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Christianity FAQ

We are grateful for the many students who choose The Salvation Army for their assignments and research. To help you, we have compiled a list of answers to frequently asked questions (FAQ) regarding Christianity.

We hope this information will provide the details you need to complete your assignment. 

If you need to

  • Interview a member of The Salvation Army, or if you have further questions regarding our mission, beliefs, values, or how we help the community,
  • Obtain more information on our welfare, social work or a specific service,

Please contact your nearest centre or Corps.

If there’s some information you think we should add to the above Student FAQ, please contact us by writing to: salvosaus@aus.salvationarmy.org.

Christianity FAQ

Can children become Christians?

The simple answer to this question is yes! Children are loved by God and have been created to understand and accept this love.

From the very early passages in the Bible, parents are instructed to teach their children in the ways of God. For example:

'You must be very careful not to forget the things you have seen God do for you. Keep reminding yourselves, and tell your children and grandchildren as well' (Deuteronomy chapter four, verse nine).

'Teach them [the laws of God] to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up' (Deuteronomy chapter 11, verse 19).

Jesus' ministry was to men, women and children. There are several examples in the Bible where Jesus admonished adults for trying to remove children from interfering with his ministry:

'He said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these”' (Matthew chapter 19, verse 14).

'Jesus called a little child and had him stand among them and he said: I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven' (Matthew chapter 18, verses two and three).

'At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned and revealed them to little children”' (Matthew chapter 11, verse 25).

Children can understand the concepts of unconditional love and forgiveness. They can learn to pray and be thankful and are capable of learning right from wrong.

Our responsibility is to share the love of Jesus to children so that they can grow in wisdom and the knowledge of him. I am so glad that as a child someone told me about Jesus.

Commissioner Carolyn Knaggs

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Can Christians divorce and remarry?

In Jesus' day, Jewish scholars had two different opinions about divorce and what justified it. One said that a man could divorce his wife only if she were unfaithful to him.The second said that a man could divorce his wife, for basically anything he did not like about her.

The problem was that they saw marriage like a business partnership—that is, it is fine while it serves its purpose, but once the benefits are no longer there you need to look at how you can get out of it. Jesus said they were missing the whole point of marriage.

We have a similar problem today. Our culture has become very casual about accepting divorce as a normal behaviour and has created a social climate where divorce is viewed as an easy way to get out of one's commitments.

In Malachi chapter two verse 16 it reads, in part, '“I hate divorce,” says the Lord God of Israel.'

Marriage is a special relationship, unlike any other earthly relationships. It should not be entered into lightly or dissolved without seeking help. Jesus says that ideally it should last until death.

I have observed that divorced people have sometimes been treated badly, almost like outcasts. This is not right, not Christian, and not biblical. Not everyone who gets divorced does so out of a lack of commitment or failure in understanding the seriousness of the marriage covenant, and this includes Christians.

However, marriages do fail and people get hurt. We all fail in certain areas of our lives but God always gives us the opportunity to start again. We are also to embrace those who have been affected by divorce and extend the hand of friendship and grace to them. God can take broken lives and re-make them.

Colonel James Condon

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Can I go to church if I am not Christian?

To answer to this question, it's worthwhile asking another question first: what is church? Church is more than a building. Church is wherever people gather to worship God and interact with each other—and that can be in a house, on the beach, in a park…

So, can I go to a church service if I'm not a Christian? Most certainly. Church services exist not only for people to worship God but to provide a place where people can discover more about his teaching.

Jesus made a strong point of teaching that he came for all people. He came to seek out those who needed to find him and have their sins forgiven. Jesus challenged people by saying that it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. Jesus opened the door for everyone to come to faith

In the Bible, you will read that Jesus mixed with all kinds of people—the religious and non-religious; the most powerful in society and those without a 'voice'. He sought out all kinds of people because he cared for them as much as those who did believe in him.

If you are thinking of attending a Christian church it's a good idea to visit a few different ones (including The Salvation Army) until you find a place where you feel encouraged to connect with God.

Don't just visit one and assume all Christian churches worship in the same manner. There are many different church cultures these days and they are worth checking out.

Lieut-Colonel Jan Condon

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Do I have to go to church to be a Christian?

The short answer to this question is, no, you don't ever have to go to church to be a Christian. Being a Christian has little to do with membership of a group or subscription to a philosophy. Being a Christian has everything to do with a relationship with a loving God.

God created us for this relationship so that we might experience his love, joy and peace in our daily journey through life.

The reason we have church (generally a worship service on Sunday) is to join together with other Christians to celebrate God's love in our lives and encourage each other to grow in God's love. This is a wonderful experience that helps greatly in the midst of the challenges of our lives.

The Bible expresses God's desire for us to meet together in this way where it reads (in Hebrews chapter 10, verses 24 and 25): 'Let's see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshipping together as some do but spurring each other on.'

Going to church is a good idea and something many of us want to do to grow in our faith and encourage others in theirs.

I'll hope to see you there.

Commissioner Jim Knaggs

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Why should my kids attend religious education lessons at school?

We would all agree that school is a place of learning. The sequential education phases, that go from early childhood development through to university, apply a framework of layered learning that expands the life of an individual.

Any effective learning environment does not depend solely upon academic or intellectual input, but includes such things as sensory, spatial, social and emotional growth. It also provides for skill and practical improvement.

In other words, the education program attempts to extend the whole person.

It seems to me, that religious education ought to be part of the development of the whole person. There has never been any thought that suggests our spirituality kicks in at a certain age. Spiritual awareness is part of our growing awareness.

Introducing children to religious concepts or, more particularly, Christian understanding at the same age as we introduce them to reading, writing and arithmetic seems perfectly logical. So why would we not want our kids to attend religious education lessons?

Would we deny them access to intellectual, social, practical, ethical, cultural, emotional or moral learning? I would hope not, so why baulk at spiritual learning?

Perhaps some people are reluctant to have their children attend religious education because to them it seems nonsense, or possibly fear its affect on the child. These parents may have never really checked out what their children are learning through the school curriculum. I want to encourage you to be open to the work of God in helping you shape the life of your precious children.

