Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Be of Good Cheer

By: Daniel Martin

It’s easy to get discouraged following the Lord, serving him and doing ministry. Most of the people in the Bible dealt with discouragement (1 Kings 9:19, Jeremiah 12:1, 2 Corinthians 12:21, Ruth 1:13, 2 Kings 19:3) even Jesus (John 11:35, Mark 6:4-6). It’s important to continue on and not lose heart. Discouragement usually happens if you are heading a good direction. You don’t see people who don’t care much about God or doing things for God getting discouraged much now do you. Lazy people don’t get discouraged, because they aren’t attempting anything. Sinful discouragement is petty.  It is based on not with not getting your way all of the time (kind of like Jonah in the last chapter of Jonah). It can even be mistaken as Godliness, but that is not what I am talking about in this blog.

 The devil loves to use discouragement to keep us from continuing on the right path. He is trying many times to keep us out of Gods plan, by making us feel as if there is no point continuing on. I have had so many times in my life, where I felt overwhelmed with frustration and discouragement. I worked so hard on something and fell a few feet short of the finish line and had to start the whole thing over again. I am so glad I am married, because I have someone who encourages me to keep going even though I feel like giving up. My wife is the largest blessing I have ever known, and often is an instrument of God to help me not grow weary and give up.

Sometimes God takes our great ideas and good heart, and completely takes us somewhere else with them than we expected to go. It can be discouraging to see how you thought things should end up, take a completely different turn. Sometimes it takes a few years to really get it, and be thankful for all of the things that transpired. If you were to be in my life to witness all of the things that I have done, you might chuckle a bit. I think I am well acquainted with really trying something, really meaning well, and really getting things wrong. 

With the way my mind works, I overkill most things and finish very few. Sometimes I want to do such a good job, and am so disappointed by what I am doing that I give up or change gears. It is almost always a mistake, because it probably just needs to be paired down a bit. Usually by the deadline I have something to offer but it is fragmented, unrefined and incomplete because I was second guessing the process. It has created allot of discouragement in my life and makes it difficult to make new attempts. Fortunately, that is my problem and not most people’s problem. 

Self-criticism is one of the benchmarks of discouragement. If you think you can do no good, you will do nothing. The Devil knows that. That is why he can keep so many people from doing something for Jesus in life. He can keep them in the lazy comfort zone because they don’t believe they can make a real difference anyway. We have to be wise in the things that we do, but if we do nothing; nothing good will happen either.  Edmund Burke famously said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”  Take encouragement in the good you do, Galatians 6:9 says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, in the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

               There are two important ingredient in a victorious outcome; hope, and perseverance. Hope that God will accomplish His good and reward us for our effort and also, the perseverance to keep going, in spite of the opposition.  (Hebrews 6:16 We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.). Have you ever seen a tree growing through rocks? The roots were shooting down to find water from a small seed. Inch by inch through the years, it can split the rocks apart. Things can seem insurmountable, because for us they are. Yet, with a little faith, and perseverance, God makes the impossible possible. 

It is the story every missionary finds true, and every person or faith in the Bible. God gave them all problems that necessitate His miraculous hand. It is easy to blame God and lose faith in His goodness when things are really hard. I have to say that often if anything goes wrong, I am secretly blaming God for them in my heart. Later, (sometimes a long time later) I see the beautiful working hand of God who is directing my life. A generation of Israelites died in the desert because they failed to give God thanks in the hard times. We must remember that no matter how bad life gets, and how are plans seem to fail, the reason we know any goodness at all is because God is bringing those things about in the first place.

