Friday, December 08, 2006

Introducing a new blog

I know, I know, it's been awhile since my last post. I'm supposed to update this regularly so people will keep coming back and reading. But I'm so busy living life that I don't have time to update my blog! Good problem to have, no?

The thing that prompted me to write today's entry is that I wanted to introduce you to a new blog written by my father. It's called "Pastor Buddy's Blog" and it's hosted at our church's website. Dad was recently diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and is beginning to walk through the journey of dealing with this disease and the treatment. I convinced him that it would be a good thing if he were to keep a blog about his experience, to sort of let people "look over his shoulder" and "peek into his heart" as he walks through the journey of healing. I feel like it will help our church as well as potentially help others in the future who may stumble across it.

The good news is that NHL is treatable, although the treatment is difficult (4-6 months of chemo). The 5 year survival rate is over 60%. Dad's being treated at the Cabrini Cancer Center by Dr. Halewani who is very upbeat about his prognosis. (Of course, Dr. Halewani doesn't have to go through chemo ... he just prescribes it!)

Dad has a great attitude about NHL and this journey he's embarking upon. His greatest desire is that God get glory out of this somehow. He knows God could heal him instantly. He also knows God could use medical science to bring healing. Beyond that, he knows that whether he lives or whether he dies, he is the Lord's so he wants the Lord to be honored through this journey.

I hope you'll check out "Pastor Buddy's Blog". I think you'll be blessed. While you're there remember to register or subscribe so you can be automatically notified whenever he puts a new post there.

That's all for now. Blessings!

Friday, October 06, 2006

God the Artist

The other night I stepped outside the doors of the church and this picture is what I saw. As people often say there's no way the picture from my cell phone can do justice to the incredible spectrum of colors that was displayed across the sky. All I could do is stand there and marvel at the handiwork of God.

As I looked at this majestic display of the setting sun and the palette of colors used across the western sky I was reminded of the verse from Psalm 104 where it describes God:

You are very great;
You are clothed with splendor and majesty,
Covering Yourself with light as with a cloak,
Stretching out heaven like a tent curtain.
Ps 104:1b-2 NASB

God indeed is an artist. But His most beautiful work of all is not the setting sun, nor the intricacy of a butterfly's wing. It's not the architecture of a spider web glistening in the morning dew, nor the aerodynamics of a hummingbird. No, the most wonderful work of our artist God is YOU!

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;
What is man that You take thought of him,
And the son of man that You care for him?
Yet You have made him a little lower than God,
And You crown him with glory and majesty!
Psa 8:3-5 NASB

You are God's masterpiece! You have been crowned with glory and majesty! YOU are made in HIS image, to be like Him, to be with Him! God's fingerprints are all over you since He is the artist and you are the canvess. Or, as Jeremiah describes us, we are the clay in the Potter's hand. Indeed His fingerprints are on our lives. Can you see them? Do you notice the impressions He's left? If you'll look closely enough you'll see not a series of unexplainable coincidences but the distinct imprint of God's fingerprint. Because you are indeed His finest work!


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

What will you look like in 20 years?

Christian Challenge produced a drama entitled "The Father's Heart" that attempts to show the emotions of the Father in heaven while Jesus' life is played out on earth, both the joys of the birth and miraculous forgiving ministry as well as the sorrow and horror of the cross. I directed the drama the first two times we presented it (at Christian Challenge and at 1st Assembly) but the 3rd time we were to present it the gentleman who plays the Father was not able to be with us. So, as his understudy, I took on the role.

The brother who played the Father originally has a beautiful head of white hair and a distinguished beard. I have red hair and goatee. Since I only had a week from the time I was to play the part until the actual presentation, I didn't have time to grow out my beard. (I tried ... just not enough man enough, I guess! [G]) So we looked for alternatives and settled on a white hair paint from a local beauty supply store.

