Monday, 20 October 2014

Where are the Christian Families? Is this you?

Indulge me while I put finger to keyboard and show a bit of vulnerability.  This is the cry of my heart right now.

I know something of what Elijah felt when he said:

'I am the only one left and they're trying to kill me too!'  1Kings 19:10

Alright.  Nobody's trying to kill me, as far as I know.  But it's worse in a way.  There's an Enemy who is trying to destroy the Christian family.  And he knows very well, that if he destroys the Christian family, he's effectively destroyed the church.  I believe it's as simple as that.  And my wife and I get lonely.  Will anyone join us in fighting this battle for the family?  It can be done, but we'll win it more easily if we fight together!

Forgive me if I am being judgemental, but I despair of finding a well functioning Christian family anywhere.  Maybe someone will prove me wrong.  Granted, there are a few.  All the ones I know are a good drive away from here though.

So let me ask you something.  Is this you?

  • You are married with children.  Both of you love the Lord, pray and read the Bible most days both separately and together. Okay, lets throw in single parents. You have an ongoing walk with the Lord. It is the most important relationship you have.
  • You take the Bible very seriously. It really is the final word.
  • You take your children to church. You teach your faith to your children through regular organised bible studies and prayer at home, casual discussion and setting an example. You don't leave it to the church to do all of that for you.
  • Your children (even the teenagers) are relatively well behaved and do not have a wild or rebellious spirit.
  • Dad - you play your part as the head. You are ultimately responsible for teaching and disciplining the children and you take this seriously. Having said that, both of you work as a team in this respect. Single mam - you work at this also, leaning on the Father to the Fatherless (Psalm 68:5) and teaming up with other families in the church seeking good male role models.
  • You show lots of love and affection to your children, (try really hard, by God's grace, to) stay even tempered and build a strong bond of love them.
  • You prayerfully and carefully consider issues such as your children's education, the media they are exposed to, the holidays they go on, the friends they spend time with, the chores they do and their interests. Without stifling them, you develop healthy interests and activities in their children.
  • You prayerfully guide your children towards good jobs and suitable marriage partners, protecting them from sexual predators as they grow older and finding suitable social activities where they can make the right friends.
  • You live in (or very near) Sunderland.
  • You have time to make new friends.
If so, let's join together in the Lord, for the sake of the next generation.  We may be only a tiny remnant, but God has the habit of raising up small remnants to fulfill His purposes!

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

William Booth on Spiritual Warfare

I will finish this series by looking at how the Army would deal with opposition and turn enemies into friends.  In an age where the church does not look much like an army, where it is largely despised and struggles to be a triumphant, respected, feared body of brave, loving, believing servants, I find this passage deeply challenging and encouraging too.  If they could do this over 100 years ago, why can't we now?

Consider, moreover, through what opposition the Salvation Army has ever had to make its way.

In each country it has to face universal prejudice, distrust, and contempt, and often stronger antipathy still. This opposition has generally found expression in systematic, Governmental, and Police restriction, followed in too many cases by imprisonment, and by the condemnatory outpourings of Bishops, Clergy, Pressmen and others, naturally followed in too many instances by the oaths and curses, the blows and insults of the populace. Through all this, in country after country, the Army makes its way to the position of universal respect, that respect, at any rate, which is shown to those who have conquered.

And of what material has this conquering host been made?

Wherever the Army goes it gathers into its meetings, in the first instance, a crowd of the most debased, brutal, blasphemous elements that can be found who, if permitted, interrupt the services, and if they see the slightest sign of police tolerance for their misconduct, frequently fall upon the Army officers or their property with violence. Yet a couple of Officers face such an audience with the absolute certainty of recruiting out of it an Army Corps.

Many thousands of those who are now most prominent in the ranks of the Army never knew what it was to pray before they attended its services; and large numbers of them had settled into a profound conviction that everything connected with religion was utterly false. It is out of such material that God has constructed what is admitted to be one of the most fervid bodies of believers ever seen on the face of the earth.

Monday, 6 October 2014

William Booth on Riches and Poverty

Firstly, we dare not withhold the Gospel from the very worst of people.

As Christ came to call not the saints but sinners to repentance, so the New Message of Temporal Salvation, of salvation from pinching poverty, from rags and misery, must be offered to all.

They may reject it, of course. But we who call ourselves by the name of Christ are not worthy to profess to be His disciples until we have set an open door before the least and worst of these who are now apparently imprisoned for life in a horrible dungeon of misery and despair. The responsibility for its rejection must be theirs, not ours. We all know the prayer, "Give me neither poverty nor riches, feed me with food convenient for me"--and for every child of man on this planet, thank God the prayer of Agur, the son of Jakeh, may be fulfilled.

This sad passage explains how respectable girls can become more entrapped than streetwise ones.  The story continues today, via the evils of sex-trafficking.

A girl was some time ago discharged from a city hospital after an illness. She was homeless and friendless, an orphan, and obliged to work for her living. Walking down the street and wondering what she should do next, she met a girl, who came up to her in a most friendly fashion and speedily won her confidence. "Discharged ill, and nowhere to go, are you?" said her new friend. "Well, come home to my mother's; she will lodge you, and we'll go to work together, when you are quite strong."  The girl consented gladly, but found herself conducted to the very lowest part of Woolwich and ushered into a brothel; there was no mother in the case. She was hoaxed, and powerless to resist. Her protestations were too late to save her, and having had her character forced from her she became hopeless, and stayed on to live the life of her false friend.

There is no need for me to go into the details of the way in which men and women, whose whole livelihood depends upon their success in disarming the suspicions of their victims and luring them to their doom, contrive to overcome the reluctance of the young girl without parents, friends, or helpers to enter their toils. What fraud fails to accomplish, a little force succeeds in effecting; and a girl who has been guilty of nothing but imprudence finds herself an outcast for life. The very innocence of a girl tells against her. A woman of the world, once entrapped, would have all her wits about her to extricate herself from the position in which she found herself. A perfectly virtuous girl is often so overcome with shame and horror that there seems nothing in life worth struggling for. She accepts her doom without further struggle, and treads the long and torturing path-way of "the streets" to the grave.

How poor people almost invariably become far more effective givers and 'fighters' than the rich.

How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the Kingdom of Heaven! It is easier to make a hundred poor men sacrifice their lives than it is to induce one rich man to sacrifice his fortune, or even a portion of it, to a cause in which, in his half-hearted fashion, he seems to believe. When I look over the roll of men and women who have given up friends, parents, home prospects, and everything they possess in order to walk bare-footed beneath a burning sun in distant India, to live on a handful of rice, and die in the midst of the dark heathen for God and the Salvation Army, I sometimes marvel how it is that they should be so eager to give up all, even life itself, in a cause which has not power enough in it to induce any reasonable number of wealthy men to give to it the mere superfluities and luxuries of their existence. From those to whom much is given much is expected; but, alas, alas, how little is realised! It is still the widow who casts her all into the Lord's treasury--the wealthy deem it a preposterous suggestion when we allude to the Lord's tithe, and count it boredom when we ask only for the crumbs that fall from their tables.