Colonel Raymond Finger

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Why don't many Christians swear?

I heard a beautiful young mother with a very unhappy child say, 'Please use your words so that I know what to do to help you.'

Words, words, words—we are taught from the youngest of ages to communicate what we are feeling and to interact with those around us. We use words. We use emotion. We use our body language to emphasise our words. 

Why is it that some words carry a greater sting or innuendo than others? The Bible says in Matthew chapter 12, verse 34, 'For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.' In other words, the words from our mouths are not from the dictionary, they are from the heart.

The filtering of bad language comes from a heart that has been changed by a relationship with God. In Colossians chapter three, verses seven to eight, we are taught to change our natures so that they exclude anger, rage, malice, slander, and bad language. Christians seek to live with the same attitude and nature as Jesus.

How many words are there in the English language?  New words are being invented every day (for example bluetooth). It is not impossible for us to omit from our resource of words the few that are labelled 'bad' or 'swearing'. 

May you be encouraged to be courageous in your choice of words that adequately express the attitude of your heart.

Here is a little prayer from Psalm chapter 19, verse14 which might be of some encouragement to you:

'May the words of my mouth and the mediation of my heart be pleasing in your sight,
O Lord, my Rock and my Salvation.'

Commissioner Carolyn Knaggs

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I've heard of tithing. What is it?

A tithe means 'one-tenth' and relates to a voluntary offering. In the Bible's Old Testament, this offering could include gifts in kind, such as agricultural products. Today when we speak of tithing in the church, we generally mean 10% of our income.
Tithing was a normal practice in Old Testament times. In Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament, God's people are accused of robbing him by withholding tithes (Malachi verse three, chapter 10).
The Malachi passage highlights tithing as an expectation and an indication of faithfulness to God. But it also points out that one's giving cannot compare with the blessings God will give in response. You cannot out-give God. 
In the Bible's New Testament, Jesus' reference to tithing is often a criticism of those who give it only for show. Jesus cares about our motivation for giving. He tells the story of the widow (Mark chapter 12, verses 41 to 47), who gave out of her poverty and did so with sincerity, sacrifice and love. Paul, in writing to the Corinthians, emphasises the spirit of giving as well and urges Christians to 'excel in the grace of giving' (2 Corinthians chapter eight, verse seven). 

Some people would argue that we are no longer bound to the tithe principle, because it is an Old Testament concept and not an obligation for us today. The truth is that this set an even higher standard in the New Testament. Christians believe that God has provided all we have and therefore it belongs to him.The question is not 'how much do we give?', but 'how much will we keep?'

Commissioner Linda Bond

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Shouldn't Christians be happy all the time?

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could be happy all the time? The truth of the matter, however, is that we are human and subject to a variety of life's experiences which may not bring happiness.

Most people think they will be happy if things go well or if particular things happen the way they want them to, such as getting the job they are after, being able to buy a house or having a relationship work out with a certain person. And often that's true, but the problem is, when good things happen people are usually happy for only a moment.

It seems the majority of people are dependent on circumstances and events outside themselves for their happiness, but often they live with inward discontent.

Shouldn't Christians be happy all the time? I don't think so. It's a nice idea but it isn't realistic.

Dr Henry Cloud has written, 'The truth is that happiness is a result of what you believe and what you do, not only a result of what happens to you. If you understand this, you can have a happy life'.

Jesus' 'sermon on the mount' gives an insight into happiness that has little to do with external circumstances but everything to do with inward experience (Matthew chapter 5).

Some translations of the Bible use the word 'blessed', while others use the word 'happy'. For example, 'Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor, happy are those who mourn, happy are those who are humble', etc.

Christian faith and experience deeply touch the heart of a person and invite us to live simply, as Jesus spoke of in his sermon. That simple invitation draws us back from chasing rainbows to a place of quiet contentment which, if you like, is a place of personal happiness.

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What did Jesus say about forgiving others?

One of the most distressing moments in my work as a Salvation Army minister was when a man I knew from church was dying and wished to make peace with a friend because of an argument they'd had many years before.

When the friend received the invitation to visit the dying man he refused to see him.  I felt incredibly sad and distressed for the dying man, but much more disturbed for the friend who refused to forgive.

Not only did he deny his friend forgiveness, but he denied himself the opportunity as well.

This very same principle is reflected in the words of Jesus, found in the gospel of Matthew: '…if you forgive others when they sin against you, your heavenly father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your father will not forgive your sins'.

When we refuse to offer forgiveness to others we deny ourselves God's forgiveness.
Forgiveness begins with God, and we are reminded of this when we think of Jesus' death on the cross.

'Because of the sacrifice of the messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the cross, we are free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by our misdeeds' (Ephesians chapter one).

Jesus made it clear that forgiveness is both a gift from God to us, as well as a grace we need to pass on to others. With one hand we receive it and with the other we offer it.

If Jesus has forgiven us, wiped our slate clean, let us off the hook and set us free from the penalties and punishment chalked up by our misdeeds, why would we deny others the same opportunity when to deny them is to deny ourselves?

Lieut-Colonel Aylene Finger

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What is the most modern version of the Bible to buy?

The Bible is an account of God's action and purpose; a storehouse of wonderful stories, a refuge in times of trouble; a treasury of insight into who we are; a guide for living.

For more than 2,000 years, scholars have been translating the Bible from the original Hebrew and Greek.

The Old Testament was written over a 1,500–year period before the birth of Christ, primarily in Hebrew. The New Testament was written 70 years after Christ's death and resurrection in Koine Greek ('common' Greek).

Interpretations and translations are designed mainly to make the Bible relevant and alive to people in this present age. Choosing a Bible may depend on your purpose. A very literal translation may be useful for individual word or topical study, while a 'paraphrase' may be employed for grasping initial meaning.

Most importantly, choose a Bible you find easy to read.

Some of the latest, easy-to-read translations include the New Living Translation

Today's New International Version is the work of 115 translators. The purpose of the original New International Version was to provide a modern translation acceptable to many denominations. It is currently the best-selling Bible version.

