Self Defense 2: Pacifism and Nonresistance – Twisting Scripture

Allow me to begin by saying that sinful man has and does attempt to use God’s Holy Word to justify some actions that are absolutely contradicted by the same. We (mankind in general) can slice out little slivers of scripture and attempt to use them to justify our ends or means, especially when we believe it’s all about us. Here’s the shocker for some people: it’s not all about you. It is, however, all about Jesus Christ and his plan for each of us. The beauty is that He allows us to choose what we will do. The problem is that often we don’t like dealing with the consequences of our decisions, whatever they may be.

Anyone who has known me, talked to me or read my articles, Facebook posts or similarly understands me and my position, should know that first, last and always I attempt to take a firm stand on the Bible. With this thought in mind, it is imperative that all of the Bible be considered when formulating doctrine. There are historical accounts as well as direct teaching that address the issue of self-defense in scripture. These are found in both the Old and New Testaments, with many, many further examples in secular history.

There are some arguments that I’ve heard over the years against the idea of self-defense, using scripture to attempt to support the position. In the first article of this series I mentioned briefly nonresistance and pacifism, which are similar in some respects, though ultimately not the same. While the primary thrust of my series and my overall conviction is not about these two concepts, I believe that a mention of them and some of the scriptures I’ve heard used to support them may lead to a better biblical understanding of self-defense.

Let me begin by explaining, that rarely, if ever have I heard anyone attempt to use the Bible to justify pacifism. I mention it simply because some people confuse this ideology with the unbiblical doctrine of non-resistance. A quick internet search returns, “Pacifism: the belief that any violence, including war, is unjustifiable under any circumstances, and that all disputes should be settled by peaceful means.” Most pacifists, not only do not believe in violence, but they actively advocate for and often work feverishly to promote non-violence, including self-defense, at any cost. Again, an internet search returns the following: “Nonresistance: the policy or practice of not resisting violence or established authority,even when tyrannical, by force.” Most people I have talked to, articles I have read, etc. claim that they actively practice or will practice nonresistance, but rarely actively attempt to promote it on any large scale. So, basically speaking in my experience, pacifists insist that EVERYONE needs to practice pacifism. On the other hand, those who practice nonresistance personally believe that it is best for everyone, but still believe that we are free to make our own choices regarding self-defense, waging war, etc.

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.” Matthew 5:38-42, KJV. This is the premier passage that I have heard/read on the idea of nonresistance. Indeed, the phrase, “resist not evil,” is likely the primary catchphrase used to promote the doctrine.

This passage is found in Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount,” in Matthew chapters 5-7. In context, this passage is discussing personal insult, not personal injury, violence and self-defense. It is also about the concept of allowing God to mete to persons the judgement due for their actions against us. We are not to take revenge, but leave that up to the true and righteous Judge of the Universe.

If we compare scripture with scripture, utilizing ALL of God’s word, the concept that this passage instructs us to not use whatever means necessary, including “violent” means to defend ourselves cannot be supported. There are indeed instructions in the Bible that show us that men and women used weapons of war and other means to defend themselves against those who intended great bodily harm and death, had they not resisted and overcome them.

Another passage, taken even more out of context is Luke 3:14. Before I quote the text of this verse, I urge you to please take the time to turn to Luke 3, begin reading at verse 1 and see what John the Baptist, the speaker here is saying to his audience. Here is the verse wrongly used to advocate nonresistance: “And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages. Luke 3:14, KJV. Again, the particular phrase used, “do violence to no man,” is taken completely out of proper context. Here is a prime example of the necessity to go to a good concordance and see what the text said in the original language.

The word, violence, as rendered in English had the meaning in Greek to not “shake down,” or “extort” undue financial payment from the civilian population. Another rendering of the word could be interpreting, “stop intimidating for cash payment.” According to many commentaries that I have read, apparently many of the Roman soldiers of this day would use their positions of power and authority to intimidate the civilian population into giving them money, perhaps for “protection” or in order to stop or avoid harassment or physical harm.

The idea that the soldiers were to stop being soldiers because the nature of soldiers is to inflict violence is a total misreading of the context. Luke even tells us that John the Baptist, the one telling the soldiers to stop extorting money from the civilians should, “be content with your wages.” There are two glaringly obvious thoughts here. One, a Roman soldier could not simply quit the Roman army and retain his life. To desert his position was to forfeit his life. The second observation here is, if a Roman soldier was to be content with his wages, what was he being paid for? It’s clear that his pay was for the performance of his duties as a soldier! John was telling the soldiers that they should be content with the pay they received for their work and to stop shaking down the local civilian population for more. In today’s military, there are laws on the books to prosecute pillaging.

There are probably a couple more passages that I have heard or read that some try to use to support their position, but since these are the most common and seem to be the strongest “evidence” for biblical support of pacifism or nonresistance, I won’t take the time to investigate others.

With the next addition, I hope to get into some specific biblical passages that directly address the proper concept of self-defense, which is simply one of the lines of thought of self-preservation. Of course the family, if this happens to be the case, is the logical extension of this concept on a personal level. Thanks for reading, stay tuned.

Blessings ~

Self Defense: Biblical or Not?

Two of the primary documents our country is built on are the Bible and the Declaration of Independence. With many of the recent events: Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina; Columbine High School; First Baptist Church, Sutherland Springs Texas; Aurora Movie Theater and many, many more over several years, the debate has raged over firearms in particular, but also over self-defense, tools and techniques. Considering both documents first mentioned, what did our Founding Fathers believe and more importantly to some people, does the Bible address the issue?

The second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” In every situation mentioned and hundreds upon hundreds of times more every year, people are deprived of life, liberty and property (the original wording of the Declaration) who could have changed the situation with some common sense action.

I’m intending to use, probably a few blog posts to address the issue of self defense and what the Bible has to say about it, with perhaps some personal insight and opinion on the topic regarding tools and tactics as well.

Let me start off with the Declaration of Independence and point out that the rights come from our Creator. Reading source documents of our Founding Fathers, it’s easy to see that many, if not most were Bible-believing Christians and the wording that these “inalienable rights” came from our “Creator” gives significant credence to that fact. If someone comes to me or my family, my home or presence (wherever that may be) with the intent to deprive any of us of our life or liberty, it is my inalienable right to defend myself.

