Thursday, December 30, 2021

The Salvation Army hasn't gone woke, but it faces that Danger

These views 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.

It seems like every church movement within the United States is facing internal struggles between biblical Christianity and worldly ideologies.  Some denominational battle grounds have included movements like Roman Catholicism, Methodism, the SBC, the Gospel Coalition, the UCC, the UMC, the ELCA, the church of the Nazarene, and of course The Salvation Army, to name a few. Many of the most biblically solid, evangelical movements have faced severe internal battles on the most basic Christian doctrines. 

Today we focus in on The Salvation Army, the movement of which I am a part. Recently the Salvation Army faced an onslaught by conservative media in regard to wokeness, exposed in The Salvation Army's controversial guide "Let's talk about Racism."  In the midst of the most important time of year, Christmas, during kettle season, the fundraising time of The Salvation Army, news stories by the dozens dropped from publications like The Daily Wire, The Washington Times, the Wallstreet Journal, and Fox News. 

The Salvation Army national commander issued several statements denying the allegation of wokeness having influence in The Salvation Army. And indicated The Salvation Army is and always has been politically neutral. That is of course how it should be. 

But I've seen the reality, and it's a bit more complicated. Has The Salvation Army "gone woke" as they say? The answer to that question is no. The doctrines of The Salvation Army are quite biblical. The position statements are generally valid. The vast majority of local officers and leaders hold biblical beliefs. But, have the seeds of "wokeness" been laid in The Salvation Army? The answer is yes. And if good men and women don't stand up against these ideologies, they will gain influence and eventually begin to dominate the church. 

That's how it goes with bad theology and bad ideas. They begin to make in roads, slowly but surely, and leaders in key positions, not wanting to risk their career advancements, refuse to confront these issues directly.  Those in roads become highways over time, materials begin being decimated, like the "Let's talk about Racism" guide in The Salvation Army, targeted internally to officers and soldiers, and soon more and more embrace those beliefs. Eventually, those beliefs become common place, they are written into the key doctrines and position statements of the organization, and the next generation coming up applies them to daily practice. 

So slowly, but surely over time an organization morphs from a biblical Christian movement, to a secular social justice movement, politically motivated, ideological radical, and completely departed from it's base beliefs.  We've seen those sort of transformations in their advanced stages in movements like the UMC, which is splitting fifty-fifty between woke LGBTQ churches and biblical churches. We see the UCC well down that road, the same with the ELCA. And now even the most conservative fundamentalist denominations like the SBC or the church of the Nazarene display increasingly weak knees and distortions in doctrine. 

So has The Salvation Army gone woke? No. But, we see many of the signs and seeds of such transformation taking place. We see equity and inclusion positions. We see special councils. We see "recommended reading lists" replete with ideological content. We see the language of critical race theory appearing more and more. We see conferences and events with activist teachers and professors. We see social justice departments and facilities and groups promoting increasingly politically left-leaning causes. We see voices of dissent quietly silenced. We see Facebook mobs attacking those who might disagree. And it is a dangerous situation. 

Is racism a legitimate concern that we face as the church? Of course. Should we fight against racism? Absolutely, on an individual basis as it appears. But the ideology of wokeness, of critical race theory makes many errors in regard to fighting racism. Briefly, it views the west, the USA as fundamentally racist, and in need of being torn down, because it's structures are built on racism itself. It regards all white people as inherently racist, and views any other cultural/ethnic group as incapable of racism, because racism is viewed as tied to power. It views ones skin color as the most fundamental definer of who you are. None of these viewpoints are particularly biblical, or necessarily factual based on statistics of our society. Indeed, viewing CRT, one's conclusion is that this ideology would almost certainly lead to greater divisions and more racism, not less. There's much more, but we don't have time here to get into it here. Dr. Neil Shenvi has done a great deal of research on CRT, I would recommend his works, as well as Voddie Baucham, and Prof Frank Turek. Here is a playlist to view to get started, click here.  

What we really need though, as a movement, in The Salvation Army, is a biblical alternative to CRT to fight racism in a biblical way. It won't do to simply sweep out CRT and replace it with nothing. We need a biblical Christian model to make use of and implement. 

