My Bio

The Expanding Shrink

I have had a shrinking sense of what I can do in my own strength and wisdom and an expanding sense of what God can do in and through the person who lives and moves in faith. The Apostle Paul said it best, ‘ Without Him I can do nothing.’  But ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’

I grew up in a conservative Mennonite farm family near Hagerstown, Maryland.  My parents were humble people. They had no inflated sense of what they were to do in the world. They believed life was simple. They were called to obey God by obeying the principles laid out in the word of God; and they were called to be faithful to the church in which God had placed them.

My parents loved me unconditionally; but they sometimes struggled to understand me when I talked of wanting to further my education beyond the tenth grade. I had dropped out of high school at my father’s request after completing the tenth grade.  From speakers outside my insular Mennonite community, I heard a ‘new word’. I heard that as Christians we should expand our horizons; we should get an advanced education and like Daniel in the Bible, we should become influential at the highest levels of community and national life.

I decided to become a medical doctor and a psychiatrist.  Then in the process I also was called to be a minister. I took a year in the seminary before I started to medical school. I became a licensed pastor of a new church plant in my first year of medical school.

As a psychiatrist I continued as a faculty member at Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine where I had trained. I trained medical students and psychiatric residents in psychiatry. In time I became Psychiatry Residency Training Director and later Vice Chair of the Department of Psychiatry.

In my role as a pastor I saw the church plant become a growing congregation. I was often asked to speak at various places across the country on topics related to faith and mental health. Eventually I was ordained as a bishop and was influential at regional and national levels of the denomination.

Along with the above I was also involved in starting a faith based drug and alcohol treatment program called the Naaman Center and a treatment program for persons with sexual and relationship problems called Day Seven Ministries.

But in spite of recognition and some degree of success in these various areas, I found myself deeply dissatisfied with what I was experiencing. I had come to believe that the ‘gospel is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes.’  Yet I was not seeing the transformation in people’s lives that I believed God wanted to bring.

I became aware that I was operating from the assumption that if I were to become educated enough or wise enough or experienced enough I could change people. In other words, if I could expand as a psychiatrist and minister, I could more effectively ‘shrink’ peoples’ problems.

I came to see, however, that I needed to shrink my assessment of what I could do and expand my faith in what God can do when we give Him the space to do it.

Approximately 14 years ago I followed God’s call to leave the University, not knowing what I would do next. God arranged for me to take a job working for a company that provided medical and psychiatric care for local jails.  My psychiatric training had been that if I could spend one to two hours a week with a patient for several years I could help them to change. Now I was in a setting where sometimes I only had five minutes with a patient.

I prayed, “Oh God, would you please change people in five minutes because I know that I cannot do it”  God answered this prayer in an amazing way. I will share more about this in a future blog. But I can say with confidence, “ God can and does make a difference in people’s lives in five minutes.”

I believe that the anointing of the Holy Spirit of God is essential for expanding what we do for God. Without the anointing of the Holy Spirit we are limited to the best we can do in our own efforts and discernment. With the power of the Holy Spirit within us we see that Jesus description of us is true, “ These signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons….they will place their hands on sick persons and they will get well.”

Yes, my faith has been expanded. I am amazed at what God can do . But I can also say that I have only seen a fraction of all that He wants to do in us His children. Paul says in Ephesians that Christ is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work in us.”

In some ways I have come full circle to my parents’ rather limited assessment of what man can do. But I have come to a greatly  enhanced sense of what God will do in response to the faith of a man who has been ‘shrunk’ and has died to himself but lives in the faith that God is not limited by our limitations. He is only limited by our lack of faith.

And so I sign off from this my first blog as,

The Expanding Shrink

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. samiamhis
    Aug 23, 2014 @ 19:54:35

    Dear E. Daniel Martin,

    I read your bio and my heart leaps within me as I see this call in my life so clearly at the age of 64. I had loved the stories of God and Jesus for years but somehow missed the boat on God’s desire to bring us into a rightful relationship through the resurrection power of Calvary. Raised in a Swedish Pentecostal church in Chicago, I was kept away from the world but heard of a powerful Savior named Jesus who could wash away my sin. Sadly, the message of grace was omitted and the Sunday trips to the alter for forgiveness never seemed to transform my heart and sin ruled instead of being trampled. It was years of rebellion that finally brought me to the end of myself where I saw that pride was my real sin and that I could not create God in my image but had to accept Him on His terms. Those terms were complete in Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit. I find myself in an Evangelical Free church which is a good church and is close to home in the small town I live in, in Wisconsin. It is the church that suits my husband and I attend and serve and love the congregation. Yet, I find that I was suffering from a savior complex thinking that I could make people better. I have no power to do this. I was seeing people whose lives were better because of my efforts, but they were sinners who felt better about themselves and still destined for hell. God has awoke me through the washing of His word to His true calling- denying myself and proclaiming the truth of God’s word. Daily I lay myself at the feet of the one who truly loves, saves and transforms for eternity. He is the answer and it is the name of Jesus that must be lifted up and proclaimed to a lost world.

    There is a terrible temptation in the church today – even in my little E Free church – to lower the bar and be more seeker friendly. It is dangerous and completely in conflict with scripture. We should love the sinner and hate the sin, but when pastors are afraid to teach the whole counsel of God’s word from the pulpit, we are in grave danger of short changing Jesus sacrifice for sin. It is sufficient, not our better thinking or soft-hearted attempts to tidy up the gospel. It is ugly what happened at Calvary. It is ugly to think of sinners spending eternity apart from God. It is ugly to tell people that there is a hell that is reserved for those who had no desire to be a friend of God, by his terms, during this life. It is what we are called to do. We are called to be a reflection of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. He was full of love, compassion, obedience and truth. He never compromised. I cannot either, but I cannot do it apart from Him and his compelling call upon my life to bring truth to the lost.

    Thank you for your website and for your frank and encouraging testimony and meditations. Go for it. It is the Crown of Life you pursue and share, which will ultimately be cast at feet of our precious Savior.

    In Him,

    SamiamHis

    Reply

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