Category: calvinism

Twisted – Pt.2

This is but one example of where we are today when it comes to the preaching and teaching of God’s Word in the local church. [1]

No shepherd would ever think that way about his flock during Bible days, just the modern shepherds of our day. Paul’s vision was that he was willing to do all he could — to just win some! Paul worked and labored hard (I Corinthians 15:10; Philippians 4:3) because he understood that his work was more than preaching; but was to spread and grow the church across the then-known world.

To dismiss or marginalize “means” is another one of the twisted positions that characterize today’s preaching.  It is said different ways . . . .

  • We are just trusting God alone to provide.
  • Nothing can give you joy, peace, or satisfaction outside of Jesus.
  • There is no joy or happiness in our circumstances.
  • You need to lean on God, not people, to get you through the rough times of life.
  • You don’t need medication; you need Jesus!
  • Rely totally on the Lord!  You need nothing else!
  • Husbands and wives, you trust God to meet your needs.

Oh yes, every one of those statements could be and should be clarified to make them biblically accurate.  But this kind of bumper-sticker theology posted, taught, and preached latently brushes aside “means.”

Trusting God alone to provide does not mean we don’t work, and work hard to provide for our family, to establish an effective ministry, to raise our children, to develop an effective local church ministry, et al.

I know, those who make such statements don’t mean to deny that!  Really!  These kinds of statements are typically followed by a hardly AMEN from fellow pastors and congregations — with little serious thinking as to what is being repeatedly propagated as Bible truth.

The Lord has not only ordained the ends, but he has ordained means.  The created world and the laws that operate demonstrate that reality.  Oh yes, it is all held together by His power — but that does not mean that the laws which operate are being supernaturally commanded to operational status every millisecond.  Can the Lord controvert those laws?  Absolutely!  That is called a miracle.  Pregnancy and childbirth are not miracles. It can be and was with the birth of Jesus.

Wealth is not a miracle.  It can be, as Jacob finally admitted (Genesis 31).  But there are means to wealth (Proverbs 24:3ff). We are never to trust in the power of wealth, but it does have power, as many wicked men have come to know.  Yet the Lord can remove that power in a moment (Psalm 73:18)

Poverty is not the curse of God.  It can be, but there are means that accompany poverty (Proverbs 24:30).

Medication is not evil or sinful.  It can be.  But it is a means the Lord uses to stabilize us physically, mentally, and emotionally.  Our whole being was affected by the Fall.  We are lost spiritually, but the Fall has also impacted us physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Does it make a difference to experience a beautiful day, soft breezes, mild temperatures, and an awesome location?  To say that circumstances are not part of our joy or happiness [2] is to deny what we, as real people experience.  Are there hot-hot, rainy, miserable, or cold to the bone days that are unpleasant?  I do not enjoy those days!  I can still say . . . “This is the day that the Lord has made, and I will rejoice in it.” [3]  Let me assure you — the new heavens and earth will be a beautiful place and absent these miserable and terrible physical circumstances of earth — for a good reason!

Husbands and wives, you are the means God has ordained to meet your wife’s or husband’s needs. That does not mean that you are the only avenue, but you are a significant and meaningful part of His means! As children and parents, we are the means the Lord has provided for our parents and children. That does not mean that God does not provide directly and indirectly as well. But the clear and repeated pattern is the Lord, “along with you” — is the means.

Sanctification is not only progressive, but it is part of our personal responsibility.  Does the Lord work in our hearts?  Absolutely!  But we also work on our hearts.  God chose David out of the flocks for a reason (Psalm 78:72).  He rejected Saul for a reason.  Sanctification is not parallel to justification — all by God’s grace!  We work out our salvation (Philippians 2:12), never our justification.  Sanctification is not passive; it is active!  Go “passive” and see where that leads!

Can the Lord fight for us?  He has, and He does.  But men and women died fighting in real battles!  He can slay an army overnight, and has!  But He has also roused and raised up men and women to fight with sword and shield. In those fights, wives were widowed, and children lost their parents!

David hid from Saul for a reason!  The reason was not that God could not protect David had he shown up at the palace dinner table.  Upon Saul’s death, David called upon his men to learn the bow, not because only such a proficiency could or would save the lives of men.

Men come to know the Lord because of His established means — our prayers, our lives, our testimony, and the words of Scripture.  Yet, the Spirit blows where He will!

This tendency to play down “means” is part of the theological-ideology of the present-day Calvinistic and New Calvinist movement.  It runs parallel with the warping of God’s sovereignty!  

The false implication is that God works via some supernatural aura that descends from above to meet the needs of people — and His special people.  He can, and He does do that — and more so — and less so — throughout the Bible (Judges 6:13). Nevertheless, there is no mystical cloud that naturally descends from heaven that replaces God’s ordained means when we have been given the means and ought to have the will!

