Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Philippians 1:3-11 - Youth Band devotions, 25/8/08

"I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God's grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God."

Did you all have a good summer?

Its really only been two months since our last rehearsal together but a lot can happen over the summer period, when we're not together as the same group, especially as there aren't as many practices on during the week.

Some corps opt only for the one Sunday meeting. People go on holiday, people stay at home and without the ongoing activities of the Salvation Army during that period, its easy to be exposed to or become aware of things that you wouldn't involve yourself with during the academic year (or season!). The vast majority of us are friends here, so you will have all heard from each other during the holidays at some stage and its important to have that bond and encouragement in the Army. To know that there are other Salvationists your age still wanting to deal with you outside the 'curricular' goings-on.

I'm glad to see you all here tonight, which I'm sure the other locals will concur with. Even though we have a weekend coming up and a lot of you are back at school or in your studies, its encouraging to see so many of you come out on a Monday night to a Youth Band practice. And encouragement is important because, without it, playing doesn't become as dun and out performances can suffer. But the fact is you're all good players; you're all in this band for a reason. We spoke about encouragement and nurturing this evening in our locals' meeting, and our aim is to help elevate you guys further so you can make the best noise possible for the Lord.

Verse 7 says this: "It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart" - that's my testimony this evening.

This band's been in my prayers a lot over the summer, as a group and as individuals. We have the weekend, entitled "Vision of Grace" coming up; lets be mindful that we have so much more ahead of us as Army bandsmen/women. My prayer - my vision - is that we become a band of witness, where we do change lives with our ministry; but ew can only do that if we look out for each other first, so our fellowship can translate out there. We need to let the grace spread within before we can justifiably take it out. And, with our eyes wide open, we'll be able to recognise that goal and claim it for the kingdom.

May God bless you.

dw :)

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

"You must follow me!" John 21:20-22 (Youth Band locals' meeting devotions)

Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, "Lord, who is going to betray you?") When Peter saw him, he asked, "Lord, what about him?"
Jesus answered, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me."

We can be a nosey bunch in the Salvation Army, can't we. Little things take our curiosity and this in turn can lead to our discoveries spreading like wildfire in no time.

While its all well and good finding things out, especially when news breaks, its important that we don't let that distract us from our own day-to-day business. Peter had been given insight into part of his future by Jesus, as there were great plans ahead of him as well as how he'd die; but all of a sudden he wanted to know what would happen to others! Jesus reminded him Peter pretty much that it wasn't his business and he had to focus on what lay ahead of him, because he'd only been equipped for so much.

Each one of us are good at what we'vebeen given the task of doing, be it playing, organising things, helping others, maybe even praying or reading out loud! But if thats your gift, don't let anyone else distract you if you feel you you can't do what they do just as well yourself. God's blessed you with a particular calling - be thankful, make the most of it.

"You must follow me" - not what your friend does or anyone else; Christ says "follow me" and he will give you an endless supply to do your role well. I trust we're grateful for our blessings as solders and are happy doing what we do, and my prayer is that we keep Christ and his plan for us at the focus.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Excess baggage - Isaiah 40:27-31

"Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel, "My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God"? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."

How many of us like to travel? How many of us like to go shopping? And how many of us like to play in a Salvation Army band? Personally I like to so a bit of all three - shopping if its necessary, of course! - but I'm sure you'll agree that all three elements add important elements to our lives.

Each one of them requires us to carry a few bags about, be it plastic bags, backpacks, suitcases or instrument cases, to name a few. That's some of the baggage we tend to carry about with us - but I wonder how many of you are carrying more than that; by that, I don't mean the invisible type.

Sometimes comfort is a dangerous word and can do more harm than good but the Lord provides comfort to those who need it. Who cry out for it. The baggage we cart about may be heavy and get us down but, as verse 29 states, "He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak".

Youth is no exception from it - verse 30 says "Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall" - it an be as much of a victim as the more mature and experienced of us. A lot of you will be familiar with the verse "They will soar on wings like eagles" - imagine that! Being completely free of the problems weighing you down!

