Thursday, March 28, 2019

Considering the Eleven Truth Statements of The Salvation Army


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.

Doctrine is a dirty word in our society today.  But the word doctrine simply means "truth."  Historically church movements have always considered the entirety of the Bible, the sacred scriptures, and tried to apply those teachings in declarations of "What We Believe."  I find it fascinating myself, and highly useful as I try to understand as a human what the Bible says about life and how I can apply it to my life.  

 To that end I'd like to walk through some of the core teachings of the Salvation Army the movement that I'm part of!  If there's one thing I love about The Salvation Army, and there's a lot that I love about the Salvation Army, tons and tons, but one thing that I love is the 11 doctrines.  Here they are:

"We believe that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were given by inspiration of God: and that they only constitute the Divine rule of Christian faith and practice.

We believe that there is only one God, who is infinitely perfect, the Creator. Preserver, and Governor of all things, and who is the only proper object of religious worship.

We believe that there are three persons in the Godhead—the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost—undivided in essence and coequal in power and glory.

We believe that in the person of Jesus Christ the Divine and human natures are united, so that He is truly and properly God and truly and properly man.

We believe that our first parents were created in a state of innocency. but by their disobedience they lost their purity and happiness; and that in consequence of their fall all men have become sinners, totally depraved. and as such are justly exposed to the wrath of God.

We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ has, by His suffering and death, made an atonement for the whole world so that whosoever will may be saved.

We believe that repentance towards God, faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and regeneration by the Holy Spirit are necessary to salvation.

We believe that we are justified by grace, through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ; and that he that believeth hath the witness in himself.

We believe that continuance in a state of salvation depends upon continued obedient faith in Christ.

We believe that it is the privilege of all believers to be wholly sanctified, and that their whole spirit and soul and body may be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We believe in the immortality of the soul; in the resurrection of the body; in the general judgment at the end of the world; in the eternal happiness of the righteous; and in the endless punishment of the wicked."


These truths are pretty epic and amazing if you ask me.  They've remained the same for many years. Maybe it's because they are really hard to change.  Which is probably a good thing.  Otherwise we would've mucked them up by now, by changing the wording to make sure we don't offend anyone. But in any case, I just love these truths. They speak volumes. Let's dive right in!  

The first doctrine states that we believe the scriptures of the old and new testaments were given by inspiration of God... and so on.  Essentially the first doctrine is declaring that the scriptures are where we find our authority for understanding and practicing the Christian faith.  As Wesleyans we lean more toward "infallibility" as apposed to "inerrancy."  Infallibility would state that the truths of the scriptures are authoritative in all areas of Christian faith and practice, while inerrancy would take a wider lense.  Inerrancy would say the scriptures are perfect, infallibility would say there are minor errors that don't affect the content.  It's a fairly nuanced difference, I tend more toward inerrancy, TSA would tend more toward infallibility, both are reasonable positions.

Doctrine two, we believe there is one God, and God only should be worshiped. God created the universe. God preserves the universe. God is also the active governor of the universe. While a pantheist would say that God created the universe but isn't active in it, we believe God is active in His creation. An atheist would say there is no creator, preserver or governor. And a deist would say that God created and preserves, but doesn't govern. We as Christians believe God is creator, the originator, the one who holds the universe together as preserver, and one who morally governors the universe and holds humanity accountable. He is the origin, the sustenance and the authority. 

Doctrine three, is the truth about the trinity that God is three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Undivided essence, co-equal in power and glory.  So we have three persons who are of one undivided essence. This ties in to doctrine two, there is one God. Yet we know it's more nuanced than that. God is three distinct persons, while also being one entity. The fact that we state they are of one essence declares God as one, while the division of persons indicates we recognize the reality of the mystery of the Trinity.   

Four, we believe that Jesus was and is fully man and fully divine. Why is this so important?  Well, because many in the the world want to think of Jesus as only one or the other.  You've probably heard it before: "Jesus was a good moral teacher but he was just a man."  People want to claim Jesus for whatever they believe: Jesus was a revolutionary, just like Che Guevara.  Jesus was just looking for balance, he was a good Hindu, or Jesus was just a prophet, just like Muhammad.  People take Jesus, remove him from his own teachings and make him part of their agenda.  Which is why we have to recognize Jesus was fully divine.  And Jesus was fully human. Some super spiritual types try to subtly remove the humanity of Jesus.  They say things like, "Jesus wasn't really tempted as we are, Jesus can't be tempted because he's God."  And that isn't correct.  We can't remove Jesus' from his humanity.  His favorite title for himself was "son of man."  

Five, the fall of man.  To properly understand our past, our present and our future we must understand our beginning.  Humanity was made perfect and right.  But humanity rebelled against God, and through this rebellion we lost purity, we lost happiness, and we lost eternal life.  Not only that, but now every human that is born is born with original sin.  And because of this, each person is justly exposed to the wrath of God.  God's wrath is against those who live in sin and reject his son Jesus.  And that is just, and right, because sin is terrible, it ruins everything.  Humanity has fallen, creation is cursed, and we find ourselves in a precarious situation, under the wrath of God naturally, while also able to turn to Christ to find salvation.

The first five doctrines of SA are pretty much the bedrock for evangelical Christianity, and much of mainline Protestantism. The first five doctrines jive with most Calvinists, Arminians, and most theological systems within orthodox Protestant Christianity in the world today. 

The sixth doctrine begins leading us more along Arminianism, a theological system, a way of understanding the scriptures.  Jesus Christ has by his suffering and death made an atonement, and when we add there "for the whole world and that whosoever will may be saved" brings in two factors: universal atonement and free will.  The atonement of Christ is freely available to anyone, and humanity fundamentally has a choice to make about either receiving or rejecting Christ.  This differs from Calvinism that would say the atonement is limited to those who God foreordains to salvation.  And free will would be minimized to emphasize that God is the only one who can enable one to be saved. We would call this an "in family" debate. These are our brothers and sisters in Christ, Calvinists, Arminians, and so on, and though we disagree, we recognize them as part of the wider family of Christianity.

Doctrine seven, we believe in three aspects that fold into the salvation equation: Repentance, faith, and regeneration. A new believer has turned away from the old life of sin, put their faith in Jesus Christ, and have been transformed by the Holy Spirit into a new person. 

Doctrine eight, we are saved by grace through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the classic declaration made by Martin Luther during the protestant reformation five hundred years ago.  How are we justified before God?  By faith alone in Jesus Christ.  And we also include in this statement, that if we have believed in Jesus, we will give testimony to that in words: "He hath the witness..."  We each have a testimony of a personal encounter with Christ that saved our lives. 

Doctrines seven and eight would once again be fairly universal within evangelicalism, mainline Protestantism and the larger fold of Christianity.  

