Martin: July 4th and 5th

July Fourth is coming soon and I’m thankful for the many blessings we experience in our country. I’m excited to celebrate this Saturday God’s goodness and grace to us that we experience in the USA. I’m also, very grateful that the next Lord’s Day (July 5th) my church family New City Church http://www.newcitychurch.org will gather in person and via Zoom to celebrate the Lordship of Christ alone. We won’t sing the national anthem of any country, neither will we fly any flag. Why? Because we are there to worship Christ, and only Jesus is Lord. Caesar may have what is his—for the time he is allotted—but inside the church house, and among the gathered assembly, Caesar has no claim. #JesusIsLord #CitizensOfAnotherKingdom

-Erik

Martin: We Need Change; We Need the Police

PSA: It is possible to hold fast to the gospel and also believe that the gospel requires we care for the outcast and the oppressed. Faith without works is dead. It is possible to be anti-riot, anti-racism, opposed to the abuse of power by some law enforcement members, and also support just police officers. I am thankful for every good and righteous law enforcement professional; They are vital and essential.

Defunding the police is a horrible idea. We need reform and change, but abolishing the police will destroy our cities and communities. We cannot ignore the fact that some law enforcement professionals commit evil and oppressive acts. We also can’t ignore the history of Jim Crow and the legacy of racism that still affects so many of our brothers and sisters, even today. But racism and the legacy of slavery are not just issues in law enforcement. Racism exists in many areas of society, and beneficial reform will address racism and injustice wherever it exists.

We need to stop attacking the police, most officers are just and truly seek to protect and serve. That doesn’t mean we can’t hold people accountable and policy changes are definitely needed in many communities. Let’s unite in condemning violence on all sides. We need Jesus to heal us, and only regeneration of the heart by the Holy Spirit brings true and ultimate justice, but that’s not an excuse to ignore evil here and now.

-Erik

Martin: The Good Democrat, et. al

If Jesus was walking on the earth today, I personally think the parable would not be called the Good Samaritan, but likely the Good Democrat, the Good LGBTQ person, the Good Undocumented Latino/Latina, the Good BLM protestor, the Good Critical Race Theory Professor, the Good Socialist, or even the Good Muslim. We forget how radical the parable of the Good Samaritan was to the religious leaders of Second Temple Judaism. We forget that the Samaritans were considered to be apostate and heretical. Jesus showed that our neighbor is ANYONE is need. Yet so many who profess to be Christians today show so such hatred towards those in need.

Lord, in your kindness, have mercy on us! Forgive us for our hatred. May we show your love. May your kingdom come and your will be done. Forgive us our trespasses/sins/debts AS we forgive those who tresspass/sin against us/are indebted to us. May we walk in the way of the cross, and through God the Spirit, honor the Father by being like Jesus. As disciples of Christ, we are not in a culture war we are on a disciple making mission, and we cannot hate anyone, if we claim to know the love of God. Come quickly Lord Jesus. Heal our world. Rise up, O God, and judge the earth. ‪May we be found faithful at His coming. ‬

Erik Swanson Martin

Martin: Trump’s Photo Op

‪Grace and peace friends,

Whenever a serial adulterer holds up a Bible but has no testimony of repenting of his sins, does not confess Jesus is Lord, does not evidence humility, and claims he has nothing to repent of, we should be very cautious to applaud his “religiously,” lest we make a mockery of our faith and ignore our Lord’s words that the road is narrow that leads to life. Let’s not ignore the warnings of 1 Corinthians 6:9-11: without the washing of regeneration, the justification that comes from union with Christ, and the sanctification of the Holy Spirit which gives rise to the fruit of the Spirit, none of us has hope in the world. Especially anyone who refuses to repent and acknowledge their sin. How deeply we all need a Savior. Let’s pray that our President experiences the life-transforming grace of our Lord.

-Erik

Should Churches Reopen

Yesterday I posted two articles, one by my friend Eric Scholtens and the other from the Elders of Grace Community Church which show two somewhat different responses to the recent declaration that churches are essential by President Trump. I have found both to be helpful. You can read them here: https://modernpuritan.com/2020/05/23/should-churches-reopen-if-gyms-cant/ and here: https://www.gracechurch.org/news/posts/1956

Jesus told us that we are in the last days and Paul remains us that Satan is on the prowl and will try anything to disrupt God’s plans. I’m thankful for the confidence that comes from knowing that Jesus has already won and that our God is sovereign. As Christians we must not be coopted for political means by any political party. Jesus in Lord, and we seek the growth of His Kingdom until it comes in fullness at His glorious return. We are grateful when Caesar supports Christians and our freedoms but he is not lord. Nevertheless we are all called to submit to Caesar’s authority as long as he doesn’t interfere with God’s commands.

We long to meet again in person in the gathered assembly of believers, and we miss the Lord’s Supper, yet loving our neighbors is an essential command too. May God give each local church and her Elders wisdom as they seek God’s glory while also seeking the good of the cities and communities in which we live. May we be lamp-stands burning brightly as we hold fast to the faithful testimony of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Lord’s day blessings to you all!