Let me branch off just a bit into the arguments that I’ve heard from well-meaning Bible scholars over the years I’ve read and heard who disbelieve that self-defense is biblical. Using Jesus commonly known “turn the other cheek” teaching in Matthew 5:39, they wrongly interpret this passage to say that we should never defend ourselves. In context, this passage is speaking about personal insults, not about personal assaults. Most of those I’ve heard and read use the term, “nonresistance”. There is a definite difference between nonresistant and pacifist, but I don’t really care to get into that here. In this most commonly used passage, Jesus is saying that we are to endure personal insults and not retaliate.

In other passages in the Old and New Testaments, our biblical instruction is that we are not to exact revenge, but to leave that up to God, himself. On the other hand, there are many passages that indicate that God set up the government to punish evil-doers, (Genesis 9:6 & Romans 13:1-7 come readily to mind.) Again, this is not about the government’s role, but about what, if anything, are we to personally do about self-defense?

Before I get into the biblical passages (probably the next posting – just to keep you coming back) I want to question the consistency of your thinking. If you believe that people should not have the right to employ whatever means they choose, firearms included, to effect self-defense, are you willing to practice the same in other areas of your life? At it’s core, self-defense is simply self-preservation in a very fast-moving and stressful situation. Do you practice self-preservation or family preservation? If you are a father or mother do you appreciate a warm house in winter, warm clothes, healthy food on the table, clean water to drink and more for your children, family and friends? Do you use health insurance, vehicle insurance, homeowners insurance, life insurance or otherwise practice these types of self/family preservation? If so, why then are some so against using whatever means is effective (sometimes necessary) to preserve life or liberty of self or loved ones?

I’ve been watching it happen over the years. The mentality of, “Someone else will take care of it, so why should I worry?” That has in most, well, in many cases become the prevailing thought regarding personal safety and self-defense. The two go hand in hand. It’s the Police’s job or the Government’s job to protect us. We trust doctors and pharmacists to keep us healthy, so we don’t watch our diet or exercise. We trust the Government to provide food, housing, finances and more so we don’t have to work.  We have every kind of insurance, even kinds that aren’t called “insurance,” so that we can be reactive to life and not proactive.

Those of us who do take personal responsibility for our lives try to watch our diet and exercise, manage our money. Plan for our future. Practice good stewardship of all of our collective and personal resources. Many of us, certainly me included also take preservation of ourselves and our families, our lives, liberty and often property very seriously. Utilizing effective tools to accomplish this simply makes good sense. If you shop around for the best health, car or life insurance to ensure that what you get is the best you can find to fit your situation, why would self-defense be any different?

So, there are some of my introductory thoughts on this. There will be more to come, though I’m a pretty busy guy providing for my family and more, so I can’t promise when the next installment will be up. My intent with the next installment is to look at several Bible passages and some principles found in God’s word to show that self-defense and defense of others not capable (not unwilling) to defend or provide for themselves is absolutely biblical and should be practiced. Most likely there will be a third installment (maybe even more) offering you my personal thoughts as a father, husband, former police officer, soldier (and more) on tactics and tools to protect yourself and those you love. Stay tuned (and God bless you) . . .

Working Ourselves Out of a Job

My sweet wife, Julie and I seem to be well on the way to working ourselves out of our jobs. I’m not talking about no longer working and getting paid for it. Julie couldn’t do this anyway since she’s been the best Housewife and Mother I know and has been a “Stay-at-home-Mom since about April of 2000. She’s been so much more valuable to our family in such a role than she ever would have been out in the workforce somewhere. Over the course of the last seventeen years or so, she’s saved our family much more than she ever would have been able to make. Just the impact on the overall well-being of our family has been more than worth it.

After considerable searching of the scriptures, discussion, seeking godly counsel and prayer, we made the decision that Julie would stay home to care for our children and I would work enough to support our family. In some cases, that has meant that I’ve been working two full-time and a part time job all at once. The Lord has been gracious to give me and my wife the strength, determination, resourcefulness, mental and physical necessities for a successful family life overall. I’m eternally grateful for seven beautiful children we’ve been blessed with in our twenty-plus years of marriage.

One of the things we’ve done as a family over the years is to read through the Bible together. Along with this, we memorize scripture together. Through the years, when our children reached their fourth birthday, it was time for them to start memorizing scripture. One of the blessings has to do with this practice. Our youngest daughter, Abigail has never really known a time when we didn’t regularly recite our scripture verses and read and discuss a chapter of the Bible. About two months after her THIRD birthday, she crawled up onto my lap as we were preparing for our “Family Devotions,” as we like to call it. She said, “Papa, I want to do a verse too.” I was so blessed, I think I about melted and something probably ran out of the corner of my eye. (Must have been allergies in December.) She started to memorize scripture with the rest of us and had five verses memorized by her fourth birthday. They were, Genesis 1:1; Psalm 119:11; Jeremiah 17:9; John 3:16 and 1 Corinthians 10:31.

Years ago, I would get so busy with projects around the house that by the time I was ready for our Family Devotions, most of the younger children were so tired, they were already sleeping. Sometimes, I was even too tired and we just skipped it for the night. I came to realize that the projects that just HAD to be done and our family Bible study was being neglected would still be there tomorrow, waiting to be done. However, our children and their training had an eternal element. Now, even if we are traveling, have guests over or for most other reasons we used to have an excuse for skipping our Family Devotions, we make sure that we set aside time to recite and study God’s word.

Not only do we regularly teach our children from the Bible every evening but my wife also is their primary educator. One of the passages of scripture we have memorized as a family is Deuteronomy 6:4-9. While it’s our longest passage of scripture memorized to date, it’s also one of the most important. We see in this passage that we are to “teach our children to love the Lord [their] God with all [their] heart, soul mind and strength,” and to do this, “when we sit in [our] house, when we walk by the way, when we lie down and when we rise up. . . ” Before our children ever got to school age, we decided that God was instructing us as parents that we were to instruct our children, first and most importantly in the ways of the Lord twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. We have taken that challenge very seriously as well.

