Saturday, April 21, 2018

How to Repent of all Sins in your Christian Life

Jesus in the Wilderness
Mark 7:20-23 (ESV) And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

Repentance is a beautiful thing. Repentance is a breaking free from the ties and bonds of this world, and the sins that so easily corrupt us, and a process of being transformed into the likeness of Christ. 

In the west, especially in the United States many Christians have been deceived by a dangerous doctrine called "eternal security."  Essentially this view indicates that "once you're saved, you're always saved."  This doctrine has led many people astray in their Christian faith. Many have assumed that given their salvation experience is legitimate, they don't need to worry about sin in their lives and repenting from it.

But the more I study the scriptures, the more concerned I am about sin in the life of a Christian.  We don't take sin near seriously enough in western Christianity.  And that's a big reason why the church looks a lot like the world.  We don't recognize the need for true repentance.  We're filled up on grace, but what we need is true repentance. 

1 John 1:8-10 ESV "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us."

Our God is a gracious God, and He forgives the sins of those who put their faith and allegiance in Jesus Christ.  I used to believe that our sins, past, present, and future were all forgiven in the moment of salvation, in the moment of saving faith in Jesus Christ.  I no longer believe that, because there isn't much basis for it in the scriptures.  

I had considered a scripture in Hebrews a basis for this belief, that "Jesus died for sin, once for all time" (Hebrews 10:10).  But I realize now that on a firmer basis of good exegesis, this scripture is much more likely referring to the fact that Jesus' sacrifice on the cross transcends time in it's accessibility, meaning the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross redeemed people in the past, like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and so on.  And Jesus' sacrifice is also available infinitely forward to our present age, as a timeless option to receive forgiveness of sins.  

But I now realize that if we are in active sin in our lives, those sins are not forgiven, unless we repent of them and turn away from them.  That is why it's important for us to conclude each day in prayer, and make an inventory of our day, and confess and repent of any sins in our lives.  

It's important to understand that there is a distinction between active sin and being tempted.  To be tempted is not a sin, Jesus was tempted, but He did not yield to the temptations.  So to be tempted is not a sin.  But if we are tempted, and we give in and indulge in the sin, in thought or action, then we have sinned. But don't worry, God provides a way of escape for every sin that dares to beset us. 

1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it."

Galatians 5:16 ESV But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

We're given a clue as to how to overcome sin in our lives: To overcome, we must walk in the Spirit.  The Holy Spirit was given to us, by Jesus, as a deposit in our souls, to help lead us into all truth and purity.  

We are already dead in Christ.  We were buried with Him in His death on the cross. We are therefore dead to the sin He died to destroy, and we are now alive to Jesus. We are reborn, as alive to Jesus, and dead to sin. So we must fight to walk in that Spirit life.  

But to live free of sin, I must emphasize is not a checklist of "to do" and "don't do."  To live free of sin is to live so completely yielded to the Holy Spirit, so utterly subjected to Christ, so completely adherent to the will of the heavenly Father that sin is rendered powerless. Temptations will come, but our yielding to the Father will win the day over those temptations. 

So the question must come up: What exactly is sin?  Well, we do get some lists in the scriptures.  Here is one such list, of 15 categories: 

Galatians 5:19-21 ESV "Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God."

Sex always comes first.  God knows us so well. Sex is the hardest sin to overcome, because it's temptations are so strong.  The big three sexual sins are: masturbation (using lustful images in the mind or pornographic videos to sin), fornication (to engage in pre-marital/non-marital sex acts), and adultery (to have sex with a married man or woman, or lust after them in your heart).  Those are the big three, especially in our day and age.  I've done all three, sadly.  But I've also confessed my sins in tears before God, and asked for forgiveness, and repented, and I was forgiven and washed clean, completely.  The same repentance and forgiveness is available to you, today.  

But if we're playing a game with God, where we sin, then repent, then the next day we sin again, and repent, that is no good.  In that situation we need to ask God to help us fear Him.  Ask Him that again and again, to put the fear of the Lord in us.  Then we'll tremble before His throne, we'll tremble about the fires of hell, and we'll be zealous and repent quickly of that sin.  And that's true repentance, which is enabled by the Holy Spirit.  It starts with grief, then fear, then a sincere turning, and a practicing daily of a new lifestyle.  Once again, I speak from experience.  I played that game with God.  And I asked God for fear.  And He gave me fear.  Now I've repented and it's a real repentance, which is a gift.  

There is no distinction between sins in God's eyes.  God doesn't say "Well you were a Christian in active sin, but your sins weren't that bad, you were just doing smaller sins, so it's no big deal."  No, that's not how it works.  Say, that you repent of all the "big sins" but you continue to say, download pirated music online, or you continue to steal things from your work occasionally, or you skip tithing, because "no big deal."  God will come to you, in the Spirit, again and again to tell you to repent of those sins.  But if you keep resisting, and telling yourself in your mind that it's no big deal, well, you won't be in heaven, plain and simple.  You'll be in the other place.

This is not my favorite teaching.  I prefer to focus on God's grace, on the love of Christ, and on the forgiveness, mercy, and eternal life given to us.  That's what I love and like to think about.  All of those things are indeed true about God.  But I would not be a faithful minister of the gospel if I didn't warn those I teach and care for about the dangers of living in active sin as a Christian.

Yes, we can lose our salvation.  But it's not like you turn around and say, "Oops where did it go!?" God preserves us in the palm of his hand and he comes to us and rebukes and disciplines us when we get off track. But we know when we're straying from God's path, and we know when sins are active in our lives. And there does come a point when we step outside His will and plan.  We have those choices to make.  

Don't be deceived by elaborate theologies.  Put the scriptures before theological allegiance.  And the scriptures talk again and again about "falling away" and encouragements to "abide(remain) in Christ."  I'd commend John 15 to you, as well as 1 Timothy 4:1 ESV which states: "Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons."

I'd also recommend the following scriptures for your consideration in regarding to falling away/departing the faith: Hebrews 6:4-6 ,Hebrews 3:12-19 ,Revelation 2:4-5 , 2 Corinthians 11:3 , 2 Peter 2:20-22 , Romans 11:19-22 , Matthew 24:10-13 , and Revelation 3:11.

Please don't just take my word for this one, examine the scriptures yourself. But I would give you this one encouragement: Put the scriptures above a theological allegiance.  Don't try to force the scriptures into the theology you prefer.  Instead let the scriptures speak for themselves.  

I know many of you reading these words are Calvinists.  I want you to know I love you as brothers and sisters in Christ.  We aren't enemies.  We're friends.  And I know your going to teach your people to thoroughly repent of all sin.  But I'd encourage you to examine the scriptures and discern them in all wisdom.  