But in conclusion today, The Salvation Army would be wise to deal directly with these ideological threats, and make sure that the promise to remain apolitical and without ideology be upheld firmly. It's encouraging that the "Let's talk about Racism" created by the ISJC was pulled for review. It's encouraging that we've stated firmly from national that we don't view all whites as racist. And let's be real, conservative media did run exceedingly misleading headlines, that TSA was demanding it's "white donors apologize for being racist." Simply false, and sad, that conservative media would distort and lie in a similar manner to left-leaning news. The hope of new media was to speak the truth, not distort. But we shouldn't lose sight of the reality that wokeness, CRT, and these ideologies do pose a legitimate threat. 

We had a chance early on to repent and turn from this path. But few were listening or paying attention.  Unfortunately it took a firestorm in the midst of kettle season from news media to get our attention. We'd best take careful notice, and decisive action to right our course before we become the architects of our own demise. 

Opinion: The Church Failed in a Time of Crisis


I've had a rotten feeling in my gut since the beginning of this COVID-19 crisis. But I've been afraid to say it out loud. I've been afraid of criticism and hostility. But I'm just going to say it. I'm going to tell you what I really think. We let the government shut down our churches, based on projections. And meanwhile department stores, Wal Marts, liquor stores, abortion mills, and so many other businesses remained open. In a time of crisis, instead of standing firm, we cowered behind the skirt of government, putting our faith not in God, but in the cult of 'the experts.' We trusted in experts, numbers, and government, and now only after do we realize that the numbers were terribly inflated. 
Two million projected deaths, became seventy thousand. A supposed 5% death rate became a reality of 0.2%.   

We let the news media influence us more than God's word. We let them stir us into an all out panic. And it turns out the risk was actually no greater than a severe flu season. 

We failed, as the church. I failed. And I can only hope and pray that God will have mercy on us, as the ministers of our time, for so easily being led to shut our doors, and run about with hands raised in terror, over a largely manufactured crisis. If this was a test of our leadership, as pastors, oh, how we terribly failed.

We put our faith in experts, in scientism, in the projections of secular organizations. These are the same experts who tell us every five to ten years that the world is going to end because of global warming, global cooling, and/or climate change. These are the same experts that tell us unborn babies aren't really people. These are the same experts that extol the virtues of socialism. These are the same experts who tell us marriage must be redefined. These are the same experts who always have some new scenario as to why we need them.

It's not wrong to look for wisdom and guidance from those who have expertise in areas like medicine, technology, science, and psychology. But when we allow them to take over, and set policy outside their areas of expertise, we invite problems. We must look for wisdom and knowledge from those of the world. And in many cases they have great knowledge to share, and excellent ideas to set across. Of course we always test their ideas against the scriptures, our Christian worldview.

I could be wrong. I really do hope I'm wrong about this. But I sense that we've failed a great test. We've scrambled, and shut down, and embraced the experts and their ideas, when we should've been the church in a time of a crisis, standing firm, taking precautions, but standing firm. And I hope God can forgive me, for letting this happen in such a time as this.

In the wake of COVID-19 we see that church attendance has dropped something like 30%-50% in the country. Some of this could be related to people's fears of COVID exposure, however, we don't see grocery stores or restaurants empty anymore. No, just churches. If this isn't evidence that we failed, I don't know what is. 

We've failed our people. We've shown ourselves to be cowards, scrambling in fear, slamming the doors with a bang at the first sign of a problem. We've allowed the world to so completely influence us that we lost sight of our God, our Word, and our courage. How very sad. We ought all to search our hearts, and search for God in this failure, and repent before Him in ashes and tears.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

The Window of Witness: Simeon & Anna, Do you wait well?

Have you ever been a witness to something you knew was important? Have you seen something maybe you weren't supposed to see? Something bad? Uh oh, I better call the police. Or, have you witnessed something beautiful? A "God moment" you might say? Yes, God is in this. 

But better yet, have you been a participant? Did you witness it because you were part of it? Now that's something special. Or something terrible, depending on the situation. 

We know there were several witnesses to the birth of Jesus. So we know a fair amount about it. 

We know a lot about his birth, and the shepherds, the wise men, and so on and so forth. But today we’re talking about a week after Jesus’ birth, when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple. Essentially Mary and Joseph were going about a tradition Jewish practice of presenting their first born son to the Lord. They arrive there with the baby Jesus, and they encounter two people who would be forever changed and encouraged by Jesus. 