Work, and work hard to establish and strengthen the local church and its people!  There is a reason that some churches, ministries, youth groups, and/or activities do not show real growth!  Don’t put the aggregate responsibility on the Lord, as if that is His will.  Not to point out that our ministries are in America, not in an occultism-laden land.  God created a world where growth is a natural principle of life and of all things that are living.

Laziness comes at a price; the price is a lost world, the ministry, meaningful growth, and the needs of God’s people.

Unless the Lord makes it clear otherwise, we are called on to do all we can and should as a spouse, parents, workers, witnesses, pastors, members, citizens — and as lights in an unjust and twisted world.

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1. Put that together with this, if you can . . . .

It sounds like “leading” and “preparation” matter.

Why not let God alone make SB proud? Just preach the Word, feed the flock, and proclaim the Gospel!

When The Dam Breaks

My son bought a beautiful piece of ground with a LARGE lake situated on it — a 12 acre lake. In the course of considering the purchase, he learned a lot about lakes AND DAMS.

Earthen dams have the potential of breaking through and releasing a flood of water onto the neighboring properties.  In this case, it would be over 30 million gallons of water. The engineers he consulted indicated that tree growth, dead roots, ants, and burrowing animals can destabilize such a dam.

Typically, such earthen dams do not breach because of a single climactic event but a chain of events that come together at a point in time. The forces have been in play for a considerable period of time.

Actually, that is what has been and is happening with MANY ministries and local churches today. The dam is giving way, a contemporary dam that stretches from . . . .

RaviZ-SBC-Megachurches-Well-known Ministries-
John Piper – John Mac Arthur – James Mac Donald – Hybells – Hillsong – Driscoll –
Association of churches [1]- Local Churches.

I have said it before, and it needs to be said again — the many leaders who were elected and posted to guard and prevent what has and is taking place all need to resign. They are complicit in what they allowed to happen!

The causes of that complicity are varied . . . . .

  • relationships prevented them from speaking out
  • fear of being labeled a trouble-maker created a damaging silence
  • a stubborn unwillingness to see what was obvious to those outside of that ministry blinded them
  • a protectionist spirit that was more committed to an institution than God’s people caused them to ignore legitimate criticism
  • et al.

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When dams breach, it is not because of a single climactic event,
but a chain of events that come together at a point in time.
The forces have been in play for a considerable period of time.

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THEN the dam breaks.  It is only when the “dam breaks” that people begin speaking up about what was happening!  Now people are permitted to speak up without being intimidated and chastised!

THEN the dam breaks! And those who were supposed to guard the flock join in the chorus — as if they had nothing to do with what happened. Suddenly, they have the gift of discernment.

THEN the dam breaks! And NOW they claim to have had the gift of prophecy and saw it coming. A few caveats — “Yea, we should have addressed it earlier.” “Yes, we were concerned.” — and they are excused from any complicity!

 They are not prophets;
they are actually reporters on the scene,
redirecting accountability! [2]  

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1. Most are very familiar with what is happening with the SBC, but it is not only one of the largest convention of churches, but it is even the with the far-far smaller GARBC.

2. Adding insult to injury is the fact that some get to fail at oversight over and over. They didn’t see it with a school administrator, a youth pastor, a staff member, or a ministry leader. Now they fail again when it comes to yet another ministry leader. They are finally compelled to report on it. They now utter the “same words” — commensurate with their newly found clearsightedness — that others were censured for speaking. They speak as if they have any greater discernment now than was true with the past leader they endorsed and/or defended.

Fire them all!
They are not leaders; they are followers!
They ought to be shamed for allowing this to happen!

It’s Twisted!

“Anything that makes you need God is a blessing!” — Thank was what was said on the car radio by a well-known Bible teacher [1] as I was driving across Florida to visit a friend dying of cancer.

That is more than inaccurate, though it aims at and woefully misses a biblical truth taught in the Scriptures.  It is a dangerous and damaging teaching.

I can imagine all kinds of injustice and horrific deeds of men that makes people need God and even causes them to seek His help, and those actions were wicked and evil!  They were not a blessing, nor a blessing from God!

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

The clear understanding of the passage states that there are gifts that are not good and perfect, and that not all gifts come from above. The good and perfect come from His gift shop. The bad and evil come from a different owner’s shop!

The good and perfect come from the Father of light, and some come from the prince of darkness.  That truth is unvarying — no shadow of any turning will ever be found when it comes to what the Lord God gives!

Some not-so-good gifts come from powers of darkness and evil, including wealth/money, popularity, power, talents, position, resources, and prominence.  Those “gifts of darkness” have been given to “devour people as a lion” in life and living.  Those “gifts” have perpetrated and perpetuated some of the most horrific acts of evil.  Vladimir Putin was given many of those gifts — from the prince of darkness.

And check out that verse in its context — “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.” The Lord was never a party to the sins that tempt or too often overcome mankind.