Just as Jesus Christ taught the seven churches in the book of Revelation, we must be focused, determined, and hard working in the Spirit to repent of sin, and ensure that we are in the will of God.  God will make His will for our lives clear and we must follow it.  The scriptures say that many will come to Jesus and say, "Lord, Lord, remember all we did for you in our lives, and the miracles we performed."  And Jesus will say to them: Depart from me, I never knew you (Matthew 25:31-46). We need to be obeying God's will, if we expect to share in eternal life.

Additionally, we must not harbor unforgiveness or hatred for those who have harmed us in the past or present.  Take some time in prayer, on your knees, to search through your heart for unforgiveness and anger/hatred.  Ask the Holy Spirit to search you and reveal these things.  Then declare forgiveness in your heart, and love in your heart.  Remember that the Lord said hatred is murder (1st John 4:20).  And also recall that Jesus said that if we don't forgive others their debts, then our debts won't be forgiven.  Jesus forgave us all our sins, and our response is to forgive those who have done unspeakable evil to us.  Or even just small things.  We've been forgiven, so we must forgive (Matthew 6:15). 

Finally, we must not be lukewarm.  We must work to be on fire for Christ.  We must truly follow and obey Him.  The church that Jesus addressed in the book of Revelation, the church in Laodicea had become lukewarm (Revelation 3:15-21).  They were so wealthy and affluent that they couldn't recognize that they were poor, blind, and naked.  They needed to cloth themselves in Jesus, instead of relying on their wealth and power.  I think we have the same problem in the United States today.  We need to truly submit to Jesus and rely on Him, not worldly wealth.

In conclusion, I want to tell you that this a very difficult message for me to write.  I don't like having to share this kind of message.  In fact I've tried to avoid this reality in the theological framework in my mind for years.  I've resisted it and fought against it, and desperately wanted to believe that sin wasn't such a big deal.  I wanted to believe eternal security.  I wanted to believe that active sin wasn't such a deadly foe to eternal life.  I wanted to believe that extra grace would cover over the sins I was practicing each day.  But I realize now, that for those in active sins, their lot is in the lake of fire.  It doesn't matter how well we've served Jesus or how many converts we've won, or how faithfully we've taught the scriptures.  God shows no favoritism.  So we must be careful not to disqualify ourselves while running this race of serving Jesus (1st Corinthians 9:27).  

Hell is a real place. If you go there after you die, you'll be conscious. You'll be able to feel and you'll have your senses. You'll have a body, you'll be able to think and reason, and you'll constantly recall all the chances you had to repent, and didn't.  I don't say that to scare you, but because I don't want you to go there.  And our God is a righteous judge, He will return in power and glory to rule His people. He will bring into judgment all things we've done. 

But don't be afraid. God will help you overcome all sin in your life.  And to he who overcomes, they will be given a crown by Jesus (2 Timothy 4:7-8). And once we're in heaven, with Jesus, there is no longer a danger of sin.  We'll be free to be holy and pure and clean.  And it will be wonderful.  Heaven is real! So choose heaven, instead of hell. 

This is such a hard message for me to share, but I believe with all of my soul that this message is true and of Christ.  We must take sin seriously, and we can and we will.  And if we do, and we cooperate with the Spirit in putting to death the sins of the flesh, we will make it to eternal life with Christ in heaven.  We will be pure and spotless in His sight if we are zealous and determined to walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh.  Thank you for reading and keep on praying and seeking God! 

1 John 1:9 (ESV) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

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  5. How to Serve as a Leader in Christian Ministry
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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Should I Tithe 10% to my Church?

Proverbs 3:9 Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce

Let's talk about tithing!  In my view, tithing is very important.  God gives us Jesus, he gives us life, he transforms us, and makes us new in Jesus.  He sends His Holy Spirit to live in us and make us holy.  

He almost always sends us to a church, to serve in some manner, and we become part of that family of believers.  It's a beautiful thing. We become part of a church, and we begin to serve and contribute to that church family.  Usually it's fairly clear where God leads us, for me, the Salvation Army, the best church ever in my humble opinion.  But there are many great churches out there.  If your looking for one, don't look for the one you like.  Look for the one that teaches the entirety of the scriptures, is Spirit-filled, and most importantly look to where God is leading you.  

And remember, when joining a church, it's not about the church meeting your needs.  No.  This is God's body on Earth, and instead our attitude should be: How can I serve God through this church's ministries?  How can I be a faithful servant of Christ? 

It's not perfect. And it's not always easy.  There are issues at churches, and divisions, and certain things that happen, but we work through those things, through prayer, conversation, and obeying the word of God.

So about tithing: What is tithing?  Tithing is a concept from the Bible, from the Old Testament, that we give 10% of our income to God.  Sound like too much?  It's all His anyway.  It's not ours.  God owns everything.  We're blessed enough that he gives us a great deal of wealth, especially in the west.  We're so blessed! Wow!

Tithing is very important. And we should take it seriously. We don't want to "rob God of his tithe" as was recorded in Malachi, in regard to Israel. Tithing is a big deal, it's a clear instruction from God.

Please take that command seriously, and if your a Christian leader, or a pastor or officer, you should tithe to your church just like any other would. The minimum is 10% but preferably more, because the New Testament standard is to give joyously of we all have! God gives us so much, and it all belongs to Him anyway.  So do give tithes at your local church.

Something I also do is I support charity work, I support Compassion International and other charities.  I give to The Salvation Army world services to help build the kingdom overseas in Africa and Asia and South America.  

2 Corinthians 9:7  Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

God loves a joyful giver.  God loves those who give regularly to support His work.  And let me remind and encourage all of us: God will hold us accountable for our giving.  He expects us to tithe, as much as he expects us to serve the poor and needy, and stand up for those who are outcast by society.  God expects us to tithe, and he sees everything!  So please settle it in your heart and mind to give generously to your church family, and to charities as you feel led. 

I like David Ramsey's approach of starting at 10% and then slowly working your way up to 15% then even 20% and further.  I love that!  

Proverbs 11:24 One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.

God blesses us when we tithe.  When I didn't tithe it seemed like I never had any money, and kept struggling in debt.  But when I gave my first fruits to God, just writing out a check right when I got paid, God blessed me.  

Now today I have investments in the stock market!  Can you imagine that?  Me?  I could never get that going on my own.  God blessed me, because I honored him by tithing.  Do the same, and test God in that way, and He will respond. It's a promise for us today.

Malachi 3:8-10 Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

God will Uphold His Army: Standing on the Truths of Scripture

Notice: The views and opinions expressed on this blog are solely of those making them, and they do not necessarily constitute the views of the Salvation Army, it's partners or affiliates.

Dialogue, discussion, a conversation, two different viewpoints... It all sounds so good, doesn't it?  We're on two different sides of an issue and we selflessly come together to find a middle ground on a critical issue.  That sounds reasonable doesn't it?

But let me ask you this question: Should we have conversation about if Jesus was really the son of God?  

