Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Street Evangelism is Powerful: The Majesty of Carrying the Gospel

"We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many." -2 Corinthians 1:8-11

I dreamed that I would come to Chicago and I would meet my wife, and we would fall in love, and it would be like a beautiful painting, or a romance movie, like, It’s a Wonderful Life, you ever seen that, George Bailey is out on a walk with his love interest Mary, and he points and says, “Do you want the moon mary? I’ll throw a laso around it and pull it down for ya!” I had that picture in my mind of how God would work. And I was hurt when it didn't happen. But I keep on dreaming.

We often dream of great and mighty things. We dream of love that would be like a beautiful song, or music video. We dream of doing great things for God. We dream of revivals and great awakenings. We dream of a world that would made right by Christ. We dream of winning thousands to our savior Jesus.

And sometimes, after the days pass by, and things come about rather normally, like they did for me, as I’ve been here, and it didn’t happen for me, we often feel quite saddened.

We can find ourselves in the Christian life, under pressure, filled with stress, and scrambling to meet deadlines. Just as Paul and his companions. It says they were under great pressure, far beyond what they could even endure.

Have you ever heard that saying “God will not give you more than you can handle?” Yeah, that isn’t true. Jesus sweat blood in the garden because he couldn’t handle it. And Paul felt so overpowered, so burdened, so stressed that it says “he despaired of life itself.”

Have you ever felt that way? It’s not uncommon to those in the ministry. Think of the great prophet Elijah. He had won a great victory for the Lord in his showdown with the 500 false prophets of Baal. But he was overwhelmed and fled when he was threatened by Jezebel. He hid alone in the wilderness and said to God that he wishes he would just die.

But this is not the end of the story. Because God delivers us. In that very same verse it says, that Paul felt that they had suffered the sentence of death. They felt so disturbed, so overwhelmed that they felt dead. Like they’d been cut down. But it doesn’t end there.

It says But this happened, why? That we might rely on God, not on ourselves. Instead, we rely on God, who does what? Raises the dead. He delivered them from the deadly peril they faced, and Paul knew they would be delivered again.

We’re constantly offered up in this life to death. We carry the very death of Christ with us. We’re constantly offered up to trials, tribulations, persecutions, and sorrows. Yet we set out hopes on Christ, who does come and deliver us. Not by preventing the troubles we face, but by allowing those troubles to shape us, form us, and mold us into the likeness of Christ.

We may see great revivals, and great awakening, and great moves of God that we get to take part in. Someday I may just meet my wife and get married, and be truly in love. Each one of us have hopes and dreams and secret desires that we just see come to fruition. Or maybe they won’t. But our job is to be faithful to our God, whether we get what we want, or don’t get what we want.

No matter where Paul went in his ministry, he was doing one thing: Preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. And that always came with one thing: Trouble. Controversy. Stress. Rejection. Yet he continued, despite being beaten, dragged out of the city, arrested, flogged, and so on. All for the desperate desire for people to get saved by the blood of Jesus Christ.

Today we have the great opportunity to carry the gospel of Jesus Christ. That is our call. That is our mission. We can go out and learn. We can go out and speak. We can meet human needs. But eventually we must ourselves speak the word that brings life, the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The good news that Jesus Christ, God in human form, came into human history, on a rescue mission to save us, that Jesus took the penalty for our sins, and was slaughtered on the cross as a substitutionary atonement for you and for me.

We have a lot excuses for why we don’t evangelize. Why we don’t share the gospel. Why we don’t talk to people about Jesus. We’re too busy. We’ve got too much homework. We’ve got to get stats in. But I think it comes down to something pretty simple. We’re afraid. We don’t want to be rejected. We don’t want to offend anyone.

If we’re afraid to preach the gospel, what hope is there for the world? We have to be brave. We have to bold as lions. We have to be willing to speak up. Because time is running out for the people of this world. Their souls hang in the balance. All people who have ever been born will go to one of two places, either heaven with God in eternal joy or hell to be tormented endlessly for all eternity. Heaven is real, and hell is real. How much do we have to hate people to not tell them about Jesus? Yet I do it everyday. I don’t speak up at Jewel at the cash register. I don’t speak up at the laundry mat. I don’t speak up at the street corner. I don’t say a word at the bank. Unnacceptable. Completely unacceptable.

