Tuesday, September 18, 2018

A Holy Insurgency: Called to Acts of Sabotage against the Kingdoms of Darkness

As I live in the big city, I realize that I am part of a holy insurgency. As C.S. Lewis said, we are warriors on a battlefield called to acts of holy sabotage against the kingdoms of darkness that cover this world. 

The truth exists in our world in a state of subjection to lies and misery.  The truth exists only as something put down, locked out, and openly ridiculed.  That is the state of things.  Why?

Because as Jesus said, The truth shall set you free (John 8:31-32). Who is the truth? Jesus is the truth (John 14:6).  The truth is scandalous and powerful because it breaks every chain. It breaks things we're told are unbreakable.  It frees people from the binding contracts of hell, Satan, and darkness.  The grace of Christ cancels every sin, every condemnation, and every binding cord of the enemy of God. Once we discover the truth, then we're charged with proclaiming it to to others (Matthew 10:27, Matthew 28:16-20).

I'm charged with the seemingly impossible task of portraying a living gospel to a dead people, who would much prefer to hear nothing of it. They don't want to hear anything of the truth, and yet... Something inside them craves it (Ecclesiastes 3:11). 

I know only too well, and if I were too quick to judge them, I might remind myself that I was once thick as thieves with just such folk.  I was the misanthrope, I was the nihilist, the cynical guy who hated the God he didn't believe in. 

So, I must discover how exactly to be a subversive pastor. The world will try to push me into the position of being self-help chaplain to the secular culture. I have to fight out of that role, and be something more, someone who is proclaiming a living gospel, a real kingdom that messes up peoples perfect picture of their life, the white picket fence, the family, the nice car, and the great job.  I must discover how to be one who, having found humanity subverted, must then subvert the subversion.  When I subvert the subversion I'm helping disconnect people from the lies of the world, and plug them into the transforming reality of God's kingdom.

We're insurgents against the kingdom of Satan.  We just won't stay in line and keep our mouths shut about Jesus.  We just won't stay obedient to the worldly values, feeding at the trough of carnal pleasure.  How dare we break up perfectly good misery by bringing up Jesus?  Just who do we think we are?  

After all it's impolite and impolitic to talk to some stranger about the love of Christ!  That's simply not done! There are social norms.  And they demand silence!  Don't talk to people in line at the grocery store, don't introduce yourself to your neighbors, and don't give a Bible to your friend. Just stay in your church, have your little service, be quiet, and be content to preach to a dwindling congregation.

We make ourselves targets when we do these things, targets for the enemy's kingdom.  Oh, such a thought puts a smile on my face. There is a beautiful word for it... defiance.  We defy the enemy, reject the false social standards, and proclaim the gospel  stubbornly.  Hit, and run, hit and run, day in and day out, gospel here, gospel there, and we stubbornly refuse to stay silent.

We're a small minority among the cities of the west.  We're a small minority among the churches of the west!  We're the insurgency.  And we're working day and night, behind the scenes, to expose the world to Jesus Christ.

Our acts of sabotage are not material. Our act of sabotage is to declare Jesus Christ, organize Bible studies, plant churches, and develop fellowship. The overall goal of course being to subvert the kingdoms of man with the kingdom of God. 

The kingdom of God is coming.  In fact it's here right now.  But Christ will return in the flesh.  And I want to be busy at work for his kingdom when he returns. I'm sure you do too!  Get to work.  Make a plan. Be subversive. Get a group of insurgents together and be subversive together.  Subvert the kingdom of Satan, and strengthen and spread the kingdom of God.  Amen. 

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  4. The Forgotten Teaching in the Church: Holiness
  5. The Army of God will have Victory after Victory
  6. The Church of Laodicea & The Church of America
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Monday, September 17, 2018

The Value of Christian Fellowship: Why Gather Together?

"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries of God."
-Hebrews 10:23-27

If there is anyone who has been a lonewolf in life it’s me. I love to be by myself. I love to have a one man party at my apartment by myself. It’s great. But the truth is, in the body of Christ, among the church, there are no lonewolfs.

