Category: calvinism

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

2829B5DB-25FB-4C55-979F-80690F622727



* 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