Of course not.  We know as believers in the church, that Jesus is the son of God, and that he came to die for us sinners, to set us free and give us life.  

That's a fundamental truth of our faith, as part of the body.  If we don't believe that, we aren't part of the body of Christ, plain and simple.  

Another question: Should we have a conversation, in the church, among fellow believers, about if we should get rid of the Bible or not?  Of course not! We can't just toss the Bible out the door, and make up our own beliefs.  That's not a conversation we're going to have.  There are certain things that we must agree on, if we are going to declare ourselves part of the church.

3rd question: Should we have a discussion, as the Salvation Army, about if we should add a 4th person to the Trinity? Hear me out, listen, we can add William Booth as the 4th person of the Trinity, because, you know, progress and tolerance.  And grace and love, of course.  Alright, but at least we can find a middle ground between our positions.  You want the Trinity, I want the Quadinity, so we can find a middle ground between our two positions.  It's a conversation, you know, it's a dialogue.  

See how ridiculous that is?  It sounds so reasonable to have a dialogue, to find common ground, and to meet half way.  But what is half-way between truth and falsehood?  Half-truth?  Half-lie?  No, truth is objective.  And there is truth, and falsehood.  There's no middle-ground between them.

And in the same way, we should not have a discussion about endorsing homosexuality. We don't need to embrace a lifestyle clearly addressed in the scriptures multiple time (Genesis 19:1-13Romans 1:26-271 Corinthians 6:9;1st Timothy 1:10Matthew 19:4-6). We don't need to find a middle point between biblical truth and non-biblical worldly ideology.  We stand on the truths of scripture.

It's simply like this: We must love and reach out to people who struggle with the sin of homosexuality.  We must love them, encourage, and help them to repent of that sin.  We must invite them to church, help them to find the grace of Christ, by turning to Christ, and away from their sins.  That's what every sinner in this world needs, all of us included. 

The first doctrine states that we believe the scriptures of the Old and New testaments are trustworthy and they constitute the instruction, the baseline for Christian faith and practice.  Part of becoming a soldier, an officer, or even an adherent is agreeing that these are our shared beliefs.  

These truths don't change.  The scriptures are quite clear about the homosexuality issue.  The scriptures are clear. And it is wrong for us to go into the word with a black marker and cross out the scriptures we don't like or don't agree with and say that this is God's grace, and God is still speaking. 

God is speaking today, and everyday in our world.  But God doesn't change, and His word doesn't change.  The New testament is for us today, and the New testament indicates that homosexuality is a sinful practice (1 Timothy 1:10, Romans 1:26-27). God is not speaking in regard to a black marker coming down from heaven, to cross out the scriptures that we don't like.  That isn't God speaking, that's you speaking.  That's people speaking, about their own opinions, elevating their views above the scriptures.

It's easy to yield to the pressures of culture, to change the word, to change our viewpoints to match the worlds.  But that's not what we're called to do, we're called to be counter-cultural.  

We must trust the word of God.  Yes, the Holy Spirit is ministering in the world.  But once again, the Holy Spirit is not out there ministering in the world saying: "God's word is out of date."  No.  The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, it doesn't endorse it.  The Holy Spirit inflames the Bible into our minds, it doesn't change the Bible to fit our desires. 

To have a dialogue, and to find a middle ground sounds reasonable on paper. But it's simply a logical fallacy (appeal to moderation fallacy), to find a middle ground between truth and sin.  The scriptures say what they say, and they don't say what they don't say.  

The doctrines of the Salvation Army are what we all agree on when we participate in this Christian movement.  The truths of the Bible don't change over time because we decide they should.  Those viewpoints are gleaned from the scriptures, and they are true.  And part of coming to faith in Christ, and joining this army is to declare trust in the SA doctrines, as accurately interpreting the scriptures.

And if we are going to say that we need to change our view, we need to be more inclusive, we need to embrace and teach that homosexuality is holy and right and not sinful, then we've just stepped far outside the bounds of scripture, of William Booth, of the Salvation Army, and of the Lord Jesus Christ.  

There can be no compromise with lies.  There can be no dialogue with heresy against the foundational truths of the Christian Bible.   The Bible is the truth about everything.  We agree on that as Christians, as followers of Jesus.  

A dialogue sounds nice.  But it invites legitimacy to viewpoints that plainly contradict the truth.  We must not dialogue against the Bible.  There can be no discussion between the Bible and "incarnational" such and such, which is simply, embracing the views of the world, of sinful humanity, and forcing those views on the Bible, supplanting the Bible, with our own fungible opinions, opening up a doorway for such things to continue, until God forbid the army would crumble into a secular social services, social justice movement.  

What goes next after biblical marriage?  The inspiration of scripture?  God the Holy Spirit? Or even someday Jesus Christ himself?  This may seem unlikely, but often what begins with one compromise, can lead to a pattern of compromise. As the scriptures say: With the foundations gone, what can the righteous do?  (Psalm 11:3)

We as members of this team, this movement all agree on one truth:  The Bible is the wholly trustworthy word of God (Doctrine 1).  If we can't agree on that, then we're not really fighting on the same team.  That's the whole problem though, I suppose.  But I'm sure there are many out there who hold wrong opinions about certain things in the scriptures who really do love Jesus.  But that does not mean that these false viewpoints, and this heretical theology should be given any sort of legitimacy.  

But we do have a phrase to identify someone who is teaching something that is not true: We call that person a false teacher (2 Peter 2:1-3, 1 John 4:1, Romans 16:17).  And they will have to give an in person account to Jesus about what they taught (Matthew 12:36).  That's a fearful thing, especially since the word says we who teach will be judged more harshly (James 3:1).  

God is real!  And He will call us home and require an account from us of what we taught.  Was is true?  Or did we teach what we wanted to say, instead of His word? It's a fearful thing. Search the scriptures diligently, and humble yourselves.

The Army trusts in the scriptures above the ideas of secular humanity, period.  Let that never change. Yes we must love people.  Yes, we will love people.  But that doesn't mean yielding to sin, it means showing radical grace, while encouraging total transformation.  That's the power of the gospel to transform a person, inside and out.  

One final thought for my brothers and sisters: Don't be afraid. God will uphold His Army. This Salvation Army belongs to God almighty, and no other.  It is His instrument.  He will uphold His army.  He will strengthen us.  I encourage all of you, pray constantly for this army to hold strong, to stand firm, and to be bold in proclaiming the true, full gospel.  Believe when you pray, and pray often.  Prayer is so incredibly powerful.  And be brave, and bold. Take a stand without compromise.  God will honor that, though you may for a while have to endure trials of many kinds.  God is good.  He is with us.  Don't ever give up, and take hope and strength always in Christ.  Again I tell you: God will uphold His Salvation Army.  Amen, come Lord Jesus.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

God's Fingerprint on Reality: Emotions of Life, Freedom, & the Golden Ratio

Great trails extend between cities, connecting people, and we drive from here to there traveling the roads.  We go from here to there, day in and day out. Trees roll across the horizon.  Massive metal cities rise up from the fog of daily life.  We move from here to there, wondering at our lives.  Or maybe just rolling along completely unaware of anything?  