"O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer"

We are reminded in our reading that "who hope in the LORD will renew their strength" - make it fresh and brand new. And I pray that as a band and individuals we use the comfort and the strength available to us through God.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

"Sound and Vision" sermon - Youth Band weekend, 14/9/08

Tonight I want us to consider what watching a television programme or a film without the sound going is like.

Some of the older members of the corps may recall the tradition of silent films from days gone by, where nobody spoke audibly but only through text and facial expressions. Male members of the band, when groups like Girls Aloud or Sugababes come on the telly, you may be happy to watch their actions visually but you'll hit the mute button, because their music may not necessarily be your cup of tea!

How about you DVD collectors who, after you've watched the main feature, check out the outtakes and deleted scenes. I'm often fascinated by the differences between the final mater cut and the outtake sequences, which always seem to lack something. Not only does it lack accuracy, as to what the finished item should be, but they often feature no music to go along with the mood of the scene. There's no background noise, where the extras natter away and go about their own business. Only the basics are empathisised in those outtake scenes - where the actors play their parts on a scaled-down basis, while the cameras roll, and ultimately they mess up; hence why take two and take three, and so on, is required before the finished and accurate sequence is in the can.

In the Salvation Army, we make a lot of noise on a weekly basis. We have plenty of sound; whether it be from the music we make, from the social scene among our comrades or even the outreach work we deliver to our respective communites. But I'd like to know if we have as much of a clear-cut view as to what our vision entails folks, particularly if we are to combine our sound to go with it.

Let me ask you:

what if that sound was taken away?
what if the mastered cut we produced wasn't satisfactory for God?
what if God's version of our mission in the Salvation Army became an outtake on the cutting room floor?

Just as our vision as a church has sound, that sound we posess must have vision as well. When we make our music, it can't just be about the here-and-now, it has to also be about where its going. Where we are going with it! When we interact socially with people in our corps and around our division, its all well and good thinking about the present age, for some its about the past (which can't always happen) but as Christians we mus acquire a vision to take our witness further, so it remains strong. And I don't need to go into too much detail about the vision our social outreach centres and workers need but, for those linked with that, I'm sure they'll agree that the vision needed there is paramount! We may find it difficult t full these seats and this hall friends but we can't use that as an excuse not to fill the seats of Heaven.

So what does this vision require?

Foremostly this vision requires unity and harmony among each other:

The text we read from earlier, Paul writes in verse 10 that he was appealing to the Corinthian church to be united and forget about their divisions. Corinth was stuck in a rut, for many reasons, but one of them was down to the divisions and lack of unity needed to move forward in the name of Christ. Are we "perfectly united in mind and thought" friends? If not, maybe the Lord is prompting you to do something about it, so His vision can be fulfulled.

We can't afford to fight or argue with each other friends (verse 11):

Some of you may know I was in a rock band in my late teens. We had a pretty good outfit and some potential on us. The musicianship was good, the banter was good, the repetoire as.....alright(!) But, as time went on, we started to disagree and then we were barely speaking to each other at all and everything else suffered big time because there was no communication. We couldn't even agree to disagree! The foundation was gone. I ask you now, if you want your vision to continue friends, please end your quarrel. Now.

Focus on the one person, the one figure of worship - our Heavenly father! (verse 12):

The people of Corinth weren't going anywhere in their vision becxause they were divided in who to look up to; Paul, Apollos, Peter, Jesus. Who do you follow today? Who is it you strive to be like in your faith? Is it your C.O? Your section leaders? Your Sergeant-Major? Or is it Christ Jesus? Its great to have people to aspire to in many ways but Christ is perfect. No human is better or more worthy of such praise and admiration. Are you focusing on Christ for your vision? If not, you need to ask yourself "why not?"

Paul gives all the credit back to God in our passage we read (verse 14): "I'm thankful that I did not baptise any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no-one can say that you were baptised into my name". Paul is not self-indulgent here and he doesn not take any credit to save for himself. He is clear what his vision is to be and what is required to make it work. He knows what type of sound has to be coupled with it and what a positive influence it can have a people. On everyone who is open to it!

