The Salvation Army for a new generation

12-25

ALOVE

Amazing Love

Written by James Pegg

James Pegg Easter is my favourite time of the year.  In my opinion it is the defining moment in the Christian calendar, in fact, I would go even further to say that the events of Easter is the most defining moment in history.

This story couldn't be imagined. It is incredible. I wonder which part of the story is your favourite part? The praise and adoration on Palm Sunday as Jesus rode into Jerusalem? Jesus rebuking those in the temple? The last supper? Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane where he shows genuine pain and sacrifice of His own will? Pilate's guilt? The words Jesus said whilst on the cross? Jesus’ humble words on the cross pleading with God for forgiveness for the people who crucified Him? Jesus’ conversation with the thief hanging next to Him and the promise of spending eternity in paradise for him? The Roman Soldiers conversion and admission that Jesus truly is the son of God?  Jesus' amazing resurrection? So much happened in that short space of time it’s no wonder we call the week - "Holy Week".

One of my favourite songs is an old song called “And can it be”. Some of the words in this beautiful song are amazing. Have a read of this;

"And can it be that I should gain

An interest in the Saviour's blood?

Died He for me, who caused His pain—

For me, who Him to death pursued?

Amazing love! How can it be,

That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?"

What words! "How can it be that my God should die for me?" I think this blog is more of a testimony than anything. For those who have been to church for a good part of their lives they would have heard many times how important Jesus dying on the cross is. It's been said so many times it almost becomes something that we unconsciously take in without realising. We become numb to the sacrifice and we take for granted the pain and suffering Jesus went through for us. Or perhaps we’d just rather not think about it. It was not until a few years ago that I really came to terms with what this meant for me. I knew Jesus died for me but I never realised what that really meant. It was something accepted but not experienced. I was grateful without being overwhelmed by this truth. Now I cannot go through Good Friday without a tear in my eye because one Easter the death of Jesus became very real to me. I remember this happening one Good Friday and it was during the evening reflection. My minister at the time asked us to come and stand around a cross that was placed in the middle of the room. As I stood under the cross and looked up at these two rugged bits of wood, I realised exactly what Jesus did on Calvary - He died for me.

The reason that the Son of God, the creator of the universe, dies the most painful and humiliating death was because of my sin? I cannot comprehend that fact! Look at it like this; would you die for someone who is a murderer? My immediate reaction would be no, but what about this question? Would you give your child to take the place of a murderer who is sentenced to death? The idea horrifies me! Yet this is what God did for us on that very first Good Friday. The Old Testament clearly states that sin equals death, but because of Jesus - my debt is paid! Death has no control over me! Easter is life changing for me not just for my life on earth but now I can live with a confident hope that I will one day live with God.

What does Easter really mean to you? Is it another time of the year where we are simply reminded about the story of Jesus' death and resurrection? Or does the message of Easter transform the way you live your life?

What are you going to do this Easter time that will make this beautiful story real to you? Why not re-read the passage of scripture from the Easter story? Spend time getting to grips with each part of it and try to feel what each character feels at every step of the way. Spend time praying over the Easter story. Worship and sing the words that we know so well. Go and talk to someone who can help you experience Easter. Once all this is said and done, go and tell someone about this story and how Jesus died and rose again for them. This is something Jesus told us to do. In Mark 16:15 it says ‘He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”’

“Amazing love! How can it be,

That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?" 

ALOVE

10 Ways To Use The Old Song Book

Written by Nathan Bright

Nathan Bright We are officially now in Spring. Spring is a beautiful time of year with the bareness of winter slowly disappearing and new life appearing before us. Flowers and trees begin to blossom, lambs are born, the evenings get lighter and the sun starts to shine a bit more regularly. It’s so good to have new things and this new life. The Salvation Army has also recently been through a period of ‘newness’ and last year brought out a BRAND NEW SONG BOOK!(ooooooo!) 

This is a fantastic new resource which contains many beautiful words of testimony and devotion which will help us worship and connect with God regularly. Whilst we hope and pray that the new songbook will be all that and more to many people, it does leave the old song book rather redundant and although new life is exciting, I can’t help but feel a little sad that all of the old song books may be sat in a cupboard somewhere collecting dust and so in this blog I attempt to answer the concerning question which I am sure is in everyone’s mind and on everyone’s lips. What do we do with the old songbooks? Here are 10 suggested ways in which you can utilise that old trusty library of songs.

1. How Firm a Foundation (SASB 653) 
The songbook along with the bible is a tool to give us a good grounding and give us a firm base on which to build on. With that in mind - why not use your old songbook to steady up that wonky table you've got by placing it under that leg that’s slightly shorter than the others. 

2. Standing on the Promises (SASB 757)
Forget those killer heels this weekend. This season is all about the retro look and it doesn’t get much more retro than the songbook. All you need is 2 songbooks and a couple of sturdy elastic bands. I can guarantee you’ll turn heads.

3. I’ll Go In The Strength of The Lord (SASB 734)
Wallpaper your downstairs toilet- (Eat your heart out Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, Kelly Hoppen et al.) In my limited experience of interior design, the downstairs toilet is one of the special rooms that you can go a little crazy and your designs can be a little more ‘out there’. Without going into too many toilet habits – the downstairs toilet could be the perfect place to spend time reading words and verses and on occasion you could find something perfect inspire you in those difficult moments.

4. Stand up Stand up for Jesus (SASB 699)
Use the now redundant song-book to work on your posture. Place it upon your head and walk across the room without letting it fall. There’s nothing worse than a Christian that slouches.