Doctrine nine, we believe that continuance in a state of salvation depends upon continued obedient faith in Christ.  This declaration once again places us firmly within Arminian theology.  A five point Calvinist would say that once your legitimately saved in Christ, you can't lose that salvation no matter what you do.  We believe that to 'abide' or 'remain' in Christ (John 15) that we must be both faithful and obedient to Christ.  As it says in the scriptures "Not everyone who says to me 'Lord, Lord' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father in heaven." We see again and again in the scriptures this calling to "continue in the faith" and "remain steadfast in the faith."  We are warned not to fall away.  We can fall away from Christ, by renouncing Christ, leaving fellowship in the body, or by engaging in willful sin. But we also believe that God preserves us and helps us remain close to Him. 

Doctrine ten places us not only in the Arminian camp, but also in a specialized area known as Wesleyan holiness theology.  We are a holiness movement church.  We believe in the concept of living the Christian life in purity. We believe we can and will be preserved blameless and spotless by Christ.  We believe a believer can be holy as God is holy (1st Peter 1:14-16). We refer to this as "whole sanctification."  Holiness is missing in the modern evangelical church, in my opinion, and I hope we can help bring a renewed emphasis on living holy lives, free from sin. 

Doctrine eleven says that there will be an end to history.  Every human soul is immortal.  No one just dies and ceases to exist.  Everyone will spend eternity in one of two places.  Additionally we don't believe that human souls will float around in a vacuous eternal dimension. We as Christians believe in the resurrection of the body.  We will have real physical bodies in the next life.  We know at the consummation of history, that God will judge all people.  Every person will stand before the judgment seat, and be either rewarded for the good they did, or condemned for the evil they did.  This judgment will either lead to eternal happiness in the New Jerusalem, the eternal city of God, or in eternal punishment in the lake of fire, hell.  

Most Christians would affirm much of what we say in doctrine eleven, though there may be some slight differences.  Some Christians believe in annihilationism, that souls who reject God will be destroyed, not sent to hell.  Some Christians don't believe believers will be judged at all, but would instead say there are two separate judgments, one being the judgment seat, and one being more of a court of awards.  There is a lot of diversity in end times doctrine in general, but the basic precepts of the eternal soul, the resurrection of the body, judgment, and condemnation or eternal joy are shared by all orthodox Christians.  

So those are some very, very brief descriptions of the eleven doctrines of The Salvation Army. There is a lot more that one could delve into in regard to the doctrines.  I think they're great and they help us shape and understand the larger meta-narrative of scripture. We should always be careful and wise in our doctrine, just as Paul taught Titus, and Timothy (Titus 2:1, 2 Tim 3:16). There is a lot of bad doctrine out there in some churches and movements, so we should always be steadfast in holding fast to the truth, and teaching it wisely to others. But ultimately, it's all about Jesus Christ, His gospel, and winning people to Christ! 


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Saturday, March 23, 2019

The Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Light: What happened in the Garden?


Let us consider our situation, that which we find ourselves in. We are human beings, living upon the planet Earth, a troubled planet beset by much grief and disaster.  We see goodness, we see evil.  We find ourselves operating in the context of time and space.  And we find that life seems to break down to decisions we make, choices.  Choices are made, and life proceeds on Earth, for better or worse.  We also see that society is fundamentally based on morality.  We find ourselves in a moral universe, a universe where our decisions can be good or bad.  And principles like truth, love, goodness, liberty, equity, and many others are important to society.  And important in individual decisions. 

Let us return to the origins of humanity to begin to understand reality.  Of course we'll be approaching this from a Christian worldview perspective. 

The first humans are created by God, in a perfect place, a place without disease, war, suffering, or death.  This we see is the natural and proper state of humanity.  Humanity was meant to live on a perfect Earth, created by a loving God, to "work" the Earth, and spread across it, and develop civilization. Not only that, but humanity was tasked with creation, just as God created.  Man was created in God's image, which meant that man was special, humanity was meant to do more than simply exist and live, it was meant to be creative, to paint paintings, design buildings, write books and poetry, to develop technology, to procreate and teach their children, and so on and so forth.  God placed a spark of eternity in the human heart. 

But let's go back before even the creation.  God made the universe from nothing.  He made the galaxies, the stars, and the planets.  But let's go before that.  What was there before God made the universe?  Possibly and probably nothing at all in the sense of matter, energy, gravity, and so on.  Also realize this: Time is a construct of the universe, it's part of the program.  Thus, before the universe, no space, no matter, no time, nothing.  Only God in a state immeasurable by time, because God is not subjected to the concept of time.  Time has no dominion over God.  I imagine God doesn't experience time-passage at all, unless he desires to. 

Therefore before creatio ex nihilio (creation from nothing) there was only God almighty, the intelligent being who is the only fundamental being.  I always have wondered about that: Why would God exist, and not simply not exist?  Where did God come from?  God didn't come from anywhere, He exists outside time, but how does that work, that God has always existed, beyond time, infinitely into the past, present and future?  I can't really say.  It's quite stunning though, to realize that God is the fundamental reality of the universe, or more so, beyond the universe.  He is the fundamental constant of... all that is. 

I had to ask myself: What does that say about the nature of the universe?  Well, I've always approached reality from the mindset of the world, that the universe is fundamentally darkness, and light are the exceptions.  But now I realize from a Christian perspective, light, life, God himself is the fundamental constant of the universe beyond the universe.  Darkness is the exception.

But we aren't really talking about the material universe.  We're talking about that which was before, so instead of 'the universe' we'll refer to it as 'omnia' latin for everything.  So beyond the material and immaterial universe we have a reality, omnia, in which God exists, no, that's wrong, that which is God, and perhaps there is a place that God chooses to dwell, one might call it 'the heavens.'  And there God is. 

How long did God exist in 'the heavens' before he decided to create the universe and humanity?  Once again, we're speaking as if God were limited by time.  Time is a fact of the universe, not necessarily of 'the heavens.'  Though let's assume for the moment that time does pass in some form in this 'heaven' reality.  God created other beings, we know that, they are referred to in the scriptures as "angels" which simply means: "messengers."  God created these messengers at some point, who serve Him and go about doing his work.  We know there are millions of them, possibly more.  And we also know that they share the same gift of free will, choice, that humans have.  Are there other races that God created, other beings, or other forms of life?  There certainly could be, we just don't know. So God created all these beings, why?  It's not really clear to me why God would choose to create.  I suppose God would want to make use of his own talents and creative gifts?  It's hard to say from my perspective, I'm just a created being, created by an infinite God. 

We as humans are his creation.  But we are a bit more than a simple creation, but we are actually imbued with the eternal nature of God and the creative spark to create.  We were set on the Earth to live, to love, to marry, and to populate and live on the Earth. 

