Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Top Ten Reasons Why I Love the Salvation Army Uniform

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.

In the Salvation Army there are various levels of involvement, including adherents, soldiers, and officers.  Adherents agree to the doctrines of the Salvation Army, soldiers make a further covenant, to abstain from certain practices like gambling, alcohol, and drug use.  Officers are ordained leaders of the Salvation Army churches and facilities.  

Part of serving in the Salvation Army is wearing the uniform. Adherents wear a red blazer, soldiers wear the uniform with the blue epaulets, and officers wear the uniform with the red epaulets. 

Some prefer that the army begin to phase out the uniform. Others like myself support the uniform. We are all part of the army of God, disagreements and all. But these are my top ten reasons why I love the uniform. Could it be updated in some ways? Perhaps. Could it be a bit more ascetically pleasing? Sure. But it ought to remain, in my humble view. Here's why:

1. When I look at my fellows serving in their uniforms I'm reminded that I'm part of an army, with a united mission, and with a hierarchy of leadership. This is a wise and good thing. It reminds me that I'm part of a team, a unity, that is distinct from the world.

2. Putting on the uniform is like putting on my spiritual armor. I've made a practice of praying the armor of God each day as I serve. When I put on the uniform in the morning, I hold great peace and joy, and courage as I don the uniform, knowing God is with me. Though the uniform is simply clothing, it reminds me of the spiritual armor I wear underneath.

3. The Uniform forces me to stand out - Most of the time I don't want to stand out. Most of the time I want to hide my light, if I'm honest with myself. I just want to quietly go into the gas station, or grocery store, and get my stuff and go home. The uniform forces me to stand out. It forces me to engage with curious strangers. It forces me to declare a clear distinction from the world.

4. The uniform reminds me that the Salvation Army is more than a church, the Salvation Army is a movement, it's a force for good, it's a army of the gospel! I love the concept of a united army winning the world for Christ.

5. The uniform let's people know we are here - People in communities across the USA and the world see the uniform and they know they can come up to that person and ask for help or prayer. I've gotten stopped by strangers, at kettles, and at airports with people asking me about the Salvation Army.

6. The uniform looks good - The uniform looks sharp. Serving in the ARC ministry, I've had some men ask about how to get a uniform, and it gave me a chance to share about Jesus, the word of God, and serving in the Salvation Army.

7. The blue soldier's uniform indicates that the person has made a covenant before God to abstain from certain things, alcohol, drugs, gambling, cigarettes, and so on. This invites accountability, which is needed in our day and age, and it also calls newcomers and seekers to the way of holiness, and the way of being "set apart" for service to Christ. This doesn't imply inequality, no, but a calling to true biblical Christianity, which is a calling to holiness.

8. The red officer's uniform declares that a person has made a covenant to serve Christ in full time ministry. This is a beautiful and humbling thing. It is our "priestly garb" in a way. This shouldn't imply that the uniform has any special power, but it does declare who that person is and what they've worked for. The red uniform declares a ministry of humble service to the lost.

9. The uniform declares an outward expression of an inward reality - I'm part of a fighting army of Christian heroes for Christ. I think about what it would be like in a corps without anyone wearing the uniform, and honestly, it would lose some of the magic and synergy of the Salvation Army zeal and passion that centers around a Holy, Living Spirit of God marching to the ends of the Earth for the living gospel.

10. The uniform is a vital piece of the puzzle of the historic Salvation Army - The uniform set the Salvation Army apart. It's not lost it's value or meaning. It's not become anachronistic. In fact, tens of thousands across the continent of Africa march in the uniform proudly serving Christ and marching to the beat of a different drum. The Salvation Army is growing by leaps in bounds in various parts of the world, like Africa and Asia, and the uniform hasn't harmed that growth, but blessed it. 

Sunday, August 26, 2018

The Wesleyan Quadrilateral in Theological Reflection

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.

What is theological reflection, as a modern concept? Theological reflection is the process by which we come to understand reality as it truly is. The goal ultimately is to see God, the universe, the inspired word, and ourselves, as God sees it. This will naturally entail a limited status, for humanity cannot see as God sees, but we can see as God intends us to see. Therefore, theological reflection is the practice of seeing what is true about all aspects of reality, to the dimensions possible by the human mind. Essentially this is to see reality from a purely Christian worldview, and to perceive in the dimension of time, how God is unfolding his sovereign plan in the world. On a more personal basis, the goal is to perceive God’s will for my life, and how to obey and serve in that will to the utmost. On an institutional level, as I serve as a pastor in the Salvation Army, it is to perceive God’s will for the Salvation Army corps I lead, as well as the larger will for the Salvation Army in the Central Territory. The most effective model of theological reflection I have found to do this is Wesley’s Quadrilateral. Models that I considered and rejected include Speaking in Parables, Telling God’s Story, and Theology-in-Action (Graham, Walton & Ward, 2005, p. 13-14). The Wesleyan quadrilateral is appealing because of its emphasis on scripture, simple straight-forward method, and many applications to practical ministry. In applying it to ministry in general, the goal will be to set aside time each day to meditate on the precepts of scripture, tradition, reason, and experience and then apply conclusions drawn to daily ministry life. In a corporate leadership sense, the goal will be to make use of four questions, presenting the quadrilateral, through which we can discern God’s will for the ministry and put it into practice.

The Wesleyan Quadrilateral
The classic Wesleyan quadrilateral is my preferred method for theological reflection. Now there is a fair amount of controversy in some circles regarding if the Wesleyan quadrilateral can even be credited accurately to John Wesley. For our purposes here, the question is irrelevant. The fact as to whether John Wesley originated the Wesleyan quadrilateral is immaterial. The fact is, the quadrilateral came into common usage in various church movements, and has shown itself to be a useful method for theological reflection. Thus the question of its origin should be considered set aside for the purposes of this paper.

The Wesleyan quadrilateral asserts one primary and three secondary measures for truth in theological reflection. The one primary source is the sacred scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. The three secondary sources are tradition, reason, and experience. The Wesleyan quadrilateral appeals to me greatly because it emphasizes the scriptures as the primary source of discerning truth. With increasing post-modern ideology attempting to invade and transform the church, and the threats of extreme theology, the importance of scripture in our day and age must be emphasized and re-emphasized.