5. Come My Soul THY SUIT PREPARE (SASB 563)
If you have one of the old red songbooks with the plastic cover (probably a ‘corps song book’ rather than a personal copy) - this one is for you. We are told in the Bible to put on the armour of God. Well how about accessorizing with a songbook? With a few simple amendments and a little bit of imagination the plastic cover makes a brilliant bib, complete with food catching pouch and it doubles up as an excellent waterproof showercap.

6. He Lifted Me (SASB 339)
The songbook has many uplifting words and songs that help take you to a higher place. Here's another way of using the song book to help you get to a higher place. Reaching the food at the back of your top cupboard is no longer an issue with the new step up song book.

7.  Only a Step to Jesus (SASB 225)
It is so important that we work our spiritual muscles and many people have found the old song book to help them maintain their spiritual fitness. Here, spiritual fitness collides heads on with physical fitness. A collection of songbooks makes the perfect home made step to move up and down on whilst making your way through the latest exercise video. Lose 14 stone in a day. (It would not be recommended to combine this suggestion with suggestion 2.)

8. Come Sinners to the Gospel Feast (SASB 234)
Donate your old songbooks to a local chip shop so they can wrap chips in the pages.
Now, I don’t know about the absorptive quality of the pages of the song book, or how well they hold the grease of your average battered cod - BUT here's a story which may just convince you that this is an idea to be taken seriously! My Great, Great, Great, Grandad (give or take a great), came to The Salvation Army after buying a bag of chips that was wrapped in The War Cry. He read the words on that paper, found his local Salvation Army and was saved.  It’s an amazing story! He took along all of his sons in his large family and they too were all saved and started several generations of Salvationists. Amazing. (In fact I’m going to have a portion tonight in order to pay homage to that wonderful story of heritage.) Just think - without those chips, you wouldn't be reading this now (and you probably would have saved yourself 10 minutes of your life...) Imagine the impact your song book could have…

9. O Remember (SASB 276)
Create a puzzle for the Home League. Chop up some verses of some classic songs and challenge members of the older people in your corps to put them back together in the correct order. As long as you can get past the almost blasphemous task of chopping up some pages, this really is a great game for older people and helps bridge the gap between the older people in your corps. In particular, doing memory tasks using familiar verses with people who struggle with their mind can be really rewarding!

10. On God’s Word Relying (SASB 222)
In all seriousness (and this is probably my best suggestion) the songbook is an amazing resource of words, poetry and devotion all of which have been written by people of God. Many of the songs are an expression of love to God. Many ask questions of God and provide answers. Many are based on scripture or our beliefs and doctrines. There are some words in the old book which are pretty dated and maybe now they don't mean a lot to us, but there are also so many things we can learn in the book. There are words of comfort, strength, wisdom, wonder and so much more. If you still have access to an old song book may I encourage you to take some time flicking through the pages and get to grips with some of the amazing words that have inspired and meant so much to the generations before you.

(nb. Please note – no songbooks have been harmed in the creation of this blog)

ALOVE

God can... See what you can’t

Written by Kate Gellatly

Kate GIsn’t it strange to think that God knows the exact plan for your life?  Your life has a purpose, has a meaning and you were put on this very earth for a reason!

I don’t know about you, but I find it so overwhelming when I think about the bigger picture and how God really wants to use us.  

Recently, I attended a Design for Life (DFL) weekend for ‘young adults’. The whole idea of the weekend is to help you discover what God created you to do and who He created you to be. It really was so inspiring, challenging and really opened my eyes up more than ever to the fact that God has a plan just for me and just for you!

Sometimes we doubt ourselves so much, we as humans are pretty good at it (because we constantly compare ourselves to others) and on a personal level I know I can completely see myself as a failure, but God doesn’t see that at all. In fact God sees an amazing creation before Him. He has so many desires for us and wants us to trust him completely.  

I have been really challenged recently by how God uses our brokenness; failures, mistakes and how that builds us up and shapes us into the person we are meant to be.

Remember that your struggles always lead to strength! God will use it to produce more strength, more faith and more perseverance in your life day to day if you let him. It’s all got a purpose, whether we understand it now or not. Our struggles may become clear and make more sense in days, months or years but He knows the story of your hearts and we have to trust that He knows what He is doing. 1 Peter 5:7 says ‘Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you’

It’s frustrating when we just want things to happen and we can get annoyed that certain things don’t go the way we want to. Somedays I find myself thinking – ‘Lord, how long before this or that?’ So much is going on behind the scenes, if only we knew. Trust God when you don’t have a clear vision, when you don’t know all the details because sometimes maybe you don’t need to have all of the details.  He gives us the strength to trust him in the unknown times, when we don’t quite get it. If we can believe in Him in the unknown times, this is faith! Hebrews 11.1 says ‘Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.’

We can’t always see the bigger picture, it’s a struggle and we have got to put a whole lot of trust in God, because believe it or not He’s got this!

God’s plans are sometimes different to our plans; we’ve got to have patience- His timing is pretty perfect you know. ‘He has made everything beautiful in His time’- Ecclesiastes 3:11

Whilst we can’t see exactly our path in front of us, why circumstances have happened, the big man has got it all under control.  Psalm 18.20 says ‘God made my life complete when I placed all the pieces before Him. When I got my act together he gave me a fresh start.’ This is a great reminder for us that God has got our lives in control and can use all of our failures, but only if we let Him.