I often wonder what a single day will bring, blessing or disaster?  Chaos or cohesion?  The light wakes in the morning, the shades are drawn, and I shutter in anticipation.  Though not always, some days I wake up and realize I have no control and it doesn't matter anyway.  But I'm always slow to rise, and disturbed by reality itself.  Yet there are great joys in life, there are so many balancing themes, and so many contrasts in life... it's a consistent state of awe.

Suffering comes, it will in this life.  We don't know who we will meet or when.  Moments grow beautiful.  But not quite perfect.  In a beautiful interaction, with a group of people, when the Spirit takes over and synchronicity flows, still, something is missing.  And there are those times when we stand alone, lonely, bitterly sorrowful and wish upon wish that someone might come up to us, and tell us: Everything is going to be OK.  And you think of how beautiful it would be if that happened, and how it would touch your heart.  

But no one ever comes.  The dank alley remains dark, a few people pass by, but nothing happens.  That hope we hang out, unfortunately falters and disappears.  And the heart goes slightly colder, and more distant.  

The strongest emotions seem to dwell with family, and with romantic love.  And of course with God.  Nothing breaks my heart more like a simple infatuation, or an expressed desire left unrequited.  

To love at all is to be vulnerable, so said C.S. Lewis.  To really live our lives, to not hide away, but really live, and to really be out there doing this life, we must expose ourselves to the possibility of rejection.  This is necessary.  

These feelings we carry with us, they come to define who we are.  And if we've been through a lot of trauma in our lives, they can make us shaky, nervous, depressed, and even self-destructive.  Healing is necessary.

I listen to beautiful music.  It brings healing to my soul, through identification.  Music expresses feelings that our words can't identify.  It paints a picture that no brush can describe.  It defines emotions that our words can't.  

Time passes by and God does beautiful things. He's so mysterious in His actions, to attempt to predict how he'll work, is impossible.  To even notice, is astonishing.  To contemplate His depth, brings fear.  I whisper a question into the simple air of my familiar apartment and He does not answer.  So often He does not answer.  Yet in the span of a day, He makes himself known. He's great and far above us. Somewhere up there. But we're not up in the clouds overhead, we're in the mud below.  

And so often God's plans for us are so bitterly painful.  We must embrace the suffering, and suffer daily with a quiet strength.  This is nobility, to suffer quietly and bravely.  

God made us with the ability to reason, and God loves reason, logic, and science.  But there is a variable that affects everything we do, it's emotion.  Emotion isn't bad, but it certainly skews what might've been more simple equations.  But emotions don't rule us, at least they shouldn't.  Then again our current generation seems to do everything on emotion, and the guiding star is whatever feels good, regardless of consequences.

I've gone through the ringer of hedonism, of doing what feels good.  It's empty.  There's nothing there but madness, depression, and morning after syndrome.  It doesn't matter how many packs you smoke, or how many girls you sleep with, the hole keeps getting ripped open wider, it doesn't close and it's never satisfied. 

It's so hard to close a new hunger once it's opened.  Who can ever satisfy a drug addiction?  It's never satisfied.  What about pornography?  It never ends.  And it just keeps getting wider, that hole in our soul, and it needs more and more to satisfy it, until the hole is so large our heart falls out through the opening.  It's easy to die with a needle in your arm, stupified and exhausted in putrifaction.  

The three day hang over is really the best result of hedonism, because the misery demands our attention, and the suffering and pain demands a change that would've never come in any other way.  

You can lay on a highway, you can stand there and hope to be hit by a car, but it's not going to happen if God doesn't want it to happen. You can throw yourself off a bridge, and nothing will happen, unless God wants it to happen.

All our days are in his books.  Yet we have free choices to make.  The grand paradox of life, it is. God's fingerprint is on reality, it's on our souls, it's written into the code of our matrix.  It's the Phi of reality, the golden ratio, the infinity equation written into the substance of reality, replicated on every level from subatomic to galactic. God is love, infinite power, and an expression of glory, a word that depicts a reality beyond our reality, the otherness of God, the dimensions of Him that goes beyond all we can imagine. The fact is God made all these realities, he designed our genome, the laws of mathematics, physics, and the laws that govern space-time. 

Yet to feel a sunset, to read a lovely book, to write, to paint a beautiful painting, to consider the state of life, to give birth, to build a city, all of these are expressions of our own sharing in his creative genius.  God the creator of space, time, reality, consciousness, also created us His masterpiece with something special: The ability to create creatively.  So we build our little wonders, and tragedies, and beauties and mega-weapons on the platform he's created.  

He's made a reality for us to play in, but something's gone wrong.  It's like a holodeck in Star Trek.  But the safety protocols are offline, and the exit won't function. This is our block play-land.  This is our minecraft region.  And what a mess we've made of it.  Yet there is great hope, and future renewal of all things, in Jesus Christ.  That's where the revolution begins, and it's end is portrayed in the future, as the total destruction of the current matrix and reboot, no, not a reboot, not an update to the system, but a whole new system, perfect in every way, a preparation for those who reject the matrix and turn to Christ in humble need.  Then we know, the future holds a perfect reality beyond this broken one.  And that my friends, is the meaning of life.  

Related Posts: 
  1. Living in a Mad World: The Entire Spectrum of Life & Jesus
  2. Healing from Past Struggles
  3. Post-modernism is Dead, Jesus is Alive
  4. The Deep and Beautiful Secret of the Human Soul
  5. How has God blessed you in the Last Year?
  6. The Growth & Flourishing of the Christian Mind
  7. The Crying of the Wolf at Midnight
  8. Rediscovering Lost Values, Political Engagement
  9. God of Love, God of Justice: A Future Heaven, a Future Hell
  10. How to Pray Authentically: The Four Position Prayer
  11. A Junkie Shares about Addiction, Jesus, and the Salvation Army
  12. What is a real Spiritual Journey?

Monday, April 9, 2018

To Those Who Overcome: How to Be Free from all Sin


Note: This message is intended for mature Christians well along in their walks with God, not for new believers or for seekers. Understand that when reading.  Thank you.

"He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne." -Revelation 3:21 NASB

William Booth said, "I consider that the chief dangers which confront the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost; Christianity without Christ; forgiveness without repentance; salvation without regeneration; politics without God; and Heaven without Hell."

