Monday, November 30, 2020

Use or Lose - Martin Wiles

God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. 1 Peter 4:10 NLT

He only had little, but he used it well.

By today’s standards, my grandfather would have been classified a small farmer. He only owned one hundred acres of land, some of which woods covered. Nor did he possess many of the things most farmers consider necessities.

Initially, he and my grandmother rented half of a house. The owners lived in the other half and used the home as a vacation getaway. When his finances permitted, my grandfather bought the house and land.

Only two barns decorated the property: one for storing crops until taken to market and the other for farm implements. My grandfather used one compartment for his tools, one for his small red tractor, and the other for occasionally parking the car under.

We never knew until after my grandfather’s death how much he had accumulated in cash. He could have easily bought more farm equipment that would have made his and others’ lives easier. But he chose to hire field hands to harvest some crops, and he enlisted the help of a wealthy neighbor who had fancier implements to harvest those crops that couldn’t be brought in by hand.

By choice, my grandparents lived a frugal lifestyle, but they used well what they had and made a good living. Both had the talent to farm and put it to good use. While not a spiritual gift, farming was my grandfather’s natural talent.

Peter says God gives at least one spiritual gift to each believer—and often more than one. In various places, the Bible lists the gifts. Although believers differ on whether or not those listed are an entire list—and whether or not some are still active—the gifts are present in believers’ lives, nevertheless.

Our job is to discover them—whether through experience or by spiritual gift inventories—and then use them well to serve God and others. Had my grandfather not honed his talent, he would have lost money on the farm, and perhaps the farm itself. He anticipated more, as we should. When we use well what God gives, He often gives more.

Although the farm benefited my grandparents mainly, it also benefited those whom my grandfather hired to work it. Our gifts should do the same. Jesus says we serve Him by serving others, and He gives us our gifts to do just that.

Discover your gifts and use them well.

Prayer: Father, help us use well the gifts You have given us.

Tweetable: Are you using what God has given you? 


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Saturday, November 28, 2020

Recovering from Religion - Martin Wiles

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. Matthew 11:28 MSG

Religion had frightened me. I needed a break.

Church life is all I’ve ever known. I went before Mom ever birthed me. As a small child, I had my favorite nursery teachers, and my grandmother fed me Hershey Kisses to keep me quiet when I graduated to “big church.”

Then Dad became a pastor … and eventually I became one. I saw the pretty and the ugly side of church. As a young person, I looked at church as more ugly than pretty. I heard about the unkind things various people had said about my dad—and I witnessed numerous ugly episodes as I pastored churches. Hurtful comments—said to my face and behind my back. Devastating actions that undermined my leadership.

Finally, burnout came … or lingered around the corner if I didn’t do something. My wife felt the same. She, too, had been hurt numerous times. We decided to take a break. Not from Jesus, but from religion.

Jesus often needed a break. He went off alone to pray … to consult His Father … to rejuvenate. And He wanted little to do with the religious legalists who burdened others down with impossible and distorted rules and who tried to trap Him and destroy His ministry. Jesus taught the people more about a relationship than He did about rules.

Surveys show the number of “nones,” (those who claim no religious affiliation) are steadily increasing. Among the reasons they give for not attending church: unanswered questions about religion, social and political issues in churches, unbelief in God, dislike of religious organizations, dislike of religious leaders, and religious irrelevancy (https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/08/08/why-americas-nones-dont-identify-with-a-religion).

Burning out on religion is possible—and probably happens more than we know. Perhaps we need to change churches—or even take a temporary break from all physical churches. More than likely, though, we need a reorientation of our mindset, along with a resetting of our priorities.

Jesus never intended for “religion” to take the place of our relationship with Him. Religion is about rules, practices, liturgies, and tertiary discussions. Religion is the fluff that can clutter our lives and hide what Christ wants us to enjoy: the relationship with Him. We can burn out on religion, but we’ll never burn out on the relationship.

Don’t let religion—and the negative things often associated with it—steal your love for Christ or your desire to obey and serve Him.

Prayer: Father, remind us that a relationship with You is what Your Son died to give us.

Tweetable: Are you a recovering religion addict?


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Friday, November 27, 2020

Flashback Friday - Freedom Before God - Martin Wiles

The fate of her people depended on her decision. What would she do?

