Sunday, May 28, 2017

A Philosophical Transformation Series: The United States, A Dream Realized

Battle of Guiliford Courthouse, CC 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Accompanying Video: 

Audio Message:

I’d like to take you back in time to the birth of this nation. The year is 1775, and the British are marching in the dead of night to capture the guns of the colonial militia. Four riders launch into the night to awaken the minute men. The colonials succeed, and beat the British to their supplies of weapons. The British get nothing. At Lexington plain clothes militia line up in a field as British troops march toward them. The two groups stand across from one another, pointing weapons at each other, and someone fires. The colonials are driven back.

Later at Bunker hill the colonials fight off wave after wave of British soldiers ,but are finally defeated when they run out of ammunition. 

Artistic depiction of the Battle of Bunker Hill
A war had begun that would change the world. The colonials would make a new state of independence from Britain, outlining the rights of all men. A radical new notion would begin to spread from America across much of the world: the notion that all men are created equal under God.

Soon a Christian nation would be born. A Constitution would be constructed with the intention of putting biblical principles into practice, not to force religion on the people, but to offer the people God given liberty and freedom, something that God had given all people. This was scandalous, at that time in history, it was unthinkable to even consider the possibility that everyday peasants were in any way comparable to royalty, the rich, or the affluent.

Today it’s something we take for granted. When the teacher in school asks the students what they want to be when they grow up, and one child says “I want to be president of the united states” the teachers natural reaction is to say: maybe you will be. Anyone can be president. We’re a meritocracy. We rise based on our merits and based on hard work.

Our ancestors, during the American revolution, were bands of farmers, traders, and merchants, armed with rifles, taking on the most powerful military in the world. Early on in the war of independence, General Washington was attempting to route the British from Boston, which they had occupied. Naturally he could do this with artillery, only one problem: He didn’t have any. Can you imagine that? An army of peasants, with a handful of ships, squirrel rifles and buck shot, fighting the strongest power in the world. A continental army, with no artillery, no training, and quickly running out of black powder, which was rare in the colonies, against this mighty British empire.

Yet the hand of God almighty seemed tied to the fate of our fledgling nation. General Washington called it “the hand of providence.” Henry Knox one of Washington’s trusted advisors, managed to gather the artillery from a captured British fort (Fort Ticonderoga) ride it across the frozen lake George, and bring it to Washington to use to drive the British from Boston. Washington positioned the artillery on a tall hill overlooking Boston, called Dorchester heights. And from Dorchester heights, the artillery could hit the British fleet in harbor, and the troops garrisoned in the town. So they won the day, by taking the high ground.

Against near insurmountable odds, the outlook seemed grim. The British went on to capture New York and drive out Washington’s army. Washington army was poorly supplied and their were outbreaks of small pox in his camps. Thousands were taken ill and many returned home after their enlistments were up. 

Near the end of 1776 it seemed like there was little hope, but a great turning point in the war took place, when on December 25th Washington launched a surprise attack, crossing the Delaware river at dawn. He won a stunning victory at Trenton, rallying the troops to victory.

So a nation was born, the United States, after many years of war, in the most unlikely of contests. God’s sovereign hand of providence rested on human history to guide the founding of America. It’s my sincere belief that God guided the events of the American revolution to found a Christian nation.

All the way back to over a hundred years earlier, in 1620, the pilgrims were planning their voyage to the new world. I’m sure many of you studied the mayflower compact in elementary school. But did you know that the pilgrims believed that they had been called by God to establish their colony for the purpose of the advancement of the Christian faith?

They wrote in their compact:

In most public school textbooks the references to God and Christianity are omitted. They’re just edited out. They call this revisionist history. And it cuts off young people from understanding the truth of their country, their heritage, and their faith. Maybe that’s why young people are so confused these days.

The founders firmly believed that America could only survive if it upheld two vital factors in the culture: Religion and morality. And when the founders referred to religion, they weren’t referring to world religions like we think of it today, they were referring to the various denominations of Christianity at that time in history. But they understood that our society is upheld by Christianity and Judaeo-Christian ethics. Let’s look at what some of the founders and framers had to say about this.

George Washington…

"Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and Citizens. The mere Politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity." -George Washington, Farewell Address

Samuel Adams…

Benjamin Rush…

Patrick Henry…

"The great pillars of all government and of social life are virtue, morality, and religion. This is the armor... and this alone, that renders us invincible." -Patrick Henry, Letter to Archibald Blair, January 8 1799

Many of the founding fathers of our great nation understood the value of the Bible, religious faith, and morality. They declared it time and again, as the underpinning of the Constitution and our entire way of life.

Unfortunately over about the past two hundred years something has happened to America. Especially in the last fifty years it’s really picked up pace. But it really began with Darwin’s publishing of the Origin of Species in 1859. This led to a sort of evolutionary idea taking on a framework within science, philosophy, and the law. Slowly this evolutionary naturalism began supplanting the idea of natural law. Instead of God given rights that government had no say in, which is natural law, instead a new idea called legal positivism began to take hold. And essentially this view states that government is the ultimate arbitor of rights, and the government is the only entity that can give rights. Legal positivism is the idea that law evolves, and is ever changing.

This began with two men, Charles William Eliot and Christopher Columbus Langdell. Eliot arrived as the new president of Harvard and he quickly placed Langdell as the new head of the Harvard law school. They were both huge proponents of Darwin’s theory of origin of species, and they pushed that agenda into education. Over the next fifty years every leading university in the country began moving away from their Christian roots, embracing naturalism, evolution theory, and legal positivism. Did you know that every major university in the country was founded as Christian institutions? That is true for Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Brown, and Columbia universities. In fact Princeton’s founding motto was “truth for Christ and the Church.”

There are so many other factors that play into the ideological decline of the United States. One could look to Hollywood, or secular media, or the sciences, or modern philosophy, but at the root, much of it comes down to education. A secular minority was able to begin to take control of the education system, and with it went the youth and soon America was slowly being transformed from Judaeo-Christian roots to a survival of the fittest mentality.

A huge influencer of our modern education system is a man named John Dewey. I remember learning about him when I was in elementary school. He was the one who developed the Dewey decimal system used in libraries. Here’s what Dewey had to say about Christianity:

 “Faith in the prayer hearing God is an unproved and outmoded faith. There is no God and there is no soul. Hence, there are no need for the props of traditional religion. With dogma and creed excluded, then immutable truth is also dead and buried. There is no room for fixed, natural law or moral absolutes.” –John Dewey

Can you believe the utter madness of this? This foolish, self contradictory idea of relative truth, and how destructive that is to young minds trying to understand the world around them? The kind of confusion, immorality, and moral chaos this invites is truly staggering. Is it any wonder we see school shootings? Is it any wonder we see such rampant immorality in youth? We’ve allowed our educational system to become an amoral breeding ground of unsound teaching.