Sometimes we say well, you can’t evangelize like that it has to be relationships. And it’s true that relational evangelism is a good thing. But you’d be amazed how many stories I’ve heard about how people, total strangers, willing to be Jesus to people, got people saved. A pastor was visiting at the drug rehab center in St Louis at my summer assignment. Young guy in his late twenties. And he told the story of how he got saved. He was standing outside at college, smoking a cigarette, and a Christian walked right up to him, made a B-line to him, and started talking to him about Jesus. And he got saved. Today he’s a pastor impacting hundreds of people. Imagine if that man had been too afraid to walk up to him. Where would he be today? I think of Pam. Pam told me the story of how a woman she didn’t walked up to her, and said, “God loves you.” And Pam yelled at her, said don’t touch me, you don’t know me. But you know what? Those three words, Jesus loves you, stuck in Pam's mind for months, and she couldn’t stop thinking about it. Just because one woman was willing to say three words to a stranger. I always remember that, when I’m afraid to open my mouth. And then there’s me.

Two girls at college walked up to me in the hallway and said, “Do you think if you died today you would go to heaven?” They were using a method called evangelism explosion on me. I took the bait and they talked to me about Jesus. I laughed them off. They probably thought they blew it. They didn’t. They didn’t. I still remember that conversation to this very day, with two strangers, who were brave enough to come trembling to me, and speak the name of Jesus. Street evangelism is powerful. Never forget that.

And if your afraid, let me tell you this: The word of God says you must not fear them, instead you should fear God. So if you’re afraid switch that fear over to God. What will happen if you don’t preach to them? Will God hold you responsible on the day of judgment for their blood? Tremble at the thought of not reaching them for Jesus. Don’t tremble at the thought of talking to them. Tremble at what will happen if you don’t.

But most of all, remember, remember, remember, what Jesus Christ our dear friend, our dear savior did for you. Remember the nails that were pounded through Jesus own hands, and own feet. I have a little nail on my key chain, as a reminder. When I get nervous, I slip my hand into my pocket and rub the nail, and remember what Jesus did to remove my sin. If Jesus had not come and died on the cross, all of us would be sent to the fires of hell, plain and simple. That’s a fact. Jesus paid it all, without that payment, we are all doomed, because we’ve all sinned terrible. Jesus did everything. He was slaughtered as sin, for my sin, despite how perfect and righteous and holy he was and is.

Please, pause for a moment, and remember the nails that Jesus took for us. And remember the fate of those who don’t know Jesus as Lord.
Love is why Jesus came. And love why Jesus died. Let us carry that love to others. Finding Jesus was the greatest thing that ever happened to my life. Let’s give others that opportunity. 

Related Posts:
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  2. Humility which leads to Repentance: Living a Pure & Victorious Christian Life
  3. Pray for that Schmuck
  4. What does it mean to Repent?
  5. The Divine Image, the Family & the Social Order
  6. 25 Powerful Quotes on Why Christianity is actually True
  7. The Destroyers of America & the Home of the Peacemakers
  8. Post-modernism is Dead, Jesus is AliveThe Illusions of Modern Society and the Gospel
  9. A Reality Frozen in Anticipation: Moments of Truth
  10. The Facts on the Ground: Science, God

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

The Redemption of Judas - Guest Post by Captain Scott Strissel

The Redemption of Judas
Captain Scott Strissel

Judas has a bad reputation, and it’s no wonder why that is.  After all, he did betray Jesus.  There is further indication of his love of money within scripture.  For example,  when Mary Magdalene washed Jesus’ feet, Judas viewed this as a waste of money since the perfume was very expensive.  He was also the one who carried the money purse for Jesus.  Isn’t it interesting that Jesus assigned a person obsessed with money to hold the money purse for Him?  I do not think that this is coincidence, Jesus knew what He was doing. 

