Monday, April 30, 2012

UNWARRANTED STIGMA CAST IN 1934!



 The FSAOF was inspired and launched on August 15, 2007, an era when every facet of business had begun using one common media outlet to expand their market focus and outreach, the world wide web (www). Both the intrinsic and extrinsic usefulness of the Internet was immediately recognized and motivated many to form international alliances. It was in this same fashion that I was inspired to form the FSAOF. Initially I created a web-log page where ‘former’ officers could visit and read challenging and inspirational messages with ‘formers’ being the main article contributors and our focus audience. I, along with several other former officers, still active as soldiers in TSA saw this as Divinely assigned role. We’d given centuries of combined years of service and shared a keen spiritual concern that our investment not be without gain for TSA and the Kingdom. One of the driving purposes was to slow the steady flow in the numbers of Salvation Army officers resigning and deserting the assignments they’d prayerfully and willingly accepted.

Our primary intent was to get alongside those contemplating resignation and those who’d already made a ‘break’. We wanted to make all ‘formers’ our friends through our Spirit led fellowship; we were careful to not be seen as in any sense making them our ‘mission’.


Anti-religion and negative SA leadership sentiments were running strong.  Few active officers, on the separation of faithful officers from the organization, demonstrated the spiritual kinship William Booth ascribed to us: He received the spirit of officership, whereby he mingled amongst us, for a season, as one of us, and go where he likes, and do what he likes, the imprint of the life he lived will remain.” 

If our fellowship, the FSAOF, was ever to become a force for stemming the attrition rate and the eventual return to officership of those who’d resigned, it was paramount that TSA and our own members recognize the crucial role each group had to play. There had never existed a fellowship of any size, except the almost 100 year old strong and tightly run FSAO association in Sweden.


Within a few weeks the interest, need and usefulness became evident with an average of 100 blog visitors daily; www.FSAOF.blogspot.com . And the FSAOF has to date welcomed almost 90,000 visitors from more than 100 countries, with around 50% of the visitors having no SA link.


A few months subsequent to the launch of our blog, the private FACEBOOK site was created with the intent of being a “safe house” where formers from around the world sensed that they were in the presence of like minded souls, others who had trod the road of the Divinely inspired, chosen and called Evangelist, but who for varied reason was separated from the army’s fighting forces; those with whom they had shared years of service under the SA banner.   fellowship was formed, one that is as spiritually committed, faithful and supportive as any that can be found inside or outside TSA.

Dozens come together in fellowship daily. Our fears, hurts and joys are shared. We discuss, mostly in a brotherly way, all matters of interest and concern- no subject is too insignificant or foreign to be shared.  Hundreds of discussion threads and thousands of responses speak to our mission’s intent; it is a place of healing, rest and reconciliation and Godly praise.

As already mentioned, ours was not the first fellowship formed to support former officers. The first was created in Sweden in 1934, more than 75 years ago. The fellowship appealed only to officers who’d served in the international SA in Sweden.

(In 1905 TSA in Sweden, during its greatest annual assembly, saw the coming of a conflict that eventually caused a major rift with hundreds of officers and soldiers resigning from the international SA and formed the “Swedish Salvation Army”, an almost identical copy of Booth’s Army, but without input and control from IHQ.)

SA leadership in Sweden made no secret of how they perceived the loss in faith of the departed.



Stockholm, April 24, 1934

Colonel Sven Wiberg,

My dear spiritual father, I so long for the Colonel [you] to come to Stockholm, but it looks as though a welcome will be soon, and if the Colonel [you] can put up with living at the Hotel Elcelsior, you are welcome…

And so I have another plea, we have founded an association for former Salvation Army officers in order to gather them back to God and the Struggle for Our Lord; we will have the annual meeting at the beginning of the Convention and they want the Colonel to come and lead a Salvation Meeting …

The Swedish FSAO association was a SA initiative and its intent was to seek and to save the officers; resignation from TSA was equated with a fall from Grace and rebellion against God. The stigma that was brandished on 'deserters' then spread across all borders and hangs like a black cloud to this day. 