The founders understood the necessity of the Bible, religion, virtue, and morality. And as Christians we understand the immense value of this timeless wisdom. In a country so deeply inspired by the word of God, it was simply astounding to hear reports from some of the young people I work with. They’ve told me that if they dare bring their bible to school with them, to read, they will have it taken away from them, and they may get detention. They are told they do not have the right to pray. They are told they cannot wear crosses or religious t-shirts. Yet all of those simple activities are explicitly protected rights under the 1st amendment of the united states; giving all people the right to practice their faith wherever they go, and to speak and share their values. This sort of thing is rampant in bigger cities, but to hear about it happening in a small town is quite troubling. I hope you’ll be in prayer for your local school, and for the children of our world.

America has truly moved far from the original intentions of the founders and of the Constitution and bill of rights. But I see great reason for hope. Many are waking up and coming to realize the value of God and the Bible. Many are growing tired of the intrusions of government into the daily activities of citizens. Many are upset with the government’s violations of religious freedom. And many are looking to reclaim and reshape education to better reflect the traditions of the people. But we have an obligation as parents and youth leaders to share our values with our children, and help them understand their rights. We must help them to remember who they are, and who their God is.

Our Lord in scripture reminds us time and again in scripture, he instructs us to: Remember.

When Joshua was leading the Israelite's out of the wilderness, to take the promised land and establish the nation of Israel, which exists to this very day, they had to cross the Jordan river. And by God’s miraculous power, he parted the waters so they could cross on dry land. But God did something special when He did this for Joshua and the people. He told Joshua to have 12 men take 12 stones from the river and keep them as memorial stones. God said to them, Joshua chapter 4 verses 21 to 24: ““When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 22 then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’ 23 For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, 24 so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”

In the same way, that the Israelites passed over the Jordan, and the Red Sea, so when we are washed in the blood of Jesus Christ, we are set free from sin. Sin passes over us and we walk free of it, onto dry ground. Thanks to Jesus Christ.

And in the same way the Israelites were told to remember, we celebrate memorial day each year to remember the sacrifice of angels to uphold this dream of a nation that trusts in God. We remember the sacrifice of angels, who rally to offer up their blood, sweat, and tears to give us this dream of life in America. We’re so blessed. So blessed in America. Our lives are so safe here. It’s like a little piece of God’s heavenly order on Earth. It’s not perfect, but compared to the rest of the world, the 3rd world, it’s like a little paradise.

But we must remember how God provided for the colonists when they fought the British.

God encourages us to remember, when in times of fear and doubt, when it seems that sin and chaos reign in America: Remember how impossible it seemed for your fledgling nation during the American revolution. Remember how all the odds seemed to be stacked against you, yet you triumphed. Remember how the Lord has been so faithful in the past, and know He will be faithful again in the future.

And remember how the nation threatened to tear itself apart over the issue of slavery, and how brave men fought in a bloody civil war. And when all seemed lost, and the union seemed that it would collapse, God ensured it would remain together.

And remember how in World War II Hitler and the Nazis threatened the entire world with slavery and death. Remember how the committed genocide by the millions. And remember how America rallied, and drove this evil from Europe by the blood of hundreds of thousands of brave Americans. It’s not too late for America. When all seems lost, when it seems like there’s so little hope left, that’s just when God is at work in mighty ways, to turn the tide. Our part is to believe. Our part is to pray. And our part and good and decent people is to take action. 

Like Gideon, as he was hiding from the midianites, we feel as if we can’t do anything to help our country. We feel helpless, outnumbered, afraid. But the Lord arrives to us, as the angel of the Lord did to Gideon and he sees in us what we can’t see it ourselves. “Hail mighty man of valor!” Said the angel to Gideon. Gideon is disillusioned and he asks why God has allowed this to happen. But the Lord says, “I will be with you.” And you will succeed. In the same way, when we take action to help our country, God blesses that work with victory.

It’s not too late for America. When all seems lost, when it seems like there’s so little hope left, that’s just when God is at work in mighty ways, to turn the tide. Our part is to believe. Our part is to pray. And our part, as good and decent people, is to take action.

On this memorial day weekend, I would like to encourage you to do something for your country, the United States. I’d like to encourage you to Appeal to Heaven for America.

There is a simple formula. We humble ourselves before God. We pray. We seek God’s face. And we repent of our old ways. We appeal to heaven.

2 Chronicles 7:14 says “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Note: Numerous resources, pictures, and facts from this presentation originated from "The Truth Project" by Focus on the Family, hosted by Prof. Del Tackett. 

A Philosophical Transformation Series
8: Government & Law: The Unique American Experiment 
9:  The Future Destiny of Man: The New Heavens & New Earth
10: Everything is about Jesus: Closeness with Christ & Living Missionally

Related Posts:
  1. Mysteries of the Crucifixion
  2. Living a Lifestyle of Worship
  3. The Seven I Am Statements of Jesus: Who is Jesus?
  4. Resurrection Sunday: He is Risen!
  5. How to live as a consistently growing Christian
  6. Why Am I Here: Beauty, the Universe, and the Search
  7. Eulogy: A Tribute to Grandma
  8. What does it mean to Repent?
  9. A Philosophical Transformation Series: Sociology
  10. Be a Game-Changer: We each must carry the message

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Great Challenge of Dealing with Conflict: 5 Styles of Conflict Resolution

CC 2.0 via Flickr
Conflict in relationships, conflict in family, and conflict in churches are terribly difficult things to deal with. I myself have struggled a great deal in responding to conflicts and disagreements in a healthy manner.  This is a tough challenge for my generation.  We tend to want to flee, and run for the hills when conflict dares to intrude upon us.  But running is not always the wisest response to difficult conflicts.  Many times, there are better responses and better ways to deal with inevitable conflict.

The first thing we should recognize about conflict is that it is 100% normal.  We tend to file it under "abnormal" but the fact is, in any community conflict is going to be a part of our interactions.  In any relationship we will tend to have to deal with some sort of conflict from time to time.  There isn't anything wrong with that.  It's simply a part of relationship.  But let's not kid ourselves, conflict is quite awful.  It feels terrribly yucky and for me especially, I simply can't stand conflict.  I'd almost rather disappear completely than have to deal with a conflict.

So how can we deal with conflict in a healthy way?  Conflict is normal.  In fact, conflict is healthy.  Conflict is not fun though.  Think about when the boss calls you into the office and says those fateful words "We have to talk."  It's harder for us to run to the hills when it's our job that is on the line.  We have to stay and deal with the consequences then.  

We should have the same attitude in our personal relationships, and in our church community relations.  It can seem much easier and more convenient to simply start over.  That is what I often did in the past.  I would just start over, throw up my hands and say "I'm done."  But that isn't always the wisest thing to do.  

Don't get me wrong, there may be times when it is necessary to leave and start over in a new situation.  But we should strive to limit those to the most extreme circumstances.  

What are some extreme circumstances that would require us to unabashedly depart from a situation?  Well, one example would be if my group of friends are using drugs regularly.  That is something I simply have no interest being around.  It's a dangerous influence to me, and I'm being foolish if I think I can successfully sit in the barber-shop as it were and not get a hair cut.  