Let us speculate for a few moments that this vilified character in the narrative of Jesus was not so unlike you and me – a sinner needing to be saved.  Could redemption have come to Judas?  If the Apostle Paul called himself the ‘chief of sinners’ (1 Tim 1:15), where does that leave Judas?  Wasn’t he worse than a former persecutor of Christ-followers?  After all, didn’t Judas betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver?  In Judas’ day that was the equivalent of $450 (our dollars to give us a perspective of the value) …in today’s value, this would be around $3,000. 

Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him. (Matthew 26:14-15)
It is intriguing to note that 30 pieces of silver was also the cost of a slave who was killed.  That was the going price tag.  Think of it, Jesus became a slave so that we might be ransomed.  “He gave himself as a ransom for all people.” (1 Timothy 2:6) 

With that thought in mind, did Judas have a choice in the matter, or was this something set in stone – predestined, if you will?  Naturally, this is a troubling question to ask, but I fear we must confront this question.  Please know, that I do not come to this question with a Calvinist view of Predestination, rather this is a speculation and pondering of free-will.  Was Judas naturally predisposed to his love of money so much so that this was the definite course of his narrative in life?   If we arrive at this conclusion then we have determined that predestination is, in fact, accurate.  I, however, do not arrive at this conclusion, but rather present this question for you to consider.  Instead, what I arrive at, is this:  Choice.  Judas had a choice in the matter.  He was never forced into this narrative to fulfill the scriptures…but inevitably there would have been someone else to take his place.  Judas chose to betray Jesus.  One must also consider the political ramifications of such an act.  Jesus had declared himself to be Messiah, the world in Judas’ day needed deliverance from the Roman oppression, and perhaps a part of Judas’ motivation was politically driven.  He desired to help Jesus (in his own broken way) to assume his rightful place in Israel – as Messiah, the deliverer.   Another unique side note is this:  Judas in Hebrew means “God is Praised”…could it be Judas desired to force Jesus’ hand so that others might praise Him too? 

Is it no wonder then that Judas goes out and agrees to betray Jesus? 
Perhaps Judas envisioned the outcome was going to be a glorious victory against the Romans and that Jesus, in all of His might and power would push them back and drive from Israel.  Judas approached this plan in a very logical and humanistic perspective…but it did not go the way he thought it would.

Consider Simon Peter’s Betrayal.
Peter vehemently refused to believe that he could ever deny Jesus. 
Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same.”  (Matthew 26:33-35)
Yes, when the rooster crowed, sure enough Peter had done just that – he had denied Jesus not once, not twice, but three times.

Peter is primarily considered a better character in the narrative of Jesus that Judas is…why is that?  Was Judas always despised and vilified?   No.  He was, after all, a disciple of Jesus who followed Him and witnessed the miracles Jesus performed. 

Yet within this story of betrayal, an illegal trial and crucifixion, Peter and Judas have both betrayed Jesus in their own different ways.

Two Roads Diverged…
So what is the difference between Judas and Peter? 
If they both betrayed Jesus, how are they different from one another? 
The short answer: the outcome. 
Judas, torn by guilt and grief throws the coins into the temple and goes off and commits suicide by hanging himself.  I believe he thought the outcome would have been different, yet it ended (at least he thought it did) with Jesus’ death on the cross.  Thus racked by shame and guilt he kills himself, and the Jewish leaders take that money back and buy the potter’s field in which Judas hanged. 

Peter, racked with guilt could have done something similar.  He thought he was strong and full of faith…yet he crumbled in a moment of panic and fear.  He swore to people that he did not know, nor was he remotely associated with Jesus.  Can you imagine Peter replaying that scenario over and over again in his head in the next few days?  Living with that regret must have eaten him up inside.  Yet, Jesus comes to Peter on a beach and asks him three times “Do you love me?” 