Quite often, when discussing a biblical issue, some doctrine or even a news item from the radio, computer, newspaper or otherwise, our children show a depth of scriptural knowledge and understanding that I certainly never had at their age. We have some fabulous theological discussions and I’m convinced that my children can hold their own with the average “Christian” in America today.

One of the things that has blessed me on so many occasions is to be sitting on a Friday or Saturday morning, when I can get up a little later and have my oldest son, Jonathan come sit beside me. I always have my Bible open and usually I’m working on a cup of coffee my wife has prepared for me. He sits beside me on the sofa and reads his Bible next to me. I have to say that there is no better feeling in the world. He’s read completely through his Bible twice and he’s well on his third way through again. I have to ask, “How many 14-year old young men have read all the way through their Bible even ONCE, much less twice and on their way through again?”

Our boys and girls are learning more than just the scriptures and practical application of them. They’re learning household tasks, money management, building and repairs and much much more. They’re learning how to learn and not simply memorizing an array of facts and figures, faces and places. Our boys have mostly kept the furnace going AND cleaned out all of last winter, so that I barely had to touch it.

We’ve been accused of “sheltering” our children and my response is, “You’re absolutely right.” When they are ready to step out on their own, I believe ALL of our children have been set up for the best they can do in their life. When the shelter is no longer available, or the stresses of life come calling, their roots, stock and more will be able to bend and not break in the face of the proverbial storm.

In honor of my Father and Mother, who have gone on to be with their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. In honor of my wife’s Father and Mother who have instilled in her many of the values we’re passing along to our children, we’re doing the best we can to leave a legacy and prepare our children not only for a life after they leave home. We’re preparing them for eternity as best as we can. It’s not that we’re enjoying the thought of working ourselves out of a job, but seeing them, “grow in grace and in knowledge of [their] Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,” is absolutely about the best Father’s Day or Mother’s Day gift we could get.

Where Do You Get YOUR Theology?

Quite some time ago I wrote a post asking whether the Bible was enough. In a way, this is a continuation of the same or similar thought.  My readers may or may not know that I have been a student at Liberty University Online. I had to stop for a while to work an extra job, but now I’m back into school. A recent and current class are classes on Theology, which I enjoy very much. These classes have brought a question to my mind that I’ve had before. “Where does my (or your) theology or ideas on theology come from?”

It’s no secret to those who know me well that I am passionate about the Bible. I’m passionate about everything about the Bible and especially about learning more and learning how to apply it to everyday life. My outlook on the Bible, God’s word really hasn’t changed much since I really started reading and studying it earnestly in 1999. I have learned more of it and learned how to apply it better to my life as I’ve been studying it over the years. My understanding has deepened of the things of God and I’m recalling more and more of what the Bible says. With this continued study, I’m seeing how what I already understand fits in with what I’m still learning.

Ideas come up from time to time that I sometimes dismiss out of hand. Sometimes these ideas make me figuratively scratch my head and wonder, “What in the world are they thinking?” Sometimes these ideas generate within me a great desire to yell and scream at the book, computer screen, magazine, radio or even sometimes person, “No! No! No!” I am usually successful in refraining from the latter.

If you know me, even a little bit, you should realize that I’m pretty passionate about what I believe, but I also am passionate about learning more and deepening my understanding of what I do know. With that being said, I’ve seen, read, heard or watched things over the last few weeks that have brought the question to mind again. That question has taken many different formats over the time I’ve been considering it. If you remember the title of my post, that’s essentially it. “Where do you get YOUR theology?”

Most people who are even somewhat serious about this will respond that they get their theology from the Bible, of course. While that appears to be true on the surface, a deeper study seems to reveal that many are either adding to or taking away from the Word of God. I’ll not call out specific people, but I have no problem calling out teachings that contradict God’s word. There are a couple of things that are perhaps more personal convictions and I believe that there is room for disagreement and true and full fellowship is still possible.

Let me offer some points of difference in beliefs on several doctrines. Some of these that I’ve known of over the years include: Calvinism (Reformed Theology), Infant Baptism, Baptismal Regeneration, Covenant Theology, Replacement Theology, Entire Sanctification and more, I’m sure. Since I believe the biblical position on the Rapture, Great Tribulation, Millennial Kingdom is a Pre-trib rapture (to shorten it a bit), I believe that all of the other views contradict scripture.

I’m not going to explain why I think these are all wrong here, but I am a little weary of the accusation that I get my views from some writings or teachings of someone from the past. In much the same way, with all due respect to persons (living or not) such as A. W. Pink, J.N. Darby and others. Having discussed (I dislike the terminology, “debate”) many of these in the past in many different forums, I’ve been offered books, magazine articles, websites, cassette tapes and more on why I didn’t have the proper understanding. Honestly, this gets to the meat of the matter. Along these same lines, I’ve also been told that, “When I am more educated on the topic (more college/”proper” theological teaching) I’ll understand better.” I’ve also been told, “When you’re more spiritually mature, you’ll understand better.”

These are the arguments that weary me. With all due respect to our differences and understanding of those differences, let’s sit down with the Bible and discuss those differences. My explanations or “arguments” may sound to you like I’m saying what someone may have said in the past, but I absolutely assure you that my understanding came from reading the Bible. ALL of it. MANY times through. I know that I’m not as spiritually mature as I eventually will be. I hope and strive to grow in my faith and understanding of God and his word daily. And, while I am still in Bible College, having studied the Bible daily for over 17 years, I personally feel that I have a better than average grasp of it already.

Honestly, it goes beyond annoyance with me when I see people make the same tired old arguments about why I do or don’t believe something the Bible really does or doesn’t teach. Please don’t tell me that I’ve only come to this conclusion because I’ve read someone else’s teaching on it. Please, when forming your beliefs and understanding, use the WHOLE word of God. If you haven’t read it ALL, start there. Please stop using your spiritual scalpel to select certain verses which seem to support your theories and your spiritual eraser to pretend those passages which refute your suppositions don’t really exist.