And if it ended there, and we were in the present in such a state, I imagine life would be perfect.  We would have populated the Earth, spread cities across the face of the Earth, lived in beautiful harmony with the animals and lived in joyous creative worship with our God who would walk amongst us.  We would marry, create works of art, write music, tend to the various endless gardens of Earth in peace and harmony, all united as a humanity worshipping God in joyous praise.  Oh, how I wish it had gone this way.  This is what God intended for humanity. 

But the sacred gift of choice was also part of the equation.  Humanity could choose to either love God or reject and fight against God. 

The first two humans, Adam and Eve lived in a garden on the newly created Earth. We see they live in a fruit-garden full of animals and God lives there with them and walks around with them in the garden.  It's quite beautiful, actually.  The first humans are allowed to eat from any trees in the garden, but at the center of the garden there is a tree they are not supposed to eat from, called the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  There's the other tree as well, called the tree of life, which they are permitted to eat from as well. 

Why leave this single tree of truth of good and evil at the center of the garden?  I suppose it allowed for choice.  And an easy choice it was, remember, these humans were not subjected to the sinful nature that we struggle with now.  They wouldn't have been tempted to go run to the center of the garden and eat from it, not the same way we are.  Isn't that interesting about our nature?  If someone tells us to 'don't touch that hot stove' we instantly want one thing: to touch the hot stove.  Why on Earth would we want to do that?  It's a state of our fallen nature.  But these first humans had no fallen nature, thus they wouldn't have been exceedingly tempted to run to the middle of the garden and break the one rule they live under. 

But we know that the serpent (Satan) came to Eve in the garden, and tempted her eat from the tree of knowledge.  Why?  Satan was once known as 'Lucifer' which means light bringer, and was probably one of God's most important 'messengers.'  But Lucifer became prideful, and jealous of humanity, and desired to rebel against God, and actually tried to overthrow God.

Isn't that crazy?  That is just some epic, whacky stuff if you ask me. God the infinite being creates these angelic beings, and one of them actually leads a rebellion against him!  That's wild.  We know that one third of the angelic beings joined Lucifer in his rebellion.  Was the rebellion before or after the fall of man?  I assume it was before, since Satan was wanting to tempt the first humans.  But it is possible that the rebellion happened after the fall of man. 

How was Satan able to enter the garden and take the form of the snake to tempt Eve?  Only with the expressed permission of God.  Satan can't do a single thing without God's permission.  Satan apparently wanted dominion over the Earth and humanity, but that was not God's plan.  So perhaps Satan said to God, let me tempt Adam and Eve, and if they choose to rebel against you just as I have, then they will join my rebellion and I will be their god on the Earth. 

Why would God allow this?  God created Adam and Eve, he loved them, lived with them, and instructed them in their ways.  Perhaps God wanted to make sure Adam and Eve truly loved Him, by allowing a situation where their love and obedience would be tested.  I mean there was only one rule.  And think of it, if Adam and Eve pass this test, and reject Satan, then Satan has no authority on Earth, and God can simply destroy these rebellious angels and evil is defeated right there.  Why not just do that and don't allow Satan to tempt Adam and Eve?  Well, I suppose that if God didn't allow the temptation then He could never be certain that evil would be forever eradicated.  It might pop up again in the future of humanity, if they aren't tested as the outset.  Remember that our entire race, all of humanity was 'within' Adam and Eve in a way, when they were first created.  There may be some genetic or spiritual mystery behind this fact, but this much is certain: they represented humanity.

Now at this point many of you must be thinking: How can I believe any of this!?  It all sounds so fantastic! But is it really so fantastic?  Or is it that we were indoctrinated into evolutionary biology, and a naturalistic worldview of reality in public education and college, and thus our minds have been conditioned toward naturalism and conditioned to reject the supernatural?  It's an interesting question.  How much does our indoctrination impact how we view a contrary worldview?  I would suggest that it impacts it a great deal. Remember the sole alternative: Creation of our universe from nothing, which is statistically impossible and not even logically coherent.  Something can't come from nothing.  

So despite having only one temptation before them, Adam and Eve succumbed to the temptation and rejected God, and decided that they could redefine good and evil to mean whatever they wanted.  The name of the tree is interesting, 'the knowledge of good and evil.'  But whose knowledge? Humanity believed it was knowledge for them, but perhaps more so it was knowledge for God.  God would discover if humanity would choose good or evil.  And the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was God's knowledge of whether humanity would choose to follow Him or choose to fall.

Humanity fell.  They succumbed to the temptation, and they were expelled from the garden.  Reality became fallen.  We don't really know what all changed when the infamous fall occurred.  We do know that humanity was cursed to suffer death.  Death had never been a reality, the human body in fact has the capacity to infinitely regenerate itself, but now, for some reason, despite this ability to regenerate itself, our bodies crumble as we get older.  A result of the fall.  We also know that animals suffered under the curse, beginning to kill each other, and feed on each other.  We know creation itself was cursed.  There probably were no seasons before the fall, just an endless sublime perfect day.  But now we see seasons like fall and winter and spring and summer, with various concerns in them that affect humanity.  Humanity would have to work the ground to gain food.  Women would become subservient to men, and child bearing would become increasingly painful.  But these were not the original design for humanity.  

Throughout human history then we live in the results of the fall... and we see God interact in various ways with humanity over our history.  But fundamentally humanity was placed under the dominion of Satan and his demons. 

Do I understand this situation perfectly?  Absolutely not.  I really wish I did.  Because I would love to raise any number of objections to the whole scenario, such as: How are we responsible for the actions of two wayward humans?  Why should we suffer for their mistake?  

The answer is very simple, when anyone calling themselves by the name of Christian does something evil, some of the responsibility falls on us to make amends for what those people did.  We bear a responsibility.  It must be the same with our race.  And even more so, if one person spills ink on the carpet, they may be able to clean it up, but the stain will always be there. If one pilot makes an error, and crashes the plane, not only he dies, but the passengers die as well.  It's just part of community, the decisions of a few will often impact the lives of everyone.  In the same way, when one person sins, it often spreads like wildfire to others.  Think of drug addiction, or sexual immorality.  These things spread rapidly.  

The cost is so high though, isn't it?  It's very difficult. But I do trust God.  I trust that God is good and holy and pure.  There's nothing wrong with trust.  Trust is a very good thing.  Trust covers the rest when we don't overcome every doubt we have.  

The universe we find troubled by the curse brought by humanity.  We find humanity itself cursed, and caught under the dominion of Satan.  We find ourselves in a place where God is shrouded from us, and our natural selves incline toward selfishness, sin, and the desire to create a world without God.  But this world is chaotic without God.  Man can create no utopia apart from God, though man tries, they fail.  We dream of utopia, but utopia is not possible apart from God: How can one build a utopia on a foundation of humanism alone? God created all things. Apart from Him we would build on sand, on a plateau of nothingness.

