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Monday, December 24, 2012

The Christmas Story

I like the Christmas story as it is recounted in the King James Version of the Bible, which is found in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 2. For your convenience, it is reproduced here with the help of the fine folk at Bible Gateway.

A special Christmas song is also found at the end of the Bible reading.

God bless you and yours this Christmas. And may your holidays be filled with the joy, hope, and peace of the Prince of Peace, our Savior Jesus Christ.

Luke 2

King James Version (KJV)
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.
(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Here is a real treat, a rare video of the Cathedral Quartet singing "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" a capella. A wonderful Christmas song. And keep watching, because after that they do their famous a capella rendition of "Wonderful Grace of Jesus."


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Why You Should Not Worry About Doomsday Predictions for Friday

As Christians it is important to exercise discernment in all things. One area of utmost importance in this regard is the tendency among many to make outlandish predictions about the end of the world, such as the current hoop-la over the Mayan calendar's indication that Dec. 21, 2012 is the end of the time cycle.

In order to make this complicated subject easy to understand, I decided to break this down into sections that are straightforward and simple to follow.

1. Jesus warned against predicting when the end of the world will be. "No man knows the day or the hour," said Jesus. The very fact that Dec. 21 is pinpointed as "THE day" is enough reason in and of itself to dismiss it. It is FALSE.

2. Jesus stated that many "false prophets" will come along claiming they know about these things. He told us not to believe them.

3. The Mayan calendar has nothing to do with Christianity or Judaism, the religion of the ancient Hebrews. Thus, if there are any Mayan "predictions," they are incompatible with Christianity.

4. Modern Mayans say that the calendar is not about predicting the end of time but about describing cycles of time which lead into other cycles. When one cycle ends, another begins. The ancient Mayans simply believed that Dec. 21, 2012 represents the end of one large cycle...NOT the fact that the end of the cycle means disaster or calamity.

5. Jesus taught that for unbelievers the end of the world will come with the element of surprise. Thus, if thousands or millions of unbelievers are expecting the end of the world, you can pretty much bet on the fact that it is not true.

6. The exception to Number 5 above is in the event of a cosmic natural disaster, such as an asteroid, a comet, or some other astronomical event that can be predicted in advance.

7. For Christians, things that only God can know are best left to God. What good does it do us to delve into endless, obsessive speculation about these things? None whatsoever.

So, that's about it. Stop worrying about tomorrow, and celebrate the birth of the Savior of the world, the Prince of Peace!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Very Merry Christmas to You

Here at Martin Christian Ministries, I want to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas. Thank you for visiting these pages.

My special gift to you for Christmas is one of my favorite selections from Handel's Messiah titled, "For Unto Us a Child Is Born."

This rendition is a real treat. The great maestro, Eugene Ormandy, who directed the famed Philadelphia Orchestra for nearly 50 years, teams up with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to present this masterpiece.

I wish I had a live video of the great "little maestro" as he was called, directing this piece. Ormandy was one of a kind, a brilliant musician and conductor, and  magnificently inspiring as he led the orchestra, drawing out from the musicians the very best that could be expected, leading the world to dub what he accomplished as "the Philadelphia sound."

That sound was Ormandy's belief that an orchestra should place the emphasis on the mellow woodwinds and violins, violas, and cellos, as opposed to what most orchestras were doing by emphasizing brass. Ormandy used brass, of course, but he believed that in a good orchestra, that shrill sound should be subservient to the more mellow tones produced by other instruments.

The result was a distinct style that placed the Philadelphia Orchestra in a category all its own.

I admit I loved Ormandy and the sound he got from the Philly Orchestra. In my mind, there was none better, and nothing today even comes close to approaching the near-perfection of that style and sound.

And of course, it gets no better than Handel's Messiah, and the Mormon Choir performs it admirably.

The message in this selection is what Christmas is all about. Enjoy. And God bless!

(Note: click on this YouTube link if you cannot view below).

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Prayers Needed for a Good Friend (Cross-posted from The Liberty Sphere)

I just found out today that a good friend of mine, a famed Gospel singer whom I have known since I was eight years old, had open heart surgery in Pensacola, Florida. I ask that you join me in praying for him.

Glen Allred was the famed baritone singer/guitarist for the legendary Florida Boys Quartet from 1952 to 2007, when the group retired and left the road. Glen is a true-blue icon in Gospel Music, having started his career on the Grand Ole Opry with the Oak Ridge Boys back in 1950. He played the guitar for the quartet, and then one night when the group's baritone was sick, Glen was tapped by the group's manager to fill in. It was then discovered that not only could the Oaks' guitarist sing, but he could sing exceptionally!

But in time the group's regular baritone returned, and Glen wanted to do more than just play the guitar. So, in 1952, he accepted the offer from Pensacola business magnate and Gospel promoter J.G. Whitfield to join The Florida Boys, a group that Whitfield started in 1948 under the name "Gospel Melody Quartet."

Allred's voice became THE anchor for the Florida Boys' sound, and there he stayed for 55 years. Quartet aficionados will tell you readily that it is the baritone that is most essential to the harmony of a four-part ensemble. Without a good baritone, the quartet's harmony falls apart, although not many listeners are aware of the part when they hear a quartet. It is not meant to be a major noticeable sound in a quartet but a carefully nuanced quieter part that is known for its flats, sharps, and naturals that set quartet music apart from other musical genres.

Very, VERY few people who have followed the gospel quartets for the past 50 years would disagree that Glen Allred is perhaps the best and greatest baritone to ever perform on a stage. Or at least they will say he ranks in the top three, along with Doy Ott of the Statesmen, and Mark Trammell of the Cathedrals and the Mark Trammell Quartet.

I happen to think Glen takes the top honors, although the other two were/are wonderful.

Glen befriended me when I was but a little boy attending a gospel concert in my hometown. Somehow I was able to get backstage to meet my favorite group at the time, the Florida Boys. I met Les Beasley, Billy Todd, Derrell Stewart, and my hero I had idolized by watching him on TV, Glen Allred. Glen was even nicer in person than he seemed on TV.

In those days the Florida Boys hosted a TV show on Sunday mornings that from 1963 to 1980 or so was shown in every major TV market in America, The Gospel Singing Jubilee. I got up early every Sunday morning just so I could see The Florida Boys and Glen Allred.

I never forgot how kind Glen was to a little boy with stars in his eyes that night back stage. And in time I was able to become friends with Glen and the rest of the Florida Boys through tracking them down at concerts, later starting and singing in my own group, and then doing some concert promoting along the way.

Glen is a Christian gentleman that I am proud to have gotten to know. I miss him and "the boys" out on the concert trail, but they deserved perhaps more than any other to park that bus and spend time resting at home in a comfortable bed.

Join me in praying for Glen Allred as he recovers from surgery. I'm sure his wife Shirley, and son Randy, and the other family members, will deeply appreciate it.