Again and again in the scriptures we’re instructed as believers to get together with one another, to break bread, to study the word of God, and to hold one another accountable.

Indeed it says in Proverb 27:17 that Iron sharpens iron, and in the same way, one man sharpens another.

Remember that each of us are called to be a blessing, encouragement, and a challenger to one another. We can bless one another by meeting together, and sharing honestly about our lives.

We can encourage one another by meeting together outside of church on Sunday, to engage in some real talk about how to face life on life’s terms.

We can challenge each other by getting real about sin, and freedom from sin in our Christian lives. Iron sharpens iron. And we each need each other to sharpen each other.

If I’m left to my own devices, at home by myself, I begin to drift away from Jesus. I begin to drift away from the fellowship of believers. And a sheep by himself in the wilderness is an easy mark for the enemy of our souls to ambush and destroy.

If we fail to continue forward in our Christian life, and drift away from faith in Christ, we won’t share in eternal life. We’ll face a dark abyss, for all time. For these reasons, and many more, we ought to carefully pursue fellowship with one another. Fellowship brings strength.

Imagine if an NFL football team didn’t meet together during the week to discuss their tactics and practice their skills. Would they ever win on Sunday? No, they’d be crushed each week. So how much more should we as Christians gather together throughout the week to bless, encourage, and challenge each other? Men sharpen one another. And we each need each other to survive this difficult, but worthwhile Christian journey.

Just before Jesus was going to be crucified for our sins, he prayed for his disciples in this way saying: John 17:21 “Father I pray that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

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  5. How to Repent of all Sins in your Christian Life
  6. Should I Tithe 10% to my Church?
  7. God will Uphold His Army: Standing on the Truths of God's Word
  8. God's Fingerprint on Reality: Emotions of Life
  9. To Those Who Overcome: How to Be Free from all Sin
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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

How to Minister to the LGBT Community: Wesley's Quadrilateral as a Guide

This is a personal blog. The views on this blog do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the Salvation Army, it's employees, or partners. The views on this blog are solely of those making them, based on the teachings of the Bible, in the Spirit.

How can we as Christians minister and carry the gospel to the LGBT community? Let us consider this difficult issue, which centers around gender, homosexuality, gay marriage, and past hurts through the lenses of Wesley's Quadrilateral.  The quadrilateral is a time tested tool for discerning difficult issues from a multi-pronged approach.

First of all, let's consider the pressures within the churches right now regarding theology, and the desire to change theology to embrace gay marriage.  This is a present issue for many faith traditions in the west at this point in history. There are several faith traditions that have flipped their positions on gay marriage, such as the PCUSA (Presbyterians), the ELCA (Lutherans), and the MCGB (Methodists). Many other faith movements are beginning to appear weak in the knees as well, such as UMC, Salvation Army, the SBC, and others. What should I, as one single pastor in training do in regard to this issue? Should I speak out? Should I remain quiet? What is the proper position on this issue?

So I turn to the Wesleyan quadrilateral. The first question I ask is what do the scriptures say on the issue? Well, the scriptures say that all people are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27 NIV). The word says that Christians should treat people with kindness, dignity, respect, and love (Matthew 5:43-48 NIV). And it also says that the message of salvation is open to all who would repent and believe in Jesus Christ (Mark 1:15 NIV). Additionally, the scriptures are clear that the practice of homosexuality is contrary to New Testament teachings (1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Romans 1:26-27, 1 Timothy 1:10 NIV). There have been attempts by individuals like Matthew Vines and Andrew Marin to somehow re-interpret and shift the meaning of the New testament scriptures regarding homosexuality, however, those attempts to re-interpret the scriptures falter in a fair reading of the biblical texts (Brown, 2015). A plain reading of the New Testament makes this abundantly clear. 

