Thursday, March 20, 2014

Current Salvationist Issues and The Salvation Army International Doctrine Council

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In a rapidly changing global environment, the foundational doctrinal beliefs of The Salvation Army and the way they are taught and embraced around the globe, need to be looked at, considered and addressed when applicable. The Salvation Army have an International Doctrine Council (IDC) to help with such matters.

Now this may or may not interest you much, but the issues that the IDC need to address are at times contemporary theological issues that pertain to the life of The Salvation Army and its impact upon society. 

One of the purposes of The Salvation Army International Doctrine Council is the following:
The IDC approaches all assignments entrusted to it bearing in mind the need to affirm, promote and safeguard the Army’s identity and role under God, in keeping with the council’s stewardship responsibilities toward Salvationist doctrinal, theological and ecclesiological positions.
Another section remarks:
The IDC assists the General in responding to current doctrinal, theological and ecclesiological issues.
So what are the current doctrinal, theological and ecclesiological (church-centered) global issues?

Let me suggest some theological hot potatoes that The Salvation Army and the wider people of God need to wrestle with today. Some doctrinal, theological and ecclesiological issues worth considering, discussing, and 'putting on the table' for review are:
  • The use of IVF and surrogacy
  • The marriage of same-sex couples
  • The science of cloning
  • The debate around particular doctrinal statements and the wording of such doctrines
  • Women in ministry (continuing to keep that on the table is important)
  • Women in executive leadership positions within The Salvation Army
  • Safe-injecting rooms for those who are addicted to drugs (theologically, what is TSA's position?)
  • Rembracing evangelistic ministry in a 21st Century context
  • Quasi-militarisitic structure vs other structures
So there are some of the theological hot potatoes that come to mind.

I am not one to unnecessarily stir the pot in this regard, though I do believe that is important for Salvationists to have a foundational knowledge of why they believe what they believe, and to understand what belief system The Salvation Army embraces.

I pray God's wisdom upon those in The Salvation Army International Doctrine Council, as they discuss issues (such as above) when they meet together.

God bless The Salvation Army.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Change the World - You can do it!

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Back in January 2014, I outlined 10 ways to change the world. The list on how to change the world ranged from radically loving your neighbour, to sponsoring a child, to exhibiting hospitality.

I'm wrestling with a thought. Is it better to remain naive to the obstacles that exist for a grandiose vision and push to make a change, or is it best to outline all the barriers to achieving a grandiose vision, and run the risk of never ending up doing anything to fulfil it?

I have always said that I would rather aim for cloud nine and reach cloud five, than aim at nothing and reach it everytime.

Some people call me daft for doing such things. Though, was it not said in the Lord's Prayer, 'Let your kingdom come and your will be done'? Is that not one of the biggest dreams and visions you could ever have? If that kind of visioneering is fine with Jesus, it is fine with me.

We can change the world. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Believing in God is like Believing in the Tooth Fairy


Someone recently commented on social media, that believing in 'god' is like believing in an older version of the tooth fairy.

I don't believe in an imaginary God.

In fact I believe in Jesus Christ, who was a man who walked the earth 2000 years ago. He was far from imaginary. He was a man who was born in Bethlehem and grew up in a small town called Nazareth.

He also just happened to be the Son of God. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

What is the Purpose of The Salvation Army Doctrines?

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What is the purpose of The Salvation Army Doctrines? This was a question posed to me recently on my blog from Katy Scott.

Simply put The Salvation Army Doctrines are eleven statements that summarize the fundamental beliefs we hold about the Christian faith. We believe the Scriptures are inspired by God, we believe in the Trinity, we believe in the privelege of believers to be holy before God and so on.

The doctrines of The Salvation Army were adapted by William Booth from the 1838 Methodist New Connexion Doctrines.

There has been debate here and there about adapting the doctrines or rather, revising the doctrines. You can find such discussions from an older blog post of Adam Couchman. Such discussion always engenders debate and controversy, and not particularly a discussion I seek to have here at this point.

So what are the doctrines' purpose? The doctrines help to provide a foundation of belief for a Salvationist. They also give understanding of what we believe to those who may join The Salvation Army, or those who are simply interested to know. Doctrinal statements can help clear up what we believe and 'don't believe'. You could read some pentecostal doctrinal statements for instance, that would clearly say that they believe that the evidence of salvation is found in the speaking of tongues - a doctrine The Salvation Army does not suggest.

Kester Trim writes in a publication entitled 'Doctrine in the Salvation Army tradition':
The Salvation Army is not known for placing a particular emphasis on doctrine.  This is not because doctrine is unimportant for Salvationists, but because The Salvation Army has customarily emphasized evangelism and service, rather than theological scholarship.  Nevertheless, The Salvation Army’s official doctrines are viewed as essential to its corporate life and witness. (“Doctrine in the Salvation Army Tradition,” Ecumenism 179-180 (Fall/Winter 2010): 36.)
There is some truth to what Trim is saying here, though I sense doctrines are important in The Salvation Army for many Salvationists, who want to ensure they understand the fundamentals of their Christian faith and embrace a unified belief across The Salvation Army movement.

You can find The Salvation Army Doctrines here.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

You'll Be Suprised! - A Sermon on Ephesians 1 - Captain Pete Brookshaw - VIDEO and SERMON Notes

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Take some time and watch this! You might be surprised by what Ephesians 1 has got to say!

