Wednesday, June 12, 2024

A Different Peace - Martin Wiles

a different peace
The peace I give isn’t like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid. John 14:27 NLT

I’ve often thought if I could avoid financial crunches, I would experience peace. Having enough to pay the monthly obligations with adequate left over for investments, hobbies, entertainment, and savings. Surely, I’d be at peace. A trouble-free marriage would also bring peace. Both mates get along, never fight, and have a couple of complacent kids to boot. What better picture of tranquility?

Of course, we also look for a peaceful retirement. Not having to work until we die or become unable to work. Social Security not running dry before we can draw out what we’ve invested during our working careers. Hoping it will be sufficient monthly to cover what expenses we’ll still have. Doing what we want when we want with no one to tell us differently. Ah, the life. Peace.

While the above scenarios might bring peaceful circumstances, there’s no guarantee we would grasp serenity. Inner turmoil can still rage where financial solidity, marital stability, and retirement security exist. Jesus proposes peace within such circumstances but also apart from them. The above is the type of peace the world promises. All things must be in place to experience it—no troubles, trials, or stressors. Jesus’ peace is radically different. Some might classify it as odd.

Jesus’ peace has nothing to do with circumstances and everything to do with relationship and understanding. God created us to have a relationship with Him. When sin severs that connection—which it does for every person born—we are robbed of peace. We search for it in financial security, relationships, substances, and entertainment but never find it. Or if we think we have, we soon discover it’s only temporary. Soon, we’ll want a different toy.

Jesus sends His Spirit to give us what no other play toys or circumstances can: lasting peace. A soothing calmness in the face of danger, adversity, and hostile situations. A peace unlike any the world can offer or understand. A gentle reassurance that all things are in His hands—and we are, too. A peace we can’t understand or even explain, but when we have it, we aren’t troubled or afraid. We know He is in control.

Let God give you this different type of peace.

Father, thank You for giving a peace that pervades regardless of my circumstances. 

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Monday, June 10, 2024

Gentle as… - Martin Wiles

gentle as...
You must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Colossians 3:12 NLT

Who doesn’t love a circus? Clowns weave smiles on people’s faces, and trapeze artists steal onlookers’ breath. Crowds hold their breath and tongues as lion tamers enter cages with beasts capable of tearing them to shreds. Laughter breaks out as dogs of all sizes leap through hoops or monkeys travel horses’ backs.

But the staple of any circus is the elephant. Powerful beasts that tower over their trainers but gently obey every command. I’ve seen them shackled with a mere rope around one ankle as they await their time to perform. While performing, they clutch their trainers in their mouths, balance on one front or rear foot, or hoist the trainer onto their backs. Elephants are the epitome of gentleness—power under control. Yet, with one rampage, they could demolish the circus tent and everyone in it.

Of all the traits God instructs believers to display, gentleness is perhaps one of the most difficult. Paul echoes what Jesus says in the beatitudes: God blesses those who are gentle and lowly, for the whole earth will belong to them (Matthew 5:5).

Gentleness entails submitting to God’s plan--for our families, churches, world, and mostly us. And God makes it possible for us to recognize that plan. His overarching plan involves allowing Him to develop us in His Son’s image. But it goes deeper, for He has an individual plan for His followers. Through prayer, study of His Word, and earnest investigation, He’ll make it known to those who seek it.

Gentleness also means having a teachable spirit. God doesn’t often teach us lessons the way we might enjoy learning them. Our most essential lessons frequently come through circumstances we’d rather not repeat. God tends to tutor us by bringing situations into our lives where we have no other option but to trust and depend on Him. God teaches through circumstances that try our souls.

Further, gentleness requires consideration of others. It’s easy for life to be about us; making it about others is more challenging. Jesus’ entire ministry was about others, and ours should be, too.

Let Jesus teach you to be as gentle as He was.

Father, help me be as gentle with others as You are with me. 

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Saturday, June 8, 2024

Bacon Wrapped Smokies

 

bacon wrapped smokies


Ingredients


1 pack Lil' Smokies


1 pound bacon (cut in half)


1 bottle BBQ sauce (any kind)


Directions


Line cookie sheet with non-stick aluminum foil.


Wrap each smokie with bacon and secure with toothpick.