               In short, when life hits its dead ends, continue on for Jesus. Keep living a righteous life in spite of the frustration. Jesus promises that his reward is with Him (Revelation 22:12). This isn’t heaven, so things are bound to go sour from time to time. Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”   Mathew 18:20, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” God goes with you when you step out for Him.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

A Current Issue

           By: Rachel and Daniel Martin

            Lately, I have reading a lot of things in the news about transgender people; specifically, their use of the opposite sex’s bathroom.  Personally, I don’t care who is in the bathroom next to me.  Yes, you read that right, I am perfectly fine if a man wants to use the bathroom stall next to me.  Goodness knows it has happened in my life more than once.  Without going into too much detail about my life and bathroom habits; I have never had a problem with going and using the men’s room, ladies room or a tree if necessary.  However I am sure that where people are using the restroom isn’t what is making everyone upset.  The hardship is taking away the public’s rights to have a specific gender (I.e. the one they were born with). It is giving special privileges to people who identify as transgender and taking away the rights of people who believe that gender isn’t something that is neutral and decidable. Let us put aside for just a moment the biggest argument that people have about this issue.  I think they are right and we need to be concerned about bad people using this as a loophole to spy on kids in the bathroom but that is not what this blog is about.

            We live in a world that is reaping the result of rejecting the Christian world view. The United States has seen some strange and awful trends through the centuries. In the past, the Bible was distorted to carry on a political agenda of sexism and racism. Today the Bible is rejected as a means to appease a chosen minority group. Not one based on racial distinction but rather sexual identity and religious preferences. Do I like it? Not really but it’s not my job to say who can do what in the world at large.  I think the bigger picture here is that the world is a tangled mess. People are so far gone from the truth in this generation that they feel the need to change their gender in order to have a sense of security and belonging. What we have here is people searching out anything and everything they can in order to feel complete, when what they need is the forgiveness and acceptance that can only come through Jesus Christ.

           Different sins are in vogue at different times through generations.  In the 60s and 70s it was drugs and free sex, in the 80s and 90s it was the love of self and things.  People always have and always will look for whatever sin they think will make them happy. We are currently reaping the result of accepting sinful things in culture as, “just the way people are.” It’s the only conclusion you can come to rejecting the Christian worldview because you end up with a world with no distinctions, rather than ones defined by the Bible. The transgender movement is so heartbreaking because we see people putting all of their value in their sexual identity.  Many people go so far as to make changes to their body.  Changes they can never take back, when what they are really seeking is the peace that only God can provide.  When they make these changes to their bodies, lives, personalities we know they will still be miserable because they do not know that, as C.S. Lewis puts it, “God cannot give us happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there.  There is no such thing”.

          I found this info on a web site for transgender people.  Transgender, or Trans: means someone whose gender differs from the one they were given when they were born.  Transgender people may identify as male or female, or they may feel that neither label fits them.  In order to express their chosen gender, transgender people may transition, or change, from the gender they were given at birth.  They may change their names, pronouns or style of dress.  Some transgender people also choose a medical transition, with the help of medical specialists, who will prescribe hormones and/or surgery.

           Transgenderism is preceded by the belief that God is fallible and gives people the wrong gender.  I know that we all have moments of doubt and wonderings about God’s choices. To be transgender is to base your whole life on it.  They hope that by changing what they think God messed up, they will somehow be whole and happy.  There are many lost souls in this world.  Christ says the way is narrow and not all will pass though.  I think above all we need to be showing them the way to happiness is not through their “mistaken” gender but though Christ. 

            To start I think we need to be more real and open with our lives.  These people need to see that everyone’s life is hard and that there is no magic pill.  That through the difficulties of life we still have joy.  Happiness is fleeting but joy is lifelong.  How can others see that if we hide away or are not living with others saved and unsaved in an open manner?  Seeing our lives in action I think is incredibly important.  Jesus wasn’t picky.  He had all kinds of people around him with different thoughts and views. In the gospels we see Jesus with a hatred for sin, but a loving acceptance of all people. Everyone in life is sinful without Jesus. We all have different views that are a bit off of what God intends us to have. We as Christians need be able to accept people, regardless of anything they come with because they have been made in Gods image.