You see there was still hope and forgiveness.
There was still life to live.
Peter was redeemed because he still loved his Lord. 
Did Judas have this opportunity of redemption too?  
Yes.  But he chose, when racked with guilt and shame, to end it all. 
This wasn’t the desired outcome God had for Judas.  God doesn’t want any of his creation to end it all like that.  Judas chose to do so…and, I believe he could have been redeemed had he desired to be forgiven.  But alas, he felt he was too far gone. 

Despite vilifying Judas, I fear that many of us can identify with him in some small way.  We too have stood in his shoes.  We too have, like Peter denied Jesus.  We have found that our lips were on Jesus’ cheek.  We too have felt the guilt and shame, but there is still redemption.  Jesus became the ransom for all people…and He still desires to redeem the whole world.  Everyone has the opportunity to be saved…He believes in us, and He desires that we say ‘yes, I you know that I love you.’ 

Are you prepared to follow Jesus today?
You are extremely valuable to Him.
He longs for you to seek Him out and believe.  It doesn’t matter what you have done in your past, but rather what you will do in this present moment.  Choose Him.  He stands ready, willing and able to accept you with arms wide open.  If Judas could have been redeemed, then all of us can be as well. 

Something more to ponder today.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Living a Lifestyle of Repentance: Unhooking the Plugs of the World

Matthew 4:17 "From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

God has transformed my world! The crazy thing is it happens over and over again. I get to watch as God reshapes me over and over again!  It's intense man, it is really intense sometimes.  But it's also incredibly joyous.  

I want everyone to experience God this way. But we have to go deeper with God than most really do.  I hate, hate, hate going half-way.  I want radical, all out, all in faith in God.  I want all of God, or nothing at all.  I'm not willing to just give God a few minutes here and there and call it good.  No, I'm going to praise God for an hour.  I'm going to study His word longer, and go deeper.  I'm going to chase after wisdom and knowledge.  I'm gonna read, I'm gonna watch sermons and listen to podcasts.  I'm seeking God, all of God.

God show me your glory!  Is that the cry of your heart? I truly hope it is.  Too many have settled in. We've gotten comfortable. Too comfortable!  Things need to be shaken up.  We need more prayer.  We need more of the Christian worldview.  We need deeper depths of experiencing God.  We need harsher challenges.  We need more furiously burning trials.  We need to sleep and dream of heaven's glory, we need to wake and see a battlefield for the souls of humanity.  

We need repentance.  True repentance, deep repentance.  We needs tears before the throne of God.  I lament for my the state of my soul.  I lament for how easily I do stupid things that God calls sin.  I lament for any bit of sin in me.  I want holiness.  Make me holy Lord!  Make us holy as you are holy! 

We need a time of fasting, prayer, and confession of our sin.  We need extended times of openly forgiving those who have hurt us. We need a time of repentance, to confess that we've set God off to the side of our lives, when He should be the center.

It's not to make us feel bad.  It's not to hurt our feelings.  No. This is about being transformed by God.  This is about God clearing away things in us that need to go, so that we can grow in his grace and become all that He has called us to become.  

What we have failed to realize in our lost generation of passivity, luke-warmness, and tolerance of sin is that the sins we don't repent of are deadly, and they will take us away to hell.  We have a very cavalier attitude toward sin in our modern time.  We just promote 'grace, grace, grace' and we don't even teach our people about heaven and hell and the reality of the coming judgment.  

If we have sins in our lives that we haven't repented of, do you think God will hold us guiltless?  No, he will not.  God loves us incredibly, so very deeply, but God cannot allow sin into heaven.  Sin is what pollutes the Earth.  He has died for us to cleanse us of sin, so we may live in holiness. 

Ephesians 5:6-8 "Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord."

We have a lot of preachers today who don't talk about sin and accountability.  It's just grace through faith, that's all, and it's true we receive salvation by grace through faith.  But they leave out the repentance.  We have to repent, which means to turn away from sin, and live pure lives.  Don't let anyone deceive you with hollow words.

Galatians 6:7 "Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap."

But if we persist in unrighteousness, if we continue to gossip, if we continue to commit sexual immorality, if we continue to slander others behind their backs, and curse, and mock, and get drunk, and indulge in lustful thoughts, we will not be entering the kingdom of God.  We will go before God and he will say, "I never knew you, you worker of lawlessness. Depart from me."  Now that would be a very, very, very bad day.  

Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’"

I don't share this to scare anyone, or to hurt anyone, or to be mean or judgmental.  But I have to share the truth.  We take sin too lightly! And we are in need of a great cleansing in the church.  Please take some time to repent of sin. Live in holiness. Reject the enemy and the ways of the world.  Embrace Christ, all of Christ.  That is the way of love! We must unhook the plugs of this world that pour sin into our souls, and plug into the Holy Spirit, so that we may walk in purity, as Christ walked.  

This should be our daily practice.  At the end of each day, get down on your knees before God, and ask Him to search you, and put all your ways before Him.  God will walk you through the past day. Take an inventory, and repent of any sins you committed that God shows you.  Be zealous, be quick, and turn away from sin.  

Fight against it tooth and nail. Fight until you're exhausted.  Fight until the flesh cries out for satisfaction, and refuse to give in!  Fight for your soul, fight for your life, fight for eternal life!  We must be Holy as God is Holy! That is our calling.  That is our life.  And God will help us.  Jesus loves us so much.  He will be here everyday to help us live holy, though the enemy attacks, and the flesh is weak in temptation, the Spirit is strong in us to resist.  Stand firm in the faith.  Put on the armor of God each day in the morning.  God will help us.  Let us live a lifestyle of repentance.  Let us unplug from the world, and plug into the kingdom of God!  God be praised for the victory.  Amen. 

1st Peter 1:13-23 "Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

17 Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially,live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21 Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.
22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. 23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God."

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Exploring the Salvation Army Soldier's Covenant

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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.

The Salvation Army Beliefs:

Becoming a soldier in the Salvation Army is tantamount to becoming a "church member."  That is the best analogy.  But there is also something more there.  It's a dedication to a radically different lifestyle than the world.  It's almost as if we take on a specialty of service to others, by setting ourselves apart as abstaining from certain practices that might trip up those who we seek to serve.  

Personally, I love the original title of the soldier's covenant which was "The Articles of War." I love to sign me some articles of war!  I want to make war on hell and nothing less! 

Let's take a look. These are the imperatives in the soldier's covenant.  Therefore, believing the doctrines are true...

"1. I will be responsive to the Holy Spirit’s work and obedient to His leading in my life, growing in grace through worship, prayer, service and the reading of the Bible.

2. I will make the values of the Kingdom of God and not the values of the world the standard for my life.

3. I will uphold Christian integrity in every area of my life, allowing nothing in thought, word or deed that is unworthy, unclean, untrue, profane, dishonest or immoral.

4. I will maintain Christian ideals in all my relationships with others: my family and neighbours, my colleagues and fellow Salvationists, those to whom and for whom I am responsible, and the wider community.

5. I will uphold the sanctity of marriage and of family life.

6. I will be a faithful steward of my time and gifts, my money and possessions, my body, my mind and my spirit, knowing that I am accountable to God.

7. I will abstain from alcoholic drink. tobacco, the non-medical use of addictive drugs. gambling, pornography, the occult, and all else that could enslave the body or spirit.

8. I will be faithful to the purposes for which God raised 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 the disadvantaged.

9. I will be actively involved, as l am able, in the life, work, worship and witness of the corps, giving as large a proportion of my income as possible to support its ministries and the worldwide work of the Army.

10. I will be true to the principles and practices of The Salvation Army, loyal to its leaders, and I will show the spirit of Salvationism whether in times of popularity or persecution.

11. I now call upon all present to witness that I enter into this covenant and sign these articles of war of my own free will, convinced that the love of Christ, who died and now lives to save me, requires from me this devotion of my life to His service for the salvation of the whole world; and therefore do here declare my full determination, by God’s help, to be a true soldier of The Salvation Army."