Another situation would be if my boss and/or coworkers are asking me to violate my conscience, or violate the law.  If it's coworkers, then I should go to my boss, or my bosses boss first.  If it's my boss, then I'm left with little options.  I would make sure I've exhausted every means of dealing with the issue, and if nothing seemed to work, then I would depart.

Still another example would be if my spouse were habitually abusive.  That is a situation where fleeing is probably quite wise.  

In a church situation, if the church leadership are teaching false doctrine, abusing children, or teaching things not contained in the Bible, I would need to address that situation directly.  I would need to attempt to sit down and discuss the situation with leaders face to face.  If all attempts to remedy the situation failed, only then should I leave.  

But most situations we face are not this extreme.  In most situations, we have options and there are ways to resolve most conflicts.  For the longest time I didn't think so.  In my family of origin, I had relationships where conflict was perpetual.  And attempting to resolve those conflicts was an exercise in futility.  The person I was attempting resolution with would simply use the negotiations to push their own agenda.  But the person would never, ever offer any sort of real compromise.  So I learned as I grew up, to simply give in, because I knew resolving the conflict was impossible, I knew I would just be forced to do whatever they wanted anyway.  This led to me wanting to avoid conflict at all costs.  

There are several common methods that people use when entering into conflict in relationships.  Often these methods come from what they learned from their family of origin.  The style I tend heavily toward is obviously the avoidant style.  I see conflict through the eyes of childhood, that conflict resolution is an exercise in futility, and the best option is to avoid conflict at all costs or cede to all the demands of the conflict instigator to maintain (at least the appearance of) peace. 

What is your conflict style?  Let's look at the various common methods.

1. Avoidant - just like it sounds, avoid conflict at all costs. Hide feelings and emotions to try and keep the peace.  This tends to cause built up stress, which leads to depression, and relational instability. This style often comes from a dysfunctional family of origin where feelings were hidden, or conflicts were never resolved.  Not a wise way to deal with conflict.

2. Argumentative - this style tends to want to fight it out. They are more used to arguing it out.  Their family of origin tended to be louder, and more up front about emotions.  This style can be healthy in that both sides are attempting to get everything out and find a resolution.  This style can also be unhealthy in that often the argumentative type may even enjoy conflict, triggering them for the enjoyment of it.  Not a healthy way to deal with conflict either.

3. Rage - This style attempts to use force to deal with conflict.  They argue, they push for their way, and they tend to resist compromise. This style at it's worst can be physically abusive, though often also emotionally abusive.

4. Manipulative - This style may seem more like the argumentative style in that they look to argue and talk and try to resolve the issue, but there is an agenda behind this.  The manipulative style rejects all forms of compromise and pushes for their own way. If the person resists, they attempt new arguments and broken record style pushing of their view.  They tend to use passive aggressive attacks and shaming.  Not a healthy style.

5. Assertive - The assertive style knows when to walk away from a conflict and when to resolve a conflict. They express their anger in a healthy way, without letting things go too far.  They are able to compromise, but also able to stand by their core convictions when necessary.  This is a healthy style of conflict resolution.

As you consider how you can deal with conflict in healthier ways, remember to always be prayerful in your approach to conflicts.  Conflicts can be very difficult and emotional.  Remember to pray before entering into discussion.  Remember to pray during discussion if you feel yourself getting out of control.  And try to be brave, even though your afraid or upset.  I encourage you to remember that conflicts can be resolved in healthy ways.  It's not always fun or easy, in fact it's often quite difficult.  But the long term rewards of working out conflicts and building long term relationships outweigh the costs of healthy conflict resolution.

Related Posts:
  1. Sex, Cuisine, and Television: Overcoming the World
  2. Ten Great Minds, Ten Controversial Presentations
  3. Helping Children Heal from Divorce
  4. How does God communicate with us? 
  5. The Great American Culture War: Religious Liberty, Gay Rights, Naturalism and the Christian Faith
  6. You Oh Lord are my Strength: The Manifold Provision of the Architect of Reality
  7. Christian Mental Health: Strategies for Developing Personal Security
  8. People Types: Patterns of People inside and outside the Church
  9. What is love? 
  10. Depression & Meaninglessness: Where is God in the depths of Despair?  

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Home Sweet Home: Confronting the Fear of Death

Audio Message:

Home sweet home. We all dream of home don’t we? In your life what are some places that always felt like home to you? For me, when I think of home I think of my grandma’s kitchen. I think of the smell of cooking food, and the heat and steam from the stove. I think of Christmas morning at the house I grew up in with my parents. I think of my aunt Colleen’s living room where I spent so many days during the summers. I think of the people, the faces, the smells, the feelings, but perhaps most of all I remember how it made me feel. I felt safe. I felt protected. I felted relaxed and at home.

But the truth is this world is not really our home. There is always something missing. Today I’m far from home, and I’m sure many of you feel the same way. It makes life more difficult. But we can take great comfort in that one day we will be home.

We are human beings. We are born, grow up, and then we become adults. We work, serve, care for others, eventually perhaps have families, children, and even grandchildren. But then we begin to grow old, our health slowly grows worse, and then one day we die.

In fact it is appointed for humanity at this stage in history that we each are born, and then we die, and after we die, the word says we will stand before God and given an account of our lives.

Death is something we don’t like to think about. But it comes to us all. In fact it’s the normal of life, though from God’s perspective death is anything but normal. In fact it’s a result of the fall of man, that our ancestors chose to disobey God. And as a result, all of history was affected, and today in the world we struggle with things like poverty, injustice, starvation, racism, sexual abuse, wars, and so many other evils.

God didn’t do these things. It’s interesting how so many will try to blame God for the evils of the world. God didn’t do those things. People did those things. When a young man or woman decides to become a drug dealer, that’s a choice they made. When that drug dealer gives drugs to a young confused teen, and that teen gets into a car accident and kills a family, one might be tempted to blame God for the death of that family. But God didn’t do that. People made choices that set a course of events in motion that caused suffering.

Some might say, well God could’ve prevented it from happening. Well let’s think about that. If God steps in once to force someone to make a different decision, well, how often should God step in? If God stepped in every time I was about to make a bad decision, and if he did that every person on Earth, well the truth is we’d all be robots. We would have no free will. God has given us the incredible gift of the ability to make free choices. This is the essence of being human, that we can think and reason and make choices. So it’s foolish to blame God for evil. God could prevent evil yes, but it would require turning every human into a robot unable to think or make free choices.

Death comes for all of us. And the truth is many of us fear dying. But we shouldn’t fear dying. Why? Because we have a great assurance ahead of us. We have a future beyond the grave. In this life we have such difficulties. In fact the word says “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” That is a scary thought, that we walk through this low valley, with death shadowed over us like a constant threat to us. But it continues and says “I will fear no evil, for You are with Me.”

