Friday, April 12, 2024

Too Fast, Too Furious - Martin Wiles

too fast too furious
Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes. Psalm 37: 7 NLT

Despite his actions, I did what I always do.

Driving to the school where I teach takes about ten minutes. It would take less time, but around seven stoplights litter my path—and most of them usually catch me. One morning as I puttered along, I noticed a snazzy Range Rover behind me. It didn’t take long for the person who drove it to figure out they didn’t want to follow me, and they zoomed around.

I’ve been driving since I was fifteen and have never had a ticket. I’m not a slow driver—at least by the law’s standards—but I am by those who don’t enjoy going the speed limit, or five miles over. Which is my norm. The only time I’ve ever been stopped was when I had a pickup with oversized tires. They threw my speedometer off by five miles an hour. Fortunately, the nice highway patrolman understood and only gave me a warning. From then on, I adjusted my speed accordingly.

But back to the Range Rover. As it rocketed around me, I watched it speed off to the next stop light. As it waited for the light to turn green, I pulled up beside it and stopped. The tortoise and hare story came to mind. I wondered if the person in the Rover looked over and saw that the SUV they had shot around and left in the dust was sitting at the same light they were. Probably not. They were in a hurry, no doubt.

When the light turned green, they peeled off again. I proceeded in my normal manner. They came to the next light, which turned red just before they arrived. Once again, I pulled up beside them. I smiled to myself and again wondered whether they looked over to see who sat next to them. After the light changed, we repeated the same thing one more time. As I turned to go to my school, they sped off down the highway. They were too fast and too furious. I did what I do anytime I drive: obey the speed limit.

This isn’t the first time I’ve experienced such a scenario. I’ve learned fast cars don’t necessarily get you anywhere sooner if lights or stop signs abound. All the hurry-up does is burn more gas and take rubber off the tires. Getting in a hurry doesn’t mean we’ll accomplish more or even get somewhere sooner. In fact, if a policeman stops us for speeding, we might get there later than the person who obeys the speed limit.

But enough about driving. The psalmist didn’t have a car, and I doubt he could speed if he rode a camel or a donkey. Each of those animals seems to have a somewhat casual attitude toward moving along. The psalmist’s advice: be still and wait on God. Don’t worry about those who seem to plow ahead at breakneck speed or do evil things to get what we might desire.

Life has taught me that someone will always try to get ahead of me. Greed and selfishness drive them. People who think life is all about them and no one else are the ones the psalmist classifies as wicked. Maybe not to the degree they could be, but wicked nonetheless. But he gives good advice: don’t worry or fret about them. God has our back, not theirs.

Yet, the more important aspect is being still. Busyness often tempts us to get ahead—to speed—at other’s expense. To focus only on us, neglecting or not thinking about the needs of others. It also prevents us from hearing God’s Spirit—the person of the godhead who keeps us going at the right speed and in the right direction. The one who gives wisdom and direction. The one who keeps us from speeding from one light to the next and having to stop at each one in the process.

As bad as COVID-19 was, it forced many people to slow down. In certain fields, some had to speed up to help temper the spread, treat the sick, and produce needed supplies. But others slowed down and spent more time with friends and family—important things.

When we slow down . . . build silent times into our life’s schedule . . . we give ourselves an opportunity to hear God. And this is essential if we’re to proceed through life’s lights at the speed God wants us to travel. He has a path marked out—a path that includes a certain timing. If we peel out on our own and at our own speed, we’ll catch lights he doesn’t want us to, or we’ll arrive too late or too early. God’s plan not only includes the goal but also the steps involved to get there at the right time. The static of busyness keeps us from comprehending the plan.

Slowing down also builds our health so we can enjoy the plan—and the journey to the goal. Busyness often brings with it things that lead to poor health—such as not eating right, getting enough rest, or getting enough of the right exercise. No wonder the fast-food industry is spiking. Grabbing a takeout pizza proves much easier and faster than cooking a healthy meal at home. Although we often have no control over the schedules our employers encumber us with, we can possibly make the hard choice of choosing the employer during normal healthy economic times. Sometimes, lower pay is not a bad thing.

