Four life lessons

It’s been a while since I wrote here. Jimmy and I have been talking and I’d like to change that. To start, I’d like to offer you four life lessons that I share with nearly everyone. I believe these four life lessons will change your life in a very positive and exciting way.

They are:

  1. Life is not fair, get over it.
  2. Life is tough be tougher
  3. Life is short, make it count
  4. Life is changes, adjust.

If you’d like to read more, I’d encourage you to head over to my webpage and spend some time. I can be found on Twitter @Joemartino and Facebook as well.

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Is Marriage the New Divorced?

I have been having a lot of fun conversations lately with a variety of people. It all started with a radio show. I commute a fair distance, so I hear a lot of radio and the truth is that I get a little tired of music so I listen to stations that have more talking.

A few weeks ago they began talking about the current divorce rate. It actually went up with these last round of research tests. One of the radio personalities was talking about her life as a little girl. She talked about how taboo it was if someone got divorced. She actually said something along the lines of, “That happened to those people…”

Then she said the money shot.

She said, “Now, if you’re not divorced at least once….”

She let it trail off, but I thought how interesting that was. It began to confirm something that I’ve had marinating in the back of my head for a long time.

Married is the new divorced. If you get married before twenty-five people expect you to get divorced. Of course, if you get married after twenty-five, people expect you to get divorced too. If you’ve been married for more than a few years and you tell people you’re happy being married, they look at you as though you’re crazy.

Some people are actually feeling pressure to get divorced. I can’t offer this with empirical data. Certainly, though the people I’ve talked to all seem to agree that there is pressure to not be happy in your marriage.
(read entire post here)

About Joe Martino

Sometimes God just doesn’t makes sense to me

(P.S. I haven’t blogged here in a while, I hope Jimmy doesn’t mind that I slapped this one up).

Yesterday I held a newborn boy.  He was nearly perfect.

I also took my daughters horseback riding at a farm where a little five year old boy lives. He’s dying. There’s a good chance he won’t see the end of next month.

Last night I found out another little baby boy died. He was still born. His parents have been trying to have kids for years. They buried him on his due date.

Life is hard. I’ve had my share of hard times. Compared to kids dying though, they seem like nothing.

It seems that it’s always a matter of perspective. I mean, have you ever just asked yourself, “Who Cares? Who cares about this whole stupid mess?” Certainly the Psalmist did time and again.

Then of course there is the issue of Theology. There’s the issue of people who have no idea what to say, feeling like they have to say something. There is the issue of what is said usually being not all that helpful.

I’m convinced all of our stories were meant to be told together. We need each other.

And yet people hurt us.

There’s so much hurt and anger in this world of ours. So much about life that doesn’t make sense. Can I be honest with you? I think one of the biggest problems we have with God is that there is a lot to Him that we can’t understand. Oh we want to. We rail and scream against our lack of control but at the end of the day we simply cannot wrap our brains around this Divinity.

I think that’s the problem. We refuse to admit there is some ambiguity. We want certainty where God demands faith and obedience. One of my friends lamented to me that there is just sometimes where God doesn’t make sense. I couldn’t agree enough. We can’t see God. We cant’ touch God. I think that’s why God tells us we need each other.

Sometimes, we simply have to trust in God’s character, not our ability to explain Him.

it’s about hope

I’m just a few pages away from finishing the book Game Change. The book is about the 2008 Presidential election. It’s the first purely political book I’ve bought in a long time, maybe ever. The book is decidedly Pro-Obama and an Hillary.

It’s been a fun read. The book showed me many things I didn’t previously know and yet those things reinforced for me some things that I had been thinking all along.

This post has nothing to do with Politics or the book. I just wanted to give you the background.

It occurred to me throughout the book that many people cast their vote not based on ideology. That is to say, many of the people throughout the book talked about why they cast their fate with a particular candidate. Time and time again it came back to one word. Not the plan (with some of the candidate’s the plans were very very similar). I mean obviously the Republicans were going to vote with the Republicans and Democrats with Democrats, but ultimately it came down to something intangible.

That something is called hope.

It struck me as I read this sweeping book about the sport of politics that hope is the one thing that the church has in spades. I mean think about it! We have hope that God is and will make all things new. He’s reconciled all things to Himself.

God gives us the promise of Hope. In fact one of the most misquoted verses in the whole Bible is because often the person doing the quoting leaves off the most important phrase. You know the verse. It says

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you

Now, I’ve heard this verse used to defend people who are literal 6 dayers and why they fight for it. I’ve heard heretic hunters use it. Of course they never actually get to the next part of the verse. It says

to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 18For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.