Here is Glen at his very best, even at 70 years of age, and the Florida Boys never  sounded better!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Thanksgiving Message

Thursday will be Thanksgiving Day in the United States. This is the day we have set aside as a nation to give thanks to God for His blessings during the past year -- a tradition that dates back to the Pilgrims who first settled here in New England in the early 1600s.

After their first harsh winter in the Plymouth Colony during which half of them died, they gathered together with their Indian friends to give thanks to God for sparing their lives, allowing them to make friends with the natives who already lived here and helped them survive, and for giving them enough of a bounty of crops to survive much more heartily during their upcoming second winter.

Americans have traditionally been a very deeply religious people. Those who claim otherwise are either sadly misinformed or they make these false claims purely for ulterior motives. One CANNOT read the writings of the Pilgrims and later the Founders and come away from it thinking that they were not deeply religious. To a person, each of them referred to the blessing of God and appealed to God to grant them the strength and perseverance to forge a new nation based upon the concept of personal and religious freedom -- something they had to get away from Europe in order to have.

Even Jefferson, whom some detractors claim was a Deist who denied the divinity of Christ, was deeply religious and often used the imagery and words of the Bible to back up his political philosophy, and penned in the Declaration of Independence that THE CREATOR had endowed each human being with certain UNALIENABLE RIGHTS that CANNOT be negated by a "majority vote."

Again, Benjamin Franklin, whom many detractors claim was hostile to Christianity, in fact exhibited no such sentiments in practice. He was personal friends with the great central figure of the Great Awakening, the Reverend George Whitfield, an evangelist who drew multithousands to outdoor venues in fields and town squares. Whitfield had been an Anglican priest who became part of the nonconformist, congregational movement in opposition to the Anglican Church of England.

Whitfield often referred to Franklin as a personal friend from whom he drew much encouragement, and Franklin was known to attend many of the evangelists' outdoor meetings, emptying his pockets of all of the money he had when Whitfield passed the offering hat around. One can readily find letters exchanged between Franklin and Whitfield in historical libraries and archives.

Although it is possible that neither Jefferson nor Franklin were "Christian" in the traditional sense, they were not hostile to Christianity nor did they object to its influence in the public square.

To this day, like it or not, America's soul, it's persona, it's identity is heavily influenced by evangelical Christianity that thundered across New England and into the frontier by preachers who preached with a "holy boldness" that one is pressed to find anywhere today.

Today's preachers by and large are timid -- "nice" -- lacking in holy boldness, directness, and even righteous anger toward sin. This is a travesty of Christianity. While the hallmark of Christ's message is God's love toward all of us, in wicked times preachers are expected to scream the harsh truths of a righteous God to an evil, unbelieving generation. To fail to include this in one's preaching is to fail at our calling to deliver "the WHOLE counsel of God."

America's collective unconscious, as famed pioneering psychiatrist Carl Jung put it, is heavily steeped in this whole counsel of God as preached by ministers who showed no fear of speaking in holy boldness. This is one of the reasons America is great.

But we today are dangerously close to so thoroughly rejecting our roots that God will turn his face from America, withdraw His blessing from it, and allow it's wickedness to continue unabated. We may have already passed that threshold and crossed that line.

Still, America has lots to be thankful for. Food on the table. A roof over our heads. Shoes on our feet. Transportation to get to and from work. Friends and family who love us.

It is important to stop and give thanks to God for these blessings, and to humbly ask that He will bring us back to Him and save our land from the scourge that presently has it by the throat.

And let us this Thanksgiving recommit ourselves to that which is right, good, honorable, and spiritual. Let us work day and night to attempt to bring America back to her roots.

May God richly bless you this Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Turning them over to a reprobate mind


Romans 1: 27-29
27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.
28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers...

The Bible teaches that sometimes men and women become so vile and wicked that God "gives them over to a reprobate mind" to essentially do whatever they will without any divine or moral restraint.

God said, "My spirit shall not always strive with man."

There comes a time when man rejects the interventions of God so often, so consistently, and for so long a period of time that he can no longer hear the voice of God calling him back to sanity, to goodness, to rightness, to honor.

It is then that the dire consequences of man's sin are reaped in much weeping and sorrow. It has happened throughout history, with the Great Flood, with Sodom and Gomorrah, with the invasion of Israel by a pagan Babylonian King who took them as slaves into exile.

Shall America escape?

We are as bad, if not worse, than Sodom and Gomorrah. It is not enough for society to grant the right to homosexuals to live together in whatever arrangement they wish. In free societies, this is only proper. We are not a theocracy but a Constitutional Republic that guards the rights of minorities. Even those who comprise only a fraction of the population have the right to live as they please, to pursue life, liberty, and happiness.

But we are now being forced to change the definition of marriage dating back into antiquity just to suit such minorities. Marriage is a sacred institution between a man and a woman, and it is has been such for eons of time. Why should we at this juncture in history be forced to change it just to accommodate those who already have the right to live together as they please, with the legal protection from the state?

Marriage is not just any arrangement between anybody, no more than having sex with a cat is to be considered "marriage."

Let's get real here.

But make no mistake, this is not the only manifestation of man's reprobate mind presently. This is only the tip of the iceberg. Lying is a way of life in government and business. That makes it a sham, especially in government. When we cannot trust elected officials, what good are they?

This administration has lied, cheated, implemented policies that have resulted in multiple murders in Mexico and Libya. It has supported the reprobates who wish to change the definition of marriage to include that which involves "men lying with men," which the Bible in the passage quoted above specifically condemns. The administration supports abortion on demand. It punishes businesses by forcing them to implement policies that make it impossible to make a profit and stay in business. It's policies on taxation are tantamount to abject theft.

Yet Americans not only send the same crowd right back to the White House and Congress, but approval ratings in the polls say that citizens affirm the reprobates in this administration by a 54% margin after the election.

I'm sorry, my Christian friend, but if you say your Christianity does not influence how you vote, you are dangerously close to being turned over to a reprobate mind yourself. When right becomes wrong, and wrong is right, then you are spiritually bereft and may not even be a Christian at all.

Mark it down, America's chickens WILL come home to roost. We will not escape the notice of God as we go down this wicked path. It is a path that leads straight to destruction.

I beg you to repent immediately. Turn from this wickedness before it is too late. Confess your sins, your evil to God. Ask Him to forgive you. Commit yourself to Him and to what is good, right, honorable. This is your only hope as a human being. And it is our only hope as a country.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Christmas Concerts

Evening my Christian friends! Just a quick note to update you on my activities here at Martin Christian Ministries and to alert you about opportunities for Christmas.

I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing many of you around and about the past two months as I have gradually eased back into doing programs of Christian music for churches. The experience is always gratifying for me, and I hope those of you who have attended have been blessed.

