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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Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Dieting for God - Martin Wiles

dieting for God
And when you fast, don’t make it obvious as the hypocrites do. Matthew 6:16 NLT

I once fasted, but not from food.

I suddenly found myself saddled with two car payments. Knowing I couldn’t afford both, I had a decision to make. One of the vehicles would have to go. One was a new Chevrolet Tracker I had just purchased. The other was a used Chevrolet S-10 pickup. The solution came not in selling one but in drawing out my retirement so I could pay one of them off. I chose the Tracker and then gave it to my daughter, who was about to leave for college.

The decision to give up the Tracker was difficult. I planned to use it on my monthly hiking escapades in the mountains. Love, however, led me to give it up for a higher purpose.

Fasting requires letting go. Often, food is in question. It was when Jesus addressed the religious hypocrites who thought they did such an excellent job at it. Like most of what they did, they did this with ulterior motives. They wanted others to notice them.

Dieting from food for a time or certain foods has never been my forte, but God has shown me a few other things I need to take a break from. Sin is one. Instead of seeing how close I can come to sin without sinning, I need to stay as far away from it as possible. God has given us a new nature, and we must avoid the “old person” with a passion. Christian baptism symbolizes our intention to die to the old way of living, walking instead in obedience to Christ’s commands.

When I choose to go on a diet for God, it should also be because I want to draw closer to Him. Good and not-so-good attractions that attempt to distract us from God fill this world. Giving up whatever prevents us from clinging close to His side is always a good diet.

Dieting for God is an individual choice. God won’t force us to diet for Him. We must voluntarily let go of those things that keep us from a closer walk with him. What can you let go of that will move you closer to God?

Father, take away those things that prevent me from being all You want me to be. 

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Monday, February 12, 2024

Choosing the Right Weapons - Martin Wiles

choosing the right weapons
“I can’t go in these,” he protested to Saul. “I’m not used to them.” So David took them off again. He picked up five smooth stones from a stream and put them into his shepherd’s bag. 1 Samuel 17:39-40 NLT

Choosing the right weapons can make the difference between a victory and a loss.

Hunting squirrels was the first type of hunting my father taught me. While some hunted them with .22 rifles, we chose shotguns. We left before daylight, strolled through the woods with our flashlights—shining the beams up into the trees to look for nests—and then picked a tree to sit beneath and wait.

The barking began just before the first rays of light penetrated the hardwood forests. As soon as we saw the shapes of the trees against the intruding light, the squirrels began scampering from their nests. We were there to welcome them with lead. Had we chosen bows and arrows, I doubt we would have bagged much, if any, game.

Young shepherd boy David was successful for the same reason. While the Israelite army cowered in fear before the Philistine giant Goliath, Dave said, “Let me at him.” He was too small for the king’s armor. Instead, he chose five smooth stones. All he needed was one.

We fight a spiritual battle with Satan and his army of demons. God tells us to put on the whole armor of God so we’ll be prepared. He also assures us no battle will be more intense than we can handle with the help of his Spirit’s power in us. We are already more than conquerors through Jesus Christ our Lord.

David chose smooth stones. Perhaps he took five in case he needed the others for more Philistines or in case he needed more than one to do Goliath in. As believers, the stones we should choose include confidence, righteous anger, courage, and a firm handle on the truth.

We fight with confidence because God is on our side, and greater is he who is in us than he who is in the world. We won’t even see the need to fight the battles if we neglect righteous indignation over sin. We march forward with courage, for the battle is the Lord’s. We also step into battle with truth because it is truth that sets us free.

What stones have you chosen to fight your battles with?

Father, I ask for the right weapons so that I might be victorious in my spiritual battles. 

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Saturday, February 10, 2024

Baked Chicken Spaghetti

 

Baked Chicken Spaghetti

Ingredients
1 CAN MUSHROOM SOUP
                           
1 CAN MUSHROOMS

1 CAN BLACK OLIVES (DRAINED)

1 ONION (CHOPPED)

2 CUPS SHREDDED MOZERELLA

1 BELL PEPPER (CHOPPED)

1 CUP SHREDDED PARMESAN
      
1 JAR RAGU (GARDEN)

12 OUNCES SPAGHETTI (COOKED, DRAINED)
    
1 TEASPOON OREGANO

       1 BOX TYSON (DICED CHICKEN)
           
1 CAN TOMATOES

         1 TEASPOON BUTTER           

1 CAN ROTEL

Directions

SAUTE CHICKEN, ONION, PEPPER, BUTTER, OREGANO, AND SALT/PEPPER.

ADD TOMATOES, ROTELS, MUSHROOMS, AND OLIVES.

ONCE ALL VEGETABLES ARE TENDER ADD RAGU AND MUSHROOM SOUP.

MIX SAUCE AND NOODLES IN A CASSEROLE  DISH.

TOP WITH CHEESE.

COVER WITH ALUMINUM FOIL.

BAKE AT 350 FOR 35 TO 40 MINUTES.

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