According to theologian Shirley Macemon: “The image of quadrilateral fails if we expect some relative equality among the four sides. For Wesley, tradition, reason and experience simply were not meaningful in a theological context except in the context of scriptural truth. Wesley was clear that scripture carries deep truth: when the literal sense of scripture is bound in a cultural context, or is contradicted by other scripture, then its truth must be discovered beneath the literal surface” (Macemon, 2003).

First we examine the scriptures. According to the Asbury Bible Commentary (1992): “John Wesley considered himself to be in the Reformation tradition of sola scriptura (Scripture alone), and he liked to refer to himself as homo unius libri (Carpenter & McCown, 1992). The chief criticisms of theological reflection point to the fact that much of the time theological reflection can be based more on personal experience and less on the scriptures (Hey & Roux, 2012, p. 194). Reflecting on the sacred scriptures of the old and new testaments should be the chief aim of every Christian. The scriptures are exceedingly useful for teaching, rebuking, training in righteousness, and correcting, so the people of God can be rightly equipped for good works (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV). The word of God is like a two-edged sword, and it cuts to the depths of the heart, discerning the intentions and thoughts deep down within us (Hebrews 4:12-14 NIV). The word itself says in Psalm 119:15 (NIV): “I will meditate on your precepts and consider your ways.” There are so many ways to effectively reflect on the word of God. The important part is that we know the scriptures through and through, and reflect on them on a daily basis, until the scriptures become an active part of the mind. That way in given situations, the word will come into our minds to teach us how to respond to all manner of events and difficulties in life. Of course the word alone is not where the power comes from. As John Wesley said, “We know that there is no inherent power in the words that are spoken in prayer, in the letter of Scripture read, the sound thereof heard, or the bread and wine received in the Lord's Supper; but that it is God alone who is the giver of every good gift, the author of all grace; that the whole power is of him, whereby through any of these [means] there is any blessing conveyed to our soul” (Carpenter & McCown, 1992). God communicates through His word, and from the word we discern our doctrines. Our doctrines are the base truths derived from the scriptures, as given by the Holy Spirit. This leads us to consider tradition.

Tradition in the Wesleyan quadrilateral is the idea that we trust and look to the history, writings, ecumenical councils, and the tradition’s general heritage with a trusting eye, believing that the Holy Spirit did certainly inform and guide such decisions and teachings across history (Reasoner). In the Wesleyan tradition various factors impact this aspect of tradition. For example, key to Wesleyan theology is Arminian precepts regarding issues like free will and divine sovereignty. In Wesleyanism, holiness theology is a core factor of the tradition, and this helps us to interpret the scriptures. We then see the scriptures through the lenses of the faith tradition, and the doctrines developed and guided by the tradition over history help guide us in our faith journey. Tradition of course must always be subservient to scripture. If we detect something within our faith tradition that does not jive with a fair reading of scripture, that aspect of the faith tradition should be rejected as false. Tradition is subservient to scriptural authority.

Reason is the third side of the Wesleyan quadrilateral. In C.S. Lewis’ book The Pilgrim’s Regress he writes allegorically of a man being imprisoned and condemned by the ‘Spirit of the Age’ pictured as a monster (Kilby, 1995, p. 26-27). The man begins to doubt and question the monster, so the monster looks to condemn him. But then reason, the woman riding on the horse, rides in to rescue the man. Reason leads him to a sharp cliff though, which reason cannot help him cross. Only faith can do that. Reason is a powerful ally to have. And reason is the strength by which we discern the world around us, and how the scriptures fit into a practice of Christian living in the world. The danger in reason is the spirit of the age. The spirit of the age is able to convince people of this world of things that are false and bizarre (Kilby, 1995, p. 26). The spirit of the age is telling the world there are dozens of genders, the spirit of the world touts the benefits of lying, of adultery, and of abortion. The spirit of the age’s bizarre form of reason is countered by Holy Spirit-guided reason. John Wesley affirmed the usefulness of reason, but warned that it should always be guided by the Holy Spirit (Reasoner).

The fourth side is experience. John Wesley placed an important emphasis on pragmatic personal experiences one has with God (Hey & Roux, 2012, p. 199). Wesley affirmed that one can certainly be deeply impacted by feeling the presence of God (Hey & Roux, 2012, p. 199). Indeed, Wesley felt his heart strangely warmed during his Aldersgate experience (Hey & Roux, 2012, p. 199). Experience is a vital aspect of the Wesleyan quadrilateral, without which, one cannot testify to a true salvation. One must experience Christ personally, and assent to Him, and serve Him, and this is done through experience.

The Wesleyan quadrilateral in Theological reflection is useful in personal faith growth, and in connecting the realities of the Christian faith on a personal basis into the realities of life on Earth (Dickey, 2006, p. 1). This Wesleyan quadrilateral form of theological reflection is also useful for ministry formation, as well as spiritual discernment in the context of practically obeying God’s leading, in a personal, as well as corporate sense (Dickey, 2006, p. 2).

Putting the Quadrilateral into Practice in Leadership
Henri Nouwen the famed Christian leader said: "Few ministers and priests think theologically. Most of them have been educated in a climate in which the behavioral sciences, such as psychology and sociology, so dominated the educational milieu that little true theology was being learned. Most Christian leaders today raise psychological and sociological questions even though they frame them in scriptural terms. Real theological thinking… is hard to find in the practice of ministry. Without solid theological reflection, future leaders will be little more than pseudo-psychologists, pseudo-sociologists, pseudo-social workers. They will think of themselves as enablers, facilitators, role models, father or mother figures, big brothers or big sisters, and so on, and thus join the countless men and women who make a living by trying to help their fellow human beings to cope with the stresses and strains of everyday living. But that has little to do with Christian leadership because the Christian leader thinks, speaks and acts in the name of Jesus, who came to free humanity from the power of death and open the way to eternal life. To be such a leader it is essential to be able to discern from moment to moment how God acts in human history and how the personal, communal, national and international events that occur during our lives can make us more and more sensitive to the ways in which we are led to the cross and through the cross to the resurrection…" (Theological Reflection – What Others Say).

