Monday, February 26, 2024

Angry at Grace - Martin Wiles

Angry at grace
The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him. Luke 15:28 NLT


Michael was angry at grace and God. 

But he hadn’t always been. He once loved going to church. Not that he had a choice. His parents made sure he was there every time the doors opened. At a young age, he accepted Christ as his Savior.

Somewhere along the line, however, Michael became an angry teenager. His walk away from Christ began with tobacco and led into alcohol abuse. Vandalism followed. He lashed out against churches, cracked open vehicles, and went on a string of destructive ventures. He was never apprehended by the police. Just too sly, I suppose. 
 
By the time Michael turned twenty-two, he’d calmed down a bit. All that remained of his prodigal childhood was the smoking. For some unknown reason, the convicting voice of God’s Spirit finally penetrated his hard shell. He listened, gave up his one final bad habit, and recommitted his life to God. 
 
God has used Michael’s ever since. God saved him twice: once from sin, and once from his sinful practices.

Some might get angry at God for forgiving and using Michael. He does, after all, have a sordid past and a bunch of baggage. The older brother in Jesus’ story probably would be one who’d object to God’s grace. He didn’t appreciate the fact that his father forgave his straying brother and welcomed him back home as if nothing had happened. Had he forgotten his son had requested his inheritance early and then blown it on wicked living? When his father asked him to join the “Welcome Home” party, he said, “No thanks!”

I’ll admit there have been times when I’ve thought God’s grace was unfair. Actually, it’s unfair all the time if we think about it. Were He fair, we’d all get what we deserved: unforgiveness and an eternity in a hot place. But He’s willing to forgive and forget all our sins if we only ask. 

And who am I to question His grace. After all, He’s God, He makes the rules, and He can love and forgive if He wants to. My job is to be more—rather than less—like Him. 

Don’t let God’s grace disturb you. Repentance unlocks the door to forgiveness—regardless of what a person has done. Things much worse than the prodigal and Michael ever thought about. 

Father, thank You for Your grace that covers all our sins. 

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Saturday, February 24, 2024

Broccoli Salad

 



Ingredients
2 MEDIUM STALKS BROCCOLI

½ CUP RAISINS

1/3 CUP REAL BACON BITS

2/3 CUP MAYONNAISE

2 TABLESPOONS SUGAR

2 TABLESPOONS PURPLE ONIONS (CHOPPED)

1 CUP SHREDDED CHEESE

2 TABLESPOONS VINEGAR


Directions
CHOP BROCCOLI INTO SMALL PIECES.

ADD RAISINS, BACON, ONIONS, AND CHEESE. SET ASIDE.

IN SEPARATE BOWL, MIX MAYONNAISE, SUGAR, VINEGAR, AND SALT/PEPPER.
 
MIX WELL AND COAT BROCCOLI MIXTURE.

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Friday, February 23, 2024

Reach for the Light - Martin Wiles

reach for the light
They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right. Romans 2:15 NLT

“Every year, this random flower comes up.”

An early morning Snap and a picture arrived on my phone from my daughter. Like the flower, our conversations are sometimes random as well. Not that we don’t communicate regularly, but what we communicate about and how long we communicate suits her generation’s style of talking.

“It’s a hyacinth and a bulb flower,” I responded.

“But I pulled it up two years ago before landscaping my yard, and I put a grass barrier down over the area.”

I told her she obviously didn’t get the bulb. “God designed it to reach for the light, and that’s what it’s doing.”

I got the traditional hand-over-the-face meme when I told her this would make a good writing topic. But she got the point.

My wife and I have had flowers do the same thing. We once decided to plant Mexican petunias, not knowing they were considered invasive—that is, they spread like crazy. We worked for months and even years to eliminate them when we decided we didn’t want them anymore. But each spring, some magically appeared again. They were reaching for the light—doing what God designed them to do.

Romans is Paul’s theological dissertation, and in this section, he demonstrates how all people—even those God had not communicated with through the law—still knew what the law was and were responsible to Him. God might not have given them a written law as He did the Jewish people, but He placed the knowledge of right and wrong in their minds. They instinctively knew the difference.

Everyone reaches for the Light. The problem comes in knowing what light we’re reaching for and how we’re supposed to reach the light. Without knowing God’s commands and principles, we’ll always reach in the wrong direction. If a seed or bulb sprouts and goes downward, it will never see the light of day—or grow and do what God designed for it to do.