Place on the cookie sheet.


Top with BBQ sauce.


Bake at 350 for 15 to 20 minutes.


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Friday, June 7, 2024

When the World Changed - Martin Wiles

when the world changed
So the Lord sent poisonous snakes among the people, and many were bitten and died. Number 21:6 NLT

I once thought I would have enjoyed living during the Great Depression, but . . .

When I was younger, I could find people who had suffered through the Great Depression. I loved talking to them—my grandfather included. I enjoy reading history books about that same period. The stock market crashed, banks closed, unemployment skyrocketed, bread lines opened, work programs appeared, people traveled across the country looking for work, and, unfortunately, many committed suicide. Some lost all they had. People learned to survive on the bare essentials. However, good things came from the economic breakdown as well. People pulled together and demonstrated kindness. They looked to each other and God. But that was then, and this was now.


“We need some groceries,” my wife said.


My monthly paycheck had arrived. Usually, my wife made a list and headed there herself. Not now. COVID-19 changed our lives and the world. Officials enacted social distancing. Some stores closed early to disinfect, our retailer being one of them.

Having just gotten over strep throat, my wife didn’t need to be around too many people. That meant going as soon as the store opened. Some stores allowed no one except senior adults in during the first few hours. I qualified. Additionally, we had two of our grandboys during the week, and we didn’t want them exposed.


So, at 6:30 am on a Sunday—enough time to shop and return before going to church, where I preached to empty pews—we pulled into the Walmart parking lot. A few others had the same idea. Go early and avoid the risk of exposure. The store would be disinfected, and most people would still be home in bed. And the shelves might even be stocked, since hopefully the hoarders would still be asleep, too. We struck pay dirt, getting everything we needed and avoiding seeing more than thirty people.


The previous day, pen sickness had overcome us. When I used the phrase on my adult daughter, she said, “What?” I had to explain. My wife and I had tired of the four walls. We needed to get out. Living in town differed from living in the country. There, we could have roamed acres of land without coming in contact with anyone. Not so in the city.


We called a couple and asked if they wanted to ride to a nearby park that officials had yet to close. The park hosted a few hiking trails, and we imagined a nice getaway where we could enjoy God’s creation and still maintain social distancing. Getting out in nature and doing a little exercise did us all a world of good. We were thankful for a place we could still go without the threat of contracting the virus that ravaged our world.


Never in all my life had I used so much hand sanitizer or washed my hands so often. I’m a firm believer that exposure to germs builds an immune system. And I think I’m right. I lick my finger before passing out papers to my middle schoolers and handle the papers they turn in without thought, washing my hands only after using the restroom or touching poisonous materials. But not then. Coronavirus changed my world.


The Israelites’ world also changed. They did their usual thing: disobeyed God. God had punished them in various ways, but this time, He rocked their world with poisonous snakes. Many died. Only those who looked at the bronze serpent Moses erected lived. Their look was one of faith. After all, faith is the one thing that gets us through a changed world.


Never in my lifetime—or in the lifetime of anyone I have known—has something changed our world as COVID-19 did in 2020. Thousands died, medicines were only experimental, and no vaccine existed. Social distancing made us feel disconnected, even though social media kept us together. But Twitter, Skype, Instagram, and Facebook didn’t substitute for a good hug, sitting next to someone, or shaking a hand.


New normals get our attention, making us sit up straighter and focus. And this one did. I’m not saying God sent the virus—He could have. After all, He did send snakes. But at the very least, He used it to bring out the good in people, to promote unity, and to help us love each other more.


When massive change comes, we can hoard and turn inwardly or turn outwardly and upwardly. Undoubtedly, COVID-19 changed our world in a way it had never experienced before. For those who responded appropriately during the virus, we, in the aftermath, now see people differently, love God more passionately, and rearrange a few of the things that we once considered necessary. After all, whoever thought toilet paper would top our grocery list?


Don’t let change diminish your trust in the God who controls.


Father, when things seem out of control, turn my eyes to the One who remains in control. 

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Wednesday, June 5, 2024

When God Moves Slowly - Martin Wiles

when God moves slowly
God also told him that his descendants would live in a foreign country where they would be mistreated as slaves for four hundred years. Acts 7:6 NLT

“I got behind you today, and you were just poking along.”

