My love/hate relationship with October


I love Fall. It’s, hands down, my favorite of all the seasons. Football on a lazy Sunday. The crisp air that kisses your face when you step outside. Sweatshirts and jeans. The crunch of colorful leaves underneath your shoes. The steady crackling of a warm fire. S’mores under a darkened sky illuminated with brilliant stars. The intoxicating smell of pumpkin oozing out from every coffee shop within a three mile radius.

It’s the time of year when the windows can remain open almost the entire day. The steady sound of leaf blowers in the distance. The blanket of bright red and dazzling yellow that envelopes the mountains. The plume of breath that escapes your lips on the really cold mornings. Ahhhh…it’s so amazing in the Fall.

October is an incredible month, because I married the love of my life back in 1999. I was the guy who said he would never settle down and get married. Now, nearly 15 years and two kids later, I am blessed more than I could have ever dreamed.

It’s also a month marked by the everlasting stain of loss.

On October 14 2008, I lost my Dad. Hard to believe it’s been that long. I’ve changed allot during those years. I’ve grown spiritually, and many of the views and beliefs I used live by have radically shifted perspectives. For quite a while after Dad’s passing, I questioned God. I blamed God. I wondered how a God who is supposed to be love could rip my father away from us. Now I know the truth.

God didn’t take my Dad.

He received him, yes. But He did not take him.

The Bible is very clear that satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy. The very same scriptures also point out that all GOOD things come from above. People will always go immediately to Job and quote “The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away.” Job honestly believed God was doing all those things to him, when in fact, He wasn’t at all. I don’t believe God is sitting up there playing games with our faith. It would be very hard to trust someone who says they love you, but at the same time makes you suffer. How could you ever trust someone like that?

One of satan’s biggest accomplishments is causing believers to blame God for everything. He wants us to be in a state of confusion when it comes to trusting God. He hopes we step into our secret place not with boldness, but with a divided heart. Part of it loving God, and the other part wondering why God is causing bad things to happen to us. Think about all the horrible things that have happened in your life. The stuff you blamed God for, or at the very least figured God was allowing to happen to teach you something. Wouldn’t your relationship with Him be even more incredible if you just let it go and realized there is an enemy roaming this earth trying to destroy you?

I expect many of you will not agree with my last two paragraphs, and that’s okay. I’m not here to debate and argue about these things. What you believe is entirely between you and God. As Christians, it’s our job to love people, pray for people, and speak truth when we can. We aren’t here to beat people in the head with a Bible and accuse them of having false beliefs. We weren’t created by God to fight with people. Jesus paid much too high a price for that. It’s up to the Holy Spirit to bring about conviction and repentance. We sow seeds. Sometimes we are fortunate enough to have an opportunity to water those seeds. But we may never see them bloom into fruition.

I had the great blessing and opportunity of having an amazing earthly father. He was never shown love from his own father, but that didn’t carry over to me at all. I knew without a doubt that Dad loved me. He was my friend, my golf partner, and the man I went to for advice and guidance when I was growing up. There are memories, good memories, locked away in the vault of my mind that only myself and family will ever know about. Moments that were never documented on Facebook or Twitter. Images that will never see the scrolling pages of Instagram.

Sometimes we just need to create a memory for ourselves, and not ruin it with likes, shares, and hashtags.

My Last Night


So many people are lost and hurting. The ministry we used to be a part of was full of youth who struggle with major issues on a daily basis. I’ve talked to many of them who have faced suicide at one point or another. Like everyone else on this planet, they need love. They don’t need to be judged for what they’ve done in the past. They need to know who they are in Christ. I wrote another song this morning as I sat here thinking about that.

