Welcome back, folks. Today, my gift to you is an interview with Chris Martin, an author from Franklin, NC. Chris currently has six books available on Amazon. He is also a popular blogger, known for his no-nonsense approach to living and loving for Jesus. I’m a big fan of Chris’ blog so I was thrilled when he agreed to be interviewed.
Chris, thanks for being here!
CM: Thanks for having me.
I’ve been following your blog a while now. I honestly think everyone should. I’m going to try to stay focused and not jump into one of the topics you’ve blogged about because then we’ll be all over the place! But I will say, that the first time I read one of your blogs, it was a breath of fresh air.
What came first, blogging or book writing?
CM: I began blogging long before I started writing books. It was intimidating at first. Sharing work that no one had laid eyes on except myself and some close family members. I often questioned if anyone would even show interest in what I was writing. I eventually got to the point where I would write what God laid on my heart and if it touched one person, I could experience satisfaction in that.
My very first book, Other Side of Night, began as a serial story on my blog. A newspaper in TN ran it through the summer for their youth reading program. Also, a paper in Australia did the same. I received some great feedback from it and decided to self-publish on Amazon. I did the very same thing with The Stranger. Started on my blog and finished it in a novella on Amazon.
Wow, so your platform started building itself in a sense. Of course, that was God’s plan. Do you have plans to ‘go wide’ with any of your books or will you stay exclusive to Amazon?
CM: For now, I’ll stick with Amazon. It’s so hard to find time for promotion with the writing and ministry I want to do. At least with them primarily on Amazon, it’s only one site I have to keep up with.
I can understand that. It’s hard for me not to continually check the numbers. It’s like weighing yourself after every meal, lol. Speaking of your ministry, did you grow up believing in God?
CM: The short answer to this question is yes. Before I was born, both of my parents came to know Jesus. When I was younger, we were missionaries with Operation Mobilization. We served in England and Georgia. I went to Christian schools. We went to church. The problem is that I grew up believing in a different God than I know now. Back then, I accepted everything I was told or taught about God. I never questioned anything. I believe in order to fully know who God is, we have to challenge everything we’ve learned through the years.
And that is why I’m so drawn to your blog. I think people are often made to feel as if they’re sinning if they question the things they’ve been taught. What was the pivotal point in your life where your relationship with God changed dramatically?
CM: I heard about a pastor named Dan Mohler from PA. Started watching his videos on YouTube and just felt something stirring in my spirit like never before. The more I listened, the more his words rang with resounding truth. From there, I began to realize my identity doesn’t lie in my circumstances, what people think of me, or my past.
Jesus died on the cross to reveal my identity and created value. So many these days are struggling with an identity crisis. If we don’t understand who we are in Christ, we will only be surviving life, not living it to the fullest. The Gospel is good news. It’s a transformation of life, not just a bus pass to Heaven someday.
When I began to realize this, it changed everything. I finally started to understand what it meant to love people. To truly see them just as God does. Full of potential, value and destiny. And, that’s how I try and live my life each day.
Yes! Love is the answer. I’ve been called a sugar-coater but if we don’t learn to love ourselves, love others, and love God… nothing else we do will matter. What’s one of the toughest things you’ve gone through in your life?
CM: I would have to say losing my Dad in 2008 was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to endure. My wife and I along with our two daughters had just arrived in Florida for vacation when my Mom called. She said that Dad had been having some stomach pain, and wanted her to take him to the hospital to get checked out. I knew right away it was probably serious because Dad didn’t like going to doctors or hospitals.
Later that night, I spoke with Mom and she said they were keeping Dad overnight. I asked if she wanted us to come home, but at the time, she said to just wait. The next morning, I called Mom, and the instant I heard her voice, I knew we were supposed to start home. It was the longest 11-hour drive of our lives. My wife kept getting updates. It went from checking him out to placing him in the ICU. By the time we made it back to NC, it was past visiting hours for ICU, but when we explained we had just arrived from Florida after driving all day, they allowed us a visit. It was the last time I would be able to speak to my Dad.
We went home, and about three the next morning, we got a call that he had gone into a coma. Acute pancreatitis. To say we were shocked would be the understatement of the century. He was always healthy and continued to work even though he was semi-retired.
The doctors and nurses did everything humanly possible to fix him, but to no avail. When the doctor finally told us there was nothing left to do, I fell to the floor sobbing. We were then presented with a decision no son or wife or any family wants to face. Whether or not to take him off life support.
We knew taking him off was the right thing to do. As painful as it was, we felt peace that he would no longer be suffering.
At first, I blamed God. I won’t lie. I was hurt, angry, and frustrated. I asked the normal questions in that situation. If God is love, how could He allow this to happen? There are so many people who kill people and rape children, yet they are walking around with breath in their lungs. And my Dad, a Godly man, died.
How did you get past this?
CM: Now, I fully understand that there is an enemy who is out to kill, steal and destroy, and my Dad’s death had nothing to do with God at all. God is a good, good Father. He gives life. He doesn’t take it. God was there in the midst of our pain and loss. In our helplessness, He was ever present. It’s been a learning experience, but I am at peace now. I miss my Dad more than I could ever put into words, but there is no longer animosity between me and my Heavenly Father.
Besides God, who else has been your biggest supporter?