Ours was an initiative to save officers from leaving TSA and to alert TSA that our struggle for our Lord is a joint struggle with them!  And now,  five years on of struggling, extending our hands and hearts, our intent is beginning to be understood and welcomed.

To be continued…




Dr. Sven Ljungholm
Birkenhead Corps UKT
(presently at Denmark Hill, London)

Learning from John Stott’s Godly Ambition


Today is John Stott’s first birthday in heaven.
Coming toward the end of my (32-year) ministry as Pastor for Preaching and Vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church, I read Alister Chapman’s new biography of John Stott with special interest. I wanted to see how he finished at All Soul’s and how he shaped the rest of his life.
Stott became Rector at All Souls in 1950 at the age of 29. Just shy of 20 years later he told the church council on September 20, 1969 that “he wanted to stand down.” The church was not prospering as it once had. He felt his calling was to “wider responsibilities.”
The council accepted the proposal and 15 months later Michael Baughen took the helm. “Within a few years All Souls was bursting again” (75). But, Chapman observes, “by almost any measure, Stott’s ministry at All Souls was a success” (77).
Stott was still on the ministerial team at All Souls for another five years. When the severance was complete in September, 1975, he wrote, “I find myself pulled and pushed in various directions these days, and need divine wisdom to know how to establish priorities” (Timothy Dudley-Smith, John Stott, A Biography: The Later Years, IVP, 2001, 248).
I found this comforting. It is remarkable how many good things there are to do. And if one is ambitious to live an unwasted life for the glory of Christ, discernment is crucial. Sudden release from decades of familiar pastoral expectations can easily lead to sloth or superficial busy-ness.
Stott’s discovery was that his calling was a remarkable global ministry. “As with Jim Packer, Stott gave himself to Anglican politics but in the end tired of them. Neither had an obvious, appealing role to fill in England. Both were in demand elsewhere. The result was that two of England’s most gifted evangelicals spent most of the end of their careers serving the church beyond England’s shores” (Godly Ambition, 111).
The thesis of Chapman’s book, Godly Ambition: John Stott and the Evangelical Movement(Oxford, 2012), is that Stott “was both a Christian seeking to honor God and a very talented man who believed he had key roles to play in God’s work in the world and wanted to play them. In short, he combined two things that might seem incongruous: godliness and ambition” (8). With that double drive, “few did more than John Stott to shape global Christianity in the twentieth century” (160).
This ambition was as vital to the end of Stott’s days as his mental and physical life would sustain. One reason is that it was biblically grounded. Explaining his own understanding of ambition he said,
Ambitions for God, if they are to be worthy, can never be modest. There is something inherently inappropriate about cherishing small ambitions for God. How can we ever be content that he should acquire just a little more honour in the world?

Christians should be eager to develop their gifts, widen their opportunities, extend their influence and be given promotion in their work — not now to boost their own ego or build their own empire, but rather through everything they do to bring glory to God. (156)
May every one of us, in the transitions of our lives, seek the kind of holy fire that gives both the light of discernment and the heat of ambition. All of it for the glory of God. This is my deep longing as I face whatever future God gives.


John Piper | April 27, 2012 

Sunday, April 29, 2012

THERE'S A WELCOME HOME!


Word has been received that a member of our fellowship, BERKLEY JENKINS. 
was Promoted to Glory on April 25, 2012.

We salute Berkley Jenkins, USA South, a member of the 

SERVANTS OF CHRIST SESSION.



Please remember his sister Patricia Janice Wright, a FSAOF member, and the family in prayer.

Friday, April 27, 2012

PART ONE “Status quo is Latin for, The Mess We’re In”.





General Linda Bond writes in the May-June issue of The Officer that the “way we (officers) lead still bears the mark of our life experiences.” The General shares that our spiritually charged leadership skills are honed through conferences attended, formal study, books read and advice from our mentors… realizing that what she does now is not much different from what she did as a corps officer; the relational challenges are not dissimilar.  “So much has changed. Yet so much has not. We still lead as officers for him, for them, for life!”