The Message Bible is a paraphrase, which is a translation in modern terms and vocabulary.

Available today are various applications of the Bible related to a particular topic; eg. The Social Justice Bible, The Emergency Services Bible, The Skater's Bible.

Six years ago, the Bible Society and Christian Surfers International published the first Surfer's Bible. It was an instant hit on the surfing scene with 75,000 copies distributed around the world.

Happy Bible shopping! With this purchase you will make the best investment of your life with never-ending returns!

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How should I start reading the Bible?

The Bible is the world's best-selling book and is the most read book in history.

Despite these facts there are many people who have never read the Bible. Including 66 books and letters, it can be difficult to know where to begin when reading the Bible for the first time.

Let me give you some tips.

The Bible is divided into two sections—the Old Testament (which contains 39 books and outlines the history of the Jewish people) and the New Testament (27 books and letters covering Jesus' life on earth, the beginnings of the Christian church and guidance for Christian living).

The first four books of the New Testament are known as the gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—and focus on Jesus' life and teachings.

Since the Bible is a collection of 'books', it is not necessary to begin at the first page.

A great place to start is John's gospel (the fourth book in the New Testament section) which tells the stories of Jesus' life from an 'eyewitness' perspective and will help you understand his teachings.

Among the four gospel books, you will find duplicate accounts of some parts of Jesus' life but with variations to the stories (just as if you and I were reporting on a certain event, our accounts would, most likely, highlight different things).

Following the gospels in the New Testament is the book of Acts, where we read of the exciting beginnings of the Christian church.

Throughout the entire Bible you'll find many verses that contain promises from God, sections that tell us how we can become a Christian and know God's forgiveness and acceptance, and many stories that show how faith in God can change us.

Why not add yourself to the millions of people around the world who read the most popular book of all time. Give it a go!

Commissioner Coral Strong

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I've heard Christians talk about pastoral care. What is it?

Pastoral care is the compassionate caring ministry of spiritual leaders for people. It can involve anything from showing personal interest to counselling.
It is a way of listening. Showing a pastoral interest in others means becoming an active listener. Someone has said that it is the most powerful form of listening. Why? Because it sends a signal that you're interested in and absorbing what the other person is saying.

It is also a way to encourage others. It is letting people know that they are supported personally and in prayer. Such caring is focused on the person's behaviour, emotional health and spiritual wellness.  In this sense, it is a holistic ministry, encouraging people to live life to the full, reach their potential and face life with hope.

The concept of a pastor comes from the image of the shepherd who cares for the sheep, protecting, strengthening the weak, tending to their needs, refreshing and restoring the flock. Psalm 23 from the Bible, is a wonderful example of  this image of pastoral care.

In the New Testament we see pastoral care modeled perfectly by Jesus. The life of Jesus, shows us how we should care pastorally for others.

But Jesus took pastoral care to its heights; his care involved personal sacrifice. The Bible speaks of him as the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep (John chapter 10). If you want the clearest most accurate definition of pastoral care, read the gospels and look at Jesus.

Commissioner Linda Bond

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Should I force my 15 year old to go to church?

Fifteen is a very impressionable age and a time in the life of young people when they are beginning to develop strong views about the world around them, including faith.

I think it's true to say that our communities are littered with people who, as reluctant children, were taken to church weekly. Sadly it is not only the church many of them resent now; the focus of their anger often includes those who forced them to go.

I believe that children need to understand and explore spirituality and church is one of the ways in which this occurs.

The ideal environment for a teenager to make these discoveries is to attend church and be part of a non-judgemental, caring group of peers who acknowledge their search for God and the difficulties they may experience in the process.  

Unfortunately, the ideal is not always available or appealing, hence the need to seek other pathways that will assist in achieving the same end. Perhaps another church where there may be more young people of similar age, a more engaging style of worship or more opportunities for involvement might be appropriate.

Thankfully the church community lives and functions outside the four walls of a church building or a Sunday worship service. The church community is made up of believers such as; parents, family members, acquaintances or friends who model their Christian faith and values. They can offer support, encouragement, and engage in dialogue with our teenagers, helping them understand and explore spirituality, even if they no longer wish to attend church.

My life experience has taught me that when I force something there is a greater risk of breakage or even irreparable damage. I would encourage you to support your 15 year old to make their own decision.

Colonel Aylene Finger

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Should Christians Protest Against the Government?

Now that's a good question.  It would be an easy one if the answer was simply no or yes, but the truth is the first response is, it depends.

It depends on the issue.  I gather there are people who protest on a regular basis on almost any and every issue.  They are probably sidelined as cranks and the issue gets lost.  There are others who choose their battles very carefully and will only make a public protest on something that is crucial to the harmony and health of society. 

Those of us who live in a democratic society have a form of government in which the supreme power resides in the people.  We elect our representatives and the expectation is that they will uphold the equality of rights and privileges of all of the citizens.  Our form of protest may take the form of voting the government out in the next election.  Or there are times when we believe that as a Christian we must  publicly join others to denounce injustice or call for action. 

A protest against the government also depends on the nature of the protest.  Whether in a democratic or non-democratic society, a violent protest is not an option for a Christian.  Martin Luther King Jr. saw Mahatma Ghandi as a model for non-violent resistance. The course of history changed when these men and their people stood against injustice peacefully. There is a time to take a stand

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

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What do Christians believe about meditation?

I can't answer this question for all Christians, but I suspect the majority do believe in the merits of meditation. The words 'meditate', 'meditation' and 'meditations' appear throughout the Bible, and we are encouraged to meditate in many places in scripture.

Meditation is part of most religious faiths and is practiced in different ways. But essentially meditation is focused thought; concentration on those things that the spirit desires and needs. Such focus and concentration bring an inward sense of calm, peace and balance.

Not unlike people of other faiths, Christians often choose a favourite place in which to meditate. They might listen to inspiring music, read encouraging devotionals, journal their thoughts, read the Bible and pray.