Tell the families of Uvalde, Texas, whose children were killed, the parents of a young five-year-old child who was sexually molested, the wife whose husband has shattered their marriage, and the friend of mine who is dying of cancer (likely due to the unsafe environmental factory conditions) that what they are going through is a blessing, a blessing FROM God!

The underlying ideology of this kind of thinking and such statements has led to all kinds of passivity and inappropriate actions.  Poor-to-terrible counseling, wrong-doing, social injustice, and horrific abuse have been left unaddressed (and even justified as biblically appropriate and justified) because of this type of thinking — “We need to see this as from the hand of God.” [2]

Yes, I understand that God uses sin, sinlessly.  That God can still bless us, and does, midst our sin and the sins of others.  But the sin was sinful, it is not therefore acceptable to be left unaddressed, and it is not a blessing from His hand.  Any attempt to promote some passivity towards the sinful actions of men is but an argument to allow it to be more acceptable and/or for it to continue unaddressed!

I understand the truth that we can find rest for our souls during the most overwhelming times of life in Jesus, but not in some belief that or Lord was even close to complicit, found any pleasure in, or took some functioning part in the evil actions of men.

√  Rather, I find comfort in that He fully understands my pain, grief, sorrow, heartbreak, deep anguish, anger, and hurt — and sympathizes and empathizes with all that I feel.

√  I find comfort in the sure and confident hope that He will fully address the evil and wicked actions of men, in this life and/or in the life to come!

√ I find comfort in the sure and confident hope that He has fully planned and provided for an everlasting world to come where evil and the evil of men will be forever vanquished.

√  I find comfort in a humility of mind that recognizes that I cannot explain all that happens or is allowed to happen.

√  I find comfort in the understanding that there are mysteries and secrets known only to God, that we have not been told — that there is far more about God than contained in pages of Scripture!

√  I find comfort in that what God allows to happen is thoroughly consistent with all that we do and can understand, though we cannot reconcile them in our minds and hearts in this twisted and fallen world.

√  I find comfort in that we can run to Him in time of need (Matthew 11:28-30), and He can give me rest and peace which passes the peace I receive by understanding (Philippians 4:7) — that it passes the peace that I can and do get at times with understanding. [3]

  • No, I can’t explain why your child died at such a young age.
  • I wish I could explain why dad left, or you were put up for adoption, or mom was addicted, dad was an alcoholic, but I have no good explanation.
  • I don’t know why the marriage / family life was so pot marked with wrong-doing and evil/wickedness.
  • I have no explanation for why that house was swept away in the storm, and the house next door was untouched.
  • I can’t understand the Holocaust.
  • I have no knowledge of whether God is judging America by a pandemic or why your loved one died from it at the age of 32.
  • I don’t know why you live in America and others in Ukraine.

Nevertheless, I’ll hold onto the humility of mind that understands the biblical truth that we can find rest for our souls during the most overwhelming mysteries of life — in Jesus.

I need not adopt some twisted view of God’s sovereignty that somehow makes the wrongful, wicked, and/or evil actions of men more acceptable, a blessing, and/or anything less than wrong-to-evil — in order to find that rest! 

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1. Link to Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth’s “Revive Our Hearts” radio ministry on June 9, 2022

2. It is founded on a false and/or twisted understanding of the sovereignty of God, too often rooted in a theological ideology promoted by such men as John Mac Arthur and John Piper — some of the most prolific speakers, writers, and influential men over the past 40 years!

There is a connection between the present-day controversies involving John Mac Arthur and John Piper, concerning the abusive environments and/or teachings and their theological ideology!

There is a reason, not the only reason, that some ministries and local churches have failed to address wrong-doing and abuse, and it goes back to a twisted view of God’s sovereignty and a twisted theological ideology!

3. There was a day when Joseph got “understanding” as to why all that was happening was happening.  At times we get that kind of understanding, providing a measure of peace.

5 Changes That We May Well Regret In Coming Years

“Progressive” and “Transformational” are words that mark our culture and also mark the 21st-century church.

It is remarkable that in such a short space of time, the local church and worship have radically changed.

We may well look back at these initial years of our new century and have some serious regrets about what has taken place and what has been lost.

5 Losses Of Our Church Culture

#1 – Bible In Hand: Far fewer Christians carry an actual Bible to church. What at one time marked a Bible-believing church — Bibles in hand, turned to the passage under exposition, and resting on our laps for viewing and sermonic reference — is no longer a typical part of church culture.

The ability to underscore, make marginal notes, see a verse in its context, or follow along as a passage is taught have been radically altered or lost.  Instead, a passage of Scripture and/or selected verses are flashed on a screen and/or viewed on the LCD of a phone or iPad. [1]

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#2 – Great Congregational Song Leading & Singing: There was a time when great congregational singing was part of the church service.  A great congregational song leader was part and parcel of what made a church service what it was.  Those hymns became so well-known that we can still sing them 10-40 years later. [2]

The congregational singing that marked the Bible-believing church(as people broke into parts) is now — maybe at best — a congregationally indistinct sound, by a small number of people, singing musical-melody-only, and marked by a moshpit-long-all standing up-repetitive religious song time.