 

My Last Night
Copyright 2014 Chris Martin

(verse one)

Standing at the edge of silence, time is no longer my friend
In this moment, I have to decide, no one will hurt me again
The tears stream down, I tremble in the shadow of my fear
I cried out to You, no reply, thought You said You were always here

Candlelight flickers in the darkness, cold steel pressed against my skin
A note on the table, reasons why, I can’t be hurt again
You won’t understand, might force a smile through the tears
But no one will ever know, what you did to me all these years

(chorus)

This is my last night
I give up the fight
I can’t take this pain anymore
Time to step through the open door

I’m so alone, I need to be strong
I’ve carried this burden for way too long
Does darkness await, or will it be light
No matter what, this is my last night

This is my last night

(verse two)

Sitting at the edge of my bed, time is my only friend
In this moment, I have to decide, I want to let you in
The tears stream down, I tremble, but not in fear
I cried out to You, the answer came, I feel You here

Candlelight flickers in the darkness, cold steel cast to the floor
A note in the trash, I have no reason to doubt You anymore
You’re the only one Who understands, I smile through the tears
Soon everyone will know, You’ve been calling to me all these years

(chorus)

This is my last night
I don’t have to fight
I won’t carry this pain anymore
On bended knee, I step through Your open door

I’m never alone, You make me strong
I’ve carried this burden for way too long
The darkness is gone, I now walk in the light
No matter what, this is my last night

This is my last night

Why religion doesn’t work


I’m not sure exactly where I’m going with this post. Some thoughts have been swirling around inside my head all weekend, so this is an attempt to write them out.

My heart is burdened for the lost. Earlier this year, I wrote a post entitled The But Stops Here. You can read it if you like, but the main point is that we put too many conditions on our love for others. “I love you, but…”

We, as Christians, should be known for our love. Unfortunately, we are known more for what we stand against than Who we stand for. We are quick to point out the faults of others before we even show them love. We expect people to change before we are willing to love them. We love others when they are doing good, but when they do something to “hurt” us, we retract that love.

We can attend church every Sunday. We can start up home groups targeted to specific individuals. We can pray. We can read the Bible. We can quote all the required scriptures. We can feed the hungry. We can shelter the homeless. We can lift our hands in worship.

We can do all these things, but without love, it’s all a big fat zero. (1Cor 13)

Religion can do all the activities I just mentioned just to look good, check items off a list, or complete an outreach quota for the month. It’s just going through the motions of dead works.

The most sincere form of ministry and outreach will never be seen on the pages of Facebook. 

You can serve thousands of hours in the community, give millions to local ministries, and even hand out hundreds of hot meals. You can do these and saturate social media with your proof, but I don’t believe it has the same Kingdom implication as helping the homeless man on the corner by taking him to McDonald’s for a meal. And no one knows about it except him and God.

Why do we strive so hard for the approval of man? A ministry leader? A pastor? You will only receive their approval if you’re doing things to make them happy. I have experienced this first hand. That’s why I’m done trying to please man. I won’t be standing in front of any one man on judgement day. God created me in His image. Man didn’t. God sent Jesus to die on a Cross for me. Man didn’t. I will love others, but not try and please them.

Pastors and leaders are very important, but they are mere men. We can’t forget that. Jesus is our ultimate authority.

Our approval was determined long ago when God created us. Our value was sealed when the blood of Jesus ran down the old rugged cross to reconcile us once again to a Father who longed to have His children back.

We can’t avoid showing love to someone because they swear.

We can’t avoid showing love to someone because they use drugs.

We can’t avoid showing love to someone because they are gay.

We can’t avoid showing love to someone because they refuse to attend church.

We can’t avoid showing love to someone because they had an abortion.

Why doesn’t religion work? Because it is completely void of love.

I’m not being legalistic. I’m just being real.


So often, I think about the things I say, do, participate in, and watch, and I wonder:  If Jesus was right there beside me in the flesh, would I still do them?

I’m a Christian. The Bible says we are in the world, but not of it. If people look at me, and can’t see something different, then I need to re-evaluate the relationship I have with my Father. A couple big things for me are TV shows and movies. Years ago, we stopped watching R rated movies. Just got tired of the incessant cursing, gory violence, and sex. None of those are listed in Philippians 4:8. Even some PG-13 movies are ridiculous with all they try and get in there without taking on an R rating. By the way, Plugged In is a great site from which to obtain information about movies before going to watch them.

I see Christian friends posting about TV shows or movies they enjoy, and to be honest, it surprises me somewhat. A very popular show is The Walking Dead. People are infatuated with it. Thanks to the convenience of Netflix, I gave it a shot last year, and made it through maybe one full episode and half of the second. It’s complete filth. If Jesus knocked on the door and wanted to hang out for a bit, would we seriously watch that? “Hey, Jesus. You’ve GOT to see this show everyone is raving about. It’s awesome!”