I am not saying we should accept the wrong things they do; but God knows that everyone who doesn’t turn to Jesus from there sins is in the same boat. We have done a lot of harm and lost a lot of the battle by acting as if somehow we deserved God’s grace more than anyone else.  Equally important is talking about Christ openly and the gospel.  We need to be befriending transgender people and allowing them to be touched by our lives and in so doing be learning about Christ. Can you imagine living with such frustration and confusion? We need to be instruments of compassion. Let us be living with them in a loving manner showing them what real compassion looks like. These people need to see that our identity is not in our gender it is in Christ.  That it is Christ that is the answer not one particular way of life.

We all have a tendency to put things before God.  If we are lucky we have Godly people in our lives to bring us back around.  If you think about it I am sure you can remember a time when you put something before God and He brought you back around and reminded you that He is what’s important and that it is Him that gives joy not things of the world. When we look back at that time don’t we all shudder and realize how miserable we were?  What if when these people were at the start of this process there had been someone there in their lives showing them what the love of Christ really is instead?   What if instead of passing judgment we showed people love and acceptance, and let it be known that it is Christ that give us this peace and love?  What if we quit blurring the lines with discussion of bathroom usage and just loved people as Christ did?  Can you be that person? 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Do we Undervalue the Young?

By: Rachel Martin

I got into a conversation with a younger Christian women the other day and was encouraging her to use what I saw as a specific gift, for Christ. The conversation is way too long to explain but I will say she told me, others had told her that, what I saw as a gift was, a hindrance that she needed to deal with.  That conversation prompted me to re-read 1st Corinthians chapter 12.  If you have not read it please do.  It is a fantastic statement about how the church should work together.   The scripture and the conversation got me thinking.  Do we undervalue our youth? Unfortunately I think the answer is yes. 

My next step here is to ask myself, and you, some questions.  Do the young not have the same Holy Spirit we do?  Do they not grow and change and learn and have gifts to use as we do?  If the Church is a body and everyone in it has different gifts and uses should we not be encouraging the young to find out what part they are?  Should we not be accepting them where they are as a part of the body? When did we all decide that only old men or married women with kids had a place in the Church?  Does not the child of the married women or the grandson of the church elder have a place too?  Why does youth seem to equate to stupid in the minds of some?  Are we somehow less valid or less Godly or less worthy of trust? 

Now the word youth is subjective.  I am 40 so I am thinking about teens and 20s but I have too felt the effects of this at my age from older people in the church.  I have seen my peers passed up for positions because of our age.  Our ministry has been taken lightly because the majority of people on the board are in their 30s and 40s.  I understand the need for “elders” positions and for there to be older people involved.  How can we younger learn if we do not have older guides?  Godly people are a necessity for all of us no matter what the age, I am saying a 70 year old can get wisdom from an 85 year old.  Discipleship from older people never ends no matter what your age.    In Titus 2 we are told that older people should teach us how to live a Godly life and lead by example.  Walking with youth is a necessity to a growing Christian life.  The youth are full of life and energy and ready to go and do and we are not so much.  Let us disciple and lead and let them do their job whatever their gift may be. 

I think we need to value the Godly youth more.  It is hard to be bold for Christ in this day and age with everything the culture tells them is right and we all know is certainly not biblical.  I think we need to love the craziness of the young and encourage it while it lasts.  There will be a time when they get beaten down by the world and jaded and have a mortgage and kids and have to work on their marriages.  Let us prize our globe-trotting, whimsical, the world is good, youth while they are young and let them be themselves and do their part as the body of Christ.  Youth thrive on input and change and real honest emotional contact.  We should be encouraging that not tampering it down.