As we build downtime into our schedules, we have the opportunity to consider our priorities and revamp them if necessary. After all, we only have one life and a limited time to love and serve God, our families, and others.

If life has become too fast and too furious for you, stop and ask God for wisdom to revamp some things.

Father, when the hurry of life overwhelms me, show me how to slow down. 

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Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Axing Anxiety - Martin Wiles

axing anxiety
Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about what happens to you. I Peter 5:7 NLT

“Your wife and daughter have been in a wreck.”

Frank listened to the voicemail. Anxiety crept up his throat. He and his brother had been hiking in a place with no cell phone reception. He could see he had voicemail but couldn’t listen to them. As soon as they left and reached a place where reception was possible, he dialed *86. But he wasn’t prepared for what he heard.

Two hours stretched between him and the hospital where he needed to go. All types of thoughts meandered through his mind as he drove. He attempted to place matters in God’s hands, but it didn’t seem to work. His gut wrenched, his mind raced, and his hands oozed.

Fortunately, it wasn’t as bad as he imagined. His daughter only bent her glasses, but his wife broke a foot and crushed her wrist. Frank discovered his anxiety hadn’t changed a thing. 

Peter wrote to first-century Christians who suffered miserably for their faith. He encouraged them to give their cares to God because he cared about what they faced.

Peter’s encouragement is still appropriate twenty centuries later. God cares about what happens to his children. Sure, I sometimes wonder why he allows certain things to happen if he cares so much, but that’s not for me to know. He is God; I am not. Since he is loving and kind, we can trust his heart even when we can’t see the reason behind what he does or allows.

I’ve learned being anxious won’t solve anything either. Anxiety didn’t undo the wreck Frank’s daughter and wife had. It won’t undo the effects of a natural disaster nor stymie the blows of a bully. Neither will it put money in our bank accounts for monthly bills.

In fact, anxiety impairs our judgment. An anxious mind can’t make good decisions. Anxiety will lead us to unhealthy habits in an attempt to soothe our troubled feelings or to unwise decisions in an effort to undo what has been done.

Believing God cares about what we’re facing will replace the anxiety with peace—peace that can’t be explained or understood, but peace nonetheless. When we take our needs to God, he transforms the anxiety into peace—regardless of the nature of our circumstances.

Let God teach you the art of axing anxiety.

Father, soothe my anxious moments with the assurance of your love and control. 

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Monday, April 8, 2024

A Bridge to God - Martin Wiles

a bridge to God
That is why we have a great High Priest who has gone to heaven, Jesus the Son of God. Let us cling to him and never stop trusting him. Hebrews 4:14 NLT

Dams burst, bridges crumbled, interstates closed, and roads washed away.

October 3-4, 2015, was a historic weekend in South Carolina. A low-pressure system moving through the Southeastern section of the country tapped into moisture from a hurricane off the Eastern coast, providing the ideal setup for floodwaters not seen in one thousand years. Schools closed, emergency personnel emerged, and National Guard members went on call. Some areas received over twenty inches of rain. One member of a road repair crew was swept away in his vehicle as the bridge he crossed disappeared beneath him.

Counties and cities place bridges strategically because they need them. Transportation departments work rigorously to ensure their dependability since they cross bodies of water—some small and some not so small. Some perch only a few feet above the water they traverse while others languish hundreds of feet above the canyons they cross. Regardless of how long or high they are, their purpose is clear: to get people or goods to the other side.

Often when a bridge is out, an alternate route exists to reach a destination. Not so with God. The author maintains Jesus is our High Priest who has bridged the gap to God. Sin created the gap long ago when Adam and Eve chose to disobey the one restriction God placed upon them. Their descendants have suffered the consequences of their bad choice—all being born with a bent toward sin.