The night of the drama arrived and I dressed in one of the small Sunday School rooms behind the platform area at Sharp Baptist Church. There was no mirror there so I was not able to see the effect the hair coloring had after a member of our drama team sprayed my hair.

The drama went off well and afterwards we received many compliments as well as quite a few comments about my hair. I finally got to see what I looked like and had my daughter snap the picture above with my cell phone camera. The most frequent comment I got was something like, "So this is what you'll look like in 20 years." That was usually followed by someone else commenting, "Nathan's got three teen-aged daughters ... that's what he'll look like in FIVE years!"

I took all the good-natured ribbing in stride. But it got me thinking. What will I look like in 20 years, 30 years, 40 years? Obviously that picture doesn't capture it becuase it's just grey/white hair. What about the wrinkles, the crows feet, the sun spots?

The more important question than what will I look like in 20 years is what will my spirit look like in 20 years? Am I continuing to nurture my spirit with the rich food of God's table? Will I be stronger, more mature, more patient, more caring, more compassionate? Or will I be harder, tougher, more cynical?

I recently met a man who is the director of planning for Lafayette Consolidated Government. He gave me two cards, one for his contact information and one for "Lafayette in 100 Years", a long-range plan and vision for what the leaders want Lafayette to be like 100 years from now. That kind of planning is taking place in communities across our nation because people realize that growth without planning is a recipe for disaster.

The truth is we have a lot to say about what we'll look like spiritually in 20 years. The choices we make today affect us then. And the truth is, unless the Lord comes back or we go to Him soon, 20 years will come and go in a snap. Who will we be? If I make no plans and just go with the flow, there's no telling what I'll look like spiritually in 20 years. But if I continue to do what's right, seek God's face, order my steps according to His word, then I will not have to be ashamed of what I look like. Just as Paul writes in 2 Tim 2:15

"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth."

So what will you look like in 20 years? What do you want to look like? You get to choose.


Friday, June 09, 2006

Crawfish taste better when you catch them yourself!

Here's a photo of a recent outing ... that's my brother André and his son Justin emptying a crawfish trap at a friend's crawfish pond a couple of weeks ago. (Thanks Brian!) We all gathered for an afternoon of crawfishing and regular fishing. After working the traps we went over to the stocked pond to let the kids catch some bream, bass and catfish while we boiled the 80 or so pounds of crawfish we had "harvested". They were succulent!!! I don't know if it was us gathering them or what but they tasted even more delicious than usual.

I've recently taken up golf again, at the urging of a couple of dear friends. I've made an outing to LSUA's course as well as to the driving range and we're going again tomorrow so I guess I'm a hacker again. I have thoroughly enjoyed the time with my friends ... and the exercise hasn't hurt. (Hasn't helped yet either! )

Today we were talking about the different phases we go through. A little while back it was paintball ... what a blast! Now I'm into motorcycles and golf. It's interesting how people get involved in hobbies and throw themselves into them wholeheartedly. And then try to convert others to their hobby. (Thanks, but no thanks on going back to the gym! ) Some people eat, breathe and live deer hunting. For others it's quilting, or fishing, or knitting, or genealogy, or _________ (fill in the blank). None of the hobbies are bad, as long as we don't become obsessed with them.

My question to myself (and you too, if you're reading this) is, do I invite others to know Jesus with the same passion that I invite them to go motorcycling, golfing, paintballing, crawfishing, etc? These things are great but they have only a temporary reward. But what about the truly eternal reward of knowing Jesus? All the other things provide a temporary high that we enjoy sharing with others. Maybe we need to share that eternal high as well. At least invite them to the party! ;)


Friday, May 12, 2006

"He cares for you"

I shared on Monday how I received great encouragement from 1 Peter 4 during a time of struggle over an issue in my life. Here's another verse really jumps out to me:

casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.
(1 Pet 5:7 NASB)

How can we roll our worries over to someone else and walk away? The only way I can see that this is possible is if we are convinced of the last part of that verse ... "because He cares for you." If you're not convinced of that, then you'll never be able to trust God with any issues in your life.

