India (Part 5) Graduation

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It was a “solemn joy” to participate with PTL- Institute of Mission Studies in the graduation ceremony for 49 students: 16 with M.Div degrees and 30 with B.Th degrees and two with Certificates in Theology.

“Solemn” because you know that these graduates are going out all over India in church planting at a time when persecution against the church is a daily occurrence.

“Joyful” because Christ has promised to never leave us or forsake us and has clearly said that persecution for His name will be a special opportunity to share His glorious good news (Gospel).

India (Part 4) The Father’s Blessing

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Father’s Blessing

I spoke on the Father’s Blessing in the women’s conference today in Delhi where my daughter Marita was the featured speaker. I said that a blessing speaks to our identity and our destiny and that a blessing enables us to prosper.

As part of my presentation, I knelt before Marita, looking her in the eyes, my hand on her shoulder, as I gave her the Father’s blessing. I told her I was pleased with her, that I delight in her and that God has a great destiny for her and her family.

Marita reminded me, through tears, that I had blessed her many times but that each time was powerfully meaningful.

I realized anew that each of us carry the power to enable the people around us to prosper through our spoken words of blessing. Yet Satan often convinces us that our words are unnecessary or will be ineffective. So we withhold the blessing.

And I saw in the tear filled eyes and subsequent testimonies of the conference participants that many still long for the father’s blessing.

I told the one’s whom I blessed that while I was not their father, I would speak the words that I believe God would have wanted their earthly fathers to have spoken to them.

In fact, our blessings bring heaven to earth and enable those we bless to walk with new expectation and realization of heaven’s favor.

India (Part 3)

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After an 8 hour road trip from Khuttar to Delhi, Marita and I decided to have a friendly father-daughter competition. We will each write an essay describing what it is like traveling in the passenger seat of a vehicle ‘hurtling’ through the jam packed roads of North India.

I am convinced I will win the competition and Marita is convinced she will. Alex will be the judge. In order not to unduly create fear and undermine tourism in ‘Incredible India’ we have decided not to publish the results on Facebook.

Marita did say that the experience driving here has been like a flooding therapy which has intensely exposed her to her fears in a way which, she believes, has forever cured her of backseat involuntary exclamations while her husband is driving. She is anticipating Todd’s surprised response when he experiences her therapeutic recovery as he drives with her on the streets of Baltimore.

If Marita’s recovery proves to be sustained, we may advice others who have spouses afflicted with ‘backseat exclamationitis’ to invest in a road trip in North India.

India (Part 2)

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We asked God to refresh, empower and position the conference participants for life changing breakthrough. And God did just that. Praise His name.

Here Marita ministers to a women’s conference at Mainiya.

India (Part 1)

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Ministering with my daughter, Marita Scholtz (husband Todd), with P.C. Alexander of PTL-India for two weeks. We will participate in leaders’ and women’s conferences from near the Nepal border to Coimbatore and to Kerala, southern India. We will also participate in the graduation ceremonies of IMS (Institute of Mission Studies) at New Delhi.

This morning we ministered in Christian Fellowship Centre, New Delhi. Tomorrow Marita conducts a women’s conference near the Nepal border and I speak at a leader’s conference.

The church in India is facing great challenges. We rejoice that we can partner with them in these critical times, praying for increasing boldness and that God may “stretch forth your hand to heal and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.” Acts 4:30.

Survivor’s Guilt

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How does one handle ‘survivors guilt’?

We just completed a great week at the Ukunda Missions School. Vaughn and I and his leadership team are in a two day planning retreat at Chale Island. The setting is beautiful and God is moving us into clarity and unity about next steps.

But then I hear from Ruth and read on line about the historic snow storm back home. I am writing this at 3 am as the waves at high tide crash against the shore, spraying me with their mist. This spot is perfect but I struggle to be present to the beauty of this moment for my mind and heart are back in the States at a home alone Old Hershey Road.

Will Ruth and everyone else be safe? She says they are fine. She will wait till tomorrow to determine if the snow blower will work properly. I am believing God for everyone’s safety.

So should I delight that I have escaped the biggest snow storm of the last 100 years or should I feel some vaugue mixture of guilt that I am not home, mixed with regret that I will never be able to say, “I lived through the Storm of 2016.”

Whatever I should feel, I do feel something of all of the above.

I am reminded of the Apostle Paul’s words in Philippians 4:11-13:

“I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content….For I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

So thank God, He enables us to enjoy Him whether we are in a blizzard or on the shores of the Indian Ocean.