God is Good: Thoughts While the COVID-19 Virus Rages

God is good even when the world falls apart. God is good when oceans rise and storms rage. God is good even when hospitals are overwhelmed. God is good when loved ones die. God is good when the economy grinds to a halt. God is good even when politicians fail us. God is good when our savings disappear and our debts overwhelm.

God is good even though we aren’t. He is good even when we don’t want Him or His goodness. He is good even when our sin looks better to us. He is good though our flesh, the devil, and the world stalk us. He is good when joy and peace flee us. He is good even when we sin against Him.

Everyone who recovers from COVID-19, recovers because of YHWH’s goodness. Every case with mild symptoms comes from His kindness. Every healthcare professional who stays healthy is his gift. Everyone who escapes, escapes because God helped him/her. Every single one of our days is numbered in His book and every day He gives us emanates from His goodness. God is the source of every good.

Sin and the Devil are the source of COVID-19. We must remember that God overcomes the darkness; He doesn’t create it. He is working to bring life, human flourishing, and salvation through it all. We cannot know why the Lord allows the evils of this world, but we can know that He will be glorified as He works to destroy them.

The Lord is neither weak nor slow to perform His promises. He is infinitely gracious, merciful, and loving. Christ Jesus is coming back. He is bringing His home, the best city ever, the New Jerusalem, with Him. God will fix everything, and sinners—like you and me—can dwell with him in the coming perfect world for eternity if we will but repent and believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Some day this Lenten season will be over; Come quickly Lord Jesus! What joy will overwhelm us when we see Him. If COVID-19 takes us home, what a blessed gift, we will get to see our Lord sooner than we had planned. If we remain, let us love and serve God and love and serve our neighbors with the time we have left. His kingdom come; His will be done.

-Erik Swanson Martin, March 28, 2020.

Reflections on Mark 2:1-12

Mark 2:1-12 is awesome; it’s my favorite healing by Jesus. There’s so much we get to observe about Him in this passage:

Even on a day at home Jesus is speaking the gospel message.

Jesus is more concerned with forgiving sin than healing our physical diseases, but does both.

When we come to him, he sees our greatest need and cares for that.

He cannot ignore our brokenness.

Jesus is quick to act yet always deliberate. He is eager, yet never hasty.

He graciously gives us more than we could ever hope or dream to receive.

He has empathy for the humble.

He is opposed to the proud.

Jesus is displayed as God.

He reads men’s hearts, no inner thought is hidden from Him.

He has absolute power (and authority) over our infirmities.

He responds to human faith (no one who comes to Him will be cast out).

Working hard for the needs of our friends will often lead to Jesus meeting their needs. The four friends’ exertions for their friend paid off.

Take a break and read Mark 2:1-12 today:

“When He entered Capernaum again after some days, it was reported that He was at home. So many people gathered together that there was no more room, not even in the doorway, and He was speaking the message to them. Then they came to Him bringing a paralytic, carried by four men. Since they were not able to bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above where He was. And when they had broken through, they lowered the mat on which the paralytic was lying.
Seeing their faith, Jesus told the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
But some of the scribes were sitting there, thinking to themselves: “Why does He speak like this? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone? ”
Right away Jesus understood in His spirit that they were thinking like this within themselves and said to them, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, pick up your mat, and walk’? But so you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,” He told the paralytic, “I tell you: get up, pick up your mat, and go home.”
Immediately he got up, picked up the mat, and went out in front of everyone. As a result, they were all astounded and gave glory to God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this! ””
‭‭Mark‬ ‭2:1-12‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

Today I Was Baptized… Again

Today I was baptized… again

When I was four, I asked Jesus into my heart…or so I thought. As was only fitting, I was baptized ten month later. I understood that I belonged to Christ and should obey Him. Now that I was a good person, I ought to obey my parents, memorize Bible verses, not lust after women, and go to church, a lot.

A Whitewashed Tomb

In light of my decision to follow Jesus, I counted myself righteous. I worshipped myself. I daily bowed before the idols of comfort, pleasure, and pride. I did not cherish Christ; I revered myself. My heart was characterized by self-righteousness, selfishness, covetousness, a critical spirit, pride, and more. I was a whitewashed tomb. Even when I looked polished on the outside, I was internally corrupt.

When I was dead

Though I was dead in my trespasses and sins, and was walking according to the desires of my flesh, Christ made me alive. In many moments, over many years, the Spirit worked. A miraculous change occurred. In a moment my eyes were opened. I saw clearly that I was unrighteous. I was the Publican; I was the tax collector. God exposed my wickedness.

Now what?

Soon baptisms haunted me. I had so many questions. Had I been genuinely baptized? Was I saved when I was baptized? When did God regenerate me? Had God accepted my childish prayer, corrupt and misguided as it was?

If yes, then why did my life conflict for so long with that profession?

If no, then I needed to be baptized.

My pride prevented me from accepting the obvious truth: I was born again after I was first immersed.

Raised in Newness of life

This morning at the Ridge Covenant Church, three people came to be baptized. However, the wind didn’t blow as planned; The Spirit didn’t follow the schedule. Instead, five were buried with Christ in baptism, and I was one of them.