God is with us. So we don’t need to be afraid to die. The son of man our Lord Jesus Christ has conquered the grave. He has defeated death and declared victory over death for all humanity across history. He declares that He is Risen and He will cause you to rise as well.

One day we will each behold the face of God. R.C. Sproul a famous theologian said, “When we behold the face of God, all memories of pain and suffering will vanish. Our souls shall be totally healed.”

That is what it means to finally be home. When we talk of going to heaven after we die, of going to paradise, we’re really talking about going home. And home isn’t so much a place as it is a person, our Lord and God is home. And to be with Him is to be home.

In paradise, in the renewed world, made perfect by God, and set right by him there will be no suffering, no pain, and no death.

Revelation 21:4, NKJV. “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

We will live forever. Because God was willing to come to Earth on a rescue mission to save us, Jesus our savior came into the world to save us. And Jesus had to offer himself on the cross as a sacrifice for our salvation. Why?

Hebrews 2:14-15 says “14 Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. 15 Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.

Jesus paid our debt of sin on the cross. And though we must all pass through the veil of death, we will rise to life if we believe that Jesus Christ is our God and our savior. And if we believe Jesus personally, for you and me, paid our debt and gave us new life. So believe this. We all face death, you, me, everyone, but after death comes the next life. The truth is, if we trust in Jesus, we’re going Home. We’re going home, finally, home.

Related Posts:

  1. The Return of Jesus Christ & the New Jerusalem
  2. What will the New Universe be like?
  3. Origin, Meaning, Morality, & Destiny: An atheist and a Christian on discuss Worldview
  4. Seven Objections to the Bible and Seven Reasonable Responses
  5. Quick Fact Sheet: Four Points to Consider
  6. 10 Answers to Common Questions Raised by Skeptics
  7. Believing in the Miraculous: The Work of Jesus Christ on the Cross
  8. Can you see through the illusion?
  9. Philosophy, Science, Logic, and History: Presentations on the Truth of Christianity from Multiple Disciplines
  10. No Evidence for God?

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

What is the Salvation Army? Is the Salvation Army a Church?

William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army

The mission of the Salvation Army is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and meet needs in His name without discrimination. This mission statement helps us to understand that the Salvation Army is in fact a protestant evangelical church movement. For those interested in learning more about this fact, I highly recommend Who are these Salvationists? by Ret. Gen. Shaw Clifton. Shaw Clifton’s work Who are these Salvationists? (1997) emphasizes and underlines the importance of the Salvation Army as a part of protestant evangelicalism.

The Salvation Army’s ministry is based on the Bible and it’s ministry is motivated by the love of God. The Salvation Army is most certainly a church organization, based on a conservative biblical interpretation of the scriptures, which means the Salvation Army is firmly entrenched in the protestant evangelical movements in the world that emphasize grace through faith alone, glory to God alone, Christ alone for salvation, and the Bible alone as the authority of divine teaching (Shaw, 1997).

The Salvation Army as Church
If one were to ask General William Booth if the Salvation Army were a church, he would probably reply, “The Salvation Army is an army!” (Shaw, 1997, p. 9). It’s most probable that Catherine Booth would’ve also recognized TSA as a distinct movement, not fitting any particular or current mold (Shaw, 1997, p. 9).  Later in the history of the army, General Arnold Brown commissioned Frederick Coutts to produce a document on the Salvation Army and if it ought to be called a church (Shaw, 1997, p. 9).  The document Coutts produced simply indicated what was already quite true, the Salvation Army as a group of Christian believers is a part of the body of Christ (Shaw, 1997, p. 9).  The church is simply another way of saying the body of Christ, which is the body of those who follow the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 12:5 New International Version). Sadly in some parts of the world people are quite surprised to learn that the Salvation Army is a church, which Shaw (1997) attributes to a too inward looking attitude and a failure to understand the positive need for a clear articulation of what the army is (Shaw, 1997, p. 10). Never the less, though the international mission statement may be somewhat ambiguous regarding the fact of the Salvation Army being a church, TSA meets all the standards of a legitimate church movement and ought to be considered as such (Shaw, 1997, p. 12-13).

The Salvation Army as Protestant
Protestantism is a collection of movements branching off of the theology of greats like Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Jacob Arminius. These movements are extremely diverse and therefore one might more accurately refer to these movements as protestantisms (Shaw, 1997, p. 21).  Protestantism is based deeply on the foundational value of the Bible alone as the authoritative and inerrant word of God (Shaw, 1997, p. 22).  Perhaps just as importantly Protestantism is based on the concept of an individual responsibility to accept or decline the offer of salvation found in Jesus Christ.  Though this should not be confused to mean that protestants have an individualist view of church activities (Shaw, 1997, p. 22).  Grace is prime to Protestantism (Shaw, 1997, p. 23).  In fact according to Shaw (1997) “There is no more important word in the Protestant vocabulary than grace” (p. 23). The Salvation Army certainly affirms this primacy of grace.  In addition, the Salvation Army’s first doctrine unabashedly affirms the authority and value of the holy scriptures (Shaw, 1997, p. 23).  The Salvation Army affirms all the key tenants of Protestantism including the priesthood of all believers, the importance of holiness, and the worship of God (Shaw, 1997, ch. 2).

The Salvation Army as Evangelical
The Salvation Army is historically firmly rooted in the movements described as evangelicalism (Shaw, 1997, p. 35).  Evangelicalism originally came about in the eighteenth century revivals in England (Shaw, 1997, p. 35).  Many countries were affected by the revivals, including the United States. (Shaw, 1997, p. 35). William Booth was originally part of the Methodist denomination, which came out of the revivals of the likes of Charles Wesley and Jonathan Edwards (Shaw, 1997, p. 36).  One could say that William Booth’s Christian Mission and later the Salvation Army are ideological descendants of evangelicalism and therefore part of modern evangelicalism (Shaw, 1997, p. 36). 
Some of the greats of modern and recent evangelicalism include John R.W. Stott, J.I. Packer, Francis Schaeffer, and of course Billy Graham (Shaw, 1997, p. 36, 40). In fact is one is looking for a ringing endorsement of a prominent evangelical leader, Billy Graham spoke direct praise for the Salvation Army during his years of ministry calling it "Christianity in action!" (Gariepy, 2009).  
General Shaw (1997) indicates four great principles that are hallmarks of evangelicalism: they include insistence on biblical authority, personal emphasis in regard to conversion, recognition of the need for social service and social action, and a firm focus of the work of Jesus Christ on the cross (p. 45). 
Salvationism is deeply influenced by the works of Dr. Francis Schaeffer, in that the Salvation Army rejects a liberal, or low view of scripture (Shaw, 1997, p. 25).  Instead, the Salvation Army affirms the highest view of scripture as the inerrant word of God.  Indeed, the Salvation Army also rejects the relativism of the modern age, which has made for moral chaos and the loss of truth as a concept (Shaw, 1997, p. 44).  The Salvation Army affirms objective moral values, the fact that Christianity is a comprehensive worldview, and the fact of the necessity for modern believers to be vocal on important social and political issues of the day (Shaw, 1997).