Thanksgiving 2015

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Our Thanksgiving Day family time was significantly enriched by a guest from Saudi Arabia. We shared stories and laughed and cried together.

As part of our time together I told the story of Squanto as recorded in the children’s book by Eric Metaxas. Squanto was the Native American who had been kidnapped and taken to Europe and then came back and actually helped save the struggling Pilgrims. In many ways Squanto’s life paralled the life of the Biblical Joseph.

We had a contest for the best instant message inviting Squanto to the first Thanksgiving Dinner. Everyone was a winner.

Martin Family Week (Part 2)

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The Word of the Lord

As we prayed this morning for Todd and Marita who pastor a church in inner city Baltimore, assisted by Chauncey and Gwen, the life-giving word of the Lord came to all of us.

A very popular TV crime drama series, set and produced in Baltimore, and entitled ‘The Wire’, shows how even good people get sucked into evil systems and patterns so that eventually everything is under a dark, devastating trajectory. “Whether one is a cop, a longshoreman, a drug dealer, a politician, a judge or a lawyer, all are ultimately compromised.”

In fact, the devil at times attacks our children with the thought that even they, godly people leading a good church, are all under a devastating power that sucks the life and hope out of them.

The devil tries to convince them that not only will their people not be able to escape his clutches but that they themselves and their children will be devastated by the city.

But the word of the Lord proclaims that “all things work together for good to those who love God.” All things, even bad things,evil things,destructive things, even our sins and failures work together under God’s direction for a good outcome.

The word of the Lord is “The favor of the Lord is on our children and grandchildren in Baltimore. God’s cycle is a cycle of blessing, not devastation. Everything is being drawn into the cycle of life and love, of blessing and transformation and redemption.

Lift up your heads with expectation. The glory of the Lord is being revealed in Baltimore. The glory of the Lord will be revealed in the lives of our two daughters and their husbands and of our seven grandchildren in the intercity of Baltimore and in the lives of those in their church and school.

Blessed be the name of the Lord!! It is not about the hopelessness of ‘The Wire’, it is about the power of the ‘Word of God’ to create and to transform all who are drawn into its mighty influence!

Martin Family Week (Part 1)

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The years go by, fifty years to be exact, since Ruth and I said, “I do and I will.” God gave us four children, three daughters and one son. The children have grown and all have children of their own. Now there are 14 wonderful grandchildren, 9 granddaughters and five grandsons, ages 2 to 18. And most importantly each of the children and their spouses know and love Jesus Christ. And each couple longs to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings to a greater extent as they prepare the third generation to hunger after Him and as they actively advance the Kingdom in their respective communities. All are busy and at times stressed and distressed with life’s challenges.

So Ruth and I decided to spend a week with the family for a time of deeper connection and refreshment. We found a house that could contain the 24 of us along Lake Gaston, near Bracey, Virginia, not far from the North Carolina border. We checked in Friday, August 14th and we will check out Friday, August 21st. We “ordained’ our oldest daughter Gwen and her husband Chauncey as directors of the Martin Family Week. As we arrived each person was given a white T-shirt with a logo designed by Elisa Martin, Vaughn and Ilona’s daughter from Belgium. The logo depicts an anchor with the words “ 50 years of unquenchable love, Ruth and E. Daniel, Song of Solomon 8:7. The reference states” many waters cannot quench love.”

It has been a great time of laughing and crying and praying and playing together. The men went “jugging” for catfish. They were successful with the largest of the many fish measuring over 30 inches. There was a notebook design contest led by Hannah, Chauncey and Gwen’s daughter. Ruth led a “Sole Hope” shoemaking party one afternoon. Children and adults cut out denim shoe uppers to send to a ministry making shoes for Ugandan children to keep them from getting the deadly jiggers in their feet. Even the 4 year old, Ian, entered into this activity energetically and productively. Each day two teenagers were assigned to secretly monitor the family for acts of kindness and gratefulness. Each evening the winners were announced along with a description of their behavior which was rewarded with a $5 gift.

There was ample time for swimming off the water trampoline just off the dock at the foot of the hill. Then there was boating, and water skiing and canoeing and more fishing. The labor of food preparation and clean up was evenly scheduled across the family. There was time also for some movie watching in the in-home theatre. On Monday evening we had a grand 18th birthday party for Elisa, which included a piñata in the shape of a guitar, designed and manufactured by her sister Ruby and her grandmother Ruth.

