Friday, December 28, 2012

Reconciling My Covenant

There is a thin line between cult and covenant says Joe Noland
Steve Court is someone I respect very much. An exceptionally talented, committed and visionary Salvation Army officer leader he has a huge following. I just don’t happen to agree with everything he says, and for the sake of balance, feel obligated to present an opposing viewpoint now and again, especially for those of us Jesus liberals who seem to represent TSA’s minority voice these days.
I refer specifically to his July 5, 2009 post and comment on George Scott Railton’s instruction over at ArmyBarmy Blog -
“I intend carefully to instruct my children that if at any time they see The Salvation Army a wealthy, respectable concern, the majority of whose “soldiers” simply go where they please to attend its’ “ministrations,” leaving the godless undisturbed to perish; and if they see another set of people, however they may be clothed or despised, who really give up all to go and save the lost, then they must not for a moment hesitate to leave the concern their poor old dad helped to make, and go out amongst those who most faithfully carry out what the founder of the Army laid down in his writings and acts, may God preserve them from such a day by keeping the Army free from the love of money and ease” - George Scott Railton, An Autobiography, Full Salvation, Jan. 1, 1894.
I’m OK with Court’s comments up until he writes, “Covenant demands it” (that they don’t leave). I’m not sure what covenant he signed, but the one I signed at the altar, on my knees, June 1965, had only one clause in it that concluded with the phrase, “all my days,” and that was “to love and serve him supremely.” Mine did not say additionally, “as a Salvation Army Officer.”
Now I made the choice “to love and serve him supremely all my days” as a Salvation Army Officer. Technically, even in retirement I am still an officer, even though I am now loving and serving him through a non-Salvation Army medium - a faith-based Film Production Company: Another retired Army officer friend is pastoring a church in another denomination, but technically he is still an officer. So the covenant line blurs a little bit here, doesn’t it?

On the other hand, I have other former officer friends who have left the Army, but are still “loving and serving him all my days,” only in another evangelical venue. Honestly, have they really broken their covenant?
Now, I am in agreement with Court’s statement, “to stay in and fight and transform the movement so that God could optimise its potential again.” I would have probably added the words, “where possible.” In fact, I made that choice, even when there was reason and good opportunity presented to do otherwise. Obviously, historically, if others had made this same choice with their denominations, we wouldn’t have some of the great evangelical movements available to us today, the Protestant Reformation and TSA notwithstanding. Don’t bother to set me straight on this; I know all the arguments, and would even be so bold to suggest that sometimes “Covenant Demands It!”
I have written previously, “There is a thin line between cult and covenant” and we should always carefully and prayerfully divine the difference. For me, personally, my covenant is with God, contracted to love and serve him supremely” through TSA…until, when and if he decides to call me elsewhere. For the moment, with Steve, I prefer to stand fast, “fight and transform the movement within.”

Writer: Commissioner Joe Noland’s ministry can be summed up in three words: chaos, creativity and controversy - three elements implicit in any successful innovative endeavor. Cecil B. DeMille, renowned producer of Biblical epics, once wrote, “Creativity is a drug I cannot live without.” Joe’s mantra reads, “Creativity is my drug of choice.”  Access Joe Noland’s complete bio, among other things, by clicking into his website.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

RECONCILIATION: The Topic of the Season

I am a word nerd and when Sven tossed out the request for people to write about reconciliation, I couldn’t get it out of my head so I agreed to put fingers to keys and write something on the topic of the season: reconciliation.

To begin with, in keeping with my word-nerdness, I had to think about what part of speech that reconciliation falls under. It is a verb! This infers some type of “action” if we go back to our elementary English lessons. So, reconciliation requires for something to “be done.” So, where do we “do” reconciliation?

One place where we “do” reconciliation is in our checkbook (and during the expensive season of Christmas shopping, this can be a chore for some). When we do this, we make sure that the credits and debits align. Do we have enough resources to pay the price for the gifts that we have purchased? This train of thought takes me to the true gift of Christmas. If we line up our debits (our sins) and the credits (resources) that we have within us, we will never be able to balance our spiritual “checkbook.” However, two millennia ago, our loving God “stroked a check” in order to pay that price. We think about the sacrifice of Good Friday on the cross but the first sacrifice of Christ came when he left His Father’s side in Glory and came to be born in a barn in order that he could reconcile us back to a relationship with God.

This reconciliation is two-way. Because of sin (original sin and what we have managed to do all on our own) we can’t access God and God can’t access us because of the chasm of sin that divides us. I remember an evangelistic tract that was popular in the 1970’s that had an image of man standing on one side of a very large canyon and God standing on the opposite side. The premise of this small publication was that the one thing that can become a bridge between the two sides of the canyon is the sacrifice of Christ on the cross and the next picture showed the cross becoming that bridge. Salvation was complete when we accepted the gift.

I suspect that most people who are reading this have accepted the gift of salvation so what does reconciliation with God have to do with you? Your sins were paid for and you have been reconnected with God. However, I would ask, during this season when we celebrate Christ’s birth, has your relationship grown beyond the initial reconciliation that occurred at your salvation? What are you “doing” with your relationship with God?  Do you know Him differently than you did yesterday? Will you know Him more tomorrow than you do today? Reconciliation is an action word- what actions are you doing to continue to develop the relationship that began with the nativity… with the cross… with the empty tomb? Are you taking your relationship with God beyond the check and balance of the reconciliation of sin? I would encourage each of us to look at how we might grow to know God more personally, more intimately, more deeply this Advent Season. Allow God to continue to “do” reconciliation within you. 

Patti K.Williams PhD
Former SA Officer
USA West

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

HRH Queen on Reconciliation

HRH Queen Elizabeth II
While the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of Westminster addressed Syria, women bishops and gay marriage respectively the Queen kept her Christmas message short, direct and simple.

Building on the spirit of togetherness and friendship captured in 2012 by the London Olympics and Diamond Jubilee celebrations she then praised the spirit of service displayed by the armed forces, emergency services and health workers before saying that all of us should reach out beyond ‘familiar relationships’ to serve others.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A servant King?

A servant King? Don’t make me laugh!
A servant King, indeed!

Kings are meant to sit on thrones,
With precious things to call their own,
While minions meet their needs.

A servant King? What can you mean? A stable? Not a crown?

A servant King? No signet ring? No flunkies bowing down?

His Kingdom’s where? His Kingdom’s what?
Well, now I’ve heard it all!

The King of kings, this servant King, was born where? In a stall?

Right royal nonsense, this all is!
A King of gentle power?
Of righteousness? And truth? And grace? Who triumphs every hour?

Well, let me see him, have a look (when I’ve a window in my day);
At half past four, or five, or six - see what he’s got to say.

So is that him? Your servant King?
A baby! Just this boy?
No sceptre? No attendants? Donkey’s bridle for a toy?

Is this your God? Your deity? The best that you can do?
These strips of cloth, are they his robes? No purple silk to wear?

The servant King! Behold the child! King’s ransom lying there!

© Stephen Poxon 2012
Former Officer