If you truly love God’s word as I do, even if we disagree on something, you should be willing to sit with me with Bibles in front of us (coffee sometimes helps, too) and examine God’s word together. I won’t point you first to an article, website, recording or something to “help you understand better.” I believe that solid study of God’s word, prayer and the leading of the Holy Spirit will do that much, much better. MY theology comes from years of reading the Bible, letting it be the authority it claims to be and filtering everything else through it. MY theology comes from meditating on what I’ve read over the years and praying for understanding.

So, where do you get YOUR theology?

I’m So Confused!

If you’re reading because you’re wondering what I’m confused about, then the title of this post did its job. That’s my little confession that I need to get out of the way. I am not confused, but it seems that many other people are. I can understand how unbelievers can be confused. Indeed, 1 Corinthians 2:14 tells us that is exactly what we should expect of unbelievers. “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” ~ 1 Corinthians 2:14. However, the issue, and the main point of this post is that so many professed Bible-believing Christians are confused about what the Bible says. Unfortunately, some are not merely confused, they have been deceived.

Let me get this out of the way as well. I won’t cover every doctrine that I know people will differ with me on. I am not the final authority, God’s word is. However, unless you are willing to sit down with me, over a cup of coffee or something like that, with our Bibles in front of us to discuss our differences in doctrine, I’m simply not interested. Let me also say that I am continuing to grow in Christ and I intend to continue until He calls me home some day. There will be some things that I will develop a better understanding of. I have been and will continue to grow in my understanding of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and the things he has written in his word.

As I was thinking about this today, there were several topics that crossed my mind. I do not intend to cover the intricacies of each topic here, but there are several that I have thought of, especially regarding what I’m trying to say. My post is more about HOW people come to the conclusions they have/do and not so much about discussing those conclusions. I’ll list some, though probably not all of the topics that I have come across in my seventeen plus years of my Christian life and regular Bible study and interaction. Let me also say that just because someone differs with me on something like what may be on my list, I am NOT saying that they must not be saved. Only God knows their heart.

So, here are many, though not all of the topics that I’ve come across that I believe are not entirely biblical. Some are more important than others, though I won’t necessarily put them in order of importance. I’m just listing them as they come to mind. Also, bear in mind that some of these may be simply my own description/terms. Infant baptism, baptismal regeneration, Calvinism/Reformed Theology, Pre-wrath/mid-trib/post-trib rapture, covenant theology, replacement theology, nonresistance, earthly sinless perfection/entire sanctification, no eternal security of the believer. I’m sure there are more, but as I said, this is not necessarily an exhaustive list.

Now, I DO want to examine why I believe that people believe what I would claim are un-biblical doctrines/teachings about these (and more, I’m sure). In part, the underlying problem is simply biblical illiteracy. Now some will disagree here, claiming that they have indeed read their Bible all the way through at least once, but they still believe some of these things. From my personal experience, I have found one or more of three main reasons why this happens. First, people read/watch/listen to someone explain what they think the Bible says on these topics. Second, people use a “spiritual scalpel”  with scripture and cut out certain verses or passages which seem to support their claims. Third, they simply have not studied what the Bible has to say on this and they simply do not know that their questions or claims are addressed in Scripture.

There are several issues that go along with the first one. Over and over again, regarding various topics, I have had well-meaning people tell me, “Just read this book/pamphlet, watch this video, listen to this audio by Dr. So and So and you’ll understand the doctrine. With all due respect to “Dr. So and So,” I’d rather sit with you and see what God’s word has to say. There is nothing wrong with commentaries and studies on scripture, but we need to understand that they are not inspired like scripture is. A really big part of this particular practice of reading/watching/listening to someone about the Bible is that most people don’t want to do the more difficult thing and study out ALL the Bible has to say. It’s easier to just read a quick “study” written/recorded by someone instead of doing your own study. Consider what the Apostle Paul said about the Bereans in Acts 17:10-11. They were more noble than their counterparts in Thessalonica because they “studied the scriptures daily,” to see if Paul was telling them the truth.

For those who use a spiritual scalpel and cut out verses that support their claims, they are in the same boat. In the Old Testament as well as in the New Testament, God says in his word that we are not to add to or take anything out of it. (Deuteronomy 4:2, 12:32, Proverbs 30:5-6, Revelation 22:18-19) The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy that all scripture came from God and should be studied and used properly (2 Timothy 2:15; 3:16-17). In Acts 20:27, Paul also tells the Ephesian Elders that he declared unto them ALL the “counsel of God.” We need to make sure that we are using all of God’s word to understand what he said and what he means.

A huge part of proper understanding is relying on the Holy Spirit to lead you (Psalm 119:18; John 14:26; John 17:17). Regular prayer and reading and study of your Bible is essential. Consider all that the Bible speaks to on the subject. Sometimes it really takes some digging.

Understand that there are just some things that we won’t understand. There are also some things that well-meaning Brothers and Sisters in Christ won’t agree on. If we can agree that the Bible is the final authority and be willing to sit with one another and see what God has to say about something, that is by far the best route.

Here is a list of scriptures for you to consider. Deuteronomy 4:2, 12:32; Psalm 119:11, 18, 105; Proverbs 30:5-6; Job 23:12; Matthew 4:4; Mark 13:31; Acts 20:27; 2 Timothy 2:15; 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:19-21; Revelation 22:18-19. Feel free to add to this list as you study God’s word!

I’m Still Amazed

Well, it’s been over six months now. Some might think that I should have settled into a new position pretty well by now. I’m still trying to get used to the idea that something that I’ve been working toward for so long has finally come to pass. Before I get too far into what I have to share with you, I have a couple of verses of scripture to share. The first is found in Psalm 37:4-5. (I was originally only going to share verse 4, but verse 5 leads right into the other passage.) “Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him and he shall bring it to pass.” ~ Psalm 34:4-5

The other passage is found in the great book of Proverbs. Both of these passages absolutely tie in to what I want to share. Proverbs 16:9, “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.” ~ Proverbs 16:9

I’ve already written a post about this (Beginning a New Chapter), but as the title of this one says, “I’m still amazed.” Quite often I have to figuratively “pinch myself,” but nothing changes. As the pastor of a small-town church, I am absolutely doing what I love. There is a reason why I shared the scriptures above. Though I still live in my same sinful, physical body and this same dark sinful world, I do the best I can to bring honor and glory to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  I absolutely desire to delight myself in the Lord. In leading me into this ministry, He absolutely has given me the desires of my heart. Verse five in Psalm 37:5 leads right into Proverbs 16:9.

