Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Searcher - Martin Wiles

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Psalm 139:23 NLT
I bounced all three and watched them disappear.
Gumball machines and bouncy ball machines. Just about every store had them, and almost every child wanted something from them. The highlight of any trip to a store was asking my parents or grandparents for a coin so I could get a bouncy ball or a piece of chewing gum.
On one trip, my grandmother gave me enough money to purchase three bouncy balls. I planned to bounce all three at once and see if I could catch them. Standing in the hallway of my grandmother’s old house, I aimed all three at the floor. When they came back down to earth, they scattered in all direction, never to be seen again. My grandmother and I searched the house for weeks. We looked under beds, in closets, in drawers. Anywhere a stray ball might attempt to hide. But our search was fruitless. 
The psalmist appealed to a better searcher than I was: God. Although God knew where my balls were, I didn’t figure He cared, so I never prayed and asked Him to show me. I imagined He was concerned with more important things—things such as the psalmist talks about. Things like searching my heart. Or searching for the cause of my spiritual anxiety.
God is the master searcher. The hound of heaven. And I’m glad He is. Had He not searched my heart and searched for me, I would never have known I was a sinner who needed His saving grace. His conviction—searching, clued me in so I could confess and repent.
God also searches for other reasons. Without His searching, I might never know what is causing my anger, frustration, depression, and disappointment. Perhaps it’s a sin issue. God’s Word searches my heart as I read it. Perhaps my anger is erupting from an unforgiving spirit. God’s Spirit can reveal that to me. If my spiritual life is off track, God can search my heart and show me. When the events of life have made me anxious, God searches and comforts. There is absolutely nothing beyond the searchlight of God’s Spirit. Though my search was fruitless, His never is.
Don’t live with denial, anger, uncertainty, or anxiety. Let God search your heart and reveal how healing can take place. He will give you wisdom for every decision.

Prayer: Father, search our hearts and reveal any issues we need to let You heal. 

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Friday, February 16, 2018

Flashback Friday - Coming to Grips with the Workplace - Martin Wiles

Coming to Grips with the Workplace

I was crawling under houses where busted sewage lines, crawling snakes, dangling spiders, and choking dust loved to hang out. I hated every day the alarm clock screamed because I knew I had to go where I desperately despised. After six months, I walked out. But not everyone can.

Australian National University researchers claim having a hated job is as bad for one’s health as having no job. The rates of anxiety and depression are identical (dublinnews.com). Read more...

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Thursday, February 15, 2018

Life’s Best Choices - Martin Wiles

Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Psalm 37:3 NLT
If I made the wrong choice, I’d have to fast the remainder of the day.
My wife and I recently began the Weight Watchers eating plan. I’ve never tried it before, but it’s a diet I can live with. The diet gives me the choice of eating anything I want. All foods are assigned a certain number of points, and I’m assigned a certain point limit based on my height and weight.
Eating whatever I want appeals to me. But the kicker is that my choices have consequences. If I choose to visit a fast food restaurant for lunch and supersize my meal, I’ll likely not enjoy the rest of my day. I may even have to fast. On the other hand, if I spread my points out evenly during the day, I can enjoy eating many things I enjoy without going over my limit. I’ll even have enough left over to enjoy a bedtime snack.
So far, the diet is working. I’m enjoying eating—something I haven’t done on other diets, and I’m losing weight.
The psalmist also gives me a choice. Actually two. Trust God and do good. If I do, good consequences will follow. I’ll prosper spiritually—and perhaps in others ways too.
The two imperatives from the writer are similar to the two greatest commands Jesus proffered: love God with your heart, soul, and mind, and love others as yourself. Making these two choices may appear easy on the surface, but they are difficult to put into practice because of my two-sided nature.
I was born with a sinful nature. When I trusted Christ, He gave me a new nature. Even though I have a new nature, I still remember how life was when I lived it by the fleshly nature. Now I have a battle raging, which makes making the best choices in life challenging. If I feed the fleshly nature, I’ll make poor—perhaps sinful, choices. If I feed the new nature, I’ll make the best choices. The choice is mine.
But life doesn’t have to be a losing battle. When we feed our new nature with spiritual activities, when we walk by faith, and when we trust Christ for the strength to do both, we’ll come out on the winning end.
Don’t lead a defeated life because of poor choices. Let God lead you to make the best choices.

Prayer: Father, thank You for giving us the ability to make the best choices in life—choices that will lead us closer to You and closer to others. 

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Envy Bug - Martin Wiles

Don’t worry about the wicked or envy those who do wrong. Psalm 37:1 NLT
As I listened to their list of accolades and heard about their accomplishments, I felt the envy bug creep up my back.
I was attending my first writer’s conference. For a beginning writer, I was impressed with my short list of accomplishments. Two self-published books, a few published devotions, and a few published poems. But nothing that anyone paid me for. And I had a website—not long off the press, with a moderate amount of daily visitors.
My pride in my accomplishments didn’t last long. Other writers and authors who had much longer lists took the stage. Multiple books published by traditional publishers with mega sales. Authors who made a living by writing short stories and devotions. Writers who had websites that hosted thousands of followers. I felt the envy bug make its way to my shoulder and proudly sit.  
Then one of the hosts of the conference asked a question that humbled me and sent the envy bug scampering: “Suppose none of your writings ever appeared in print, would you still write?” The question caused me to examine my motives for writing. Was I doing this for me . . . or for God? This conference was supposed to help me hone my writing skills but also to remind me who I was writing for. I had not called myself to the position of a writer; God had.
Several years later, my list of accolades is much longer, but the envy bug rarely sits on my shoulder anymore. Serving as an assistant editor for two major websites allows me to help other writers who are beginning their journeys. Doing so also reminds me this journey as a writer is not about me but about the One I serve and write for.
The psalmist warns about envying those who do wrong. While I wasn’t doing that, I was envying—and envying in any form is wickedness.
God has a unique plan for every individual. For some that might mean possessions, power, and popularity. For others, it could mean obscurity with a limited amount of influence. Either way, it’s my job to find God’s niche and be content where He places me. After all, what I do I should do for His glory—not my own.
Don’t let the envy bug creep up your back. Remember to do everything for the glory of God.

