Thursday, September 27, 2018

Speak Up for Jesus: Be the Voice of Christ in the World


Mark 16:15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation."

Speak up for Jesus. Speak up now. Be the voice of Christ in the world. Too often we're afraid to speak up, because we know we'll be criticized. We'll be attacked, often by other Christians who will call us judgmental.  Speak up anyway, because when you speak, things change. Speak up, and don't stop speaking. Shout Jesus from the rooftops.

Preach the gospel on the streets, preach the gospel in the coffee shops, preach the gospel in the broken places of this world, preach the gospel in the city, preach the gospel in the prairie, preach the gospel outside sporting events, preach the gospel on the subway, preach the gospel at the park, preach the gospel at the dinner table; preach the gospel everywhere. 

Talk about Jesus Christ on social media.  Post about Jesus on Facebook. Tweet about Jesus on twitter. And keep on doing it, even when you get nasty messages in your inbox.  Keep forcing the world out there to encounter Jesus Christ. 

Talk to that homeless person. Tell that waitress. Hold up a sign. Walk along a busy beach. Speak into a megaphone. Go into the jail. Visit those in the hospital. Hang out at a soup kitchen. Do something. Say something. Don't be silent!

There is only a little time left. The clock is ticking. We must speak now, before it's too late. 

The world won't like it.  They don't want to hear from us. And even fellow Christians will get angry. They'll tell you to stop making a scene. They'll tell you to keep it in the church on Sunday.

Christians will criticize you for being so vocal about your faith. They will criticize you for living missionally. They will call you names, tell you "this isn't the way" or say "you're being judgmental."  Unfortunately many Christians today are lost in the ways of the world.  They don't evangelize, they don't pray too much either, and then they go about criticizing those who do.  

But don't let them dissuade you from your mission.  Fulfill the great commission.  Carry the gospel to the lost. And do it with great love, and mercy. 

Romans 10:14 "How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?"

But be assured, if you decide to really live out your calling you will face skepticism from many. You will be criticized. You will be hated for the stand you take.  I can assure you of that.  And should we expect anything less? All those who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.  

But we want to make sure that we're being persecuted for righteousness sake, not because of our own poor choices.  Then again, we will make mistakes, so it's OK to make a mistake, confess it, repent, and then keep pushing forward.  But it's tough, especially if you're a sensitive person like myself. 

In my own family movement, the Salvation Army, there are people I've never met who despise me because of what I write and share with others.  I'll go to conferences, or events, and find people who won't even speak to me, or will just glare at me, and give me the cold shoulder. For someone as sensitive as I am, it's heartbreaking. I will ruminate on those sort of things for days, even weeks.  It's bitterly painful at times. But what can I do? I can only continue speaking. And so should you.

It's well worth it, to proclaim the gospel and do my duty to teach the truth of biblical Christianity.  I'm not accountable to people of the world.  I'm accountable to Jesus Christ, my Lord and master.

It's all worth it, is what I'm saying. Don't be surprised when you're finding yourself at times isolated, and hurting, because it happened to the prophets, the disciples, the apostle Paul, and to Jesus.  When the Salvation Army was first founded by William and Catherine Booth, a counter movement formed on the streets called "the skeleton army" that would launch attacks on the Salvation Army, and throw trash, beer bottles, and bricks at them.  If you're doing God's will, you will be apposed. Just make sure you're being apposed for the right reasons, not because you've been foolish.

I'm the first to admit, I've been foolish at times in the past.  I've made mistakes.  I've gone too far with things. But I've tried to repent, and to do the good work of an evangelist.  I will make mistakes. And I'll try to correct them.  But I won't stop speaking. 

Everyone needs Jesus. Jesus is real.  Jesus is life.  Jesus is the meaning of everything.  Everything is about Jesus.  Jesus Christ is the cure for death.  Jesus is the hope of humanity.  Jesus is the gospel.  Jesus paid it all. Speak up for Jesus.  Proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.  

Yes, live it out as an example of faith.

Yes, pray hard. Pray often.

Yes, serve suffering humanity.

But there is no gospel without words.  