About half of those reading the Army’s bi-monthly magazine for Officers of the Salvation Army will in 20 years no longer wear SA uniform with officer trim. Yet, as recent FSAOF surveys reveal, the large majority of officers that resign their commission take with them the Ordination mantle and continue serving, leading for him, for them, and for life.

The two most common reasons for ‘leaving the dear old flag’ is for married officers, separation/divorce and for single officers, to marry.  If the army had been less fixated on antiquated regulations once suited to an up-start Victorian era church-army and moved with the times, several thousand officers might well have remained “for life!”


 AT·TRI·TION

       1. A reduction or decrease in numbers, size, or strength

The number of Salvation Army officers in active service is decreasing rapidly. An increasing number of officers are retiring. And a further almost 50% of active officers are resigning within a decade of their being ordained and commissioned. And a further number, albeit much smaller, are dismissed annually. To add to this alarming picture is recognizing the diminishing number of candidates stepping forward each year resulting in an ever -smaller number of Cadets.

An overview of the attrition rate in a recent five-decade period is included:
  
Twenty years ago while serving as a reinforcement officer in Sweden the then Chief Secretary, Colonel Gote Lindgren, lamented that the Swedish territory was experiencing the highest attrition rate in the army world. It was the army I’d grown up in, believed in and had, at age 40, left a successful career in the travel industry, to invest my life and that of my family in.

On our arrival in Sweden and on driving into the corps’ expansive parking lot behind the town centre Citadel we were met by eight or nine uniformed white haired very ‘senior’ soldiers, 2 standing upright only because they were clinging with all their might to the corps’ standard. None were fluent in English, but in their enthusiasm to welcome the arriving American officers they’d all been coached and greeted us in unison: "WELCOME TO THIS CORPSE!" (enunciating the word CORPS phonetically) We had all we could do to keep from losing it!

Some days later, when writing my first corps’ newsletter, I decided to include a stirring challenge from the DC, whom I’d not yet met. I was hoping for a battle cry, one that we'd all rally round and proclaim throughout the division. I asked him what his vision was for the next 12 months ? He responded; “Not to close more than 4 corps!” Hold the presses!

The CS’s remark, those from the corps’ folk and the DC led me to put my market analysis skills to work.  Some 40 SA Year books and other resource material at hand I set to work and analyzed soldier, officer and corps attrition rates of every SA territory worldwide. It was a four-month long labour of love. What followed were a series of articles that I wrote for the Swedish The Officer.

To learn that the countries and regions experiencing the greatest losses, Scandinavia and Western Europe, did not really surprise me, however the UK and Canada & Bermuda losses caused alarm. The percentage losses were staggering.

Since those studies were completed 25 years ago, I have moved 11 times and to 5 different SA territories on both sides of the Atlantic. And, along the way I’ve shed thousands of documents (many now archived in London, Moscow, Kiev, New York and perhaps elsewhere?) and more books than I’d have liked. Nonetheless, those many sheets of typewritten pages detailing SA officer stats have somehow always found a place in my packing.

In gleaning those old stats it's clear that the attrition problem remains to this day, albeit with some glimmer of hope. Had major changes been made three or four decades ago they might have prevented, or at the very least, stemmed the losses to some degree; thousands of officers have left their SA calling. True, many are faithfully serving God in other churches and fellowships. However, the root of our (SA) problem then and now is that we’ve become mired down in maintaining the status quo, burdened by regulations that ought to have been rewritten and implemented from the day that they were first given even cursory attention. In particular, the regulation requiring officers going through the process of divorce to step out for 2 years was the key reason for the resignations and represented almost 50% of the losses. Studies conducted by the FSAOF indicate that majority wished to continue in active service. IT needs to be pointed out that regulations were applied with obvious partiality.