When I first read that quote from the founder, I thought to myself: Yeah, I mean, kinda, some of that is probably true, but William, that’s just too much. It’s grating on my ears. I don’t like to hear about hell, it makes me feel yucky. Don’t talk about repentance, just talk vaguely about repenting. And so on… and today I think to myself when I read that: Dead on. Exactly right.

But not here, not now, not amongst us, on campus, as cadets and leaders. We will be set aflame by the Holy ghost. We will preach Christ. We will teach true repentance. We will talk about heaven and hell. Today we’re looking at Acts 2, where we find a great example of full gospel minister, in the apostle Peter. 

"This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him." -Acts 2:23-24 NIV

Peter preached his first message on this day, recorded in Acts chapter 2, on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came. Many of you here will be Peters going out into the field, to begin your service to Christ. And the rest of us will go out to our summer assignments to do the same.

Don’t let it ever be normal friends. This is special what we do. Peter preached boldly to the crowds on that day, and 3000 new believers were won. But they weren’t won by him. They were won by that Holy Spirit within him, and that Spirit in the people. It says they were cut to the heart by the message. They were disturbed, and roused from their antipathy to action/change. That change was wrought by the Spirit.

We often try to do things in our way, by human power. Don’t we? But Jesus said, “Human power is of no use at all.” (John 6:63 GNT)

Peter was totally yielded to God. But remember in the gospels, how Peter was? He denied Christ! But for each of the three times Peter denied Jesus, Jesus asked him: Peter, do you love me? After the 3rd time, Peter wept. Peter repented. Jesus restored him. (John 21:15)

When I began preparing to move here to training college 8 months ago, I asked the Lord to put a scripture before me, to provide guidance to my life here. God very clearly placed a scripture before me: Hebrews 12:1-2 “Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

Throw off everything that hinders us. And the sin that so easily entangles. The Lord has been speaking to me of sin so clearly lately. And I struggle so hard, regarding sin, and how to truly be free from all sin. And even questioned: Is real holiness even possible? My answer had been no. Now, my answer is yes, it is possible. And it is necessary. Without holiness no one will see the Lord. I keep being reminded of the scripture that says “Many will come to Jesus and say of the miracles they performed for Jesus, and Jesus will say to them, Go away from me, I never knew you, you worker of iniquity.”

We can’t keep playing games with God, sinning and repenting, sinning and repenting, storing up images in our minds, and playing them over and over, acting as if God does not clearly know what is going on in our minds and hearts. (Galatians 6:7)

Could one of you, or I, be one of those ministers that faithfully served Jesus, who is told in the end: “Go away from me, you worker of evil”? We assume that something like that could never happen to us. We’re too special. And it is true that God loves us each with a special love. But God is a just judge, and He doesn’t show favoritism. (Romans 2:11)

Paul said, “run your race wisely, so that we will not disqualify ourselves.” So I plead with all of you today, to set aside the sin that so easily entangles. And I plead the same to myself. No more games with the Lord. (1st Corinthians 9:27) 

It's time to go deeper with the Lord.  Ask the Lord in prayer, on your knees, "Lord, go deeper into me. You've done a mighty work thus far. Now go much deeper into my soul and change me in deeper, more thorough way." When we go deeper with God, and honor Him in doing His will, not our own, He will respond in ways we can't imagine.

Our God is a fearful God. We must tremble before Him. He is so much higher than us and He loves us. He has prepared a place for his holy ones, his church, and he has also prepared a place for those who resist his Spirit and push forward in sin. (pause) I love our God so much, his grace and love. Those are true, real aspects of our God. But so is holiness, wrath, and judgment. If we truly want to honor God and be free from evil, the fear of God is the key to that doorway. Proverb 16:6b says “By fearing the LORD, people avoid evil.”

We can’t fear God though, we really can’t. Only the Holy Spirit can teach us that. So ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom here. Cry out to Jesus again and again, stubbornly, endlessly, for freedom from every sin in your life. Jesus will help us. He will set us free from every chain. Don’t give up, keep fighting!

It’s so tough some days, when my body cries out for something, anything that would feel good, even for a moment. But stand firm in the Spirit, which is obeying the will of God.

Each day we wake up in the flesh, and our default is to do things in our own human effort. Instead, shift over to the Spirit-life. Live out of the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit, truly doing his will. You’re here at training college, which means you’ve begun to obey God, you care deeply about doing God’s will and not your own. Keep doing that, in every corps program, in every decision you make in the field, double-check it with God. Seek His will for your corps first.

Temptations will come and assault us deeply. Sexual temptations will come. Satan will offer up affairs to destroy our marriages, and controversies to test our resolve. Lusts of the flesh will come. Pride will come and attempt to destroy all our work for Christ. And many fall to those temptations. But put on that strong armor of God, to stand against every attack of the enemy. Spiritual warfare is a reality. And we are target number 1 of Satan our enemy, who wants to destroy and subvert the church. Fight back with the weapons of faith.

We have great and mighty works to do in the world. We have a great awakening to lead in the central territory. We can’t afford anything holding us back! Be holy as He is holy. We will succeed, I believe that, in Jesus name.

We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. Why? Because Jesus meets us on the way. When Peter fell short, denying Christ, he was afraid and falling apart. Jesus did not leave him there. Jesus came to him, and invited him to repent. Peter’s response was true repentance. And what came as a result of that decision? Peter became a great leader of the church, as He preached boldly, on the day of Pentecost, preaching about the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. And the Spirit was with him completely, ministering through Him, and 3 thousand were saved. Christ calls us to the same task today. And we will do it. 

Saturday, April 7, 2018

How to Serve as a Leader in Christian Ministry

Jesus has called a lucky few to leadership in Christian ministry. But how can we approach engaging in such a monumental task? What does it mean to be a leader in Christian ministry? How can one apply the scriptures through a lifetime of service? We’re going to look at my own plan of ministry leadership. We’ll be examining spiritual formation, the life of the kingdom of God, Christian worldview, my own mission statement, the mission statement of the Salvation Army, and how I will practically apply the mission in daily ministry work. The key to all Christian ministry is to discover the will of God, and to live it out by being a faithful steward of all God has provided to us. God’s mission is that we would make disciples of all peoples, and all nations, building his kingdom in the hearts of others through the vicarious ministry of Jesus Christ.

First, we’re looking at my spiritual formation and how I’ve developed thus far as a minister in training. We’ll look at four key influences on my spiritual walk, and we’ll look at their prophet, priest and king profile. Additionally, we’ll look at my own assessment of my prophet, priest, and king profile. We’ll also be considering my future ministry plans.