An important part of meditation is quiet reflection: listening to the voice of self and listening to the voice of God. It includes personal reflection on life, what we think, our attitudes, agendas, values and behaviours. All of this is held up against the teachings of Jesus, his character, his attitude, his behaviour.

In Christian meditation, Jesus Christ is the central focus. Concentration on Jesus and his life leads the mind of the Christian to become more like the mind of Christ, and is reflected in Christ-like character. The result is personal transformation for the better.

Lieut-Col Raymond Finger

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Why did Jesus tell us to love our enemies? How?

The Bible tells us we are made in the image of God, who is love. He shows mercy and grace to all.

In short, that's why Jesus told us we are to love our enemies. Because Jesus has forgiven us, loves us and shows mercy towards us, it is our responsibility to do the same towards others.

A Christian is a Christ follower, who lives in a relationship with Jesus. If Jesus is all loving and kind, then his followers must be as well. You cannot love God and not love other people.

It is easy to love those who love us and who treat us well, but the challenge is to love those who are awkward, who are unkind to us, who tell lies about us and who hurt us in all sorts of ways. Jesus taught and practised that we should love everyone.

On the cross he prayed to God, 'Father forgive them…'—speaking of those who had abused and crucified him and nailed him to the cross. He was not going to die with resentment and bitterness in his heart towards his enemies.

Jesus told us to love our enemies because failure to do this will result in physical, emotional, mental and spiritual sickness. Withholding forgiveness and allowing bitterness to remain in our heart is a useless exercise because we damage ourselves far more than the other person.

How do we love our enemies? Jesus gave at least three ways to do this—forgive them, bless them and pray for them.

We may want to get back at people who have hurt us, but it is far better to take Jesus' example and bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you and pray for those who are spiteful towards you.

If we want Jesus to forgive us, then we must forgive others and let God be their judge—in this way we are being like Jesus.

Colonel Jan Condon

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I've heard of 'the apostle Paul'. Who is he?

The apostle Paul was a major contributor to the New Testament of the Bible. He wrote letters to the church of the day in Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colosse, and Thessalonica.

Paul also wrote letters of support and encouragement to people with whom he shared his Christian ministry—Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. You can find all these letters by looking in the index pages of the Bible.

Paul wasn't always a supporter of the Christian faith; in fact he was quite the opposite.

He was a Roman citizen, born into a Jewish family. He grew up in Tarsus (a little town in modern-day Turkey) and was a tentmaker by trade.

Paul was well acquainted with the Hebrew Scriptures and went to Jerusalem to study under a famous Rabbi called Gamaliel. Paul later became a very influential religious political figure.

His strong beliefs and political position led him in a reign of terror and persecution against the Christian church. But the book of Acts in the New Testament tells of his amazing conversion (in chapter nine).

Jesus appeared to Paul in a blaze of light (which temporarily blinded him) and asked, 'Why do you persecute me?'

That single moment was enough to convince Paul that the Christian faith and the church that had gathered were indeed born of God. He became a follower of Jesus Christ and one of the most important figures of the early Christian church.

Powerful conversions still happen today; people have encounters with God, they become believers and their lives are changed forever.

Lieut-Col Raymond Finger

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Why wasn't Jesus a king or a general or a rich man?

There are two parts to Jesus' presence in our lives: his role on this Earth, and his role in the kingdom of God.

Let's look at them separately. An important part of God's plan was for Jesus to give humanity a powerful example of how we should live.

We mortals already had ideas about 'success' and 'power' when Jesus came to us. Jesus needed to demonstrate that, in God's scheme of things, such notions are meaningless. There is even an Old Testament verse predicting Jesus' coming, which says that he would be lacking in 'comeliness', or beauty, so that we weren't blinded by such notions.

Jesus didn't come to rule, command or be superior. He was sent to demonstrate the love of God and draw us to that love. He did so in a humble but triumphant way. He was crucified to pay for our sins and rose again to defeat death. In God's kingdom, we are told, earthly success means very little.

In terms of the kingdom of God, Jesus is our 'shepherd.' We are his 'sheep', but not in a belittling way. It means he is there to guide us in a world that can be full of spiritual peril if we stray too far.  

We follow him, not because of the demonstration of his power, position or possessions, but because of his powerful love and provision for each of us.

In many ways, the kingdom of God is the very reverse of our world. There, 'the last shall be first, and the first shall be last' (Matthew chapter 20, verse 16).

Commissioner Jim Knaggs

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Why do Christians feel obligated to help strangers?

As Christians, we are urged to live a life that reflects the characteristics of Christ; a life of generosity and kindness. The Bible gives us a road map to behaviour that characterises a true follower of Jesus, and the apostle Paul expounds this in Ephesians when he calls us to 'be kind and compassionate to one another'.

This kind of help, bestowed equally upon loved-ones and strangers alike, does not come from obligation. It comes from a desire to follow God-given directives, designed to help people live a complete life in which the needs of all are met. And so we reach out to our neighbours and help those who need a hand or a meal. 

We are given a beautiful reminder of why Christians act generously towards others in the parable of the sheep and the goats, which is found in Matthew chapter 25, verses 34-37.

'I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me…Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.'

So the generous heart, the hand ready to help strangers, does not just come from the hope to be nice. This generosity comes from a desire to be Christ-like and to serve the Lord.

The scripture also teaches us in Hebrews chapter 13 verse 2,  'Do not forget to welcome strangers, for by so doing some people have welcomed angels without knowing it'.

What a wonderful opportunity!

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What does the bible teach about lust?

It may surprise you to know that the Hebrew and Greek words used in the Bible for the word we know as 'lust' do not always refer to sexual passion or uncontrolled appetite. The biblical language sometimes refers to a strong desire or natural appetite, like craving food.

However, in the majority of cases, the Bible uses lust to describe a desire that is sinful; a longing for something forbidden. Lust is excessive desire that can have devastating consequences.

In the book of Proverbs, a young man is counselled against lusting after a married woman. These verses show a smitten young man, captivated by a woman's beguiling beauty, a victim of her seduction. The warning is clear: play with fire and you are sure to be burned (Proverbs chapter six, verse 29). 

