber

SUFFERING SERVANTS
Power
         But if ever there was a time when Jesus longed to hear those words, surely it was in response to his cry, `I thirst.' It wasn't mere water he longed for. What a comfort it would have been at that moment to hear his Father's voice call down upon those assembled at Calvary, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased' (Matthew 3:17, AV).
What did the Father go through in holding back so small a comfort when he heard that pitiful cry rise up to Heaven? What torture must have been his in resisting what must have been a natural desire to answer when his Son pleaded, 'My God, my God, why. . .?' (Matthew 27:46, A V). Co­equal in power and glory, yes, but surely co-equal in pain, too?
We live in a world that does all that it can to relieve suffering and avoid pain. Comfort and ease are promoted whilst sacrifice and suffering are avoided. Certainly we should not inflict pain upon one another, although unfortunately, that often occurs even in the Church, as we shall see later.
         Certainly we should be like Jesus who came 'to bring good news to the poor . . . proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind; to set free the oppressed' (Luke 4:18, 19).
         There are two ways in which victims can experience relief; it can be in the removal of their suffering or in another sharing it with them. In his incarnation Jesus did both. I remember one day, whilst studying the well-known miracle of Jesus healing Peter's mother-in-law (only two verses, Luke 4:38, 39), suddenly noticing another wonder, so simple, yet profound and beautiful: 'He went and stood at her bedside.' She had a high fever, and whether she was conscious or not, aware or not, he went and stood at her bedside.
         There are trials and tribulations that God removes, but there are trials and tribulations to be borne whatever our aversion to them if we are to be partnered to Christ. God's course may be full of dangers, uncertainties and hard times, (dark indeed—Isaiah 50:10), and our natural response may well be to run in the opposite direction towards the waterfront at Joppa (Jonah 1:3) to find a boat to take us to an easier setting.


END PART TWO OF 7


Major Howard Webber, Retired


Bournemouth, UK

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

From: THE OFFICER 1991
Captain Howard Webber

SUFFERING SERVANTS
1. The Promise and the Calling
         AT first sight the words, 'The Lord will make you go through hard times' (Isaiah 30:20), seem hard to accept, even with the accompanying comfort, 'but he himself will be there to teach you, and you will not have to search for him any more. If you wander off the road to the right or to the left, you will hear his voice behind you saying, "Here is the road. Follow it." '
         We know that Satan is indeed the source of all sin and that God did not design this world to be a place of suffering and sorrow. The fact that it is such is due to the presence of sin.
         All men experience to varying degrees these consequences of sin being present in the world. However, Jesus made it clear that the nature and amount of a person's suffering is not necessarily related to the nature and amount of his personal sin. This doesn't prevent some Christians who suffer in a particular way thinking that this is a result of something that they have done. Unfortunately, they find it hard to get away from the thought that suffering is the effect in their lives of something caused by their lives.
         In addition, there is a promise of suffering made to those who would be God's servants. It is not because God delights in or desires suffering and pain for his servants, quite the reverse. In Christ, God came to heal our wounds and relieve our sufferings. Our sufferings bring pain to God and our tears cause God to weep.
         There may be times when God's children suffer because he is forced to chastise them (Hebrews 12:5-11), but frequently it will be by virtue of our proximity to God. God is the ultimate target of Satan's attacks and anyone close to a target is liable to receive shot too. The closer we are, the more liable we are.
         However, the pain that we have to bear still doesn't compare with his pain. A father who watches his child writhe in agony suffers more in the watching than if he bore the pain himself. How often has a parent cried, `0 that it were I and not he that had to bear this dreadful thing.'
         In Jesus, God bore (and bears) the double agony of experiencing suffering and watching suffering. On the cross God the Son went through physical pain, mental despair and spiritual abandonment, whilst God the Father watched what was done to him. At Christ's baptism, and again at his transfiguration, the Father spoke, audibly confirming who Jesus was; how much he loved him; and how pleased he was with him. Those words were not for the benefit of Jesus. He didn't need them; they were for others present on both occasions.