Another Christian friend was excited about the new season coming up for the show, Sons of Anarchy. About bikers. Again, I sat down with Netflix and gave it a chance. Same result. Complete filth.

Now listen. It’s not my job to tell you what you can and cannot watch. That is entirely between you and God. You are the steward of your own heart and conscience. I just believe that as Christians, we have no right to indulge in what our flesh wants. When we decide to follow Christ, we give up all rights. We were never created to please our self. That all came onto the scene the moment Adam and Eve ate the fruit. The fall of man.

It’s a process of renewing our minds and daily dying to our flesh. Start simple. I’ve mentioned this before. When I go to the store, instead of finding the closest parking spot, I look for one that is further away. It may sound stupid, but our flesh wants to park as close as possible so we don’t have to walk far. Just say, “No, flesh. You are dead to me”, park further back, and enjoy the exercise.

Jesus paid a high price to reconcile us back to the Father. To bring us back into righteousness, right standing, with our Creator. He paid for it by allowing Himself to be murdered on a tree. He looked down at the very ones who nailed Him up there, and asked His Father to forgive them, because they had no idea what they were doing. He knew everything we would ever do against Him, and none of it stopped His love from pouring out. Whew. That creates a desire within me to live for Him. To give up the desires of my flesh, and crawl up onto the altar as a living sacrifice.

I encourage you to evaluate your activities, and see if they are pleasing God, or the flesh.

Arise


I’ve been writing some lyrics the last couple of days. That’s how it happens for me. I’ll go for months not writing anything like that, and then all of a sudden, BOOM, I start getting ideas like crazy. This morning’s creation is entitled Arise.

 
Arise
Copyright 2014 Chris Martin

(verse one)

There was a time when darkness was all I knew
Living for me, not even thinking about You
Pushing the limits, testing Your reach
Running from the light, dying inside of me

But Your hand reached down, despite my shame
A whisper in the night, You called me by name
You said arise, my son, it’s time to come home
There was never a time when you were all alone

(chorus)

Arise
Step out of the darkness and into the light
Arise
Death and sin have forever lost the fight

Arise
Bringing hope with a brand new day
Arise
It’s time to show the world that love is the only way

Arise

(verse two)

Nailed to the cross, darkness was all I knew
I died to me, I called out to You
Body pushed to the limits, I always knew Your reach
I ran towards the light, it burned inside of Me

Then Your hand reached down, at the end of three days
You whispered in the morning, You called Me by name
You said arise, my Son, it’s time to come home
Come sit at my side, be at rest on Your throne

(repeat chorus)

Forever Lord


Even though I have no musical skills whatsoever, I enjoy writing song lyrics. Knowing all that Christ went through for me at the Cross, I can’t help but continually write out my appreciation. I wrote these lyrics earlier this morning.

Jesus didn’t die on that Cross to point out our sin, He died to demonstrate how much the Father loves us. How much value we have. How much worth. Life can beat us up, people can say or think what they want about us, but it doesn’t matter. We were created in the very image of God Himself. That means our value and worth were already determined. Jesus paid a high price for us. Let’s follow Him.

 
Forever Lord
Copyright 2014 Chris Martin

(verse one)

The day was dark, love hung on a tree
Crimson stains, nail scarred hands
Crown of thorns that bit so deep
The look in His eyes, no one could understand

Bruised and broken, nothing left of a man
Blood stained face, eyes that could barely see
Darkened clouds, fury of a tormented sky
He paid the price for all humanity

(chorus)

He gave His life to show us who we are
Every wrong we’ve ever done
Washed away as He took the scars

Once again, the world restored
He brought us back to our Father
With open arms, forever Lord

With open arms, forever Lord

(verse two)

Three days passed, all hope was lost
Disciples in hiding, fear of the crowd
Knowing their Jesus had to pay the cost
With the blood of a lamb, soaking the ground

True to His word, the stone rolled away
Death had no power to keep a slave
Mary in tears, what a glorious day
When Jesus, our Lord, walked away from the grave

(repeat chorus)

Never Forget


I tried to come up with something special for this day. A story, some kind of poem, or even some new song lyrics. I just wasn’t able to pen anything fresh. I can usually tell after a few minutes of staring at the blank screen whether or not it’s going to happen. Well, it didn’t. I ended up with nothing but memories.