Does God really care? Does God care for me? These are the great questions of life. So many have the view of "hey Mr. God way up there in heaven" and have no perception that He desires to be intricately involved in the daily affairs of our lives. But I'm convinced God does indeed get involved in the little things of our lives. Consider these verses:

For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. (Jer 29:11 NASB)

He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.
(Is 40:11 NIV)

I love the picture of Jesus as a shepherd carrying a lamb "close to His heart". (Example 1, Example 2) That is a pictorial definition of caring, in my opinion. The knowledge of God's care is what gives us the confidence to let go of the things that we're anxious about. He genuinely, and gently, cares for us. That's good news.


Monday, May 08, 2006

Encouragement in Suffering

This morning I was in need of encouragement. Last night I didn't sleep well. I tossed and turned, thinking about something coming up that was troubling me. (It doesn't matter what it was, we've all had nights like that.) I woke up thinking about it and continued to be troubled. I couldn't wait to get to my devotional time. I knew if I could just spend a few moments in prayer and Scripture that I would be comforted. Just before opening my Bible I breathed a prayer that God would give me a verse of encouragement. In reading through my Bible the next chapter I was to read was 1 Peter 4. I opened to that passage and read:

"Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,"

Needless to say, I didn't feel very encouraged!!! I read the verse again to make sure it said what I thought it said. Yep, sure enough it told me that since Christ suffered in the flesh I might as well get ready for it. At least that's what it seemed to be saying. I pondered those words and although they weren't the powerful, victorious words I expected to read, they did encourage me, especially when I read the next verse (as I had only read half of a sentence):

"so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God."

As I read those verses together, here's how it basically came out to me:

Suffering is good when you recognize it's only for a season and when it helps you straighten out your priorities.

That's what these verses spoke to me this morning. Suffering in the flesh can really help clarify things, help refocus your priorities. What you once thought important ("lusts/desires of men") fades in the light of what's truly important ("will of God"). In times of crisis or suffering, people tend to take stock and find out what's essential, what's crucial, what gives meaning and purpose.

And all of this is so that we will live "the rest of the time in the flesh" for the will of God rather than for our own desires. Left to my own devices I will become self-centered. *I* will become the most important thing in my life. So God allows some suffering to help us get our eyes on what's really important.

It's interesting to me that Peter is the one who wrote this. Peter, who once rebuked Jesus to His face for suggesting that the Messiah had to suffer. And now Peter teaches that suffering for Christ advances the progress of sanctification in the life of the believer. (Please note, this is suffering for doing good, not suffering for doing evil! See vss 3-4, 12-16.)

So, is there encouragement in suffering? Yes. It has a purpose. And when you recognize God is in control and He has a purpose (i.e., "causes all things to work together for good...") then even the suffering can be a blessing from Him, something to give thanks for.

When I first read these verses I thought, "Thanks a lot, God. I needed encouragement and You tell me 'suffering's a good thing'." But after meditating on these words I actually ended my devotion feeling VERY encouraged. God is in control. It's all in His hands. And it has a purpose. I can live with that.


Thursday, April 06, 2006

Time for a new keyboard?

Time for a new keyboard?Here's a pic of my keyboard ... or at least the one I just replaced. As you can tell, it's well used! Probably a little TOO well-used.

Now that I look at that keyboard again, it looks pretty gross. You can certainly tell which keys have had the most use! And there's supposed to be a little knob on the "j" key so you can tell where your hands go by feel ... that's completely worn off from use. (Hmmm ... what word that I use a lot has the letter "j" in it? Could it be ..... JESUS! )

I use the keyboard a lot. So much so that lately I've been having some problems with my right arm (carpal tunnel syndrome?). So besides wearing a brace on my right arm, I purchased a new, ergonomic keyboard. It's got a split keyboard so that the hands can sit at a more natural angle. It also is curved up in the middle, rounded, so that your hands are more comfortable. My shiny new keyboard!In addition it angles down, away from me, again to give the hands a more natural position. All in all it's much more comfortable, even though I'm having a little more trouble finding some of the keys. But the more I type, the more comfortable I get with it.