The Salvation Army as a Christian movement focused on a dual mission of preaching the gospel and meeting needs, is in fact a protestant evangelical church movement.  The Salvation Army is a church, given the very nature of the army as a body of officers and soldiers who regularly worship God.  The Salvation Army is protestant in that the basic precepts of protestant theology and worship are met in the activities of the army.  And the Salvation Army is evangelical in that the army holds the highest view of scripture, propagates the need for a personal relationship with Jesus, and firmly emphasizes social service work and social action.  Or as Shaw (1997) said in his book, quoting cardinal archbishop Law of Boston, “The Salvation Army is an authentic expression of classical Christianity” (p. 5).


Clifton, Shaw. Who Are These Salvationists?. 1st ed. Alexandria, VA: Crest Books, 1999. Print.
Gariepy, H. (2009). Christianity in Action (1st ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
NIV Bible. 1st ed. London: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd, 2007.             Print.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Twelve Steps: A Christian Process for Healing and Transformation

Cc 2.0 via Flickr
Foundation Scripture: Romans 8:1-13

Accompanying Video: 

Audio Presentation:

Our lives are beautiful, astonishing, powerful series of moments that end up defining who we are and what our legacy in life will be. We live in a miraculous world, and we live lives of miracles, victories, defeats, and transformations.

Though many in our world today chock up their lives to random chance and coincidence, as Christians we know there are greater things at work than mere happenstance. Life is a gift. It’s a gift from God. And especially the lives we live today, here in the United States, we have all we want to eat, we have good jobs, friendly communities, and reasonable government. We should be so very grateful for what God has given us.

The greatest gift we’ve ever received, that impacts our lives in the most incredible way is the gift of the grace found in Christ Jesus. The word says: “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you[a] free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh,[b] God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.” -Romans 8:1-3

Jesus paid it all, all to him I owe. As we look at ways we can grow in grace, and methods or practical recovery and healing, we must remember that we do everything out of Jesus Christ. If we begin by trying to force growth and healing in our lives, we won’t get anywhere. But if we seek to grow based on the love and relationship we already have in Jesus then we will succeed. We should always be cautious to live out of what we’ve already received in the riches of Christ Jesus. Jesus substituted himself for us. He’s transformed his life and witness to us, as a jacket, a coat of righteousness that we put on every day. We have full relationship with God through Christ. We all have full relationship. We have full adoption into the family of redeemed humanity. We have the Holy Spirit working in us, on us, and through us. All of this comes from Christ alone, not from ourselves. We can do nothing to add to it.

But as a result of what Christ has completed in us, we desire to live a godly, holy life. We want desperately to live the way God wants us to live, because of the incredible gift we’ve received. We’re so happy, so amazed, so grateful for to God, we want to live just the way he has asked us to live.

So today I’d like to share with you some ways to grow in God’s grace. These principles are taken from God’s word, translated through a process called the twelve steps. The twelve steps are Christian in origin, having been developed from the teachings of a 19th century Christian movement called the Oxford groups. These Oxford groups were Christians attempting to live their faith better. And I hope from this message we’ll find some “spiritual tools” to help us live as faithful Christians.

The first principle if something we should all try to understand and grow in, because it’s the foundation of all Christian growth. This principle is the principle of surrender. This is something William Booth talked about a great deal. It’s so vital to what we do. Essentially surrender is about the full, 100% admission that we are powerless, and in need of God’s provision. Apart from God, we can do nothing. But surrender is practical, in that we can practice it.

It can be as simple as a prayer. Lord, I surrender. I can do nothing apart from you. I’m powerless Lord. I need you, nothing more, nothing less. Linked to surrender is humility. If we aren’t humble, then we can never grow or achieve anything. Because someone with pride and ego assumes they already know everything. They can’t be taught anything.

Ego can lock us in a cell, alone by ourselves, unwilling to admit we need help, unwilling to admit we need to change, and for much of the secular world, it’s a prison where they will stubbornly refuse that love and guidance of God.

In my years of wayward struggle, my ego was out of control. But there is one thing that can break down ego: It’s suffering. God gave me exactly what I needed to hit rock bottom and lose all false ego. And once that ego is gone, at the bottom, it’s just you and your sins. There is no barrier between us anymore. Just me and what I’ve become. That’s when calling out to Jesus becomes a real possibility. For Christians like ourselves, we can practice surrender by falling on our knees before God. We can practice humility and surrender by lowering ourselves before God and declaring our full dependence on Him. I encourage you to let your knees hit the floor before our Lord. Stay there. Allow the Lord to dig deep into your and flatten out that ego within. Invite the Lord to do so. Cry out to Him, and weep, and ask for willingness.

Interestingly enough, in recovery programs surrender is step 1 of the process.

Second principle that we can practice in our lives is that of total commitment. God must have all there is of William Booth said the founder of the Salvation Army. God must have all there is of us. All of us. Not just some. Do we practice that? Or do we set aside certain parts of our lives? God you can have this part, but the sex life is my business. God you can have this part of me, but I’ll handle the finances. God you can have the spiritual part, but I’ll handle how I treat my husband, my wife, my kids.

There are no conditions in this agreement between God and man. There are no negotiations. We give our whole lives to God. Practically this means that we look to turn both our will and our entire lives over to God. But what does that mean? To turn our will over to God, is to say that we will now check our decisions against what God wants us to do.

Most people tend to function in our lives attempting to fulfill three basic desires within ourselves: security instinct, social instinct, and sexual instinct. We push our way through life trying to fulfill our desire for safety, which manifests in trying to buy a house, trying to find a good job and so on. Socially, we look for friends, for close relationships with family and coworkers. And in our sexual instinct we look to connect with someone of the opposite sex. Those things aren’t bad. Those are the three dimensions of life. But all of those areas can become problematic if we aren’t living out of the 4th dimension of life, which is the spiritual realm.

We as Christians are called to live in the Spirit. The rest of the world lives in the flesh, attempting to manipulate people and circumstances to fulfill their three basic desires for security, socializing, and sexual desire.

The word says:” Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.” -Romans 8:5-6

To turn our will and our lives over to God is to live in the Spirit instead of the flesh, meaning as we live day by day we’re looking to fulfill God’s desires for us, instead of our own petty interests. Are you living that way? If not then I encourage you to commit yourself anew to our Lord, and to begin to consider in your mind: What is God’s will for me in this situation? What would God want me to do right now? It’s not so hard. In fact the more you practice it, the more natural it becomes. This is God-consciousness, what some call a conscious contact with God on a daily basis.

So first we surrender, step 1. And step two and three are the process of coming to believe, and then commiting oneself to attempt to obey the will of God in their daily life. How do we know the will of God? We study his word carefully and know his teachings on various issues.

Many of you probably already practice both surrender and practicing the will of God. Now I’d like to share with you a tool that will transform your entire life.