I am amazed at everything the Lord did to bring me to where I am. From the extra job at Wal-Mart, that allowed us to pay off our extra bills, to the process by which he called us to Bible Baptist Church, to seeing us through struggles for the last six months or so. I am still amazed at how Christ works and how He works it all together. I have just a bit of a confession to make. This post is as much for my “therapy” (I like to write) as it is for your information and enjoyment. With that admitted, I want to share again some of what I see as highlights in the Lord leading us to ministry in Neillsville, Wisconsin.

The form letters I sent out in May or so of 2015 only got two responses. I was really only interested in one of them, especially after preaching at Peninsula Baptist Church in Sturgeon Bay for the first time. I thought things were looking pretty good, but God had other plans. Perhaps it almost became an idol, but I was so sure that God HAD to work out the details, all I could do was step through the door that He may open, in Sturgeon Bay or someplace else.

In May of 2016 I received a surprising phone call. The interim pastor at Peninsula Baptist Church in Sturgeon Bay had called Bible Baptist Church in Neillsville, and the interim pastor there called me just a few days before my Annual Training with the National Guard. Even knowing that I was still active in the military, they wanted me to come to Neillsville to preach for them. My first Sunday at Bible Baptist Church as a guest preacher was on June 26, 2016. It went fabulously well. Before I left for the day, the church and I had set up for me to preach again on July 10th. After that Sunday, I was asked if I would consider preaching as a candidate for the position as Pastor. I agreed. July 31 was set up to be my Candidate Sunday.

After agreeing to preach as an official Pastoral Candidate, I was given a questionnaire to complete, which I did. From the beginning, I told the church and the Pulpit Search Committee all the things I thought they needed to know. From my perspective, and apparently the perspective of many other churches, I had several strikes against me being called as a pastor. I certainly was in a unique position.

As I said, I was clear with the church on what I thought they needed to consider before calling me as pastor. At that time, I was working two full-time jobs to attempt to pay off our extra debt. Altogether, we had somewhere around $4,000 or so in debt that needed to be paid off. I am still an active member of the National Guard. I have a wife and seven children to support, which will also demand some of my time and attention. I have not finished Bible College, much less Seminary. Though I’ve preached whenever I’ve had the opportunity, I’ve never held the position of Pastor before. Even just one or a couple of these would have eliminated me from consideration at most churches. The final decision was that the church unanimously voted to offer me the position as Pastor. I accepted a couple of days later.

Within the first month, I was making hospital visits to a sick lady from our congregation. Though I enjoy visitation, she was such a bright spot on Sunday mornings, I was concerned for her. She was always such an encouragement, but she did go home to be with the Lord in January. My first funeral as a pastor. There have been ups and downs since last August, when I began and I don’t see much of a change. I’ll be conducting another funeral for the lady who usually played piano for us soon.

There have been bright spots, though too. I can’t imagine anything better than sitting in my corner at home, studying a passage of scripture and putting together a sermon. Sometimes it’s alone at the church in my office doing the same thing. One of the best things so far is preaching my first Christmas sermon. I got to do it for the first time on Christmas morning! How awesome is that!? I absolutely love teaching God’s word, encouraging other believers, counseling when necessary visitations and everything else the Lord brings my way as a ministry.

As Spring draws closer and more things change, I can absolutely see the hand of God working things out for our good and His glory! I share this with my congregation all the time, but I can’t wait to see what God has in store for us this year!

Honestly, I truly think that if Jesus Christ waits to come again, as long as He allows me to serve Him as a Pastor, I’ll always be amazed that he can use me like this!

Biblical Worldview Essay

Well, Here it is, as promised. This is the essay that I wrote that I said I would share as soon as it was graded. Feel free to let me know what you think.

Some of my earliest memories are of sitting in church on a Sunday morning with my parents and grandparents. All these memories are good memories and, though I grew up in the church, it wasn’t until my late twenties that I know that I truly began a personal relationship with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I do not recall the specific date that it happened, but the circumstances remain vivid in my mind. On the banks of the Alabama River in south-central Alabama, I know that Jesus became my Lord and Savior. It was at that moment, not the years of being raised in the church as a child, that formed and truly initialized my biblical worldview. In the years since that night in late September of 1999, I have read through the Bible many, many times. I have also read many books about the Bible and different doctrines found there. It has been more from my study of scripture over the years than my reading of books about scripture that has developed my biblical worldview. I know, without a doubt, that God is actively involved with his creation. I know even more, if that is even possible, that God has an active role in my personal life. With this thought in mind, I would like to explain more thoroughly how I know this is true. There are three essential thoughts that I would like to share. First, I know that God is involved with me as a person; Second, I know that God is involved with me and my family; Third, I know that God is involved with me and my ministry.

In September of 1999, my life had gone farther down into the depths of despair than I would hope anyone would ever go. As some people have described it, I hit absolute rock bottom of a pit so deep, there was absolutely no way out; at least not on my own. The brief background story is that I had gone to Alabama to take what I believed would be my dream job as a police officer. Even though my wife and I had been fairly recently married with a young daughter, I made some foolish, selfish, immoral decisions that would take me so far down, God was the only answer. Because of my own personal choices, my wife had decided to move back to Wisconsin with our daughter and at nearly the same time, it was suggested that I resign my position as a police officer and look for law enforcement employment in another location. I had lost my job, my wife and my daughter in a very short time. In my despair and desperation, as well as trying to soothe my pain, I turned to alcohol.

The few weeks near the rock bottom, I would spend drinking and trying to find a reason I shouldn’t use my Glock 21 service weapon to end my life. I even had a special cartridge that I had colored black with a permanent marker that set on my dresser while I stared at it night after night trying to find the courage to end it all. One night, in late September of 1999, I had enough. Probably because I had grown up in the church and knew the plan of salvation, I not only took my pistol, I took a Bible to the bank of the Alabama River.