There were two people that saw the baby Jesus in the temple, on the day he was set apart for service to God. Their names were Simeon and Anna. It says the Holy Spirit was upon Simeon, and the spirit brought him to the temple that day for the purpose of encountering Jesus. You ever go somewhere and know within that it’s a divine appointment? I’ve had that a lot in the past few years. I felt the Spirit drawing me to Chicago, to the training college. But I had to wait patiently on God.

It says in Luke chapter 2, “25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout, waiting for God to comfort Israel, and the holy spirit was upon him. 26 He had been told by the holy spirit that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Led by the spirit, he came into the Temple. As Jesus’ parents brought him in, to do for him what the law’s regulations required, 28 he took the baby in his arms”

Simeon had waited his entire life. It says he lived a righteous and devout life. Is that easy? No it’s not. Now he was an old man. But the Holy Spirit had revealed to Simeon that before he died, he would see the savior. And when Simeon saw Jesus, he took Jesus in his arms and proclaimed: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”

Glory for Israel, and a light to the whole Earth. Simeon waited for hope, waited for change, and now he finally saw it.

Jesus would be the savior of Israel, yes, but he would also be the savior for the whole world. Even us, today.

Have you been waiting for a long time? Many of us are waiting. And one day the waiting ends, and we receive what we’d hoped for. The same happened for Simeon. Who knows how long he’d been waiting? But one day, the day came, at the temple, at church, when the day came when he saw his salvation come. The answer is out there. Wait patiently.

Next, there is a woman who is described as very old, her name is Anna. It says that she got married at the traditional time, which would’ve been between the ages of 12 and 16 in Jewish culture, and that seven years later her husband died, and she had been a widow since then, to now the age of 84. It says she constantly fasted and prayed. She was a godly woman. She wasn’t waiting in sin, she was waiting in godliness, praying and fasting regularly. It says “she never left the temple, but worshiped God night and day.” Amazing. She had lost her husband at a very young age. She had waited all her life. But she didn’t wait in bitterness or regret. She waited in daily worship.

It says, “Luke 2: 36 There was also a prophetess called Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having been widowed after a seven-year marriage, and was now eighty-four. She never left the Temple, but worshipped with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 She came up at that moment and gave thanks to God, and spoke about Jesus to everyone who was waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.”

If you are waiting today, in what form are you waiting? Bitterness and resentment? Or in praying and fasting, and praising God, and living a godly life? This is tough, I know, it’s tough to not get discouraged.

But it’s part of our training as Christians, and it’s like the Israelites, as they walked with Moses in the wilderness. They grumbled and complained and rebelled against God in their waiting. What will we do in our waiting? One day the waiting will end. That’s if we remain faithful. But if we rebel against God and go our own way, then that day may never come.

But for Anna, like Simeon, Finally, the day came, and it says Anna came up to Joseph and Mary, and she gave thanks to God. And it says she started speaking to everyone around who was waiting for the redemption of Israel. She was a prophet after all, anyone know a lady like that? I’ve met a few. And they gotta tell everybody!

So God had come into human history. Even at only one week old, Simeon and Anna were blessed to recognize that Jesus was the promised savior. They waited faithfully, and God showed himself to them.

God hadn’t come as most might’ve expected at the time. He came humbly, quietly, as if he were a secret agent, smuggled into his own kingdom. There were attempts on his life, even as a baby. He was nearly murdered by the purge ordered by Herod. Yet God’s plan could not be thwarted by the will of men.

No massive armies of thousands marched with Jesus, but instead a Holy Spirit was upon Jesus, conquering quietly through his words and deeds. Jesus through the word of God began a conquest of human hearts and souls that would spread itself across the whole world, today proclaimed in every nation on the Earth, in thousands of different languages, and it all began with God coming into human history, born as a baby, to young parents, in the deserts of the middle east. God always tends to surprise us with how he does things.

So in conclusion, Jesus came as a baby two thousand years ago. He did his work, and completed it. Then he ascended to heaven. Today we know that Jesus Christ is coming back one day soon, to set up his kingdom on Earth. And many of us may be expecting for our savior to come again as a meek and mild servant, but the book of Revelation tells us that Jesus Christ will come in great glory, and every eye will see Him. And he will judge all the nations, and smash them to pieces like pottery, as he sets up his new kingdom. This is why we must be ready, waiting patiently, day in and day out, year by year, faithfully serving God, forgiving others, and loving our neighbors. We are in this for the long haul, all the way to death and eternal life.