This new keyboard is nice and shiny ... and clean! The knobs on the "j" and "f" keys are easy to see AND feel. And there's no spilled coke or leftover lunch crumbs hiding in the crevices! All in all a great improvement. But what about the old keyboard? What does it's future hold? Will it be relegated to the junkpile of life, tossed aside like so much of our throw-away society? It still has some usefulness left, doesn't it?

I'm so glad our Lord doesn't throw us away when we're dirty and used up. Often we feel like maybe He should just go ahead and give up on us ... that we're of no value, we're not good enough, clean enough, new enough. But God doesn't give up on us!

I'm often asked my favorite Bible verse and it's found in 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." That verse was written to Christians! And we need it because we all sin. If anyone says he doesn't sin, he's a liar! (See the rest of 1 John for more info on that!) So what do we do when we sin? Give up? Quit? Throw in the towel? Expect to be replaced? No! We confess, get cleansed and move forward!

OK, enough preaching for now. Besides, who'd ever think replacing an old, dirty keyboard would bring about a sermon? (Anyone who knows me, that's who!!! )

Friday, March 24, 2006

The Father's Heart

In celebration of Christian Challenge's 30th anniversary we put on a drama entitled "The Father's Heart (written by Debi Stodolka of King's Players in Canada). It was a lot of work, a lot of practices, a lot of time, planning, and even some sweat and tears (although I hope there wasn't any blood!). The drama went off very well and was well received. In fact, we are going to present it again this Sunday night at 6:00 at First Assembly of God here in Pineville.

There are a couple of things I want to point out about the drama. First is the message of the drama. The whole thing is about what may have gone on in Heaven while Jesus was on earth. It shows the perplexity of the angels as they ask where Jesus is, their enjoyment of His life and ministry and their confusion about the cruxifiction as well as their intense desire to rescue Him from the cross. There are several great monologues by the Father and one particularly jumps out to me. He explains to the angels that the only thing that will satisfy the just demands of His holy character while at the same time demonstrate His love and mercy is the CROSS. There is no other way to achieve both purposes. This is a powerful monologue that coupled with the angels' horrified response to the cross shows what a powerful price was paid for our sins.

The other thing I wanted to point out is how something like this could NEVER happen without a team approach and without so many people willing to work "in the dark", in the background, backstage, unseen, unnoticed, unrecognized. There are 5 major characters on stage (and about a dozen little angels that get a lot of attention in their brief appearances) but who notices the soundman in the back, the lighting operator up in the balcony or the special effects technician seated in darkness? And how about the ladies who spent countless hours making the costumes and seweing the curtains for the backdrops? How about the person who wanted to be in the drama but felt someone else might do a better job at the role and agreed to step aside? To me, these are heroes!

"The Father's Heart" drama was a success in that it touched (and will continue to touch) the hearts of those who saw it. But it was also a success because it changed the lives of those who participated. I know I was deeply impacted by all who participated and by the ultimate story of love ... "greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends." Thank you Jesus for loving me.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Congratulations, Christian Challenge for 30 years!!!

This week marks the 30th anniversary of Christian Challenge, the church in which I grew up Christian Challenge celebrates 30 years of ministry in Central Louisianaand where I am honored to serve as a pastor. The first service CCI ever held was on Tuesday, March 9, 1976 (coincidentially my sister's 2nd birthday). CCI was initially started by my father, Lawrence "Buddy" Martin, as a "School for Christian Workers" He was still pastoring another church at the time and felt there was a need for a place for Christians to get more in depth training in preparation for ministry without having to move off to go to Bible School. The "church" grew up around the School and now they work hand in hand.