Next, I consider tradition. For the past two thousand years virtually every faith tradition has considered homosexuality a sinful practice. Sadly, many of these faith traditions mistreated those who struggle with the sin of homosexuality, especially in the last one hundred years in the United States and Europe. This means that I need to be especially careful to treat these individuals with compassion, dignity, and love. The Salvation Army’s historic tradition has been to affirm marriage between man and woman, and the Salvation Army’s position statement is that homosexuality is a sinful practice, but those who struggle with that sin should be treated with love, kindness, and dignity (The Social Issues Committee, 2007). Those who struggle with this sin, like any other, must repent, by abstaining from the practice. But "conversion" to attraction to the opposite sex is not necessarily possible.

From the area of reason there is a great deal of debate and speculation, much of it propaganda, from both the spirit of the age and from the church. But research does show increased health risks for men practicing homosexuality (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2017). Reason also shows me that there is a great deal of controversy and apostasy around this issue in the world and the church. So I must tread exceedingly carefully. Additionally, I see that many in the LGBTQ movements have placed their very identity in their sexuality, and so I see that I should help these people to see human identity is not found in sexuality, but in Jesus Christ. 

Finally, experience shows me that many people of the homosexual persuasion feel marginalized and hurt by the church. So I must reach out to them in a kind, loving way, and avoid condemnation, while also encouraging repentance from sin, over time. Experience shows me that having relationships and friendships with people of this persuasion is useful. Experience has also taught me that there is a lot of misunderstanding from the LGBTQ community toward the church, and the Salvation Army specifically. For that, experience tells me I must make use of apologetics to help these people understand the love we have for them, and the truth we expound from the scriptures.

So now we turn to the experience I had. I was preaching at a church facility and among other sins that I was preaching about, homosexuality had come up as a topic to briefly discuss. I faced the temptation of being silent. I also faced the temptation to be overly harsh about it. I tried instead to be assertive. I preached about it and I tried to make sure it was understood that this sin was no different than many other sins that can afflict Christians. Afterward, I realized that perhaps some of the men struggle with that very sin, who were in the congregation. In the hallway on my way to dinner I noticed a man I’ve encountered several times at the facility, and I realized that he was most likely a homosexual person. I nodded and smiled to him as he walked by. Later in the dining room I made a point of sitting at the same table as him, and I simply engaged in friendly conversation with him. I wanted my actions and conduct to show that I didn’t hate him, or want to kick him out or hurt him. I tried to show indirectly, through love and fellowship that I love him and think of him with dignity as a person made in God’s image. I also hope that the message I gave in the chapel will stay with him, in hope that he will repent over time, and give himself in fullness to the mercy found in Jesus Christ, and live a new lifestyle of purity in Christ.

Another experience I had was about two months ago in Chicago, IL. The training college I attend in Chicago exists in the midst of “boy’s town” an LGBTQ neighborhood. I went out to do evangelism with people in the neighborhood from 3:00 AM to 5:00 AM with another cadet on a Saturday. We set up a table and chairs, and people would walk by and sit down and talk with us. 99% of them were practicing homosexuals. So we would talk with them, about God, and often they would say to us: “Why are you out here, doesn’t the Salvation Army hate gays?” And our answer was always to look back at them with surprise and say: “No, not at all! We love you.” So we seek to do healing through that, and show these people that God loves them and wants to save them from all their sins. This is now a common attitude in the Salvation Army. We sat out there talking with various people for two hours. One man who sat there the whole two hours talking with us, had refused to take a gospel of John book, but at 5:00 AM he changed his mind, because he realized that we loved him. This is how evangelism to the homosexual community should be done, with love. 

Sadly, there are some in my faith movement who want to go further than this, much further. They seek to redefine marriage, to redefine the sacred scriptures, and to change the historic views of the Salvation Army on marriage, to fully embrace and affirm gay marriage, homosexuality, and gender ideology as a positive good. This is a troubling development. And there is a lot of misinformation out there. 

