Saturday, October 24, 2020

Going into the Desert - Martin Wiles

As for Philip, an angel of the Lord said to him, “Go south down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza.” Acts 8:26 NLT

Deserts are a part of life.

Furnace Creek at Death Valley National Park in the Mohave Desert of eastern California is the driest place in the US. Between 1971 and 2000, it averaged only 2.3 inches of rain annually. And from 1911 to 1960, the annual rainfall was only 1.6 inches.


I’ve been in some desert places myself. As a teen and a young adult, I wondered whether or not I’d find that special person to spend the rest of my life with. I also remember several relationships that went south and the desert conditions that resulted when they did.

And the finances. The times I lost a job I loved. The times I worked at places that couldn’t pay enough for me to satisfy my monthly obligations. The walk through the financial desert lasted longer than I wanted.

Philip found himself in a desert. Persecution assaulted the early church, scattering the believers. Philip went to Samaria where a great revival broke out. Crowds listened eagerly to his message about Jesus. Healings occurred, and joy permeated the city. Philip surely enjoyed himself.

Until God’s angel told him to go south to a desert road. What in the world would he find there? And why? To witness to a solitary official reading a passage in Isaiah that he didn’t understand. Philip explained it, and the man believed and was baptized. We can only imagine the mission possibilities this desert conversion held.

God often leads us into dry places … desert places. Places we don’t understand. Relationship deserts. Financial or emotional deserts. Just as God’s Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness. We don’t normally know the reason God puts us there, but God knows.

While sin or disobedience can put us there, more often other reasons do. For Philip, his obedience had the possibility of taking God’s love to an entire continent. In the desert, God teaches and prepares us for the next phase of His plan. When things in our lives dry up, we tend to do a better job of listening to God. Our listening leads to spiritual growth, which God also desires. 

Deserts often precede new opportunities. Our desert preparation gets us ready for what God has next on His agenda for us.

When God leads you into a desert, ask Him for patience and guidance. Know He has something better ahead.

Prayer: Father, teach us to walk obediently through the deserts, trusting You as we do.

Tweetable: Are you in a desert? 

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Friday, October 23, 2020

Flashback Friday - Facing Loneliness - Martin Wiles

Facing Loneliness

You have taken away my companions and loved ones. Darkness is my closest friend. Psalm 88:18 NLT

The cloud of loneliness hung heavily above her. She appeared to be out of options.

Sarah* was in her senior years. Her husband had died five years ago. Initially, she enjoyed her independence, but her freedom from responsibility for another soon turned into a sea of loneliness. An empty house, one place setting at the table, a bed with too much space, financial burdens, no one to talk to or scold for not completing her “honey-do” list—it was more than she could endure. When the chance came for her to marry a man she’d known most of her life, she jumped in with both feet. Sadly, Sarah discovered she could be lonely even in a crowd. Read more...

Tweetable: Are you facing loneliness? 

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Thursday, October 22, 2020

Eyes All Over - Martin Wiles

The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. 2 Chronicles 16:9 NLT

“Look, dear, I assigned lunch detention when I wasn’t there.”

My wife and I were headed to Asheville, North Carolina, for a writer’s conference when I received the email. One of my middle school students had behaved inappropriately in my class, and the substitute had reprimanded him and sent him to the headmaster.

After investigating the incident, the principal assigned him lunch detention and sent out our normal behavior notification to the parents. Since the incident happened in my class, the email said I had assigned the detention. But I wasn’t there.

The incident reminded me of something I heard growing up and something my wife now tells our grandchildren: “You know MeMe has eyes in the back of her head.”

Our oldest grandchild is sneaky, and sometimes does small incidental things he shouldn’t. When my wife calls him down, he says, “MeMe, how did you know.” That’s when she pops off the saying.

While I don’t use the saying on my middle schoolers, I do remind them of my age and that I was once their age. “Anything you try, I probably did. So don’t try it.”

