Saturday, April 4, 2020

On Growing Up - Martin Wiles

You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Hebrews 5:12 NLT

“Hey Pop, I can reach the light switch.”

Having kept our two oldest grandchildren since they were babies, my wife and I have watched them grow through many life stages. When the oldest reached the stage where he could go to the potty by himself and feed himself, life got easier for us. But no sooner had we gotten him to this point than his brother came along, and we had to start all over again.

Our middle grandson learned to feed himself with no problem, but when it came to potty training, he wasn’t interested. We finally gave up, taking the advice someone gave: “When he’s ready, he’ll go.” 

And he did. Since he was short, we had to go with him and let him stand on our feet. Then, he grew an inch or so and didn’t need our help with that part of the bathroom visit, but he still couldn’t reach the light switch.

As I sat in my recliner one day, I heard him say he had to go to the potty. “Go ahead,” my wife said. I asked about the light switch. That’s when he proudly told me he could reach it himself.

We know as they grow, they will need us less, which is a mixed blessing. Relief that we don’t have to do everything for them. Sadness that they’re growing up. 

Growing up is easy and tough. I don’t have a choice with physical growth. It just happens. But the social and emotional things that accompany the physical things aren’t so easy. The writer of Hebrews scolds these early believers because they weren’t growing … spiritually. They should have known the Bible well enough to teach it to others, but they didn’t.

My body can’t help but grow physically. God made it that way. Even children whose mental or physical growth is stunted for various reasons still grow in various ways. But I won’t just grow spiritually unless I try.

Just attending church, simply reading the Bible, or quickly spouting off a few memorized prayers aren’t enough. We must go for the right reasons, read with focus and the intention of applying, and pray as if our lives depend upon it. And if we want to grow spiritually and enjoy God’s best for us, they do.

Don’t be satisfied with just getting by in your walk with the Lord. Adopt an attitude that will lead to your spiritual growth.

Prayer: Father in heaven, give us the desire to grow spiritually so that we might know life as You designed it to be.

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Friday, April 3, 2020

Flashback Friday - Is God Involved in World Affairs? - Martin Wiles

Is God Involved in World Affairs?

Series: Hey God…I Have a Question

Reading, seeing, or hearing the news appears to lead to one logical conclusion: God is not involved in the world. But is the conclusion valid?

Many of America’s founding fathers had different ideas about God’s involvement than do present-day Christians. Deism was a popular philosophy, viewing God as the master clock winder who created but who then kicked back and is watching his masterpiece wind down. Read more...

Tweetable: Where is God for you in world affairs? 

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Thursday, April 2, 2020

Harvesting Joy - Martin Wiles

The grapevines have dried up, and the fig trees have withered. The pomegranate trees, palm trees, and apple trees—all the fruit trees—have dried up. And the people’s joy has dried up with them. Joel 1:12 NLT

Had the harvest dried up, so would have my grandfathers’ joy.

At twelve years of age, my paternal grandfather inherited a farm. Not because he wanted it, but because his father unexpectedly died, and my grandfather was the oldest boy still at home. With the help of an uncle, and some cantankerous mules, they made a go of the farm. Had the harvest not come in due to unfortunate circumstances, the situation would have devastated my grandfather, his mother, and his brother and sisters, causing their joy to evaporate.

Mom’s dad was also a farmer, but not by force. He chose the occupation and relished every moment of it. He loved to watch cows calve, hogs birth piglets, cotton reveal fluffy white bowls, and soybeans fill their pods. But his joy, too, would have melted away had the harvest not come in. My grandmother didn’t work outside the home. Income from the farm was all they had. A bad harvest meant loss of money—or having to borrow from the bank until next year’s harvest came in.

Famers anticipate the harvest, and when it doesn’t come—for whatever reason—joy vanishes. Joel wrote to those steeped in an agricultural economy—an economy that locusts and drought had destroyed. And while both were an act of nature, they were an act of nature God had sent to punish the people’s disobedience. Now their joy had vanished.

We may use the words joy and happiness interchangeably, but they’re really not. Happiness relates to my circumstances. If everything is going my way, I’m happy. If adverse circumstances haunt me, I’m not.

Joy is happiness taken to a higher level. Joy has nothing to do with my circumstances. This is why Paul could tell us to rejoice in the Lord always (Philippians 4:4). I can experience a financial meltdown and still have joy. I can see loved ones die, contract a terminal disease, be abandoned by a spouse, have children rebel, or lose everything I have and still have a sense of joy in my heart.

And not because I can manufacture joy myself, but because God places it deep within my soul when I connect with Him through faith. Joy comes from believing that He controls my circumstances—good and bad—and that He will work things out for my benefit and His glory.

Don’t let circumstances keep you from harvesting joy.

Prayer: Spirit of God, we thank You for giving us an abiding joy, even through the trials of life.

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Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Making Memories - Martin Wiles

When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. Genesis 3:8 NLT

One by one, the pictures came from my daughter by text. Twenty-year-old pictures. Pictures I’d never seen and didn’t know she had.

My daughter was reminiscing—something her busy life lets her do only occasionally. This time her memories took her back twenty years to a three-day hike she took with my middle brother and me. A hike we started at Carver’s Gap, Tennessee, on the day after my younger brother got married. A hike that began with a steep climb up log steps, but a hike that then carried us over bald after picturesque mountain bald.

None of us had ever witnessed such sites in person. Now, my daughter wants to go again. But she’ll have to take her boyfriend this time. Age, disease, and accidents will keep my brother and me from going—although we’d like to.

But the hike was not all about the scenery, even though the trail carried majestic sites. The hike made memories of time with family. Memories she’s now reflecting on twenty years later. We walked, talked, and sweated together. She was only twelve at the time, but the memories are etched in her mind, never to be removed.