I am now accepting invitations for 2013. Drop me an email at anthonygmartin1@gmail.com if you want me to come to your church, organization, or civic group to sing.  As always these events are free, love-offering styled events.

I would also like to announce that I will be doing Christmas concerts in the month of December. If you would like to have a guest singer to do a program of Christmas music for your church or organization, I am most happy to do that no matter how small the church or group.

As always, thank you for visiting these pages and for your support out on the concert trail. Until next time, God bless!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Some news to report

Hello, my Christian friends, and welcome.

Just a quick update on some news involving Martin Christian Ministries.

As you may have read here a couple of months back, the singing part of this ministry was placed on hold indefinitely due to the fact that for the first five months of this year I had an extended illness that prevented me from accepting invitations to sing. I did not want to risk having to cancel engagements due to the uncertainty as to how the course of that illness would progress.

Since the summer things have improved significantly, and I have been invited to several preaching engagements of late. This has started to spill over into the musical realm as well.

So, I am back on the road ready to come to your church, club, or gathering to do programs of Christian music and/or preach as well.

I recently did a program that involved both preaching and singing, and I felt very good about it. My voice did not cause any problem at all.

Thus, I wanted to share this good news with you and to thank all of those who remembered me in prayer during this time. I also thank the Lord for giving me the opportunity to serve Him through music and the spoken word.

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Word About the Study Bibles I Offered

Hello, my friends, and welcome.

Just a quick word to some of you who may have gotten some wrong information about the study Bibles I offered last year as part of a fund raising effort here.

The Bibles were a one-time deal only. That is, they are no longer available. That whole thing was part of the special "Ten Days Ablaze" in October of last year. Once those ten days had passed, the offer was over because the deal I had with publishers was for the specific purpose of helping to raise funds for this ministry during a specific time-frame.

I am not having the Ten Days Ablaze this year.

Sorry to disappoint those of you who have asked about the Bibles. If I ever have the opportunity to make such an offer again in the future, I will certainly let you know.

Thanks for keeping this ministry in your prayers.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Sometimes A Song Says What Words Can't

Evening, my Christian friends.

Sometimes a song says what words can't. Songs touch the heart and pull from us emotions and feelings that we often can't express in words.

Such is the case with this song.

I've talked about my many friends in Southern Gospel Music before, and the Cathedral Quartet was one of them, especially Glenn Payne (lead) and George Younce (bass). Here Glenn sings one of his best, and if I had to pick one that means the most to me outside of the obvious ones (We Shall See Jesus, and Somebody Touched Me, for example), it would have to be this one, In The Depths of the Sea.

The song has everything a good quartet song should have, all the elements that make a Southern Gospel song a Southern Gospel song, unique to that particular genre. It has pathos. It has classic four-part harmony. It has the clean, crisp, clear lead voice of Glenn Payne. It has the high tenor voice of Danny Funderburk and the perfect baritone harmony of Mark Trammell. And it has the incomparable George Younce on bass, who shows us here what a quartet bass should be, especially when he slides down at the ending and nails a mega-low note that most singers only dream about being able to do.

And of course, there is that dramatic ending...the final chord where quartet harmony is displayed in all of its perfection, the high tenor, the low bass, and everything in between.

Then we cannot forget the piano work of the late, great Roger Bennett.

In this rendition, the quartet is on stage live and their only instrumentation is the bass guitar and Roger's impeccable piano wizardry.  This allows the voices to shine unadorned and unfiltered so that we can enjoy raw talent.

But the other reason I love this song so much is a personal matter. The song talks about the fact that in Christ, God has taken all of our sins and mistakes and failures and cast them into the depths of the sea where He remembers them no more. It is as if we never sinned at all. All of the guilt and shame are removed from us and buried for good, and we stand clean before God, perfect as He made us. Thus, we are forgiven, accepted, bought, redeemed, cleansed, and loved.

To me this is the reason that the Christian message is the greatest love story ever told. And the boys sing it as no other.

I hope you enjoy this song. But more importantly, I hope that you will come to appreciate and value the message of it as I do.

Here is the great Cathedral Quartet, featuring Glenn Payne, singing, "In the Depths of the Sea." Click on the link at the top of the video to view full screen on YouTube.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Some Straight Talk Long Overdue

OK, my Christian friends, it is time for some straight talk, "telling the truth in love," that is long overdue. I say these things not to offend anyone or to be vindictive but to be truthful.

If we know anything at all about the Gospel and Ministry of Jesus Christ, we know that it involves honesty, often painful honesty. Jesus never minced his words when hitting head-on the accepted mores of His day when He thought they were unacceptable.

Today we have come to expect a "mollycoddle" Christianity with nothing but soothing words that tickle the ears of those who wish to remain blinded by their spiritual shallowness. The result is a shallow pulpit, a shallow preacher, shallow teaching, and shallow Christians.

Now, down to the issues I wish to address. At what point does the church do nothing but merely reflect the culture, and thus become irrelevant, as opposed to being a watchdog of the culture, exposing the wrongdoing, injustice, lies, deception, and debauchery of the culture?

To be sure, to a degree the church will always be a reflection of the culture. That is inevitable. We are all products of the culture in which we were raised. And the church will reflect it.

But in order for the church to remain the called-out body of Christ in the world, it must be able to step outside the culture and offer sane and sober commentary on it. The culture sometimes must be condemned. And people sometimes must be reprimanded and rebuked.

You won't find much of it in today's church, however.

The prevailing wisdom in Christian circles is that churches must become "seeker friendly" by tailoring worship services to the culture of the times. Thus, preachers dress in shorts and t-shirts. Jazz bands replace choirs. Teaching sessions on "tips on practical living" replace sermons.

Brethren, this is a travesty of Christianity!

Why?

When coming into the presence of God in the holy sanctuary for worship, we owe Him our very best out of respect and reverence. We don't come into the holy place looking like we just got up out of bed in our PJ's. We don't approach the place set apart for the worship of God by coming in dressed like we just walked off of a beach or came out of a bar. We wear our very best, and we act accordingly.

This is something that has been largely lost in today's society, much to our detriment. And I admit that my denomination is one of the worst offenders.

20 years ago or so, a man by the name of Rick Warren, a Southern Baptist pastor, went to the west coast to start a new church. That church is now known as the "Saddleback Community Church."

When Warren began his ministry in starting the church he conducted local surveys to determine the interests of the people in the area--the music they listen to, the way they like to dress, the things that matter to them the most, etc., etc., and then geared his worship services to reflect the local mindset. Warren more often than not preached in Hawaiian shirts and shorts. Jazz music greeted worshippers as they entered the sanctuary. And instead of sermons, Warren would do a "teaching session" on some subject that people in the area consider interesting, such as "how to raise a happy family," or "how to be a better steward of the environment," and other such "practical" matters.

The church grew, alright. It is now the largest Southern Baptist Church in the United States, although it does not promote itself as Southern Baptist.

