Saturday, December 9, 2023

Coconut Pie

 coconut pie











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Friday, December 8, 2023

Let Go - Rachael Stearns

let go
Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto Him be glory. Ephesians 3:20–21 KJV

I clung to the jar with both hands, refusing to let go.

My eyes filled with tears as I unscrewed the lid and set the jar in the grass. Tiger, my monarch butterfly, had completed metamorphosis and emerged from his blue-gray cocoon overnight. Instead of a pudgy, lethargic worm, Tiger was now a brilliant orange Monarch butterfly. And I had to let him go.

It’s still hard for me to let go. I’ve never forgotten the struggle of watching Tiger fly away on his glimmering pair of new wings. I had spent months feeding him, watching him grow, and checking his chrysalis—all for what? To unscrew the lid and set down the jar. To give up my control.

Sometimes, God asks us to do the same thing. But many times, we come to God with clenched fists around the most valuable things in our lives. We refuse to loosen our grip on that relationship, job, friendship, dream, or sense of security. In doing so, we miss out on the beautiful things God wants to give us.

Living with open hands is scary. It takes faith to unscrew the lid, set down the jar, and let God do what He wants with us. But something beautiful happened when I let Tiger go. He flew away and started something new. He lived and breathed, if only for a little while. That never would have happened if I had clung to him and kept him trapped.

I know it’s difficult to let go. But God wants us to open our hands to Him. He is gracious and kind and gives us only what is best. He can do much more than we ever imagine when we offer Him a soft heart and a surrendered life.

How can you unscrew the lid, set down your control, and see what beautiful things rise from a heart of surrender?

Tweetable: Have you let go so God can step in? 

Rachael Stearns is a professional writing major with a love for Jesus and a passion for reaching people. Apart from writing and graphic design, she loves traveling, running 5Ks, and interior decorating. She looks forward to the adventures God has planned for her after graduation.

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Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Help Wanted - Martin Wiles

help wanted
The harvest is so great, but the workers are so few. Pray to the Lord . . . and ask him to send out more workers for his fields. Luke 10:2 NLT

I heard their help wanted plea, so I took the job. They needed help—and I needed more money.

Picking watermelons was one task I’d never undertaken. I had recently moved to a farming community where one of my fellow church members grew watermelons commercially. The owner had only one regular employee but hired extra hands during watermelon season. When he asked if I wanted to be one of the extra hands, I agreed.

Little did I know it would mean sweltering in one-hundred-degree temperatures in fields clothed with stagnant air. I also didn’t know I’d have to work bent over, rising only to toss the melon to the person waiting in the back of the farm truck that meandered down each aisle. After loading a truck, we’d drive back to the farmer’s home where an eighteen-wheeler waited. Here, we’d unload what we had just loaded. One summer was all I needed to realize we needed extra help.

The harvest Jesus spoke about wasn’t a nice crop of watermelons. Souls were on his mind. He was sending His disciples out into a world where the majority of the people were unbelievers. They had never heard of Jesus—which was possible since He’d only been around thirty or so years—or they had chosen to disbelieve He was the Messiah.

Every church could hang a sign over their doorway reading, “Help Wanted.” Most of the time, pay isn’t involved, but they need the help, nevertheless. While we have more means to preach the gospel message now than ever, the need to tell it is just as critical as in the first century. Technology helps us spread the good news faster and more effectively, but the world is still filled with those who need to hear and respond.

The disciples’ earlier decision to follow Jesus indicated their willingness to apply for the “Help Wanted” position. They would encounter opposition, ridicule, unbelief, and persecution. Some would be martyred. But they went, nevertheless. We should do the same.

Have you answered God’s help wanted ad? How can you share this ad with others?

Father, open my eyes to the harvest around me. Then give me the courage to go.

Tweetable: Have you answered God's "Help Wanted" call? 

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Monday, December 4, 2023

Restless Wanderer - Martin Wiles

restless wanderer
From now on, you will be a homeless fugitive on the earth, constantly wandering from place to place. Genesis 4:12 NLT

I was a restless wanderer. And although I’ve returned several times, it was never the same.

Home may be the place they have to take us when we return, but no one said it would be the same when we got there. I left home immediately after high school graduation. I couldn’t wait to put my feet under my own table and make my rules. Although I didn’t particularly care for my home of origin while there, I look back with fond memories now.

Several times since leaving, I’ve had to return. Once simply because I was lonesome. A relationship had ended. Another time because I was following God’s direction which would take me to college. I had a family and needed to square away some bills before we left for parts unknown. And a further time because I had finished college. We had nowhere to go until a church called me as pastor.

Each time I returned home, it was different than when I originally lived there. I was restless . . . ready to get out again. I wasn’t a child anymore. I didn’t need parents to tend to my needs—although they continued to try. As initially, I wanted a place of my own with my rules.

God informed the first sibling that he’d be a restless wanderer. In a moment of rage and jealousy, Cain killed his brother. Because of this action, he would have to wander . . . be a fugitive on the earth.

Just as going home always disappointed me, so living on earth will also. This world is not our home—at least not in its present form. Sin infected Cain’s life and it has the world as well. Sin has destroyed the original pristine beauty and harmony. Weeds grow, natural disasters brew, and animals and people clash. Rust eats, plastics crack, and thieves steal.

The only peace we can find during this restless journey is in our relationship with Christ. Here, we can see beyond what’s wrong and focus on what’s right. We’re forgiven. A better place awaits, both in heaven and on a freshly re-created earth where life will function as God originally designed.