9/11 was one of those events where you remember every single thing about that day. Where you were. What you ate for breakfast. Possibly even what you were wearing and every single detail of each conversation you had with people. Every moment is seared into your brain. For me, it was the same way when the space shuttle Challenger exploded. I was in school when one of our teachers ran in with the devastating news.

These are events that alter history. They tear through the fabric of time and leave scars that may never heal. They create stories that our children and grandchildren will study one day in a classroom.

It was a Tuesday morning. We lived in Corvallis, OR, and I worked for Pepsi. The previous day, I had just started training to be a route driver. I climbed out of bed after having a very strange experience during the night. Around 2 AM, I awoke with a churning inside my stomach like none I have never experienced before or since. Dread washed over me in waves. All I could think to do was pray. I prayed for everyone that came to mind. My family, my friends, my co-workers. I didn’t even know what to pray. I just asked God for protection over them all.

My initial thought was that something horrible was going to happen in the small town I grew up in, Franklin NC. When I turned on the radio in my car that gloomy morning, I knew why I had been praying.

I rushed back into our apartment and flipped on the television. A scene of horror greeted me, and I sank into a chair. It was one of the most horrific events I had ever witnessed in my lifetime.

I didn’t want to be late for work, so I tore myself away from the news and headed on in. Obviously, it was the focal point of all conversation that morning. That early, most of the people I worked with weren’t exactly lively, but that day was so different. There was a sadness that clouded the Pepsi plant. You could see it in each face and hear it in every voice.

We made sure the truck was loaded and pulled out to start a day full of deliveries. We listened to the radio the entire time. We couldn’t speak when they announced the first tower was crumbling. I wanted to rush home and hold my wife and little girl when they described the second one falling.

We worked through our route in a state of numbness. I remember one stop was a local newspaper. We walked in and started toward the back where the vending machines were located. I noticed that everyone looked at us strangely. Even Sean, the guy training me, said something about it once we reached the lunchroom. While we were determining what they needed as far as product was concerned, one of the paper employees walked in. He said they were all on edge and just wanted to make sure we were truly from Pepsi.

Everywhere we went that day, people were frightened. That, and deeply moved by the grief and tragedy befalling our nation. It’s something you wish could be wiped clean from the deep shadows of our memory, but yet, it’s also something we don’t want to forget. We could never forget.

I’m not into politics at all. I’m not pro-government. I’m not anti-government. I’ve watched countless videos attempting to prove that 9/11 was an “inside” job. None of that matters to me. What does is the fact that people lost sons and daughters that day. They lost parents and cousins. Brothers and sisters. Best friends. Grandparents. Uncles. Aunts. The list goes on and on. Brave men and women rushed headlong into the smoke and debris desperately trying to find survivors. I’ve watched so many documentaries over the years, and I’m left wrecked at such loss and devastation.

It’s time such as this, I fall to my knees and thank God for the many blessings in my life. My wife. My two children. My mom. My job. It’s too easy in this life to gripe and complain about everything. The Bible actually calls complaining a sin. I make it a point each morning to wake up conversing with my Father, thanking Him for another opportunity to represent Him on this earth. Time is short, folks. We have no idea when Jesus is coming back. We have to live as if it could be at any moment. Take a few moments today to just stop, get into a quiet place, and talk with God.

Today marks 13 years since the events of 9/11/2001. It’s hard to believe. Wherever you are right now, hug someone close to you. Tell them how much you love them. Never forget that our lives are but a vapor.

Here today and gone tomorrow.

Blah Blah Blah


Our lives are full of words.

We speak all day long. We use words in every part of our lives. We read them in books. We write them in letters…well, the closest anyone comes to writing a letter these days is constructing an extra long Facebook status. Words, words, words. They are everywhere.