But at what cost?

I admit I am not impressed. Not one bit. This sort of thing is not my cup of tea, nor do I think it helps to spread real Christianity. I say this not to slam Warren. From what I hear he is sincere and a good man. But I deplore his methods.

When I first moved to a certain southern city roughly 20 years ago, someone invited me to attend one of these so-called "seeker friendly" churches. It was a very large church with a majestic sanctuary. But when I entered, I was greeted by a "greeter" who took me to my seat because it was pitch dark inside. A jazz band played on the stage. The "greeter" told me that she would sit right behind me and that if I needed anything during the service, just ask her and she would help me. She would even escort me to the bathroom if I needed it.

The pastor came out in casual dress. He used an overhead projector to teach something or another about "living a successful life."

Once it was all over and I was headed out the front door, one of the persons who had invited me to that church asked me what I thought about it. I stated, "I feel I have been in a bar rather than church. And the only thing missing was the whiskey."

I never went back. And I will never darken the door of any church that uses that methodology because I think it is sacrilegious, disrespectful, irreverent, trivial, shallow, and a shameful display to the world of what the church is supposed to be. In fact, it was an example of what the church is NOT supposed to be.

How, I ask, is this sort of thing a corrective on the culture? How can such a church be a needed voice of rebuke to a culture gone amok when that church is so thoroughly intertwined with that culture?

It is, thus, totally worthless as a transforming presence in the world. When you "win" people using these methods, what, pray tell, have you won them to?

Southern Baptists are not the only ones guilty of this travesty. Other Protestant groups have done the same thing. I view it as selling one's soul for a mess of porridge. We have sold out the Gospel for a big crowd that knows no more about real Christianity than a rank pagan.

This MUST change, my friends.

When I go to church, I want it to look and feel like church and not a bar. I want the Pastor to look the part, IN A SUIT or official clergy vestments. And I want the members to show some respect for the Divine Presence by dressing in their Sunday's best. And for heaven's sake, ditch the cheerleader jingles and sing hymns. Show some reverence toward what worship is really all about.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Spiritual Thought for the Day, 8/10/2012

The book of Genesis in the Bible tells the story of Joseph, who, though cast into a pit by his brothers and sold into slavery in Egypt where he spent time in prison, managed to become a powerful official in the Pharaoh's government. Under Joseph's leadership the nation was spared total destruction.

Egypt had entered into a period of great wealth and abundance. But instead of squandering it, as do most of the politicians of today on reckless spending, Joseph initiated a program of savings. A large portion of the fruit of the labors of the Egyptian people was stored away in case of future famine.

And it was an act of Divine providence that led Joseph to implement such a plan.

In a few years the Egyptians suffered through a severe drought and famine that would have normally killed most if not all of its inhabitants. But Joseph had made sure the nation was ready, and the goods and commodities he had stored away saved their lives during the years of famine.

The lessons for us as individuals and as nations abound. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Spiritual Thought of the Day for 8/8/2012

To say that one's spiritual life does not influence one's political views is like saying that one's genes do not influence one's life. While our genes alone do not determine what we become, it is ludicrous to think that they have nothing to do with the nature of our individual lives, the color of our eyes, bone structure, disease, whether or not we go bald. In like manner, our spiritual life influences everything about us, our outlook, our worldview, our choices, our values, and how we vote.

My inherent political conservatism is driven to a great degree by my firm conviction that individual choice is the centerpiece of the Christian faith from a practical perspective. We are as humans alone before God, one on one, and there as individuals we decide how we are going to respond to God's truths. This is not a collective decision but an individual one. The individual is all important in spiritual decisions.

Collectivism says the opposite. The individual is minimized for the "greater good." And in spiritual liberalism, the emphasis is not on individual decision before God but on collective social action. Such a thing ignores the personal questions that are directed to each of us individually, "What are you going to do about your sins? What are you going to decide about Christ's sacrificial work for you on the Cross? Will you accept or reject His offer of forgiveness through that sacrificial work? Are you going to take responsibility for your actions or will you instead blame society, your parents, or someone else? Are you going to make sound decisions about your life that shows spiritual, moral, and ethical responsibility?

God comes to each of us individually and deals with us as individuals. This is my firm belief, my core conviction. And that is one of the major reasons I adhere to conservative political ideas. Individual initiative, individual decisions about my life, my personal choices about how I conduct my life, are matters that are left to me and not to the collective whole.

In my spiritual life, the individual is all important. Thus, in politics it is the individual who is all important.

When I tend to me effectively, I will make decisions that deal with others fairly. But unless I start with me, then no matter what I think I am doing for "the greater good" amounts to a hill of beans, and in fact it is quite harmful.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Spiritual Thought of the Day for 8/6/2012

"Christ and His sacrificial work on the Cross is the centerpiece of Christianity. Nothing is more important than this, nor is there any belief or doctrine that more fully differentiates Christianity from the other religions of the world. Without a fully Divine Christ who was willing to lay down His life for sinners, there is no Christianity, nor is there any salvation for the human soul." -- Anthony G. Martin

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Spiritual Thought of the Day

When in doubt about whether an action is right or wrong, ethical or unethical, moral or immoral, then don't do it. If there is any room for doubt, that alone shows that something deep inside you knows intuitively that the action, for you, is ill advised. If it were right, there would be no doubt. -- Anthony G. Martin

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Good Afternoon, My Friends

Good afternoon, my good Christian friends!

I truly hope you are well. Thank-you once again for reading these pages.

Today I thought I would alert you to an article I wrote at the Examiner on evangelist Billy Graham and the fact that he has, unfortunately, become a target of the controversial Westboro "Baptist" "Church," which in my view is neither Baptist nor a church.

This is a hate cult. And now they have targeted 93-year-old Billy Graham for their hate-spewing message.

Read all about it here at The Examiner.

Part of the task of a conscientious Christian is to "discern the spirits." Discernment comes not only through maturity and wisdom but through prayer and the work of the Holy Spirit.

Not everyone who says, "Lord, Lord," shall enter the kingdom of Heaven, according to Christ. Many claim to know Christ but engage in activity that belies their words.

I say these things not to condemn anyone--"for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God"--but to remind you that as Christians we are called upon to exercise discernment concerning various and sundry groups and individual who come at us claiming to be God's messengers.

As Corrie Ten Boom's father put it during the awful days of the Holocaust as even some within the Christian church helped the Nazis capture Jews, "Just because a mouse gets into the cookie jar doesn't make him a cookie."

The Ten Booms, as Christians, helped Jews escape the Nazi scourge and could not fathom why some who claimed the name of Christ would help perpetuate the great evil inherent in the Nazi regime.

So, beware my friends. "He who hath ears to hear, let him hear!"

Monday, June 4, 2012

On 'Bearing False Witness'

Not long ago I received a rather angry correspondence from a reader who took me to task for what he believed was my "bearing false witness" in an article I wrote at the Examiner.