It’s called the process of taking a personal inventory. For those of you out there today who have been through a lot of traumatic experiences in your life, of you’ve gone through hard times, I can’t recommend this process enough to you. I’m absolutely amazed by the power of putting things down on paper. The act of writing out what we’ve been through is a process by which our soul is cleansed from past struggles.

When we go through hard times, trauma, depression, sorrows, and addictions it’s like we accumulate wreckage in our minds. And pretty soon that wreckage piles up to the point that we can barely function on a daily basis. We begin to live and feel as if we’re constantly surrounded by a cloud of doom. That cloud comes from these piled up past traumas.

So if you’ve got piled up sorrows from the past, grab a notebook and pen, or open up a word document on your computer and start writing. Write down exactly what happened. Honesty is vital in this process. If we rewrite history or leave the worst parts out, we won’t find any healing. But if we share the real truth about what has happened, and what our part was in it, then we’ll find healing. Once we’ve written all these things down, and when I did this I had over fifty pages, we take it to someone we trust deeply. It could be a trusted friend or pastor. And we read what we wrote to them and talk about what happened. This second part of confessing it is vital. The act of telling another person, for some reason, is the part that really clears this stuff out. Then we pray, thanking God for setting us free from these past harms, and many like to burn the pages as a symbol that in Christ all of these things are gone. Set free. He has set us free.

Those are steps four and five. Six and seven are steps that help those seeking healing to identify character defects, like fear, inconsideration, and selfishness, and to begin to practice the opposite of those harmful attitudes. The principle is inventory, matched with confession.

The final principle I’d like to share with you today is called reconciliation. As a non-believer, and an addict I hurt many people in my life. I think my family is who I hurt the worst. But also my extended family. And my close friends, coworkers, and college teachers. When we practice reconciliation, a biblical concept, we go to those we have harmed in the past and we ask for their forgiveness. But in addition, we also ask how we can make it right. They call this making amends.

I’d encourage you to consider in your life, how you’ve hurt others. It’s best I think to start with family. And then consider friends as well. How can I make it right with these people? How can I make amends for the wrongs I’ve done to them? This is probably the hardest part of the principles we’ve talked about so far. It’s very humbling (step 1) to go to family members and friends and admit the wrong we’ve done. But are we so proud? Do we have so much ego?

What would Jesus do? Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, a task seen as below the dignity of any decent person. Jesus did it. I never wanted to admit I was a drug addict. To admit that was to hurt my ego. It was to admit who I really was. But when I did, it changed everything. In the same way, most don’t want to admit they are sinners, and it’s humbling and ego crushing to do so, but once we admit it, we become open to the healing found in Jesus Christ. Making amends encompass steps eight and nine.

Ten, eleven and twelve have to do with continuing to practice the principles already discussed, to continue to grow in communion with God, and to carry the truth to others who don’t yet have it. Let me add this truth: Often when we are depressed, struggling, about to fall apart internally the solution is for us to serve someone else. It’s a paradox I know, but oddly enough, getting out of ourselves and focusing on someone else cures that internal sorrow.

In conclusion, the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans chapter 7: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! -Romans 7:21-25

In the journey of your life, in those moments that come that define who we are and how we live, remember that you are called to live in the Spirit. In this beautiful, amazing, shocking, awe inspiring adventure of our lives we will see so many things, come to know many people, and witness great shifts in society, and in ourselves. Consider how you live, and obey that wonderful Holy Spirit within. God will not lead you astray. He has given us the spiritual tools we need. Surrender, turning our will over to God, inventory, confession, and making amends are all gifts from God in Christ Jesus. Jesus loves us because we have received Him as our savior. As a result and a response to this wonderful completed relationship, let us live our faith and grow as Christians through the timeless principles found in the word of God.

Related Posts:
  1. Expert Testimony: The Existence of God, the Problem of Evil
  2. Expert Testimony: The Anthropic Principle, Anthropology
  3. Expert Testimony: Intelligent Design, Archaeology
  4. Expert Testimony: the Demise of Evolution, Complex in DNA
  5. Origin, Meaning, Morality, & Destiny: An atheist and a Christian on discuss Worldview
  6. Seven Objections to the Bible and Seven Reasonable Responses
  7. Quick Fact Sheet: Four Points to Consider
  8. 10 Answers to Common Questions Raised by Skeptics
  9. Believing in the Miraculous: The Work of Jesus Christ on the Cross
  10. Can you see through the illusion?

Monday, May 8, 2017

To Carry the Gospel: Am I Called to be a Pastor?

The greatest mission in the world, the greatest calling in the world, and the vocation of most importance in light of eternity is none other than to pastor, by serving as a leader of God's church.  I know that I'm called to this life mission.  I'm wondering: Are you?  

God may be calling you if your reading these words.  So keep reading.  I'm going to tell you the story of how I encountered the call, and I'm going to tell you about the organization I was called into, called The Salvation Army. 

Many people don't seem to know much about the Salvation Army and what the Salvation Army does.  I know for the longest time all I really knew about the army was the red kettles in front of stores, and that they did social services and gave out food to the needy.  Otherwise I didn't really know, or care about what they did.  But when I encountered Christ in my life, it soon became important to me, the needs of others and what I could do to help.  

I learned that the Salvation Army was a church movement.  Given the name, I suppose that makes sense doesn't it?  Eventually I felt and knew I was called to officership in the Salvation Army.  An officer in the Salvation Army is similar to being a pastor in another church movement, though there are some differences.  I thought I would share my testimony of how I ended up in this calling for others out there who might be questioning if they are called to pastor a church, and if so, if they are being specifically called to the Salvation Army.  

A Salvation Army pastor is called an "officer" because the Salvation Army is set up in a quasi-military fashion.  Graduating cadets are commissioned as Lieutenants. In addition to pastoring a church, Salvation Army officers also help distribute social services, give out food, administrate homeless shelters and addiction treatment centers, and deliver emergency disaster services. 

Maybe you've never even considered the possibility of being a pastor.  Or maybe you've considered pastoring, but never thought of the Salvation Army as the place to do it.  Well, maybe your reading these words for a larger purpose.  So this is my testimony of struggle, addiction, and victory that led me into the ranks of the army.  These are my views, and only my views, and do not necessarily represent the views of any organization.  This is my experience and my beliefs.

Early Life
I was born at Wausau hospital in 1985. I was raised by average lower middle class parents, my mom being a nurse and my dad being a teacher. My dad worked at the Salvation Army Wausau as a GED teacher in the NTC-Salvation Army Learning Center. My mom worked as an RN at Wausau hospital. I had a great deal of pain as a child due to stomach problems, to the point that I would scream as a baby every night. In fact I screamed so hard and so often in pain that to this day I have a concave chest. I had a generally happy childhood though; grew up with one sister three years younger than I. Being left handed, I had a hard time in gym learning the skills from the opposite perspective. I had a great experience in elementary school and had lots of friends. I was a natural leader and organized football games, 11 on 11 during recess.