Introduction to Ephesians:

The letter to the Ephesians is traditionally a letter written from Paul to the church in Ephesus. There are debates today as to whether the letter was actually written by Paul or one of his close comrades (someone well versed in the theology of Paul). F. F. Bruce says, ‘The man who could write Ephesians must have been the apostle’s equal, if not his superior, in mental stature and spiritual insight... Of such a second Paul early Christian history has no knowledge.’ Therefore F. F. Bruce is saying that it makes sense to continue to claim the Apostle Paul as the author of Ephesians.
The letter is also said to be for the church of the Laodiceans (you know the one, that was mentioned in Revelation as being neither hot nor cold?), and that early manuscripts actually omit the words, ‘in Ephesus’. Nonetheless we have an inspired letter to the early church that has inspired millions over the years. John Stott writes that, ‘the letter to the Ephesians is a marvellously concise, yet comprehensive, summary of the Christian good news and its implications. Nobody can read it without being moved to wonder and worship, and challenged to consistency of life.’

The first three chapters of Ephesians focus in on theoretical knowledge about God. The last three chapters focus on applying that knowledge. We’re going to start with chapter one.

Ephesians 1:1-23

Ephesians 1:1-2   1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:  2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 
 The letter of Ephesians was written to the saints. People who were followers of Jesus, were called to be saints; holy and set apart for Christ. The words ‘saint’ was like the word Christian today. A well used word and common to the vernacular of the people.

I once spoke with a friend, who said he struggled with calling someone a ‘saint’ or calling someone ‘holy’. To him, it was impossible for God to ever allow someone to be called by that title; nothing they could do could ever earn them the title of saint. It is apparent to me, that Paul and other early writers called 'followers of Jesus', ‘saints’ and these writers also called them ‘holy’. They were comfortable with such expressions, because they understood, being a saint was not so much about what you have or haven’t done, but about what Christ has done through you.
Ephesians 1:3  3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
I love how the writer to the Ephesians starts the body of his letter with praise to God! How good would it be if we would wake up in the morning, and say, ‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! Praise God, it’s a new day!’ Except quite often we snap and say, ‘Turn the light off, I’m still sleeping!’ Just as the writer to the Ephesians started the body of his letter with praise, let's do the start in our own lives.
Ephesians 1:4  4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.
Again, we see the emphasis on holiness. God chose us to be holy and blameless in his sight. Let me explain this. When I look at my children, I find myself thinking, ‘I have chosen these kids to change the world! They can make a difference! They can be holy. They can be passionate for Jesus!’ God has chosen us before the creation of the world to be holy. God does not force holiness upon us. We know full well, we are confronted on a daily basis to choose to be holy, but God wills that we would be holy (ἁγιους). Holiness is a choice, by the free will of God, though before the creation of the world, God called us to be holy.
Ephesians 1:5-6  In love 5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will-- 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.
We just had to throw the word ‘predestined’ in there didn’t we? Predestination has been a theological hot potato since the time of John Calvin and Martin Luther in the 16th Century. Predestined in Ephesians 1:5 is from proorisas, “marked out beforehand.” As the Bible Knowledge Commentary suggests, ‘... the emphasis of predestination is more on the what than the who in that the believers’ predetermined destiny is their being adopted as full-fledged sons of God through Jesus Christ...’ We are not talking about people being predestined to follow Christ, but rather that God predetermined that he would send Jesus into the world, to freely offer salvation to us through him. The Salvation Army and many other protestant denominations believe that God has fore-knowledge of how things will pan out, but he has not predetermined the outcome.
Ephesians 1:7-10 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace 8 that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. 9 And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment--to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.
Here is the amazing salvation work of Christ. Here is the good news. Maybe you’re like me, that when you watch the news and look around, it’s hard to find good news; news that uplifts and puts some hope in your soul. Well, I wonder if you can grasp this: you can find redemption through the forgiveness of your sins through the blood of Jesus Christ, because of God’s amazing grace. Some say redemption is like being in slavery and finding release from that slavery. It’s like having the shackles on your feet and taking them off and starting to dance! I once was blind but now I see!  Hallelujah!
   11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession--to the praise of his glory.
Don’t get lost in the language here. You were included IN Christ when you heard the gospel message and when you believed this message you were guaranteed an inheritance, a place with God for eternity. I think that’s worth celebrating! Is there anyone listening to this who has believed that Jesus redeems them? That Jesus sets them free? That Jesus has promised them a home among the gum trees, with lots of plum trees?
Now we’ve gone through some heavy theological thought just now. Though, this is where it heats up. See, God offers us this rich, amazing, full salvation in Christ, as outlined in Ephesians 1:3-14. God offers that to those who believe in Christ. But there’s more...
Have you ever gone to a movie and got to the end and thought, surely there is more to this story? When I saw the Hobbit from the Lord of the Rings series a couple of months ago, I got to the end of the movie and thought, ‘Ohh, surely there is more!!’ Well, there is more to the first chapter of the letter of Ephesians.
We have been offered this amazing salvation in Christ... and...
     15 For this reason...
And so with this salvation in mind...!
 ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.
18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 
Based on that amazing salvation work in Christ as outlined in Ephesians 1:3-14, the writer prays that his readers would have four things:
1. The Spirit of Wisdom
2. Revelation (that you may know him better)
3. Eyes of your heart enlightened (that you would know the hope of God)
4. Incomparably great power (not the power of this world, like that of CEOs and the like, but the power of love, found in the resurrected Christ). 

May God offer each one of us those four things listed in Ephesians 1.  

22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

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