We can speak and write words until there’s nothing left, but yet, not actually say much of anything. Words are futile unless they are reinforced with our actions.

You can say what you think, but you will live what you believe. 

That’s a profound statement, because it is so true. How do we live when no one is around? Do our actions in secret line up with the words we say in public? Since we answer to God, that’s very important.

As a Christian, I have decided to follow Jesus. If I write out these blog posts every week, then curse my children inside my home, I’m a hypocrite. If I post scripture after scripture on Facebook, but yell and scream at someone when they cut me off in traffic, my posts are rendered pointless. If I say we are to love God and love others, but yet I’m consumed with pleasing my flesh, I’m full of nothing but hot air.

Words are important, but actions are what define us as people.

In the past, I’ve come close to not even maintaining my blog anymore because of comments. It’s truly sad to see people who confess to be Christians want nothing more than to debate and argue over everything. I just recently had an Atheist leave a comment apologizing for anything they may have said that would cause me to disable comments. And I have to be honest, it’s not the Atheists who come against me the most. It’s other Christians.

And I’m not trying to be mean, I’m just telling it like it is. In my experience. I’m not categorizing ALL Christians into this one group of debaters. It’s fine if you don’t believe the same things I do. It’s fine to voice your opinion in the comments. But, I am done debating. I’ve said it before. Arguing is stupid, to be quite plain. In my opinion, the whole concept of denominations inside Christianity is ridiculous.

Do we seriously believe Heaven is going to be separated into sects like we are here on Earth? Of course not. God is a God of unity, not division.

Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. If we’re not following Him, we aren’t getting it right. It’s that simple. The Gospel is a simple concept. It’s been broken up into every doctrine known to man, based on experiences. Well, we don’t live by feelings, we live by faith. If Jesus said this would happen, or that would happen when I pray, then I’m going to pray. If I don’t see results, who cares. That doesn’t change the fact that Jesus said it. It’s truth no matter what I see or don’t see.

Many well known authors, speakers, and preachers have written books and created doctrines over an experience they had, while completely ignoring the truth of the Gospel. It’s very sad. So many people have been led astray by false teachings not grounded in the Word of God. I write and speak what I believe to be truth. It’s up to you whether you accept it or not. I’m not trying to convince you of anything. I”m not saying I’m right and you’re wrong. I write blog posts because I have a passion for writing.

I also love people. I want to share what I’m learning and growing in. For too long, the enemy has infused his lies into every aspect of Christianity. We’ve been raised to believe certain things, when in fact, not all of them are true. If you really want to have your beliefs rocked and challenged, search for Dan Mohler and Todd White on YouTube and watch their teachings.

I’ve been digging into the Word, and communing with God in the secret place, and have found that what they are preaching is 100% truth. I’ve never heard anyone preach the Bible like they do. They don’t have notes, fancy catchphrases, or laser shows. They follow the lead of Holy Spirit and speak truth. It’s awesome.

Dear Christians, the world has heard us speak words and write words….they are crying out to see it in our actions.

“Convert them, or kill them”


“I’m not giving up on them, but I’m just saying, either convert them or kill them. One or the other.” – Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty.

Ouch. That’s pretty harsh coming from someone who professes to be a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ. I have to be honest. I never did get into the Duck Dynasty hype. I tried watching the show twice, and couldn’t make it through more than ten minutes. For me, it was the typical, silly, scripted, ridiculous reality TV mess that millions of people around the globe live for. I’m not saying it’s wrong to watch reality TV. That is just my own personal opinion on the genre.

From what I hear, at the end of every episode, the entire family sits around the dinner table, and they give thanks for the food. They pray. I have no idea if they talk about the Gospel, Jesus, or salvation at any point during each show. I hope they do since they have such a huge following.

As with everything else I hear from well known people these days, I would much rather stick to the words penned in red that I find in my Bible. Matthew 5 says:

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. 41 And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two.42 Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.

Most of this chapter in Matthew is you have heard it said, but I say examples. I mentioned before that Jesus was comparing the old way of thinking, man’s way, with God’s way. The Bible talks about renewing our minds. This latest statement from the Duck Commander is why. “Convert them or kill them” is total human reasoning. It’s the way that seems right to a man. To say that it’s near impossible for someone to convert and decide to follow Jesus, is to put a limit on what God can do.