I believe if we make God our priority in our every day lives and don’t allow Him to just be a passing thought then He will direct us to the things He may be calling us to. God equips us to do the things He asks of us, and when things don’t work out, take it as an opportunity to trust him more.

One of the phrases that really stuck with me from the DFL weekend was

“If you want to see the rain, you got to dig some ditches”. If we want to see the land filled with rain we have to make a ditch. God will send us the rain if we dig.

Sometimes we need to work a little bit, work at digging a ditch before it becomes a success and fills with rain. Remember Noah? He built an ark and it didn’t look very hopeful…until the rain came then it all made sense. I guess we all have to play our part and work in partnership with God. God can and will do amazing things but we have to prepare a way for Him to work in our lives.

If you do what you can do, then God will step in and do what He can do.

So maybe you can’t see what’s going on in your life at the moment, situations arise and you feel like you’re not getting anywhere. You’re not alone because God can see what you can’t. Maybe you need to dig a ditch and prepare your life for God’s blessings to pour down on you. Maybe you need to really seek God for some guidance and understanding, or maybe you just need to make God your priority relationship everyday.

God can and God will give you what you need, He delights in YOU. He’s got this! Trust him, talk to Him and keep you’re communication a day-to-day habit.

ALOVE

Territorial Youth Chorus – a Testimony

Written by Amy Coates

Amy CoatesTYC2016 was not what I expected it to be. Prior to this year’s TYC we got a taste of what to expect this year as last year’s chorus reunited to perform at Hendon Highlights. I arrived looking forward to a week with close friends, many of whom I don’t get to see much during the year, but the week was about so much more than just being with friends.

At first I didn’t feel as if I was benefiting spiritually from the week and it wasn’t until the week came to a close that I was able to understand what the week had taught me. The past few months have personally been filled with worries for the future. Having only a few final months left at college and pressure to achieve my required grades to get into my chosen university it is a stressful time. If I’m being honest, due to life pressures and the current lack of certainty in my future I feel at the moment I’ve doubted God massively and lost sight of my faith. As I approached TYC I was worried that being in that situation, I would find myself feeling inadequate in a faith sense and I thought I would feel like everyone else there were ‘better Christians’ than I was. However, through conversations and the different teaching I came to realise that I was just letting a ‘bump in the road’ stop me from seeing the truth. I also came to know that I was not alone in these feelings of uncertainty and lacking in faith. 

The week allowed me to see things from a different perspective and already I have since noticed a difference in the way I am on a day-to-day basis because of what I learnt at TYC. I’m not putting myself down (as much-baby steps!), and I’m less afraid to open up and be honest about my faith and how I’m feeling. It has been encouraging to know that even those close to me have noticed a change.  The week has also allowed me to realise what I need to do for myself in order to make the most out of everyday situations or even in my home corps to make a difference.

During the week I was reminded of something that was said last year at TYC by a close friend of mine, Jess Boughton. She described the week as ‘A bubble of lovely people’. This was still the case this year and I’m sure will continue to be for years to come. TYC always gives the sense of family and there is a reassurance that no matter what we are facing, there are still people that care for you and may even be going through similar things to you. It is so good to have a Christian group of people you can rely on, journey with, and learn from, particularly in a setting like TYC where there is a variety of ages. Hebrews 11:12 says ‘Therefore, since we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses…’ TYC and that ‘bubble of lovely people’ are my great cloud of witnesses and this is so valuable to me both personally and in my faith journey.

Another part of the week that has a great impact on me is the music. For a while music was the only thing that allowed me to feel the presence of God. Prior to the week, I had unfortunately even lost that too. We sang a lot of really good songs during rehearsals and sang technically demanding songs throughout the week but it wasn’t until we sat in worship and sang through the song ‘I’m in His hands’ that I really felt God impact on me. For a long time I only associated this song with my childhood in which we would always sing it as a simple singing company song, so my initial thought was ‘aw that’s a nice song’, when actually it came to be the song of the week for me. The line that I feel really stood out for me and other members of the choir was this: ‘The days I cannot see have all been planned for me’.  It’s a simple line but it’s a promise that we sometimes lose sight of in today’s society of personal control and it’s what I needed to hear to help me realise that although it’s frustrating, I’m not the one that controls tomorrow and I have to start accepting today and begin to start listening to the truth. It was a lovely finish to the week for me that we got to share the song as a group summary in the final celebration and it was a way for the words of that song to linger onwards beyond the week.

Since the week, I have remained close to some of my friends and have been able to grow in faith both individually and also with them through honest conversations and have learnt new things about our faith and other aspects of our lives. As a result of the week, I have also been able to start taking on further responsibilities/experiences within my home corps that will impact both myself and those I come into contact with.

Overall I would definitely recommend the week to anyone as it is an ongoing experience not only a short space of time at the beginning of a year but an indescribable beginning of the year which will stay with you. It offers opportunities not only in the Christian community but also elsewhere. For example I have been able to speak to people at college about what I’ve been doing as they have seen pictures of it on social media and some have shown an interest when I accidentally burst into the music that we learnt during the week. TYC helps me refresh my faith and develop friendships that help me grow as an individual and as a Christian and also offers me the chance to help others grow and develop with their own faith too.

ALOVE

Get your glow on!

Word Up:- Moses Part 2
by Charlene Duxfield

Charlene DuxfieldI really love the story of Moses in the Bible, it’s mostly found in Exodus and I really like that Moses is human and relatable but also that he has this awesome relationship with God which grows throughout his life. There’s the beginning of his story where he runs away from his problems (Exodus 2); the part where he gives God lots of excuses about why he can’t do what God asks him to do (Exodus 3); and even when Moses breaks the stone tablets with the 10 commandments on them because he’s super annoyed and angry (Exodus 32)!