Sitting on the bank, late at night, with the pistol and Bible both still in the front seat of the truck. I finally broke down and asked Jesus Christ to take over what was left of my life. I had nothing left to give Him. At least, that is what I thought at the time. After praying on the bank of the river, there are two verses that I had memorized as a young boy that kept coming back to me. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John. 1:9, King James Version) That verse is one that I had to cling to and repeat to myself many times in the next few months and years. I know that because Jesus Christ died for my sins and that night I confessed them all to him, He had a purpose for my life. The other verse that I clung to that made the immediate impact on my life was 2 Corinthians 5:17. This verse I had also memorized as a young boy. This verse says, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Cor. 5:17, KJV)

That night after receiving the gift of salvation, that I knew about from a young boy attending church with my parents, I went back to where I was staying and began reading God’s word. I read those two verses and then started reading in the New Testament. I’ve been reading the Bible on nearly a daily basis since then. There were other truths that I knew that night, but it would be a while before God would show them to me in his Word.

I know that God has continued to work in my personal life on a daily basis because I have seen the results of Him working in too many ways to explain in a single essay. He has and continues to protect me, provide for me, guide me, encourage me, strengthen me physically and spiritually and even work in ways that I can’t even quite put into words (Rom. 8:26-27). I know that it is God working in my life and that it is not, unexplained natural causes, coincidence or some other unknown force or forces. In many, if not most of the ways that I have seen the hand of God at work in my own life, there simply is no other explanation.

I know also, that God is involved with me and my family. My sweet wife Julie, in the thirteen months that we were separated, never ceased to pray for me and for our reconciliation. Even though others told her to divorce me and move on, she never considered the thought. After our full reconciliation in December of 1999, the Lord has blessed us with six more children. We absolutely believe that children are a blessing from the Lord (Ps. 127). Even before our second daughter was born, we decided that together, as a family, we would always seek the Lord, Jesus Christ and his desires and plan for us first, as our continual guiding principle (Matt. 6:33). I believe that it is because we have sought the Lord Jesus Christ first, following the teaching in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 that the Lord has continued to bless and be actively working in our family life.

There are three instances, which I would like to briefly share as proof of how I know that God has and is actively working in our family. The first is that our second daughter, Rachel, during her 12 month checkup was found to have had a heart defect. The open heart surgery, which we had to trust the Lord to bring her safely through at 13 months old, was considered to be a fairly routine surgery. Even though there was a great probability of success, there was also a chance that she would not make it through alive. The miracle was not that she did make it through the surgery successfully, the miracle was that forty-eight hours after open heart surgery, she was discharged to go home. This rapid recovery had never been observed in any situation before.

There were two other instances where I believed that the Lord probably was going to take one of my children and in one instance, my wife as well. My oldest son at eight years old developed an illness from an infectious tick bite, suffered multiple seizures and was sent by medical helicopter to a larger hospital than the one I initially took him to. He was kept in a medically induced coma for about thirty-six hours, while the medical staff ran test after test. The Lord saw fit to leave Jonathan here as well. When our youngest son, Leslie was born, my wife suffered a ruptured uterus in labor. At the critical moment, I truly believed that the Lord was taking my wife and baby to be with Him and leaving me to raise four children on my own. There is absolutely no doubt that God has and still does work in the lives of me and my family.

I know that God is absolutely involved with my ministry as well. I accepted the position as Pastor at Bible Baptist Church in Neillsville, Wisconsin at the beginning of August, 2016. My ministry began quite some time before that time and involves my family as well. Before I accepted the position as Pastor, I did my very best to seek opportunities to share the Gospel, especially with my fellow Army National Guard soldiers, coworkers and others around me. Some of the greatest blessings I have received have been to share the Gospel with those around me. Almost everyone I have worked with over the last ten years or more have told me that I am easy to talk to. They have demonstrated that by seeking my advice and many times just seeking me as someone who will simply listen or pray with or for them. One of the soldiers in my command told me several months ago, “You know, Sergeant Matthews, you’re pretty much Alpha Company’s Chaplain.” He went on to explain that even though I am not a military chaplain, most soldiers who know me see me in that regard.

One of the greatest confirmations that God is actively involved in my ministry is the way He brought my family and I to Bible Baptist Church. In the summer of 2015, I had contact with Peninsula Baptist Church in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. After preaching there several times, it truly looked like the Lord was leading us in that direction. The winter of 2015-2016 presented us with some obstacles and by the spring of 2016, it was looking more like perhaps Peninsula Baptist Church would not work out after all. Since I was fully committed to God’s plan, the though of not moving to Sturgeon Bay and ministering there, did not really discourage me as I thought it would.

At the end of May, 2016, just a few days before I was to leave for my Annual Training with the National Guard, I received a phone call from the Interim Pastor at Bible Baptist Church in Neillsville. He told me that the Interim Pastor at Peninsula Baptist Church had called and gave them my contact information. Pastor Ben from Neillsville asked me if I would be interested in perhaps coming up to preach once in a while, or perhaps, to consider being a candidate for the Pastor’s position. I agreed, but also told him all of the reasons why they may change their mind. At that time, I was about to leave for two weeks of training, which I would have to complete every year, at least until my enlistment expires in May of 2020. I have seven children and a wife to support. I have not yet finished Bible College and I was about $5,000 or so in debt. Just a couple of days after that conversation, the Lord clearly closed the door at Peninsula Baptist Church in Sturgeon Bay.

After Annual Training, I did preach at Bible Baptist and agreed to be considered as a candidate for the position as pastor. The result was that upon my Candidate Sunday, the church unanimously voted to call me as their permanent Pastor. The passage of Scripture that I continually recall as I look back on how God opened the door to full time ministry as a small church pastor is found in Psalm 37:3-7. In this passage, verse four has a special meaning to me. “Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” (Ps. 37:4)

Looking back on my life, how God protected me, was patient and merciful with me, guided me and used me, I know that He has always been involved. There truly are many, many more instances that I can share, where I have absolutely no doubt that it was God who was working out the best circumstances for my good and for His glory. That is probably one of the reasons I have selected 1 Corinthians 10:31 as the verse I consider my personal verse or “life verse,” as some people call it. “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” I try very hard to do my best at everything I do so that I can point everyone to Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior, and give God the glory.