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#3 – Weekly Services:  Sunday School, Morning Worship, Sunday Evening, and Mid-Week Service were all part of what marked Bible-believing churches.  If you were looking for a good church on vacation, look for one with a Sunday evening or mid-week service.

Rather than realizing the vital need for Bible teaching, as did Rober Raikes or William Booth, ministry leaders and even local church pastors have decided to weaken the structure.  While many a ministry began with “just a few, “just a few” isn’t worth the time anymore.  And too often, why there are “just a few” attending isn’t a question that is addressed!  [3]

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#4 – Church Bulletins:  This may seem small, but it had great benefits!  There were several great benefits of having a church bulletin. Knowing what is happening within the local church community, getting to know people and ministries by name, being reminded about those who were sick or shut-ins, rejoicing over the birth of someone’s new child, the date and time of a wedding, funeral, church event, attendance or offering numbers, learning about the accomplishments of fellow believers, heartened by a Bible verse or inspirational thought, and being encouraged about up-coming events was all part of was part of the Sunday church bulletin.

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#5 – Hymn Books: There was a time when we as parents held the church hymn book at our child’s viewing level, followed across the lines with our finer, as our children learned the words, flow, and music of a church song.  The words are only needed and are now projected on a screen.

Following the music, singing parts, an effective all-congregational song leader, and congregational singing have been replaced by an overly loud, guitar-prominent, and drummer-led stage performance.

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Not only has our American culture accepted and/or allowed some of the most extreme positions to influence the direction of our country, but ministry leaders and pastors have also allowed and/or encouraged some of the same kinds of excessive changes in direction.

Many may well look back and regret these five changes [4] that have been allowed or encouraged by ministry leaders, deacons, elders, church staff, and/or the pastors of Bible-believing churches.  Some may no longer assess them as concerned and prudent shepherds of God’s flock, but rather as part of the problems they themselves denounced!



1. There are a good number of implications to this approach when it comes to being a “Berean Christian.”  No surprise that Christians are and will be easily deceived by speakers who control what is seen and read during a sermon or Bible teaching time.

2. Many of the religious songs of today will be no longer in but a few years.  They have no “entrenchment value” or strength.

3. Some ministry leaders and pastors, from one side of their mouth, decry what has happening in culture and the world around them, while from the other side of their mouth, close down their Sunday evening or mid-week service.  They are pastoral pretenders, not serious contenders, who ought to be ashamed of such complicity — Philippians 3:19; Revelation 3:18, 16:15

4. A sixth regret could easily be our view of Sunday as a different day.  For too many, Sunday is no longer marked out as a different day — by the way we prepare, dress, attend, arrive, participate in, serve or parentally value the Sunday worship service of our Lord!  This, too, has been allowed and/or encouraged by church leadership.

This Is The Non-Sense Of Today’s Theological Ideologies

Owen Stachan is not some unknown stranger in the theological world.  He is all too well known!

My concerns are not about his beliefs or positions but more about how many others follow and hold to the same theological positions he espouses.

And this theological position is not some strange and aberrant stance; it is also typical of those who park out around the same Calvinistic campfires.  The stance that — it is all or nothing when it comes to sanctification.

There is little to no room for anything less than total devotion, spiritual growth, and/or change. [1]

I would suggest that the Lord’s own disciples were embarrassed over the Lord’s teachings; at times, they exhibited a lack of love for some of the truths He taught and hesitated in believing all that He taught — as have a wide variety of the many saints of Scripture (that are even identified) — Jonah, Lot, Samson, David, Abraham, Peter, Thomas, Nathaniel, et al.

These kinds of statements [2] and theological ideologies produce sermons that shake people’s faith in their salvation and constantly make people feel that they will never measure up to living out their lives as believers.

As some responded (and many in a similar manner) . . . .

“Christian, do not make your subjective experience with the Bible the grounds for your assurance. Jesus has already understood, loved and obeyed every word of Scripture on your behalf, and He is patient with us as He renews our minds through the Spirit.”

“Yes. The only thing I can see this tweet producing is hypocrisy, as people scramble to convince themselves that they love the Bible as much as they should so that they can feel a sense of assurance. None of do. We’re still in the flesh.”

There is nothing the Lord did not know about you
when He saved you.



1. What are the implications of this statement for those who do not take the position of “literal 24-hour day” creation and opt for the position of theistic evolution or even evolution?

2. Recently, another well-known pastor remarked that . . . . “I am not sure one is a Christian if they do not regularly attend church — I’m not saying they aren’t, but I am just not certain.”  This is the same type of Calvinistic / New Calvinism thinking non-sense!