Moses is also obedient to God even though it’s difficult for him and he makes mistakes but his relationship with God grows and grows so much so that Moses is called a friend of God and meets with God face to face! Exodus 33:11 says “The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.’’ What an amazing position to be in - particularly in Old Testament times!

In Exodus 33 Moses asks for more of God. Like anyone, if you experience something good, you want more of it. If you have experienced God  - you will understand that Moses would want more of what he had experienced! God is so good.  Moses wants to see God’s glory and know more of this God who has rescued his people from Egypt and provided miraculously for them, just like He said he would. The story of Moses wanting to see more of God and wanting to be assured of God’s anointing on his life even further is found in verse 18-23. 

18 Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”
19 And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live. 21 Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. 22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”

So Moses goes up on Mount Sinai where he sees God’s glory and falls face down to the ground and worships Him. Moses spends 40 days and nights up the mountain in God’s presence and when he comes down the mountain his face is physically glowing (Exodus 34).

Moses spent time with God in His presence and the result was that his face was radiant with beams of light. Being in the presence of God had changed Moses so much that he was a reflection of God’s glory and the people could literally see it.

I love that because of Jesus’ death on the cross all of us can enter into God’s presence - not just the priests or ministers or special people. That means all of us have the same opportunity to become friends of God just like Moses did. It means that we can spend time in God’s presence and God can be reflected in us. How cool would it be if we all became radiant and started glowing after spending time with God? That would certainly get people's attention! Even if we don’t physically glow, spending time with God changes us from the inside so that our lives can reflect God. Our lives should look different from the world around us and the difference comes from spending time with God, getting to know Him and know His Kingdom values and love. It’s a challenge to me that my life would be a reflection of Jesus but that only happens when I spend time with God in His presence, knowing Him and letting Him shape my life and my decisions. If we do that we will radiate the amazing light of God.

Why not set some time aside today to spend with God and let Him remind you that He loves you, He has a plan for you and He wants you to reflect Him to the dark world around you. Get your glow on!
 

ALOVE

God can... Cleanse

Written by Lucy Northwood

It's fair to say that as a teenager in their last year of school, time is tight and there's not much to spare. Recently, I have been missing the army during the week to take part in a play at school that Lucytakes up the time I'd usually spend at the army, leading singing company or going to songsters or band. Personally, I didn't think it was affecting my faith and I thought "well, I am still going to the army on Sundays so it doesn't matter... I'm still getting my religious teaching on a weekly basis.”

During half term, I was lucky enough to attend Territorial Youth Choir, which, of the six years I've been going, this year has to have been one of the strongest and most influential years for me. The atmosphere was something you can't experience anywhere else, and can only be found in weeks like that.
On the Tuesday night, Abigail Johnson and I led prayers and presented a thought to the rest of the choir. Feeling slightly apprehensive towards this and knowing I was being pushed out of my comfort zone, I just gritted my teeth and smiled. Throughout the day during bible study and in our cell groups, we had looked at the theme of sin and temptations - something very relevant to our lives today. Very conveniently our prayers seemed to fit perfectly with the theme for the day as we spoke about forgiveness and being free from our sins. As a symbol of this, we gave everyone a post-it note and a pen and asked people to write something they wanted forgiveness for. Everyone then came forward and placed their post-it note into a bucket of water. The water made the ink fade from the paper which demonstrated how Jesus can wash away our sins, we can be forgiven and start afresh. Everyone then picked a card at random with a fellow delegate’s name that they would pray for during the year ahead. The idea of this is that as a choir we would give encouragement to each other to ‘keep going’ and resist the temptations we may face. The main idea for our prayers that night came from a song used on last year’s course - 'Cleanse my Heart'. This song impacted many during the week and a lot of those students returned this year. For the students who attended the week for the first time I’m sure that song will remain with them for many years to come. Using the song 'Cleanse my Heart' just seemed so fitting for our prayers in positive ways. The words of the chorus say this:

Cleanse my heart,
You give me a brand new start.
Cleanse my heart,
Lord purify my heart right now.

Whilst leading prayers, I was personally challenged to think of the things I wanted forgiveness for. Instantly I thought of the times I've forgotten to take time for myself to talk to God or pray to God. All these times I've said I've been too busy and that God will wait and He won't mind. In my busy life I thought it was maybe God not talking to me which helped me to feel better about not talking to Him and excused me of the the blame. During TYC I was reminded of the importance of talking to God and staying close to Him. He is talking to me, even when I’m busy.  It can almost become routine for us to go to The Salvation Army on a Sunday and during the week for rehearsals, leaving the teachings and experiences you've had there and not taking them with us when we leave The Salvation Army hall. It was my challenge to myself after TYC to take everything I'd learnt back home and carry it with me; telling people about the greatness of God and ensuring people knew of the importance of talking to God even when things aren't going to plan. We have to acknowledge that our lives are in His hands and He has a way for all of us. This was my challenge.
Sometimes when you’re in an environment like TYC and you set yourself a challenge like that it can be hard to comprehend how it will work it’s way through your life.
In our daily lives if we are surrounded by people who aren’t Christians (or people who perhaps have no interest in faith at all) telling people about how great God is can be a bit off-putting for them. As Christians it is our responsibility to tell others about God and let our lives reflect Him. Even the simplest of things such as a word of encouragement or an ear to listen can portray us as Christian people and help us stand out as different. You may not even realise but something really small can remind people about God and have a massive impact on them, even though it may seem insignificant to you.