She was living in a foreign place, and now the news had spread that the king had deposed the queen. Esther’s cousin, Mordecai, was a high ranking official and privy to the palace scuttlebutt. After the king gave orders to find a new queen, she had been rounded up and taken to the king’s harem. When the day arrived for the king to choose a new queen, she was selected. Now a dastardly no good—who hated her people, had convinced the king to issue a decree allowing her people to be annihilated. Mordecai told her she was her nation’s only hope. 

As queen, Esther had the privilege of approaching the king—but not unless summoned by him. With prayer as her shield, she appeared before the king, was welcomed with his golden scepter, and delivered her people from certain death. "Though it is against the law, I will go in to see the king. If I must die, I must die" (Esther 4:16 NLT).

As God’s child—who has experienced the fullness and completeness of his forgiveness, I have the right of coming boldly before him. Esther cowered because she knew her life was at risk; I come without fear realizing I’m no longer under condemnation for my sins. Christ has taken their punishment and thereby freed me.

Unlike the king with his subjects, God gives me a continual invitation to approach him. He’s never too busy, and my situations are never too trivial. He’s concerned with all the details of my life’s journey. After all, he is the one sending me on this trek. Since I’m human and subject to failure, I need his continual guidance. 

John Kennedy, Jr.’s favorite place to hide—while his dad, John F. Kennedy, was president of the United States—was under his dad’s desk. As the PS (President’s son), he enjoyed the privilege of boldly entering the office of the most important person in the country. 

Sin, past failures, and busyness can keep me away from God, but he’d rather I enjoy the freedom of basking in his presence. 

Prayer: Merciful God, thank You for our freedom to enjoy Your presence. Encourage us to come boldly and often before Your throne of grace. 

Tweetable: Are you enjoying freedom before God? 


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Thursday, November 26, 2020

Filling the Holes - Martin Wiles

Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.” John 4:10 NLT

I filled the hole, but it continued to sink.

At the corner of the lot my family and I lived on, a rotten oak tree swayed in the breeze. Each small gust of wind brought limbs to the ground. We feared one day the entire tree would crash and perhaps hit our house. We called a tree-cutting company who cut the tree. Then we called a stump removal service and had them grind the stump.

The spot where the tree had grown was now piled high with wood chips, but soon the ground leveled … even sunk. As the underground roots deteriorated, the chips and dirt sunk. I piled more on top. Eventually, they sunk. I continued piling on chips and dirt until the deterioration process had completed. Finally, we had level ground and no hole to fill.

The woman Jesus met at the well had a hole to fill also, but not one that involved a rotten tree. She had a relationship hole—actually, a God hole. She came for literal water; Jesus offered her living water. When He told her to call her husband, she said she had none. She had had five, and now she lived with a man. She tried to fill her God hole with shallow relationships.

Every person has a God hole. Trouble is, we don’t always recognize it—or we refuse to acknowledge it. As God prompts us to fill it with Him, we either obey or try something else. Even if we fill it with His presence, we can still attempt to add other things for further satisfaction. Things such as unhealthy relationships, play toys, investments, possessions, or addictive substances. Anything to help us experience the joy we feel we’re missing.

The woman had to keep returning to the well because she consumed the literal water and used it to cook. Jesus’ water—a relationship with Him—would satisfy her perpetually.

Jesus offers that same water to everyone. The gift of Himself to quench our thirst. The gift of relationship. Knowing that He forever abides in us through His Spirit and will guide us along life’s path, providing all we need along the way.

By following God’s plan for our lives, our thirst is quenched—the hole is filled. Total obedience ushers in satisfaction.

Fill your life hole through a loving relationship with Christ.

Prayer: Father, we thank You that we don’t have to go through life trying to fill a void only You can fill.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

The Challenge of Change - Martin Wiles

Then the Lord said to Moses, “The time has come for you to die. Call Joshua and present yourselves at the Tabernacle,[a] so that I may commission him there.” Deuteronomy 31:14 NLT

She was my immediate supervisor; then, suddenly, I was hers.

I worked at a county courthouse for an unpredictable boss. One day, she called me into her office and told me to shut the door. Various thoughts ran through my mind. What had I done to make her mad? Was she about to fire me?

None of my fear materialized. “I’m going to promote you to supervisor,” she said.

“But what about _______?” I asked.

“I’ll straighten it out with her,” she said.