Theological reflection for me is a constant, ongoing practice of considering the scriptures, the revelation of the Holy Spirit, facts of reason from books and various studies, and experience of daily life. This ongoing practice of theological reflection develops over time, gathering information and experience and processing those things through the context of scripture throughout the days, weeks, months, and years of my life. I’m constantly turning around complex ideas in my mind, trying to understand how a Christian worldview applies to any given situation, and what the truth is in any given situation. I engage in theological reflection when I go for walks, when I post on social media, when I sit in Bible study, when I read the scriptures, when I pray, and when I allow my thoughts to wander in my office. The Wesleyan quadrilateral doesn’t appear like a diagram in my mind, but it certainly plays out in a more organic way.

In my leadership role, in the Salvation Army right now, I’m a second year cadet who will be graduating in nine months from the Salvation Army college for officer’s training. In all likelihood I will be assigned to a small corps (church) somewhere in the Salvation Army Central Territory, which makes up eleven states in the Midwest of the USA. My role will be as the leader of the corps, guided and supported by the corps council (church members) and the advisory board (business leaders from the community). Theological reflection from the Wesleyan quadrilateral will be a key part of my daily duties as a “corps officer.”

As a leader I have two central imperatives that should always be in my mind, one, to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, and two, to meets needs in His name without discrimination. These are the two primary imperatives of the Salvation Army found in our mission statement. This is biblical, and in my view best summed up in the great commission and the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 28:16-20, 25:31-46 NIV). Now, not only do I have to reason from the Wesleyan quadrilateral how to engage with the world, and discern all truth and decisions I make, but I also must consider how these truths fit into my imperative, how I pragmatically engage in ministry. And more so, how the corps, the corps leaders, the employees, the volunteers, the programs, and the finances will be mobilized to achieve the mission. The mission is biblical, that’s a good start, so the imperatives are solid. Next I will have to consider how to point the corps in the direction God is taking it. This will require constant prayer, fasting, and a corporate seeking after God’s will for the corps as a whole. It shouldn’t be about my ideas, or what I have a passion for necessarily, it should be a raw discerning of the will of God and a complete yielding to God’s will in any given situation. This will be challenging for people in the corps who are not used to operating on that sort of level. But we’ll have to make it work.

Is God calling us to open a new evangelism outreach? Is God calling us to expand the building? Is God calling us to partner with another ministry? Is God possibly even calling us to shut down this corps entirely? We have to discern what God is wanting us to do, and then do it. Obviously whatever we perceive God is asking us to do must be run through the Wesleyan quadrilateral: Is it biblical? What does tradition say about it? Is it reasonable? And what does our experience tell us about it? Once those questions are adequately answered on a corporate level, then we can proceed with whatever God wants us to do next. In my own leadership, I’ll keep those questions with me on paper, and when praying and considering ideas, we’ll return to the quadrilateral and discern if our approaches to ministry can survive the rigors of scripture, tradition, reason, and experience.

The Wesleyan quadrilateral will have to be a daily part of my reflective practices, personally. The real area where theological reflection happens is between God and myself. And it won’t happen anywhere else, corporately, or in leadership, if I’m not doing it myself, one on one with God. So theological reflection will have to be part of my daily prayer and Bible time with God. Often I will pair my theological wrestling with exercise in various forms, usually going for a walk or working out in the gym. The ideas and concepts involving scripture, tradition, reason, and experience all flow together in my mind as I consider difficult topics and issues of the day. Let’s look at each of the four areas of the Wesleyan quadrilateral and consider how each section will play out in sculpting the discerning of ultimate reality.

Of course the first place I always look for discerning truth is the sacred scriptures. Scripture verses are always running through my mind as I discern key issues. Each day I try to read and study a chapter or two from the scriptures, to keep my knowledge fresh. When I consider tradition, reason, or experience I always check those thoughts with the scriptures to ensure I’m not getting lost, or in a preverbal isolation of theological apostasy. The scriptures always surprise me with their shocking relevance to the most cutting edge issues of our day. They cut right through the spirit of our age in refined, simple truth.

Secondly I consider tradition. Often I’m reflecting on holiness theology, and how it stands out from other faith traditions as a truly biblical calling to “be holy as He is holy” (1 Peter 1:14-16 NIV). Often I reflect on the current state of the Salvation Army, the Olivet Nazarene tradition, and the United Methodist Church. I consider our positions on issues like scriptural authority, the sacraments, sanctification, Christology, evangelism, women in ministry, marriage, and other issues. I reflect back and forth between the scriptures and the tradition, to recognize with at least some of the issues, that scripturally, one could easily be a Calvinist or Arminian or Wesleyan and get such doctrines from the scriptures. So there is a large tent of Christianity out there, and I love to learn from other faith traditions like Catholics, Lutherans, Orthodox, Baptists, and Presbyterians. There is a large tent of theological discussion in the body of Christ. There is also an apostasy of various movements outside the tent, and cults like the Jehovah Witnesses and Mormons which should be refuted and resisted. In any case, as I consider the core traditions of the Salvation Army, I wrestle with those traditions, and examine my love for those traditions and allow them to inform and guide my practice of faith.

Next, I consider the area of reason. What can I learn from reason and evidence? I could go on for ages in this area, but let’s keep it brief. What can we discern from the great minds throughout history? What can we learn from Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, or John Locke, Carl Jung, or Milton Friedman? There is a great deal to be learned from the great minds throughout history. There is also a great deal to be resisted and avoided from history’s failures. History itself fits into the category of reason. Other disciplines also fall under this umbrella including: philosophy, sociology, psychology, science, medicine, math, and so on. There is so much to be learned and discerned from these disciplines I could go on and on, but suffice to say that anyone in full time ministry should be well-read. Of course there is always a danger of allowing the ideas and concepts of the great thinkers of history to supplant the scriptures and traditions of the movement. I can learn some fair truths about power structures and the plight of the oppressed from Karl Marx and Herbert Marcuse, but should I allow critical theory and Marxism to supplant scripture and tradition? Not at all. I can learn a great deal from John Locke and Edmund Burke on natural law and free markets, but should I allow them to supplant scripture and tradition? Absolutely not. There is a webbing along the edge of the Christian worldview, where cultural engagement, ideas, and practice mesh with the world, and that is where these ideas become helpful from the greats of history and their theories.

