Monday, December 18, 2017

Christmas Surprise - Martin Wiles

Christmas Surprise

As we sat in a circle opening our Christmas gifts, we never imagined the greatest gift was yet to arrive.

For a number of years, our family had gathered on Christmas Eve—or the day before depending on work schedules, to open presents. Everyone sat in a circle while one of the younger members passed out all the presents. When all the gifts had been distributed, we began the hours’ long process of opening them one by one while letting everyone see what the designated recipient had received. 

Though the normal gathering place was Mom’s house, for two years now we had assembled at my middle brother’s home for the celebration. This was one of those years. Everyone delivered their food to the kitchen and their presents to the bottom of the tree nestled in the den. My sister-in-law, like Mary, was great with child—their third. In fact, she was due any day. Read more...


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Saturday, December 16, 2017

Fear Not - Martin Wiles

But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 19:14 KJV
Fear kept him from going where he wanted to go.
One of my family’s favorite things to do during the Christmas season is looking at lights. One Sunday evening, my wife, daughter, two grandsons, and I decided to ride to a neighboring town where the local park was decorated and Santa sat in a Boy Scout hut giving out candy, asking children what they wanted for Christmas, and letting them take a picture with him. The grandkids were excited.
Our one hour drive had given our grandsons time to fall asleep. Waking them brought tears and whines and a reluctant agreement to get out and see the lights and Santa. As we stood in the line that formed outside the small hut, they screamed, whined, and growled. Our daughter finally had enough and said, “Let’s go.” No Santa.
Both boys calmed down after a stroll around the park, so we decided to try the “Ho Ho” thing again. This time, they were excited. But when we made it inside the hut, only one remained excited enough to sit on Santa’s lap. The younger one wanted to get close enough for a candy cane but wasn’t about to sit on Ho Ho’s lap. Excitement drew him, but fear drove him away.
Jesus must have been a little different than Santa. Since the disciples were trying to keep the children away from Him, the children must have been flocking to Him—sitting on his lap, gathering around his feet, asking Him questions, wanting Him to tell stories.
Some maintain the Old Testament God is different than the New Testament Jesus. I beg to differ. The writers of the Old Testament tended to emphasize the holy nature of God. He cannot look upon sin and will punish those who choose to rebel against His standards. Thus the fear—or holy reverence, of Him. Jesus showed us the loving side of God. Yes, He has standards, but His love reaches to all people—as does His offer of forgiveness. Like the little children and the crowds, He wants people to flock to Him. He created us for a relationship with Him.
Don’t let fear keep you away from God. Like Santa, He wants you to sit on His lap, spend some time with Him, and get to know Him. It’s a decision you won’t regret.

Prayer: Father, take away our fear or unconcern so that we might come to You for comfort, encouragement, guidance, and forgiveness. 

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Friday, December 15, 2017

Flashback Friday - Teched by Technology - Martin Wiles

Teched by Technology

“Teched (touched) in the head” is an old Southern expression meaning someone is either mentally challenged or acting irrationally. 

According to the Los Angeles Times, many folks in the United Kingdom (and I’m sure the world) are “teched.” In 2008, the U. K. Post Office coined the term “nomophobia” (no mobile phone) to describe the fear of being without a cell phone. Of 1,000 people surveyed, 66% said they feared losing their phone or being without it (separation anxiety). Another 63% said they would climb through trash to find it, and 25% said they would physically fight a thief to retrieve it. (“Do you suffer from nomophobia?” Facts & Trends Summer 2013: 9. Print.) Read more...


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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Wind Grabbing - Martin Wiles

I observed everything going on under the sun, and really, it is all meaningless—like chasing the wind. Ecclesiastes 1:14 NLT
The parking lot symbolized what once was but would never be again.
In the early 1980s, Ryan’s Steakhouse was the most popular eating establishment in Greenwood, SC. You could choose from a bar of meats, salads, vegetables, starches, and homemade desserts, or you could order from a selection of juicy steaks. Sunday lunches—as well as Sunday nights after church, saw the restaurant packed. 
Then other popular restaurants began to encroach on Ryan’s territory. Places like Chiles, O’Charley’s, and Outback Steakhouse. Ryan’s cut out their signature steaks and went solely to a food bar. Crowds began thinning. And one day they closed their doors. Financial struggles—along with waning crowds, made the decision.
What’s left of Ryan’s is on my daily walking route. As I walk up and down its parking lot, I think back on what once was. Cars packed the parking lot and overflowed into a neighboring restaurant’s lot. Lines of people snaked out of the front door, waiting to pay and be seated. The smell of steaks simmering on the grill filled the air—along with conversations and laughter as people mingled.
But not now. Grass grows through cracks in the asphalt. Leaves and pine straw litter the lot. Empty pallets, pieces of rock, and other left-behind paraphernalia spoil the ground. As if someone was in a hurry to leave—or reluctant.
I long for the “good ole” days as I walk through the deserted parking lot. Yet I know they’ll never return. What once brought satisfaction to many—myself included, won’t ever again. The writer of Ecclesiastes—King Solomon, knew disappointment as well. He hadn’t sampled Ryan’s, but he had everything else. As the wealthiest man alive, he could—and did. However, nothing brought him lasting satisfaction. Pleasure was always one grasp away. Just when he thought he had found it, the wind blew it from his grasp.
Such is the nature of things—whatever they are. Restaurants, relationships, play toys, possessions, power, prestige. They’re all temporary, here for our momentary enjoyment. Perhaps that’s why Jesus said to store our treasures in heaven…to invest in what outlasts time. Those things that will have a lasting influence long after we’re gone.
The Ryan’s of the world lose their popularity—and maybe even close their doors. Your life, too, will one day end, but you can leave a legacy for others to remember and emulate.