Now we find ourselves in a situation quite reversed from the garden. Instead of the garden, we are now lost in the fall. We're astray in the wilderness, in a deep dark forest.  We're in a forest of trees, and these trees are full of deadly fruit, this fruit is called sin.  It tastes delicious, but it rots in your stomach and destroys your soul.  Endless forests of sin surround us.  And now, there is only one tree that can save us, one tree that leads back to the garden. It's a shrouded tree, often hard to see and hard to find, indeed it took me years and years in my life to find it, and only then by the grace of God.  

But when God enables our eyes to see it, this tree glows brightly with the light of the world. Our emergency escape hatch from this fallen universe, from this broken tangent reality is this one tree, the tree of light. 

The tree of light is the cross of Jesus Christ, and his atoning sacrifice on the cross. This tree of light, is the light that leads us to the rivers of the water of life, the life pouring out from the side of Jesus Christ.  Indeed, when we take this tree, it gushes forth the waters of the river of life. When we receive the savior upon it, we find the way out of the forest of sin, and we are set upon the river of life, that leads all the way back to the garden, the throne of God, and the new city, in the new heavens, on the new Earth.  That is our ultimate destiny.  

But it takes fleeing from sin, and embracing the new road home, upon the river of the waters of life. Just like Adam and Eve were told not to eat from the tree of knowledge, we are told we must now no longer eat from the trees of sin all around us, but instead we must eat from the tree of light, from Jesus, and eat the fruits of the Spirit that grow on this tree.  Not only that, but we help others lost in the forest, by pointing them toward the tree of light, even if at the moment they cannot see the glory of it's light, but only a dim tree that they don't understand.  

It will be a difficult journey, that much is certain.  We'll have to give up much, much that we've become accustomed to here on Earth.  The river often becomes rough, and at those times we must cry out to God in prayer.  But rest assured, that if we seek Him fully and love Him fully, and trust in Jesus Christ, he will be with us all the way home to glory,  and we will escape this nightmare world gone wrong.  

Our escape is made upon the rushing waters of the river of life, that leads to the very throne of God in the city of New Jerusalem.  Revelation tells us that this river leads directly to the tree of life, the tree that humanity lost access to in the garden.  

This is our situation friends.  We're lost in the forests of the fall.  We live in a fallen tangent reality destined for destruction.  The entire purpose for our lives, before we die and face judgment is to come to find the waters of life, to receive the waters of life, and take our journeys back toward the holiness of God, the city of God, which conforms us to the likeness of Christ.  We become through the work of God in us, more and more how we were in the garden before the fall.  We become more and more holy, more and more like God intended us to be.  

Our situation is that our race is in rebellion against God, and the chaos that resulted is this troubled planet we call Earth.  There are so many distractions.  So much entertainment, pleasure, so much selfish self focused lifestyle to live.  We could get lost in so many ways in this world, and never find that tree of light, and never even draw near it.  But God calls us to the tree of light, to Jesus Christ throughout our lives.  Jesus is our escape from this world, and our doorway, our entry to a new world.  

The new world is simply reality remade the way God intended it to be, with humanity and God at peace.  We are designed to live and love God, and live and love with animals and live and love in creative creativity in the gardens of a beautiful, perfect Earth.  That is our original destiny, that is our future! Yet so many of us are content to simply roll in the mud puddles of sin instead.  And we cling so strongly to those sins, when eternal joy is placed before us. Our destiny is placed before us, and we must have the courage to take hold of it.  We're lost in the wilderness right now.  That is our situation.  We're cut off from the tree of life.  But if we'll turn to Jesus, and eat from the tree of light, we'll begin our journey home to the New Jerusalem, in the new remade universe, upon a new Earth, free from sin, where the river of life will lead us back to the tree of immortality, the tree of life, of which we will eat, and never die, and that river ultimately leads to the throne of our Heavenly Father. Our destiny is to adore Him and be adored by Him. That is our hope, that is our destiny, that is our immortality. Take hold of it, somehow, before time runs out. 

Until next time friends... Amen. Glory to God.  
 


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Friday, March 22, 2019

A Strategic Plan for Improving Community Relations for a Salvation Army Corps

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.

Good community relations means being a blessing, a provider, and a truth-speaker to the community, to the people of the community, and the businesses and non-profits of the community. This article will outline a simple strategic plan to improve community relations for The Salvation Army. Of course every community will be quite different and unique, but most communities share certain core facets. In this plan we’ll look at community relations from a more generic perspective, in approaching community relations from a biblical Christian perspective, with an emphasis on the duel nature of Salvation Army ministry as proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ and meeting human needs in His name without discrimination.

First of all, to develop good community relations we would develop an evangelism ministry team, and go door to door in the neighborhoods surrounding the corps community center, to get to know the people nearby, help these neighborhoods to access services from our facility, and invite them to our church services. As part of the opening strategy we would go mailbox to mailbox in the neighborhood surrounding the corps and place pamphlets in each of the mailboxes. We would use corps vehicles to do this. We would take several weeks at the corps evangelism team meeting to train participants in door to door evangelism ministry. Hopefully we would have good attendance from corps members and soldiers. We would also spend several months in prayer prior to this effort, to ensure the Holy Spirit’s power is with us. Then approximately two to three weeks later we would divide the neighborhood up into different groupings, and gather 8-10 corps members and soldiers, and break them up into teams of two, and they would go door to door, sharing information about the corps social programs and invitations to partake in corps youth activities, Bible study, and church services. Each team would have a map of their targeted houses, pamphlets with them, as well as Bible tracts, and if we had the available baked goods in the corps, we’d bring a tray of sweet rolls or cake to each house we visit, assuming someone is home to receive it. Overall, after visiting fifty to one hundred homes in the surrounding neighborhood, the corps visibility in the local community would be well improved. The goal would be to gain five to ten new families attending the corps services and Bible studies, as well as to gain five to ten new children at youth activities. An increase in local families accessing social services at the facility may be hard to gauge, but the goal would be to gain ten to twenty new individuals/families who are aware of and access services offered by the corps. The end result would be more people who are aware of the corps social services, more awareness that we’re a church, and overall the Salvation Army’s community presence would be increased.