Just like Simeon and Anna waited for the birth of their savior Jesus, we also wait patiently for the return of Jesus to Earth. Is that just a pipe dream? No. It’s not. It’s real. It’s true. Jesus Christ is alive, and He will return. It says in Revelation chapter 19: 11-16: “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the wine-press of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: king of kings and lord of lords.”

Jesus came as a baby.

Jesus lived a perfect, holy life.

Jesus was crucified as a substitution, as payment for our own sins.

Jesus resurrected from the dead after three days.

Jesus showed himself to be alive to many witnesses.

Jesus ascended to heaven promising to return.

And Jesus will return in power and glory, to reign over the whole Earth, and judge the nations.

Therefore, let us be ready. Let us wait patiently, just as Simeon and Anna did, their whole lives. We will see God face to face one day, just as they did in the temple. Bet your life on it.

Let it be said of us, that we ran the race, and finished it. Let it be said to each of us one day: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Satan's Rebellion or Obeying God's Design: Joseph obeyed God, What is your Choice?


Today we gaze through the window of obedience. And we see the historical Christmas saga in how it plays out for an average everyday human named Joseph. Joseph is a bit of a mystery to us. We get a few mentions of him in scripture. We know he’s a carpenter. We know he lived in Nazareth. We know he was engaged to be wed to Mary. We know he planned to divorce her. And we know that he fell asleep and had a vision of an angel who told him he should marry her, because the child within her was from God.

Does all this seem wild and strange to you? I know it does for me. It’s just odd, the entire historical account. But I know I believe every word of it. It’s interesting, I can’t quite explain it. But I do understand why it’s difficult for some people to comprehend.

I understand why it's hard to believe in Jesus. It's actually outside our common thinking processes as humans. At least it appears that way at first. It's mystical, esoteric, and it "feels" foreign to our thinking. That's by design actually, if you were taught in the public schools, a very secular mindset is programmed into you, developed by people like John Dewey. If religiously based philosophical ideas seem foreign to your mindset, yes, it's by design.

But then again, there's something else at work in religious thought.

This may seem very odd to you, but stay with me, within Christianity, God has placed a catch to displace the arrogant, the self-righteous, and those enamored by their own genius. The Bible calls it a stumbling block. Check this out: It's actually designed to appear fantastical.

I kid you not. It's intentionally playing out in strange and mysterious ways to trip up people who are arrogant and prone to sneer.

Why exactly is this stumbling block set up? I'm not entirely sure. Perhaps to prevent false converts? I can only speculate.

But it's written out like this, in 1st Corinthians, and it helps us to understand why the Christmas saga seems so strange.

"Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. 28 God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. 29 As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God." -1st Corinthians 1:27-29 NLT

That makes it difficult. And it's apparently supposed to be difficult. One could call it a miracle even. And that’s indeed what happened that night two thousand years ago in the middle-east, in a small city called Bethlehem. A miraculous event took place, something that broke the laws of nature temporarily.

I often wonder to myself, why do so many refuse to follow Jesus? Why are so many so determined to live in hell?

But this question, the source of it, it goes to the nature of reality, the universe, and everything.

We are all always answering a question, and making a choice every single day, to either align ourselves with God's master design or to rebel. And to rebel is insanity. There is no escape from God. There is no victory over his power. There is nowhere to go. It's madness. The other choice is of course to obey God. To change, and live by God’s ways. It’s our topic today, it’s called “obedience.” No one likes that word, do they? No, they don’t.

But it goes to the issue of freedom, free will. The fundamental issue is free will: What will I choose? What will you choose? Life or death? Obedience or rebellion? The entire construct of our current fallen reality seems set up to pose the question to us over and over. Life or death? Obedience or rebellion? And we make the choice everyday.

Yet we're caught in a state of fallenness, default, as a rebel. And somehow we must turn ourselves to God, and access that power, and experience a rebirth, in which we follow a new way, the way of truth.

And it does end. Our window of opportunity is between birth and death. Most have already made it.

8 billion people, the question before all of us, what choice shall we make?

When we look to the example of Joseph, we see a gentle, impressive, complete obedience. Joseph simply did what God commanded. And that is astonishing. It’s not the normal. It’s the exception to the rule. He married the pregnant woman. He cared for her. He raised Jesus as his own son. And then he disappeared. In the gospels we see mention of Mary, Jesus’ mom throughout the gospels. But no mention of Joseph. Many believe he died somehow during Jesus’ upbringing. Very interesting.

