Saturday, September 23, 2023

Chicken Fried Pork Chops

chicken fried pork chops

















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Friday, September 22, 2023

Do What You Gotta Do - Martin Wiles

do what you gotta do
If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. Luke 16:10 NLT

Some mornings, I awoke confused . . . not sure I had done what I should have done. 

At fourteen, I went to work at the local Piggly Wiggly, bagging groceries. But at sixteen, I had some bills and needed more income. A friend who delivered papers for our state newspaper told me the paper needed delivery persons. I thought, Sounds like a simple enough job. So, I paid a visit to the person who could hire me. 

We sat in his living room, and he explained my responsibilities. I would deliver seven days a week, collect money from subscribers, send in my fees, and attempt to get new customers. Sounded like an enormous responsibility for a sixteen-year-old, but I am a firstborn, and responsibility has always come naturally. I wasn’t worried. 

What I didn’t know at the time was that my customers were scattered over a ten-mile radius, a radius not near my house. After all, this was the state paper, not our local paper. I also didn’t know that I would have to get up at 2:30 in the morning to pick up the papers, fold them, insert any advertisers, and then deliver them by a specific time. That involved a little much. 

I couldn’t depend on my parents to wake me. At 2:30, Mom would not have been in the bed long—she was a night owl. Dad would have been dead to the world. I was on my own. 

I set my trusty alarm. After picking up and delivering the papers and returning home, I had only an hour to sleep before getting up for school. Needless to say, I slept through most of my classes. And some mornings . . . quite a few mornings . . . I asked Mom, “Did I run my paper route.” Although she wasn’t up, she somehow knew whether I had been. I needed the money, so I did what I had to do.

Jesus also had something to say about doing what we must do. If people show faithfulness in small things, they will demonstrate trustworthiness with more extensive responsibilities. And isn’t life that way? We must typically prove ourselves at our jobs or careers before being given promotions. 

Unless we’re trust fund kids—or the recipients of large inheritances—we must work for a living. Bills must be paid. We need necessities to exist—food, water, clothing. This work we’re paid to accomplish. As God’s representative, we should demonstrate dependability in our responsibilities. 

But God’s work—unless we’re in full-time ministry—is voluntary, but nonetheless equally . . . even more . . . important. God needs faithful servants so His Kingdom work can advance in the way and at the pace He wants. And when we’re dependable with the small things He assigns, He’ll give us larger tasks to complete. 

How can you do a better job of doing faithfully what He gives you to do?

Father, I depend on You for the courage to do those tasks You assign me. 

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Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Change Is Good - Martin Wiles

change is good
Live no longer as the ungodly do, for they are hopelessly confused. Their closed minds are full of darkness; they are far away from the life of God. Ephesians 4:17–18 NLT

Change was the norm; I merely had to adjust. So I kept telling myself, “Change is good.”

Some preachers remain at churches for lengthy periods of time. Dad never did. At least not until he reached midlife and decided to stay put for twenty years. By that time, I had long ago left home and established my own family. His moving didn’t affect me anymore.

While I was growing up, five years was the longest he had ever remained at one church—and that was to let me finish high school in the same place. Before, it was three years at one church, four at the next, and one at the following. I never established many friendships, and I was tired of saying goodbye to the ones I had. Change became the norm I accepted but didn’t like.

Believers at the church in Ephesus had undergone a change. They had discarded their immoral lifestyles and no longer worshipped a multiplicity of pagan gods. Yet the temptation to return to the lifestyles they had put aside was always prevalent.

Change is peppered with negative connotations. “We’ve never done it that way before” and “I’m not sure the people will like it” are two common objections heard when change is suggested. Some rebel against change and leave the organization or relationship. Others accept it grudgingly, sticking around to cause friction. A few embrace it and enjoy the new opportunities change can bring.

Salvation ushers in the most radical change possible. God removes our old natures and replaces them with new ones. This is change for the good. While Satan still works through our old human tendencies, we now have God’s power, allowing us to live pure and holy lifestyles. And we should. What God has changed us from lies in the past; what he has transformed us into dwells in the present and future.