Another factor that caused hundreds of losses was the regulation relative to the marriage of officers. The Salvation Army International Commission on Officership (2000) seeking to remedy the significant reductions in the number of officers in many developed countries opened the door for Christian ministry and spiritual leadership for those called by God, but whose spouse does not share the same calling to ministry. It broadens access to officership for those who are married to non-officer spouses. Equally important; it acknowledges and celebrates individual calling to ministry as officers in TSA while also seeking to quell the fundamental problem of the diminishing number of active officers in many ‘western’ country territories.

Potentially, in the short term, this shift in policy may prove to be the single most important provision in the army’s effort to stave off closing more doors in more towns and cities and instead, reigniting and refocusing our movement’s evangelistic zeal in accordance with the General’s; One message – One mission proclamation.


The SSO programme was designed initially to attract SA soldiers who were prepared to abide by SA regulations and lifestyles and to become partners in ministry with their officer spouse. The non-officer spouse has not understood the nature of officership as a spiritual covenant, rather than as a contract with The Salvation Army.

This significant regulation change, introduced over a decade ago in several territories to combat the attrition rates, has met with modest success at best relative to an increase in the number of active officers; approximately 100 worldwide. However, it has and continues to suffer from what should have been easily predictable issues relative to human rights; the demand that the non-officer be required to reside in the SA provided quarters, vacate and move to the officer spouse’s appointment, etc.

(The SSO Provision will be dealt with at another time)

******************************************** 

 “Ronald Reagan, while President of the United States, said, “status quo is Latin for, the mess we’re in”.

Are we seeking to protect the status quo or are we finding it impossible to break free from it?

The  Rev. John H. W. Stott shared in a conference I attended, “Vision is the result of a deep dissatisfaction with the status quo”. Stott went on to say that, “our dissatisfaction with the status quo, if of sufficient consequence, ought to move us to action formulating in our minds a new vision for our churches.“

"If it is important to you, you will find a way. If not, you will 
find an excuse! ." –Unknown




APRIL 29 - YOUR BATTLE IS OUR BATTL!







Sven Ljungholm
Former SA Officer
USA East



Thursday, April 26, 2012

Real Freedom is Found in His Yoke



        Here then is what appears to be real conflict within the classic religious heritage, steeped as it is in biblical faith. On the one hand there is the call for comfort, while, on the other, there is the call for disturbance. How can the two be combined, without contradiction, in a valid system of life and faith? On the surface this looks impossible, since the two moods appear to we wholly incompatible. It is in the solution of this problem that much of the true glory of the gospel appears, for Christ is able to take us to a deeper level in which both of the valid, yet radically opposed, demands are met simultaneously. The method which Christ uses to accomplish this end involves the marvelous figure of the yoke.
        
         The great yoke passage, which is found at the end of the eleventh chapter of Matthew, begins with the recognition of the validity of the demand for comfort. We see how tender Christ was with all the broken and needy when He began the pronouncement by saying, “Come unto me all ye who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” This appears to be the theme of comfort, pure and simple, so that we naturally expect Christ to go on and say that the heavy-laden must lay down their burdens, but this is precisely what He does not say. In a really shocking paradox Christ offers rest to the burdened by asking them to share His burden. His solution of the problem of those who are tired with toil is to offer them the world’s greatest symbol of toil; namely, the yoke. The yoke means, in some places, that by which a man can, through a device on his shoulders, carry more than he could otherwise carry. In other places it means the harness which animals, either oxen or asses, wore, by which they are able to pull a plow. In any case, the striking facet is that Christ’s offer of peace was through the acceptance of new responsibilities and that His offer of rest was through the voluntary sharing of new toil. He did not say that He Himself would remove burdens. What He did say was that, because His yoke was perfectly fitted, His own burden seemed light…
        
         Because we are accustomed to the phrase “Take my yoke upon you,” having heard it in Handel’s Messiah if nowhere else. The great words are no longer shocking to us, but they must have been terribly shocking to those who first heard them. Even our acceptance of the words does not mean accepting the idea. Perhaps this is why the symbol of the yoke has been so much less common in Christian history than have the other symbols suggested by Christ’s own words…
        