Finally, I then consider experience. Experience teaches us so much in our daily lives. Experience is where we truly encounter God and discern where God is leading us. Experience has taught me a great many things in my Christian faith walk with God. There are many areas of practice in the Christian faith that just aren’t clearly laid out in the scriptures. For that we have to project from the scriptures, tradition, and reason toward a daily practice of Christianity that is authentic, enriching, and a faithful experiencing of the one true God.

In ministry work and in my personal time I try to look upon the edges and the unnoticed default behaviors that I go to and re-examine these daily experiences in light of God almighty. What does a truly Christian life look like in the most practical sense? Does a true born again Christian spend this much time watching TV and browsing the internet? Does something need to change there? What about how I eat? What about what I do with my free time? Is retirement even biblical? What about saving for retirement? What about the amount of trash I create as an American? How should I live differently? Is theistic evolution biblical? What should I do to win people to Jesus? What is biblical and non-biblical in SA’s social justice work? Is it a sin for me to fail to administer sacraments given the SA’s position on sacraments? If I’m too nervous to witness to someone God is telling me to witness to, will their blood be poured over my head on judgment day? All these questions and many more, I must somehow filter through scripture, tradition, reason, and experience to discern how I should respond, how I should speak, and how I should live out my faith.

My ministry duties also extend beyond the area of the Salvation Army corps officer position. I also do a great deal of writing on my own personal time. I love to write, and I write regularly on my blog It’s been an effective way to engage in theological reflection. When I’m turning an idea around in my head, or struggling with some theological concept or current issue, I’ll reason through it and allow my thoughts and ideas to be poured out in a post on my blog. This is very helpful for personal growth and for discerning truth. Among my various ministry concerns, I do a lot of writing and wrestling with the difficult issues of our day and age. I feel called to engage in the wrestling we do as church movements on the frontlines of the most difficult issues the church faces. People either completely ignore these issues because they’re out of touch (ignorant), avoid them like the plague because they’re afraid of offending (abdicating their duty in my view), attack them with an aggressive condemning edge (non-biblical and sometimes grounded in bigotry), or take them head on in a biblical manner, by speaking the truth in love, without apology (assertive approach). Of course my preferred method would be an assertive approach to difficult issues of the day.

Given any issue of the day, I start with the scriptures. What do the scriptures say about a particular issue? Then I look to my faith tradition’s viewpoint on the issue. Then I look to reason, and discern it from modern and historic thought, while carefully resisting the spirit of the age. Then I look to experience and how it ought to play out practically. This process repeats itself in professional ministry work, in my personal writing, in my home life, and in my relationship with God. I must be wise as a viper and innocent as a dove if I’m going to do ministry right, and somehow attain to the resurrection of the dead and eternal life (Matthew 10:16, Philippians 3:11 NIV).

The Wesleyan Quadrilateral has shown itself to be a highly useful biblical format for theological reflection. The Wesleyan quadrilateral is biblical in affirming sola scriptura, while also not being too narrow, because it includes tradition, reason, and experience as checked against the sacred scriptures. This was shown to be the best model of theological reflection for my preferred format. Various other formats of theological reflection were considered and rejected. My plan for theological reflection involves a daily practice of the Wesleyan quadrilateral both in a corporate sense in ministry work, and on a personal basis in devotions, bible reading, and blog writing. The Wesleyan quadrilateral has been shown in two examples to be useful in discerning personal biblical practices and in contending with ministry issues and issues of the corporate church body as a whole. The Wesleyan quadrilateral is a simple, yet profound way to reflect theologically on the practices of ministry and personal Christian living in the world today. 

Brown, M. (2015, October 7). Dr. Michael Brown Has 40 Answers and 2 Questions for 'Gay' Christian Matthew Vines. Retrieved July 12, 2018, from

Carpenter, E. E., & McCown, W. (1992). Asbury Bible commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. House. Retrieved July 8, 2018, from

Dickey, R. (n.d.). What Is Theological Reflection? Retrieved July 7, 2018, from 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

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2017, October 05). Health issues for gay men and men who have sex with men. Retrieved from

Mercer, J. L. (1985). Toward A Wesleyan Theology of Experience. Wesleyan Theological Journal, 20(1), spring, 78-94. Retrieved July 7, 2018, from

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

Social Issues Committee. (2007, February 1). The Salvation Army Canada & Bermuda Territory Position Statements. Retrieved July 12, 2018, from

Theological Reflection - What Others Say. (n.d.). Retrieved July 7, 2018, from

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, from

United Methodist Communications. (2013, October 15). Wesleyan Quadrilateral. Retrieved from

Thursday, August 23, 2018

There is a Time for Sorrow and Joy: A Walk Along Myrtle Beach

Jeremiah 15:16-18 (NLT) 16 When I discovered your words, I devoured them. They are my joy and my heart’s delight,
for I bear your name, O Lord God of Heaven’s Armies.
17 I never joined the people in their merry feasts.
I sat alone because your hand was on me.
I was filled with indignation at their sins.
18 Why then does my suffering continue? Why is my wound so incurable?
Your help seems as uncertain as a seasonal brook, like a spring that has gone dry.”

I walked along the beach near midnight, along the ocean, and considered the state of the world.  The flood waters seem to be rising quickly. To see such a great generation being led to destruction is truly an astonishing thing.  To see the brokenness of humanity, is painful.  To see the deceived deceiving, and the lies reigning, well, it's difficult.  

I understood for a bit, the reality of how one walks into the sea. And I realized how that works.  The ocean takes you out.  The rip tide pulls you out to sea, and off you go, never to return. 

I went from believing we were finally winning, to realizing I was on the wrong side, and the realization that we are actually losing, badly, came to me back 6 years ago when I became a follower of Christ.

And I went from lamenting and depression in the depths of drug addiction and death to a new kind of lament. And now, to lamenting after getting born again, because of the state of the world and the fallenness of humanity. But a lament is a brief affair, it comes, we walk in it, then it passes, the Lord encourages us, strengthens us, preserveres us, and we move on again into joy, peace and longsuffering. 

Jeremiah lamented the darkness and sin all around him. He had no one, no one but God.  And he saw the evil of the world. He was troubled by it, just as Lot was troubled by the evil of Sodom. He suffered, and was isolated from it. He called out relentlessly, but no one would listen. 