During middle school I was bullied a great deal, and sort of got lost in the larger school environment. There was a lot of bullying and I was beat up several times by other students. In addition, during this time my parents began having increasing problems. My dad during this time began to force me to be a sports and basketball star. It was his dream for me to be a football, basketball, soccer, and tennis star. I had other ideas, in fact I preferred to be in front of my computer or reading in the library. It was a nightmare for me. I would go to school, get bullied, go to basketball practice and get bullied more by the players who knew I didn’t belong there, and then I’d come home to my parents screaming at each other in the hallway.

I had been raised Catholic, but I never really connected to it. I went through the CCD classes and they were terribly boring. I was never taught about Jesus or that he loved me. I was never taught that I needed to read a Bible, or have a relationship with Christ. When I was nearing the time to be confirmed, I argued with the priest about the existence of God and indicated to him that I didn’t really understand any of it. My mom was furious when I refused to be confirmed in the Catholic church.

During that time I increasingly fought with my dad and he fought back twice as hard, trying every possible way to manipulate me into continuing to be the sports star. Finally the coaches told my dad that he couldn’t force me to play sports anymore. It had to be my choice. I stood up for myself and refused to play anymore. My dad wouldn’t speak to me again for another year and a half. Right around that time my parents did get divorced and my dad left the house. I began experimenting with prescription drugs, a poor decision, but I didn’t know what else to do. I was expelled from high school and woke up in a mental hospital, being told I had threatened to shoot up the school. After that I fell in with a group of guys, ironically all from divorced homes and we hung out, played videogames, and used drugs.

I got into more and more trouble as the years went on. But I did start attending college and found a passion for writing and reading poetry at acoustic café nights. I did particularly well in college at the University of Wisconsin extension. I found an interest in writing and journalism and became a writer and distributor for the college newspaper. Eventually I became the assistant editor of the newspaper.

Unfortunately my drug and alcohol use was increasing. I was beginning to realize I had become addicted. I worked several jobs, but nothing really seemed to click too well in my life. At age 20 I was arrested for drunk driving and possession of marijuana. I was put on probation, and then later revoked for getting in trouble again. I ended up in jail several times. I got another DUI when I was 22. I went to treatment and actually managed to stay clean and sober for quite a while. But eventually addiction took over, I needed something more than just recovery. I didn’t know then, but I needed Jesus. I got into more and more trouble, and my condition continued to worsen over time. I was starting to overdose and end up in hospitals. I went to several rehabs, detoxes and treatments but nothing seemed to be working. In 2011 and 2012 I started carrying a Bible given to me by my grandpa. I didn’t know it then, but my grandpa and my mom had both gotten saved at a Baptist church in town. They were going to a Bible study and the people there were praying for me. God was sovereignly orchestrating events in my life.

There were several factors that were pivotal in my conversion to the Christian faith. Two of the great pillars were praying grandmothers. My grandma Monica and my grandma Patricia both prayed for me constantly. In addition were the prayers of my mom, my grandpa Bernie and the prayers of the Bible study group at Mosinee Baptist Church. In addition, in 2010 and 2011, my grandpa Bernie met with me several times, gave me a Bible, and told me about Jesus. I thought it was really stupid at the time and even felt embarrassed for him. I thought of him: what a fool! It turns out, I was the fool. So though I continued to use drugs and drink, I began carrying a Bible around with me wherever I went. And I read from it as I wandered about the town, a pariah and shunned vagabond. That Christmas I asked for Bible stuff, and my cousin bought me a copy of the DVD movie called “The Gospel of John.” The movie is in fact word for word the gospel of John (Good News Translation.) I think more so than anything else, watching this movie over and over helped me to understand who Jesus Christ was and why he came. I became obsessed with the movie watching it over and over. I continued to read from the Bible. But it was like I was swimming around the outside of the truth, observing it, but I needed to access it and come within it and allow it to transform me.

Thankfully God the Father was sovereignly drawing me to his son Jesus Christ. One night, which I mark off on my calendar as November 1st 2012, though I don’t recall the exact date, I was sick and tired of being sick and tired every day. I just couldn’t do it anymore. I needed something different. I needed help. Words cannot truly express the desperation of the moment, I had lost everything in life. But something so wonderful came into my mind, a simple suggestion from the beyond: Call out to Jesus Christ. So I crawled onto the floor, a bloated mammoth, a beast, a loser, a creep, and I fell onto my knees. At that moment I cried out to Jesus Christ, a literal guttural cry from within and without, believing that this ancient savior Jesus Christ could really help me. I threw all my hope onto Him, I cried out in desperation from the depths of my soul. And at that moment I felt the ground shake around me and I fell down onto my face and covered myself in fear not knowing what was happening. But I’m certain now that it was the presence of God coming upon me and the celebration of heaven itself as a wretched sinner fled to Christ.

Essentially what Jesus Christ did for me, was he cleansed me of all my past sins and took the penalty for them all upon himself. That is the reason he died on the cross, to pay the penalty for all my sins. In addition, he set me free from active addiction and alcoholism and so many other dark lifestyles. In addition, he gave me new birth, in that I became a new person, or more so, I became more truly myself, as a child of God. The person I used to be, when I think back, seems like someone else, a stranger, not really me. 

New Life
From that day on everything in my life began to change. I started to pray in the morning and at night, kneeling before God and thanking him for changing my soul. I studied the scriptures constantly. God led me into a church called New Day Christian Church. I was fed well at that church and I was baptized 5 months later. At that time I made a public profession of my faith and shared my story to the congregation. I began attending a small group at that church. I began attending recovery groups. I worked the twelve steps with a sponsor and cleared out the wreckage from my past, making amends to those I harmed, and learned to practice my Christian faith through devotions and prayer and service to others. I knew almost instantly that I was called to full time ministry. I took some classes on the basics of Christianity from Christian Leaders Institute. This led to me applying to Liberty University the largest Christian college in the world to study religion. I began leading several ministries at New Day church, including creative team, planning team, and prayer team. I also began leading a Bible study. About a year and a half later I began working at the Salvation Army of Wausau transitional living center. Since I worked weekends I started attending the Salvation Army chapel. I quickly found passion for the work in the Salvation Army, and the rest is history.

Calling to Officership
I didn’t expect or intend to serve as an officer in the Salvation Army. I knew I was called to minister, everything was lining up in my life to make that abundantly clear. After being saved in the Baptist evangelical church, a part of Converge Great Lakes, I started seeking entry to that same movement. But it seemed that every time I walked up to a door of ministry, it wouldn’t open for me. I got involved with a Converge church plant, but once again things didn’t work out.

Fate would have it that I began working at the Salvation Army transitional living center in Wausau, Wi. Under Ed Wilson our social services director we turned the TLC into a sort of treatment center style shelter. Word got around Wisconsin that this was the place to come if you wanted to turn your life around. I gave away bibles, handed out tracks, talked to people about Jesus and shared the gospel regularly. I led an alcohol and drug addiction recovery group. I did caseworking with clients assigned to me. I was impressed by Ed Wilson, a former officer, and I was impressed by the mission of the Salvation Army.