Yet three Bible passages give helpful advice on how to counter lust. The young man described above was counselled to keep his father's commands and hold to his mother's teaching, which were based on the law of God. 

These would prove to be his light, lamp and way of life and guide him in the heat of temptation.

The apostle Paul believed that the grace of God gives inner fortitude to resist. He said, 'It teaches us to say “no” to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives' (Titus chapter two, verses 11–12).

And the 'no' is not a one-off combat weapon for lust. Paul said, 'live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature' (Galatians chapter five, verse 15). 

The Bible is realistic. It doesn't stop with showing us the consequences of unbridled passion. It gives us real, practical solutions in dealing with lust.

Commissioner Linda Bond

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What does the bible say about being rich?

As I travel to the office each morning, I drive past a church with a prominent notice board in the front yard. Recently, the sign has proclaimed, in big, bold letters, 'the love of money is the root of all THIS evil.'

We are all affected by the current world economic crisis. It's very much on our minds, in our hearts and in our discussions.

Through the years, I have had friends I would regard as rich and I've also had friends who are the poorest of the poor. The happiest people I have encountered are often the poorest.

Maybe we all need to re-define the idea of wealth. The Bible shows us how to do this.

In 1 Timothy chapter six, verse 17, Paul writes, 'instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.'

Paul's words are certainly relevant for today. For me, to experience God's love, grace, and promises for this life and the next and to have hope is worth far more than anything money can buy.

So, what does it mean to be rich?

In Luke twelve verse 15, Jesus said that 'a person's life does not consist of the amount of possessions he has.' Being rich in this world's terms is totally different from the riches that God speaks about.

So much is uncertain about life at the moment. People are certainly concerned about the reduction in their superannuation and other investments.

It's only natural for us to want to protect the physical assets we've worked so hard for. But it's also important to remind ourselves to build up those other riches—spiritual riches. Riches that are truly out of this world.

Lieut-Colonel James Condon

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When did the cross become the symbol of Christianity?

The cross is one of the most widely recognised symbols around the world. It is represented in many forms including jewellery, art and ornaments.

The cross has been used since early times, though not always as a Christian symbol.

As early as AD 140 to AD 230, writer and scholar Tertullian commented that individuals traced the sign of the cross on their forehead. The Jewish Encyclopedia states: 'The cross as a Christian symbol or "seal" came into use at least as early as the second century.'

The first appearance of a cross in Christian art dates from the middle of the 5th century. It was a Greek cross with equal-length arms and included the figure of Jesus crucified upon it.

The original cross symbol was in the form of a 'Tau' cross. It was so named because it looked like the Greek letter 'tau', or our letter 't'. Later in Christian history, the Tau cross became the Roman cross that we are familiar with today.

The cross has a number of uses in Christian worship. A cross on a staff is carried during processions in significant denominations. During some religious ceremonies, clergy members or worshippers trace the shape of a cross with their hand or fingers.

The floor plan of many cathedrals and churches is based on the shape of the Latin cross. A cross is often positioned on the wall or altar in Christian churches. This is done to emphasise the basis of our belief that, because of God's great love for humankind, he allowed his son Jesus to die on the cross to bring forgiveness of sins and hope of a new life.

Lieut-Colonel James Condon

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What is the benefit of praying?

'Prayer is the Christian's vital breath, the Christian's native air,' wrote British poet James Montgomery. This was Montgomery's way of saying that prayer is normal and natural, and that without it the Christian lifestyle is impossible.

Since God invites us to pray and Jesus modelled a life of prayer, obviously prayer is necessary and undoubtedly beneficial. So, why pray?

I asked some friends what they see as the benefits of prayer. Here are some responses: 

  • It allows an open, direct and intimate connection with God.
  • Prayers are answered.
  • You get to share your personal feelings with a caring God.
  • It provides an opportunity for thanksgiving.
  • Prayer is a doorway into another reality.
  • You take your eyes off yourself and focus on God and others.
  • Strength and grace flow from conversation with God.
  • It's good for your health (so says the Medical Journal of Australia).
  • Prayer is a means of obtaining God's solutions to life's problems.
  • You see life from God's perspective and that brings hope.
  • It's an opportunity to see God at work in the lives of others.

In the 1950s, Rosalind Rinker wrote a book called Prayer: Conversing with God thatgave readers a new perspective on prayer. Like Montgomery, Rinker's writing took prayer down from unreachable realms and placed it among the common acts of life, such as breathing and talking. 

When prayer becomes as natural for us as this, we will have discovered its true power and multiple benefits.

Commissioner Linda Bond

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Does the Bible really list seven 'deadly' sins?

The seven deadly sins, also known as the capital vices or cardinal sins, are a classification of the most objectionable vices that were originally used in early Catholic Church teachings to educate and instruct followers concerning mankind's sinfulness. They are: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride.

Sin is understood as 'missing the mark with God,' and the Bible reminds us that, 'all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,' Romans chapter three verse 23.

Although there is no place in the Bible where a specific list of the seven deadly sins is given, there are lists of virtues contrasted with lists of sins found in certain books of the New Testament, such as the Epistle to the Galatians, chapter five verses 19 to 23.

Some examples of these are sexual immorality, idolatory, sorcery, division, dissension, jealousy, anger, quarrelling, selfish ambition, drunkenness and wild parties; as compared to the fruits of the spirit which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

All sin is deadly according to Romans chapter six verse 23 (New International Version), 'For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.' The great part of that verse is the good news that God extends his love as a gift, so that we need not die in our sin. We can know his forgiveness and the joy of life he intends for us when we receive his grace.

It is available for everyone, no matter how severely we think we have sinned.
Come to Jesus and be set free.

Commissioner Jim Knaggs

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Do Christians experience chronic depression?

Everyone feels sad from time to time in their life.

Even the most outgoing, resilient person knows that life cannot be lived on a high all the time. However, those who experience greater degrees and prolonged feelings of sadness, dejection and hopelessness are usually suffering from depression.

Depression has been described as a 'feeling of sadness and dejection resulting in an increasingly pessimistic outlook on life'(1) and affects people in many different ways.

