Monday, October 19, 2020

Leave a Trace - Martin Wiles

You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Matthew 5:13 NLT

Not a trace. That’s what I wanted.

In the backpacking world, we have a saying: Leave No Trace. The saying concerns litter and consideration. I’ve visited campsites where trash abounds. Even somewhere the previous inhabitants didn’t have the courtesy to bury what they left behind from their bodies—or the toilet paper they used when they left it.

Back to litter. Before erecting a tent, I place a tarp on the ground and lie on it. This is where I’ll sleep, so I want to ensure no roots or rocks will interrupt my night’s sleep. Sometimes, I have to clear away leaves to see those intruders. Once I’ve cleared the way, I erect the tent.

But when I pack up and leave, I don’t want anyone to know I’ve been there. Maybe I need to sweep the footprints away or scuff up the place where my tent rested. At the most, I should carry everything with me that I brought, leaving no litter on the ground or even in the fire circle.

God’s not a proponent of leaving no trace. In fact, if we don’t we’ve failed. Jesus said we are salt. Salt leaves something behind. It can leave death, but Jesus has in mind a better taste.

Some have to endure a salt-free diet, but I love what salt does to food, especially if it’s added while the cooking takes place. Salt enhances and adds to. It makes food taste better.

Salt is the trace Jesus wants us to leave behind. He wants others’ lives to be better because we interacted with them, because we befriended them, because we helped them, because we told them what He can do for them. He wants our world to be a little better because we lived here for the years He let us exist.

How we salt is as unique as every individual, but God gives each of us the ability to salt our little worlds and our big world. We can leave behind a better taste so that others we know—as well as those who come after us—will benefit from our existence.

How can you leave a trace that will salt your world?

Prayer: Father, help us leave traces of Your love behind.

Tweetable: What traces are you leaving behind? 

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Saturday, October 17, 2020

The Other Side Exists - Martin Wiles

One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” Luke 8:22 NLT

We saw the other side, but feared getting there.

My daughter and I were on a five-day hike on the Foothills Trail of South Carolina when we encountered Horsepasture River. We didn’t plan on turning back, but we feared what lay ahead: the very long suspension bridge.

I knew thousands had crossed it before. Surely, it was stable, though swingy. If it collapsed, I’d be in trouble. I couldn’t swim without a fifty-pound pack, much less with one. And though my daughter could swim, she would drown with thirty-five pounds on her back. And she sure would not be able to save dear old Dad.

What we could see beyond the river didn’t entice us either. Hundreds of steps ascending the next mountain—and across them a large pine tree that had recently fallen. Not only would we have to walk a swinging bridge, but we would also have to shinny over a tree larger than both of us put together.

Since I’m writing this, you know we made it. We didn’t drown, nor did we fall from the tree down the side of the mountain. The other side existed, and we made it there.

Jesus’ disciples knew the other side of the lake existed. No doubt, they’d visited before. So when Jesus suggested they cross over, they hopped aboard and headed for the next shore. Jesus napped, and while He did a fierce storm arose. Fearing the storm would swamp the boat and drown them, they woke Jesus. Although He calmed the storm, they still feared they wouldn’t reach the other side.

Strange. If the Son of God who controls nature—as they discovered—rode on board with them, and He had said they were going to the other side, why did they ever doubt they’d make it?

Trials … life storms … have a way of distorting our perception. They bring fear, doubt, worry, all of which can cloud our vision and keep us from believing the other side even exists anymore. When Jesus stilled the storm, the disciples’ perspective returned. Perhaps for the first time, they truly believed nothing was beyond His control.

I’ve learned the same through storms, but I tend to forget. So God keeps sending storms to remind me the other side exists and that He will take me there—regardless of the nature of the trip.

No matter your storm, God will carry you to the other side.

Prayer: Father, we thank You that You’ve already been to the other side and have the fortitude to get us there too.

Tweetable: Are you confident in the other side?

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Friday, October 16, 2020

Flashback Friday - Tangled Up - Martin Wiles

Tangled Up

Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. Hebrews 12:1 NLT

My line was tangled. Would the entire trip be ruined?

When I was a pre-teen, fishing with my grandmother on the Santee River was a favorite pastime. Neither of us could swim a lick, and our lifejackets consisted of no more than multicolored cushions with straps attached. My grandmother was a cane pole fisher. Fishing in the nooks and along the tree infested banks made tangled lines a common occurrence. She had a cure, however, that often prevented us from having to cut our lines: an empty food can with both ends removed. She would slide the can over the pole and let it meander to the end of the line. How this loosened the hook, I never understood, but it usually did. Read more...

Tweetable: Are you tangled up? 

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Thursday, October 15, 2020

When God Seems Asleep - Martin Wiles

Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” Mark 4:38 NLT

He was asleep; I was his boss.

After a short layoff, the mill called me back as a floor sweeper on third shift in the cloth room. When a chance for a supervisory position opened, I applied and got the job. The superintendent hired Derek to replace me.

The floor sweeper job was simple, but Derek didn’t enjoy sweeping. He did, however, enjoy sleeping.

As I made my nightly rounds to make sure everything and everyone was okay, I found Derek sleeping in various places. Once, I discovered him rolled up in a small roll of second’s cloth. I warned him. Another time, I found him asleep at the inspectors’ desk. I gave him a final warning, “One more time and I’ll send you home.”

His final time came soon thereafter. As I made my rounds, I saw Derek asleep … again … at the inspectors’ desk. I sent him home. The superintendent fired him. Derek didn’t seem to care about the cloth falling all around him. He just wanted to sleep.

To the disciples, Jesus seemed unconcerned too. All day, Jesus had taught about God’s Kingdom by telling stories to a huge crowd of people. He suggested to His disciples that they cross the lake and leave the crowds. Tired from the day, Jesus did what tired people do: slept. Only He slept while the disciples battled a storm that threatened to sink the boat.