This change allows us to live with the peace of knowing our Savior and we are okay. He’s wiped the sin slate clean, accepted us into His family, and established a friendship that change can never disrupt.

Enjoy the change God can bring into your life. Any change he brings is for your good.

Father, give me the courage to live by the standards of the changed nature you’ve given me at salvation. 

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Monday, September 18, 2023

Making a List - Martin Wiles

making a list
Then they plotted among themselves, “Let’s choose a leader and go back to Egypt!” Numbers 14:4 NLT

Making a list and checking it twice—or three or four times—enhances productivity.

I’m the king of list-making. I’ve been making lists since I was young and never outgrew the practice. Since I have a good memory, making lists is probably unnecessary, but I feel more confident when I do. I list what I plan to accomplish weekly on my calendar—of which I keep several. I also list annual events like birthdays and anniversaries. Don’t want to forget those.

My wife follows suit. She makes a list before going to the grocery store, a list of announcements to put on the screen at church, a list of things for the church calendar, and a list of doctor appointments and other appointments for our aging parents and us.

Occasionally, things that shouldn’t creep into my list. Perhaps not sinful, just unhealthy or unwise. Like grabbing that bag of Krispy Kreme doughnuts. They weren’t on the list . . . at least not the written one.

God’s people once let something slither onto their list that shouldn’t have. Egypt. They had just left four hundred years of slavery, but the challenges of the wilderness and the dangers of the anticipated Promised Land lured their eyes backward. They didn’t go, but it took forty years of wilderness wandering for God to convince them to strike Egypt from their list.

Jesus says loving Him totally and then others as myself should be the top two things on my list. Family follows. God created it long before He did the church. Healthy and intact families are the foundation for a thriving society. Church comes next. God has given us gifts and talents He wants us to use in and outside of the church to further His Kingdom. That’s why I’m a member of the 5 a.m. writing club. Then come hobbies. I need time for myself. Time to unwind. Time to enjoy something I’m not going to be graded on, tested for, or paid money to do.

If we do all the above and, in that order, it’s doubtful we’ll have time for anything else. But if we do, it should come last.

How does your list stack up against what God says should be on a life list? What things do you need to add or remove from your list?

Father, help me put my life lists in the order that would please You.

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Saturday, September 16, 2023

Chicken Divan

chicken divan




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Friday, September 15, 2023

Fits and Starts - Martin Wiles

fits and starts
I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. Romans 7:15 NLT

For a long time, I committed more “fits” than “starts.” 

For those not familiar with the idiom, it refers to irregular intervals of actions and inaction, as in “His presidential campaign is proceeding by fits and starts.” The expression began in the late 1500s with “as by fits.” The noun fit meant a paroxysm or seizure. Start was added about a century later (The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms).

Many of the folks I’ve known during my lifetime have fallen more into the fit category—myself included. From infancy, people had told me the story of Jesus dying on the cross. How could they not? My dad was a preacher, which meant Mom and I went to church every time the doors opened. But hearing just meant I knew some Bible stories. 

A few months before my ninth birthday, Dad took me into his home office and told me why I needed to follow Jesus as my Savior. I understood—and decided I would. Things progressed well—until I hit middle school. That’s when things changed. Not all my friends followed Jesus in my new school. Nor did they make any effort to obey all the commands my parents had taught me to obey. They pressured me to follow suit. I stood strong. Then adolescence took over. 

My fourteenth birthday brought more changes. By this time, I had decided I wanted to delve into some of that behavior and those attitudes my middle school friends had invited me to indulge in. By this time, I was in another school with a much rougher crowd. I had only two or three friends who traveled the way my parents and every Sunday school teacher had told me to go. I chose the wrong path. 

High school was a blur. Still is. I continued going to church—I had no choice—and I even kept reading my Bible and praying. But the fits caught me, and the starts became almost nonexistent. Occasionally, I’d feel bad about the things I did, but God’s still small voice grew stiller and quieter. 

