Saturday, December 14, 2019

When Life Rises and Falls - Martin Wiles


(A)nd he said, “Don’t be afraid, Paul, for you will surely stand trial before Caesar! What’s more, God in his goodness has granted safety to everyone sailing with you.” Acts 27:24 NLT

Why can’t everything just go right?

A few weeks after joining a new church, we decided to join a small group. Like most small groups, the session started with introductions, small talk, and then prayer requests. My wife mentioned her dad. He was due to have a pacemaker exchanged, followed by a catheterization the next week. The wife of another couple planned a mission trip to Guatemala, where volcanoes were erupting. The wife of another couple had a mom who had had a double lung transplant and was now unexplainably blind. Yet another couple had a friend whose son had been hit in the head with a ball. They feared a concussion.

The list seemed endless. The next week, we received updates on those requests and received more from other couples who hadn’t been there the week before. And we only numbered around twenty. The church membership was 1200. I could only imagine what I’d hear if the pastor opened the floor for prayer requests from all of them.

Paul’s life wasn’t going well either. His list of problems and persecutions lengthened the longer he lived. Now, he was sailing to Rome where he’d be placed in prison and eventually appear before Caesar. But not before he and the crew were shipwrecked. In the midst of the milieu, an angel of God appeared and told him not to worry. God would save them all.

When I ponder the rise and fall of life situations, many of which I, too, have faced, I’m reminded of the cause. While I can cause some of the incidents myself by sinful or poor decisions, the fall normally comes because of sin in the world—a cursed world. Though I would like for things to rise more than they fall, no restoration will take place until the end of time when God creates a new heaven and a new earth.

But good news abounds, just as it did for Paul. God sends His Spirit into our lives. With the Spirit’s assistance, we gain strength, wisdom, and guidance to make it through life’s falls. Like Paul, we can take heart. God has things under control, regardless of how bad they appear. He will work all things together for His glory and the good of His children.

When life rises and falls, take heart. God has not lost control.

Prayer: Father, we trust You for strength through all of life’s trials and troubles.




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Friday, December 13, 2019

Flashback Friday - What’s Killing You? - Martin Wiles

What’s Killing You?

I often wonder if I’m dying and don’t know it. Doubtlessly there are known situations and substances that will kill me physically. If I choose to use tobacco products regularly and heavily, my chances of contracting cancer increase dramatically. Cancer often kills. Overuse of alcohol increases the chance I’ll develop an addiction and possibly become an alcoholic. This puts me at a higher risk of developing liver damage. Using illegal drugs—or even misusing prescription drugs, can produce lethal effects as well. And of course, unhealthy relationships and misdiagnosed views of myself can devastate me emotionally. In some instances, I can diagnose what’s killing me, but at other times it may be occurring without my direct knowledge. Read more...

Tweetable: What aren't you willing to give up? 



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Thursday, December 12, 2019

It’s Not Okay - Martin Wiles


Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand…. Philippians 4:6-7 NLT 

“No, it’s not okay.”

His scream pierced the campground and didn’t subside until I got him to Meme. My wife and I hatched a plot: take our two oldest grandsons camping. At the time, they were two and five. Our daughter appreciated the three-day break from motherhood.

Things progressed nicely … until we made a trip to the bathroom. On the way back, our two little munchkins laughed and raced. I didn’t worry too much that they were in the middle of the road. After all, the campground only had a small number of sites and the name was Lazy J. What could possibly happen?

Our smallest grandson—the one we call pig pen or Clumsy Clyde—found a way to fall on the gravel road and skin his knee. He wanted to beat his brother back to the campsite, but stepped out of his shoes and tumbled instead.

I couldn’t imagine the hurt being serious, so I picked him up and told him he was okay. That’s when he screamed loudly enough for the entire campground to hear him: “No, it’s not okay.”

I plopped him into Meme’s lap where he had a good cry as she wiped the blood away, applied some antibiotic cream, and sealed the cut with a bandage. Within thirty minutes, he was fast asleep on grandma’s lap.
 