How can you remember where your true home is when you’re tempted to wander?

Father, I thank You that no matter how far or long I roam, You still welcome me home. 

Tweetable: Are you wandering from God? 

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Saturday, December 2, 2023

Corn Bread Dressing









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Friday, December 1, 2023

Get Ready - Martin Wiles

Get Ready
You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected. Matthew 24:44 NLT

I heard the alarm . . . and looked at my smartphone. 

In seven years, we had only had drills—no real alarm. But not this time. Warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico infiltrated our area, bringing monsoon rains. From the West, a cold front approached, boasting fierce winds. The colliding fronts raised the risk of tornadoes. 

As I perched on my stool early in the afternoon, teaching my middle schoolers, the weather alert on my smartphone sounded. A tornado warning for our county greeted me when I looked down. No sooner had I read the warning than the headmaster came over the loudspeaker telling everyone we had a severe weather alert. This meant lining up against the walls in a protected covey, kneeling, and placing books over our heads. The students had practiced this many times but never in a for-real situation. 

As I sat against the wall, I checked the radar on my phone to see exactly where the danger lay. Our school was smack dab in the middle of dangerous storms. Periodically, the headmaster told us we could relax, meaning remove the books from our heads. Then, minutes later, he would announce we needed to return to our protected positions. For an hour, we kept up this relax-get-ready position until the strong line of thunderstorms had passed.

Some students thought this was only a drill, although we had told them differently. A few removed the books when they should not have, and a few more talked even though teachers had instructed them to remain silent so we could hear forthcoming announcements—a breach that led to consequences the next day. 

Most of the students maintained their protected position and followed directions. One high school class even sang “Jesus Loves Me.” At this age, students think they’re invincible, but I reminded them the next day that what we had experienced was the real deal—and that none of them was beyond severe injury or even death. 

Using the example of Noah and a thief at night, Jesus warned His listeners to be ready for His return. In Noah’s day, people had a good time, reveling in their sinful actions. They didn’t believe Noah when he told them a flood was coming. They perished. And if someone knew a thief planned to rob their home at night, wouldn’t they prepare to stop him? 

Speculation over when Jesus might return has been going on for years, but Jesus said no one knows when the event will occur. Even He, in His limited capacity as a human, didn’t know. Some have written books, and others have made elaborate charts, but the dates have come and gone—and Jesus hasn’t come. 

Perhaps the more significant lesson in Jesus’ caution to be ready is just that—be prepared . . . for life . . . and for His return. We never know what life will throw our way—and we can’t actually prepare for all the scenarios and the changes they might bring—but we can prepare generally and spiritually by reminding ourselves that God has our best interests at heart and loves us superlatively. 

And we can ready ourselves for Christ’s coming, whether in the sky or at our death. Either way, we’re going somewhere because life doesn’t end with death or Jesus’ Second Coming. Christ has paid for our sins. Accepting His gift readies us to meet Him when He comes and how He comes. 

Sometimes, I get a little impatient while waiting—as my students did. Living in this ever-changing world, where things get worse rather than better, makes me long for something better. A place called heaven. But like my kids, I stay in the ready position and keep doing God’s work, so I’ll be prepared when the Coming happens. 

Think of a few ways to prepare yourself for life and Christ’s coming.

Prayer: Father, may we live prepared to meet You when You come. 

Tweetable: Are you ready for Christ's return? 

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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

The Word That Lasts Part 3 - Martin Wiles

The Word That Lasts
For the word of God is full of living power. It is sharper than the sharpest knife, cutting deep into our innermost thoughts and desires. Hebrews 4:12 NLT

Like my parents before me, I attempted to instill in my children a love for God’s Word. Our nightly devotions weren’t as regular as when I was growing up. Life was hectic and busy at the time. Fitting in a nightly devotion was a challenge, but we read Bible stories often.

I carried on the same tradition with my firstborn grandson. Obviously, the need to digest God’s Word stuck despite my less-than-best efforts. Like me, my daughter and son both had their periods of rebellion. Both stopped attending church and involved themselves in questionable activities. Despite their wanderings, they still knew God’s Word and the right path—whether or not they chose it. 

Some question the validity of God’s Word.

They discount the traditionally agreed-upon authors, the miracles, the scientific and historical accounts, and even Jesus’ divinity. Rather than avoiding discussions with those who doubt, we can use the occasion to share our faith and why we believe God’s Word is profitable and accurate.

Some use God’s Word to teach legalism.

In addition to moral laws, the Old Testament contains ceremonial and civil laws. Both related to the nation of Israel and God’s interaction with the Jewish people. Some attempt to bind us by what Christ has freed us from. Grace brings liberty. Legalism majors on the things we can’t do rather than on the things we can do because of our newfound liberty in Christ. It repeats the mistakes Jesus rebuked the religious leaders for. We’re bound only by the moral laws the New Testament reiterates. We don’t have to keep bringing the old sacrifices.

God’s Word has the power to change lives.

Believing it changed me from a condemned sinner to a forgiven sinner. By reading it, we learn doctrine—the “whats” we need to believe as Christ's followers. We’re encouraged by the promises and corrected by the commandments. Like a knife, God’s Word slices into our consciousness. God’s Spirit then gives us the power to make the necessary changes.

Is God’s Word having a lasting effect on your life?

Father, turn me toward Your Word so I can follow Your path with joy and confidence. 

Tweetable: Is God's Word changing your life? 

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