God has eyes all over, too, as Hanani the prophet told King Asa. The king had chosen to place his trust in a pagan king named Aram instead of God when it came to fighting battles. The seer warned him, and in the course of the warning reminded the king that God’s eyes see everything.

We call what the prophet defined God’s omnipresence. Anywhere I go, God is and has already been. Nothing we do escapes His notice, as Adam and Eve discovered when they ate the forbidden fruit.

Not only does God see our outward actions, but He also notices our inner motives. The things others can’t see. Knowing that, we should live a holy lifestyle, and our actions toward others should come from a grateful heart.

Even more, since God sees all, He can help us see His plan for us, as well as the avenues we need to take to follow that plan. He knows everything we’ll face on the journey, but also has a plan on how to help us navigate the struggles and roadblocks that will arise.

Since God sees everything in your life and knows what’s best, let Him guide you through your life’s journey.

Prayer: Father, help us trust Your all-seeing eyes to guide us through life.

Tweetable: Do you know God's eyes are watching you? 

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Wednesday, October 21, 2020

More Than Asked For - Martin Wiles

Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. Luke 6:38 NLT

I asked—and she gave.

My wife was there again—the emergency room. This time because she couldn’t get over the stomach virus she and I had contracted the week before. Mine left in two days. Hers hung around. Now dehydration had taken over.

As we awaited test results, my stomach growled for supper. Having brought no money, I called Mom to see if she could bring me a bite from a local fast food joint.

“I just made some chicken salad,” she said. “I’ll bring you a sandwich in just a little bit.”

“Just one sandwich and a 20-ounce drink is all I want,” I said.

More than an hour later, I still hadn’t heard from Mom. Finally, she called. “Meet me in the lobby.”

I watched as she lumbered through the automatic doors, carrying a Walmart bag in each hand along with a zip-loc bag with two cups filled with ice and Pepsi. I thanked her and returned to the room. Eager to eat my sandwich, I peeped inside the bags.

What Mom brought was much more than I asked for. Two sandwiches, two bags of chips, two bananas, one fudge brownie, two packs of crackers, a small bag of peppermints, toiletry wipes, a travel toothbrush complete with toothpaste, two bottles of water, and two bottled drinks.

“That was way more than I asked for,” I texted, “but thank you.”

“You never know. You might need it,” she replied.

That’s how Mom is, always giving more than I or anyone else asks. She’s not a rich woman. Never has been. She was married to a preacher of small country churches. But she has given … much.

God does the same for His children as Jesus mentions. When we make it a priority to give to God’s work, He’ll give back to us. And what He gives will far surpass what we initially gave. He may not give us money, but He’ll give us more opportunities. And most of all, He’ll give us a sense of fulfillment. We’ve done what He created us to do.

So go ahead. Surprise people with more than they ask for. Ask God for what you need to do this giving with, and then believe in faith He’ll give it to you.

Prayer: Father, we ask that You give to us so that we might share with others.

Tweetable: Are you giving others more than they ask for? 

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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Throwback Tuesday - Wilderness Thinking - Martin Wiles

Wilderness Thinking

Normally it takes only eleven days to travel from Mount Sinai to Kadesh-barnea…But forty years after the Israelites left Egypt…Moses addressed the people. Deuteronomy 1:2-3 NLT

What should have been a four-hour drive took us twice as long…but it was our fault. 

Once, my wife and I—along with another couple--rented a cabin in the Tennessee mountains. We had no specific plans other than to visit antique shops and thrift stores. After four days of doing what we love, we headed home…a short four-hour drive. Yet it was eight hours later before we finally pulled into our driveway. We didn’t get lost, nor was traffic the culprit. Love for flea markets was. We chose to stop at several on the way home.  

The Israelite’s trip was lengthier for a different reason. Read more...

Tweetable: Are you bogged down in wilderness thinking? 

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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 some where 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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