Adam and Eve had some good memories, too. We don’t know how long they made them before sin entered the picture and God booted them from the garden as punishment, but prior to the Fall, they enjoyed walking and talking with God in the cool of the garden.

Technology has impacted the making-memory process. I love technology—its convenience and the expanse of its reach—but I also miss what it has taken away. When I visited family and friends in person rather than through text, email, messenger, and Instagram. When I actually hiked with someone rather than just looked at pictures. When busyness hadn’t taken me away from the more important things.

Making memories with others through shared experiences brings value to relationships and enhances our short lives. But as important as these relationships are, they don’t compare with the even more important shared experience we should have with God. He’s given us His Spirit, His Word, and His people, and giving personal time to them all helps us make memories that trump the temporary pleasure technology often delivers.

Take time to make memories, especially with God. You’ll never regret it.

Prayer: Spirit, may we make precious memories with You and others.

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Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Throwback Tuesday - If God Can Prevent Tragedies, Why Doesn't He - Martin Wiles

If God Can Prevent Tragedies, Why Doesn’t He?

Series: Hey God…I Have a Question

I was standing before my congregation on a Wednesday night. The prayer request that surfaced from a member was innocent enough, but I doubt they had completely thought through what they asked.

We lived fairly close to the South Carolina coast, and a dangerous hurricane was heading in our direction. It wasn’t the first time a hurricane threatened, nor was it the first time I had heard such a request. “Let’s pray that God will turn the hurricane away from us.” Though I acknowledged and commended the request, I couldn’t help but think: “So do you want him to send it someone else’s way?” Read more...

Tweetable: What do you believe about tragedies? 

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Monday, March 30, 2020

Honesty … At All Times - Martin Wiles

The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in those who tell the truth. Proverbs 12:22 NLT

I had no proof she lied, but the evidence seemed pretty weighty.

My brother and his fiancĂ© were coming for supper. My wife wanted to cook a particular dish she didn’t have all the ingredients for. My normal routine after work is to take a thirty-minute walk. Since we live just behind a major grocery chain, my wife often asks me to stop by and pick up a few things. She did this time.

Looking at the text my wife sent, telling me exactly what to get (I have a habit of getting the wrong thing.), I scanned the aisle for the cans of broth and consume—noting the sale price beneath them. But when the cashier scanned them, they rang up at the regular price. I questioned him. He sent for a supervisor, a young girl who didn’t look overly excited about helping.

She walked four aisles toward the back to check the price. Staying gone longer than it should have taken her, I wondered what she was doing. Could she not find the item? Was she moving a tag someone placed in the wrong spot? Should I have taken a picture? I wished I had.

“Only the soups are on sale, not the broth,” she said after a long absence.

“So, there wasn’t a tag saying $1.79 beneath the broth?” I questioned.

“No,” she said with a sly smile.

“Are you sure,” I questioned again.

“Yes, but I’ll give them to you for that.”

I wanted to walk back to the aisle to make sure I saw the price correctly, but feared I wouldn’t find the original price tag. Next time, I’ll take a picture. Something else my wife has taught me to do.

Solomon makes it quite plain how God feels about lying. He detests it. Whether the young girl lied or not, she’ll have to live with it—and I’ll never know. But I’m not responsible for her, just me.

Even though God implants a new nature in His children, we can still be prone to lie when it suits what we perceive as our best interests, when we want to escape punishment, or when we’re trying to protect others or ourselves. None, however, are valid reasons in God’s sight.

Practicing honesty is a daily challenge—but one God gives us the power to master if we rely on Him.

Make it a point to let honesty be your life policy.

Prayer: Father, help us make honest choices each day.

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Saturday, March 28, 2020

When the Days Are Long - Martin Wiles

Moses’ arms soon became so tired he could no longer hold them up. So Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on. Then they stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands. So his hands held steady until sunset. Exodus 17:12 NLT

The day seemed long … much longer than twenty-four hours.

I awoke at six a.m., knowing I had several things to do before my wife and I left. I needed to work on my website and send off a couple of devotions to a local newspaper and to another website for which I’d been writing for a number of years.

By the time my wife was ready, I too was ready for our thirty-five-minute drive to the small church which had asked me to preach for the next two Sundays. Once the morning service concluded, we drove another twenty miles to my wife’s family reunion. 

After a quick lunch, and a few minutes of her visiting with relatives, we drove forty-five minutes back home where I took a thirty-minute nap, showered, and hit the road again for the evening services—another thirty-five-minute drive away.

After services, we headed for home, but not before stopping by a local restaurant to eat with friends—who then came to our house for a short visit.

By nine p.m., my eyelids lowered, and the bed called. One long day behind me. A day in which I felt I needed someone to hold me up. Moses felt the same. Israel’s enemies, the Amalekites, attacked. Moses mounted a mountain where he held up his staff. As long as the staff was raised, the Israelites conquered, but if lowered, they lost. Fortunately, Aaron and Hur came to Moses’ aid and helped him hold up his arms.

Our world is a busy place, perhaps busier than it’s ever been. Technology allows us to do more in less time but seems to have stolen the extra time it promised us. We visit by Facebook, Instagram, email, LinkedIn, and text—but rarely in person. Not that anything is inherently wrong with those methods, but they shouldn’t substitute for hands-on contact with others. We need each other … and more than just through the internet.

Sending an email to let someone in need know I’m praying for them is nice, but going to them with a helping hand, when I can, is better. God understands our life circumstances and will work within our limitations to give us opportunities to demonstrate His love to others. Making choices that give us free time to help others is our responsibility.

Make time in your long days to lend a helping hand to others.

Prayer: Father, help us make wise choices so we’ll have time left over to lend others a helping hand.

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