If we all read the same books,
we will all think the same thoughts.

That also explains some of how we got here!

How Can You Say That About David?

David was a man after God’s own heart.

That statement seems odd to many who know the story of King David.

Some may not understand one of the prominent characteristics that marked and guided David.  It is apparent that the Lord understood it!

Yes, David, a man after God’s own heart!

Are we talking about King David . . . .

  • David, who committed adultery with Bathsheba.
  • David, who had Urriah’s life put in purposeful and fatal jeopardy.
  • David who was stopped from killing Nabal by Abagail — that David?
  • Are we talking about David who hid in Ziklag under the feigned loyalty protection of King Achish?

Yep — that David!

When David was confronted by Nathan the prophet, David did not fend off his clear and confrontational charge of Nathan. He understood Nathan’s parable was not only about him, but how egregious his doings were. Nathan’s parable had to powerfully stab the heart of David — by all of its passionate imagery!

David wrote Psalm 51, a well-known Psalm to all of us who, like David, know and understand how stained we are from birth with the ability to do what we know is wrong!

Abagail confronted David, and again David listened and reversed course. He heard the argument that Abagail was making and yielded to her words!

When returning to Ziklag with his army and seeing the city in smoke and the inhabitants deported — his response . . .

“And David was greatly distressed . . . . but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God. And David said to Abiathar the priest, Ahimelech’s son, I pray thee, bring me hither the ephod. And Abiathar brought thither the ephod to David. And David enquired at the LORD”.

David knew that he was responsible for the situation and his only hope was to go to the Lord for merciful help!

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David’s life was marked by some heinous sins, he was also marked by a quality that God takes note of in our lives — self-awareness!

David was self-aware of himself and his own layers of sinfulness.

Again, when David was cursed by Shimei while fleeing the city of Jerusalem, he responds with a level of understanding that some never come to in life and living — (II Samuel 16:5-12).  David understood that such words were deserving and more — it was from the mouth of the Lord!  He was a bloody man!

As is seen repeatedly, David was a man you could talk to, and he would listen! He had ears to hear because he was self-aware of himself, his tendencies, his sinful leanings, and his own ability to justify and rationalize his sinfulness.

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If you have been following what is happening in one of the largest “denominations” of churches in America, the SBC, you will witness an example of the lack of that quality.

Pastor Tom Buck, whose wife has written a book talking about how rough and abusive her husband was in the many early years of their marriage, decided to point his finger and identify a deacon who committed adultery over 20 years ago.

While claiming that he and his wife story was written to illustrate God’s redeeming work midst their marriage, the redeeming work in the marriage of that deacon is worthy of condemnation and removal.

Oh no, that deacon who has shown true repentance over the past 20 years, and has served admirably and with integrity on many different levels over the past 20 years, is not granted the margins of grace that Pastor Tom Buck speaks about in his own marital situation — as a pastor!

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It is sad to say, but there are too many pastors who are so lacking in self-awareness. They preach on this-or-that, and have no idea of their own failure in that very area. Like Pastor Buck, those in the audience wonder how he could say what he says in light of what he himself has done, said, or gone through. The response is — “You are kidding me! How in the world is he able to say or do that?”

√ I have personally heard and seen pastors speak against the nomination of a church officer or deacon because of the behavior of one of their children. In contrast, their own children should have disqualified them from pastoring.

√ I have personally heard and seen pastors talk about love, kindness, forgiveness, care, and concern, while they failed to show those very same qualities in dealing with and dismissing a member(s) of the church.

√ I have personally heard and seen pastors rationalize, explain away, defend, and justify clear and even grievous wrong-doing by them and/or others, while preaching about the sins of the world around them and calling for a revival in America.

Not so with David. David was self-aware of his sin and sinful tendencies. Self-awareness springs from a humility that “gets it.” Self-awareness and humility are the cousin traits that marked David — and traits that Saul never had. They are symmetrical qualities.

Jonathan — David — or the experience of life could never get Saul to grab hold of them — no less see as absent in his own make-up — though they tried!

It leads to the . . .

 “for thee, but not for me-ism.” 

“For Thee, But Not For Me” —  is what we see in the world of politics . . . . and rightfully decry!

The continuing saga of the SBC is a microcosm of what happens when there is such a lack of self-awareness.

Justice – Part #2

Podcast LINK

Attorney Matt Martens joins host Marty Duren on this episode to talk about systemic injustices in the US legal system.

Matthew Martens has worked both as a federal prosecutor (9 years) and as a criminal defense attorney (11 years). His cases have ranged from capital murder, drug trafficking, firearms violations, and child pornography, to securities fraud, mortgage fraud, voter fraud, and public corruption. He has tried more than two dozen cases across the country both as a prosecutor and defense attorney. He is currently a partner in the Washington, DC office of one of the world’s largest law firms. Matt’s first book, Reforming Criminal Justice: A Christian Proposal (Crossway), is due out in early 2023.