A casual reader might assume two things that are both untrue, I'm being judgmental, or intolerant.  "Who are you to call sin, sin?"  All I can say is that the prophets, priests, apostles, and disciples all spoke against sin, while being careful to be kind and compassionate to those lost in sin and seeking escape. That is a line I try to walk, carefully.  

But to not speak up against blatant sin is of course, wrong.  Unfortunately we live in a time where the only universal ethos is "tolerance" of everything, no matter what it is or how harmful it is. "You might offend someone!" Is the ultimate concern. Nicety is the concern, above all else, and above truth. 

The gospel is offensive, it tells us we deserve death, but Christ took our punishment for us.  So be it.  But we don't seek to be offensive, not at all. We seek to love, and share truth.  That takes a careful balance.  

And with a blank stare, after this apologia, they will often reply, "...But you're being judgmental."  

It's not judgmental to speak the truth.  Such a tired refrain, "you're being judgmental."  It's bogus, because we all judge things everyday.  We judge whether we should turn into the right or the left lane.  We judge what tv show to watch.  We judge whether it's safe to spend time with someone.  We judge whether we want to go on another date with that person.  We judge things all day everyday.  We're suppose to judge things and discern truth. What we're not suppose to do is condemn people.  Understand that difference, it's very important.

The hour is late my friends. I really do believe that.  Time is running out.  Jesus is coming soon.  He is coming very, very, very soon. We need to be prepared.  Without holiness no one will see the Lord.  If you're still smoking cigarettes, quit. If you're still engaging in sexual sin, end it today. If you're still trapped in gossip, backbiting, or abuse, seek the Lord for escape and freedom. Because the scriptures say we must be blameless and spotless if we expect to see the kingdom of God. 

"So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him." -2 Peter 3:14

In 2016 I completed a bachelors degree in the study of religion at Liberty university. I began classes at Olivet Nazarene University last January.  I've completed my first year of officer's training in the Salvation Army, and completed my summer assignment.  In 9 months I'll be ordained as a Lieutenant, if all goes well. Soon I'll return to Chicago to continue this process. 

Honestly, I'm dreading returning to Chicago.  Talk about a toxic place! I despaired for a while in regard to this, but the Lord has given me a measure of peace.  I dislike the politics of Chicago, and how it impacts the churches in the region, mine included. 

Most seem chiefly unaware of the dangers of this process, but I can see which way the wind is blowing.  If something big doesn't change, there may well be no return to scriptural Christianity. In 20-30 years our faith movements may be indistinguishable from what they are today, as expressions of biblical Christianity.

That's my concern. I want to faithfully preach the word of God, proclaim the gospel, and serve suffering humanity in the ways outlined in Matthew 25:31-46 and more.  That's what I signed up for.  

I didn't sign up to push identity politics, or fight perceived gender inequality, or advocate for open borders, or tell white people that they have 'privilege.'   

I signed up to be a minister because I want to evangelize the lost for the gospel of Jesus Christ and saves souls.  I signed up because I want to visit prisoners in jail, comfort the sick in the hospital, feed the hungry, and provide clothing to those who need it. I signed up because I know for a fact that Jesus Christ is really our God and King and that He is really coming back to rule and reign. I signed up because I know that to know Christ is eternal life and to reject Christ is eternal darkness. 

So a large part of why I've been lamenting lightly, is the thought of returning to such a place. And there is a time for lamenting, and also a time for lamenting to end. 

There's a few songs I really enjoy listening to when I'm lamenting, I find them quite beautiful in their melancholy.  One common one is "The Echo-Blomp" by The Helio Sequence. Another is "Something Dark is Coming" by Bear McCreary. "Swimming in the Flood" or "The Reeling" by Passion Pit are also great. The most recent album by Citizens and Saints is also great for lamenting, it's a Christian band. Another Christian group, Seeker & Servant has an album called "Exiles" that's great for sorrow as well. Additionally I would recommend groups like techno-ambient Boards of Canada, and Radiohead's "The King of Limbs" and Turin Brakes "Ether Song" never gets old.  Also, anything by Elliott Smith or Nick Drake, but don't come crying to me if you hear a curse word in one of the songs, these aren't strictly Christian groups. 

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens ; a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance..." -Ecclesiastes 3:1,4

The Lord has recently ended this time of lamenting through encouragement from His word.  God assures me that He will protect me, guide me, and keep me secure in all His ways.  The Lord has also made it clear that a fiery trial is coming in the near future. I don't know a lot about it, he hasn't made the details clear at all, but I'm reminded of the Apostle Paul when he said: "I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me." -Acts 20:23

I feel like old Admiral Hansen before the battle of Wolf 359 when he said: "Truthfully, we aren't ready."  It's true for me as well. We've got plenty of starships, but they aren't warships. We've got plenty of ideas, but none of them are particularly good or useful for this situation.

I am not ready for what is ahead. I can only hope in the Lord and pray that I am miraculously delivered. God has promised just such a thing will happen.

So I walked along the beach, Myrtle beach in the deep dark night.  It's fascinating because the beach is never quiet. On that night there were dozens and dozens of people out walking around with flashlights and cell phones looking around, some were in lawn chairs staring up at the sky, and some were even searching the dunes for buried treasures. Then there was me, staring blandly up into the dark sky, toward the moon, considering the state of humanity, and what came to mind was the tired case of Elijah who after his victory with the 400 false prophets of Baal ran for his life from the queen who wanted him dead. 

"He himself went a day's journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. "I have had enough, LORD," he said. "Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors." -1 Kings 19:4

It's quite interesting to me, that as I read a biography of John Wesley called "A Real Christian" I realized as I read, that the blessing of perfect holiness that Wesley preached so fervently, he never claimed for himself.  Oh, such a beautiful irony.  Because as I walked that beach I realized I was no better than any of the lost tens of thousands out there within the vision of my mind's consideration. My righteousness is filthy rags.  Christ alone is my only hope. And though I hunger and thirst for sanctification it comes slowly. And as I turn to consider the world, and it's utter brokenness and sinfulness, which is certainly a truism, I realized quite clearly, and with great despair that the problem was not just around me, but within me, a maw, a cancer of my soul, of all our souls, and I would do anything to speed it's demise.  And yet, I wouldn't, because even my greatest desire to be different, to be holy, is easily over-ridden by pleasures, desires of this life, and manifold distractions which reside everywhere.  Oh, what a bitter state of lostness! How can we overcome? Only by the blood of the Lamb of God, only by the Father's sovereign will at work, and only by the impossible, improbable, amazing inner-working of the Holy Spirit. And our own aching and longing to be truly free, through and through. 