So I write, and share the truth, and try to equip people in our movement to outreach to the gay community, but also to stand firm on the unchanging truth of the scriptures. Given scripture, tradition, reason, and experience, there is no other pathway forward. We want to be loving, in Christ, but it’s not loving to encourage people to continue in their sin. That is the opposite of love, it is hatred. Therefore, the best pathway forward, is to strongly affirm the biblical definition of marriage, while reaching out to the homosexual/LGBTQ community with great compassion, love, kindness, and dignity. Hatred is unacceptable, either through bigotry toward the lost or through encouraging the sin. Jesus came full of grace and truth, and we as a church movement have to find a way to live that out (John 1:14 NIV).

Brown, M. (2015, October 7). Dr. Michael Brown Has 40 Answers and 2 Questions for 'Gay' Christian Matthew Vines. Retrieved July 12, 2018, from https://www.charismanews.com/opinion/in-the-line-of-fire/50477-dr-michael-brown-has-40-answers-and-2-questions-for-gay-christian-matthew-vines

Carpenter, E. E., & McCown, W. (1992). Asbury Bible commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. House. Retrieved July 8, 2018, from https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/asbury-bible-commentary/John-Wesley

Dickey, R. (n.d.). What Is Theological Reflection? Retrieved July 7, 2018, from https://www.sttaustin.org/documents/youth ministry/Theological_Reflection_Handbook_Section_R_Dickey.pdf

Graham, E., Walton, H., & Ward, F. (2005). Theological Reflection: Methods. London: SCM Press.

Hazzard, J. (1998). Marching on the Margins: An Analysis of the Salvation Army in the United States. Review of Religious Research, 40(2), 121-141. doi:10.2307/3512298

Kilby, C. S. (1995). The Christian world of C.S. Lewis. Retrieved July 8, 2018.

Macemon, S. (2003, July 20). Wesley and Theological Method. Retrieved July 7, 2018, from http://www.sunnyhillsumc.org/sermons/wesleyatm.htm

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2017, October 05). Health issues for gay men and men who have sex with men. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/health-issues-for-gay-men/art-20047107

Mercer, J. L. (1985). Toward A Wesleyan Theology of Experience. Wesleyan Theological Journal, 20(1), spring, 78-94. Retrieved July 7, 2018, fromhttp://wesley.nnu.edu/fileadmin/imported_site/wesleyjournal/1985-wtj-20-1.pdf

Nouwen, H. J. (1989). In the name of Jesus. New York, NY: The Crossroad Publishing Company.

Peterson, E. H. (1996). The contemplative pastor: Returning to the art of spiritual direction. Grand Rapids (Mich.): William B. Eerdmans.

Reasoner, V. (n.d.). Spiritual Geometry - Evaluating the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. Retrieved July 7, 2018, from http://www.fwponline.cc/v14n2/v14n2reasoner.html

Social Issues Committee. (2007, February 1). The Salvation Army Canada & Bermuda Territory Position Statements. Retrieved July 12, 2018, from http://www.use-salvationarmy.org/SA_Annuals/Position_Statements.pdf

Theological Reflection - What Others Say. (n.d.). Retrieved July 7, 2018, from https://divinity.vanderbilt.edu/academics/fielded/fielded_theologicalreflection.php

Trokan, J. (2013). Models of Theological Reflection: Theory and Praxis. Catholic Education: A Journal of Inquiry and Practice, 1(2), 143-158. Retrieved July 7, 2018, fromhttp://digitalcommons.lmu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1032&context=ce

United Methodist Communications. (2013, October 15). Wesleyan Quadrilateral. Retrieved from http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/wesleyan-quadrilateral

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Saturday, September 8, 2018

Practicing the Reality of the Christian Worldview: An Intellectually Coherent Lifestyle Methodology

Let's look at a progression from worldview to practice, quickly running through seven areas of growth in understanding and faith practice. 