Paul says all we have to do is tell God what we need, while thanking Him for all He has done. Once we’ve done that, His peace will saturate our entire body, soul, and spirit—if we truly leave whatever it is in His hands and don’t take it back to worry over.

Life’s trials have a way of knocking us down, scraping our knees, and making us cry. And they have a tendency to do it when we least expect it … when we’re having fun … trying to beat someone else in life’s race. Before we know it, we’re out of commission and don’t know where to turn.

Been there, done that. And instead of running to the Father where I can receive comfort, healing, and peace, I often go to other sources or other people who cannot do what only He can. Unlike my grandson who didn’t believe what I said, the heavenly Father truly can make things okay.

When life’s not okay, go to the One who can make everything all right.

Prayer: Father, we come to You, believing You can give us peace in all circumstances.





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Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Good for What? - Martin Wiles


Did I keep my heart pure for nothing? Did I keep myself innocent for no reason? Psalm 73:13 NLT

I was a goody-two-shoes, but for what?

John Newbery published the story, “Goody Two-Shoes,” in London in 1765 and popularized the phrase. The story tells about an orphan girl nicknamed Goody Two-Shoes who goes through life with one pair of shoes until a rich gentleman gives her a complete pair. She’s so happy she tells everyone about her good fortune. The phrase refers to someone who is particularly good, but is used in a derogatory manner—as in my case.

During my trek through elementary and middle school, I exemplified a goody-two-shoes. I couldn’t help it. My parents reared me in a Christian home and indoctrinated me with the teachings of the Bible and punished me if I didn’t live up to their—and God’s—dictates.

In elementary school, everyone appeared to be a goody-two-shoes, so being one didn’t take much effort. Middle school differed. Suddenly, many of my good friends turned bad—and wanted me to turn bad with them. They cussed, and wanted me to. They talked about pornographic matters—and thought I should too. And some didn’t want to do their homework or study for tests—and thought I should let them copy mine. My refusal brought on bullying and threats of bodily injury.

By high school, I, like the psalmist, wondered if I’d been a goody-two-shoes for nothing. The psalmist looked at the wicked, who seemed to prosper despite their wicked behavior. He, on the other hand, who had lived righteously, experienced trouble and pain. I did what the psalmist didn’t do: became bad with the bad.

I later discovered that being a goody-two-shoes was the right way to live. I may not be rewarded in this life by God or others, but that doesn’t negate that I’ve done the right thing. Such as Job. A righteous man who suffered pitifully.

God, however, takes note of my good living. He expects it, and it’s the right thing to do. He often rewards good behavior on earth, but even if He doesn’t, He does in heaven. I don’t get there because I’m good, but God rewards me there for being good. And I’ll never regret making the good choices.
Go ahead and be a goody-two-shoes. 

Others may not always appreciate your goodness, but God loves it—and His opinion is the only one that really counts.

Prayer: Father, give us the strength to stave off the temptations to be bad, knowing that You want us to be holy, even as You are.





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Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Throwback Tuesday - Passing the Pop Tests - Martin Wiles

Passing the Pop Tests

Pop tests. A test students aren’t informed of. I had them in most of my college classes, and occasionally I give them to my middle school students. Unlike my college professors, I normally warn my students one is coming. Doing so makes my pop tests deviate from the literal definition. I’ll never forget the student— who after hearing me say “Take out one sheet of paper,” said, “But Dr. Wiles, it wasn’t on Renweb.” (The system we use to record grades, lesson plans, and homework assignments.) I quickly informed her that listing a pop quiz as a homework assignment destroys the purpose of the quiz. Read more...

Tweetable: How are you doing on life's pop tests?



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Monday, December 9, 2019

Damaged Goods - Martin Wiles


For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Romans 3:23 NLT

“Hey, Ice Cream man, you got any freebies?”