Podcast LINK

https://uncommontarypodcast.com/2022/04/12/matthew-martens-systemic-injustice-the-bible-and-the-us-system-ep96/

You can follow him on Twitter @martensmatt1.

Justice

Matthew Martens has worked both as a federal prosecutor (9 years) and as a criminal defense attorney (11 years). His cases have ranged from capital murder, drug trafficking, firearms violations, and child pornography, to securities fraud, mortgage fraud, voter fraud, and public corruption. He has tried more than two dozen cases across the country both as a prosecutor and defense attorney. He is currently a partner in the Washington, DC office of one of the world’s largest law firms. Matt’s first book, Reforming Criminal Justice: A Christian Proposal (Crossway), is due out in early 2023.

“How is it possible when it comes to criminal justice in the US we have two opposite camps? One cries ‘defund the police’ & the other ‘more law & order.’  My conversation with Matthew Martens is enlightening. Have a listen and learn.” — Jen Oshman

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“When it comes to criminal justice we have two opposite camps in this country: one side cries “defund the police” and the other side demands more “law and order.” How is it possible to have two very different perspectives on the same criminal justice system? And how should Christians be grappling with the way justice is currently carried out in our country?

On this episode we hear from Matt Martens who is a criminal lawyer, a graduate of Dallas Theological seminary, was a federal prosecutor for 10 years, has written for the WSJ and WaPo and is currently writing a book entitled Reforming Criminal Justice: A Christian Proposal (forthcoming with Crossway in 2023). Martens has a unique and qualified perspective with his robust background in both theology and both sides of our legal system.

From a theological perspective, Martens says Jesus not only declares us just, but is making us just. Meaning the gospel is not only about our individual salvation, but also our sanctification and how we live amongst one another. Part of preaching the gospel is seeking justice in our midst.

From a legal perspective, Martens says many Americans just don’t know how our system really works. He says there are outrageous injustices built into the system that the average person simply doesn’t know about. He wants to change that through his presence online and in his forthcoming book.

Two primary reasons we don’t see our criminal justice in a unified way, Martens says, are because we have varying degrees of education about our history as a nation and varying degrees of knowledge and experience with how our justice system currently operates.

Have a listen and learn. Martens covers a ton of both history and present realities. You’ll hear about how our criminal justice system was organized after the Civil War and how some of those practices remain today; how jury selection can have a huge and unjust impact on the accused; how both our bail and plea bargain systems coerce innocent people to confess guilt to crimes they did not commit; the realities of a broken policing system that leaves many crimes unsolved and prevents victims from experiencing justice; and more. Martens closes this episode by telling us what you and I can do to seek justice in our own localities.” — Jen Oshman

Podcast LINK —  https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/all-things/id1449943664?i=1000548574978

You can follow him on Twitter @martensmatt1.

Baseball Rules For Ministry: Tie Goes To The Runner!

When a teacher spoke to me about one of my children, I knew this; her words were the truth about the situation! That wasn’t just a nice platitude or an “old school” mentality — but “far more.”  It was an operating principle!

The “more” was that as the church pastor and administrator of the Christian school, I knew it took something meaningful for a teacher to come to me with an issue! If it was important enough for a teacher to step up to the bat, then it was right to give it serious attention! If there was even or ever a tie, it went to the runner — the one who felt strong enough about a concern that they felt they should at least make it to first base!

Pastors know this, or at least should know this unless they find some lopsided consolation in thinking otherwise . . . .

There is an immense amount of natural grace
given to a ministry leader and/or the pastor(s) of local church ministry!

. . . . and for various reasons — and for good reasons.

  • He is their pastor!
  • They voted on and called their pastor to their ministry.
  • His position and title rightfully matter to God’s people.
  • He ministers to them from the pulpit about godly living.
  • God’s people believe that they ought to be careful and cautious when speaking about ministry leaders or their pastor(s).
  • “There is no perfect pastor or perfect church.”
  • The shepherd is over the flock.
  • We want to believe, and we ought to believe, that the pastor(s) is an honest, good, and godly person.
  • God’s people want to believe the best about their leadership.
  • The pastor is working with a wide variety of people with varied opinions.
  • “Success” is a quieting agent.
  • If he has been there for years, whatever differences there were/are, are no longer that significant.

If ministry leaders or pastors read the above list, they are feeling fairly good right now!

“Yes, heading up a ministry and/or being a pastor isn’t an easy job! People need to cut some slack when it comes to being critical. We are working hard at ministry and doing the best we know how with such a diverse span of individuals and families — no less in today’s culture!”

For all those reasons — and more — there is a lot of grace extended to ministry leaders and pastors! Not, “there ought to be a lot of grace extended,” but there is!