1. Intellectual Coherence - A true worldview must make sense. If Christianity is actually the truth about everything, then we can and should be able to understand it in an intellectually coherent manner. Now, there will and in fact should be certain aspects of Christianity that are mysterious.  If we are in fact created beings created by an infinite God, then logically a system created by a God infinitely more knowledgeable and powerful than us will have aspects beyond our comprehension.  

We will also have to assume that God's moral viewpoint is higher than ours. That is the hard part.  Because often we can become quite indignant about our own moral viewpoints. But God's view must be higher and more clear, if He is in fact God of the universe and the creator of all ethics. 

Intellectual coherence means that God's existence is reasonable.  I've found that to be the case. Whether from science, history, manuscript authenticity, and real world experiences, there is a great amount of evidence that God exists. 

2. Experiential Relevance / Experiential Integration - As we recognize the reality of the Christian worldview, it becomes integrative, it changes how we see reality. The word of God is the codex to deciphering the perceivable universe. We can decrypt reality with the Biblical documents. 

This is difficult because a lot of us have opinions and viewpoints on things in the world that may have to change as Jesus transforms our worldview. But the goal is to see ultimate truth, and to see perceivable reality as it truly is, not as we would want it. That is difficult. It is very difficult.  Because we have strong viewpoints and opinions on many things. But if we allow the biblical documents to begin to transform our worldview, we'll begin to see the whole world with a new clarity that amazes us. 

3. Biblical Grounding - Our tendency as humans is toward drifting. If we're not moving toward something, we're actually being moved away from it. That's what it's like to swim in the current of this life.  Standing firmly on the scriptures is a dedicated approach to life, a dedicated total trust in the words of the scriptures to accurately depict reality and define ourselves, the past, the future, what it means to live ethically, and our future destiny.  There are four key tests of a worldview: Origin, meaning, morality, and destiny. And the Bible brings answers clearly to all four of those areas of philosophical concern. 

But the point here is, that our tendency is toward drifting. If we don't intentionally move toward a biblical worldview, we will drift away from one over time. The world is communicating a worldview that is systemically contrary to biblical Christianity.  If we aren't intentionally absorbing a biblical worldview, then we'll be unconsciously adopting a humanist/naturalistic worldview, or something even more spooky, like a cult, or extreme political ideology. 

4. Sustaining Dependence - Recognizing our infinite need for God, a sustaining relationship makes it possible for us to victoriously live out the Christian life. This sustaining relationship heals us, delivers us, guides us through difficulty, overcomes evil within us, and without us, and guides us toward our ultimate end destination.  

The will of God is constantly at work. Once again, without intentional focus on this connection, we drift. There is no standing still, we're either pressing forward or drifting away. 

Our relationship with God must be constantly developed. And we look to strive deeper and deeper with God, expanding the connection continuously, as God transforms us into the likeness of Christ. 

Take this relationship to a new level. Dedicate real time each day to this relationship. We can talk all we want about how "it's a relationship" but that doesn't mean anything if we aren't dedicating any time to it. The fact on the ground is, either we are really living in relationship with God, or we're really not. And our life and fruit (results of our actions practically) will show which is true, for all to see. 

5. Lifestyle Method - Ordering your life means living out the convictions of the truth on a daily basis. Week in and week out. A lifestyle method is the practice of our relationships with God first, with our marriage wife or husband, and our friendships, and relationships with people and the church. 

We need a weekly lifestyle method that we dedicate ourselves to. I mean a weekly pattern of life, a methodism of life.  I'll tell you about my method: Monday, morning prayer, work/school, 7pm basketball, 9pm-10:30pm bible study/ prayer time. Tuesday, morning prayer, work/school, homework time/relaxation, then bible study/prayer time 9pm-10:30pm.  That goes on day by day, week by week, and so on.  I try to carefully order my life, Bible studies, small groups, church services on Sunday, evangelism, and service work.  If we're followers of Jesus, we should order our lives carefully around Christian practices.