Quite honestly, when I saw this term recently, my first thoughts were to get up on my soapbox and tear off in a rant. With a little time and a little thought, I realized two things: to speak out against the common usage of this terminology isn’t “my soapbox” and it certainly isn’t a “rant.” There are several thoughts I have regarding the usage of this terminology and also an explanation of why I will never use it.

From Wikipedia, “Unchurched” (alternatively, “The Unchurched” or “unchurched people“) means, in the broad sense, people who are not connected with a church.[1] In research on religious participation, it refers more specifically to people who do not attend worship services.[2]” (

If you’ve known me for very long at all, say the last eighteen years or so, you should understand that I do the best I can to approach everything from a biblical perspective and certainly a biblical foundation. With that thought in mind, having read the Bible quite extensively for many years now, I still have not found that designation anywhere in scripture.

There are several problems that I have with the term, “unchurched.” It honestly goes deeper than the issue of not being found in scripture. Much deeper. A huge part of the problem is that many of the people who are so fond of the term seem also to be fond of other things that I believe at best blur the lines of what we are called as Christians to do. At the worst, it is giving people a false sense of security and even outright teaching false doctrine.

From what I can gather, since I never use the term and rarely associate with people who do, most who use the term are exponentially more focused on getting the numbers of people into the church building rather than equipping the people who are already there (Ephesians 4:11-13). Because of this “seeker sensitive” movement, a part of what I believe is the problem with using the term “unchurched,” (or perhaps vice-versa or even going hand in hand) once people are in the church, there is no further attempt at discipleship or growing them up in Christ. At least, it doesn’t seem to be much of of a focus or necessity.

Unfortunately, the prevailing idea seems to be that the “unchurched” need to be brought into the assembly and once that’s accomplished, the job is done. I honestly don’t intend to paint everyone (every church, pastor, believer) with the same broad brush, but if that’s the case, we will have church buildings and assemblies FULL of unbelievers who think that they’re OK. The reality is, first of all, only God truly knows the heart, but if there is no repentance, brokenness over sin, confession and acceptance of the gift of salvation offered through Jesus Christ alone, according to God’s own word, they are still destined for an eternity in Hell.

Just looking over what passes for “Christian” writings, books, magazines, movies, audio/visual sermons, seminars and more today, is barely watered down, chocolate-flavored milk doctrines. Because “we might offend” an “unchurched” person, there is no stand for the truth of sin, the authority and necessity of the WHOLE word of God, the gift of salvation and the reality of persecution for those who will live godly in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 3:12). In many cases, whether writings, movie/audio, sermons, seminars and the like, even those who at one time were “unchurched” we “don’t want to offend” because they may leave the assembly (taking their money with them).

According to the scriptures there are only two types of people: believers and unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14-18, Galatians 3:27-28 and many, many other references). Because there are ONLY two types of people, this means that there are unbelievers who do go to church regularly. This also means that there are true believers who are not regular attenders of church. Quite honestly, a good look at the reasons or some biblical ideas on this would take too much to put into one single article, in my opinion.

I do have a challenge for those who are truly believers; those who have accepted the gift of salvation, who know that they have been born again into the family of God. If you are not regularly attending and hopefully active in a local assembly, you need to be. In some few cases, I understand that there are extenuating circumstances, but there is a need for mutual fellowship, encouragement, accountability, edification and more. If you can’t find a solid Bible-believing, Bible-teaching church, start one. I know sometimes this is much easier said than done. I’ve been in the shoes of a believer searching diligently for a church that teaches the whole word of God without compromise. I get it.

If you are a believer and a member of or regularly attending a solid Bible teaching church, encourage your leaders and each other. Pray for them regularly. Search the scriptures for yourselves to make sure that they aren’t getting off track (Acts 17:10-11).

If you are not a believer, please accept the free gift of salvation offered by Jesus Christ. He took your place and mine on the cross. He was separated from God the Father so we never have to be. Salvation is a free gift, though it’s only available by trusting that Jesus Christ paid the debt of sin on your behalf. He’s offering that gift to you. Will you accept it? For further reference, pick up a Bible. Look up these verses: John 3:16-17, Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, Romans 5:8, Romans 10:9-10 & 13.


The Journey Continues

Welcome to 2017! Yes, I know I’m a week late, but it’s been a busy two years or so. With my 29th birthday coming again later this week for the 17th time, I’m ready to move on a bit. My last day working my “second” job, which was in fact my third, then fourth job will come to an end. If you’re a little confused, I’ll explain from my perspective. My “first” job is the primary, full-time job that I use as my primary support for my family. Forty hours a week as a MIL-tec Mechanic at Fort McCoy, where I’ve been for just over eight years. As a requirement for the job, I’m also (still) an enlisted soldier in the Army National Guard. That’s number two, if you’re keeping track. I enjoy it as well, but since I only have to drill once a month and attend our annual training, I’m calling it number two. The “third” job, which became the “fourth” job is working part-time at Wal-Mart. I started there in September of 2014 with the intent to pay off extra debt, which has been accomplished. It became the “fourth” job when I was working there full-time in August of 2015 and was called into the ministry at Bible Baptist Church in Neillsville, Wisconsin. Because I truly believe that the ministry is my true calling, everything else that can takes a back seat, including Wal-Mart.

Despite having so much to do with three jobs and the church, the Lord has granted me the physical stamina as well as the emotional stability (most of the time) to accomplish this. One of my birthday presents (to myself, perhaps) is my last day of work at Wal-Mart. With that chapter behind me, I’m headed back to school, so I’ll still be busy, but doing what I enjoy more. In addition, I’ll be changing my schedule at the “main job” to work longer hours a day, but less days a week. The potential new job opportunity I wrote about in my last post didn’t come out as I had hoped, but did come out exactly as the Lord had planned.