Jesus said he was the only way to God—the only bridge. Good works won’t take us across the bridge, no matter how meritorious they are. Not enough good works exist to place God under obligation to save us. Knowledge of his existence—and even his Word—won’t help us traverse the bridge either. The demons—and Satan himself—know this as well. Having affection for God doesn’t work either. And we surely can’t buy our way there.

God has designed that nothing short of faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection will enable us to bridge the gap with him. All other efforts will cause the bridge beneath us to collapse.

Make sure you are crossing a reliable bridge in your journey to God.

Father, I acknowledge Jesus Christ as the only bridge to you. 

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Saturday, April 6, 2024

Mixed Vegetable Casserole


mixed vegetable casserole













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Friday, April 5, 2024

The Great Exchange - Martin Wiles

the great exchange
For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21 NKJV

Never had I gotten such a good deal.

One year into our payments for our new Kia Soul, the emails started. “Trade your car in. We’ll give you top dollar.” Although the car wasn’t as large as we needed, it got good gas mileage, my wife liked it, and we couldn’t afford the payment a larger vehicle would carry. So we ignored the emails and the postcards that came in the mail.

After three years of paying—and with continuing offers to give us top dollar on a trade-in—my wife noticed creaking sounds when she turned right or left and when she backed up. A couple of trips to the dealership resulted in a diagnosis: bad struts. Each time she took the car for repairs, a particular salesman met her at the door. “Don’t you want to trade that Soul in? I’ll give you top dollar.” She ignored him. Truthfully, our credit stunk because of things in the past beyond our control. My mother had signed for us to get what we had, but we weren’t about to ask her to do it again.

When the repair job didn’t stop the creaking, my mother asked, “Why don’t you trade it in?”

“You know we can’t afford to buy another car,” I said.

“I’ll sign for you again,” she replied.

Off to the Kia dealership, I sent my wife. “See if the salesman is as good as his word,” I told her.

Because of emails and texts, my wife didn’t have to meet with the salesman initially. He was a friendly sort of fellow. In fact, we had many mutual friends on Facebook. We gave him all the information he needed—and so did Mom. He asked what kind of payment we could stand, and we told him. He wanted to sell us a brand-new van, which my wife drooled over. After all, at the time, she transported two of our grandboys and the music teacher’s toddler every day. In the Soul, they were packed like sardines in the back seat. We had no idea he could put us in a new van for anywhere close to what we presently paid.

We went about our business as usual, taking time to join some friends at a local restaurant for supper. As we ate, a text came through: “Come on down. I have the paperwork ready.” Yeah, right, paperwork that’s gonna show me numbers I can’t afford, I thought. Even though the dealership closed in twenty minutes, he told us to come anyway.

As we pulled into the parking lot, the salesman pulled the van to the front door. We entered his office and sat. “Here’s what we have,” he said. I knew this was a waste of time—but I was surprised. For forty more dollars a month—within a range we could afford—we could drive this new van home. And we did. He remained true to his word. He offered us $2500 more than we owed on our car and took $10,000 off the MSRP of the van. I called Mom, and she came down and sealed the deal. We experienced a great exchange.

Paul had an even greater exchange in mind when he reminded his readers what God had done through Christ. Sin infected Adam and Eve when they disobeyed God, and, like an epidemic, it spread to every person. But God chose to send Jesus and let him pay the penalty for all those sins, thereby stopping the epidemic if we choose his offer of forgiveness. God offered a great exchange: our sin for Christ’s righteousness.

After the trade, I never had to look at that too-small Kia Soul anymore. Now, I could enjoy riding in a large Kia Sedona. A wonderful exchange, but nothing that compares to what God has done for us in Christ.

The sound of amazing grace is sweet. It saved a wretch like me—and will anyone who asks. Not by what we can do on our own, but by what God has done on our behalf. All we had to do was accept the salesman’s offer to ride off in something I could actually fit my six-foot-one frame in. And all God asks is that we accept his offer of forgiveness.

When we take God up on the trade, life changes. He sprinkles our hearts with the blood of his Son and frees us from a guilty conscience. We live each day knowing everything is right between us and him. He cleanses our sin record and gives us peace.