Left to ourselves, we seek the Light in evil and twisted ways. We pervert relationships, sex, technology, jobs, communities, cities, and the entire world. God created good in us, but when we intermingle it with our sinful nature, we reach for the Light in corrupted ways.

The instinctive thing God wants us to know is that we reach Him, the Light, only by repentance and faith. Once we’ve done that, we can grow, bloom, and produce fruit in healthy and beneficial ways that make the world better.

When my daughter sent me the Snap of the flower, it was in full bloom. My wife and I have grown them before. The bloom doesn’t last long—like most spring bulb plants. But our bloom . . . well, that’s another story. Reaching the Light correctly sets us up to bloom our entire lifetime.

Think of some ways you can bloom for the Light.

Father, help me to bloom brightly for You. 

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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Baptized into Christ - Martin Wiles

baptized into Christ
Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? Romans 6:3 NLT

I enjoyed mine the first time, but the second go-round was traumatic.

Dad was a Methodist minister when I received Christ as my Savior. In their tradition, sprinkling was the form of baptism used. Since I had once almost drowned in a friend’s swimming pool, I was okay with sprinkling. A little water on the head wouldn’t cause a panic.

Then, fast forward six years. Dad switched back to his roots—Baptist. They required baptism by immersion. The fact that I’d already been baptized didn’t matter. Dunking was the only correct way. Since I had no choice, the date was set. I reminded dear old dad how afraid I was of water: “Make it quick.” And he did. In fact, the bangs of my hair didn’t make the baptism. When my face sliced the water, he raised me back up. 

Only later in life did I understand what Paul taught about baptism. The act involved more than just getting wet—whatever way a particular church wet a person. Baptism meant I was somehow joined to Christ—even into His death. And the effects of it should last longer than the time it took to perform the act itself.

Regardless of the mode used, baptism symbolizes to us and others that we’ve decided to connect with Christ. He’s forgiven our sins, and we’ve promised to follow His commands. Going under the water—by whatever means—demonstrates we’ve decided to die to the old way of living by the dictates of the old sinful nature.

But this one-time act should have life-altering effects. What the ceremony symbolizes transforms our l lives from that point forward. When we’re baptized into Jesus’ death, we become partakers in what His death accomplished—the forgiveness of sins. As we grow in Christ, sinning should be the abnormal rather than the normal. By partaking in spiritual disciplines and allowing Christ to teach us what being a disciple entails, we learn to live above sinful practices. While sinless perfection isn’t possible, sinning less as we grow in Christ is.

Grace is not a license to sin but the freedom to live above the enslaving effects of sin. Are you living this way?

Father, guide my life journey toward godliness rather than sinfulness. 

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Monday, February 19, 2024

Leaving an Inheritance - Martin Wiles

leaving an inheritance
Good people leave an inheritance to their grandchildren. Proverbs 13:22 NLT

Leaving an inheritance has meant very little in my family—at least where it concerns money.

My maternal grandparents were the only ones in my family who accumulated a tidy sum of money. But even what they had wouldn’t be considered much by today’s standards. Yet, in the eyes of a fifteen-year-old, it was. When my grandfather died, we discovered he had a nice chunk in savings and his checking account. However, I doubt my grandmother ever knew. He didn’t allow her to touch the money, pay the bills, or make financial decisions.

Though quite thrifty in life, my grandfather was a little more generous in death. In his will, he delegated a nice little sum to each of his grandchildren. It wouldn’t seem like much now, but it was a gold mine to this teenager. I forget what I did with mine, but I do remember my spendthrift parents made sure I used it wisely.

But money wasn't all my grandfather left me. He also left me many good memories of a simple life around the farm. I don't remember him showing me affection or telling me he loved me. Nor do I remember him speaking words of encouragement or sharing wisdom for the future. But I did have his unspoken example. 

On the other hand, my paternal grandparents left me something different—although it did not come as a monetary inheritance. From them, I received bunches of hugs, hundreds of I-love-you’s, time together, financial help when I struggled, and many words of wisdom for the future. What they left served me better than a sum of money.

At the moment—and as far as I know, no change is in the cards—I won’t leave my grandchildren money either. As my paternal grandparents did for me, I will leave my grandboys the example of a meager financial lifestyle.

But that’s okay. My grandparents taught me money can’t buy everything and that some things are more important than money. Such as spending time with my grandchildren around the table eating a meal, sitting in my recliner reading Bible stories to them, sitting at a table doing handiwork that teaches how God created the world, or taking them to church.