Secondly, to facilitate good community relations and better exposure in the community, we would connect with various local non-profits, churches, and government agencies. We’ll assume for the generic scenario that the corps in question is not well connected with local institutions, though many corps are. First of all, the goal would be to network with local non-profits to ensure we are not duplicating services, and to gain knowledge about services already offered, so that referrals can be made to agencies that are already meeting needs in the community. If there was a local monthly or quarterly meeting of non-profits in the area, it might be advisable to join that effort. Additionally, attending local United Way meetings could be a good way to connect with local agencies. Another way to connect with local non-profits would be to take part in chamber of commerce meetings in the area. To facilitate better networking with local churches, we would first make a list of the local churches, and our staff would spend time visiting their websites, and contacting them via email and phone to learn about the services they offer. We would also request, with 3-5 of the largest and most influential churches in area, if they would allow one of our officers to give a brief 5 to 10 minute presentation at their services on a Sunday, so their members can learn more about what The Salvation Army does in the community. We would seek to be very clear in our communications with the local churches that we don’t want to try and steal away their members, but we would like to share what we offer, what we do, and how we can come along side and partner with local churches to be a blessing to the local area. In regard to networking with local government agencies, we would look to see how we can connect with the schools, and find out if they would be willing to do can drives for our food pantry, or other activities to teach children to support charity. We would also connect with the local police department to see if we can offer their officers any sort of counseling or support. We would do the same with the fire department. Also, we would look to connect with the local jail, and request to do weekly visits with those in the cell blocks who would like pastoral support. If mental health or drug treatment facilities exist in the area, we’d also look to connect with them, and offer services to the patients at those facilities, as well as any local hospitals and nursing homes.

Thirdly, to gain better exposure in the community we would develop our social media accounts, mainly through Facebook, and Twitter. We would primarily focus on Facebook, because that’s where most of the people in the TSA’s demographic range access social media networking. We would build up the corps Facebook by assigning a staff member to post updates on it three to five times a day. The corps officers would also have administrative access to the Facebook account to post anything they feel would be valuable to reach out to the community. We would post fliers on the wall in the waiting room and in the chapel area, as well as in the gym if we have a gym, to please “like” us on Facebook and “follow” us on Twitter. We would also use limited paid advertising via Facebook so that postings go out to a wider audience in the local community. We would set the goal of garnering at least 2,000 likes on Facebook, and 2,000 followers on Twitter. This would be very helpful to community engagement because social media is increasingly used to stay connected with events in the local community. We would share scripture verses on our Facebook and Twitter accounts as well as pictures of volunteers (who have signed a waiver in regard to a right to publish pictures), pictures of gifts received from local individuals or corporations, as well as invites to our church services and information about upcoming events. The applications for garnering increased exposure in the community are many in regard to social media, and we would look for new ways to innovate and connect with more people in the community via the web as time passed.

Fourthly, and finally, we would spend time developing the advisory board and establish connections with various industries and sub-sectors of the communities’ chamber of commerce, as well as local leaders in education and politics. We will assume for our generic corps in question that the advisory board is not well established. We would begin a campaign as soon as possible to establish connections with local leaders in the community, and meet with them one on one to seek their interest in becoming board members. We would coordinate these efforts with DHQ staff, and look to them for help and guidance in how to connect with those individuals and how to garner their interest. We would seek to target a wide variety of different leaders in different industries. Supposing the chief employer of the community was a local factory, we’d look for leaders in that factory to join the advisory board. We’d look to influential churches in the area as well for leaders that may desire to join us in ministry. We would seek to connect with leaders in the non-profit community, local schools and education, chamber of commerce members, government agencies, and generally seek people who have an interest in serving the local community. We would also look for people with a strong spiritual fervor to reach people for the gospel of Jesus Christ. We seek to make sure we’re participating actively in local service organizations such as rotary club, and Kiwanis, as well as Lion’s Club to make sure we’re meeting local leaders where they are and networking with them in that way. Overall, we’d hopefully spend three to six months actively recruiting new advisory board members, meeting with them one on one, networking with local organizations, and then meeting at the corps to discuss how they will fit into the advisory board and how they can help. The goal would be to gain five new advisory board members. A higher goal might be possible, but we want to guard against casting too wide of a net. Potential advisory board members must be established through intentional relationship, and targeting too many too quickly would weaken that vital aspect of advisory board building. If all goes well, the five new advisory board members would become an integral part of the corps’ connection with the community. This will help establish more long-term connections in the community, that will stand the test of time, and also help garner greater monetary donations.

In conclusion, increasing a corps’ presence in the community is no easy task. It should be approached from multiple angles to connect with the various divergent aspects of a society, from education to church to non-profits and the business sector. We would need to guard against becoming spread too thin however, and each of these elements should be done separately over a 12 month to three-year time span, to ensure each element is built up successively, and not short-changed or under-utilized. It is not realistic to assume all of these attempts would be completely successful in the wide range of communities across the United States. However, if even one or two of these approaches garner reasonable successes, the corps’ community relations ought to see drastic improvements, given time and prayer.



References
Center, L. (2019, March 05). 50 Ways to Take Church to the Community. Retrieved March 6, 2019, from https://www.churchleadership.com/50-ways/50-ways-to-take-church-to-the-community/
Council, F. N. (2017, October 17). Nine Ways Nonprofits Can Increase Community Engagement. Retrieved March 6, 2019, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesnonprofitcouncil/2017/10/17/nine-ways-nonprofits-can-increase-community-engagement/#1a816b57799d
Lamb, J., Lamb, J. L., & Grace Fellowship Church. (2017, November 02). Evangelism – Where Do I Begin? Retrieved March 5, 2019, from https://www.dare2share.org/article/evangelism-where-do-i-begin/
Winning, L. (2017, November 16). Make The Ask: How To Build An Advisory Board. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/lisawinning/2017/11/08/make-the-ask-how-to-build-an-advisory-board/#688c390a357b

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

1st John: God as Light, Holiness, and Love


We’re going to be looking at the themes of 1st John, and we’ll see various themes woven throughout the five chapters of first John. The chief theme that we’ll consider throughout 1st John is the theme of the love of God (1 John 1:3, 2:1, 5:13 NIV). We’ll also consider the themes of God’s light and the darkness, as well as freedom from sin and holy living.

First of all, we consider the theme of “God is light.” John himself encountered and witnessed Christ. It says that John walked and talked with Him. John heard it himself when Jesus said, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12 NIV). He knew of God as one who was light, and there was no darkness in Him. In fact, John wrote in his gospel account: “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God” (John 3:19-21 NIV). In other words, those who desire to distinguish themselves as Christians should recognize that God is light, and they need to walk in the light. And it doesn’t say that they walk in the light showing they’ve lived perfectly, instead it says they walk in the light to show that they’re willing to be honest about their deeds and life before God. They walk in the light. To me 1st John 1:5-7 expounds on this truth, making it more clear how it works, when one walks in the light. 1 John 1:5-7 says, “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” So if we walk in the darkness, it’s like saying we don’t sin (v.8-10) and make God out to be a liar, but if we walk in the light and do sin, which does happen, we can confess those sins before God, in the light, and repent, and God’s light purifies us from all sin. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915) puts it quite well when it says, “The first fact upon which the light of God impinges in human life is sin; and the first test of walking in the light is the recognition and confession of this fact. Such confession is the first step into fellowship with God, because it brings us under the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus...”