This week will be a busy one, with two job interviews for a different job related to my military duty and my first funeral as a pastor. Overall, the ministry is going well. My family is adjusting to having me around more, and we all have more plans for the future. I’m excited to see what the next year brings. I do hope, that along with more opportunity for ministry, there will be more opportunity to write and share here. I hope to get back to posting once a week, though that may still be a few weeks away. There are still some moving pieces, so to speak, that will need to all come together and settle just a bit before I can commit to a regular weekly offering once again. I’ll see about keeping everyone updated here and hope to encourage and perhaps challenge you as well. For those who have been faithful readers, even through the really, really lean times, I thank you. Stay tuned in 2017, it should be a great year! May God bless, keep and guide you through the coming year!

Beginning a New Chapter

I first need to say that this will be considerably longer than many of my study topic posts. It’s more an update on what’s been going on in my life and (to a lesser degree) that of my family and friends over the last couple of years or so. It really has been the time frame when things really started changing from many things that I had become accustomed to. Mostly this will be long because of the background story that leads to the new chapter. If your’e not totally interested, I understand. It’s just that so many things tie in, that I think I’d rather include all of the intricacies and explanation rather than just give the bare bones story. So much plays into the beginnings of this new chapter, I do not believe there is any way that coincidence, chance or any effort of my own had much to bring this new chapter to where I am now.

The summer of 2014 became more and more difficult as we began to struggle financially due to several factors. Most were beyond our control. With a large family we’ve never really been foolish with finances, but it was apparent that more needed to be done. We all talked and decided for me to look for another job to try to make ends meet and perhaps have a little left over. In addition to working full-time as a military technician, I started working at the local Wal-Mart in a part-time temporary (seasonal) position. I ended up working up through several positions and pay grades and made it to the highest pay grade available as an hourly associate.

Near the end of my Army Advanced Leader Course (ALC) I sent out letters of introduction and interest to churches I found on the website of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Baptist Churches (WFBC) that were without pastors. I received two responses. One response was to what I considered a larger city than what I would feel comfortable in. In addition, I really feel called to a small-town or rural church. The second church that responded was in Door County I set up a weekend to take the family to preach at Peninsula Baptist Church in Sturgeon Bay. Within about a week of making the commitment to preach at Peninsula Baptist our family vehicle suffered a mechanical failure that was virtually non-repairable. The steering gearbox had broken the frame in half where it was attached. Fortunately, we were not on the highway and the Lord protected our family.

Looking for a van that would fit our family of nine (including my wife and I) was not something I would enjoy doing. I certainly did not want to think about paying for one. To shorten this part of the story (more comes into play later) my wife’s best friend had made some phone calls and located a van for us. I was told that Julie (my wife) was going with her friend to pick one up. A couple near Marshfield had a van that ran, but they no longer needed. A jump start, trip to Wal-Mart and one battery later, she drove it home with the title in hand. Yes, the price was one trip north, one battery and the cost of the title transfer.

With a new-to-us vehicle that would fit us all, our plans to Peninsula Baptist Church to preach were back on. Over the course of the rest of the summer and into the fall, we returned several times. We were always well-received. Everyone seemed to love the family as well as the teaching. Circumstances prevented us from a move to Sturgeon Bay until this summer at the earliest, which was absolutely a part of God’s plan, but not necessarily mine.

Peninsula Baptist Church welcomed an Interim Pastor to fill the position until a full-time Pastor could come. A couple of days before Annual Training the Interim Pastor from Bible Baptist Church in Neillsville called me and told me that the Interim Pastor from Peninsula Baptist in Sturgeon Bay had contacted him and told him that I may be available to fill the pulpit or possibly consider the position as Pastor. We agreed on the date of June 26, 2016 for me to go preach in Neillsville for the first time.

God had his hand in working all of this out too. After agreeing on the date to go to Bible Baptist Church in Neillsville for the first time, it was off to two weeks of Annual Training. During the second week the search committee from Peninsula Baptist Church called me and said that the church had decided to go in a different direction and they would not be considering me further for the position as Pastor. For some reason, (as much as I wanted it) I had a complete sense of peace about it. I’m sure that the scheduled date to preach at Neillsville had at least a little bit to do with it.

Even before we got to Bible Baptist Church in Neillsville for the first time, we received at least two phone calls from people we knew who attend or have attended church there. One of these families was the family who gifted us with the family van last summer! The first Sunday preaching was a huge success. I was told that there were over 50 people there. I had been told to expect 20-25, which is a normal turnout for Sunday morning. (Of course, not including me, eight of those visitors were my family.) One of the oldest members of the church told me that he thought that was a record turnout since the church has been there.

Completing the Pastoral Candidacy process was a bit challenging since I was working with two full-time jobs, the National Guard and my family all needing parts of my time. The challenging part was developing relevant sermons that had practical application to the congregation. I wasn’t there to impress people but to challenge and encourage them in God’s word. The very first sermon was on the sufficiency of scripture. I had to lay the foundation on who I was and what was most important. If you know me at all, I will always emphasize the inerrancy, infallibility and sufficiency of scripture.

According to the established process for a pastoral candidate, I taught adult Sunday School and gave the morning message three times. The third time, with sufficient notice of at least two weeks to the membership, the church voted on whether or not to offer me the position of pastor. The vote was unanimous. The membership (and all I talked to who were not members, but attended) Bible Baptist Church wanted me to accept the position as pastor.

I had already prayed much about the opportunities and kept this one in prayer too. I spent a few days corresponding with friends and family and of course talking with my family at home. The decision was made and last Wednesday, August 3rd, I called to accept the position as pastor at Bible Baptist Church in Neillsville. I signed and sent the letter of understanding the same day.

As the title of this long post says, this is only the beginning of a new chapter in my life. Along with this new responsibility, it appears that the Lord is opening another area of opportunity for employment so that I will be able to fulfill my ministry responsibilities as well as provide better for my family and the future. This job is still in the acquiring stage, but sounds very promising. Bible Baptist Church is small enough to require any pastor to be bi-vocational at least for now. I can see working this potential new job for a year or two along with ministering and reevaluating then.

There will likely be more updates, prayer requests and praises along the way. With these changes, I hope to have more time to regularly post more here too. I’ll do my best to keep you updated. In the meanwhile, continued prayer for guidance and strength would be greatly appreciated.