Thursday, August 25, 2016

Perspectives on Possessions - Martin Wiles

Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven. Matthew 6:19-20 NLT

Extravagant beyond imagination was all that ran through my mind. 

George Vanderbilt created Biltmore in 1895 for family and friends as an escape from everyday life. His descendents still own this magnificent display of wealth that rests beautifully on 8,000 acres of land. After six years of construction, George officially opened the estate on Christmas Eve for himself, his wife Edith, and their daughter Cornelia. 

As my wife and I and hundreds of others toured selected rooms of this immaculate estate, we witnessed opulence at its best. A banquet hall that once sat 38 people around a large oak table, a Billiard Room, a library where nearly half of Mr. Vanderbilt’s 23,000 volume collection lines the walls in floor to ceiling bookcases, guest bedrooms with private bathrooms, a bowling alley, and a 70,000 gallon indoor swimming pool. 

I couldn’t help but wonder what George Vanderbilt thought about Jesus’ warning against storing up wealth on earth. But then again, was Jesus really saying it was a sin to do so? Perhaps His warning was only against the dangers of what wealth can do to our focus. 

Earthly possessions may pretend to grant happiness—as they did for the Vanderbilt’s, their family, and their many guests—but if the state of happiness disappears when the possessions do, then happiness was never truly experienced in the first place. 

Possessions can be used foolishly or for God’s purposes. Many people still enjoy the elegance of the Vanderbilt Estate. King Solomon was the wealthiest man ever to live, but he divided his loyalties and possessions between the one true God and the false gods of his many wives. My possessions are given by God and should be used to advance His Kingdom. 

Nor can I take my possessions with me when I die. Mr. Vanderbilt left all his behind at 51. No doubt, he ensured through a will that his family inherited what he had labored for. Wills are essential, but I’ll still leave what I’ve amassed behind. Jesus says I should store my goods in heaven, and this I do by service to Him. 

Possessions are temporary, but they have eternal implications. We can use them selfishly and be poor eternally or use them to benefit others and God’s work and be rich eternally. Which are you doing?

Prayer: Father, guide us to understand that all we have comes from You and should be used for Your honor and glory. 

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

When God Hides - Martin Wiles

But they didn’t know who he was, because God kept them from recognizing him. Luke 24:16 NLT

Hiding appears to be a normal part of life. Perhaps, it’s a part of that sinful bent all people are born with. After all, hiding is the first thing Adam and Eve did after disobeying God. 

I too am familiar with hiding. Apart from the normal game of hide-n-seek, my cousin and I often invented other hiding games. We invented imaginary giants to hide from in my grandfather’s barns. If we chose to play cowboys and Indians, one group would hide.

The hog pens also provided ample opportunity for hiding. Amidst the mud were areas of broom straw taller than us. We enjoyed aggravating the hogs, so after doing so—knowing our grandmother would soon appear and scold us, we’d duck between the straw. 

Jesus once hid Himself from two of his followers walking the Emmaus road. They saw Him, but they didn’t recognize Him. Jesus feigned ignorance about what had happened to Him, so the two informed Him about the death and reported resurrection. As He sat to eat with them, their eyes were opened. They recognized who He was. 

Sin leads to hiding. God has created in us the ability to know right from wrong. Though we do wrong from an early age, there comes a point when we recognize wrong. Thereafter, a failure to admit the wrong makes us want to hide like our first parents. 

God can hide from us in an attempt to stretch our faith. Though there, He makes His presence less prominent. His desire is that we stretch for Him, realize our need for Him, and grow our faith to a deeper degree. 

When God hides, it tests our resolve. His apparent absence leads us to consider the seriousness of our love and service for Him as well as our sincerity about whatever task we’ve undertaken. 

Times of absence may also signal God is busy preparing circumstances—or even us, for another area of service. Moses experienced God hiding while living on the back side of the desert, Elijah while hiding in a cave, and Joseph while languishing in a foreign country. 

God never truly hides, but when it seems He has, self-examine to see what He’s up to. 

Prayer: Father, in times when it appears You have left us, guide us to seek You more than ever so we can discover what You’re up to. 

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Throwback Tuesday - Martin Wiles

Doing What’s Right

She entered the classroom and dropped into her desk. Shaundra* had a quiz, but her hurried entrance, speedy trip to her desk, rapid unpacking of her books, and worried look on her face made it obvious she wasn’t prepared. And out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the ultimate evidence…a small cheat sheet.

As the test began, she positioned her long flowing hair over her left shoulder and turned her head sideways so I couldn’t observe the paper neatly lying in her jacket sleeve. But I knew…and she did too. Read more...


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Monday, August 22, 2016

Hearing the Horn - Martin Wiles

And Samuel replied, “Yes, your servant is listening.” 1 Samuel 3:10 NLT

When the horn blew, we knew it was time to come home. 

As a child, I never knew the type of technology our current generation enjoys. My friends and I played the normal games—hide n seek, cowboys and Indians, Red Rover—but we also made up many games. My cousin and I were good at it, since our grandparents lived on a farm. 

Cell phones hadn’t been invented, but my grandmother invented a unique way to let us know when it was time for supper. She walked outside, opened the door of her blue Ford galaxy, and pressed the horn. The silence of the woods was broken only by the sounds of nature, so a car horn stuck out like a sore thumb. When we heard it, we immediately quit what we were doing and made our way back home. 

The little boy Samuel didn’t initially hear the horn. He confused it with Eli’s voice. After several times of hearing what he thought was Eli’s voice, Samuel was told it was the Lord’s voice. The next time he heard the voice, he told God he was listening. 

Silence is necessary to hear God’s voice. It was why my cousin and I heard the horn. Had we been near a road where the sounds of traffic were continually bombarding our ears, we wouldn’t have been able to distinguish the horn. God can speak in the midst of our noisy lives, but the chances are high we won’t hear Him.

Time is required to hear God. My cousin and I gave time to the woods and the animals that lived there. We heard their sounds, observed their likeness, and learned what made what sound. We’ll never learn to hear God clearly if we don’t spend time with Him. 
We must also have a heart to obey. If God knows we have a disobedient streak, He’s not likely to reveal His plan. Our hearts must be tender and anxious to obey so He’ll reveal His plan to us as He did to Samuel. 

Unconfessed sin must also be confessed. Sin prevents us from hearing God when He speaks. Confession clears the air so we can perceive clearly what God is saying. 

Is something keeping you from hearing God’s voice when He speaks? 

Prayer: Father, we ask that You help us hear clearly when You speak. 

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