Let us look at some of the people that all would agree are Godly men and women.  Martin Luther was 34 when he did his 95 thesis.  Elizabeth Elliot of the “Through Gates of Splendor” fame was 32 when she left to take over her husband’s work after her husband was killed by the same people she went to serve. Dietrich Bonheoffer wrote his first book at 21 and was dead by 39. Margaret Nicholl Laird famous missionary to Africa and author of “They Called Me Mama” (a great read if you have a chance) went to serve on her own in Africa at 25.  My final offering, Jesus was in his early 30s when He started His ministry.  It is just speculation here but I might suggest that apostles were more than likely young men too.   They were fishermen, and people able to pick up and go and live a life on the road.  Not an older men’s job by any means.  

Yes there is scripture about the young being stupid.  We make mistakes, that is part of growing up and getting ready to disciple the next group of youth.  However I want to leave you with this.  In first Timothy 4:12 Paul writes to Timothy who as a leader in the church and says “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity”.  That is what I am saying here.  Older people let us lift up, love, encourage, and support our youth and youth don’t let anyone discount you because of your age.  

Wednesday, September 7, 2016


By: Rachel Martin

All-righty.  You jumped those man / women / marriage hurdles I wrote about in the last few blogs.  What is the next natural step?  For those that choose it, it would generally be kids so that is the focus of this blog today.  Now again, not an expert but here is my background for those that don't know me.  I have one son, but many years’ experience teaching and mentoring kids.  I have had loads of opportunity to look around at the kids in my classes and figure out which children are the most mentally healthy, happy, and which ones make it to adulthood sane and with a good relationship with their parents.

               My mother says “I raised all my kids the same and they all turned out different and amazing in different ways”.  That is both true and not, well the amazing part is true for all of us, but I digress.  She did raise us all under the same roof with the same principles and structure.  My mother however is nothing if not creative.  I think good parenting takes an understanding that all your kids are different and what works for one does not work for the others.  I know this should go without saying yet here I am saying it.  I see many parents treating their children (particularly adoptive kids) as if they all had the same needs and makeup.  I have found that the kids that seem the happiest are kids that have parents that understand that what is good for the goose is actually not good for the gander.  Punishment needed, work load, learning styles, style of dress, likes and dislikes, skills, just about everything is going to be vastly different in each child.  It is so important to understand your kid and work with who they are, rather than to fight against it.  Some of the most messed up adults I know are people who had parents who didn’t get that.

               Speaking of fighting with your kids, lol, I find the kids that are the most confident are kids that have boundaries that parents actually stick to.  As I said I am no expert but when I start getting wishy washy with the boundaries I have set out for my son (or my students for that matter) he gets confused and upset.  It always becomes a mess when I get lackadaisical with boundaries. It is not my intention to start a conversation about spanking vs time outs. I say whatever works use it just make sure you use it and it is effective.  I have also heard it said that if you do this job well when they are young you should not have to be spanking after the age of 4, well at least not that often, and I find that to be true.  I see the kids that are most well behaved when young and had very clear boundaries drawn with serious repercussions that they wanted to avoid.

               I also find the kids that make it best into adulthood had parents that made Christ’s love the center of their parenting.  Talking about the gospel while in the car going to school, using scripture for why they should not hit their friends with a toy, saying grace, simple stuff that goes on every day can be a way to show your kids Christ’s love.  Backing punishment with scripture and saying things like “I don’t like to discipline you and here is where you went wrong and here is what scripture says” I find is fairly important.  I often get flustered and end up saying “the Bible says children obey your parents and you didn’t obey”.  You don’t’ have to be a Bible scholar to do this at all.  Then at least you kids will know that you put Christ first and you are sure of what you believe.  When kids are very little they don’t’ understand a lot of things and certainly not salvation.  Every moment is a teaching moment but boundaries are the perfect place.  I think it is so often overlooked.  The parents I see doing the best job see all times but also punishment as a time to teach children about the heartbreak of sin and why forgiveness is so important.