6. Missional Imperative - What takes priority? What is the mission of life?  The imperative comes from the truth. The truth is our theological core extracted from the biblical texts.  When we order our lives, we want to keep one unifying factor in sight: What is my chief imperative?  

An "imperative" is like the number one priority goal in the distance.  If I was a quarterback in the NFL, I would run plays each down, run plays, screen plays, short passes, and so on, but I would always have in mind the long term goal of getting the ball into the endzone for a touchdown.  

Our weekly practices are the daily things we do that build toward the imperative, the chief goal.  As Christians what is our chief goal in all we do? To carry the gospel to the lost, and to build up ourselves and fellow Christians in discipleship growth.  As I reflect on my weekly practices, I have to ask myself if I'm fulfilling the imperative.  And to take a real world example, I realized with my weekly practices that I was failing in my first chief imperative, to carry the gospel to the lost.  So I decided I needed to add a time of personal evangelism to my weekly practices.  The imperative keeps us on track when the weekly routine threatens to mull us down in programming and an all too familiar pattern.

7. Grasping Reality - The Eternal (Real) Perspective - What do we value most?  How does that need to change? 

"Do we really believe that what we believe is really real?" -Del Tackett.  

It's a good question.  Are we grasping true, ultimate reality?  Or we are caught up in the affairs of this world?  This can happen without us realizing it.  Pretty soon our Christian faith can become secondary to our concerns for marriage, for our children, for the house we want to buy, or the bills we need to pay, or climbing the corporate ladder at work, or just our entertainment, movies and music, or our elaborate plans to go on lavish vacations and carribean cruises. We can get bogged down in politics, in culture, even in art, or city life, or our Star Wars obsession, or a dozen other things of this world.  

We begin to focus on the worldly approach to life, being concerned with what makes me happy, with what gives me pleasure, and pretty soon the thought of God, of Christ, and the coming kingdom, the city of God on Earth, in the new heaven and new Earth is a very, very distant thought.  And it starts to not even feel real. And in extreme cases some will simply depart the church, depart the faith, and wade into the world, oblivious to the reality of God, and the coming judgment.  

Jesus Christ will return, and I am expecting him, very very soon. Jesus is coming soon. We will see him with our own eyes.  And we will see his kingdom come.  We will see him.  We will see this world, in fact, this entire universe destroyed completely, and remade, as the new heavens and new Earth, redesigned and engineered to perfection, with no pain, no fear, no shame, no sorrow, no anger, no depression, no disease, and no death.  It's a reality.  It's real.  It will happen.  The final point is simply this: Keep your eyes, the eyes of your heart, on the coming kingdom of Christ.  Keep your eyes on the eternal city of God which is depicted like this in Revelation: (Rev 21:10-27 NLT)

"So he took me in the Spirit[b] to a great, high mountain, and he showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God. 11 It shone with the glory of God and sparkled like a precious stone—like jasper as clear as crystal. 12 The city wall was broad and high, with twelve gates guarded by twelve angels. And the names of the twelve tribes of Israel were written on the gates. 13 There were three gates on each side—east, north, south, and west. 14 The wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were written the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

15 The angel who talked to me held in his hand a gold measuring stick to measure the city, its gates, and its wall. 16 When he measured it, he found it was a square, as wide as it was long. In fact, its length and width and height were each 1,400 miles.[c] 17 Then he measured the walls and found them to be 216 feet thick[d] (according to the human standard used by the angel).

18 The wall was made of jasper, and the city was pure gold, as clear as glass. 19 The wall of the city was built on foundation stones inlaid with twelve precious stones:[e] the first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst.

21 The twelve gates were made of pearls—each gate from a single pearl! And the main street was pure gold, as clear as glass.

22 I saw no temple in the city, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light. 24 The nations will walk in its light, and the kings of the world will enter the city in all their glory. 25 Its gates will never be closed at the end of day because there is no night there. 26 And all the nations will bring their glory and honor into the city. 27 Nothing evil[f] will be allowed to enter, nor anyone who practices shameful idolatry and dishonesty—but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life."