This theme of light and darkness was very much a present part of my life as an early Christian. I walked in the light sometimes, and I walked in the dark sometimes. I sinned a lot as an early Christian. Many times the Holy Spirit was grieved within me and I could tell it. The Spirit led me many times to go on my knees before God and ask for forgiveness with tears in my eyes for the things I’d done. I engaged in lust and sinned in many ways, walking in the darkness. But I always came back into the light and asked for God’s forgiveness. God had become the ‘light of the world’ in my life, but I kept sneaking back into the darkness and sinning whenever I could. I wanted to fulfill the desires of my flesh. In fact, I was at a Christian concert once, and a charismatic woman turned to me during the service and said, “Justin, I saw a vision in which you were standing halfway in the light and halfway in the darkness, and you came all the way into the light of God. I don’t know if that means anything to you.” And it certainly did at the time. I’ve always remembered what she said. I was slowly learning in my early Christian life that I needed to walk in God’s light, confessing sin, and repenting, instead of walking in darkness.

Second we consider the theme of freedom from sin and holy living. 1st John 2:3 (NIV) says, “We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands.” To know God through Christ is to keep the commands of God, and John continues by saying that we show our love for Jesus by living as Jesus lived in the world. 1st John 2:29 (NIV) says, “If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.” It is evidenced by our freedom from sin and our right living that shows that we as believers are born of God, meaning that we are true Christians, and truly born again believers. 1st John 3:4-6 (NIV) says, “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.” Once again we see a necessity for freedom from sin in our lives. The idea of continuing in sin seems to be on a long term basis, indicating that in the long run, those who continue in sin are showing they never really knew God, but those who live holy lives are showing they belong to God.

In my own life I’ve seen God strip away sin after sin from my life. And it all begin with God removing my addictions to alcohol, prescription pills, and illegal drugs. A year later, he removed cigarettes, a bit later he removed several forms of lust and sexual immorality. He has continued to slowly remove evil from my life, including things like gossip, more forms of lust, divisive attitudes, ungodly passions, lying, stealing, and many other sinful desires of the flesh. One of the most difficult sins to break free from was jumping into relationships that I knew God wasn’t wanting me to be in. But for all these things it’s been a progressive journey. It hasn’t often happened all at once. And that’s the context that these scriptures from John have to be taken. We as humans think in days, weeks, and months. God’s view is from the perspective of years, decades, centuries, and further. Sanctification is a slow process of growth out of sin. But if we aren’t conforming to God, and cooperating with the Spirit in freedom from sin, we’re showing that we don’t really belong to God at all.

Thirdly, we consider the love of God. One could say that the chief theme of 1st John is the love of God. 1st John is where we see the phrase, “God is love.” John as a writer focused on the love of God so much in his writings that the gospel of John is sometimes referred to as “the love gospel.” 1st John 4:7-8 (NIV) says, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” We see that the source of love is God, and He is the one who provides for the ability of Christians to love one another. If a Christian is loving toward his neighbors, he has shown he has been born of God. If someone is not loving, they don’t know God, because God is literally described as the word “love.” God showed his love for his people by sending his only son Jesus as an atoning sacrifice for sin (1 John 4:9-10). According to the Reformation Study Bible (2015), “By giving us His Son, the Father introduced us to the perfect love and eternal life that the Father and the Son have always enjoyed.” This means that we as Christians have been granted access to the love of God found in the fellowship of the trinity, as the body of Christ and co-heirs with Christ, awaiting the hope of eternal life. Truly in Christ we have received great riches of love and eternal glory. Indeed, there are endless references to the love of God and love for neighbor in the epistle of 1st John including 1 John 2:5, 2:15, 3:1, 3:10-11, 3:14-18, 3:23, 4:16-21, and 5:2-3. The love of God is a chief motivator for all we do as Christians, and should be reflected back to God as love for Him, and reflected toward our neighbors as love for all people.

The love of God has been a constant in my Christian walk since I first got saved. The love of God and the power of the gospel of grace are what drew me to become a Christian. I was attending a small Baptist church that met in a junior high school auditorium in 2012. And I was taught a great deal about the love of God, and how much God wants us to come to Jesus Christ for salvation. So very simply I listened, and one service I received the gospel and the Holy Spirit. I gave my testimony and was baptized later. I wrestled with sins in my life and slowly learned how to love God and love my neighbor. Love was a difficult thing for me to learn. I’m not prone to be particularly loving. Actually, I can quite often be rather cold, distant, and disconnected from those around me. I can tend to have a rather negative outlook, and I tend toward seclusion much of the time. But I’ve slowly been learning over the past few years to slow down, and be vulnerable enough to love people. It’s been difficult and awkward, and often times when I pray I have to simply ask God to teach me how to love Him and love people. Sometimes I wonder if I even love God much or love others that much either! But slowly and surely I’ve seen love begin to develop in my heart and life. It’s not a particularly strong or deep love, but it’s growing. And I consistently ask God to give me a heart of holy love that pours out to others. Love is not as easy as it seems, it’s actually quite difficult. But I can safely say that I’m learning to love my family, my neighbors, my colleagues, and even my enemies. God is doing this entirely of himself. I simply invite him to soften my heart, and make me able to love. When I was in the world I accumulated a great deal of brokenness from my lifestyle of sexual immorality and drug/alcohol addiction. My heart grew harder and harder, and the broken wreckage in my soul got worse and worse. My heart seemed impassible by the currents and streams of love. I didn’t even love my own family or friends. Only burnt ashes seemed to remain where my heart once was. But God has slowly given me a new soft heart of love. Sometimes I feel like I can’t love very well. But then I realize I do have a new heart of love, and the love of God pours out threw it toward others, when I least expect it.

1st John reflects a great overarching theme of God’s light as the light in which Christians walk; in holy living and growing freedom from sin, always experiencing the love of God, which pours out from us back toward God, and toward our neighbors, as we trudge the road of glory, awaiting the hope of our inheritance in eternal life. This great theme is reflected in my life through my own journey in breaking free from sins in the Spirit, learning to love holiness in The Salvation Army, and being taught by God to love Him and love others with all my heart, which is a new heart of Holy love.

References
Intro to 1 John. (2016, October 24). Retrieved March 1, 2019, from https://www.biblica.com/resources/scholar-notes/niv-study-bible/intro-to-1-john/
Law, R., & Orr, J. (1915). The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Chicago, IL: Chicago: Howard-Severance.
Sproul, R. C., & Mathison, K. A. (2015). The Reformation Study Bible. Orlando, FL: Ligonier Ministries.
Swindoll, C. (n.d.). First John. Retrieved March 1, 2019, from https://www.insight.org/resources/bible/the-general-epistles/first-john
Walton, John H., & Keener, Craig S. (2016). Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible. Harpercollins Christian Pub.