You know, sometimes when we go to church, we often hear what we don't want to hear. Its all well and good getting something from what we agree with that takes place, torught either music or spoken work but the challenge can lie strongly in what we were not prepared for. I wonder if I've said anything this evening that you dodn't want to head. I wonder if you're sitting thinking along the lines of "Grrr, that Dan coming out with such a comment...", "Who does he think he is?!" The truth is I stand here before you delivering His word this evening about it. You need to allow the sound of God's voice in your ear and his vision in your heart.

Perhaps you need to sort out your vision; I don't know. But if there's one thing I ask of you right now is take time out with yourself and God. Let Him in and speak to you. You can't hide from it and you can only do nothing about it for so long, because He has the plans figured out - and He's going to have it His way, regardless. Do you need to put the right kind of sound back in your life? Do you need a new idea of what your vision should be? Or do you need both?

Maybe you're sitting there thinking you need neither! Well fair play to you, you really have heard stuff you didn't want to hear tonight! But I sincerely doubt that's the case and, if you need to make a response to that, our place of prayer is open as always. The holiness table is available if you want to stand at it or feel free just to kneel at your seat.

"Amazing Grace" sermon - Youth Band weekend, 14/9/08

The theme of this weekend is entitled "Vision of Grace" and is entitled so because this evening's service will be focusing on 'Sound and Vision' for each of us as Christians and as a whole in the Salvation Army. This morning, I'd like us to consider the most amazing gift we as a church are blessed with - His grace.

I originally had a slightly longer sermon planned for this morning - but last week the big man upstairs instructed me otherwise!

Earlier we read from the first of two letters that Paul wrote to Timothy and, whilst look at God's word together, I want us to be mindful of three points (they say all good sermons are based around three points!) that I'd like to think about this morning:

Your previous purpose - you aim before you accepted God's grace
Christ's purpose - what he wants for you upon your accepting of grace
And your future purpose - where we go from here in our walk with Him


Lets look at the purpose we had before submission to His grace: ask yourself 'Who were you before you came to faith and faith took hold of you?' Verse 13 says: "I was once a blasphemer....a persecutor....a violent man...." Everyone of us who professes to be saved has a part of our lives changed. Everyone of us who claims to know Christ Jesus has sinned and has done things we're not proud of. "...I acted in ignorance and disbelief". However, for some, that may be the way we behave today. Right now.

This letter was penned by Paul, "an apostle of Jesus Christ by the command of God" (verse 1), who Christ gave strength, considered faithful and appointed as an active servant (verse 12). This man, of course, was a sinner before - under the name Saul - and did all he could to tear Christianity down. Yet, Christ changed him; he accepted him wholly and moulded him into his own. If there's any proof of change that He can do, its right here, when GRACE was given to Paul. What Paul did before was his own doing and his own purpose. What he did caused harm to Christians: men died, were tortured and were scattered all over the country.

Consider the effect your behaviour has on your fellow Christians; on your church folk. The wounds it causes, the hurt that comes with it and the picture it paints of yourself. You may even become someone you don't even want to be, because you've lost control. I don't know how you can plan mass hurt around you but it can spread quickly. We want grace to spread quickly instead, right? Who's purpose is it to live like that - your own or Christ's? Ask yourself that one.


Now that we've looked at what one's own purpose without grace, lets look at what is available to you:

"Knock, knock!" He comes calling and He wants to deliver you from your pain and the dire straits you life has become. For, as it says in verse 15 of our scripture from earlier, Christ "came into the world to save sinners" and we must fully put our trust in Him. Now how could one knock that back? When Paul was converted, and Christ's purpose became his, people around him noticed this change. All of a sudden, Paul's a Christian! Were the people apprehensive or wary of this change? Absolutely! But Paul proved it that Christ's change inside can wash you clean. He can transform you, with his grace, into someone that only He knows you can become. A better person, a better Christian, provided you recognise the need for Him to change you.