Give an account for the hope you have in you. What is that hope? Christ died for you for me to bring us to God. I wonder if the reason we’re so rarely asked about our hope is because we don’t actually act like people with hope.

The fact that passage goes on to talk about how our gentleness and respect (actions) are our actual defense and not our finely tuned theological statements is just a bonus. Not our megaphones, or our witty blog lines. Not our book deals, or our denominations. Not how many years we’ve been in “professional ministry.” Not our cred’s. Our action.

Did you ever wonder why he had to put the whole gentleness and respect in right after talking about hope. I think it’s because hope is offensive and scary to many people. In fact just today I talked to a guy who said, “Let me tell you something, hope is an f-ing scary thing. It may be the worst thing ever. A man can go crazy with hope.” I’m going to withhold the rest of the conversation because the words would cause too many you to focus on them instead of the post. (Maybe me too?)

May you be someone who is filled with hope. May you be someone who people ask about the hope found in you. When pastor’s betray you, and friends abandon you. When Christians give more kindness to drug addicts than to you and you’re worse nightmare comes true may you be able to see and hold onto the hope found in you.

When you are at the end and are convinced you can’t go another step, may you be filled with the Hope that only God can give. May God grant you the clarity to see the Hope He offers.

May you always remember that God died for you.

Hope and Holiness

Hope is a funny thing. When I was a kid, I remember a guy telling me that he never set his goals to high so he couldn’t be all that disappointed. His theory was simple; “don’t get your hopes too high and you can’t fall too far down.”  I remember thinking that was terrible. Recently, my wife pointed out to me that I’ve fallen into the very trap.

Life can do that to you can’t it? Fail a couple of times, get your ass kicked a few times and suddenly my friends view doesn’t seem all that far fetched does it?  But the word hope is mentioned over 160 in 4 major English translations of the Bible (NIV=174, TNIV=180, NASB=164, HSB=171). Now, there are those who would have you believe that our only hope should be in Jesus for heaven.  I agree our hope is in Christ, but is it only for heaven? Is that the extent of our hope? I think God wants us to hope for more.

Think about it. When Peter tells us to be prepared to give an answer for the hope that lies in us (see I Peter 3:15) is he really just telling us that we are to be hopeful for heaven and not really hope for all that much here on earth? Surely, he’s offering us more than the right to be a jerk with little credentials and a lot of self-links using a blog to attack other people! Does God want us to dream? Does God care if we dream?
Now, today I heard someone say in regards to relationships that expectations are just premeditated resentments. I asked her if she hoped. Her brutally honest and painful answer was an emphatic, “Nope. Not if I can help it.”

I think we have surgically removed hope from our lexicon.  Perhaps, we’ve done this because of a faulty theology that has relegated salvation to being merely something of where we are going. In some sense it would be easy to just blame our faulty theology (and there is plenty to go around) but I think it’s deeper than that.

Think about the promise found in John 10. Jesus came that we might have life while having life. Think about the scandalous passage where Jesus compares God’s relationship with us to that of a father wanting to give us good gifts! There is nothing more scandalous than someone saying that God wants to give us good gifts. Tasteless post cards are produced. “Will it preach?” is plastered over pictures of people living around the world in abject poverty.  All of which misses the point. God told us He loves us.

I wonder if hoping is Holy. I wonder if hoping doesn’t connect us to God in a way that can’t be denied by doubters. Is our hope “level” equal to the level of trust we have in God’s goodness? Is our willingness to hope directly proportional to our willingness to trust God? I know two men, both are in the same condition financially, but the one has stopped hoping while the other continues. One seems to have much more faith in God than the other.

But hoping is messy. Hoping is potentially painful. Hoping is a road lined with risks and potentially crushing pitfalls.  When we hope, we inherently take a risk that we’ll be disappointed.

Maybe when we fail to hope, we do something even more dangerous. Maybe by failing to hope we do something that is actually insidious that eats away at our soul.  Maybe by refusing to hope we actually call God a liar. When we refuse to hope we might actually be saying by our actions that we’re writing God off.

I’m not talking about hoping for a new truck or a new car, but what about hoping for a new job, or a baby, or a marriage? Or what about healing? Can we hope for a vacation? Can we hope for affluence? Can we hope for that dream_____________? I think that not only can we, but we must.