Friday, March 15, 2019

The Narrow Way of Jesus Christ: Leaving Churchianity for the Radical Way of Holiness


Is it possible that we’ve missed the fullness of the narrow way of Christ in our modern day ‘nominal’ Christianity? Could we have missed the standard and not even realized it? Many of us belong to churches that we find ourselves fitting well into, movements and practices that encompass perhaps an hour church service, and maybe a Bible study once a week, or a small group, and perhaps a bit of prayer. 


We go through the motions, and we do express worship, we listen intently to the sermon, but often times we have this nagging feeling deep in our hearts, that tells us something is wrong, something is off, despite all the puffy phrases from the pastor saying things like, “God loves you unconditionally” and “There is no way you can ever get away from his love.” And “Jesus loves you just the way you are.” And so on and so forth. Despite all of that, we sometimes sit and tremble, wondering and worrying that perhaps we have terribly fallen short of the radical new testament standard of total devotion to Christ. Have you ever felt that way?

In my own analysis, I’ve done several things in response to this feeling. First, I remind myself of the preachers soft words about how easy and free the Christian life is. Freedom in Christ, freedom, grace through faith, and I squash those lingering concerns in my mind as simple attacks by the enemy, attempting to try to make me “earn my salvation” or “trying to fill me with guilt and weigh me down in my past sins.” Or such pithy sayings. I squash the guilt and concern I have, because I cannot stand it. And it doesn’t fit with the message from the pulpit and the youth leaders, and most everyone in my church who does exactly the same thing.

But if I’m to be honest with myself, those attempts to quash the feeling of concern and dread I have seldom seem to suffice. The words seem empty, though true they may be, I look at them and say yes, these things are true, they are part of the scriptures, but there is much more in the scriptures that seems to be left out because it seems a trifle hard. There is something missing though, something missing from my Christian walk. I want more of God. I want more of the Christian way. I want to go deeper. Indeed, I despise the surfacy gospel, and I must go deeper. I must have more of it. I want it to truly transform me. I want all of God, all of Christ, and all of His Spirit.

Then there is the second option that I sometimes consider, and of a recent time, have begun to pursue, at first with a half-hearted measure, but now more and more seriously, and fully, with a fuller heart, though I would be lying if I said that I have given it my whole heart and mind and muchness to the expedition.

And it does appear to be quite an expedition. An expedition into a bright, shining forest of wonder, yet also inlayen with darkness, danger, and certain extreme difficulties. This way seems to me to be the road of humble holiness, the path of meek sanctification and the road to everlasting glory.

It is the terrifying and shocking realization that much of modern Christianity is so temporal and focused on this world and it’s concerns that we have largely missed the gospel’s radical narrow way of set-apartness and total life transformation, total allegiance and all out devotion to Christ.

Could it be my friends that we live in such an all-encompassing bubble of sleepy Christianity, of worldly Christianity that we don’t realize that we’ve become stuck on the journey of faith? We as pilgrim’s on our progress through this life were journeying through a dark and uncertain place, along a path long trodden by tens of millions throughout history, but could it be that while we were on that journey, we stopped at a village of cultural religion, a counterfeit half-measure of the true way, and gave up our journey to sit in the wells of a double-minded faith that triggers small delights of joy and peace, while missing the fullness of the Christian message? I think it could very well be so. And though I often look up to the preacher on the platform, preaching of grace, grace, and more grace, hyper grace, and no concern for sin or holiness, I am distracted, and I soon begin to stare out the window of the chapel, toward that opening in the woods that leads down the dangerous, difficult, radical path of holiness and intense intimacy with God our creator!

Now, having found this path, and desired to walk along it, though only a few of the thousands of church attenders will join me, now find myself having trodden for two years nearly down that jungle path, and I will now tell you a bit about it, and I will certainly urge you to break ranks and join me on this rugged road to true holy, Spirit filled, radical, intimate Christianity with a real, living Jesus Christ.

I had become increasingly centered on orthodoxy, or what one might call the doctrinal truths of the faith.  I found myself examining the scriptures extensively and also concerning myself with the various apologetics that circle around the scriptures, in areas like the sciences, histories, and philosophies that show evidence for the faith.  This is a good thing to do, and a great blessing to my walk.

But I believe I was lacking in the orthopathy, the practice of the deep emotional and relational aspect of the faith.  I was not fully allowing the supernatural nature of the scriptures and the living God to transform my interaction with reality.  Oh what a blessing it has been and continues to be! These may not be accurately relayed as orthopathy, but something else probably, a willingness to interact with the supernatural aspects of the Christian faith.

Why was this difficult?  Because at once it became increasingly dangerous to a person of orthodoxy.  What does one so focused on doctirnal truth and apologetics do with things like dreams, visions, hours in prayer, fasting, or even miraculous healings, and prophetic words, and deeper spiritual disciplines!  They can at first appear risky or concerning to one centered on doctrinal truth.  

And at times for good reason, as these concerns of the faith are often open to abuse, because they leave the door open for charletons to peddle their wears, or spooky spiritualist types to play their games and garner attention for themselves.  

Then again, if I were to say I were so focused on doctrinal truth in it's entirety, and then neglect the portions of scripture that clearly detail these aspects of the faith simply because they appear dangerous, I would be a hypocrite speaking out of both sides of my mouth.  

But it was God who called me toward this deeper experience of my faith, to a more radical, one might say 'whacky' Spirit filled experience of my faith.  And that need not impede on doctrinal/scriptural truth at all.  The scriptures leave ample room for it.  They truly, truly do.  Though sometimes we say that, and then quietly avoid those topics no matter the cost.  I refuse to do that, and I'm glad I did refuse.

Because to experience God in orthpathy, in emotional connection, in prayer, in fasting, in longer prayer, in longer fasting, in spiritual disciplines, in believing for miracles, and stepping into risky proclamation and spiritual warfare one finds beautiful extensions of the faith.  

I find a greater connection to God.  Not because I've found some special knowledge or hidden way, but simply because God has revealed Himself more and more.  He does it for all us.  Sometimes we refuse to make the time though, and our walk is hindered. We must carve out time, large, large swaths of time.  

In this day and age we condemn those who attempt certain set times of the day for prayer, and mouth platitudes about ones whole life needing to be prayerful, but then we neglect prayer entirely, but feel quite superior, and self-righteous having rebuked that 'legalistic spirit' of 'scheduled prayer.'  Sadly, with a few words we've removed prayer.  We pray for 30 seconds, or 10 minutes, when we should be in prayer for hours.  That phrase will upset some, but I don't care.  I'm tired of the platitudes and excuses about 'legalism' that cause us to neglect prayer and feel self-righteous about it.  We've learned to neglect prayer, fasting, the study of scripture, spiritual disciplines, and a true living daily relationship with God, and it shows.  It really really shows.  And when someone dare encourages us to set a pattern, to live out a method in our lives, we call them a legalist.  How sad, how sad indeed. 