God’s people are typically, overwhelmingly, and exceptionally hesitant to do much more than mildly “bleat” about a decision, action, or regarding their shepherd.

There are biblical truths and principles that genuinely support being gracious and kind towards those in leadership!

The difficulty is that those truths and principles can also be used as a cloak to hide behind. That is why the list seemingly gets longer and longer when it comes to present-day examples of ministry wrong-doing!

Examine the all too numerous and varied cases of ministerial wrong-doing, and you will see how the truths and principles of Scripture were used to ward off legitimate criticism. A few — and often too few — people were speaking out because there is a lot of grace given to ministry leaders and pastors!

There are clear biblical truths that are legitimate guidelines for church behavior . . . . .

  • be slow to speak and quick to hear
  • speech seasoned with grace
  • the fruits of the Spirit
  • patience, kind, tenderhearted, forgiving one another
  • Matthew 18
  • salt and pure water from the same fountain
  • and many others!

However, they can be, and are, also used to quiet and/or evade criticism — even legitimate criticism or serious wrong-doing! [1]

It is difficult to go to a ministry leader, deacons, and surely one’s pastor to address an issue of concern!

When that happens, the concern needs to be genuinely acknowledged.

Beyond that, there needs to be some serious listening and attentiveness about the concern because, like the teacher, the employee or member has been debating whether to step up and go to bat, to speak up — or to stay on the bench and out of the lineup, or even out of the game!

It has been a hard decision for even the most plainspoken because, like all of us, their lives are also about relationships. They understand that there may be, and usually are, repercussions from speaking out and addressing a situation. The official referees and even your other players have been known to turn on you and they know that then — It’s game over!

Even the most outspoken and forward understand the relational risks regarding their ministry or church! They live their lives around family, work, and the church! Their ministry and/or the church is where they live a good part of their lives!

Any believed “tie” ought to go to them, the runner.

If they decided to go to bat, they should get the presumption that there is something worthy of a fair and genuine discussion.

As they try to make it to at least first base, not only should the time and effort be given to them to make their case, but the legitimacy of their concerns ought to be seen as “safe” for an honest evaluation!

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1. The proof is far too obvious and repeated when it comes to pastoral wrong-doing — case after case continually shows up on today’s landscape! The Scriptures warn about that phenomenon because that is exactly why and how wolves are able to hide as sheep. They quote the Bible and use it as a cloak. They make it appear that they are just being biblical and seeking to be like Jesus!

When called out, they use biblical truths and principles as a cloak — Matthew 15; I Thessalonian 2:5; John 15:22; I Peter 2:16!

The biblical truths and principles are biblical! But they can be and are used to silence and/or cover!

They . . . .

  • are not lazy — just patient and watchful
  • were not unloving — but are like Jesus, who called out the money-changers
  • were not unfriendly — just trying to be careful
  • are not indifferent — just seeking to be discerning
  • are not greedy for gain — just planning & thinking ahead
  • were not stingy — just being frugal
  • are not covetous — just want to use it/that for the Lord
  • were not uncaring — just walking circumspectly
  • did no wrong — but prayed about it
  • are not evasive — but like Jesus, suffering the wrong
  • were not sinfully angry — it was just righteous indignation
  • did not lack a heart for the lost — but trusting God to direct / to open the door
  • did not overlook or ignore needs — they were merely redeeming the time
  • were not a respecter of persons — just trying to give honor where honor is due
  • have not been immoral — just misunderstood / judge not

My Pharmacists Called Me Yesterday

Did I mention that my pharmacist called me AGAIN this week……  Not an assistant – but he called!  Because his business matters to him personally, first, and most importantly!

(Originally posted in June 2020)

I received a call yesterday from my pharmacist. Why is that so important? Aum Pharmacy is a small family-owned business, and Dr. Patel has only known us for less than a year. He called – “Mr. Martens, I’m calling just to . . . . ” He called asked how we were doing, WOW! I understand that he is interested in keeping our business and/or seeing if we are still his customers – The men of this world are wiser than the children of light!* But many a church never came even close to that over the previous 14 weeks of this Corona Crisis.

Many members of the local church never even received ONE call, no less a visit (oh yea – there are easy ways to pay a visit as a pastor even midst this kind of crisis – just not much creativity. When there is not much concern and heart, there is little creativity and a lot of self-serving decisions and excuses. Heart is a prerequisite to creativity when it comes to shepherding!

This CoronaCrisis may reveal just another failure of many a local church ministry and finally lead to thinking seriously about making a move for many church members across the landscape of America’s Bible-believing churches. It may be the “clunk,” which causes many to make that move.

All of us have probably owned a car, and as the years moved on, we repaired this, then that, then something minor, then something major, and continued to invest time and money into that car with the obvious unrealistic hope that it would be could avoid purchasing a new car – maybe up to 350,000 miles of hope – which was my longest-running attempt.