Take a look through the window of obedience. How does your own story compare to the obedience of Joseph? Are you one who is prone to obey God quietly? Or are you more like one who comes kicking and screaming? Or do you quietly disobey God, and hope no one notices? We all make our choice everyday, rebellion or obedience.

What course will you choose? Rebellion? Or obedience? Let’s talk about obeying God, what does it mean?

We’re going to look at 5 ways we can cultivate a mindset of obedience to Christ, in the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God the Father.

1. Living by the leading of the Holy Spirit – In the big things - do you really check every decision you make with God? That is the first challenge I pose to you today. Whenever you have an important decision to make, pray and ask God, Lord, what should I do? What is the right way?

2. Living by the leading of the Holy Spirit – in the little things – Everyday, ask the Lord, in your mind, throughout the day, Lord, what can I do for you today? What should I do next? Where should I go next? And allow the Holy Spirit to impress on you where to go and what to do. It’s very practical what we’re talking about here.

3. Making the hard choices – Often times in life we are faced with two choices, an easy choice and a hard choice. Often times the hard choice is to resist a temptation, resist an indulgence, and the easy thing to do is give in. Learn to get in the habit of making the hard choices. You find a wallet, you turn it in with the money in it. You hear some gossip, you refuse to repeat it to anyone. You see someone who needs help shoveling, but your tired, but you go anyway, and help them. Make the hard choice.

4. When you make the wrong choice, don’t give up – If you make a wrong decision, you slip into sin, don’t give up. Just run right back to God the Father, ask forgiveness in Christ, repent, and keep going. Don’t quit just because you slipped into sin. Keep going.

5. Seek God’s strength in your weakness – the word of God says God is glorified through our weakness. It points us and others toward God as the only hope. So when you feel weak and miserable and hurting, seek God’s strength. We can’t do it without him. Don’t give up, don’t get discouraged. Seek God, He will help you, in your weakness.

In conclusion today, be like Joseph, who was humbly, gently obedient to God’s will in difficult circumstances. He obeyed God. And did as he was told. That was hard, I’m sure it was. Can you obey God? Or will you find yourself destroyed in the rebellion? Will you rebel? Or Can you drop your weapons and quietly obey God? That’s beautiful to the Lord when we do that.


Friday, December 10, 2021

Why It's so Hard to Believe in Jesus

I understand why it's hard to believe in Jesus.  It's actually outside our common thinking processes as humans. At least it appears that way at first. It's mystical, esoteric, and it "feels" foreign to our thinking.  That's by design actually, if you were taught in the public schools, a very secular mindset is programmed into you, developed by people like John Dewey. If religiously based philosophical ideas seem foreign to your mindset, yes, it's by design. 

But then again, there's something else at work in religious thought, particularly we're of course speaking of biblical Christianity.  

This may seem very odd to you, but stay with me, within Christianity, God has placed a catch to displace the arrogant, the self-righteous, and those enamored by their own genius. The Bible calls it a stumbling block. Check this out: It's actually designed to appear fantastical. 

I kid you not. It's intentionally playing out in strange and mysterious ways to trip up people who are arrogant and prone to sneer. 

Why exactly is this stumbling block set up? I'm not entirely sure. Perhaps to prevent false converts? I can only speculate. 

But it's written there.  

"Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. 28 God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. 29 As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God." -1st Corinthians 1:27-29 NLT

That makes it difficult. And it's apparently supposed to be difficult. One could call it a miracle even. 

But the source of this goes to the nature of reality, the universe, and everything. 

We are all always answering a question, and making a choice every single day, to either align ourselves with God's master design or to rebel. And to rebel is insanity. There is no escape from God. There is no victory over his power. There is nowhere to go. It's madness. 

The fundamental issue is free will: What will I choose? What will you choose? Life or death? Obedience or rebellion? The entire construct of our current fallen reality seems set up to pose the question to us over and over. Life or death? Obedience or rebellion? And we make the choice everyday. 

Yet we're caught in a state of fallenness, default, as a rebel. And somehow we must turn ourselves to God, and access that power, and experience a rebirth, in which we follow a new way, the way of truth. 

And it does end. Our window of opportunity is between birth and death. Most have already made it. 

8 billion people, the question before all of us, what choice shall we make? 



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