The subject of the article was the renewed effort of the Obama reelection campaign to monitor social networking sites for anything they consider to be negative against the President. Any criticism of Obama is to be considered an "attack' which must be corrected by the campaign.

Two teams are now employed by the Obama campaign to accomplish this, one called "AttackWatch" and the other "TruthTeam."

The reader had a big problem with my understanding of the nature of this initiative, and thus accused me of "bearing false witness." I assume he meant that I had lied about the Obama reelection campaign, although he did not show any evidence proving that I had done so.

I got to thinking later on, well, maybe the reader actually believes I lied. And even if if he believes it with all his heart, does that automatically make me a "liar?"

The term "bearing false witness" is a Biblical term indicating the telling of untruths against other persons. Let's say, for example, that I start a rumor about my neighbor that she is a meth addict although there is no truth to it whatsoever. That is the meaning of "bearing false witness." It is an intentional act of lying, telling something that I know to be untrue, and the result is potential great harm to my neighbor's reputation.

There is no doubt whatsoever that such a thing is wrong, terribly wrong. It is immoral, hurtful, and a sin against God.

But what if, on the other hand, I tell something about a political campaign that I believe with all my heart to be true but it turns out to be false? Does that qualify as "bearing false witness?"

Actually, no. It simply means I have my facts wrong. But if I believe my information is true at the time I report it, then I have not told a "lie" because there was no intent to deceive.

The terms "lie" and "bear false witness" assume an intent to deliberately deceive.

Thus, if I find that I have reported something that turns out to be untrue, although I believed at the time it was factual, then I am obligated to go back and correct myself. But if I am still convinced that what I said is true, then I have clearly not lied or engaged in bearing false witness.

Several years ago a lady at church told someone in the congregation that I had done some things that I never did, not "bad" things, mind you, but just "things." Although what she said was not particularly hurtful, it was not true.

Now, did that woman "lie" about me? Did she "bear false witness?"

I have known that woman all my life. And I knew that she would never do anything like that deliberately. I knew that she merely got her facts wrong. And I never said anything to her about it because I did not want to cause her distress. She is elderly now, and if I told her that she stated something about me that was not true, she would be most troubled about it, and the whole thing was not important enough to cause such a ruckus anyway. So, I let it drop.

Despite our best intentions we sometimes get our facts wrong on a number of issues. That does not mean we have lied.

In politics in particular it is very easy for people to believe that we have blatantly told an untruth, deliberately. That is the way it sometimes appears to others who may not share our point of view. But in politics so much is determined by perceptions that are based on fact but not necessarily totally factual.

I may perceive that Joe Biden, for example, is a barefaced liar. It may appear that way to me. Thus, if I state that Biden is a liar, I am not bearing false witness. I am merely reporting an impression, a perception. But the thing is, Biden may not be that at all. He may simply get his facts wrong, which, by the way, he is prone to do on a regular basis, not due to any malevolent intent but due to his tendency to make numerous gaffes when speaking in public off the cuff.

I am not going to sit here and tell you that I have never told a lie. I have. But I would like to think that most of the time my intent is not to deceive. I try to be truthful and honest. There are times that I fail miserably.

But I can tell you that when writing a news article on politics, I try my best to be factual, although I admit that my bias is in favor of conservatives. Thus, my perception of the facts is going to be filtered through the lens of that bias. This does not make me a liar. Neither does it mean that someone with a different point of view is a liar.

The man who wrote me the angry letter may be 100% truthful when he says he does not believe the Obama reelection campaign monitors speech for negative statements about the President. I may think he is terribly misinformed but if he believes that what he is saying is true, then he is not a liar. He merely has his facts wrong.

So you see it all boils down to intent, motive.

In the spiritual life, it is important to consider these matters. In an era in which it appears that lying is a way of life for the majority of the population, it is even more vital that Christians make their word their bond. Honesty really is the best policy, and if honesty is unnecessarily hurtful, then it is best to merely keep quiet.

There is nothing wrong with having nothing to say....

Greetings after a long hiatus

Greetings to you my friends after a rather lengthy hiatus here at Martin Christian Ministries.

My sincere apologies for disappearing since Easter, but there have been circumstances.

Since mid-January I have struggled with a severe case of asthma, which turned into a lung infection involving significant congestion. Around mid-March I underwent an outpatient procedure during which the congestion is removed via bronchoscopy.

The procedure helped significantly. The after-treatment involves the regular, daily use of two inhalers that prevent the infection from recurring.

A side effect of the illness and its treatment, unfortunately, has been its impact on the voice. I have only been able to sing at two events since January, and to be frank I am still not feeling good enough about my voice to sing publicly except occasionally at my church.

Thus, the singing aspect of this ministry had to be placed on hiatus indefinitely. In other words, I am off the road and not presently accepting invitations to sing.

My voice has been adequate, however, for the speaking ministry, and I am slated to begin a new radio venture in July about which I am very excited. I should be able to handle that with no problem, Lord willing.

Needless to say, my difficulties since early in the year have put a significant dent in this ministry, and at times I have contemplated hanging it up altogether. The music has always been a central feature of what this ministry is about.

But, it never takes me long to remember that the music does not represent the entirety of this ministry. I write, I speak, I do Bible studies, I preach at churches, and the like, and there is nothing preventing me from fulfilling those functions.

I have been a Christian minister for the entirety of my adult life, and I will always be a minister. When one is called, that calling is never removed although the type of ministry in which one engages may change as time progresses.

My primary profession is that of music coordinator for a church and a political writer for a conservative online publication. But the way I see it, both of these are ministries if one approaches them from a Christian point of view.

And, I am gratified by the fact that this endeavor here at Martin Christian Ministries has reached an audience all over the world. Though that audience is not large, it's reach is vast, stretching all the way from the U.S. to Europe, to Russia, to the Philippines, to Brazil, and many other places in between.

So, I will continue writing here, as you will see in the days ahead.

I felt I owed it to you to give you an explanation for my absence of late and assure you that I will do all in my power to provide thought-provoking material here that will help you in your spiritual journey.

So stay tuned. God bless!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday Greetings

Good evening, my friends.

And I wish you a most meaningful Good Friday.

This is the day Christians commemorate the sacrificial death and shed blood of Jesus Christ on the Cross for our sins. There is no more important day in the Christian tradition than this.

Christ's death on the Cross is directly tied into the Passover Celebration of the Jews. At this time of year Jews celebrate the fact that during the period of Egyptian bondage, when they were slaves to Pharaoh, the death angel God sent as the last of the great 10 plagues to persuade the Egyptians to set the Israelites free passed over the homes of the Hebrews because they had obeyed God and sprinkled the blood of sacrificial lambs over the doorposts, meaning that they would be spared the scourge of having the firstborn in every family killed.