Like Derek, Jesus didn’t seem to care about what was happening around Him. The disciples awoke Him, and He calmed the storm. What appeared as a big deal, wasn’t.

I’ve also endured situations where it didn’t appear God cared what happened to me—as if He was asleep in heaven while I struggled on earth.

When I face those experiences, I go to God’s Word, and I remember past experiences. Whether I’m awake or asleep, God remains awake. The great Father of heaven never sleeps or slumbers. Even when we can’t see His hand at work in our situations, He is working—and always for our good, never our detriment.

Not only does God govern our lives, but He also governs the world. All things are under His control. In the theological world, we call this His omnipotence and His omnipresence.

When God appears unconcerned about your life situations, remember He never is.

Prayer: Father, thank You for never sleeping or ignoring our life’s struggles.

Tweetable: Does it appear as if God has gone to sleep on you? 

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Wednesday, October 14, 2020

The Making of a Little Me - Martin Wiles

Train up a child in the way he should go [teaching him to seek God’s wisdom and will for his abilities and talents], Even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6 AMP

I never knew what plans Dad had for me—he never said—but he never asked me to be him.

Dad pastored churches for a living, starting when I was six years old. I vaguely remember him driving an ice cream truck and working at a Western Auto store prior to that. Once Dad entered the ministry, he found his calling. But this wasn’t a family tradition. As far as I know, no one in our family preached for a living. And though a godly man, I’m sure my grandfather never encouraged Dad to preach. He, after all, was an ice cream man too.

My grandfather posed more like a father to me than a grandfather, but he never said I should preach. Or drive an ice cream truck. In fact, when I told him I’d like to drive an ice cream truck, he encouraged me to find something better to do. The work was hard … and paid little.

Nor did Dad encourage me to preach. At twelve, I felt God calling me to do so, but I ignored the prompting until I was in my late twenties. When I walked into Dad’s office and told him, a look of surprise crossed his face. I don’t think he ever expected me to be a preacher. By that time, he had discovered how difficult that profession can be. Despite his misgivings, he pointed me in the right direction and thereby fulfilled the meaning of the verse.

I’ve had more than one discussion about the meaning of this verse. While a number of verses in the Bible remind parents of their responsibility to teach God’s principles to their children, this one doesn’t—although many have used it as a proof text. The Amplified Version clears up the matter.

The training in this case has little to do with teaching God’s principles to our children and more to do with helping our children discover and develop their God-given talents and abilities. Instead of forging the path we want our children to travel, we should pay attention to how God has bent them and help them obey His path. After all, they belong to Him, not us.

Our greatest accomplishment in life involves helping our children fulfill God’s plan for their lives, regardless of what our personal preferences might be.

Pay attention and see what God shows you about your children.

Prayer: Father, thank You for the privilege of guiding our children along Your paths.

Tweetable: Whom are you helping to make?

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Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Throwback Tuesday - God—The Great Recycler - Martin Wiles

God—The Great Recycler

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:28 NLT

What some things once were, they no longer are the second…or even third, time around. You might say it’s reincarnation of a different variety.

I’ve never been a “green” person until recently. I’d never lived anywhere where the recycling truck made weekly rounds nor did I care to spend time separating recyclable from unrecyclable items. Recycling centers were existence…not just in close proximity, making it necessary for me to burn gas to be green. When we moved to our present location, my wife and I decided to begin recycling. Amazingly, half of our weekly trash was eliminated and tossed into the pile that would eventually become something else—saving our environment in the process. Read more...

Tweetable: Has God recycled something in your life?

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Monday, October 12, 2020

Life’s Ups and Downs - Martin Wiles

And a voice from heaven said, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy.” The Spirit then compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness. Mark 1:11-12 NLT

His life was a series of ups and downs.

Saul boasted of a rich genealogical heritage, but those who bullied him cared less about his heritage. At times, Saul lived freely and enjoyed his life, until some falsely accused him and had him placed in jail. And his jail stint didn’t involve three hots and a cot but a chain that kept him shackled to a guard.

Saul seemed to have everything together in life, but that was before a life-changing experience changed things. He loved to bully those who clung to a religion he disagreed with, but after God convinced him of his error he found himself bullied.

Saul enjoyed sailing the open seas, but one time the experience differed. A storm battered the ship, sunk it, and left him on a strange island. He rejoiced that his life had been spared, but didn’t enjoy the snakebite he got when he tried to start a fire.

Saul’s up and down rollercoaster of a life ended in a jail cell where the ruler of the land eventually beheaded him. But Saul was just crazy enough to think that leaving the body would mean entering heaven.

Jesus knew a little about ups and downs, too. John the Baptist baptized Him, and that act began Jesus’ earthly ministry. But a down in the wilderness where Satan tempted Him for forty days and nights followed. And not too long thereafter, John—Jesus’ cousin—felt the same blade Saul had. Several years later, Jesus felt the spikes as His accusers nailed Him to a cross.

I can identify … at least in part … with Saul and Jesus. I’ve enjoyed ups and downs, although the downs have seemed more numerous. I’ve also discovered questioning the downs proves pointless. God may give me an answer, but most of the time His answer is merely, “Trust.”

Life’s downs comprise a part of God’s plan for us. Rather than try to understand them, we do better by praying for strength and submitting to that part of God’s plan. When we don’t try to manipulate our circumstances, God teaches us valuable lessons and grows us spiritually. He forms us more into the image of His Son, which is His great purpose for all believers.

Don’t let life’s downs get you down. Look up to the One who provides the strength to get you through all your downs.

Prayer: Father, we entrust our downs to You, knowing You will carry us through to the ups.

Tweetable: How do you handle life's ups and downs?

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