Finally, when in my mid-twenties, I tired of the fits and decided to start . . . again. Of course, God hadn’t left me. I had moved, and, as always, he waited for me to come back. When I did, I discovered open arms, forgiveness, and second chances. 

I wish I could say my journey from then to now has entailed consistent starts—but it hasn’t. Yet, I feel as if I’m in good company. The greatest missionary who ever lived faced fits and starts.  

Most Bible scholars believe Paul wrote these words after he met the risen Christ on the Damascus Road, not before. Which is significant. If he penned them afterward, then his life was also characterized by fits and starts. Although he took the gospel message to the known world, he didn’t always trust, get it right, or obey. Still, God used him. 

The theological word for the process of fits and starts is sanctification. And some important elements go along with the word and its meaning.

Sanctification Requires Effort

Sanctification isn’t automatic. In fact, if we don’t put in some effort, we’ll find ourselves doing more fits than starts. The writer of Hebrews alluded to this when he wrote, “You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food” (Hebrews 5:12 NLT). 

Sanctification Is a Process

The process begins the moment we follow Christ and continues throughout our lifetime. We never arrive at perfection this side of heaven. There should never come a time when we stop striving to grow spiritually, to know more about God and his ways, and to get closer to him. 

Sanctification Always Involves Forgiveness and Second Chances

Unbelief is the only sin God won’t forgive, and Christians don’t have to worry about committing it because we have already believed. Satan would love nothing more than to convince us our fits have disqualified us from God’s service. Our place is on the shelf. Our service is over. We’re a failure. 

Such messages never come from God. When we choose to follow Christ, he clothes us in Christ’s righteousness and forgives all our sins. Our part thereafter is to confess and start—and keep starting despite the fits.

So, don’t let the fits get you down. They are a part of our fallen nature and of the journey. With God’s guidance, you can enjoy more starts than fits. 

How can you enjoy more starts than fits?

Father, give me the strength to follow you faithfully so I can experience more starts than fits.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Overwhelmed - Martin Wiles

But the other men who had explored the land with him answered, “We can’t go up against them! They are stronger than we are.” Numbers 13:31 NLT

False accusations, anger, unkind remarks. They were all in the mix. He was overwhelmed.

Ben’s father had been a pastor for as long as Ben could remember. As a young man, Ben felt God calling him to follow in his father’s footsteps. Things went well until his fifth year at his third church. That’s when Ben discovered his wife had been unfaithful.

False accusations from some church leaders flew at Ben like barn swallows diving for insects. Among them, he knew about her antics but covered them up. At the same time, Ben led the church through some needed changes. The changes angered some, who, in turn, directed their angry, unkind remarks toward him.

Ben felt overwhelmed. Attacks came from the outside, and he watched his family dissolve from the inside. The ruling church board didn’t want to ask for his resignation, but they told him staying would probably split the church. Ben had to decide, and he decided to leave.

Moses felt overwhelmed, too. He—along with more than a million people who had recently escaped from slavery—waited at the border of the long-awaited Promised Land. Spies surveyed the land so the people could plan their method of attack.

Of the twelve spies Moses sent, only two said they could take the land. The others were overwhelmed by the walled cities and the fierce people. Their fear crept on the remainder of the people. Instead of traveling on, they turned back.

Like Ben and the ten spies, I’ve traveled through periods when I felt overwhelmed. Sometimes I was my own worst enemy; at other times, Satan was. I’m good at taking on too much, which can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed. But Satan is also an expert at capitalizing on my weaknesses and poking me at the very point that makes me feel overwhelmed.

God would have given victory to the Israelites had they decided to enter the Promised Land. They merely had to trust Him. He wants to give us victory when we feel overwhelmed as well. We can trust Him to help us set realistic priorities. He can also help us overcome the temptations that sometimes overwhelm us. All that’s required is putting on the armor He provides (Ephesians 6:10–18).

What overwhelms you that you need to give to God? In His power, you can overwhelm rather than be overwhelmed.

Father, I thank You that I can trust You to help me overcome whatever might attempt to overwhelm me.

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