(numbers 1-11 added by me, so we can refer to them one by one in analysis)

First of all, living life by the Spirit's leading.  Don't overlook this precept too quickly.  How many of us do truly follow God's will for our lives?  Do we really seek to follow God's plan?  What if I want to go to one college and God is pointing me toward another?  What if I want to be an engineer and God wants me to be a biologist?  As a soldier we declare that where the rubber meets the road, we will follow God's will, not our own.  And implicit in this, are the basic practices of any Christian, worship, prayer, service and Bible reading.

Second, I will make the values of the kingdom of God, not the values of the world my baseline for life.  And it's pretty easy to tell by someone's life, if they are living by kingdom values or by worldly values. Brass tacks, have you embraced God's design for human sexuality?  Or are you engaging in pre-marital sex?  If you're married, how seriously do you take your marriage covenant?  Do you treat others with love, or are you harsh?  There are hundreds of applications.  There are kingdom values, found in the scriptures, and there are values of the world.  When we become soldiers, we are declaring that we will find our base values of how we live from the Bible, and not from pop culture or the universities, or Hollywood/media/television.  

Three, I think we already touched on that, but the declaration is made that we will uphold Christian integrity and allow nothing that is unclean or impure in our thoughts or actions.  This is basically saying we will live out holiness, as doctrine ten states, 'we believe it is the privilege of all believers to be wholly sanctified.'  A Christian is called to live a holy life, plain and simple. Living out holiness means living as Jesus lived, abstaining from sins of the flesh, and living by the Spirit's leading, manifesting the fruits of the Spirit such as love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, faithfulness, and so on. 

Four, we see the application of holiness in the 3rd statement applied to our relationships with others and the larger community of salvationists.  Holiness must be lived out in relationship.  If we dishonor and abuse our neighbors, how can we possibly be living rightly as Christians? 

Five, "I will uphold the sanctity of marriage and of family life." We live in a time when romantic relationships, marriage, and family are not really considered sacred anymore.  Sanctity means that we hold God's standard for our relationships as our ideal, and consider these things dedicated to God.  Sanctity means that these practices of marriage and family are set apart, as different from the ways of the world.  Marriage is a God-given gift, between man and woman, and too often in our world it's treated as a fungible contract, like it can be ended simply because we get tired of the person, or someone more attractive comes along.  It's similar with family, our family life is sacred.  And we should make sure we are practicing sanctity in how we raise our children, treat our children, and how we treat our spouses.  

Six, faithful stewardship.  Time is sacred.  We must practice what we preach, and make wise use of our time and talents, money, and our physical and spiritual being.  We put our spiritual gifts to work for God.  We take time each week to share the gospel. We tithe.  We give offerings. We use our time and talents to bring glory to God and preach the gospel.  As a salvation soldier, we declare that this will be our lifestyle, as stewards of what God has given us.  To one whom much is given, much is required.

Seven is the one that can be a stumbling block for some, and probably the one statement of the soldiers covenant that is most often brought up in practice.  It reads, "I will abstain from alcoholic drink, tobacco, the non-medical use of addictive drugs, gambling, pornography, the occult, and all else that could enslave the body or spirit."  

If your a soldier you've declared that you will abstain from alcohol, tobacco, drugs, gambling, pornography, the occult, and anything else that could enslave us.  

Why is this in there?  It's not a sin to drink!  Jesus drank wine!  Notice nowhere in this statement does it say that drinking is a sin.  It simply says that we've agreed to abstain from it.  Why? One of the reasons is that we don't want to cause others to stumble.  Many who we work with in TSA struggle with alcohol addiction, I myself as a recovered alcoholic, was grateful to find a place where people don't drink.  I found it a very safe place to spend my time, knowing they didn't drink.  That is one of the reasons why.  But we also recognize that these addictive drugs and practices can easily become a slippery slope, leading to outright addiction over time.  We try to protect ourselves against that. 

Most of these are fairly self-explanatory.  