Christian Challenge started in Boyce, Louisiana and was there for a couple of years before making the trek down Hwy 1 to Pineville. For eight years we met in the "old Rent It Company building" at the intersection of Hwy 28E and Pineville's Cottingham Expressway. Then four more years in the Pine Plaza Shopping Center as our current facilities were being built. (The current building took about four years to build because the members of the church built it themselves and they paid cash as they went so when they moved in, it was completely paid for.)

I moved home from Mexico in November of 1990, the same year we occupied the building. (It still wasn't finished ... they were meeting in the Fellowship Hall and then moved into the unfinished sanctuary with concrete floors and a plywood platform!) I joined the staff as Associate Pastor and have been honored to serve alongside my father.

I'm grateful for this weekend. 30 years is a long time and it's a testimony to both the blessing of the Lord and the faithfulness of Bro. Buddy and Sis. Betty (or, "Mom and Dad) over all these years. I want to honor them for their tenacity and determination in sticking it out in the tough times. We are moving into wonderful times ahead but we can never forget the foundations that were laid and the price that was paid. Thanks, Mom and Dad, for being such wonderful examples of those who faithfully discharge a stewardship from God. May we all be found so faithful.


Monday, March 06, 2006

When the Police say stop .....

Our local police department has recently been armed with a number of X-26 Tasers from Taser International. This new weapon will allow Pineville police officers to potentially "take down" a suspect without having to shoot him. This provides a level of protection for the officer because he doesn't have to get in close contact to use his baton or pepper spray. This also is safer for the suspect because being shot with a real gun is no fun.

In order to be "checked out" on the X-26 Pineville's officers had to be shocked themselves so they would know what it is they're putting someone through and won't use it lightly. Somehow the suggestion was made that City Councilpersons might want to "experience" the Taser first hand. Since I went through the "burning house" scenario with the fire department, fully suited, wearing oxygen, etc, as a way of showing support for the fire department, I felt I should demonstrate my support for the police department as well. So I volunteered.

Nothing can prepare you for the sensation of being hit with 50,000 volts of electricity. I'll admit I was scared. But when it hit, as you can see in the photo, all I could do was scream! Actually, I thought I was screaming but the people around me said no sound came out. Every muscle in my body tensed up for the duration of the charge and I could do nothing but wait until they stopped pulling the trigger. When it was over, I almost collapsed (and would have if it hadn't been for the fine officers holding me up). I felt like I had run a marathon. Every muscle in my body was sore. In fact, for over a week afterwards my back ached and even now, a couple of weeks later, I feel a twinge when I write this (and when I see the picture).

So, what is my advice to anyone confronting a Taser? Do what the man says!!! If the police tell you to stop ... STOP!!!


P.S. I know it's hard to find anything spiritual out of that post. Perhaps it's simply to thank God for His mercy and grace, that He doesn't use a Taser on us!!! :)

Monday, February 13, 2006

Smell the Color Nine

Do you remember the Chris Rice song "Smell the Color Nine"? It was about the struggles one has in finding God, hearing His voice, especially when everyone around you says, "God told me..." but you're not hearing anything. But it's truly a song of faith that essentially says even if I don't see burning bushes and hear audible voices I still "simply believe" and my "heart of faith keeps poundin' so I know I'm doing fine". That's a good place to be in in faith, to simply believe.

I've been really moved by the song "It is well with my soul" and other songs that express similar faith ("Let Everything that has Breath" and "Blessed be Your Name" come to mind.) These songs express a heart of faith and trust in God that is deeper than surface-level Christianity. It says, "You are God and I am not. What you decide is best, even if I don't like it." Kinda reminds you of Job, "The Lord gives, the Lord takes away. Blessed be the Name of the Lord."

Oddly enough, the reason I started thinking of all of this was the number nine. This weekend in our Project:Revolution, nine young people gave their hearts to Jesus!!! (Read about it on Jon's blog.) What a blessing to hear of these teenagers making a public stand for their faith in Jesus, committing to live their lives according to His teachings. Jon was pretty stoked and so was I when he shared. I could just "smell the color nine" so to speak!