Finally, there comes a time – time to trade it in, bite the bullet, and start over – buy a new car. That is what happens with members of a local church – especially when it comes to those who “lean on the car’s ability to keep them rolling and get them to where they know they need to be day after day” – who really put a lot of “miles” on the car. They need a car which will meet the demands day by day!

Those who give a great deal of their time, talent, and treasure, who invest heavily into a church ministry, who are willing to live with this-or-that irritation, this-or-that repeating whining sound, and are even willing to pay an emotional-social-spiritual price when various mechanical failures occur – the pain of the words and/or event, the loss of some church friends, the spiritual disillusionment which comes with poor church decisions, and/or the discouragement which accompanies being part of an imperfect fellowship.

Those with less investment, those who are on the sidelines of church ministry – who may primarily just attend the morning service and little else, or have little connection because of little personal interest in them, or never felt part of this church because the pastor does not even know their names, or they never broke into the established circles – may well just keep driving the same “car” until another used or new car catches their fancy at this-or-that time in their life. They leave the church virtually unnoticed, and unfortunately undiscovered for weeks or months – “You know – I haven’t seen so-in-so for several weeks now, are they . . . “

There will also be some who will leave the church during this American crisis because the car they are driving is not at all the car they thought it was. They found out in this time of crisis that the car broke down or performed poorly. “Old Nelly” really doesn’t have what it takes to keep me motoring down the road. This crisis has brought that truth to light.

As members of the church, they never received a call from a pastor and/or deacon for 12 to 14 weeks. Sadly, that has happened in many a church. Instead of pastors seizing the moment to create some incredible ties with God’s people, the pastoral leadership has never made one phone call to those who were not part of that small and close cadre of “important people”, but they served and gave of their time, talent and treasure, and thought that the pastors cared. We will hear about their leaving in the words of those who knew them and/or sat around them in the congregation – “Yea, I haven’t seen (name).” Those who knew them and/or sat near them knew their names, but not many others. “Who???? — What did they look like? — Oh, I think I know who you are talking about.

”The pastors will continue to respond with far too little concern, or believe that they had anything to do with their leaving — “Why didn’t God’s people call them, or send them a card (one of those wildly creative ideas – sending a handwritten note),” or shift their indifference onto others, or claim that they are more busy, spent, or worn than others who also work a “40-hour week” in the world yet still give hours ministering at the church.

It is that drip-drip-drip, accumulation of sounds, creeks, noises, needed maintenance schedules, necessary small repairs, bumps, and scratches, major breakdowns of this-or-that part – which finally leads to “trading-it-in.” That is what can keep the door revolving in the local church setting. It is merely accented during a time of crisis, such as the COVID pandemic.

At the end of this CovidCrisis don’t be surprised that some people are not returning to the services of the church. They have paused to think about whether it is time to look around for a new car which performs better. They now realize that it is time to stop repairing it – “Now another strange sound coming from the car – the sound of pastoral indifference midst a request to keep sending in your tithe and offerings! The institution is more important than you are – “What’s your name again?”

Hopefully, they will not, and should not, consider the possibility of “stop driving.” The head of the church is our Lord, and He well knows how imperfect it is, from the beginning of His ministry to the night in the garden when even his closest disciples fell asleep.

While it is said over and over – “no church is perfect” – and none is – there are differences on the continuum of imperfection. That is why, “No church is perfect,” should not stop us from insisting on or looking for a “more perfect union of believers, when it comes to church ministry, life, and service.

For some, another or a new clunking sound will emerge, because crises place new demands on a car. Some drivers will again be alerted and reminded that the car really isn’t performing very well. This will now be a time for church hunting, jumping, cautiously visiting – looking for a church which cares about us and our family, cares more for people than for its survival, and its financial viability. Seeing if there is a “more perfect” church – a church which showed that it cared about “the body” through creative ways of ministry during this crisis, as much as they cared about getting us all back together in a live service, as was the outcry of far too many pastors all across America.

CLUNK — What’s that sound?

Did I mention that my pharmacist called me AGAIN this week….. Not an assistant – but he called!  Because his business matters to him first and most importantly!

The men of this world are wiser than the children of light!

September 2020 Poll

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* The men of this world are wiser than the children of light – than those who have been given the light, the light of the glorious Gospel, the light of the world, the light which guides and directs, the light which shown out of darkness, a light that shines in a dark place, the armor of light, a light which makes manifest, . . . . .

Creative Suggestion: Put four or more lawn chairs in you car and call an “on the margins church family,” — not someone you know well — ask if you can stop over, and sit outside with some coffee or lemonade and just talk for 30 minutes… then repeat….do again tomorrow…You will build some ties that will last for years!

Get out of the echo chamber of those around you who tell you what you want to hear, which never challenge you as a pastor, found all across our Americanized churches of ease. Jeremiah 12:5