Hoping may be the greatest way we can say that we believe there is a God and that He is good.  In a world, of snarky religious wannabe leaders and crushed dreams that are infected by the stain of sin that bleeds into life like a tea bag bleeds into hot water we have to draw a line in the sand and say,
I

will

hope!

Be hopeful today. When people ask why, be prepared to tell them it’s because you know a Jewish carpenter.

Does It Matter If We Worship With Other Believers? (a slight rant)

****I originally posted this on my own blog here****

Earlier this week a guy in my business quit. He went to a weekly Monday morning meeting, sat through an uncomfortable time where he essentially made up some numbers then he walked out and quit. He couldn’t handle being criticized or experiencing rejection. I sympathize with him, I don’t like going through those either. What was interesting was this guy talked so much about what he was going to do. He was going to do this and he was going to do that. He was going to study for this major thing and do this great event. He never did any of them. While I sympathize with him, I want to change gears now and look at church attendance in light of his talk, no walk activity.

Going to Mars has been one of the most healing things for our family. When we moved here there was some wounds from the churches that we had served in that needed healing and we have found a haven where the Word of God is preached, and our faith is giving the opportunity to be put into action. Invariably, when people talk about Mars, there are many who say they could never feel connected at the church. I think this may be true for a few of them but it is my belief that most people who say this are people who have an expectation of the church to connect them. They don’t feel that they need to make an effort to be connected; rather they feel the church owes them. That’s a different topic for a different day, but I will say that my family has never felt more connected to a church.

My wife and I were talking this recently about gathering with other believers on Sunday morning, commonly referred to as church attendance. One of the girls that was supposed to help with her class didn’t show up because she was out too late the night before.  Even attending a great church like Mars there are still Sundays where we don’t “feel” like attending the gathering. Most of the time, we still go. Now, I don’t want to go all legalistic about this but I want my life to be marked by regular gathering with other believers to worship God, to heal and be healed.  For me and my house we have decided that this is important. We serve because we believe it is important. What amazes me is how unimportant regular gathering is for so many people. Now, almost to a person if I talked to them (I have with many) and asked them , they would tell me that weekly gatherings—going to ‘church’, if you will—is important. The truth though is found in their actions. And the truth is that it isn’t all that important to them.

In fact, I would say that for most people going to a sports outing, going camping, or going to work is more important than gathering with other believers to worship God.  Come on, let’s be honest no one who is even remotely responsible would ever think of oversleeping for work. Or if someone had a big vacation type event planned out they would be more than willing to get up and give up sleep to be on the road on time. But how many of these same people will be out late Saturday night so they can have “fun” ,because that will matter for the rest of their life, and sleep right past their alarm, if they even set it on Sunday morning?

I’m convinced that for the average American Christian fun matters more than any gathering of believers. We would rather applaud a touchdown or homerun then bow before the Creator and experience Eucharist.   Too many of us like the idea of serving others through our local body but don’t want to be inconvenienced to serve. We want God—and consequently all the goes with Him– on our terms.  That’s why we can get up Monday to Friday at whatever time is necessary for work but we can’t make it for a gathering on Sunday.

In some ways, this may stem from our view of membership and the modern church. Too many of us believe we are in some sort of country club where attendance to group functions is nice but not necessary. Service is a nice ideal to be aspired to but not something that should actually cost us anything. I think this probably why the average person gives less than 3% of their income to their local church body.
Can I be honest?

Much like the guy who left the business this week, annoyed me because he was always talking about what he was going to be doing and never actually doing anything I am tired of people telling me how important God is to them when their actions say something completely different.  It’s not that I don’t want to accept people where they are, I do but I want more. I want a Christianity that is authentic and all authentic Christianity will involve regular interaction with other believers and regular service.
Bottom line, our actions tell on us. We get out of bed for the things that are most important to us. We sleep through the things that aren’t that important. We sacrifice for the things that matter to us, and ignore the things that don’t.  Most of the time we do what we want to do when we want to do it.  Most of the time we worship our bed or the ever elusive fun we’re having more than we want to worship God.

A Great Quote

Came across this quote recently in some reading I am doing.

Enjoy:

Since faith fastens on God’s benevolence, it yields gratitude, which in turn sponsors risk-taking in the service of others. Grateful people want to let themselves go; faithful people dare to do it. People tethered by to God by faith let themselves go because they know they will get themselves back.
Grateful people overflow a little, especially with thanksgiving and passed-on kindness. But they do not therefore lack discipline. In fact, self-indulgence tends to suppress gratitude; self-discipline tends to generate it.

Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin
~pp. 35