               Speaking for forgiveness I think it is crucial.  In our family we do forgiveness.  Our life is never about whom did it right and who was wrong.  It is about the heart and forgiveness.  I have often found myself asking for forgiveness from my son.  I can snap like anyone and am not perfect and need forgiveness too.  I think kids need to know that, they need to see you are a sinner at times too and also need forgiveness found only in Christ.  The kids I see with the best adult relationships with their parents have parents that don’t think they are always right and rule with an iron fist.  That makes kids obey out of fear rather then obedience because of love of Christ and each other.  Obedience by fear works in the short run but in the end they get to be teens and adults and see no need to "behave" anymore.  Obedience in the long term is always about respect, forgiveness, and love with Christ at the center. 

The most well rounded young adults I know understand the forgiveness, love, boundaries, salvation, and how to walk into adulthood with the tools their parents supplied them.  As an added plus just something I love that my parents did for all of us kids.  They allowed others to step into our lives or take over where they might be lacking.  Adults and older kids in your child’s life are not everything but I think important.  They allowed other people access to us and allowed others to have input into who we are today.  We walked closely with others and they allowed us to see the mistakes and joys of others lives.  I think my siblings and I are all fairly well rounded in part because of that.  We can talk to the homeless on the street or the president at the white house because they sought out people for ours and their lives that would have a good input.  That is just a piece not a necessity but I like who I am in part because my parents allowed us to see all walks of life, didn't sugar coat it, and allowed a long list of interesting people to be a part of our life.  I wish I had time to list out all the interesting odd people that my parents allowed to put into my life that made a difference. I know a lot of parents that shelter their kids form that kind of input and their kids are not the better for it.  

               Now let us say we are doing our best at that and even though we fail often we do what we can and our kids are doing OK.  What about the brass tacks of raising a kid?  How do you get them from point A to point 18 intact to be productive members of society?  My older friend who is now passed away was a wiz with kids and helped us come up with a list.  I think it is the one most important things she left us with.  We started by making a list of 12 qualities we wanted our son to have.  We refer to our list every couple of months to check in with ourselves and see how we are doing.  I find it really helpful to be reminded of the qualities we want to instill in our little guy.  Next we listed out by age what we should be working on in order to make him not just a productive member of society but someone that can thrive.  If you are really interested message me and I will send it to you.  We have found it so extremely valuable but it is too long to share in this blog and still keep things short.

     I know I make this sound like a cake walk.  I know from experience it is not.  It is hard and messy (literally and figuratively) and a lifetime of worry and what ifs.  However everything I have talked about is in the Bible and as I always say God wrote the Bible not as a set of do this or don’t do that or else.  Giving your child boundaries is a mirror of this.  I tell my son and students not in so many words.  This is how I have set up this class or our home for your enjoyment and happiness this is how you must behave.  Work inside these rules and there will be harmony, and there always is when they do.   Does God not do the same in our own lives?  Romans 12:4&5 let us know that there are many members in the body of Christ.  Raising your children all according to their separate needs is an example of this.  If you are not in tune to the differences in your children then you are raising a bunch of arms when what you need for flourishing in your family is arms legs, and a head. Mathew 7:24 tells us that a wise man builds his house upon a rock.  Having Christ at the center of your family is the only way to have a rock built house.  Ephesian 6:4 tells us not to provoke our children but to nurture them.  Asking for forgiveness and letting them know your weaknesses is part of that. I think that this is more than just don’t be mean to your kids.  Ruling as a tyrant and always having to be right it just as bad provoking them to anger.  

Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go and he will not depart from it when he is old.  The key word here is “train”.  All the things I have talked about are training.  Not just one component like boundaries, it is multiple components that make up the whole.  It is a hard job and I am not saying it is a walk in the park.  It is hard and it takes a ton of time and work.  There are many days I go to be feeling like I failed my son.  We do our best to adhere to scripture and work hard for the hearts and souls of our kids.  That is all I am really saying.  Work at it and don’t leave it to chance.  I recently heard a sermon where the pastor said "you are are already discipling your child, the question is what are you discipling them in"?