When Pastor Andy opened the waters of baptism to all who were willing, I knew it was time. I could no longer refuse. It was time to own the truth: I needed to be baptized. So, despite my dry-clean-only pants, I got wet.

God’s Grace

The Spirit put up with my disobedience for over nine years. He was very patient with me. How generous is God’s grace! May He call me to fuller obedience until Christ is fully formed in me.

Five Characteristics of Seraphic Worship

If you stop by a Christian bookstore today, you will notice stacks of firsthand accounts of heaven. Tourism to the New Jerusalem seems to be on the upswing. Everyone seems obsessed with getting the heavenly inside scoop. Some of these books may be entertaining, but the Bible gives a more reliable record.

Isaiah 6:1-7 HCSB

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, and His robe filled the temple. Seraphim were standing above Him; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another:

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts; His glory fills the whole earth.

The foundations of the doorways shook at the sound of their voices, and the temple was filled with smoke.

Then I said:

Woe is me for I am ruined because I am a man of unclean lips and live among a people of unclean lips, and because my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts.

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, and in his hand was a glowing coal that he had taken from the altar with tongs. He touched my mouth with it and said:

Now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed and your sin is atoned for.

A Heavenly Worship Service

In Isaiah 6 we get to witness the prophet Isaiah as he participates in a heavenly worship service. This service is his commissioning service; Isaiah witnesses God’s glory, is horrified by his own sinfulness, is cleansed through divine action and is commissioned as a messenger of Yahweh. Here we meet the Seraphim. God has surrounded himself with these angels and appointed them to worship Him. Since this worship service was designed by God, let’s see what we can learn from how the Seraphim worship God.

Clues from the Seraphim

Read Isaiah 6:2-3 and pay special attention to any details about the Seraphim. Look to see what they may be teaching about how God desires to be worshipped. What did you discover? Here are five things we can learn from the worship of the Seraphim:

1. God should be served. These seraphim stand and fly before God. This doesn’t mean that the Seraphim have ADHD and can’t keep still. Instead we see that they are actively waiting on God. Like servants waiting around a king’s throne, they attend God. These angels aren’t chilin’ on a sofa or checking Pinterest, their focus in on serving God. Lesson: Worship requires serving God, not ourselves.

2. God should be approached with modesty.

The angels approach God with humility and reverence. They cover their eyes because God is too holy to gaze upon and they cover their bodies because they are unworthy for God to look upon them. Even these holy angels are aware that before the Almighty they are naked and must cover up. Lesson: When you approach God, recognize your lowliness before Him. Also, don’t wear a swimsuit to church!

3. God should be praised with voice.

These angels speak audibly and use words understandable to Isaiah. Lesson: God wants to be worshipped out loud with normal language.

4. God should be praised in community.

While these angels are praising God, they speak to each other. The worship of God is not just a solo activity, it is essentially communal. Lesson: Go to church! You can’t just worship by yourself.

5. God should be worshipped with truth.

First, the angels speak of God’s holiness (His uniqueness and purity). Secondly, they declare that God has revealed Himself. The heavens declare the glory of God, the Bible discloses God, and Jesus physically filled the earth as the incarnate God-man (John 1:14). God’s glory is ultimately displayed on earth in Jesus. Lesson: Praise God for who He is and What He has done. Remember the supreme revelation of God is Jesus.

 

A Psalm for Boko Haram

The past few weeks we’ve been hearing of wickedness of Boko Haram. The latest wave of evil committed by this group of militant Islamic radicals has been the kidnapping of 230 girls. CNN article on Nigeria abductions. Why were these girls abducted? Because they were seeking an education.

In my Bible reading today, I discovered an appropriate Psalm. God hates injustice; He abhors the oppression of the helpless. May the Lord fulfill Psalm 10, by vindicating His justice for His glory!

Why, O Lord, do you stand far away?

      Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the poor;

      let them be caught in the schemes that they have devised.

For the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul,

      and the one greedy for gain curses and renounces the Lord.

In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him;

      all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”

His ways prosper at all times;

      your judgments are on high, out of his sight;

      as for all his foes, he puffs at them.

He says in his heart, “I shall not be moved;

      throughout all generations I shall not meet adversity.”

His mouth is filled with cursing and deceit and oppression;

      under his tongue are mischief and iniquity.

He sits in ambush in the villages;

      in hiding places he murders the innocent.

His eyes stealthily watch for the helpless;

      he lurks in ambush like a lion in his thicket;

      he lurks that he may seize the poor;

      he seizes the poor when he draws him into his net.

The helpless are crushed, sink down,

      and fall by his might.

He says in his heart, “God has forgotten,

      he has hidden his face, he will never see it.”

Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand;

      forget not the afflicted.

Why does the wicked renounce God

      and say in his heart, “You will not call to account”?

But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation,

      that you may take it into your hands;

to you the helpless commits himself;

      you have been the helper of the fatherless.

Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer;

      call his wickedness to account till you find none.

The Lord is king forever and ever;

      the nations perish from his land.

Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted;

      you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear

      to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,

      so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.

 

(Psalm 10)