The song, ‘Cleanse my Heart’ reminds us that it's never too late to recommit to God. Some people may not even realise they have grown distant from him (just as I didn't) but whenever you realise God is there waiting for you. When you go to Him in prayer and ask for forgiveness, he can cleanse you and give you a new start. When we give God our time and energy, God can do amazing things. He is always there, even in the times when you feel He couldn’t be further away. It's never too late to go back to Him.
Psalm 51:10 - 'Create a pure heart, O God, and renew your steadfast spirit within me.'
 

ALOVE

Called to Soldiership

Written by Lydia Daniels

Lydia Daniels I love being a soldier in The Salvation Army. Looking at the Soldier's Covenant I signed aged 15 (my commitment to God as part of becoming a soldier), I know that those promises are what God wants me to uphold in my life, and this is often reaffirmed to me. I'm grateful that I was able to make this commitment in a public way so that others could support me and hold me accountable when I am struggling or I slip up. But I'm happy to attend and say I belong to the Salvation Army whether I wear my uniform to the meeting or not. (To iron or not to iron? That is the question.)

However, I feel disheartened when I hear that friends and others who love The Salvation Army feel like they can't fully belong because they don't 'fit the bill' - some aspects of the soldiership commitment don't work for everyone (e.g. abstinence from alcohol) and I hate to think that those who have not decided upon other lifestyle choices are being pushed away from the church with feelings of inadequacy, judgement or shame; even if this isn't the intention of church members.

When I think of how I can put the Soldier's Covenant into context, it’s a little like wedding vows - for those who enter choose to enter marriage, it is important for them to declare their love and commitment to one another before their family and friends. This sounds a lot like what God wanted me to do for Him and why I chose to become a soldier.

Does reciting wedding vows automatically make someone a good husband or wife? Of course not. They are just a symbol of that person’s commitment to another. In the same way, promises that we make before God are a public symbol of an unending commitment to try our upmost to honour Him in every situation.

Perhaps the promises dictated by the Soldier’s Covenant are unrealistic in today's world, and perhaps they are unnecessarily particular, but I can't emphasise the significance of the promise I made in God's name aged 15. This promise was personal, and although The Salvation Army was my medium of commitment, I know that my love for Him (and His love for me!) will continue even if The Salvation Army ceased to exist.

Wearing a uniform doesn't make you a good or better Christian, in the same way that not being called to uphold certain lifestyle commitments and become a Senior Soldier doesn't make you a bad Christian. We are all called to accept the love and grace that Jesus offers and be an active member of His Church and family, wherever he has placed us.

Even though some people may feel that they can only be truly accepted in The Salvation Army if they are wearing a uniform and living by the 'rules', none of us get to decide who God accepts into His Kingdom. I believe that God still calls people to a covenanted relationship with Him, whether that involves abstinence from alcohol or not, but I do not believe that He wants this aspect of the Army to become a cause of separation or exclusion within the church.

God gives us GRACE that we don't deserve. It is because of this grace, we live in the beauty and freedom of His LOVE, which motivates us to live our lives in a way that brings GLORY to His name, so that others may know of this grace and want it for themselves. If there is something that prevents us from devoting our lives to sharing His salvation, I pray that we can overcome this, for Jesus’ sake.

Check out the Soldier's Covenent here

http://www.salvationarmy.org.nz/about-us/soldiers-covenant

ALOVE

Mums the Word… Of God!

Written by Anya Williams

Have some cheeky historical mother’s day knowledge to kick things off…

AnyaCelebrations of motherly figures and the concept of motherhood go all the way back to the ancient Greeks who held pretty wild festivals in honour of the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele. As a more modern culture though with only one God to worship, Christian mothering Sunday was transformed into the tradition of returning to your ‘mothering church’ on the fourth Sunday in Lent. Over time, it shifted into a more secular celebration where kids gave their mothers and grandmothers flowers and chocolate etc in appreciation of their hard work throughout the year.

When I was researching this, it was the middle bit of that history that grabbed me… The physical returning of ourselves to our ‘mothering churches.’ Bear with me while I explain my mind’s leaping between ideas… Our mothering churches are often the place where we saw our first examples of who God is and how to live this out from people who aren’t our earthly parents or guardians etc. Therefore, if we want to explore the concept of mothering, surely we have to return to the best and first example of mothering and how this directly applies to our way of kingdom living. So, returning to the gospel and the Saviour definitely points us in the right direction.  There are three key verses that engage with different mothering qualities that I’d like to chat to you guys about; comforting, teaching and miracle enablers.

As social beings, there is no doubt that we don’t come across times when someone needs us to be a place of comfort and calm.  I’ve recently been applying to universities and let me tell you, it’s stressful. It feels like the rest of my life is dependent on this one decision. Of course that’s not the case, and as someone with a faith I find this less daunting than perhaps those without God as their rock. But for my friends without a faith in God, I get to be a place of respite in this crazy time. Often that means eating comfort food and ranting about the education system, but I’ve recently found an opportunity to display God through this. In Isaiah 66:13 God says “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.” This stereotypically motherly trait is directly enacted by God. When I’m supporting my friends through stress I am engaging with both God’s example and motherhood. Acting in a way that aligns with God’s nature subconsciously causes us to be mums (no matter our gender.)