So speak up for Jesus.  

Even if it means that to some you may seem intolerant or exclusive.  The gospel is an offense to the world. But to those who are being saved, it is life itself.  

1 Corinthians 1:18 "For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."

I'm no one special. I'm just a guy that Jesus loves.  Jesus paid it all for me.  And I'm the most undeserving of all, yet Jesus even offered salvation to me, of all people!  It's insane, and beautiful, and unimaginably wonderful. 

And I'm a coward.  I make it sound like I speak up so much, but I don't really.  I wish I spoke up a lot more.  I wish when I saw that homeless person that I had the courage to go tell them about Jesus.  But often I'm too afraid.  And I shy away.  But I keep trying.  Because the world needs Jesus.  I hope you'll keep trying too.  Don't give up.  Keep praying.  Keep speaking.  And you will be the hero. I believe in you.  I know you will do great things for God.  Amen. 

If I've offended you in the past, please forgive me.  I'm sorry for what I said. I'm a work in progress. 

If your near me say hello! If I'm speaking, listen.  If I'm silent, speak up yourself. Someone has to speak.  

There's so many people out there, so many thousands and millions. If they're near you, go to them. If they come to you, speak to them.

Jesus is Lord. Jesus lives today, the door is open. If you're afraid, do it anyway. Never give up hope. Never stop fighting. Gather a band of mighty men and women, and go to work for Christ. Start an evangelism group. Start a Bible study. Start a discipleship group. 

Speak up for Jesus. Make a plan. Do it today. Speak up for Jesus. He is the only way. Hope is kindled, when you speak up for Jesus. Wherever you are right now, you can do it.  In Christ all things are possible.  If I don't see you on this side of Earth, then I'll see you in heaven. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The Mission Statement of the Salvation Army: What's your personal mission statement?


We’re looking at the Salvation Army mission statement and how that is applied to ministry work. My own personal mission statement is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ in full time ministry. For my ministry career my mission statement will be functionally 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.” 


What is your mission statement?  Does it jive with the organization or church you serve with?  We should each take a few minutes to write down our mission statement for life, and consider how we'll accomplish it.

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 basis 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 the theological basis, if this is the 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 people with a certain passion in ministry, they often tell us that we have to be passionate about it too: 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.  I want to challenge you: What is your mission statement?  And, what does fulfilling it look like in practical ministry?  Figure that out, and you'll be able to fulfill that mission.



Tuesday, September 18, 2018

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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Monday, September 17, 2018

The Value of Christian Fellowship: Why Gather Together?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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Saturday, September 8, 2018

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Monday, September 3, 2018

Should I get Married? Is True Love possible in this world?



Do you believe in true love? I did once, a long time ago. Maybe I still do. My generation grew up with the dream of a love that would break the barrier in our hearts, and set us free. We grew up watching that movie... The Princess Bride.  And we dared to hope for true love.  We dared to believe in a simple life that could also be special.  

This time of year always makes me feel so nostalgic.  The warm summer air begins to coil together with touches of cool autumn air.  And I'm reminded of times long ago.  My heart is inspired.  My spirits are lifted, to dream of things like the nobility of lost love, and the bittersweet sorrows and joys of this life. I love it actually. It draws me deep down, toward deeper, more real realities of this life. 

I still believe in real love, like the Smashing Pumpkins song.  Romance, a beautiful thing. Life, like a dream. And dreams more real than reality.  I believe in hope. I was walking along in the city, along the streets of Chicago, listening to nine albums by Death Cab for Cutie, rolled into one playlist.  I bought these 9 albums from some guy on Ebay for $30.00. Not a bad deal.  Death Cab reminds me of my troubled youth and early 20s.  It makes me feel nostalgic.  

Walking along a late summer road I looked across a steamy field. My feet crunched along the road slowly, taking heavy steps, one by one. The field arched slowly down, I was at a point like at the top of a crest. Fog hovered above the grasses. Trees rippled along in the distance. It was just, just starting to get dark. The skies in the west fell into gold and orange colors. To the east clouds rolled forward. Silent bursts of lightning flashed occasionally within the bubbly clouds. Across the twilight of the fields little flickering flashes spiked here and there, randomly. One might miss them if you looked away even for a moment. They were fireflies flashing atop the grass. Beautiful music. And I knew once again that God does live in each moment of life, if we dare to see the obvious. 