Prayer: Father, guide us to invest in those things that will outlive our lives. 

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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Light in the Darkness - Martin Wiles

You light a lamp for me. The Lord, my God, lights up my darkness. Psalm 18:28 NLT
As soon as the time changed, the darkness began creeping in.
Although I love the fall and winter months, changing from Daylight Savings Time to normal time brings a little gloom. For some, it leads to SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). I’m not sure I’ve ever contracted SAD, but I tend to get sad during the cold months when there is less daylight. Ironically, I also want to watch holiday movies that exasperate my gloomy mood. Movies that make me long for a past that will never return.
Not only is the outside darker, but the inside is also. This means more light—which those who are in the know say helps with SAD. When I made all the clocks in the house fall back, I also turned on more lights. Instead of just a lamp, I use several lamps as well as the overhead light. More light lifts my mood—even though they raise the utility bill.
But there is some darkness that has nothing to do with seasonal changes. The psalmist knew all about it. It was the darkness he felt when pursued by enemies. Those who wanted to make his life miserable…dark…or who wanted to destroy it all together. Those who wanted him sad instead of happy. Those who wanted to harm his family.
Just as I can’t change the daytime nighttime cycle, I can’t change periods of darkness that assault me throughout my lifetime either. They will come—disguised as depression, hurt, anger, frustration, broken relationships, rebellious children, lost jobs, failed classes, addictions, and disappointments.
What I can do is turn to the One who has the ability to light up my dark periods. Regardless of what dark period he faced, the psalmist turned to God to light up his life. God will do the same for anyone who asks—but particularly His children. Jesus said He was the light of the world, and then told His followers to be light too.
Letting God shine light into my dark moments will turn on the light, lift my spirits, give me hope, and change my perspective. When God turns on the light for me, it enables me to turn on the light in others’ lives. Everyone faced moments of darkness and needs a little light in their life.
God can enable you to be a light bearer. All you have to do is ask.

Prayer: Father, may we bear Your light of love and compassion to a dark and hurting world. 

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Throwback Tuesday - Curing Workplace Stress - Martin Wiles

Curing Workplace Stress

Even though I work exclusively with Christians, my workplace can still get stressful. Evidently, I’m not alone.
According to a recent poll by The American Psychological Association, 83% of employees go to work even when they’re sick, 69% report their workplace as a significant source of stress, 41% say they feel stressed during the typical work day, 52% state they have considered changing jobs due to stress, and 52% maintain their jobs are interfering with family and home responsibilities. (“Workplace Stress.” Facts & Trends Summer 2013: 8. Print.) Read more...
 


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Monday, December 11, 2017

Living with the End in Mind - Martin Wiles

And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment. Hebrews 9:27 NLT
I walked to the casket and sheepishly peered in.
Nothing was out of the ordinary about this funeral visitation. In the South, it’s the way we do it—most of the time. A death occurs. The family makes arrangements for their loved one. Visitation happens the night before the funeral or just prior to. Following the funeral, the body—or ashes, is taken to the cemetery for burial.
I was in the visitation line, a line that snaked around corners and through several rooms. As I got closer to the casket, I could see family members greeting friends and acquaintances. I supposed this person must have been special…must have influenced countless people…must have touched numerous lives. Perhaps he was famous. Some family members had trouble composing themselves. Others smiled as they hugged and shook hands.
As the line shortened, I heard bits and pieces of conversations. “He sure does look good.” (How can a person who is dead look good?) “I’m sure sorry for your loss.” Normal things people utter when they try to comfort someone—when they really have no idea what to say.
Then it came my turn to step forward. But something was strange about the family members—something was strange about the person in the casket. As things evolved into focus, I noticed they were my children and grandchildren. My spouse stood beside them, and I was in the casket.
It had happened. Just as the biblical writer said. I had done what every human being must do: die. But I must have done lots of good things along my life’s journey because masses of people were here to comfort my family, share stories, and tell how I had touched their lives. I wondered what I had done. I wished I had been able to stand by them as those in the line passed by so I could have heard their remarks.
Life is short, and death is certain. Two of the points in the first funeral sermon I delivered 28 years ago. Points that are still true and will remain valid when I deliver my final funeral sermon. And since death is certain—and since every funeral reminds me of this, I stop often to consider my life goals, aspiration, and priorities. And also what type of influence I’m having on others.
What difference is death’s certainty having in your life?

Prayer: Father, remind us that we must die and give an account of our lives to You. May we live in light of that each day. 

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