I think it was desire in me to live out what I saw happening in other parts of the world.  I heard reports of the power of the Spirit moving in Iraq, in the middle east, and greatly across much of Africa, and of course China.  These believers are on fire, they are Spirit filled, and they spread the gospels.  Their worship is alive, passionate, and filled with power.  They have learned to expect miraculous occurrences, and then they see them happen!  They've learned to discipline themselves, fasting for weeks, praying for days on end, and when someone here in the west suggests we pray for an entire hour, they are hounded out of the room as a 'legalist."  We in the west, and our expression of religion has become in some ways quite drab.  Our dedication is minimal.  We run about greatly, but we get very little done.  Maybe it's because we've neglected these things.

So I decided, over much time of praying about this, and seeing these things happening on other continents, and I decided I wanted to partake in this.  I want to try to do what they do, to really connect with God on a deeper level.  I decided I wanted to try to be as sold out for Christ as they are.Sofar I've just begun to scratch the surface.  But I hope you'll join me on this journey and come out of churchianity and into the true, total, transformational way of radical dedication to Christ in all of life's times and in all fullness of Spiritual power.  


Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Repair the Temple of God: It's Time to Be Set Apart as Holy


Since the early beginnings of the church, in the book of Acts, the apostles had to deal with false teachers. They had to deal with persecution. They had to deal with Gnosticism and the gnostic gospel forgeries. They had to deal with the bishops of Rome and later the corruption of the papacy. And today we face our own struggles as the church.

Today we deal with leaders in the church of God, who don’t really love or trust the word of God. They prefer to alter the word, to reshape the word, based on their own ideology, and worldview. We face various theological struggles in our day and age, that threaten to divide and destroy the church. More and more we face celebrity pastors who we listened to and respected, now being uncovered as abusive, or sexually immoral. On TV we see prosperity teachers gathering money from unsuspecting victims. And what a terrible witness this is to the world, of the gospel of Christ.

And I sense that God is generating a separation within the churches, between those who truly love the Lord and His word, and those who are just playing church, those who are living in perpetual sin, and those who are teaching falsehood as truth. Over the past six months, as I’ve prayed and studied the scriptures, God keeps bringing me to scriptures that say this: Rebuild the temple. Repair my temple. Build up the temple of God. And I couldn’t figure out what God meant by that. 


So I had to ask myself, what is the temple of God, in the new testament? We are the temple of God. And Jesus Christ means to return to Earth, to claim his people and establish his kingdom on this very Earth. But are we really ready for Him to return? Are we really prepared? 

The temple of God, the body of Christ, is in need of growth in holiness. We need to set ourselves apart for the Lord, and stop living with one foot in sin and one foot in God’s kingdom. It’s time to fully commit ourselves to God, to be totally sold out. No more sin, no more selfishness and self-seeking. 

Is there a sin in your life right now that needs to be removed by the Spirit of God?  God will certainly remove this sin, this defect, this addiction if you cry out to Him day and night for freedom from it.  Many sins are common in the church, especially issues like gossip (speaking evil of others in a spirit of cruelty), back-biting (striking back at someone verbally/physically), dissensions (waging a manipulative sort of quiet war of dissension against someone else, or a leader or a pastor or coworker), lust (entertaining fantasizing in the mind about someone), gluttony (consistently over-eating in a way which dishonors God), various addictions (drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, social media, pornography, television, etc), unforgiveness (refusing to forgive completely those who have hurt us), and many other sins of the flesh.  If you struggle with sin as a Christian please realize that God will help you and set you free.  Please also realize that action may be necessary, like meeting with your pastor or a Christian counselor, or attending a group like Celebrate Recovery.  

God has called us to be holy and pure in His sight.  If we do not live in holiness, we will not inherit eternal life. It’s time to be truly holy before God. It’s time to go all the way. Isn’t that what we all long for? 

We long for a time of great revival, a time of great awakening, a time when God does mighty deeds in his church. Do you know what the key to this is? A truly set apart church, a truly holy church, that practices holiness within, and holiness toward the world. It doesn’t start with others, or with some organization, or some set of ideas, it starts with you, and me, deciding that we’re going to take God’s teachings seriously. To truly live for Him, no more half in and half out.

No more 90% to God and 10% for me. 100% all in for God. Total love for God. Total trust in His word. Total surrender to His will. Nothing less will do. Is this possible? Many think it isn’t. But I know it’s more than possible. It’s inevitable, because His Spirit lives in us. Maybe we so much don’t think that it’s impossible, it’s that we realize there will be a cost, which is the death of self. So we really don’t think it’s impossible, we just quietly don’t want to pay the price, of losing ourselves completely in Christ. But imagine what can happen when we do that. Imagine what you will do for Christ when your all in for Him.

This is your destiny my friends. This is what you were meant for, from birth. Your destiny, the very meaning of life is that you would come to know God through Jesus Christ His son, to live for Him, to lose yourself in Him, and thus find yourself forever. Your future, if you give it all up for God, is in the new heavens, and new earth, in the new city of God. Paradise. And that isn’t the end of the journey, that is just the beginning.

Let it cut deep, accept the Spirit’s leading. God is separating us, setting us apart, God is calling us as Moses called his people and his leaders, “Come to me if you stand with the Lord.” Come to Him. Lose yourself completely in Him. Yes, we’ve all sinned. Many of us as Christians have continued to live in quiet, hidden sin. Now it’s time to return to Him. Now it’s time to be set apart. Now it’s time to lose ourselves in His holy love for us. Stand with God. Because we know that the sheep and the goats will be separated. Be one of the obedient sheep, who follows Jesus completely, whole heartedly, sincerely.

I'd like to ask for you who are reading to pray.  Please pray.  Pray hard and pray often.  Don't just pray for five minutes, or twenty minutes.  Pray for an hour.  Pray for two hours.  Pray for eight hours.  Fast and pray all day.  Pray for days, pray for weeks, pray for 40 days.  


Prayers:
1. We’re going to pray for God to make the Salvation Army a holy army of love. 

2. We’re going to pray that God would make each of us holy set apart to Him. 

3. We’re going to pray for the church across America, that the church overall would repent, turn to God, and learn to live in holiness.

4. We’re praying for God to set us apart, just as he set apart the Israelites, just like he set apart the twelve disciples, just like he set apart the Apostle Paul, and just like he calls all his saints to be set apart in these last days. 



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  3. Why Do I Exist? A Quick Look at the Human Life
  4. What is the equation that shows us how to inherit Eternal Life?
  5. How to Repent of all Sins in your Christian Life
  6. Should I Tithe 10% to my Church?
  7. God will Uphold His Army: Standing on the Truths of God's Word
  8. God's Fingerprint on Reality: Emotions of Life
  9. To Those Who Overcome: How to Be Free from all Sin
  10. How to Serve as a Leader in Christian Ministry

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