I felt on the edge of a new beginning. I knew some great ordeal was coming... and I knew something beautiful awaited just around the bend.  Outside of sight... but coming soon. And God would not answer my questions: Who is she? When will I meet her? What color is her hair? Does she like music I like? Will our love ever die?

Love is magical.  It sets a heart on fire.  Music took me away when my life was a disaster. I think if I meet my true love, my girl, my beloved wife soon, well, maybe I'll make her a mix tape.  One indie rocker to another. Romantic, don't you think?  

Though I don't recall, hardly, how to be that way with a woman.  I can hardly recall what it feels like, in fact. That is as it should be, now that I think about it. We too often in this mixed up world think we need to try out dozens of women, or men, sleeping around with whoever, on a dizzy tirade toward love.  But this is brokenness, not love.  It brings pain, not romance. It leads to sorrow, not love. I learned that the hard way. I was foolish. Now, I try to live with rare wisdom. Even if no one else lives like this, in sanctity, I will. I have to. I'm tired of living the other way. 

Is there someone in the future? Yes, I believe so. There's someone I'm thinking of.  But I don't know if it's possible, or even advisable. 

God's will.  If it's meant to happen, it will. If it's not, it won't. When I bring my decisions into subjection to God's will, bad things happen less often. Or at least they're less often my fault. 

I dreamt of her. But I can't see her face. I had my arms around her, but I couldn't feel her. She whispers to me, but I cannot speak. She said, I'm 30, you're 33. And I woke up. 

My rational mind says it's just a delusional, a random dream. My spiritual mind insists there is something more there. 

A man who seduces and manipulates many women for his own pleasure has loved no one. He has spewed himself about, and men like this are often increasingly angry, hungry, and unfulfilled. And they're mad because the more they live that life, the more they leave themselves behind. And eventually, there is nothing left inside. They've poured their soul across so many women, they've nothing left of their own but rage and emptiness.  I will never live that way again, as long as I live. It is death and nothing.

To love, in a true sense, is to love one woman, in covenant marriage for life. To love, is to serve her, and walk beside her, and adore her and be adored by her. And worship God beside her. And serve God with her. To love her truly, is to love her for 20 years, 30 years, 40 years, and more. To love is to love one, and to die with her. That is love. Love is sacrificial. It stands the test of time. 

Lust is for little boys, stumbling from girl to girl, forever unable to grow up. Love is for men who have grown up and matured enough to live a true life of honor, dignity, and biblical, sacrificial love. Divorce is not an option. Love lasts the test of time. And it never dies. 

I'm a child of a broken marriage, and an ugly divorce. You do become jaded, and wonder if a lifelong love is even possible in this world.  In the final analysis, I do believe it is possible.  I know it will take work.  But I know my attitude will be simple: Divorce is not an option. Plain and simple. The only possible reason divorce would happen is if an affair were taking place perpetuated by my partner. Any other problem would never be grounds for divorce. Never, ever. 

So the question remains: Do you believe in true love? Here is my answer: Yes I do. But only because I believe in God.  There is absolutely no hope outside of that first love between God and I. God makes it all possible.  Otherwise my love story would be a lie, a giant fictitious false life, like the song by 'The Postal Service' called Clark Gable, in which the author of the song asks his old love, whom he no longer loves, to help him produce a fake movie scene in which they pretend they still love each other. True, real love is only a product of a miraculous event generated by God, in which two people meant for each other somehow, someway come together. It is a rare and beautiful thing. 

If you're reading this my dear, I promise you this: Our love will be a special, sacred love. I will cherish it. 



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  3. A Heart of Love: What am I seeking in Life?
  4. The Forgotten Teaching in the Church: Holiness
  5. The Army of God will have Victory after Victory
  6. The Church of Laodicea & The Church of America
  7. How Holiness Theology Transformed My Understanding
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