CM: Family and friends have always been there for me. My Mom actually does all the covers for my books and has been editing my work. My wife…wow, what can I say about her? She is the most amazing woman on the planet. We will be married sixteen years in October of this year. We are in an awesome place right now in our marriage, but it wasn’t always like that. It’s a story for another time, but an addiction in my life nearly caused me to lose her and my two girls years ago. We are so thankful for God’s grace and mercy washing over us in just the perfect time to bring forth forgiveness and reconciliation. My wife is beyond awesome and the biggest supporter I have. I would be nothing without her.
That is an amazing support system right there. What you said about your wife made me smile big! Can you tell me the story behind your book I Am Free? What led you to put your two books ‘I Believe’ and ‘I Was There’ together?
CM: I Am Free is a combined collection of twenty, first-person Bible stories. The very first story I wrote was titled, I Was There. One of my favorite songs by Casting Crowns is Glorious Day. One of the lines talks about the hands of Jesus stretched out on a tree. It came on one day and all of sudden, I had this picture of a normal guy wondering what all the commotion was. Pushing in closer to see who the soldiers were beating. Following the throng as Jesus carried the cross up to Calvary. And then standing there looking up at an innocent man hanging on a tree.
I started to imagine myself in that position and just started writing. I had such a great response to that story, I began to write more. I try and dive into each moment as the main character. Feel what they must have felt. Think what they must have been thinking. See what they witnessed with their own eyes.
It wasn’t until just a couple months ago, I realized what my purpose was for writing these accounts.
Actually, I noticed your ministry has changed dramatically recently! How did that happen?
CM: A Facebook friend of mine took a copy of I Am Free into the women’s prison where she worked. A nineteen-year-old girl named Sarah gave a hand-written note to my friend with her thoughts about the book. She said it helped her understand God’s love for her. She knows now that even though she isn’t perfect, God’s love will never end. She said it completely changed her life.
I knew immediately I needed to give this book away. I realized to an even greater extent, that there are so many people searching for hope and encouragement. I had heard about people in prison, but to be completely honest, I never thought much about them. I had heard of prison ministries and people who go into those places to preach. But, so many have a hard time understanding the Bible.
These first-person stories are written in a such a way that everyone can connect with the characters. We’re all brush strokes on the canvas of humanity. We can relate to pain, heartbreak, loss, courage and fear. The people from 2,000 years ago are no different.
This is something that is close to my heart on so many levels. Only God could have set up such a perfect title so far in advance, knowing what was to come… seeing the big picture. Tell me about the money you’re raising for this project. What are your short-term and long-term goals?
CM: Short term is to raise as much money as possible and ship out as many copies of ‘I Am Free’ to as many places as I can. I’ve come close over the last couple of months to depleting the donation funds, but God always brings some more in at just the right time. I have already decided that even if the money stops coming in, I will do whatever it takes to keep sending these out.
To be honest, I haven’t really thought much about long term goals. I have a sense that this is just the beginning of a more involved prison ministry. I’m just not sure exactly what that is going to look like. Just taking one day at a time. One step of faith after another.
My dream is to one-day, write full-time as well as work in prison ministry and with people who are going through addiction recovery programs.
That’s a great answer for the long-term. No reason to take God out of the driver’s chair. Does your family help you with this project?
CM: My family has been awesome in spreading the word, helping me deliver packages to the Post Office for shipping, etc. When I first started this project, I wasn’t expecting to send out more than a few copies. My family has encouraged me to keep reaching out and finding places to send the book. To keep writing letters and form relationships with the incarcerated. It’s awesome.
It is awesome. Some of the folks in prison have no one on the outside who keep up with them, check in, or even care about how they’re doing. Having a lifeline can be the difference between perseverance and giving up. How many books have you given away?
CM: To date, I’ve given away somewhere around 225 copies of I Am Free. I’ve shipped to 22 different states here in the US and have also sent some copies to England and Canada. Every week, I get several requests to send a copy to a loved one in prison, family members of someone incarcerated, or to those who have been following this project and want to read the book.
All of this has been possible due to the generous donations of family, friends and even strangers. I’m humbled by what God has done so far.
One more thing. As I’ve already said, you have a very popular blog that I love. My guess, though, is that it might be as unpopular as it is popular. You don’t pull any punches in your messages. When did you become so bold?
CM: When I realized so many people are stuck in religion. I screw up just as much as the next person, but so much of what’s called Christianity today is pure, meaningless religion. I hate it. We’ve been brought up in church to act a certain way, listen to certain music, only watch certain movies, etc. There is freedom in following Jesus. Not the freedom to do whatever we want and hope we’re covered by grace. If we’re truly in love with Jesus and know who He is, we will chase after righteousness and nothing else.
I used to be the one full of self-righteous judgment against everyone. I used to be the one who called people fag, queer and homo. I used to be the one made fun of the mentally handicapped. I used to be the guy who stole from convenience stores. I used to be the one scared of people I didn’t understand. I would draw a line and separate myself from anyone the appeared to be a threat to my comfortable world. I used to always side with the crowd so I could remain cool. It’s bogus.
Jesus was always for the marginalized, the outcast, the forgotten, the cast aside, the homeless, the beggar, the scourge of society. He accepted all at His table and He said to follow.
There is a saying I’ve heard… It isn’t what you see that is the truth, it is what you don’t see. And often, the outcasts of society are invisible to the masses. It’s hard to shake people away from conformity. Thanks for tackling tough and unpopular topics. Don’t ever stop.
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