There's a story - some of you may have heard me tell before - about how a twelve year old boy used to cycle to and from his house. He would speed on his travels, at neat enough 60-70 mph, and would just miss his dad's old saloon by swerving into the driveway every time he would get home. This would happen continously until one day, the boy comes cycling so fast and this time it was too late to do anything by the time he realised that the saloon has been replaced by a brand new Renault Scenic people carrier.

He crashed into the side of it. The dad was less than impressed; he took one look at the side of the car where the bike had crashed into it and he cries out "What have you done to the car?" His son replies "Oops! Sorry dad, I haven't done any damage, have I?" After inspecting the deep scratch in the paintwork, he mutters a "Yes". The boy starts feeling sheepish at this point, he says "I'm sorry dad, I didn't expect it". "I bought it this afternoon and had planned to take the family away for the weekend in it". The boy starts breaking down crying and he keeps saying again and again to his father, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry". And with that, his dad says to him "Its ok son. Just be more careful in future".

The point of the story is that, despite messing up and not thinking about it until after the damage has been done, the boy's father was quick to forgive him because he was genuinely sorry and he had realised what he'd done wrong. God is a father of grace and forgiveness; we mess up along the pathway, he comes over to help us and put his arm around us in our hour of need. Friends, he wants to do that today! Is he doing that in your life now?


Which leads us to where Christ wants you to be today. Forget all the baggage and all the distractions. The faith we have as Christians, we take and put it into action; and be happy to do so because, as verse 16 says, "...for those who would believe in Him and have eternal life..."

Christ's purpose, should you accept it, is in His hands and apart of His plans, meaning not to worry about what anyone else is doing or where they're heading. You follow him and what he leads you to do. Think of those that chose to follow him before: the first four disciples, who were fishermen and Christ called them to be "fishers of men" and to "follow me". Think about a man he healed, in the form of Bartimaeus, the blind beggar who, in Mark's gospel, "followed him along the way" after his healing. Salvation; grace - given to he who asked of it.

Now it is something we can get frustrated with and distracted from. Impulsiveness takes over, indecisiveness sets in. We start to follow a crowd; "What about him? What's he doing?..." You may recall from John's gospel in the closing verses, Peter asked Jesus a similar question about the "beloved disciple", after finding out about his own future. Jesus' response was "...what is that to you? You must follow me!" If the father has grace waiting for you, go get it. Receive it and make it yours.

This morning could be your chance to change your purpose for the better; think of the grace he bestows on you, what He gives you, what He wants to give you and more. He knows your hearts and there's no hiding from that whatsoever. The band are going to play a piece entitled "Grace Alone" and I just want to read you the first verse and chorus which I pray speak to you while the music plays:

"Every promise we can make
Every prayer and step of faith
Every difference we can make
Is only by His grace.

Every mountain we will climb
Every ray of hope we shine
Every blessing left behind
Is only by His grace

Grace alone
Which God supplies
Strength unknown
He will provide
Christ in us, our cornerstone
We will go forth in grace alone."

May God bless you.

One life to live

"One life to live, oh may I live for thee,
Give me your spirit and I shall be free.
Free from desire, my own way to pursue,
Free to obey your will, my whole life through"

We're challenged and taught in church to mean the word of the associated music we sing or play, and its a constant challenge as we grow up because we all have favourite songs, choruses or band pieces which we like to sing along to.

But I wonder if you've ever studied the words of your favourite songs and found yourself thinking, "I can't sing this as if its my own testimony". As boys and girls, young men and women, growing up in a Christian environment, our own belief in the words we sing will be challenged on occasion.

Take the words of the chorus you've just read - do you find them difficult to sing or even read out loud? I think its safe to say we all want to be given a piece of His spirit and we want to be set free from evil but its a two-way thing. "Free from desire" - free from worldly and human wantings which distract us and deny us of a fully happy walk with God.

The will the song says we must trive to achieve is God's and do so because we've chosen to believe and follow. Is it an easy journey? No, but the reward of eternal life is worth it and the happiness of being secure in God's love is beyond our wildest imagination.

"Free to obey your will my whole life through"

We have one life on this earth and there is one plan for each one of us. Are you prepared to obey and carry this plan out for Him?

dw :)