This week has been great as I have been able to spend a week on holidays with my family. Holidays are important and they should be used to recharge, refocus and spend time with those we love. This past week has been a great week although I must admit that after 3600km of travel I am feeling a little weary. As is our tradition, when we are on holidays we always try to attend a non salvation army church. This is not because we do not like the army, far from it, but we do enjoy taking these opportunities to attend different worship settings. This week was no different and so we decided to leave town and attend a different denomination. For us, because we live in regional South Australia our nearest town is an hour away regardless of the direction. This being the case we scoured the internet to find a church to attend in Whyalla. On finding one that took our fancy we checked the time which said that their worship celebration commenced at 11am. After travelling a whole hour to get there we discovered on arrival that their meeting commenced at 10am. Needless to say this would have been embarrassing had we chosen to still go into the building. As I reflected on this on the way home, disappointed and quite upset that we had been unable to attend worship, I began thinking about the similarities between the failure to advertise the correct information and our walk with Jesus.
Over the past few months I have been thinking a lot about my soldiership and officer covenants. While attending officer councils a month ago our new Territorial Leader Commissioner Tidd made an interesting comment which has really challenged my thinking about what it means to be a soldier in The Salvation Army. He said that "soldiership is not membership, it is more than that." He is right. Soldiership is much more than simply a level of membership in our churches. For many soldiers (and I am sure I am certainly guilty of this) this is what it can often appear to be. We advertise on our physica/spiritual websites that we are Christians, that we are different, that we love God etc etc. On the inside however and often in the way we act as well as our priorities, we reflect something completely different.
For the soldier we are called to be more. We are called to be responsive to the Holy Spirit's leading. We are called to grow in grace through worship, prayer, service and reading of the bible. We are called to uphold Christian integrity in every aspect of our lives and to be faithful to the purposes for which God raises up The Salvation Army; sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, endeavouring to win others to Him, and in His name caring for the needy and disadvantaged. Often we fall far short of the covenant that we have made to our God because lets face it, there are other things we would rather be doing right? Our priorities say more about us and our walk with Jesus than what we claim to stand for. We turn up late for church, we don't pray, we don't read our bibles and we fail to look after those that need us and God so much. Friends as I have reread my covenant in recent days I am challenged to step up in my spiritual life. Sometimes we get the service part right and neglect everything else.
You know when we turn up late for church, when we choose not to worship because we don't like the music, when we don't pray because we are worried about what others think it is not the minister we are dishonouring. When we fail to act out our covenant as soldiers we are actually disrespecting God. Friends there is a failure to fear our God in our churches. We have removed the awe and reverence for God and turned our christian walk (and dare I say our officership and soldiership) into something that is very different to the commitment we made so long ago. Very often we can be like a church that advertises the wrong information on their website. We can appear to be saying one thing but what is actually going on inside and spiritually is very different. Before we can win others for Christ, before we can lead others spiritually forward we have to be investing in ourselves and getting ourselves right before God. If we want to see people come to our churches and be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit then we need to be doing this ourselves. We need to be coming to church, praying, reading our bibles daily and allowing God to change us. If we are claiming to be a soldier for Christ, if we are claiming to have found the answers to the problems in our world, if we are calling for a reform in society then we need to be living it. Sometimes we can be so focused on getting the outside of the cup looking right that we forget to clean the inside.
2014/15 is looking to be a huge year in the prophetic. As you look around the world you can see the signs of heaven that are spoken of in the gospels. You can see the prophecies of the Old Testament beginning to take place. Big things are going to happen in the world over the next 12mths and the question I think we all need to ask ourselves is are we ready? Are we spiritually ready to receive our king? We are running out of time and it is important that we get it right. When the day comes and Jesus returns to claim his bride I pray that we will each hear well done good and faithful servant. I guess the only way we will be hearing this is by getting ourselves right with God spiritually and by walking true to the covenant that we have made with Him. When we are spiritually right and spiritually growing then we will be in tune with God and on His path and not ours. Soldiership is more than membership, it is a commitment to grow and change.
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs,which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.