I’m known as a slow driver. Actually, I don’t drive slowly; I merely drive the speed limit. I’ve been driving for almost fifty years, and I can proudly say I’ve never received a ticket—except once when a new set of oversized tires threw my speedometer off. Even then, the officer only gave me a warning. And because I obey the law, my insurance company gives me a safe driver discount.

Not everyone appreciates my attention to the speed limit. One tailrider who thought I was moving too slowly stuck his hand out of his window and rewarded me with a vulgar hand motion. But I’m like the tortoise. I usually arrive at the same time the speeding hares do.

God’s children in Israel thought God was moving too slowly. They had languished in Egyptian slavery, serving a cruel taskmaster for four hundred years. Hadn’t God promised them a Promised Land? What was taking so long? Generation after generation was dying? When was He going to speed up their deliverance? But at the right time and speed, God sent Moses, and he led them out of bondage.

I’ve identified with the Israelites on more than one occasion, complaining that God was poking along. If you called me into the ministry, where’s the church You want me to pastor? If You’ve promised to supply my needs, why must I borrow money to pay this bill? If You want me to attend this writer’s conference to hone my skills, why did You let the car break down so I’d have to spend three hundred dollars on repairs?

God’s movement may appear slow, but He’s always right on time. If we could see the future and His entire plan for us, we wouldn’t think He was sluggish at all. But we can’t. We must trust He’s moving along at the speed He is for a good reason—perhaps to prepare us as He was Moses, maybe to give Himself time to orient world or local events, or maybe to bring someone else to where He needs them to be.

We can know God’s mind or always understand His speed. But He never exceeds the limit or goes slower than necessary. Trust the speed with which God is moving you along.

Father, increase my faith so I’ll trust completely the speed at which You are moving.

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Monday, June 3, 2024

Never Forsaken - Martin Wiles

never forsaken
My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me? Why do you remain so distant? Why do you ignore my cries for help? Psalm 22:1 NLT

I had a few chickens and a couple of ducks; why not add a goat?

The call came from a church member: “I have a goat whose mother won’t nurse her. Would you like to have her?

“Sure, why not,” I said. I’d bottle-fed a pig some years earlier. Why not try a goat?

We made her a bed in our utility shed. Unlike the rest of the family, my schedule was flexible, so feeding her fell to me: morning, noon, evening, before bed, and once in the middle of the night. After weaning her, I placed her in the pen with the chickens and ducks. She was more of a pet than a farm animal. Gracie discovered that being forsaken by her mom didn’t mean everyone would abandon her.

Why the psalmist felt forsaken and penned this psalm, I’m not sure. But Jesus used the same words while hanging on the cross, dying for the sins of humanity. He said it because He was bearing the total weight of the world’s sins. Being the holy God He is, His heavenly Father had to turn away at that moment. How the Divine could turn from the Divine is unexplainable, but it was only momentary. When Jesus completed the deed, God accepted what His Son had accomplished, raised Him from a grave, and received Him back into heaven.

I’ve felt the pains of being forsaken by others: peers who thought I was different and didn’t want anything to do with me, work associates who thought I attended to my responsibilities too intricately, church members who didn’t like the changes I suggested, and others who were turned off by my faith stand.

Being forsaken happens in life. But although others forsake us for various reasons, God will only do so for one reason: unbelief. Even then, He continues to prick our consciences with His Spirit, desiring that we repent of our sins and trust Him.

As His child, He’ll never turn His back on us. Even when we’re unfaithful to Him, He’ll be faithful to us. He made the promise that He’ll never leave or forsake us. And we can depend on His word.

Gracie may have felt forsaken, but she wasn’t. We may feel God has turned His back on us, but He never does.

Father, I thank You that I can always be sure You are by my side. 

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Saturday, June 1, 2024

Bacon-Wrapped Pork Chops

 



Ingredients
6 one-inch pork chops

Salt, pepper

Garlic powder

Onion powder

Bacon

BBQ sauce

Directions
Season each pork chop and wrap with two pieces of bacon.

Bake in a glass dish at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.

Brush with BBQ sauce.

Return to oven for 5 to 7 minutes. 
(Photo courtesy of asmalllife.com.)


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