So, the meandering journey on the beach of life, as the water washes us away, and the ocean takes us out to sea, and untold billions descend into the depths of hell and darkness, we dare to have hope, despite it all. Dare to believe that in Christ, you can and will walk on the water.  And somehow, some way, Christ will preserve us spotless and blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

There is a time for sorrow and confusion. There is a time for difficulties and trials of the soul. These things come in life, they are not unnecessary. We must endure patiently through all of them. God loves us, but this world is a struggle.  Terrible things occur underneath the blue sky and the dark nights of this life. But hidden in the darkness and the lostness are burning embers of bright hope, if we have the eyes to see them. Hope is like a beautiful gift that spreads, it can't be stopped once it is let loose. Hope leads us from defeat, from sorrow, and from the mindset in which we've given up, and stopped believing that things can be different. Hope changes everything. In Christ we have hope, and our hope does not fail us. It grows brighter and brighter, in spite of everything, as we turn our eyes to Jesus, to things eternal, our hope is established and secured, through all of it.  And lamenting breaks to joy. 

When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.
Psalm 94:18-19 NIV

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Things We Can Learn from Other Faith Traditions

Learning from Catholics: The value of liturgy. The joy of tradition
I was raised Catholic, but I never really connected to it. Going back into a Catholic church later in life, I discovered a great joy in the reciting of the truths of the scriptures.  It can be Spirit-filled, is what I learned when reconnecting with it later in life. Additionally, the beauty of the physical is at work in the ornate chapels and basilicas of the Catholic faith.  The reciting of the truths of the Christian faith bring a fresh theological depth to an increasingly luke-warm, shallow Christianity of today based on simplistic Christian rock choruses that tend to glorify love more so than the God who is both love and holy. The repetition of liturgy can help guide us toward a more theologically deep and meaningful practice of our faith. 

Learning from Lutherans: The total sufficiency of Christ
Christ is everything.  Everything is about Christ. Jesus is the savior. He's the one who washes away our sins.  Of the millions of sins on record, there is not even one I can scrub away on my own.  I could scrub all day.  I could scrub and repent and do good deeds, all day long.  But I can't wash away sin.  Not even one.  Only Jesus can do that.  Jesus is the reason.  Jesus is the hope.  Jesus is the atonement for sin. Jesus is sufficient.  Thank you Luther, for that.

Learning from Calvinists: The utterly highest regard for scripture
How much do we trust the word of God?  In my experience, our regard for the word of God is so utterly low, it's absolutely appalling. We turn up our nose at scriptures we dislike. We skip over the difficult scriptures, and emphasize the lovey-dovey ones. We white-wash and blot out the scriptures about hell and judgment.  We second guess Paul, John, and even Jesus. It's sad. 

Calvinists I disagree with on a great deal, and I believe their "once saved always saved" doctrine to be no less than a doctrine of hell itself, but I'll give them this, they have the highest regard for the word of God.  Sadly, in my tradition they see it as "sufficient for Christian faith and practice." What a sad, limiting refrain.  The word of God describes all of reality.  It's perfect, glorious, beautiful, a depiction of the truth about all of reality, not just matters directly related to faith and practice.  Inerrancy shows the highest regard for the word of God.  If only we loved it this much, and had such a high regard for it.  

Learning from liberal Christianity: The power of God's love
If there's anyone I disagree with even more than calvinists, it's these folks.  But they have a beautiful view of the love of God.  They see the love of God in a way that pushes it further than we imagine.  They see that God is love.  This is true. While I would define biblical love differently than they would, they certainly call me toward greater love and compassion.  We do need more love, more mercy, and more compassion. It goes further than we realize. 

Learning from Pentecostals: Experiencing God
For a long time I had an over-abundance of orthodoxy.  I had a great deal of head knowledge, that's how I thought of Christianity. I've come to realize that I can experience God. It's more than a relationship, it's a romance, a marriage. There's no word for it.  But it's joy.  It's love, a special love, between creator and creation. We ought to have a Pentecostal faith, a faith that believes and expects more from God than we do now.  We ought to expect the supernatural from God.  God is still at work. And the heights of connection with him are still to be found and explored, if we'll dive deeper and further, and believe God on His word. It's a dangerous level of experience, which can make us feel uncomfortable, but we often say "it's about a relationship" and then we don't really live that out.  It is a deep, experiential relationship and God pours into that relationship if we'll just dig deeper and stay longer with Him. 

Related Posts:
  1. The Army of God will have Victory after Victory
  2. The Church of Laodicea & The Church of America
  3. How Holiness Theology Transformed My Understanding of Christianity
  4. Fasting and Prayer: Why You Should Fast Twice a Week
  5. An Investigation of the Biblical Concept of Hell
  6. Why Do I Exist? A Quick Look at the Human Life
  7. What is the equation that shows us how to inherit Eternal Life
  8. How to Repent of all Sins in your Christian Life
  9. God will Uphold His Army: Standing on the Truth
  10. To Those Who Overcome: How to Be Free from all Sin

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The Two Pillars of Sustained Recovery: Living a Lifestyle of Faith and Recovery

Audio Message:

Today I’d like to talk to you about living a Lifestyle of Faith and Recovery:

It’s been an honor to be among you these last eight weeks. I’ll be leaving this Sunday, but I just wanted to share briefly a final thought about faith and recovery, and how they intertwine.

Many of you, hopefully most of you will someday in the next 6 months or sooner, graduate this program and go back into the world out there. And how you order your life will determine whether you’ll survive to live a new life, or whether you’ll die in addiction.

So how, How do we order our lives out there? Set up a weekly schedule. When you have a little time, grab a notebook, and write out your plan. Obviously you’re going to have your work hours first. Then set up the rest of the week. In early recovery, I made sure I was hitting 3 to 5 AA or NA meetings a week. So, say, NA meeting on Monday at 7 pm, then I did a Tuesday and Thursday meeting of AA. On Wednesday I had small group Bible study at my church. So you Google AA NA meetings near your apartment when you get out, and get that set up. Then you google some churches in your area, and you check out their services on Sunday, and get plugged in with a Bible study.