The Egyptians, on the other hand, being non-believers, scoffed at such an idea and laughed at Moses for suggesting such a thing. Thus, when the death angel descended to Egypt, he 'passed over' the homes of the Hebrew slaves but gained entrance into every home of the Egyptians, where there was no blood sprinkled on the doorposts. Once inside the death angel took the lives of each and every Egyptian first born child.

The grief and wailing was so severe across the land that Pharaoh finally relented and allowed the ancient Israelites to gain their freedom.

What a contrast between the Hebrew slaves and their Egyptian slave masters! The Egyptians were plagued by untold death. But not a single Hebrew life was taken.

And it was all because of the blood.

In like manner, we who are believers today are spared the penalty for our sins--eternal death, hell, separation from God--all because of the blood. The blood of Jesus Christ on the Cross at Calvary, the perfect, spotless, sinless Lamb of God.

When we come to Him in faith, believing that we are sinners and stand in need of His forgiveness and salvation, and when we believe He died for us and rose again from the dead, and when we ask Him to come into our hearts and lives as Savior and Lord, then the blood is sprinkled above the door to our hearts. And the 'death angel' passes over us!

We are spared the eternal consequences of our rebellion against God and His ways.

Yes, my friends, it is all because of the blood. Praise be to God!

Monday, March 19, 2012

"I Believe" Affirmations

Here are some "I believe" affirmations that can have a profound impact on your life. Repeat these several times each day when you are feeling down or powerless. You will begin to feel the energy flowing. Try it!

I believe in God the Father, His Son the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.


I believe that I am a child of God through the shed blood and death of the Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross for my sins.


I believe that I am empowered through Christ's resurrection from the grave and His eternal presence made known to us by the Holy Spirit.


I believe that all people have the possibility to rise above their present circumstances to become all they were intended to be, living up to their full potential.


I believe that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, that through Him all things are possible and that I can do much more than I can even ask or think.


I believe that no man, no government, no organization, no corporation, no entity has any authority over me except that which I give them. I am uniquely and ultimately free. I live under no authority except God and His holy Word.


I believe that freedom, liberty, and creativity are the ultimate reflections of the fact that I am created in the image of God, who is the ultimate freedom, liberty, and creativity.  


I believe that whatever the mind of a human being can conceive and believe, the mind of that human being can achieve.


I believe that the power of God that flows through every part and parcel of the universe is flowing unto me, through me, and out of me to others, and that this power is sufficient to overcome ALL of the forces of evil and darkness.


I believe that life never ends, that death is merely a new beginning, a doorway through which we enter a new world set up by the great God Himself. Therefore, I have nothing to fear.


God bless you on your journey, my dear friend.
  

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Where Else Can We Go?

An old adage contains a lot of wisdom--"He who stands for nothing will fall for anything."

In many ways people in our society are proving the point.

It is said that interest in spirituality is at an all time high in America. Yet interest in the Church is at an all time low. The interest of Americans in spirituality is not being channeled into traditional forms of religious expression but in a myriad of 'new age' concepts, Eastern religions, cults, and a combination or hodge podge of different beliefs put together into an individualized system.

Some of this is not necessarily bad. There are certain spiritual concepts that are true across the board in a variety of faith groups. And it is certainly true that when viewed from an allegorical point of view, the concepts of the Christian gospel are applicable across the board within the belief system of a variety of faith groups, including those based on 'new age' teaching.

But there is also a pitfall inherent in this scenario. Without a foundation, without a solid platform or template based upon certain undeniable, timeless truths, then the venture into a nebulous, generalized 'spirituality' is doomed to failure.

People have always had doubts about the truth or validity of their faith tenets. They did so in Jesus' day. On one occasion John the Baptist sent a envoy to Jesus to ask, "Are you the Chosen One, the Messiah. or shall we look for another?"

John asked this question even after he had baptized Jesus and referred to Him as "the One who sandals I am not worthy to tie," and "the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world."

On another occasion Jesus put a direct question to His disciples when many who had begun to follow Him turned and walked away, "Will you also go away?"

Peter then answered Jesus by saying, "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life." (John 6: 66-69).

Dr. George W. Crane, famous psychiatrist and writer from the 20th century, once stated that we can ascertain truth by looking at history--whatever has been proved to be true for the most people for the longest period of time is a safe bet when it comes to truth.

The principles of the Judeo-Christian worldview have withstood the test of time. Going back into ancient epochs of history, the Hebrews, ancestors to modern Jews, discovered truths that when put to the test have proved themselves time and again. It is out of this worldview that Christianity developed.

A point to ponder--Christian truths have their basis in concepts that have been proved going all the way back into antiquity, at least 4000 years ago. I would think it more prudent and logical to trust the veracity of those truths than to base one's life recklessly on concepts that are so new as to be untested, untried, and therefore unworthy of our confidence.

Peter had it right when Jesus asked him, "Will you also walk away?"

Where else shall we go?

Saturday, February 4, 2012

All Dogs Go to Heaven

Several years ago a movie was released with the title displayed above, "All Dogs Go to Heaven."

When it first hit the movie theaters it immediately caught my eye because it resonated with something deep inside my spirit. And that is what I wish to talk about briefly today.

Through the years many people, too many to count, have approached me asking, "Chaplain, do you think animals go to heaven? Will we see our beloved pets again?"

I remember one lady asking me that question as I walked across the campus of a hospital system where I once worked. She had been in one of my classes for those in recovery from various emotional illnesses, including addictions.

Without thinking I simply blurted out what was in my mind at the time--"I sure hope so. It wouldn't be heaven if my beloved dog were not there."

Later I had some regret for saying that, because, frankly, Jesus Christ is what makes heaven a place of pure joy and peace. It wouldn't be heaven were HE not there!

But at the same time, I do think that in the scheme of things, the way heaven is described in the Bible, dogs and other pets would seem to be a perfect fit. I mean, why not?

Many Christians have historically debunked such a notion due to the fact that, in their view, animals do not have souls, and therefore, without a soul an entity cannot go to heaven.

How do we know for sure, though, that a dog has no soul? Is there a statement in the Bible that even remotely suggests such a thing? And where in the Bible does it state that having a soul is a requirement for getting into heaven?

The answer in both cases is that there is no such statement in the Bible.

"But," they object, "An animal does not have a will to choose and therefore cannot willfully choose to be a servant of God, a disciple of Christ."

Neither do infants. Yet we all assume that infants who die infancy are safe in the arms of the Heavenly Father. Why would it be any different for a dog?

In the Bible we find all sorts of wonderful descriptions and imagery that attempt to capture the essence of what heaven is like. We are told it is a land flowing with milk and honey, that there are streets of gold and walls of jasper, and mansions that have been built just for us, not to mention a place where we will be reunited with our loved ones who have gone before us.

These things do not make heaven heaven, however. Heaven is where God is in His essence, the holy light of the universe. And that is what heaven is in its essence. But these other things simply make it better.