My own spiritual development has been a short, quickly paced sprint attempting to make up for lost time. I first became a Christian only five short years ago. Yet God has done incredible miraculous work in my life to develop who I am. I have a set routine, a “method” if you will as to how I engage in spiritual growth. Every morning I read from two devotional books and pray an opening prayer asking the Lord for guidance and direction throughout the day. I ask for His will to be done. This is my short devotional, I’m not a morning person. Throughout the day I try to engage in consistent contact with God through short internal prayers and thoughts of Him. At night I lay down in my bed and read a chapter or two from the Bible. After that I pray a longer prayer at night, usually between 15-30 minutes engaging in thanksgiving, praises, praying the scriptures, praying the Salvation Army songbook, intercession for those in need, and personal expression of my own emotions and needs. I usually finish with the five finger prayer: thumb, those closest to me, pointer, my spiritual leaders, middle finger, government leaders, ring finger, pray for the weak and needy, and pinkie, pray for myself last. It usually takes me about an hour to fall asleep at night, so before I shut off the lights I turn on the audio bible on and listen to the scriptures while I try to fall asleep. I’m also an avid reader. I read a lot of books. I have a lot of audiobooks on CD and MP3 that I listen to while I travel as well. This helps in my spiritual growth a great deal. I understand that the practice of spiritual disciplines on a daily basis is what will fundamentally make or break my entire ministry. If I disregard these disciplines as is so often the case, I can expect to be an ineffective failure in ministry. I’ve made a lot of growth in this area, but there is room for a lot more.

My spiritual formation is in need of the practices that go deeper, and I think that will happen as time passes. I’d like to incorporate practices like lectio divina, solitude, depth of worship, and scriptural meditation into my daily practices. I would also like to go deeper into the scriptures and develop more thorough and lengthy patterns in my prayer and study life. There are a lot of areas where growth is needed.

I’d like to look at four key leaders who have been very influential in my growth in ministry. These individuals have deeply impacted how I think about ministry leadership and the practice of Christian leadership. They are Ravi Zacharias the Christian apologist, Bill Wilson developer of the twelve steps, George Washington the first American President, and C.S. Lewis the famed English author. I could list so many other influences in my development, in fact it’s very hard to name just a handful. Additional influences would include: William Booth founder of the Salvation Army, Abraham Lincoln the 14th president of the United States, Winston Churchill prime minister of Great Britain during world war II, John Adams, Hunter S. Thompson American journalist, Malcom Muggeridge British journalist, Tim Keller megachurch pastor, Mark Driscoll megachurch pastor, Dr. Ben Carson, Ted Cruz U.S. Senator, Ron Paul former congressmen, Ray Comfort Christian evangelist, Mother Teresa, John Wesley, Martin Luther King Jr, Dennis Prager, Mark Levin, and Dinesh D’Souza to name just a few.

Let’s look briefly at the top four. Ravi Zacharias is an itinerant evangelist and Christian apologist known worldwide. Obviously his chief role in the three-fold ministry of prophet, priest, and king would be the role of the prophet, the individual who outlines the vision of Christianity and how it interrelates to society, culture, ethics, and real life. Yet he also has a priestly role in answering questions from the audience at college campuses, and he also holds a kingly role as head of his organization RZIM. But Ravi Zacharias’ primary influence on me has been his oratory skills and ability to connect Christianity to modern thought and explain it’s relevance to life today.

Bill Wilson the alcoholic who developed the twelve steps has been a massive influence on my life. It’s his role as the prophet when he wrote books like Alcoholics Anonymous and Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions that really impacted me and continue to impact me. Bill Wilson’s ability to describe the practical steps for real change has completely transformed my life. And his design for the traditions of alcoholics anonymous was so counter-intuitive, in rejecting power structures, and rejecting even the slightest hints of profiteering made the twelve traditions timeless and powerful in a philosophy of servant leadership. Though I was primarily impacted by Bill Wilson’s writing skills through his books, his prophet, priest and king roles came through clearly in his writings. He described a kingly role as servant through the traditions, a priestly role as servant through the 12th step of carrying the message to others, and his prophet role of course came out in how he outlined the hope for recovery from alcoholism.

George Washington’s impact on my life comes from three moments in his life: Firstly, when George Washington led the sneak attack on Trenton during the revolutionary war, crossing the Delaware river on Christmas day. Secondly, it was when George Washington had won the war and instead of being crowned the first king of America, he ceded power to the people. And thirdly, when Washington said that the survival of American society hung on two great pillars of American society: Religion and morality. George Washington as prophet was seen in his action and boldness in the face of what appeared to be defeat; by launching a surprise attack when all seemed lost. George Washington showed a kingly role in his ability to reject greed for power. He ceded power when any lesser man would’ve kept it for himself. That truth outlined in Eric Metaxas’ book “7 Great Men” has deeply impacted me. And Washington’s priestly role came out when he instructed future generations to never forget that America’s strength comes from morality and religion.

Finally, C.S. Lewis has deeply impacted my leadership skills. He loved to write, and his treatise on the defense of Christianity, Mere Christianity speaks for itself. He had a creative mind, and wrote up sagas like the Narnia Series and his space sci-fi series. C.S. Lewis was an explorer of thoughts, ideas, and emotions. His ability to articulate the truth of Christianity was of course his prophetic role. He articulated Christianity in terms that the spirit of the age could understand. His priestly role was his ability to communicate to our emotions through books like The Problem of Pain and A Grief Observed. His kingly role was establishing writings that taught Christianity to future generations. For those reasons he is a great influence on my life and leadership style.

Next we turn to the topic of my own prophet, priest, and king profile. My strongest area is most certainly in the prophetic role. I have a strong ability to communicate a vision, to communicate the Christian worldview, and to inspire those around me toward acting in line with a vision. The prophetic role is probably what I’m most natural at. I love to preach, teach, and lead Bible studies and small groups. I love to study, learn, prepare a message and deliver it. My secondary strength is definitely the priestly role, which I am also quite good at. I enjoy doing home visits with corps members, visiting the nursing homes, doing hospital visits, and going out to eat with corps members. This will be an area where more growth will be needed, to continue to become comfortable with fellowship and interactions with corps members, as time passes. My weakest area by far is the kingly role, which I hold virtually no experience in and have no abilities or much knowledge in whatsoever. I’m quite strong in the areas of prophetic and priestly roles. Of course there is also much room to grow. However, if prophetic role is 85% and priestly role is 80% then the kingly role is at about 5%. I haven’t been taught this skill and I’ve never really been given chances to learn and grow in this area, because I’ve never been delegated any sort of power or authority or leadership in the Salvation Army aside from very small and defined roles. This is a sad state of affairs I’m afraid, and I feel unequipped to take on a role of meaningful leadership where difficult decisions have to be made. Hopefully in my second year at the training college they’ll delegate me more authority. And some chances to make mistakes. I will continue to pray about the kingly role, continue to read books and ask questions, but I imagine that this is a skill that is primarily built on the job actually doing it day by day. My own self confidence needs to be built up in this area, so I can understand the dynamics of kingly leadership and how to practice it effectively.