         The neglect of the yoke is understandable when we realize the degree to which it is an affront to our ordinary wishes, Christ does not give us the answer which we naturally desire to have. We want to escape responsibility, but Christ will not let us do so. In both the yoke and the cross He took ideas which must have been revolting to many of His hearers, and transformed them by adding new meaning. In using the word, Christ undoubtedly had something of the rabbinical tradition in mind, according to which a student symbolically accepted the teacher’s yoke; however, the major Old Testament connotation of yoke was evil, referring to bondage. In any case, Christ picked up the figure and gave it a new and liberating significance.
        
         The heart of the transvaluation comes in the note of joy. Real freedom, Christ says, is not the absence of limitations on our actions, but the joyous acceptance of limitations inherent in the new loyalty. As a result there comes a liberation greater than any merely empty or irresponsible freedom can ever bring. The yoke, instead of being a galling instrument, is consequently a harness which is easy to wear. We do not seek peace directly, but it comes ultimately as a by-product of the act of giving ourselves unreservedly to Christ’s cause.
        
                  We are made to be spent. This is inherent in the very nature of the human situation. The revolting symbol of the yoke, feared and rejected by many Christians even to this day, comes to stand for the chief meaning of the Christian life. What is a Christian? A Christian is one who seeks, in spite of his failures, to wear Christ’s yoke with Him.

Jesus, show us the futility of trying to live apart from Your yoke.

When we seek freedom apart from Your yoke, we only find bondage.
When we seek to labor apart from Your yoke, we only find heaviness.
When we seek rest apart from Your yoke, we only find distress.
When we seek peace apart from Your yoke, we only find agitation.
When we seek joy apart from Your yoke, we only find misery.

Jesus, help us come to You and take Your yoke upon us and learn from You,
for it is only then we will find real freedom.


Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
–Matthew 11:28-30


Elton Trueblood 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Guilt Gone Wild


Mark Twain reportedly said that man is the only creature that blushes—or needs to.

Guilt is perhaps the modern world's most undervalued commodity. Our capacity for it is a hint of our meaning and destiny. We are able to knowingly create good—and evil. The ability to experience guilt is a sign of health. The only two kinds of people who experience no guilt are saints and psychopaths.

Still.

I often think that guilt is a particular hazard for people involved in ministry and church leadership. I don't mean the kind of 'godly sorrow' that the Spirit brings to lead us to repentance and full life. I mean the kind of chronic cloud of inadequacy and general 'loserliness' that chokes motivation and saps energy. So here are a few chronic guilt-inducers that you might want to consider unloading.

Not pleasing everyone.

A friend of mine left the marketplace to start working in the church. He said his biggest surprise in his new role was that it can seem like everyone in the church feels like his supervisor.

Technology makes the greatest talks in the world available to everyone. They're free to compare and contrast with whomever happens to be the live teacher at their church. And everyone has opinions. Years ago when I spoke at a conference a total stranger came up to me and said, "I thought your voice sounded familiar. A friend of mine gets all your tapes—and sends me the good ones."

I think pastors in particular struggle with guilt here for a few reasons. One is that the pastorate attracts a disproportionate number of people-pleasers (as opposed to other occupations like being an umpire or marine drill sergeant or wedding coordinator). Another is the nature of our work. We deal with what matters most. If we fail, then the maintenance of sacred doctrine and the eternal wellbeing of souls are on the line. But if my guilt detectors go off every time someone is not pleased with me, they will never turn off! Whom did Jesus not disappoint?

Not reading everything you should

A university faculty member I know says the biggest lie in the academic world is, "Yes, I've read that book." Since I went into ministry, there has been a stack of books and journals that I have not yet gotten through. Calvin and Luther never had to deal with this information glut. Most of the wonderful stuff that keeps getting written every year you will never read. If you did nothing but read all day, you'd never absorb it all. Plus no one would pay you. Get over it.