For example, some people withdraw from interacting with others, while others lose all motivation. People suffering from depression can at times experience poor concentration and confused thoughts.

Do Christians experience this? Yes, they do. No one is immune from depression and Joseph Parker, a British pastor in the 19-century, wrote 'there's a broken heart in every pew'.(2)

Sadly, times have not changed and the reality is similar today. There are people in the church who suffer from depression and possibly the number is higher than many would imagine. The church needs to come alongside people who suffer from depression and support them during their difficult days.

Those who suffer from depression need people who are prepared to support them, show unconditional love without any hint of judgment and offer hope.

Ultimately our greatest hope is found in the great healer, Jesus Christ himself, and in having a personal relationship with him.

1. Les Carter Ph.D & Frank Minirth M.D. The Freedom from Depression Workbook, Thomas Nelson, Nashville, 1995, p7
2. David B. Biebel (D.Min) & Harold G. Koenig (M.D.), New Light on Dsepression, Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 2004, p55

Colonel Jan Condon

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Why do Christians talk about grace?

Grace is more than offering a short prayer before meals and much more than a name for a female—it is the undeserved gift of God that is available to everyone who is prepared to accept it, open it and use it.

Christians talk so much about grace because it is the most wonderful gift that we receive from God. The grace of God enables our spiritual life to exist and grow.

Without God's grace we would never know that our sins can be forgiven or the freedom this brings. God sees past our faults and failures and extends his grace to us, even though we probably deserve punishment. Others would condemn us, but God shows grace.

The grace of God also helps us each day as we walk in our relationship with him. Sometimes we face troubles and hardships and it is then that we call on the unlimited grace of God to strengthen and guide us.

If you give someone a gift, you would be most offended if the recipient did not open it and use it. Christians have accepted God's gift and use it every day because they are very aware that life should not be about feeling guilty, but about knowing God's good grace.

John Newton, who wrote the hymn 'Amazing Grace' certainly knew what it was like to live a life apart from God. But when he experienced for himself the grace and mercy of God, he described it as amazing.

And that is why Christians talk about grace. It is amazing and it's free to anyone who would like to accept it.

Lieut-Colonel Jan Condon

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Does the Bible say I have to get married?

Often people have taken the apostle Paul's words in the Bible, where he says it is better not to be married, out of context.

The Bible includes a lot of teaching on marriage that obviously confirms it is God's idea. We read that God said it is not good to be alone.

God approves of marriage in the context of one husband and one wife. This has been God's pattern from time of the first man and woman. It is also recorded in the Bible that it is God's intention that the marriage union be a lifetime commitment.

We read of God's ideal of completeness in marriage—that a man leaves his mother and father, is united with his wife and the two become one flesh—the perfect blending of two separate beings. It is also very clear in the Bible that sexual relations are only permitted between married couples.

The Bible teaches that husbands are to love their wives and wives are to honour their husbands and that no man should separate what God has joined together.

The words from Matthew chapter 19 and verse five is part of a traditional wedding ceremony and a legal pronouncement. It indicates that God desires a man and woman to be married and that no one has the right to separate them.

So while the Bible does not literally say that couples have to get married, it does give enough teaching about marriage and the relationships between husband and wives to confirm that marriage is God's ideal.

Lieut-Colonel Jan Condon

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Did Jesus ever get angry? Can I get angry?

The short answer is, 'yes he did'. Jesus' mission on earth was to introduce people to his father and to demonstrate how important loving God and loving one another was. He was also an advocate of justice and mercy and when he saw injustice, selfishness or lack of love and compassion in an act, he could be driven to anger. 

We see an example of this in the story of Jesus clearing the temple of the 'money changers' in Matthew chapter 21 verse 12. Jesus was extremely angry at how the moneylenders had made the temple into a commercial business instead of a place where people could come and talk to God, as it was intended.

However Jesus' anger was always controlled. He harnessed it to act in such a way that the needs of others were met, wrongs were made right and injustices and abuses against the vulnerable were corrected.

Similarly, it isn't wrong for us to become angry. Flying into a blind rage however, where we lose control of our reactions and cause others to be emotionally, physically or psychologically injured, is never acceptable. We need to be aware that our reactions can permanently affect others either in a positive or negative way, particularly those we are responsible for. It's essential to be conscious at all times of whether our emotions are controlling us or we are in control of them.

Those experiencing anger management issues are encouraged to seek assistance from a trained counsellor.

Colonel Raymond Finger

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Did God love Hitler? If so, why?

The only answer to this question is: 'yes—God did love Hitler'. The Bible clearly states that God loves everyone irrespective of whether people accept his love or not or are worthy of it.

God is love and it's his nature to extend his love and compassion to all people. In fact, it's because of God's love for every person and his desire that everyone would live life to the full, that he gave his son Jesus life for us.

Hitler was not excluded from God's love—nor is anyone else. Nothing we can do will stop God loving us. We may be the worst person and commit the worse crimes. God does not love the bad things that we do, but he continues to love the individual.

His love is unconditional and faithful and even though God is displeased with wrong and the sin in the world committed by people, his love continues.

But it is up to the individual to acknowledge and accept God's love and to seek forgiveness of their sins.

He is our loving heavenly father and just as an earthly parent will forgive their child when they do something wrong, God will forgive anyone who confesses their wrong and asks for forgiveness.

No-one is beyond the love of God—in fact the Bible tells us that while we were sinners Jesus died for us, including Hitler. But there are those who never accept God's love and forgiveness and so forfeit the peace and freedom that Jesus brings.

Colonel James Condon

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Do Christians ever do wrong things?

The short answer to this question is to just say 'Yes'. At last count there was something like two billion Christians in the world. Imagine trying to argue that one-third of the world's population never did anything wrong!

There is a car bumper sticker that reads: 'Christians are not perfect—just forgiven!'

For many people this caption raises questions and provokes comment. After all, it is true that while people acknowledge Christians aren't perfect, many carry an expectation that they should be!

When a person becomes a Christian they commit their life to Christ. In that act a person acknowledges Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, confesses their sin and experiences God's forgiveness.