Listen, if you just get out, work a job, have an apartment, and then go sit at your apartment during your off hours, that isn’t smart. You’re going to be sitting there, feeling lonely, disconnected, and that sick mind is going to start working. And pretty soon, the old friends are getting called up, and then the relapse happens. Then you lose the job, lose the apartment, and welcome back to the ARC. That’s not what we want.

Order your week. Live a lifestyle of faith and recovery. Every week, like clockwork, 3-5 meetings, Bible study, and church services on Sunday. You get to know people at those places, you get connected and you start to network. You find a sponsor. You find someone at the church who can mentor you and guide you toward Jesus.

Order your life. Get on fire for this stuff. Get excited about this stuff. Order your days, live a lifestyle of recovery. Begin in the morning with prayer. Finish the day with your Bible, in bed, studying it diligently.

God will help you to stay clean and sober. But faith without works is dead. God does his part by removing our sins, and setting us free from the compulsion to use and drink. Our part is to do the footwork, to attend our meetings, Bible studies, and work the steps. And never give up. Never, ever give up.

The big mistake I see people in recovery make, is they remove one of the two pillars that hold their future up. Recovery works by two great pillars: Christian Church Life and 12 Step Recovery Groups. Faith and Recovery, they are companions that walk side by side for the addict in recovery. If you remove the Christian Church, the addict may stay clean, but they’ll have no real life in themselves, they’ll be a shadow, a miserable, empty person. If the addict only attends Christian church life, and neglects 12 step recovery groups, their chances of staying clean drop way down. I’ve seen it many, many times. A self-righteous religious spirit develops in them, that says I don’t need recovery anymore. God led you to recovery. Even if the addict does stay clean, they will have left behind a lot of the internal work of healing that happens in the steps, and the opportunities to make amends and work with suffering addicts.

Faith and Recovery, keep both in your life always and you won’t have to stumble in either direction.

Most of you are coming back from depths of darkness few men ever return from. Be patient with the healing and growth. It will take years of sustained effort to find comprehensive healing. Be patient, and never give up. In conclusion, there’s a portion of the Bible, from the letter of 2nd Corinthians chapter 4 that I think really hits this all home. It says:

2 Corinthians 4:1,6-10,14-18 (NLT) 1 Therefore, since God in his mercy has given us this new way, we never give up.

6 God said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.

7 We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.

8 We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9 We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10 Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.

14 We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. 15 All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.

16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. 17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

Related Posts:

  1. The Battle for the Soul of America: Progressivism vs Americanism
  2. Progress vs. Liberty: Challenging the Politically Correct Revolution
  3. Five Intriguing Presentations by Christian Apologists
  4. Strategies of the Enemy: How to Counter & Defeat Satan
  5. Three Tough Questions to Ask Yourself as a Christian
  6. Quotations on Atheism: How Should We Answer Atheism?
  7. My Top Ten Favorite Christian Speakers
  8. Messengers of Compassion: How does the concept of compassion play out in the scriptures?
  9. Sky walking Russian Kids and the Meaning of Life
  10. Reflection on the Journey of Life: A Mysterious and Beautiful Christianity

Sunday, August 5, 2018

William Booth's Mount Purity: The Six Stages of the Climb

Audio Message:

According to astrophysicist Dr. Hugh Ross, there are 122 constants that allow for life to exist on planet Earth. And if even one of these constants were adjusted, there would be no life on Earth.

Let’s look at a few of those constants. First, oxygen. 21% of our atmosphere is oxygen. If it were 25% fire would erupt spontaneously everywhere. If it were 15% we’d all suffocate instantly. It’s the same with the carbon dioxide levels, up or down, and we’d either burn up or suffocate.

Water vapor. If water vapor levels were even slightly different, no life.

Jupiter. Did you know the planet Jupiter acts like a cosmic vacuum cleaner, attracting asteroids and comets away from Earth? Without Jupiter, no life on Earth. We’d be annihilated by space debris. 

The Earth’s crust is also at just the perfect thickness, just right amount of oxygen is transferred to the crush, and it’s thick enough to prevent excessive volcanic activity.

The 24-hour day. If the Earth’s rotation took longer than 24 hours, temperature differences between night and day would render life impossible.

Earth actually rotates on a crooked axis tilt, at 23 degrees. If it were even a little different, by a single degree, surface temperatures would fluctuate too much for life to exist.

Lightning. If there was no lightning, no life. Seismic activity. If there were no earthquakes, no life on Earth.

Gravity. If gravity was only slightly different in our solar system, there would be no sun. No life. If the gravitational force were altered by 0.00000000000000000000000000000000000001 percent, no sun.

There are 122 constants all at play that allow life to exist on Earth, if any were changed even a little, there would be no life. Amazing isn’t it?

The Bible says the universe is a reflection of the glory of God. The heavens declare his glory. The expansiveness of the universe is an expression of the infinite nature of God. Which is why we praise God.

1st Peter 1:3-9 NIV says: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

I like that part where it says, “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Even though you don’t see him now, you believe in Him.” That’s the hard part of Christianity isn’t it? It’s believing in Jesus, even though we’ve never met him. I’ve never personally looked into the eyes of my savior Jesus. I’ve never given him a hug. I’m never listened to him tell a story. It’s challenging, to believe in that which we can’t see.

We can reason from science that there seems to be a great order to the universe. We can reason that the complexity of human and animal life is evidence for God. We can look at the historical Jesus, and the manuscript evidence for the Bible. But at the end of the day, we have to dare to believe, and to trust in Jesus.

Many of us think of religion as trying to be good so God will accept us. That is not Christianity. For a Christian, we come to Jesus Christ, this historical figure, who was crucified on the cross, and rose from the dead. We come to Jesus, whom we believe is God who came to Earth. We come to Jesus where we are, in brokenness, in sin, and we ask Jesus to make us new. Then Jesus causes us to be born again, born a second time, but this is a spiritual rebirth. Then we are changed by Jesus, and we join a spiritual community, to grow in our relationship with Christ, be set free from every sin we struggle with, and to serve Jesus. When we do that, we have the promise of eternal life. Even after death, Jesus will resurrect us, just like He resurrected. And we'll live forever. It's not about trying to be good for God, it's about Jesus coming into us, removing our sins, and giving us a new pure life.