Prayer: Father, May our motive for everything we do be to honor the name of the One who gave His life for us. 

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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Throwback Tuesday - Never Beyond Grace - Martin Wiles

Never Beyond Grace

"I sinned with a high hand,” he said. 

Though nurtured by a Christian mother during his early years, John Newton followed in his father’s image after his mother died of tuberculosis. He lost his first job with the merchant navy because of "unsettled behavior and impatience of restraint." After deserting the Royal Navy, he was captured, placed in irons, and flogged.

Following his release, he took up employment with a slave-trader named Clow but was eventually transferred to the service of a Liverpool ship. During the ship’s homeward journey, Newton experienced God’s grace while in the midst of an enormous storm. He wasn’t beyond God’s grace after all, and he celebrated by penning the well-known song, “Amazing Grace.” Read more...

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Monday, February 12, 2018

Praise . . . Regardless - Martin Wiles

For this, O Lord, I will praise you among the nations; I will sing praises to your name. Psalm 18:49 NLT
Her instructions to the piano instructor were clear: teach regular piano lessons for fifteen minutes and teach hymns for the remainder of the time.
Mom was a member of a small United Methodist Church nestled on a country road. The only person who could play the piano could really not play well at all. So my grandmother decided to do something about it. She took the money she made from selling fish she caught and paid for Mom to take piano lessons so she could play at church as soon as possible. Her plan worked, and at nine years of age Mom began playing the piano in church.
That was sixty-seven years ago, and Mom still plays. Yet things didn’t work out exactly the way she planned. She had dreams of becoming a concert pianist—and probably could have been. But Dad came along, stole her heart, and married her just before being shipped overseas by the Army.
Shortly after his enlistment was over, Dad accepted the call into full-time Christian ministry. And Mom? She became the pianist and/or music leader for every church he pastored until he retired. She never made the stage she hoped for, but she praised God with her hands and mouth for all of those years—and still does when she has the opportunity.
The psalmist King David did too. In his early years, he praised God with a harp. He even danced before the Lord on one occasion. He praised God often by writing psalms, as well with his mouth. God had delivered him from many enemies during his lifetime, and he didn’t mind letting others know about it.
The apostle Paul said he had learned to be content in all circumstances. Thus, he could praise God in all situations. It’s a hard lesson to learn, but one God wants us to master. We can praise God for salvation. He forgives all of our sins. We can praise Him for the hope of eternal life. There, all the things we don’t like here will be missing. We can praise Him for His promise to work all things together for our good. All things won’t be good, but He’ll sustain us and work them for our good.
The list of things to praise God for is endless. Pick a few each day, and praise Him . . . regardless.

Prayer: Father, we praise You for who You are and for who we can be through Christ. 

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Saturday, February 10, 2018

Accused - Martin Wiles

You gave me victory over my accusers. Psalm 18:43 NLT
I walked into his territory and was immediately accused.
My high school parking lot was sectioned off into unmarked regions: those for the popular kids and those for the nerds. I parked in the unpopular section. But I had made a new friend who was popular. He took me where all the cool guys and pretty girls hung out. I was excited, until one of the popular guys walked up to me and said, “You’re going to wash my car.”
When I asked why, he proceeded with his accusations. Supposedly, I had been driving in front of him and had thrown out an open container that decorated his fancy car. I denied the charges, but he maintained his accusation and threatened to “put out my lights.” I wasn’t up for a fight I’d surely lose—and I wasn’t a great fan of pain either, but neither was I going to clean his car for something I didn’t do.
I could almost feel the pain of the first punch when my friend stepped in between us. He was short but stocky and tough as nails. “You gonna have to go through me to get to him,” he said with a grin on his face. And he meant it. And the bully knew he meant it. He didn’t mind taking down someone he was sure to beat up, but he wasn’t up for a fight he might lose. He walked away—and so did I, with my friend.
Why the psalmist was falsely accused, we’re not told. He wasn’t worried though. God would give him victory over his accusers as He did me.
According to the apostle John, there is someone who stands before God day and night and falsely accuses Christians (Revelation 12:10). His name is Satan. His list of accusations is surely lengthy, but all the accusations are false. Can’t you hear him say, “God, he doesn’t really love you. If You weren’t so good to him, he’d turn his back on You?”
The good news is that Satan’s accusations—and the accusations of other humans who serve as his agents, fall on deaf ears. Christ is our defense attorney who turns every accusation around. In Christ, we are safe, our sins are forgiven, and our eternity is secure. No accusation will ever stand.
When others falsely accuse you, remember God will give you victory.

Prayer: Father, thank You for keeping us safe from all false accusations others and our enemy may make against us. 

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