Just back from spending some time with Xander Coleman and he reminded me about ‘The Vision’. I hadn’t realised that this was the same ‘Vision’ I’d blogged on back in 2008. It reminded me of some words spoken by William Booth 100 years earlier – for those who never saw it here are the two visions:
2 Visions over 100 years apart and yet strangely similar:
The first is taken from one of William Booth’s lectures at the 1904 International Staff Officers Councils. The second is from the founder of the 24/7 Prayer Network.
I can’t overestimate just how critical I believe these prophetic words are to our generation – aggressive, pure, incarnational holiness – lived out in a simplistic lifestyle is the way forward!
What the world needs now is a George Scott Railton or a St Francis of Assisi or maybe just you and me!
Do not limit the possibilities of the future. God has many ways of fulfilling His purposes towards the sons and daughters of men. Here is one, of which I dreamed a dream. The one I am going to mention came to me when thoughtfully wondering, as I so often do, what The Salvation Army of the coming years was likely to be.
In this vision I beheld many things that were novel and fascinating, but nothing that took greater hold of me at the moment than the one I am about to describe. Perhaps the superior interest it excited in my feelings arose out of its intense practicality. It seemed all so natural, so possible, so fruitful, and the results so desirable, that I came almost to feel that the thing was not a dream, but an actual occurrence, literally happening before my eyes.
I thought I was looking at The Salvation Army in its varied future operations, and while I looked I thought I saw a new body of Officers suddenly start into existence. In many respects they strongly resembled the comrades with whom I am familiar to day. In other respects they appeared strangely dissimilar.
I will try to describe them, and while I do so you will be able to judge of the probable usefulness or otherwise of such a class, the possibility of creating it, and whether you would or would not like to belong to it, if it were created.
As I looked at this new people, they appeared to manifest extraordinary signs of earnestness, self-denial, and singleness of purpose; indeed, they had every appearance of being a reckless, daredevil set. On inquiry, I found that they described themselves as “Brothers of Salvation” or “Companions of the Cross of Christ.” They went forth, two and two, strengthening each other’s hands, and comforting each other’s hearts in all the work they had to do, and all the trials they had to bear. They seemed to welcome privations, and to revel in hardships, counting it all joy when they fell into diverse persecutions, and facing opposition and difficulties with meekness, patience, and love.
As I looked, and looked, I wondered more and more, for I observed that they had voluntarily embraced the old-fashioned vows of celibacy, poverty, and obedience. These vows I observed, further, were regarded as only binding upon them for a term of years, with the option of renewal for a further term at the expiration of that period, or of being able at that time to honourably return to the ordinary ranks of Officership.
As I looked at these new comrades, who had as it were suddenly sprung out of the ground, I saw that they wore a novel kind of uniform of simple shape, but very pronounced, and displaying very prominently the insignia of The Salvation Army. They were evidently proud of their colours.
And then I saw another thing that was peculiar about this new Order – I do not know how else to speak of it. I saw that they refused to accept any money or gifts for themselves, or for their friends, or, at most, not more than was necessary to meet the very humble wants of that particular day; while I saw that they were pledged not to own any goods of any kind, save and except the clothes they wore.
And then I saw that they were great wanderers, continually travelling from place to place, and that very much on foot, as this gave them the opportunity of visiting the hamlets, cottages, farmhouses, and mansions on the way, and speaking to the people in the streets, market squares, or other open spaces on week-days as well as on Sundays, as they passed along.
I saw that they assisted at the services in The Salvation Halls wherever they came, always working in friendly co-operation with the Officers in Command; visiting the Soldiers, sick or well; hunting up backsliders, and striving to promote the interests of every Corps they visited, to the utmost of their ability.
I saw that they visited and prayed with the people from door to door, in the great cities as well as in the villages; talked to them in the streets, trains, or wherever they had opportunity, about death, judgment, eternity, repentance, Christ, and salvation.
I saw them in my dream addressing the workmen at the dock gates, at the entrances to public works, in the factories at meal hours; indeed, they were talking, praying, and singing with whomsoever they could get to listen to them, singly, or in company wherever they came.