The implications in regard to my ministry plan are quite clear: I must continue to grow in all three areas of leadership skills, as well as hone and develop other skills along the way. The most important thing of course is to be biblical in my practices, and truly apply a praxis that sums up the full revelation of the books of the Bible. I wouldn’t want to go off on a tangent, teaching what I like to emphasize, while neglecting what I prefer to neglect. I want to preach a full accurate biblical gospel and Christian worldview.

There are many factors that play into my own spiritual development, those who have influenced my leadership profile, and my own three-pronged prophet, priest, and king profile. I’ve grown a great deal in my work in the church and in the Salvation Army overall. I’ve been influenced by the greats like Ravi Zacharias, George Washington, and C.S. Lewis. In my own prophet, priest, and king profile I’m a work in progress, but my strongest areas is in casting the prophetic vision, with additional secondary strength in the priestly area. Overall, growth will continue into the future, and the future is bright.

Secondly, we consider my own mission statement and how that is applied to my ministry vocation. My own personal mission statement is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ in full time ministry. For my functional ministry career my mission statement will be the same as that of the organization I work for, the Salvation Army. Therefore, for all intents and purposes, my own mission statement will be synonymous with that of the Salvation Army, which states: “The mission of the Salvation Army is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, and meet human needs in His name without discrimination.”

The mission statement of the Salvation Army jives perfectly with my own personal mission statement. It reflects well the dual emphasis of Jesus Christ to carry the message of the kingdom, and to meet the temporal needs of the people in his context. Jesus Christ fundamentally did two things: He spoke about the kingdom of God and he performed acts of healing, mercy, love, and compassion. That is my life mission, to preach the gospel, and to meet the needs of those around me.

The theological core is two-fold: Make disciples of all nations and meet the needs of people near me. This is the core imperative of the scriptures. It is not a full demonstration of the entirety of the scriptures. It is a concise definition of a primary imperative. That’s how I draw my imperative from the scriptures. There are so many things that could be listed off, like “loving God and loving others” or “worship and praise” or “evangelism” but fundamentally what is the chief imperative? The chief imperative is to make disciples and meet needs. The primary imperative that flows out from the revelation of the kingdom of God, the gospel, is the great commission to make disciples of all nations and meet human needs (Matthew 28:19, Matthew 25:31-46). That’s what Jesus did, that’s what he taught and what he lived.

So if this is our theological core, if this is our profile of the full revelation of the scriptures the question becomes: What are the core ministry values that emerge from this scriptural exegesis?

If we are looking at a holistic approach to the kingdom program of God revealed in the scriptures, then I see four core values that emerge from the words of Jesus in practicing the core theology of scripture: Worship, evangelism, discipleship, and meeting needs. These four key values are derived from the scriptures, and the kingdom program of God. Therefore, they should be the primary concern of my ministry.

It's interesting that whenever a speaker comes to campus, at CFOT where I’m training, they often tell us that we have to be passionate about what they want us to do: prison ministry, social justice, multicultural ministry, and all these various concerns. It is true that we are all gifted in many areas. But there are a thousand different things we can do in ministry. And if we don’t have a primary imperative then we’ll run ourselves thin trying to do a little of everything. My mission is to teach about Christ and to reach people for Christ. I’ve got to do this through the most direct means I can summon.

Worship is an absolute must. We have to worship to grow in fellowship with God. That’s why worship comes into the four basic areas. Worship is vital, in gathering the community together, teaching the Bible and singing songs of worship. That’s the basic format of the church community. And therefore it is vital.

Evangelism also comes very high on the core ministry functions. Evangelism is about sharing the gospel with non-believers. It’s about doing the real work that Christ taught us to do. And it’s absolutely vital. Especially in our broken world and de-energized church, where young people no longer see faith as a viable option regarding the meaning of life, more and more we’ll have to go out on the streets and carry the gospel to our neighbors through evangelism. Of course there is no good “evangelism program” evangelism instead will have to be baked into everything we do as a church movement.

Discipleship is absolutely vital as well. Christ taught us to make disciples of all nations. That requires really digging into the scriptures and moving into a deeper, more mature Christian walk. Discipleship is necessary, otherwise we’ll never mature as believers.

Meeting needs is absolutely vital as well. What is the point of evangelism or worship if we aren’t really living as Jesus did? We have to live it out and show our faith through acts of love and mercy. That’s what Jesus taught us to do, so we must do it. Meeting needs is important, but it shouldn’t overtake the other areas, which seems to have happened to a certain extent with the Salvation Army. The main goal has to always be at the fore-front, of carrying the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The core values that I see in fulfilling the mission statement of the Salvation Army are worship, evangelism, discipleship, and meeting needs. Each of these are absolutely necessary to living out the gospel given in the sacred scriptures.

Finally, we consider how to apply the core principles to real daily ministry. Previously we considered the theological core, the core principle of my ministry vocation, which are fundamentally two-fold: To make disciples of all peoples and to meet human needs in Christ name without discrimination.

So if this is our theological core, if this is our profile of the full revelation of the scriptures the question becomes: How do we live this out? How do we conduct ministry in a biblical manner? The mission of the Salvation Army, the organization I serve with, is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, and to meet human needs in his name without discrimination. In practical ministry, I would see six clear areas of application for the core principles. Let’s look at these six areas as broken down into two different groups, based around the two larger categories of “preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ” and “meeting human needs in His name without discrimination.” The categories are as follows: preaching the gospel, evangelism, discipleship, social services, compassionate ministry, and social justice.

First of all, we approach preaching the gospel. To me this is the primary imperative of the scriptures, and the meeting of needs is a close secondary. As our primary imperative of preaching the gospel we see it broken down into three key areas: Worship, evangelism, and discipleship. The early church in the book of Acts consistently met together to study the scriptures and worship and celebrate the risen Christ. Worship is a key practice of the church and as such must be central in any theology of ministry.

Second we consider evangelism. What good is it to gather together and worship Christ if there are none desiring to worship? Evangelism is about going out into the community, knocking on doors, speaking to people on the street corners, and being present at community events. Evangelism will become increasingly important as western civilization continues to jettison its Christian origins and framework. People no longer see the church as a viable place to go when searching out the deep questions. We’re going to have to get increasingly comfortable with going out to meet them, which is simply a re-institution of the origins of the Salvation Army as a street movement.

Thirdly we consider discipleship. Does the great commission say that we must make converts of all peoples? No. It says that we are to make “disciples” of all nations. What use is it to gather to worship on Sunday, evangelize during the week, only to live out a milque-toast Christianity that has no depth of transformation? There is no use in it. This is why deep, meaningful discipleship is necessary to the practice of the church. We must gather together, not simply for Bible study, or for worship, but we must meet together as small groups, to “be real” about our faith walks, to share our struggles, and to challenge one another to grow in holiness. We must have meaningful discussion on a weekly basis in regard to true Christian growth, searching the scriptures diligently for the depths of Christian spiritual disciplines and true Christian worldview. This will help produce converts who are deeply in love with the risen Christ and able to live out their faith in the muddiness of the real world.