I, as family patriarch, I guess that is what I am at age 71, had a family devotional each morning. And each evening the families took turns in conducting the vesper service. One evening we gave opportunity for each couple to state what was most challenging to them in the past year and then we prayed and gave prophetic words and words of blessing over each one. On another evening Vaughn gave a teaching on the needs of children. Each child needs four things: 1) Love 2) Discipline 3) Protection and 4) The Miracle of God revealing Himself to each heart.

I am spending personal time with each grandchild. and with each of their parents separately, learning of their hopes and fears and praying with them.

We are now half way through the week. Many are presently out on a shopping trip. And I am here, writing this post and extolling the mercies of the Lord.

50 Years!

50-yearsNot that I have not done it before, but today, the 50th anniversary of when Ruth and I looked into one another’s eyes and said softly but confidently, “I do take thee.. come what may.”, I will try to consolidate some of what God has shown me throughout our marriage.

I remember as a 19 year old, before Ruth and I began our relationship, that I prayed, “Lord, I want a Proverbs 31 Wife- one whose worth is far more than rubies…whose husband can have full confidence in her… who brings him good, not harm all the days of her life.” The Lord showed me later that the real problem is not in finding such a rare wife but rather the real challenge is in being the kind of husband who allows those kind of virtues to develop.

And God answered my prayer and gave me Ruth who fits the Proverbs 31 description perfectly. The end of this passage in Proverbs 31:10-31 states, “Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also and he praises her.” Sometimes at the end of a meal I would say to the children, “Let us practice Proverbs 31.” At that point we would all stand up and say to Ruth, “You are Blessed.” She would always wave us down at this point, protesting that she did not want the fanfare.

I used to think if I could be a psychiatrist and pastor I would be able to be a good husband and father. But I discovered that neither of these roles made me a good partner. In fact she might have said “ Do not analyze me or do not preach to me. “ Actually I do not recall her saying either of these things for I learned early on that my role was to be by her side and not to attempt to be her therapist or her pastor. I discovered that what made our love blossom in our courtship was also required to make it continue to grow and prosper. And that was simply the gift of being present to one another; to listen carefully and lovingly and to respond always with love and concern. I recall thinking that for money I would give my clients my undivided attention for an hour. I would allow no interruptions;. I would allow no regrets from the past or anxieties about the future to intrude. I would listen as well as I knew how and I would respond in the most helpful way possible. But sometimes for the one I loved the most, I would fail to give what I gave my clients.

It never occurred to me that Ruth might at some time divorce me or that at some point I might want to divorce her. Rather our commitment was absolute and for a lifetime. Ruth’s love and commitment created a safe place for me to continue my journey of maturing. When we married I was 21 and Ruth was age 22. I did not know myself and I had a lot of blindspots. Ruth believed in me and loved me. This allowed me to take risks. And by taking risks I was able to learn and to mature. I always believed Ruth to be wise and capable; so if she affirmed me, I could more confidently take the risks of expressing myself outside of our safe relationship. If my feelings were hurt in the process of expressing myself in the marketplaces of life, I always knew that I could count on Ruth for comfort and affirmation. Her words were more important to me than an anti- anxiety or anti-depressant medication. Her words comforted and healed and encouraged me forward.

Although our relationship was secure, I learned not to take it for granted. I learned that I needed God’s grace and reminders to be present to Ruth and not to be so busy with everyone else that I had no time with her. If I was away, I called her at least once and usually twice a day, be if from Africa or India or from the nearby prison where I might be putting in a long day at work. And we both were careful to protect one another’s feelings in the public arena. I would never make Ruth the subject of a joke to my friends. And we kept short accounts. If either of us were even mildly offended by something the other had said or done, we quickly resolved it and came into peace with one another, “before the sun went down.”

And today as I reflected on our marriage, I realized that we have throughout the years practiced, Matthew 18:19-20, “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” God has made it very simple to experience His favor and blessing. If only two people come into agreement with Him and with each other, God will answer their prayers. So, as husband and wife, Ruth and I were always the “two of you on earth” coming into agreement about everything: our children, our grandchildren, our finances, our purchases, or giving, our work, our travel. And we always did this with the foundational awareness that what we were agreeing on was what God was wanting to do.

So today we celebrate the faithfulness of the Lord. He has done what He said He would do. He has given us a blessed marriage, a blessed family, a blessed church, blessed friends and even blessed enemies.

Blessed be the name of the Lord.

And in conclusion we place God’s blessing on you our friends (Numbers 6:24-27, The Message) : “God bless you and keep you, God smile on you and gift you, God look you full in the face and make you prosper.”

And God promises that when this blessing is placed on His people by their elders, “I will confirm it by blessing them.”

So expect a blessing!

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