And as I looked, I saw their number, which was very, very small at first, gradually increase until they reached quite a multitude. And the educated and well-to-do, charmed with this simple Christ like life, swelled its numbers, coming from the universities and the moneymaking institutions and other high places.
Do you ask me about their support? Oh! I answer, so far as I could find out in my dream, they never lacked any really necessary thing, having all the time what was above all and beyond all in worth and desirability – the abundant smile of God, and a great harvest of precious souls.
(International Staff Council Addresses 1904, General William Booth, p144-147)
So this guy comes up to me and says “what’s the vision? What’s the big idea?” I open my mouth and words come out like this… The vision? The vision is JESUS – obsessively, dangerously, undeniably Jesus.The vision is an army of young people. You see bones? I see an army. And they are FREE from materialism. They laugh at 9-5 little prisons. They could eat caviar on Monday and crusts on Tuesday. They wouldn’t even notice. They know the meaning of the Matrix, the way the west was won. They are mobile like the wind, they belong to the nations. They need no passport .People write their addresses in pencil and wonder at their strange existence. They are free yet they are slaves of the hurting and dirty and dying. What is the vision? The vision is holiness that hurts the eyes. It makes children laugh and adults angry. It gave up the game of minimum integrity long ago to reach for the stars. It scorns the good and strains for the best. It is dangerously pure.
Light flickers from every secret motive, every private conversation. It loves people away from their suicide leaps, their Satan games. This is an army that will lay down its life for the cause. A million times a day its soldiers choose to loosethat they might one day win the great ‘Well done’ of faithful sons and daughters.Such heroes are as radical on Monday morning as Sunday night. They don’t need fame from names. Instead they grin quietly upwards and hear the crowds chanting again and again:
And this is the sound of the underground the whisper of history in the making, foundations shaking, revolutionaries dreaming once again, mystery is scheming in whispers, conspiracy is breathing… This is the sound of the underground and the army is disciplined. Young people who beat their bodies into submission. Every soldier would take a bullet for his comrade at arms. The tattoo on their back boasts “for me to live is Christ and to die is gain”. Sacrifice fuels the fire of victory in their upward eyes.
Winners, Martyrs. Who can stop them? Can hormones hold them back? Can failure succeed? Can fear scare them or death kill them? And the generation prays like a dying man with groans beyond talking with warrior cries, sulphuric tears and with great barrow loads of laughter!
Waiting. Watching: 24 – 7 – 365. Whatever it takes they will give: Breaking the rules. Shaking mediocrity from its cosy little hide. Laying down their rights and their precious little wrongs, laughing at labels, fasting essentials. The advertisers cannot mould them. Hollywood cannot hold them. Peer-pressure is powerless to shake their resolve at late night parties before the cockerel cries.
They are incredibly cool, dangerously attractive inside. On the outside? They hardly care. They wear clothes like costumes to communicate and celebrate but never to hide. Would they surrender their image or their popularity? They would lay down their very lives – swap seats with the man on death row – guilty as hell. A throne for an electric chair.
With blood and sweat and many tears, with sleepless nights and fruitless days, they pray as if it all depends on God and live as if it all depends on them. Their DNA chooses JESUS. (He breathes out, they breathe in.) Their subconscious sings. They had a blood transfusion with Jesus. Their words make demons scream in shopping centres. Don’t you hear them coming? Herald the weirdo’s! Summon the losers and the freaks. Here come the frightened and forgotten with fire in their eyes. They walk tall and trees applaud, skyscrapers bow, mountains are dwarfed by these children of another dimension. Their prayers summon the hounds of heaven and invoke the ancient dream of Eden.
And this vision will be. It will come to pass; it will come easily; it will come soon. How do I know? Because this is the longing of creation itself, the groaning of the Spirit, the very dream of God. My tomorrow is his today. My distant hope is his 3D. And my feeble, whispered, faithless prayer invokes a thunderous, resounding, bone-shaking great ‘Amen!’ from countless angels, from hero’s of the faith, from Christ himself. And he is the original dreamer, the ultimate winner.
Grace and peace – A