Heaven would still be heaven even if our pets were not part of it. We would never miss them. Why? Because we will be too busy basking in the complete joy of the presence of Jesus.

However, it is my opinion that lots of things are provided in heaven that make it better for us humans who have spend our conscious life in this earthly home. Being able to be reunited with a beloved pet would be icing on the cake.

Thus, while I cannot point to any Biblical proof that this is true, there is also nothing in the Bible that teaches against it. It is a matter of speculation. And it is my opinion, after much speculation, that our dogs, cats, and other precious pets are a part of what God has prepared in that place in the great beyond.

After all, He made them. Why, then, would He discard them?

(Dedicated to the memory of my beloved dog Bo, who showed me more about the love of Christ than most humans!).

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Men With Broken Hearts

You'll meet many just like me upon life's busy street
With shoulders stooped and heads bowed low and eyes that stare in defeat
Poor souls that live within the past where sorrow plays all parts
Where a living death is all that's left for men with broken hearts
You have no right to be the judge to criticize and condemn
Just think but for the grace of God it would be you instead of him
One careless step a thoughtless deed and then the misery starts
And to those who weep death comes cheap these men with broken hearts
Oh so humble you should be when they come passing by
For it's written that the greatest men never get too big to cry
Some lose faith in love and life when sorrow shoots her darts
And with hope all gone they walk alone these men with broken hearts
You've never walked in that man's shoes or saw things through his eyes
Or stood and watched with helpless hands while the heart inside you dies
Some were paupers some were kings and some were masters of the arts
But in their shame they're all the same these men with broken hearts
Life sometimes can be so cruel that a heart will pray for death
God why must these living dead know pain with every breath
So help your brother along the road no matter where he starts
For the God that made you made them too these men with broken hearts


Writer--Hank Williams, Sr., published by Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Why I Stand with Israel

A definite rift has occurred in the Christian community with regard to Israel. Conservative Christians tend to see the issue from a purely historical-Biblical perspective in which the nation is described as 'God's chosen people.' Moderate or liberal Christians tend to discount such a designation, leading some, such as former President Jimmy Carter, a liberal Baptist, to openly support the 'Palestinians' while denouncing Israel.

Other than the fact that politically and strategically Israel is one of our closest allies (she is the ONLY western-styled democracy in the entire region), from a spiritual point of view I cannot support Israel-bashing or minimizing the importance of the nation in God's plan for the world.

Israel was chosen to represent God's message to the world in ancient times. The land she occupies was given to the Hebrews (Jews) by God many centuries before there was any such thing as Islam. And the Bible never withdrew her designation as God's chosen people, even though she rejected Jesus Christ as the Messiah. Even when they were wayward, God considered her to be His, and that included those times she was punished for her infidelity.

There is a long history of suffering on the part of the Jews. Throughout her history she has been overrun by enemies, her citizens taken as hostages and slaves to foreign lands--IF their lives were spared. Such was the case when the Roman Empire took over the region, although the Caesars allowed the Jews at least some freedom in governing themselves, under the careful supervision of local Roman Governors.

The Jews remained a people in exile, a people without a country, until 1948 when the newly-formed United Nations, under intense pressure from President Harry Truman and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, restored Israel as a legitimate, viable nation of the Middle East.

Truman believed that the Bible teaches that the land belongs to Israel and that this land had been stolen from them over 2000 years ago, which, according to the Bible, is true. Truman also believed that God's ultimate will was that the Jews be provided a homeland to which they can return--restoring Israel to its former occupants, as foretold in the book of Revelation.

Yet from the time this decision was made, controversy has dominated the region, often erupting into violence. Islamic forces in the region claim that ALL of the land is theirs, although the religion was not even started until nearly 2000 years after God first gave the Hebrews the land.

Prior to the restoration of Israel to the Jews, Muslims dominated the area from around 650 A.D. until 1948 and prevented Christians and Jews alike from gaining access to their most holy sites in the area of Jerusalem known as 'old Jerusalem.' The proposals made by such terribly misguided politicians such as Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and even George W. Bush would return old Jerusalem to Muslims, where once again Islam would no doubt prevent Jews and Christians from accessing their holy sites.

The oft-misnamed 'Palestinian people' are a red herring--a ploy of Islam to seize control of all the land and eventually destroy Israel as a Jewish state. The original 'Palestinian state' is Jordan. Is that not enough? Why is a 2nd 'Palestinian state' needed?

A look at the region, making a comparison between how much land Israel possesses with how much land Arabs and Muslims possess will reveal a shocking fact. Muslims begrudge Israel's control of a tiny strip of land in the middle of a vast ocean of Muslim nations.

And Islam is well-known in the Middle East and beyond for violence against non-Muslims. They kill Christians and Jews, and burn down their churches and synagogues. This is pure evil. And Christians must stand against it.

That is why as a Christian I support Israel. Jesus was a Jew, and as a former professor of theology told me while I was working on a post-graduate degree years ago, "Christians are Jews first. We share a common heritage and history."

Thus, Jimmy Carter is flat wrong. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and George W. Bush are flat wrong.

And the Bible makes one thing perfectly clear--those who would oppose the chosen people of God are opposing God Himself, and such a thing is evil and carries dire consequences. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Mystery and the Majesty

Good afternoon, my friends! I hope you are well this fine day. I am truly thankful for my wonderful friends who faithfully read and support this ministry.

Today I wish to discuss with you an issue of vast importance to your spiritual development and growth. It is vital that we recognize that God works in mysterious ways and that people are often used of God to do good things, even when they are totally unaware of it, and surprisingly, even when they fail to recognize that God is a part of anything they do.

For Christians, this comes as no surprise. We were taught from childhood that God uses people for various things, often without their knowledge. In the Bible there is a wonderful passage where Jesus describes the faithful when they get to heaven. The Christians, once they enter the heavenly realm, are told that they are welcome in that place prepared for them, for they had fed, clothed, visited, and helped Jesus himself as an outgrowth of their Christian faith.

But the faithful were shocked when they heard these words. They had no idea that they were anything special or had done anything so wonderful and helpful for Jesus. That is just how humble and self-effacing they were. And they asked, "Lord, when did we do any of these things?"

It was then Jesus said that "insofar as you have done these things for the very least of these my brethren (other people), you have done them for me." They 'fed the hungry, helped the poor, visited the sick and the imprisoned,' and went about doing good as a clear outgrowth of their Christian faith.

Christians are often unaware of just how vital their actions have been in showing other people how much they are loved and cared for.

This being true, it is also true that God uses unbelievers for His purposes as well.

The Bible presents many examples of this fact. The Pharaoh in Exodus who held the Hebrews in slavery was described as an instrument of God in bringing judgment to God's wayward people, and later, to be the stooge proving that God is much greater than any human authority. In like manner, Judas, the man who betrayed Jesus into the hands of His enemies, was described as the one who would be used to accomplish God's will in bringing about the scenario where God's only begotten Son would die on the Cross for the sins of the world.