Don’t miss out on the greatest exchange ever.

Father, thank you for making a way to exchange my sins for your holiness. 

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Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Making Love Last - Martin Wiles

making love last
Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage. God will surely judge people who are immoral and those who commit adultery. Hebrews 13:4 NLT

He was the picture of faithfulness, but he carried a fake ID and hid a dark secret.

Frank was a dedicated church member and faithful husband—or so it appeared. He and his wife had moved back to their hometown after his retirement from the military. They immediately joined their old church and went to work. Frank held several positions, among them chairman of deacons.

Several years after their return, Frank’s dark secret came out after it was discovered that he and the preacher’s wife were having an affair. This wasn’t his first. Unfaithfulness had happened before with another friend’s wife, which was why they had chosen to re-locate. As with the prior incident, Frank’s wife decided to remain with him. Once again, they would change locations and start over. Perhaps, this time it would be different.

According to statistics, many don’t take the high view of marriage God does. Certainly, there are occasions when God gives permission for the marriage to dissolve. He allows it for adultery—although he doesn’t command it—and he certainly doesn’t expect a partner to risk their lives or their children’s lives by staying in an abusive situation.

If we’re going to make love last, we must define marriage as God does. Ideally, it is for a lifetime: “until death do you part.” Unfaithfulness and abuse may rob one partner of that pleasure, but it should at least be the intent when taking marriage vows.

Faithfulness is a must for love to last. God's making unfaithfulness an allowance for divorce shows how seriously he considers faithfulness. He considers faithfulness not only to the other spouse but also to everything necessary to keep a marriage strong: faithfulness to serving God together, faithfulness to equality in the marriage, and faithfulness to helping each other with family chores.

Remaining faithful in marriage also means preparing for temptation. Temptations to unfaithfulness abound. Satan loves nothing better than to destroy homes. He knows the lifelong havoc this can inflict. Unfaithfulness is the big home wrecker. Time in the Word, in prayer, and with our spouses will help keep temptation away so we can remain faithful.

Work diligently to make love last in your marriage.

Father, turn my eyes toward You for wisdom to make my marriage strong. 

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Monday, April 1, 2024

God’s Grasshoppers - Martin Wiles

God's Grasshoppers
We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak. We felt like grasshoppers next to them, and that’s what we looked like to them. Numbers 13:33 NLT

Quan struggled with a foreboding sense of insignificance. His people were celebrating a feast for their gods because they didn’t want them to send evil spirits to punish them. Quan, however, wasn’t participating. He would rather spend time with the local Christian missionaries, the Folicks. They had arrived on his island two years before to tell his people about a greater God. Only a few listened. Quan was one of them. His life had radically changed, but he felt insignificant. What could one person do to influence the actions of so many?

Joshua and Caleb no doubt felt insignificant as well. Among twelve spies Moses had sent to spy out the Promised Land, they were the only two who returned with a favorable report. Yes, the cities were walled, and yes, the people were fierce, but they had God on their side. They could conquer the land. God rewarded their diligence. Joshua was chosen to lead the new generation of Israelites into the Promised Land, and Caleb was given a parcel of land.

I—like Quan, Joshua, and Caleb—have felt the creeping fingers of insignificance. I listen to media sources, and it appears evil is overwhelming good. What can I possibly do to stem the flow? Christians are in a minority, and I circulate in a very small part of the world. How much of an influence could I possibly exert?

Lack of trust will keep us feeling helpless, and this is exactly where Satan would love for us to camp. God, on the other hand, wants our faith. Faith—even as small as a mustard seed—can move mountains because it is placed in the One who can shift them. We can do great things because the One who lives in us is greater than the One who lives in the world. What appears small to us, He can use to make a major impact.

One thing we have that Quan, Joshua, and Caleb knew nothing about is technology. With the click of a mouse or the tap of a finger, we can send the gospel—along with spiritual encouragement—across the world.

Think of one way you can use your technology to overcome feelings of insignificance.

Father, when I feel insignificant, remind me who I am in Jesus Christ. 

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