But notice the one that mentions drugs, sometimes we can be prescribed drugs temporarily that are addictive. But also, sometimes we can doctor shop to get the stuff we want, I know in the past I used to do that, please be aware just because a doctor signs off on it, it doesn't necessarily mean it's right with God. Recall that in the past seventy-five years cigarette smoking was considered medically safe.  The Holy Spirit will speak to you about this of course.  Please follow His leading.  Also realize this list is not exhaustive, there are other things that can enslave mind and body, such as over-eating/gluttony, social media, music, politics, pop culture, social popularity, violent/sexual movies & tv series, attention from the opposite sex, and many other things, please seek the Lord if you fear you might be enslaved to anything in your life.  

I would also add a word of caution about the occult: Some of these practices are making a come back in our society!  It used to be a bit more simple, with kids playing with Ouji boards in the basement of grandmas house, or reading astrology in the newspaper, or the tarot card shop downtown.  Today it can be a bit more insidious, we can find certain television shows, or books subtly encouraging children toward occult practices. So we really have to be careful what we're putting before our eyes.  Additionally, under the umbrella of the 'new age' movement we see many occult practices being repackaged and mass marketed to the general public.  So please be prayerfully aware of these influences in our culture, and be discerning in what you watch, read, and listen to. 

Eight, I will be faithful to the reason God raised up the Salvation Army: to win souls to Christ.  That's pretty straight forward.  Some in TSA want us to become more and more all about social services, but we need to be faithful to the prime mission: Win people to Christ. That is the primary goal of all we do, winning people to Christ and discipling them in the faith. 

Nine, I will be actively involved in my corps.  Obviously if one becomes a soldier, they should be active in the corps, present at worship, volunteering in various ways, and leading in various ways. In the past I've known people who would sign up, become soldiers, put on the uniform, and then the moment they have some disagreement with the officer their, or the officer changes, or someone says something to them the wrong way, they disappear and leave the corps.  This sort of "church hopping" is not healthy.  We have to grow up a bit sometimes, and learn to deal with conflicts in a healthy way.  Sometimes things may happen where there is no other option, but usually a conflict can be resolved in a church without leaving. (I'm preaching to myself here too)

Additionally, we commit to giving as large a portion of our income as possible to the work of TSA (tithe 10% and above preferably). Preferably a dedicated soldier should be there every week on Sunday, and active at the corps during the week as well! And wear the uniform proudly!

Ten, we will be loyal to our leaders, to the principles and doctrines of the army, and uphold the army in all the work we do.  Sometimes we can get into a spirit of murmuring against our leaders. (I'm talking to myself here too) Or we can begin to engage in gossip and slander against those we dislike.  This can be very tempting when decisions are being made that don't sit well with you, but please refrain.  The Bible is very clear that we must submit to our leaders, even if we disagree with them.  Surely this is a tough teaching, but we must obey it.

I love the phrase "loyal to the Spirit of salvationism whether in times of popularity or persecution."  It's easy to be a warrior for Christ when it's popular, it's much harder when we're hated for the gospel message.  But we have to stick it out in times of goodness and difficulty. Will you stick with Christ even if a newspaper slanders you for sharing the gospel?  Will you still proclaim Christ if your friends and coworkers call you a backwards bigot?  Will you still proclaim Christ if you have nothing but the clothes on your back and a Bible in your hand?  What if it becomes illegal to talk about Jesus?  Would you still speak up for Jesus?  Things can change very quickly, in almost any country.  Recall the persecution going on in China right now against Christians.  And think about the culture in the United States, how quickly from the 90s to now that the nation went from sympathetic to Christianity, to increasingly hostile and accusatory toward Christianity!  We must be faithful in times of support and in times of opposition.

Eleven, having ascribed to all these facets of the covenant, we declare it publicly before all those present, and put our faith in Jesus Christ, that he has called us to soldiership and that he will enable us to live it out in all it's fullness, adhering to everything we have ascribed our signature to live and practice.  

That's the soldiers' covenant!  But one can also participate in TSA worship and holiness services as an "adherent" which says that we adhere to the doctrines of the army, but do not take the extra step of soldiership.  And for those so called by God, officership is another step beyond soldiership, where we hold ourselves to even more rigorous standard of devotion to Christ and His ways.  God is good! Hallelujah Amen! 

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