And she did, but not really. The woman who had once supervised me didn’t take the news so well. But because of her mild-mannered nature, she did better than most would have. Others may have walked out and quit—or treated me harshly. She didn’t. But my promotion strained our relationship.

One day, when she couldn’t take it any longer, she asked, “Did you ask for that promotion?” I assured her I hadn’t. I had been as surprised as she. After my assurance, our relationship returned to normal, and we remain friends until this day.

Change is rarely easy, convenient, or comfortable. I’m sure it wasn’t for God’s Old Testament people. Moses had led them for forty years. They were accustomed to his ways of doing things … his reactions … his mannerisms. But the time for him to die had arrived, and God appointed Joshua as the new leader. Although he had worked with Moses, he wasn’t Moses. Things would differ—at least in some respects.

If change occurs at our place of employment, and we suddenly find ourselves responsible to a new person who does things differently, our job is to be the best employee we can and to adapt with kindness and obedience. If we can’t, we should look for somewhere else to work rather than disrupt the harmony in the workplace. Our testimony for Christ is at stake.

Whether we like our new leader or not isn’t the issue. As a believer, we should treat them with kindness and love. Christ wants this from us.

And when other unwanted changes occur, we must accept them as God’s will. He controls all, and for some reason, He has brought—or at least allowed—the changes. With His guidance and strength, we can persevere through the change.

Don’t let change rattle you. Whatever the circumstances, God can help you through.

Prayer: Father, we trust You to carry us through life’s changes and to help us have the right attitude as we face them.

Tweetable: How are you facing the challenge of change? 


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Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Throwback Tuesday - Pick Your Battles - Martin Wiles

Pick Your Battles

God told Jehoshaphat; But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the LORD's victory.  II Chronicles 20:17 NLT

A preacher’s son and an earring. I wondered how they’d mesh. 

“Dad, can I get my ear pierced?” My son was small when the request came. Earrings for men and boys were stylish. I had no particular convictions about him having one other than the fact I wondered how my church members would respond. I decided to avoid the battle with my son and chance one with others who might disagree with my decision. I carted him off to the local mall, found an ear-piercing pagoda, and let them poke a hole in his ear. No one made a big deal about it—other than my parents, and life was good. Read more...

Tweetable: Are you trying to fight all your battles at once? 


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Monday, November 23, 2020

The Faith Scale - Martin Wiles

Take to heart all the words of warning I have given you today. Pass them on as a command to your children so they will obey every word of these instructions. Deuteronomy 32:46 NLT

What I had now wouldn’t do me any good.

I come from a rich genealogical faith heritage. I can’t remember an ancestor who didn’t express some level of faith: my two great-grandmothers who lived until I reached seventeen, my grandparents—most of whom lived until I was a young adult, and my parents. Though I don’t recall it, I’m sure they read Bible stories to me when I was a young lad.

When I was five or six years old, Dad gathered me and Mom to read the Bible, not a Bible story. He skipped nothing. Including the genealogical lineages. From an early age, I learned the Bible stories that Sunday school teachers would reinforce on Sunday mornings.

But until I was nine, I had borrowed my faith from parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. At that time, I decided to ask Jesus to forgive my sins and accept me as His child. He did, but my faith remained borrowed to a great degree. I believed about the Bible—and other things—only what my father and mother believed.

Not until I went to college did I own my faith. Here I discovered that not all Christians believed the same things my father did about matters the Bible isn’t clear on. I made my own studies and came to my own conclusions, rather than adopting my professors’. 

This is what Moses challenged the new generation of Israelites to do. He would soon die because of his disobedience to God while in the wilderness. As a part of his last words to them, Moses told them to pass along God’s Word to their children. Yet, the children would have to make it their own.

At the end of time, I can’t stand before God and tell Him what wonderful parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents I had. It won’t matter—and He already knows. He won’t let me into heaven because of my family’s faith heritage. I only get in because of my faith, not on the coattails of someone else.

Faith must be adopted individually, as I did at nine years of age. No one can make the decision for us. Neither do good works enter the picture. We are responsible for passing the faith heritage down through our family lines, but each one much choose for themselves whether they’ll believe. We must own it ourselves.

Is your faith yours, or does it belong to someone else?

Prayer: Father, remind us that our faith must be individually expressed in Your Son, Jesus Christ.

Tweetable: Where are you on the faith scale? 


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