I’m not “spending my grandchildren’s inheritance.” Instead, I’m leaving my spiritual heritage intact for them. Hopefully, they’ll pass it on to theirs.

What are you leaving for your posterity?

Father, may I leave for posterity what can never be spent. 

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Saturday, February 17, 2024

Broccoli Casserole

 


Ingredients
3 CUPS LIGHTLY STEAMED BROCCOLI

1 CUP MILK

1 STICK BUTTER (MELTED)

1 SLEEVE RITZ CRACKERS

2 CUPS SHREDDED CHEDDAR CHEESE
         
½ CUP MAYONNAISE

1 CAN CREAM OF CHICKEN SOUP
      
2 EGGS (BEATEN)

SALT/PEPPER

Directions
MIX BUTTER AND CRUSHED CRACKERS TOGETHER.

 SPRAY CASSEROLE DISH.

PLACE ONE-HALF OF THE CRACKERS ON THE BOTTOM OF THE DISH.

MIX SOUP, MAYONNAISE, EGGS, MILK, AND SALT/PEPPER TOGETHER.

LAYER BROCCOLI OVER CRACKERS, SOUP MIXTURE, AND CRACKERS.

TOP WITH CHEESE.

BAKE AT 350  DEGREES FOR 30 MINUTES OR UNTIL BROWN.

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Friday, February 16, 2024

When the Unimportant Becomes Too Important - Martin Wiles

when the unimportant becomes too important
But all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things, so no fruit is produced. Mark 4:19 NLT

Sometimes, the unimportant becomes too important.

Marcin Muchalski was taking a morning stroll along the Williamsburg Bridge when a mugger surprised him, took out a gun, and requested his cell phone. Thinking the robber would not shoot him in the middle of the Williamsburg Bridge at seven in the morning, Muchalski dared the robber to pry the gun off his cold, dead hands. The robber obliged by shooting Muchalski in the leg. Instead of handing over the phone, Muchalski limped away as fast as he could with phone in hand. The robber, who had more sense than Muchalski, decided not to chase the man. The phone wasn’t worth a murder charge.

Or take Marie Murphy, a New Jersey teacher who got a call saying her house was on fire. She rushed home, not fearing anyone was in danger. She knew her husband--and her mother, who had been staying with them--was not in the blazing house. So what drove Murphy to run into a blazing house and risk her life? Baseball tickets. More specifically, her season tickets to see the Phillies.

She ignored all her other possessions—even the certificate of fire insurance—to save her tickets. Luckily, she made it out before everything else—the house included—went up in flames. Although she and her husband had to live in a motel for a while after the fire, they were able to settle with the insurance company. Murphy was also surprised at school one day when a Phillies fanatic tossed a bunch of Phillies merchandise to her, including a framed World Series ticket. Perhaps around this time, she thought about how foolish her actions had been, especially when she learned the Phillies would have reprinted her tickets because they burned in a fire.

And then there was Guita Sazan Silverstein. She left her two-year-old son in her car on a hot summer day while shopping. When she returned to her car, she discovered she had locked herself out. With temperatures in the upper 80’s, her child was at risk of heat stroke. She called for help. When the firefighters arrived, they told her they would need to break one of her car windows. Silverstein told them no. After all, the car was an Audi.

Silverstein came up with a compromise. She would drive more than a mile to her home and retrieve her spare keys—even though her son had already been in the car for twenty minutes. After borrowing a car to drive home, firefighters broke the window anyway and rescued the child—who by this time was unresponsive but luckily revivable. When the mother returned, authorities arrested her for reckless endangerment and risk of injury to a minor (source).

I’ve never made the same mistakes as Marcin, Marie, or Guita, but I have made more than my share of other poor choices. And I have let the not-so-important become important on more occasions than I care to mention.

Jesus tells the story of a farmer scattering seeds. The seed fell on various types of soil, some infested with thorns. As the seed sprouted and grew, the thorns choked out the plants. According to Jesus, this represents those who let the worries of life, the deceitfulness of wealth, and the desire for things distract them. Those who hold too tightly to a cell phone. Those who rush into a burning home for sporting tickets. Or those who let a shopping excursion put a child in danger.

A regular diet of God’s Word reminds us what the thorns of unimportance are. Prayer for strength we don’t have helps us distinguish between the unimportant and the important.

Father, give me wisdom to know the difference between the unimportant and the important.

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