But God is also using non-malevolent forces for His purposes.

In the follow-up film to 'The Da Vinci Code,' 'Angels and Demons,' the character played by Tom Hanks was an unbeliever who was indifferent if not antagonistic toward the Catholic Church. Yet, in the end, he wound up helping save the Vatican from sure destruction.

Unaware that he had done anything noteworthy, the Dean of the College of Cardinals told Hanks at the end that God has used him to save the church. Hanks protested, stating that he didn't think God had anything to do with it. The elderly Cardinal placed his hand on Hank's shoulder and said, "My son, of course He did."

These things only serve to remind us of the richness, the mystery, and the majesty of almighty God, who "moves and works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform."

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Recovery Begins With the Individual

I was listening to one of my favorite radio shows the other evening, Dave Ramsey, who teaches people how to manage their money, and he said something that I had never before considered.


It was an 'epiphany' of sorts. A light went on in my head, and his statement resonated with something deep within me, telling me that what this man was saying represents ultimate truth.


Let me explain.


We all know how tough the economy has been on so many people. Many of us have suffered indescribable difficulties as a result of the collapse of 2008. For me, I was selling real estate at the time, and as you all know the real estate market was hit first. My income suddenly plummeted to ZERO. I lost just about everything, including my home.


I had to scramble to address the dire circumstances. In doing so I was forced to work 3 jobs, which I continue to do today. Even so, I have trouble making ends meet. I don't make much money from any of the endeavors I have begun.


Complicating the issue is the health problem I developed 3 years ago. Or I should say health problemS--plural. First, I began having severe eyesight problems due to an underlying inflammatory condition I didn't even know I had. Then, that inflammatory condition made itself known in a major way, which has definitely effected my ability to do certain things.


I cannot, for example, work a job that requires being on my feet for hours on end every day, five days a week. Manual labor is impossible now.


Thus, my choices when it comes to employment are limited by the circumstances.


Yet, hope springs eternal, and I keep pressing on praying and hoping that one or more of my 3 endeavors will take off and fly, enabling me to make a decent living.


And this brings us back to Dave Ramsey's statement.


He was speaking about the economy and the difficulty the nation has experienced in sustaining a recovery. He stated that in the final analysis, however, what the country is experiencing is not the issue. The issue is ME. The issue is YOU. The individual. Economic recovery begins with the individual.


What kind of initiative are you taking to address whatever financial difficulty you may be having?


I did not wait for the economy to improve. I direct music part time for a church. I started writing for a living--a meager living at best, but I still make a little money. And I started this ministry. Admittedly this ministry has made no money whatsoever in the 9 months it has been in operation. Everything has gone toward expenses. But I keep pressing on with the hope that things will change just around the corner. What else can I do? 


Ramsey suggested that now is a good time for persons to look into starting a business--one that has very low start-up costs and can be operated on a shoestring budget.


Risky? You bet it is! But it is better than sitting at home twiddling our thumbs in anxiety and despair wondering what we're going to do. Getting active in your own endeavor is a good way to avoid despair when the job market has dried up.


Jesus said, "By faith you can say to this mountain, be removed and be cast into the sea, and it will be done."


Those mountains he talked about are not the physical mountains such as Everest, or Shasta, or Hood, or McKinley. The mountains Jesus had in mind are those large obstacles that stand in our way, preventing us from moving forward.


My economic recovery began the moment I decided to work 3 jobs, even if the pay is dismal. Your economic recovery will begin the moment you look at that mountain and say, BE GONE!, and then launch into something, anything, that you can do to keep yourself afloat financially.


One famous preacher used to say, "If it is to be, it is up to me."


I have one I like much better. "God plus the individual is always a majority." If God is for us, who can be against us? Together, you and God, can overcome obstacles. So get moving!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Christians Form a World-Wide Fellowship that No Government Can Squelch

One of the things that I love about writing/blogging is that I never cease to be surprised by some of the things I discover. That is particularly true when you start a site that caters to the Christian community.

This site--Martin Christian Ministries--reaches people all over the world in some unlikely places.

I was struck by this over the holidays as I did some monitoring of where the majority of my readers live in the world. As expected, most are in the United States. But I was surprised by the fact that Germany comes in second. Brazil and the UK are next.

But one stat amazed me. It was one that I did not expect. I have a significant number of readers in Russia.

On one day in particular, I got over 100 readers from Russia alone.

As I pondered over how surprised I was to discover this, I began to note that this should not really come as a surprise at all. Despite being held by the grip of heavy government oppression from 1917 until the early 1990s when Communism was dismantled, Russia has always had a vibrant Christian community, albeit underground.

The old Communist USSR did not permit Christian churches except in a limited way, and then it had to be the 'approved' Russian Orthodox variety, which the government could easily control. But as for the millions of Christians who were not Russian orthodox, they were forced to smuggle Bibles, meet in secret, and place their lives in mortal danger simply for doing so.

You see, Christianity teaches that no government has the final say over the human conscience. Only God has the ultimate authority over right and wrong, and that includes government. God sits in judgment of government, not the other way around. And when governments require human beings to go against the clear will and plan of God, only a fool would suggest that we must go along with such tyranny because 'the Bible teaches we must obey the law.' Fools distort the truth, and this is a distortion.

The Bible actually teaches that when governments are consistent with the plan of God they are to be obeyed. But when governments require its citizens to disobey God by restricting their capacity to follow God's will, then government MUST be disobeyed. Only a fool would claim otherwise.

Why?

Think about it. Had our Christian forebears, including Jesus Christ himself, obeyed the government authority, we would have no Christianity today. Christianity itself was born out of disobedience to the authority of man. Jesus disobeyed. Peter disobeyed. Paul disobeyed. This cost them dearly, including their very lives. But look at what their sacrifice brought about--a movement that spread like wildfire that no man, no government could ever stop.

Governments are scared to death of people like us. So be it. They should be. We will NEVER obey a government that loses its moral authority to govern. Our only Lord is Jesus Christ--not some self-appointed dictator, not a President, not a Congress, not the Supreme Court, not a 'ruling Party.'

If we bow to any of those things, it is tantamount to bowing to Satan himself.

This we will not do. This will cannot, MUST not, do.

So, God bless the faithful Christians brothers and sisters in Russia who hold firm to the truth of the Gospel. I am glad you read these pages. And you have reminded me that the Christian community is a world-wide family of faith, a universal communion of believers who are united by one faith, one Lord.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A New Year Begins

We pray that the Lord will grant His richest blessings to each of us individually during 2012.
God bless each of you who follow and support this ministry.

For all the blessings of the year
For all the friends we hold so dear
For peace on earth both far and near
We thank Thee, Lord.