END PART ONE OF 7


Major Howard Webber, Retired

Bournemouth, UK

Friday, October 20, 2017

It’s been about 14 years since I’ve slept passed 7 am on any single day, rain or shine, holiday or not. For all that time, it didn’t matter how late our kids were up; it didn’t matter how much we wore them out; it didn’t matter how dark their shades were in their rooms. They would wake up before 7 am.
Until this year. This year is different. As we have entered the teenage years, we’ve seen the amount of sleep on the steady increase. While that’s great in a sense – I certainly have enjoyed the couple of extra hours every now and then – I know it’s just a matter of time until the unintended consequence of sleeping late will pop up in the context of going to church on Sunday.
The wake up will be hard. The kids will complain. And they will no doubt declare, “I don’t want to go to church today.” Which leads to the question:
Should we, as parents force our children to go to church, even when they don’t want to?
Short answer? Yes. Absolutely.
But why should we do that? You could argue the opposite – that in making our children go to church we are actually turning them away from the church. They will grow up resenting this environment they had to go to week after week, even if they didn’t want to, and as soon as they get a little bit of freedom, they will abandon that practice forced upon them by their unrelenting parents.
So why should we if we are indeed running a risk like that? I’d argue at least three reasons:
1. To teach the church’s purpose.
If we think the only reason we should go to church is our desire, then we are misunderstanding the reason for doing so at all. Of course, ideally we will want to go to church, but we go there not only because we want to – we go there because we need to. We are sinful, forgetful people. We go and meet with God’s people because we need to be reminded of who God is and His promises in the Bible. We need to be encouraged and held accountable for our Christian witness. And we need to participate in this for the sake of others, not just receive it from others.
2. To show the place of feelings.
If we don’t make our kids go to church because they don’t want to go to church, we are communicating to them that their feelings are their masters. And they are not… or at least they shouldn’t be. This is one of the ways we teach our children that we are led by faith, not by sight (or by feelings). We go because we believe this is the good and right and soul-nourishing thing to do, even if we don’t feel like it in the moment. Which leads to the third point…
3. To exercise your own faith.
Taking our children to church is a means of exercising our own faith. We trust that when we saturate our child in the things of God and the preaching of the gospel that something is going to get through. Eventually God is going to use those moments to bring about an awakening to the truth of faith in his or her life. We believe this, and therefore we act.
4. To feed the right appetite.
We trust that feeding a particular area of life makes it grow. We’ve all experienced this in a negative sense. Think about the escalation of drug addicts. I’ve heard that often addiction begins with experimentation and goes on from there – from something minor to something major. The appetite is fed, and as it is, it grows.
Or this one: It’s easy to sleep in one morning and not exercise. The next day it’s easier than the first day. And so it goes. We feed our laziness, and laziness feasts and grows fat.
Doesn’t it stand to reason the opposite would be true? When we discipline our children to go to church, we are, slowly but surely, feeding their appetite for godliness. It’s one spoonful at a time, to be sure, but in feeding it we are helping it grow.
Yes, parents, I believe we should make our children go to church. It will be a battle sometimes. But even as we do, we cannot trust that this attendance is a cure-all for the soul affliction of our children. We cannot outsource the evangelizing of our own families. So, yes, make them go. And yes, share the gospel with them before, during, and after, praying that the Holy Spirit would do His work of changing hearts.



Michael Kelley

"A special moment"

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The activist mommy confronting homosexuality in the "church"/video evang...

Homosexuals have been hated throughout history.