At the shelter I worked rotating shifts, which included Sundays. I started attending the Salvation Army church. I made it my mission to try and build up the church, which had dwindled to only about 5 to 10 attenders. I started attending corps activities, and eventually Ed Wilson’s wife Dee shared with me about officership. I honestly hadn’t even considered it, even after attending the corps for quite some time. She told me about officership. She said I would be ideal for it and suggested I learn more about it. I began to think about. I began to pray about it. I later indicated to Lt. Jacob and Melinda Tripp my interest. I also wrote a message asking some questions about officership to the Salvation Army WUM candidate website. I met with Captain Shannon Thies about officership, and I began attending Salvation Army conferences. If I were to recommend one single thing to do if someone is considering officership, it would be attending Salvation Army conferences. I’m not sure why, but it made a huge difference. At this point I was still very much uncertain about officership. But I was certainly willing to consider the possibility.

I attended three conferences, I believe it was regeneration, youth councils and a 730 candidate conference. I’m not 100% certain. But at each of these conferences there were times of moving toward “officership.” People were encouraged to get out of their seats if they were feeling the call of God, to move toward officership. All three times I found myself getting out of my seat and moving toward officership.

I became a soldier of the Salvation Army. It fit perfectly with my life goal of remaining clean and sober from drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, gambling, and other sinful behaviors. I led a young adult bible study which had healthy attendance of 6-12 people regularly. We built the Wausau church up from 5-10 to 25-35. I was accepted into the ministry discovery program internship through central territory. I believe it was shortly after that last confirmation that I finally stopped doubting the call to officership.

The truth is though, I’ve had a hard time with the call. Why? Because it’s not what I would’ve chosen. I wanted to be an itinerant evangelist, or a Christian apologist sharing the gospel on college campuses. Or I had considered simply pastoring a small church, sort of part time, and spending a lot of time writing on the side. I didn’t want something that would be 40+ hours a week minimum. But it isn’t about what I want. It’s about God’s will and what He would have me do. One of my heroes Ravi Zacharias has traveled the globe as an itinerant preacher. And when he speaks he shares the fact that he can’t stand to travel. Yet God called him to this ministry. Another hero of mine, Canon Andrew White was raised by protestant parents, yet God indicated to him, in a moment when he paused and ask, “What next Lord?” that he was being called into ministry in the Anglican church. He immediately protested, but he obeyed the call and God blessed him with his incredible ministry today as the “Vicar of Baghdad.” So despite my sincere concerns regarding officership, I’ve chosen to obey the call of the Lord, trusting that He will make me able to fulfill it. I don’t question the call anymore. I need to place total faith in it. God has confirmed it time and again.

I’ve read that a calling can be confirmed based on three criteria: support of family/friends, doors opening, and personal conviction. My family firmly supports my calling into the Salvation Army. My friends are happy for me and support me in it. In addition, my dad has worked at the GED program at the Salvation Army of Wausau for 23 years now. It made it seem like a family heritage connection as well. My grandfather, the one who gave me my first Bible, said that he always respected the Salvation Army officers he worked with when he was chief of police. Second, doors opening. Every time I’ve walked up to a door in the Salvation Army, it’s opened for me. That hasn’t been true anywhere else. This was a major contributing factor to the call. 3rd personal conviction, meaning do I believe I’m called to this work, and as previously stated, I certainly do. Does the work give me peace? Yes it does. So in conclusion, through God’s guidance I’m certain I’m called to full time ministry in the Salvation Army as an officer. 

My Passion for the Mission
I love to share the gospel, I'm a creative evangelist at heart. I like to use imaginative ways to get the gospel out there. I’ve shared the gospel many times and in many ways throughout my short time as a Christian. One of my favorite ways to propagate the gospel is through blogging and social media. I started my blog about three years ago. Since then I’ve written about 500 articles on all sorts of Christian topics. My blog has been viewed over 330,000 times by people in 75 different countries. I love writing and sharing my thoughts in this way. In addition, I share the gospel via social media through scriptures, quotations, pictures, video sermons, and links to articles. It is a powerful way to reach the young who are so media savvy and technology driven. In addition, I regularly shared the gospel, gave out tracts, prayed with people, and handed out Bibles at the Salvation Army TLC in Wausau, WI. I’ve tried to continue to do the same at the Escanaba, MI corps, but it seems like while here God has been working on me personally. It’s been less about ministering and more about learning and working hard. And I’m OK with that. But I’m looking forward to getting back to sharing the gospel 24/7. I’m an evangelist at heart. Whenever I read a powerful scripture or think about Jesus Christ, my immediate and constant reaction is: People need to hear about this! That will be my constant focus as an officer, sharing the gospel and building the church congregation.

The Need for Leaders
There is a great need for pastors in our world today.  Many church movements are lacking the leaders necessary to move forward in strength.  This is true for the Salvation Army as well, especially in the midwest.  There is a need for officers. But that doesn't mean just anyone is up to the job.  Work as a Salvation Army officer is hard, very hard.  It means long hours and difficult circumstances at times.  It's also a blessing beyond measure to carry the gospel and meet needs in the name of Christ under such a banner.  The rewards of the joy and peace found in serving the Lord are matchless. There is no life of greater importance, value, and authenticity than full service to God.  It is a great challenge, it certainly is.  I think about that often.  But I'm reminded of the meaninglessness of my life before Jesus.  I'm reminded how everything seemed pointless, meaningless, a bore and a drudgery.  When considering that, to work and serve in the name of Christ makes the most sense of all possibilities in the world.  What could be of greater importance than to serve and carry the gospel to the lost, wayward peoples of the entire world whose very souls hang in the balance?  The clock is ticking.  Make your life matter, make it worth something.  You won't receive worldly fame or glory, but you'll receive the crown of glory in heaven, and much praise and glory in the next life.  That is the goal. Officership in the Salvation Army though is not a job, it's a calling.  This means that we don't choose it, it chooses us.  Is God calling you to officership?  Find out through prayer and the study of His word.  Ultimately it's a calling.  But if your reading these words, maybe, just maybe you are called as well.  God bless. 

Related Posts:

  1. A Junkie Shares about Addiction, Jesus, and the Salvation Army
  2. Dear Salvation Army: Please don't change your stance on Marriage
  3. Sermon: Purity of the Heart & Holiness
  4. Take a Stand on Key Issues: Addiction, Abortion, & Marriage
  5. Politics & God: Should Christians be involved in Politics?
  6. Authoritarianism toward Christians in the name of "Gay Rights"
  7. A Movement of Millennials: The last hope of Western Civilization
  8. 10 Video Shorts on the Evidence for Christianity
  9. Take a Stand Like Daniel: Being a counter-culture Warrior
  10. Religious Liberty: The Great Struggle of our Time