One of the best things about having more ‘mature’ (old) influences in our lives is that they have lived longer than us. They’ve experienced so much life, so much joy, so much sorrow and tell us about how they got through it – ace. Also, the stories can be pretty great. My granddad was recently promoted to glory, it was a real heart breaking time for me but his life was so rich and he was so open to telling us stories and teaching us things that he is still so present in my family’s lives. (There’s this one story about chickens, sugar cubes and a dining room table that makes me howl with laughter every time I hear it.) God instructs us as disciples to “not forget the things [our] eyes have seen or let them fade from [our] hearts for as long as we live. Teach them to [our] children.” (Deuteronomy 4:9.) Parents have a duty to teach kids important life skills – talking, eating with cutlery, the entire lyrics to a Fleetwood Mac album, you know, the usual. As Christians, we have the duty of teaching those living without the light of God the important faith lessons that God has taught us. We have to adopt this parental role by highlighting the best ways to live even though we don’t always get it right. In a similar way to that of a mother, we get to teach others amazing truths and then let them forge their own identity in the world with Christ. We are actually called to employ this motherly characteristic as much as possible with God as our guide.

I have never given birth – fun fact about me – but I have loads of friends and family members who have and who assure me that giving birth is not a walk in the park. It’s pretty flipping painful. Yet mothers go through it for the miracle of life to become a reality, a miracle of life only made possible by the creator himself (“You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Psalm 139:13). Mothers are so willing to go through this pain because they know how worth it the outcome will be, or even if they don’t know it’ll be totally worth it because it’s new, they do it anyway. Mental. Awesome. Woah. This almost blind faith and trust is the kind of thing I want to have when doing anything I’m called by God to do. On paper, giving birth is ridiculous and should be impossible to go through but He makes it so worth it and so safe for us. When God calls us to do anything he makes it so worth it and so safe for us but we (or me at least) can be so reluctant to even try and see what the outcome will be. I want this commitment and faith in all situations. God knows what he’s doing. We need to be miracle enablers rather than miracle hesitators (I was trying to make that rhyme but couldn’t quite pull it off.)

In short, we are all called to be motherly through the traits we need to live like Jesus. God calls us all to be mothers in one way or the other. So when you’re celebrating your awesome motherly figures on mother’s day or every day, don’t forget to celebrate the original mum – God and contemplate the motherhood in you.

ALOVE

Everyday I'm Shufflin'

Written by Nathan Bright

Nathan Bright One of my favourite features of my iPod is the humble shuffle function. It basically allows me to feel like I'm living on the edge and instead of choosing which music I'm listening to, I let my iPod decide. In the past it has thrown up some amazing mixes and created compilations that are so eclectic and so much more creative than I could ever conceive. I actually prefer listening to my music on shuffle because of the random nature of what I hear. I love being so carefree and that feeling of being totally out of control and being able to feel like I'm living that rock and roll lifestyle...pretty wild hey!?

Well, I say this is what I love anyway. In reality this is how it tends to play out: I put my iPod on shuffle. I listen to the first track that the controller of the iPod's mind decides is the one for me. The next track comes on and I skip it and then skip the next one too and probably the third one and maybe the next five or six until I find something that I actually want to listen to. I sometimes then decide I want to listen to a whole album of something I've stumbled on and go my own way, or I continue being in control one way or another (usually skipping more than I actually listen to). 

I hope I'm not the only one who is so impatient with their music and so demanding with what I want.

I completely love the idea of having no control of what I'm listening to, but in reality I love the idea more than actually doing it. I still want to listen to what I want to listen to. I give myself the illusion that I'm a little bit crazy and carefree by putting the iPod on shuffle but when it comes to actually listening to my music I still exercise an element of control.

In my own Christian journey there have been many occasions when I've convinced myself that I'm taking a leap of faith and handing over my life to God. I've sung words like 'I surrender all' and have really meant it. I've played 'All that I Am' in bands and have committed my skills, passions and gifts to God. I've spent time in solitary prayer and felt like I had submitted to God and given my life over to Him, and yet still so many areas of my life I still find myself struggling over decisions and what to do. I still pick and choose what I want to do. It's almost as though I've put my life on shuffle. I love the feeling of letting God be in control, but is that commitment any less of an illusion than my habit of putting my iPod on shuffle? Is it just the idea of it that I sign up to or do I truly hand over control? The idea of submission to God gives me an element of Christian satisfaction and it allows me to declare that I've allowed God to take control of my life. I let Him choose what comes into my life and what opportunities to fill my life with. I'm more than happy to give God that control. However, just like I treat my iPod's shuffling skills with little respect, I can do likewise with God's plan for my life. I skip some of the things he places before me as I'd rather do something else, it's too risky or I'm not in the right mood or it's not the right time for me and I have things I'm already doing which are obviously more important than God's plans. I choose my own way and then get annoyed that it doesn't work out or God hasn't blessed what I'm doing.

However much I may have thought I'd handed my life over to God and however committed I feel, until I stop treating God's opportunities in my life as nothing more than an option I still haven't quite relinquished total control.
John 3:30 says this - "He must become greater; I must become less."

This is an amazing reminder and such a simple verse to remember. I'd encourage you to learn it and recall it regularly. It's a verse that can infiltrate your life and become a constant motivation to do God's choice of life rather than yours. It reminds me of the commitments I've made and also gives me that gentle nudge that my life isn't always about doing everything for me. It helps me to make the right decision and do 'His will and not mine' just as Jesus prayed. As a final thought I leave you with the familiar verses from Proverbs 3:5-6. 'Trust in the Lord with ALL your heart and lean not on your own understanding and He will direct your paths.'
May I encourage you this leap year to take that leap of faith and commit to more than just putting your life on shuffle. May you listen to each and every track that God fills your life with and experience all He has to offer you.