Not remembering enough names

I have been doing church ministry 30 years. I still don't have a good response when someone whose name I've forgotten says, "Do you remember who I am?" Babe Ruth used to call everyone "Kid," because he couldn't remember names. You could go that route. Another option is the one used by Jim Carrey in the movie Liar Liar. When he was temporarily unable to deceive, he greeted somebody with, "Hi! You're not important enough for me to remember your name." I wouldn't suggest using that one.

Not keeping up with expectations.

Job descriptions for pastors are generally the second-least realistic descriptions in the world, next to singles' personal ads. Pastors are expected to lead, counsel, preach, teach, administrate, fund-raise, vision-cast, visit the sick, marry the love-struck, and bury the dead. No one could do all these things. Jesus didn't do all these things. You will never be able to do them all. Get over it.

Ignoring your spouse, blowing off the kids, hydroplaning over the state of your soul, being apathetic about hunger and suffering and injustice in the world, failing to love the real-life people God places in your church and world.

Actually, these are all excellent things to feel guilty about. This is what guilt is for—as long as it leads to actual change. Just don't waste your guilt on those things that ultimately don't matter.

John Ortberg
Pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church
Menlo Park, California.  LEADERSHIP

Monday, April 23, 2012

“Maybe I’ll do better next time?”


As the morning service progresses we will all see just how much truth there may be in that statement for me today…

We begin today with words from the Psalmist - Psalm 92:

It is good to praise the Lord and make music to your name O Most High,
Proclaiming your love in the morning and your love at night, to the music of the ten-stringed lyre and the melody of the harp.
For you make me glad by your deeds, Lord;
I sing for joy at what your hands have done.
How great are your works, Lord, how profound your thoughts!

 ‘My Jesus, My Saviour, Lord there is none like you.’

Now, I’m talking mainly to the children and young people, but the grown-ups can listen in too.

I’m not very good at drawing, but we’ve got a new easel upstairs in the Nursery and I’ve been desperate to have a go! So, on Monday, when the Nursery was closed and there was no-one around, I sneaked in and had a go (Don’t anyone tell Angelique though!) I cleared everything up after myself so no one would know I’d been there.

I decided I would paint a picture of my house. I had so much fun and I’m really pleased with my picture. I tried to get everything right. So.... This is my house, with its front door, the grass outside, the tree next to my house...

Even though it wasn’t very sunny on Monday, I thought it would look better in sunshine, so I’ve put the sun in...

What do you think?

Are you sure it’s in the wrong place? But I thought I’d got it right. Maybe I’ll do better next time etc.

Sometimes, no matter how hard we try you don’t get everything right. Sometimes we get a bit mixed up. But that’s okay. God gives us as many chances as we need to get things right, so long as we are trying to do the right thing and trying to live as he wants us to live. When we get things wrong, we always have the chance to do it better next time because God is patient

Father God, we often make mistakes and we ask for your forgiveness. Please help us to do better next time and to be the person you want us to be. Please bless these precious children. Amen.

I shall take my masterpiece home for my lounge wall – it will be the centrepiece replacing the old Rembrandt!

Now for those a bit older

This morning I would like you to consider yourself as a paint pot…


Upstairs in the Ark we do a lot of art and craft activities. One of the wonderful things about coming to nursery is that you get to do all the messy exploration that you’d get into awful trouble for at home.


As a staff team we are usually pretty considerate of each other; we are fair in the division of yucky jobs, and we clear up after ourselves when we use ‘The Messy Room’ but in the run-up to last Christmas, it became ‘every man for himself.’ It was survival of the fittest and if you snooze you lose!
With 45 children each making 10 different items to take home for Christmas, paint, glue and glitter were the order of the day... clearing up was not a priority!


We have a vast array of paint pots that have built up over the years (the good old ones that were made to last are still around from the early days,) we have tall pots, small pots, pots with lids and brush holders, broad based pots, narrow based pots... you name it, we have it, around 40 or so altogether.