All three of these sub-sections are necessary to the proper practice of Christian ministry. Without even one, the church fails and dies. With all three, the church is able to grow and live out an empowered, real, fruitful Christian ministry.

Next we consider the important secondary concern of “meeting needs in Christ name without discrimination.” To me I see three areas of ministry that are essential to the practice of meeting needs. These three areas are: social services, compassion ministries, and social justice.

Social services are a wide umbrella term, but in the way we’re using the term we’re thinking of it along the lines of feeding programs (food distribution), helping people pay bills, pathway of hope (a program of case working to help families escape poverty), and sheltering the homeless. These programs are necessary in that Christ specifically commanded his followers in Matthew 25:31-46 to feed the hungry, give water to those who are thirsty, visit the sick, visit the prisoner, and shelter the homeless. In the parable in Matthew 25, Christ consigns those believers who do not practice these ministries to the lake of fire. That seems quite clear to me, that these ministries are necessary.

Compassion ministries are also essential to this formula of meeting needs. We should be regularly visiting the elderly in nursing homes, engaging in jail/prison ministry to inmates, providing rehabilitation services to those who suffer in alcohol and drug addiction, visiting hospitals, and other ministries of compassion to those in need.

Thirdly, we consider the ministry of social justice. What use is it to provide food, housing, rehabilitation, and so on, if we are not advocating for changes in our society that would help hasten the end of these terrible ills of our age. Christ has called us to help guide and preserve society across the entire world. We must advocate for changes in society, we must advocate for the end of abortion, we must advocate against human trafficking, we must advocate against the radical redefinition of marriage, we must advocate against racism, against inequality, and advocate for those who are suffering in our society. All three of these areas of meeting needs are necessary, without which each of the others become ineffective.

To do ministry effectively we must understand the core principles that define our mission. This core is built upon the foundation of the scriptures which outline a holistic Christian worldview. This Christian worldview is best lived out through the practice of the kingdom program of God preached and lived by Jesus Christ. To live out this kingdom program of Christ we must preach the gospel, and meet human needs. This is best lived out through these six subsets of ministry work: Worship, evangelism, discipleship, social services, compassion ministry, and social justice advocacy.

So we’ve looked at how to practically apply the core theology of ministry, now let’s consider how I can personally apply myself to this mission and successfully complete the task. Completing the great and mighty task of doing a lifetime of ministry in service to Jesus Christ is no small order. This is the greatest calling one can have in life. But there are three core areas that I believe will be essential to survival and flourishing in ministry: Devotion to God, healthy inter-personal life, and dynamic ministry life. If one of these areas fails or falters, all of them will falter.

Devotion to God is of course the most important of the three areas of personal ministry application. Brass tacks, this is it: Am I actively engaging in my relationship with God the Father? Am I praying three times day, which has always been my goal since coming to Christ? Am I reading the scriptures? And am I growing in the faith relationship with God? The devotional life is always the first thing to go when difficulties come. But it can’t be that way with me. The devotional life is not an extra, or a tag on, it’s a crucial essential. But I want more from my devotional life than just going through the motions each day, though that certainly is important. I want to know that the order is right in my life. I want to know that God is actually first. That is essential. My relationship with Christ is everything. My ultimate goal would be to spend one hour a day in prayer, devotions, spiritual disciplines and Bible study. Right now I’m at about 15-25 min a day. So there’s a lot of room for growth in this area.

A healthy inter-personal life is also essential to survival in long term ministry. I can’t allow the stresses and pressures of ministry to squeeze out my personal time with my wife, children, and close friends. Of course I don’t have a wife or children yet, but I do have close friends. So it’s important that ministry doesn’t become 24/7. I will try very hard to have a weekly Sabbath, and a weekly time when I quietly write my sermon message. That’s essential, for me as a minister. I need to have a date night with my wife. I need to have times set for my children, and friends. I think that it can be done. And I intend to fight for those times, just as I’ll fight for my devotional life.

Finally, we consider dynamic ministry life. I’ll have to really engage in ministry. I can’t allow myself to get lazy, or get over-worked. I’ve got to find a good balance, and continue to fight the good fight while taking time to rest and relax. Dynamic ministry to me is connecting with people individually in the congregation, connecting to people in groups and small groups, and finally connecting to the congregation as a whole. This can be done through home visits, going out to eat with congregation members, engaging in small groups, developing discipleship groups, preaching, leading worship, and speaking in corps council/advisory board sessions. All of these areas will be vital to helping knit the community together. But I think the most important thing will be developing leaders to knit the community together. Because it’s not really about me, or me somehow holding it all together. It’s about developing congregation members to do the work of ministry and to knit the community together in true Christian fellowship. If I can help the church to realize that it’s the church, the body of Christ, then they’ll do the work of ministry and I can simply help guide the practice of it.

The truth is, the greatest challenges will not come in the form of finding ways to practically apply what I’ve learned, though that certainly is a hurdle. The real challenges won’t really come from balancing these three areas of personal ministry life, though it will be difficult at times I’m sure. The real challenges will come when people come up against me in ministry, when headquarters puts pressure on me, when corps members cause trouble, and when the stress of the work becomes overwhelming. Probably my worst fear is that no one will come along with me, no one will engage and fight alongside of me, and I’ll be forced to try and do it all myself, which is impossible.

The real challenges will come from within. The real challenges will come when I try to get corps members engaged in discipleship and no one shows any interest. The real challenges will come when I want to go door to door doing evangelism and no one wants to do it with me. I hope and pray that never happens. I hope great things happen through the ministry work I engage in. But in any case, I must show myself to be faithful to Christ. What other people do is essentially of no concern when it comes to my own faithfulness to Christ. But I pray for great things, even in a time when the light seems to be dying out in western Christianity; I hope for great revival. And I believe great things will happen. I dare to believe. And God willing, it will be so.

In conclusion, I’ve grown in many ways through the process of spiritual formation, and God is preparing me to become a minister of his gospel. I understand the mission statement, to preach the gospel of Christ, and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination. I recognize the need for a theological core, a set of principles that outline the revelation of the scriptures. And in all this, I understand how to put it into practice, through various expressions of ministry work. All of this must be done rightly, and correctly, without bias and without overemphasis on any one particular of scripture. The will of God must be sought in all the ministry I do, or I will fail. If I become prideful, I will fail. But I put my faith in God, that He will see me through all the certain high and low spots, to achieve victory in ministry, to carry the life giving gospel to the lost, and to eventually one day come home to glory and live forever in His presence. God willing, my ministry career will be filled with glorious victories, and many converts will as a consequence live eternally with the maker of their souls. To Christ be the glory forever, amen.

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