Now that can be information outside of us. Or it can become personal. How can we access this beautiful salvation, and be transformed by it? We have to come directly to Jesus Christ. And that starts with believing that Jesus Christ is really who he says he is.

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” –John 11:25-26

We must cry out to Jesus. Jesus is alive right now. He conquered the grave. And Jesus went to the cross for each of us. He knew exactly what he was doing. He was nailed to the cross, and left to die, for our sins. Our sins were nailed to the cross with Jesus. All the sins we’ve committed, all the drinking, drugs, people we’ve hurt, pornography, lies, abuse, manipulation, we’re freed from it, and it’s put upon Jesus. And Jesus gives us his righteousness. 

And when Jesus makes us pure, by removing our sins, and putting them on himself, then we are pure and righteous because of Jesus, and because we become pure and righteous in Christ, then we are clean and spotless and able to go to heaven, to eternal life, where we will live with God in paradise, for all time. Can you dare to believe, right now, that your sins were nailed to the cross with Jesus? 

God loves you, but He hates your sins. So throw them upon Jesus on the cross. He will set you free, and make you to be born again. God has a plan for a new heavens and a new earth. And we will be immortal. We’ll never have to die. We’ll live in joy, with the animals, in a perfect place, in constant communion with God our heavenly Father. Jesus came, full of grace and truth, to save us.

And similarly, there are two primary attributes of God the Father. Firstly, God is love. God our heavenly Father loves us, like a good father loves his son or daughter. Many of us did not have good loving fathers. But God our heavenly father is perfect in his love. He cares about us. He’s calling us home to himself. He has great compassion for us. He loves you. Yes, even you. He is a very good and tenderly loving Father.

Secondly, but just as much as God is love, God is holy. To say God is holy is to say God is perfect, immaculate, and complete. Holy means perfect in morality, perfect in truth, perfect in judgments, perfect in all ways. God is not like us. God is holy, holy, holy, as the angelic beings say of Him. "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty, who was, who is, and who is to come. The alpha, and the omega, the first, and the last, the beginning and the end." -Revelation 4:8

God designed your soul. He decided the world needed one of you. He particularly crafted who you are, and knows you better than you know yourself. He sees your past, your present, and your future. He sees everything. 

He is 'other.'  He is not like us. He is holy beyond us, the architect of the universe, this planet, the human soul, and governor of all reality and space time. God made us in his likeness, in his own image. Therefore, we understand why God commands us:

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

We are called to holiness. Holiness in the sense the Salvation Army uses it, according to William Booth the founder, is entire deliverance from sin. The essence of sin is selfishness. Holiness means to have a soul mastered by love. So holiness is deliverance from sin, and once sin is removed, that place is filled with love instead.

This is a journey that we all ought to take together. It’s a journey upon a great and beautiful mountain. William Booth calls it mount purity, in his book "The Seven Spirits, or What I teach My Officers" Booth wrote: “Those living on its summit have glorious glimpses of the towers and palaces of the celestial city. Those who reach that heavenly height must climb what the Bible calls the “Highway of Holiness.” And they will usually find it a rugged, difficult journey, often having to fight every inch of the way.” Booth refers to six stages of this journey up mount purity. Let us consider them together.

The first stage is the awakening stage. This is where we begin to see the mountain. We’ve become a Christian, but we begin to hunger for freedom from every sin. We want freedom from cigarettes, pornography, rage, selfishness, food addiction, lusting after women, television addiction, obsession with money, gossip, slandering others, and so on. We begin to desperately want freedom from sin. We despair of sin, because we know God hates sin. At the first stage we have no rest until we resolve to take the journey up the mountain.

The second stage is where we write our name in the book of: “I will have it.” We resolve to have holiness, no matter the cost. This is the stage of constant prayer. We are praying every day and night begging God for holiness. The song of our daily thoughts is of holiness, freedom from sin. This can go on for a long time.

The third stage is called the wrestling stage. This is where we’ll be tempted to turn back. This is where we come against opposition from others who don’t want us to make it. People try to pull us back and convince us not to go. This is where your mind will tell you again and again: "It can’t be done! You can’t be holy! There’s no way in this world." Your mind, and the people around you will all be insisting that you can’t make it, that you have to stay stuck in sin forever. “You can’t be holy,” the enemy whispers to you again and again. It’s a lie. Be patient. Fight on. And keep going. 

As the song says: “The Lamb shall take my sins away. It’s certain, though impossible. The thing impossible shall be, all things are possible to me.” When our mind insists its impossible, it’s because it is. Thankfully Christ makes the impossible, possible.

The fourth stage is a glorious plateau, all who enter by "this narrow passage of true repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ" enter by faith. In this place, we pass from confusion, from unbelief, from the nagging assumption that it cannot be done, to a realization that it’s inevitable. We realize God is doing it, and we’ve yielded to the process. We go from endlessly suffering under the unbelief that: I can’t be holy, to the blessed assurance that: ‘I will be holy, thanks to Jesus.’ I’ve been declared holy in Christ, but now Christ is sanctifying me (Hebrews 10:14).

Booth said of stage four: “Here men and women walk with heads erect in holy confidence, and hearts glad with living faith, and mouths full of joyous song, and eyes steadily fixed on the holy light that streams from the summit of the mount above them.” God has made us conquerors of our inward foes, we’re living in confident victorious progress.

Stage five is the stage of deliverance, where the triumph begins. At the fifth stage “the separation from sin is entire: the heart is fully cleansed from evil; the promise is proved to be true.” –William Booth, The Seven Spirits, pg. 32. The Salvation Army believes that “Christ can make a poor sinner into a perfect saint.” As it is written: “Be perfect therefore, as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” -Matthew 5:48

Stage six is the stage at which one comes to the highest plateau, in which the graces of the Spirit have been perfected by experience, faith, and obedience, and the soul does the will of God as it is done in Heaven, united in the eternal companionship of that lovely being, the Spirit. Stage five begins the triumph, and stage six is maturity and growth in victory.

Be holy God said, for I myself I am holy. Live a pure life. We can do that. We will do that. We will fight for that. We will trust in Christ for that. God will provide. We have a holy loving Father. And He is calling us to a holy loving life.