ALOVE

For God So Loved The World

 Written by Karl Westwood

Karl Westwood When I begin to think about God’s love, I can’t quite get my head around it. As humans, I think it's natural to struggle loving someone if they have hurt you or let you down. There are, of course, exceptions to this. Could a father sacrifice his own son, in order to help a group of people from their wrongdoing? This extraordinary story is written in the book of John and has become known as the ultimate sacrifice. For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.
 

Familiar words? Regardless of how ever many times I saw this Bible verse, I never really read it. Last week, I was fortunate to get involved with the Salvation Army’s Territorial Youth Choir course. It’s a week where young people get together in sunny Bournemouth and worship God through singing, Bible studies and great fellowship. I was asked to lead a Bible study on eternal life. I had no idea where to start, and quite honestly the prospect of teaching 70 young people about this topic was petrifying. However, after lots of studying the Bible and Googling, I was closer to understanding the concept of eternal life. I felt that I needed to include my testimony in this bible study, but amidst the panicking and preparation, I neglected it. However, as soon as I stood up and started speaking, it all made sense. God has given us the opportunity to receive eternal life... But he can't force us to take it; we've got to take that leap of faith for ourselves.
 

Let me explain through my own story…
 

I was enrolled as a senior soldier of the Salvation Army when I was 14. I couldn’t wait to wear the uniform, sing in the songsters and play in the band. For the first couple of years this was so much fun and the novelty didn’t wear off, until I got to about 16 or 17. I found a new identity in life, and this was as a performer. I joined local amateur dramatic groups and choirs, which clashed with my Christian life. Even though I still attended the Army from time to time, I didn’t feel at home.
 

September 2012 arrived and I moved to London to commence studying towards my music degree. Moving into a new flat with 5 other people who I had never met before was exciting, yet pretty scary. I attended a Salvation Army church during this time, but was quite flaky and didn’t want to commit that much. I was having a great time at university, but at the same time I was living a life that goes against the promise and covenant I made with God when I was 14. I decided to join a chapel choir in my second year, only encouraging me to continue to go against that commitment. This felt great at the time, every Sunday I was singing really challenging music, even though when I look back, God was missing from the equation. My life didn’t feel fulfilled, and singing in this chapel choir quickly got boring. During these two years I did pretty stupid stuff, and didn’t seem to be able to grasp the difference between right and wrong.

It was when I was at a Salvation Army church on a Sunday afternoon during this time, where I had this strange out of body experience. I felt the love of God wrap around me, I felt that God was just saying ‘let me take it from here’. I rode this wave of faith for a short time, but I was still living a life that wasn’t quite up to scratch with the promise I made at 14. I felt my closeness with God slowly fading, and didn’t want to lose it.

One evening, for no real reason, I got my Bible out of the bottom drawer in my bedroom, and began to read it. I began to open my mind to Jesus’ teaching, and understand how the love of God could work in my life. It was only then when my relationship with God grew. I took a leap of faith and tried to stop doing these unchristian things. I lost friendships that were unhealthy along the way, and went through a time of being uncertain about life. I stopped going to house parties and social events where I felt the pressure to conform to university culture.
Once I started to understand the Bible more and more, I became to understand God more and more. Now I believe that God is showing me just the beginning, and my life is so much more fulfilled.
 

This brings me up to just before last week. I’d always believed in God, but never considered Him in my actions. It took a moment where I felt God's presence to wake up and realise what I was doing was wrong. It then took my own courage and a leap of faith to make those changes in my life.

God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish.

This is an incredible statement and makes so much more sense to me. However, now I read on… 'but have eternal life'. As long as I know God, and have Him in my life, He will give me this incredible gift - eternal life. A life in which my spirit will never die, and every day is fulfilled.

ALOVE

Do You Trust Me?

Written by Nathan Bright

I have a confession to make. I'm a 26 year old man and I still love Disney films. I always have and I probably always will. There is just something about them that means that they never grow old. One of my all time favourites is Aladdin. It's a total classic that I could watch again and again. It has a great story filled with top characters all with something different to offer us. There's our hero Aladdin, who journeys from scrounging a living as a 'street-rat' to living as Prince in the Sultan's palace. There's Princess Jasmine who teaches us that wealth and possession isn't everything. There's a great villain in Jafar who suffers as a result of his own greed and of course in true Disney fashion there's also a supporting cast full of animals and inanimate objects brought to life which help add so much emotion to the film. (It's got a great soundtrack too!)

Nathan Bright Quite early on in the film, both Aladdin and Jasmine are being pursued by the palace guards and have to make a quick exit from where they are talking with one another. Aladdin reaches his hand out and says to Jasmine "Do you trust me?". Jasmine has no idea what she is about to commit to, but in the short time of knowing Aladdin she has built up an impression of him and she feels safe with him. She trusts that he knows what he is doing. She takes his hand and takes on that leap of faith. Although she doesn't know the outcome of that trust, she believes that Aladdin will keep her from harm.