Saturday, February 11, 2006

The Town Talk reports Pineville mayor, council win re-election

The Town Talk - Pineville mayor, council win re-election

The link above is to an article on the Town Talk's website reporting that Mayor Clarence Fields and the entire Pineville City Council won re-election today, as no one qualified to run against them (us). As a member of the Pineville City Council, I'm so appreciative of the citizens for trusting in us and giving us the opportunity to serve them 4 more years.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the time I've served on the Council and especially enjoy working with the team that is there. Though we have differing views on many issues, the respect and team-work is evident - each member of the team works to make Pineville better, not just their district. I often say, "a rising tide lifts all boats" and this team believes in that point of view.

The team also includes the administration, staff and employees of the City of Pineville. Mayor Fields brought with him an understanding of team work - TEAM Together Everyone Achieves More. He is quick to give praise to staff members and those who deserve it. I appreciate his leadership.

Pineville, thank you for trusting us again. We are your employees, we work for you. Thank you for giving us another opportunity to serve you.

Friday, February 10, 2006

A Picture Share! GCS Chapel

My first attempt to "MoBlog." This is a picture of the GCS HS Chapel service that I lead each Thursday. Fine group! (Picture was taken on my Treo 600 camera. It's a 0.3 megapixel 640x480 camera so I don't expect too much from it, but it's handy for quick shots since I always have it with me.)

Chapel at Grace Christian School is one of the highlights of my week. I lead the elementary school chapel every Wednesday and the JH/HS chapel every Thursday. The elementary school students are more responsive and really get into it. The JH/HS students are more reserved but we're developing a good rapport.

Children and youth are amazing ... so much energy and creativity! I've always enjoyed working with them but they will definitely keep you on your toes. If all you've got are stock answers and platitudes you won't last. They're hungry for real answers to real issues. Maybe that's it ... their quest for a true reality helps keep me real. Thank you guys!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

I'm testing the 'MoBlog' function, sending this message from my trusty Treo 600. If it works, I may become a more prolific blogger! Look out!!!

Moving on up!!!

As the theme song from the Jefferson's plays in my mind, I begin the transition to I had kept a blog over at LiveJournal but during the aftermath of the hurricanes of 2005 it languished. Then I learned that some of my friends couldn't read blogs at LiveJournal but could at Blogger. And a good friend also moved his blog from LiveJournal to Blogger and I really like the way it looks. So, I'm moving on up!!!

So, what can you expect from this blog? Well, here's a repost of part of my first post over at LiveJournal:

--------- begin quote ----------

That's a terrific title, isn't it? "First Post" - So original! But this really is my first post! I've read many blogs and toyed with the idea but I've never 1)been brave enough, 2)had enough time, 3)considered myself interesting enough that others would care to read, 4)known how to limit my life to just one area to blog about. For example, do I blog about my life as ...
a pastor,
a businessman,
a family man,
a father,
a politician,
a civic-minded individual,
a missionary
or just an ordinary joe? My interests are varied and eclectic - reading, technology, music, computers, web design, worship, missions, history, travel, etc. So what do I blog about?That's a good question. I guess I'll find out over the days and weeks ahead. This should be an interesting experience, for me at least. Hopefully along the way someone else might read something that they appreciate, enjoy or that motivates them in some area of their life. In the meantime, check out my friend Joel Dyke's blog - he's the one who got me started in this!


P.S. I'm writing this from Costa Rica where I'm currently on a short term missions trip speaking at and translating for a Christians Sharing Christ missions conference and visiting Stephen & Georgiana Thomas, missionaries our church supports that are overseeing the construction and administration of a children's home in conjunction with a local church. Ain't the Internet grand?!!!

--------- end quote ----------

Well, that about wraps it up. I hope to keep this updated regularly and look forward to your comments. See ya soon!