From this point on, Christians endeavour to live according to God's will.

When we become a Christian, our spiritual status may change, but our humanity does not. Christians are still confronted by their own frailties and face the same hurdles in life as everyone else.

The apostle Paul understood the spiritual and human struggle. In the Bible, he wrote: 'What I don't understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another. Doing things I absolutely despise!' (Romans chapter 7, verse 18).

It was always God's plan that we have free will to make our own decisions. His hope is that our choices will be guided by his love and that we would choose his way.

But when we do make the wrong choice, there is always hope.

'If we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—God won't let us down. He'll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrong doing' (1 John chapter 1, verse 9).

Lieut-Colonel Aylene Finger

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Why are there different versions of the Bible?

There are many different translations and versions of the Bible used all over the world today.

With so many languages spoken across the world, it's easy to see why we need so many translations. But within a language, why the different versions?

One reason is because language changes in meaning from generation to generation, so certain words and phrases take on definitions through the years. The Bible was written so that we might know God and the good news about his love, so it needs to be readable and understandable for all people throughout time.

Different versions also cater for different reading abilities. There are Bibles available that have been adapted to certain grade reading levels. These allow everyone, no matter how well they read, to know the word of God.

The Bible software on my computer provides more than 20 versions of the Bible. I like comparing scripture passages between versions; this helps me to fully understand their meaning.

Some people will simply find one version easier to read than others. Bible software is a good way to browse lots of versions and discover one you find easy to read.

Originally, the Old Testament was written in Hebrew while the New Testament was written in Koine Greek and Aramaic. These languages have meanings and nuances in them that are best understood by a fresh version. In The Salvation Army, we mostly use the New International Version.

God's word is invaluable. Read it and be guided by him.

Commissioner Jim Knaggs

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How do I pick a church to attend?

The simplest answer to this question is to find a church that has a style of service that is relevant and resonates with you. Also look for a church that's a nurturing community where people can grow in their faith, and one that has a strong sense of purpose. 

A church service should have depth and relevance. Some services may offer a more meditative style, others may be more vibrant and some other churches blend worship styles.

The key element is promoting the teachings of Jesus Christ and connecting with God. A church worship service should teach, inspire and invite a response to the Bible's teachings, and the congregation should always feel involved.

However, what happens beyond the Sunday service is also important. When a person becomes a follower of Jesus, programs within a church (such as Bible study, prayer groups and opportunities for service and community) where people can learn more and grow as Christians are crucial. 

Every church also exists for the people beyond its walls. It's important to note how involved a church is in its community. Is there a strong desire to bring people into a relationship with Jesus? Is the church known for its good works in the community? Is there a commitment to serving the lonely and suffering? 

In a Salvation Army corps (church) you will find what I've described: a place of meaningful worship, strong community where people are nurtured in their Christian faith, and a church that has the world on its heart.

The choice of church is yours. I encourage you to go.

Commissioner Linda Bond

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The Bible is so old; how can it still be relevant today?

What makes something relevant? Does something old have bearing on the new? Life's lessons and eternal values are not dictated by a time frame.

Though many things change, with each new age much about human existence, and life itself, remains the same.

Who knows more about human existence than the one who created us? Christians believe that the Bible was written by God's inspiration, therefore he would be keen to see that it contained a story about things that never change. The story is a love story; a story of God's love for his creation.

It gives us good advice or, more accurately, the 'Ten Commandments' about how to love God and others. But the Bible is also a story of tragedy. It deals with issues of murder, adultery, stealing, lying and greed. Both in Jesus' time and today, these are relevant issues, and we still do not have the wherewithal to wipe them out.

The Bible is also a story about a miracle and we need a miracle to fix our brokenness, address our restlessness and give us a new beginning. The Bible tells the good news:  God's love in Jesus spans the ages. Dying for our sins and rising to live again he opens a door to a new day for us—forgiven, set free, connected, loved and loving. 

The best proof of the Bible's continuing relevance is that men and women today are still having their lives transformed by believing in and following its message. So, we can surmise that it still 'works'. It's an old, old story, true, but nothing is more relevant.

Commissioner Linda Bond

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Is the Bible relevant or out-of-date?

A former Victorian premier once referred to Christians as 'yesterday's people' and many would agree with him. No doubt those same people would also think that the Bible is out of date and no longer relevant in this modern, progressive world.

But I suspect those who think the Bible is no longer relevant see it only as a book of prohibitive rules that bind and restrict. If we only see the Bible as something that seeks to restrict our living, then we fail to see the freedom that it is provides.

The Bible recognises the reality and truth about our weaknesses, suffering and dysfunction, and it reveals the way to eternal life through Jesus Christ—a journey of forgiveness, and personal and spiritual recovery.

In a world with so much human suffering, loneliness and sadness, it's easy to look around and wonder if the world's gone mad. Each night, the TV news provides ample evidence to back up that theory!

The Bible teaches us about God and ourselves and shows us how our lives can be enriched by the grace of God. God's grace frees us from the consequences of what the Bible calls sin.

Is the Bible relevant? I believe it holds the key to our freedom, contentment and inner peace. In the end, isn't that what every person is really trying to find?

Lieut-Col Raymond Finger

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Do Christians tell “little white lies”?

Little white lies…what does this mean? Is it a truth that is half right? Is it a perspective that will not offend or that will keep us out of trouble? Is a 'little white lie' one that will get us through a moment of exposure or save us from losing credibility, but one that does not really hurt anyone?

Are 'little white lies' only told by children? What a thought! Let's set the thought process right. A lie is a lie is a lie. An untruth is just that.

Are Christians subjected to this kind of pressure? I would say 'yes'. The bible tells us to speak in purity. In Proverbs chapter 12 verse 19 it says, 'Truthful lips endure for ever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment'.

We are also encouraged in 2 Corinthians (chapter 6, verses 3,4, 7), not to put a stumbling block in anyone's path so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God, we commend ourselves in every way—including speaking in truthful speech…through the power of God.

Not telling lies also helps us to remember what we said: the truth is easy to remember.  Even Sir Walter Scott spoke of this, 'O what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive.' 