There are moments in our lives when we are faced with the decision on whether or not to make a leap of faith. The moments can be exciting new things (think about later on in the film where Aladdin and Jasmine ride the magic carpet together and Aladdin asks the same question) or they can come when we are backed into a corner with nowhere else to go. Whatever the reason for us having to make a leap of faith, the prospect of the unknown can be pretty daunting and scary. Doing things outside of our comfort zone is not something we like doing because they are uncomfortable. What I love about this clip from Aladdin is not the fact that Jasmine and Aladdin make this jump hand in hand and refuse to submit to the guards. The thing I love is that the act of the leap is not the focus. Aladdin doesn't ask Jasmine "Shall we jump?" nor does he just command her to jump, instead he asks the simple question "Do you trust me?". For me this is a total game-changer and adds so much depth to the relationship of the characters.

We face our own leaps of faith in our lives. Whilst we are rarely faced with having to jump from a shack to avoid palace guards, we do have to make bold decisions when living a Christian life. The thing is, so often when we are faced with these decisions we take an age to decide on what to do. We focus on the leap itself and what we think God is asking us to do and we miss God's outstretched hand inviting us to take hold. We fail to see God looking into our eyes asking the real question. When God calls us to exercise a leap of faith He is less concerned about what He has asked you to do and more concerned with the answer to his question "Do you trust me?".

For Aladdin, this jump is not a leap of faith. It is something that he does all the time and is familiar with. He knows the feeling of jumping from this shack. He knows how far down it is. He knows what's at the bottom of his fall. For him it is no big deal. For Jasmine, it's a new experience and it's an unknown. It is so far removed from her life of luxury. It's a great reminder that we also face different leaps of faith and what may be a challenge for one person may be very natural to another. For example, standing up in church and reeling off a freestyle prayer may be a leap of faith for one person but for another it could come very naturally. Talking to our friends about God outside of church may be terrifying for one person but easy for another. Helping a homeless person may be really tricky for one person but totally out of another person’s comfort zone. It is for this reason that it is impossible to compare our leaps of faith in God. God will never put more on us than we can manage and he knows our capabilities we simply have to look Him in the eye, take hold of his hand and say "Yes Lord, I trust you." Responding in this way will without a doubt open a new way of life and a whole new world to you! (Sorry!)

The next time you have an opportunity to do something for God try and forget about the leap of faith you are making and instead focus on God's question to you. "Do you trust me?"

 

ALOVE

This is the Prayer I Breathe

Rebecca Bright

Written by Rebecca Bright

I've been very fortunate to have spiritual role models in both my parents. They taught both my brother and I the value and importance of living as Christians and loving Jesus from a very young age. A lot of what we remember as children comes from what others have told us or from pictures or home videos. However I have a clear memory of kneeling at the mercy seat at the age of three at the end of a production of 'The Witness' (A Salvation Army musical). I remember asking Jesus to come into my life and getting a special feeling when a prayer was said with me.
At that age, to me, prayer was saying grace before meal times and reciting my bedtime prayer before I went to sleep. As I grew up I prayed for my friends and family, I prayed when situations and circumstances worried me, I trusted that I was praying to a faithful God who heard my prayer and I felt comforted in the knowledge that my worries and concerns were in His hands. It hasn't been until more recently that prayer has become an integral part of my daily life. I don't tend to have a time when I sit down and pray but rather spend regular moments throughout the day in prayer. As a teacher I often feel like I’m constantly on the go with little time to sit and be still. Due to this, I pray whilst I stand at the photocopier at school, I pray as I walk out in the morning to greet my class and I've found that, through regular prayer, I'm having more of a conversation with God. It's no longer one sided where I spout out all the things I want to happen but a two-way thing where I'm noticing the results of my prayers and seeing answers.
I read recently that to say that “prayer changes things” is not as close to the truth as saying, “Prayer changes me and then I change things.” God has established things so that prayer changes the way a person looks at things. Prayer is not a matter of changing things externally, but one of working miracles in a person’s inner nature.
I recently found myself in a situation where a conversation I had left me feeling angry and frustrated. I spent a lot of time stewing over the conversation and thinking about what I could have done or said differently and finally I realised that all I could really do was pray. I prayed for the situation, for those involved and I prayed that I would be able to wear love. Being angry or defensive towards that situation wouldn't help resolve it but prayer would. This confirmed to me the importance of praying constantly. We do not always have a quiet room to run to. Sometimes the most important praying must be done in the midst of turmoil, people and problems! Through prayer I felt relief, the worries faded and I felt peace in that situation.
How often do we stop and pray in the middle of difficult situations? When we're amidst a problem, frustrated or angry do we stop and pray? We might have prayed knowing something difficult was coming or in hindsight after something has gone wrong but in that moment of difficulty do we pray? I know that during that difficult conversation I didn't pray.
A very wise influence in my life (my Mum!) introduced to me the idea of 'breath prayers'. A simple one-line prayer that can become a part of us, as natural as it is to breathe. She suggested a prayer such as 'Lord, you're everything I need'. A line that we can breathe when we're feeling lost, angry or annoyed that can bring us comfort. After some ‘Googling’, I found that as wise as she is, breath prayers weren’t one of my Mum's own creations but is an ancient Christian prayer practice dating back to at least the sixth century. Known as the “Jesus Prayer” or “Prayer of the Heart,” early practitioners would repeat to the rhythm of their breath the phrase, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” I read that breath prayer is a good example of “praying without ceasing" and has the potential to become as natural as breathing. It is intended to be a very short prayer of praise or petition, just six to eight syllables. The words of the prayer can be easily adjusted to your heart’s desire so can be used for whatever is going on in your life at that moment.
Although I feel content in my prayer life and know that my two-way conversation with God is much better than the list of wants I used to pray once in a while, I know that something like breath prayer, making prayer as natural as breathing, will satisfy my prayer experience even further.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18