This got me thinking a lot about Matthew 5. Why do we lock our doors? Why do we have guns for protection? It’s all about self-preservation. Here’s something Jesus also said in Matthew 16:

25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.

We were born into sin. The self mindset was already embedded into our DNA. If we don’t become born again, and allow ourselves to be re-coded, we will always have our self interest at heart.

That completely goes against everything Jesus taught and modeled for us. We have to die to something we were never created to be.

This is something most people don’t like to talk about. It means giving up, well, everything. Giving it all to Him. Crawling up onto that altar and becoming a living sacrifice. It’s not something we hear a lot in church on Sunday mornings. But, it’s the Gospel.

“Worship is for us, not God.” “Convert them or kill them.” It’s frightening how many people don’t see the lies in these statements. There is no truth whatsoever. And these are words from very popular “Christians” in our society. Being a celebrity and quoting scripture doesn’t make you a Christian. It doesn’t make you right. Satan quoted scripture.

I encourage you to open your Bibles and read. Study the life of Christ and ask yourself if you’re following in His footsteps. We’re on this earth to manifest God’s image. The image He created us in.

If Jesus wouldn’t say or do something, then why would we?

A sin conscious Christianity


Love the sinner. Hate the sin.

I’ve probably heard this quote from Ghandi a million times. I used to say it all the time. I’ve seen it on bumper stickers, posters, signs, Facebook posts…well, pretty much anywhere and everywhere there are Christians. It’s become one of the most-used slogans in this generation of Christian culture.

And I don’t like it.

I’m not saying it’s wrong at all. I hate sin. As a Christian, I hold myself to certain moral standards that don’t always align with the world’s thinking. Well, they never align actually. I’ve decided to completely die to my self, my flesh, and live in righteousness (right standing with God). Jesus paid a high price to give me an opportunity to live that way. I don’t want to waste it. My sins have been washed away by His blood. As far as the East is from the West…

Saying love the sinner but hate the sin is just a sneaky way to demonstrate how bad a person is, basically judging them, while attempting to convince them of our unconditional love. What we’re saying is, “You are a very bad person. What you’re doing is not right, and you will go to Hell if you don’t stop. Oh, by the way, I love you like Jesus.”

This post has nothing to do with Matthew 18:15. (Yes, I’m going to make you look it up. Lol) I’m talking about people who aren’t believers, and may have never heard the Gospel before.

We don’t need to point out the sin in other people’s lives. They aren’t going to care if we think their lifestyle is wrong. It’s not going to bother them one bit if we frown on their sexual preference. If we try and convince them of how wrong they are, it will only push them further from the Gospel.

It’s inside the moments where we practice true, unconditional, unbiased, unassuming, selfless love that change occurs.

And it’s not us making them change. When we love, we aren’t invoking a method or following a script to make them drop to their knees and seek forgiveness. We aren’t causing them to feel so guilty about their wrongdoing, they can’t stand themselves anymore. We can love someone, nothing happens, and we walk away. It could be hours, days, or years later when the Holy Spirit lands on them and BOOM, their life is radically changed.

I don’t believe it’s our duty to attend a gay rights convention just to hold up signs condemning them to Hell.

I don’t believe it’s our duty to sit outside of an abortion clinic until the police come and haul us away.

I don’t believe it’s our duty to post on Facebook or sign petitions against everything that is sinful.

Are those things done out of true love for the sinners, or because we have the need to be right? To prove our point? Do we think that sets us apart and makes people search after what we believe?

People need to know who they are. They need to know that their true identity lies in the fact that we were all created in God’s very own image. Man ate the fruit in the Garden thus causing separation between God and man. Jesus had to die in order to reconcile us back to our one, true Father. The One from Whom all of life came forth. We can now boldly stand before God as if we never ate from the tree. Jesus said “It is finished”, not “To be continued…”

We need to be God-conscious, and show people the radical love and grace that saved us while we were yet sinners.

Remaining sin-conscious only keeps our attention on the faults of others, and not on their true identity in Christ.

They need to know who they were created to be, not who the enemy wants them to be.