Let your 'yes' be 'yes.' And your 'no' be 'no.' 

The most amazing thing about God is that when we are tempted to slip into our sinful nature and tell any kind of lies, his grace is available to forgive and forget our sin.  When you focus on telling the truth, you honour the presence of God in your life.

Commissioner Carolyn Knaggs

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What did Jesus say about the place of women in society?

The only place to find the answer to this question is in the Bible. 

At the beginning of his ministry Jesus proclaimed that all people would be changed by his ministry among them. This meant that his message of healing and freedom from bondage was not just for men but for women and children as well.

Jesus proved this by the inclusion of women in ministry. In the culture of the day, women were considered second-class citizens––they did not have a voice or a place in the community or the temple. 

Jesus chose women to be the hearers of two great messages. To the Samaritan woman––who was scorned and an outcast in the community––Jesus revealed that he was the Christ everyone was waiting for (read John chapter four). After his resurrection, it was to Mary Magdalene that Jesus first appeared (see Mark chapter 16, verse 9).

Jesus' disciples (other than the original 12) included several women. This was a practice unheard of among the rabbis of the day. Jesus promoted the inclusion of women in learning the scriptures and not just serving as a person with function in the kitchen!

By 312 AD, Christianity was granted legal status in Rome and this gave a new legal status to women. Women could own property, and marriage was seen as a legal partnership rather than a state of servitude for the wife. In the pre-Christian era, Roman men were able to divorce their wives for virtually any cause. These new laws made divorce more difficult and gave wives legal rights.

This has always been the trend. Wherever the gospel has spread, the social, legal, and spiritual status of women has been elevated.

Commissioner Carolyn Knaggs

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Is Australia still considered a Christian nation?

According to the 2007 statistics, Christianity in Australia remains strong with 12.7 million Australians identifying themselves as Christians. However, the report goes on to say that non-Christian religions are growing at a faster rate.

71% of the population identified themselves as Christians in 1996, compared to only 64% in 2006.

Australia is regarded as a Christian nation because of its strong cultural heritage, shaped over the years through the relationship of church and society.

Parliaments commence with prayer, the Queen of the Commonwealth is crowned in a Christian coronation service, and the laws of our land are built around the teaching from the Bible of 'the ten commandments'. But what exactly do we mean by saying we are a Christian nation?

To be a Christian means being a Christ follower and allowing Jesus to be Lord of our whole life. This means not just living a good moral life and adhering to the commandments, but having a personal relationship with Jesus and being a peace maker, forgiving our enemies and caring for the least and lost.

By this definition, we are only partly a Christian nation. But the fact remains that, despite our increasingly multicultural nature, the majority of Australians still consider themselves to be Christians.

Today many of our Christian traditions are being questioned. If we want to preserve these traditions and maintain our identity as a Christian nation, Christians need to stand up and be counted.

Jesus is the only hope for our world, and the challenge is for Christians to proclaim this loud and clear.

Colonel Jan Condon

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How does a Christian justify enlisting in the defence forces?

This question has been a challenge to Christians of every generation and with every national threat of war.

It is agreed that the idea of war is abhorrent to the vast majority of people and, more often than not, involves the senseless loss of life.  History, however, speaks of the need for nations to be prepared in the event of serious military threats.

This essentially poses an ethical dilemma for many; not only Christians but also a variety of conscientious objectors.  It is for this reason that the armed services make provision for noncombatant service positions.

In saying that, none would deny the extraordinary debt of gratitude this country owes to those men and women who have defended our nation in the various theatres of war. Some returned; many did not.

It is an easy thing to espouse a black-and-white position from the comfort of peacetime armchairs, but entirely another matter, when our freedom and that of other nations is being challenged by terrorists or military aggressors.

I take the view that this is very much a conscience issue and one that people must decide on for themselves.

Bear in mind that even when people were conscripted to national service, during the early '70s to national service around the time of the Vietnam War, noncombatant roles were made available for those who held strong religious conviction against war.

Colonel Raymond Finger

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Is New Age spirituality okay with Christians?

We live in an age that could be said to be the most spiritual for several generations.  All around us are people with a desire to explore their spiritual needs like never before. Many have tried to fill the spiritual void in their lives through materialism and rationalism.

Today's culture has been described as a 'pick-and-mix culture' when it comes to religion. In endeavouring to find the truth by whatever means possible, many take 'a bit of this and a bit of that' from different religious traditions. The New Age movement is a case in point.

New Age philosophy is right to emphasise the importance of experience and to value spirituality, compassion, love and unity—but these emphases fall way short of the truths of Christianity.

In New Age teaching God is an impersonal force, rather than the creator who wants to be in relationship with us, dialogue with us and calls us to respond in love to Him.

For the New Age exponent, Jesus is no more than a moral teacher, one of the
'ascended masters'—along with Buddha, Krishna and others. Christianity asserts the centrality of Jesus, his mission and purpose.        

The only salvation for the New Ager is self-salvation and the only forgiveness is self-forgiveness, both of which will never deliver an individual from the personal consequences of humanity's sinful condition. Only belief in Jesus offers this deliverance.

New Age beliefs will not satisfy the deep desire we have to be connected with God.

Lieut-Col Aylene Finger

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Is gluttony still considered a sin?

Although listed as one of the seven deadly sins by some churches, gluttony, a 13th century word isn't even mentioned in the Authorised Version of the Bible.

I never hear it mentioned in conversation and wonder who even cares if it is a sin or not.

As defined by Webster's Dictionary, it is, one: an excess in eating or drinking and/or two: greedy or excessive indulgence.  

There's plenty of references in the Bible to help us understand these conditions, as those that disappoint God and fall below his mark for a holy life.  

It would be as equal a sin for us to determine where to draw that line in an empirical sense. Neither would I suggest for a moment that obese people are living in sin.

I would conclude that gluttony is not another label for sin, although gluttony probably won't serve you well.  

Not everything we do needs to be measured in spiritual terms. The objective of our life should be to please God. That's definitely not a sin.

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