My dad’s dad was an ice cream man. Not the kind who drove a little truck with a bell through neighborhoods while playing music. Rather, the kind who drove a larger truck and stocked novelties, gallons, and half gallons of ice cream in restaurants, grocery stores, and mom-and-pop shops.

These were the days when many homes still didn’t have air conditioning—at least not central air. Children roamed the neighborhoods during the hot South Carolina summers looking for some way to cool off. Town pools and ice cream were two of their favorites.

My grandfather was notorious for giving away ice cream—but not the perfect novelties. He gave away damaged goods. When the kids ran to his truck asking for free ice cream, he’d smile and tell them to hold on. Then, he’d open one of the six doors on the back of his truck, looking for the hole that had the novelties and then searching for the damaged goods.

Damaged ice cream was of no use. Either it had been damaged during shipping, or it was smashed during the loading process. Store owners didn’t want it and customers wouldn’t buy it. Neither could my grandfather sell it back to the company. He could either throw it away … or give it away. He chose the latter. What store owners and customers didn’t want, children drenched in sweat from the hot summer sun did.

According to Paul, we’re all damaged goods. Smashed by divorce, financial ruin, criminal acts, bad decisions, and sexual immorality. Dented by disobedience of all types. Just can’t seem to get life right. Seemingly good for nothing. The wages of our sin? Death. But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ. What others don’t want, Christ will take—and make a masterpiece of.

The Bible calls what Jesus does redemption, salvation, conversion. The name’s not as important as the act itself. God the Father takes Christ’s payment for sin on the cross and applies it to our life. He removes the dents and the smashes—and their penalty. But not the memory of them. Memories help us appreciate what He’s done. 

What others don’t want or understand, Christ does. Let Him use you to glorify Himself and advance His kingdom of love across this world.

Prayer: Father, thank You for taking the damaged goods we are and using us anyway.




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Saturday, December 7, 2019

Beauty Amidst the Clouds - Martin Wiles


The Lord opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire. 2 Kings 6:17 NLT

At first glance, it appeared we’d see nothing.

Balsam Mountain Road. Just off the Blue Ridge Parkway and about halfway between Maggie Valley and Cherokee, North Carolina. A road rising to just over 5300 feet in elevation. An asphalt road that ends in a loop, but a gravel road that continues another 20 miles to Cherokee. A road that hosts a primitive campground at the end. This was our destination.

As my wife and I turned off the Blue Ridge Parkway and began our ascent, clouds thickened. Passing an old Masonic historical marker, we noticed several elk grazing on the green grass. We stopped to take pictures of animals who didn’t seem to mind if we approached them.

The clouds intensified. By the time we reached the campground, seeing the campers and the layout of the campground was difficult. Campers mulled about, finishing up breakfast and packing their belongings. We saw only their silhouettes.

Leaving the campground, we trekked down the gravel road toward Cherokee. The clouds remained, but amidst them we observed beauty. Although late in June, a number of wildflower species still bloomed. Numerous waterfalls flowed over stillborn rocks. Birds sang their melodies.

King Aram was angry at Elisha the prophet. Every time the king made plans to attack Israel, God revealed to Elisha the plan so he could tell the king of Israel. The king of Aram sent a great army to surround the city where Elisha lived. When Elisha’s servant saw them, he cried out in fear. Elisha calmed him and asked God to show the servant the beauty amidst the clouds. He did. A hillside filled with chariots of fire. No need to worry.

God is sovereign and always works behind our cloudy skies. We may never know completely what God is up to. He normally only gives us snippets of what He’s doing, but we can be sure He is always up to something.

One thing God continually works on is His image in us. He busily forms us into the image of Christ, working to make us more like Him. This requires change. What He asks of us is that we trust Him, submit to Him, and obey Him. When we do, the clouds eventually burn away and we experience the full beauty of His creation.

Trust God that behind the clouds lies a beauty such as you’ve never witnessed.

Prayer: Father, we believe You have our best at heart and are working to complete it in our lives.




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