As Christmas approached, one by one the paint pots were used up; some for paint (in every rainbow colour,) some for paint and glitter mixes, others for paint and glue glazes, others that you really couldn’t be entirely sure what they contained.
There came the inevitable point where EVERY paint pot had been used, many of them more than once, with layers of paint or glue that had dried out and the pot then refilled with something else.


I needed a paint pot. I needed it for white paint. (Even with the artistic licence of a 3 year old a snowman has to be white.) I hunted high and low – there must be a pot somewhere that hadn’t been used, or something I could use to put paint in?  (No-one had wanted to be the one to wash them so everything that could be used had been used!)
No. There was nothing else for it. I was going to have to tackle the paint pot mountain and it was a daunting prospect.


So, should I start with the pots that looked the easiest to get clean? The ones that had been used in the past couple of days, that just had one layer of paint to remove and that hadn’t had sticky glue mixed in. They didn’t look like they would take too much scrubbing to come clean.


Or should I get the really bad ones out of the way first? The ones with several layers of hardened paint dried on, with added glue and glitter, and even some with stray pom-poms that were destined for Christmas cards but hadn’t stuck.


I filled the sink with hot soapy water, threw in a random first assortment of pots, and started cleaning.


It was interesting. It wasn’t how I’d anticipated it. (It was a lot messier and a lot more fun for a start!)


Some of the pots that I’d thought would be easy to clean just refused to cooperate. The stain from the colour they’d previously contained just wouldn’t wash off. Even with frantic scrubbing they wouldn’t come clean. The stain clung on tightly, as if it had sunk into the plastic of the pot itself.
At the other end of the scale, some of the pots that I thought would take ages to clean up, if they ever would, gave up their stains willingly? In fact, the sticky glue that I’d envisaged would make the job so difficult, actually made it easier to clean; the paint and glue just cleanly peeled away! Leaving a stain-free pot! Just what I needed to put my white paint in – I didn’t want any left-over stains contaminating my white paint.
Some of the paint pots had ridged sides, with nooks and crannies that made the job a little more tedious, (thankfully they were all round rather than square, and therefore had no corners to get into...)


Whilst I was washing them, my mind was wandering and wondering - If we were all paint pots what would we look like?


Have we gathered layers that have hardened over the years? Are we stained from some of the things we’ve done or said? Hurts that haven’t healed? Situations that have never been dealt with? Have we masked a colour or an episode we didn’t like with another painted on top? Do we have some hidden nooks and crannies that harbour old resentments?


Sometimes we look at ourselves, or at others, and wonder how or if we can ever truly be made clean?


The stains of our sins can’t be removed by washing: As we can read in the Book of Jeremiah, chapter 2, verse 22, there is no ambiguity, ‘Although you wash yourself with soda and use an abundance of soap, the stain of your guilt is still before me," declares the Sovereign LORD.’
The wonderful thing is that, as Christians, we can be washed clean. We are washed clean. Jesus made it so. By dying on the cross in atonement of our sins, we are clean. All we have to do is claim His cleansing.
In the words of a Herbert Booth song : (Song 415)
    
“From every stain made clean,
From every sin set free;
O blessed Lord, this is the gift
That thou hast promised me.”
and in the words we sang before:
“Lay aside the garments, that are stained with sin,
And be washed in the blood of the lamb;
There’s a fountain flowing for the soul unclean,
O be washed in the blood of the Lamb!”

We heard that this is confirmed in 1 John Chapter 1 verses 5 to 7, when John bears witness to his actual encounters with Jesus, both in human and divine form: As John read to us earlier, he writes,

“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”

Even knowing that Jesus has washed us clean, as humans we don’t always accept his cleansing and let go of old stains, so I urge you today; give up your old stains, and be a clean vessel, ready to be used as God chooses.

Candidate Hilary Borthwick
The Salvation Army 
(Armee Yn Taualtys)
Douglas Corps
Isle of Man UKT