30th June 1992

Members of GAY cricket club.
Keith Banks, Commissioner

Letter to the Editor

The Officer

REJECTED FOR PUBLICATION

     How interesting to find two articles in the June (1992) OFFICER dealing with homosexuality. The subject is so rarely dealt with in Salvation Army publications that one is tempted to say 'it never rains but it pours'! The articles, 'A CHRISTIAN RESPONSE TO HOMOSEXUALITY IN THE CHURCH' by Lt. Colonel Maxwell Ryan and 'A THEOLOGY THAT ISOLATES' by Major Ron Thomlinson are so different in style and content, immediately stimulating thought, debate and the desire to get to the typewriter! The articles certainly made me think.
     Homosexuals have been hated and hounded throughout history. People have always found it difficult to cope with those of a minority sexual orientation. That the church should have become a part of the problem is understandable when seen in its historical and cultural context, but that it should have remained so is unbelievable. The Salvation Army as part of the church universal is no exception to the rule. Our Positional Statement dealing with homosexuality takes a very definite 'hate the sin but love the sinner' approach which is about as close as any part of the church has got to a Christ like view of the subject; yet it must be all too obvious to anyone attempting a serious understanding of the issues that this approach has failed lamentably. 
     How many Salvationists do you know who feel loved enough to say 'I'm glad to be gay'? The evidence seems to indicate we have been very successful in hating the sin whilst proving woefully inadequate at loving the sinner.
     But are sin and sinner the right words to use? 
     Our sexuality is one of God's beautiful gifts to us. It is instrinsic to how we think, what we do and how we do it. It is unique. Some speak as if there are only two types of sexuality: heterosexual or homosexual. Can this be true? There are surely as many variations in sexuality as there are people in the world. We all feel, desire and act in a way that is unique to us.
     So by what, or on whose authority does the majority group labelled 'average' presume to belittle, humiliate and despise the minority group labelled 'different'?
     No appeal can be made to Jesus. Anything he may have said about homosexuality was obviously not considered important by the Gospel writers.
     An appeal can be made to Scripture as a whole, but even then the evidence is weak. The story of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen.ch.19) is frequently appealed to but it is hard to find any condemnation of homosexuality in the story. For a start, the suggestion that every man in the city was a homosexual is going a bit over the top: And then it is a little odd that Lot should accuse men of wanting to do 'wicked things' when he was more than prepared to hand his two virgin daughters over to them for gang rape (v.8). This story offers no more than a flimsy foundation for an ethic.
     The Leviticus texts (ch.18 v.22 and ch.20 v.13) are c1ear enough, though interestingly make no reference to women. The condemnation appears alongside such things as child sacrifice, bestiality and incest. 
     Can the love of one man for another really be compared with such obvious misuse of sexuality? The text appears to be condemning the abuse of one man by another, not the love of one man for another.
     There are, of course, the Pauline references (Romans ch.1 v.18-32 Cor.ch.6 v.9-10 : 1 Tim.ch.1 v.8-11). 
     This is not the place to discuss context at length but let it be sufficient to say that there are some things Paul said that twentieth century Christians would be in no position to accept. See for example his comments about women (1 Cor.ch.11 v.5-16); his acceptance of slavery (Eph.ch.6 v.5 : Col.ch.3 v.22 : Titus ch.2 v.9); his conviction that no one should challenge the authority of the state (Romans ch.13 v.1-2).
     You simply can't take Paul out of his culture; to do so is to create confusion and pain. This has to be remembered in the light of new insights into human sexuality in general and homosexuality in particular.
     We can only appeal to experience, and Major Thomlinson does this so powerfully in his account of the love of one man for another. (Echoes of David and Jonathan?) It was moving to read, and the story could be repeated countless times.
     So is it right to persist in equating homosexuality with promiscuity and perversion?
     In nearly 30 years of officership my wife and I have met people whose needs were for same sex relationships. Such people never appeared promiscuous or perverted: simply different. For them such relationships were natural. If a relationship is founded on love and sustained by love, how can it be anything other than good. Isn't God something to do with love?
     And is it right to persist in describing homosexuality as a sickness, suggesting that the sufferers need to be cured? Is the implication that all heterosexuals are fit and well? Sexual sickness there most certainly is, and it can effect any one of us. Would we not be honouring God much more by channelling his healing love to those who are really sick in the sexual sense rather than those who are only different?
     Is it not time we realised that Salvationists are included in the national statistic that suggests that 10% of the population (UK) are homosexual? This means that if I addressed a large meeting with 5,000 people present, then it's possible that 500 of them would be gay; and if I preached to 100 people last Sunday, then it's possible that 10 of them were gay; and if I speak to 10 people today, it's possible that 1 of them is gay — and this applies whether I work at Browns Biscuit Factory or Headquarters. That's a fairly large minority.
     Homosexuals don't need to be told anymore that Christians hate what they are and that they are loved in spite of it. They need to feel loved for who they are; they need acceptance like everyone else and surely that should be second nature for a Christian.
     They need to feel it’s quite permissable to say, 'It's alright to be me', rather than be told to suppress their feelings or hide their true identity.
     Maybe the time has come for an open exchange on this crucial issue. There are a lot of people out there - many of them Salvationists and doubtless some of them officers - who live with the issue every day of their lives. It effects them personally. We owe it to them to work a way through the theological and cultural clutter of the years towards a new understanding of what homosexuality really is, asking that the Holy Spirit will lead us into truth.
     By the way, did the Editor get the wrong titles over the two articles in the June issue? Having read and re-read them many times, it seems they should be the other way round. On the other hand, it may show just how mixed up we really are.



Tuesday, October 3, 2017

GOD’S MATCHSTICK.
O Lord Jesus, 
Make me your humble matchstick; 
Not a large one that is awkward for You to handle; 
Make me willing to be small and insignificant, 
Prepared at all times to be used by You. 
Make me ready to spend myself 
Even if it costs me all that I, at present, am. 
(For must I not die that the Light might shine?) 
Make me keen, 
When I would hide in my box behind the others, 
(For what is potential if it is never realized?) 
Make me always able to keep my head, 
For to lose it would render me useless to You.
Make me secure in the warmth of your presence, 
When others would seek to dampen my zeal. 

Make me remember your purpose for me, 
To ignite the flame of your love in the hearts of men and women. 
Make me totally dependent on You, 
A tool to be used, not self sufficient or of independent means. Make fire, your Holy Fire, to be my one and only aim. 
Help me to use all that I am and all that I have in promoting your Kingdom. 
Make it, dear Lord, if perchance you should use me in some won­derful way, 
That I will never ever say 'I lit that fire,' but rather, 
That I may give to Jesus glory for using me that way; 
For I know, dear Lord, that You could set the world on fire
If only I would be your humble matchstick.