Monday, July 13, 2020

A Clean Record - Martin Wiles

Lord, if you kept a record of our sins, who, O Lord, could ever survive?  But you offer forgiveness. Psalm 130:3-4a NLT
As a schoolteacher, keeping records comprises a large part of my responsibility.
Our school requires students to participate in the Accelerated Reader program. Books read and tests taken translate into points that translate into a test grade. During the nine weeks, I regularly check their scores to see how many points they have earned and then enter it into the records as a test grade.
And papers. Students know having me as a teacher means they will need mounds of notebook paper. As one student—whose older sibling I had taught—said, “I have plenty of paper. My brother told me I would need it.” On this paper, they take quizzes and tests and write sentences, diagrams, paragraphs, essays, and short stories. When a student asks, “Is this going to be graded,” I respond, “Everything you do for me gets a grade.” Records.
But there are also behavior records. Students who fail to complete their homework or repeatedly talk during class receive lunch detentions. Too many of these—or other more severe infractions—gets them a discipline slip, which goes on their permanent record.
When applying for college—or even some jobs or other positions—having a clean school record means a lot. According to the psalmist, having a clean spiritual record rates high as well. Believing God didn’t keep a record of his sins must have meant he believed in the coming Messiah who would pay for his sins. He had enough sense to know animal sacrifices didn’t work.
Forgiveness is a wonderful thing—to give and to experience. Doing so enhances relationships and makes for peaceful and joyful living. God does this based on what Christ did on Calvary’s cross. On that rough piece of wood, He died for the sins of humanity. When we accept His sacrifice and invite Him into our lives, the record of our sins is wiped clean. Otherwise, God keeps the record and holds us accountable.
Through forgiveness, God releases us from condemnation. We can live with a clean conscience each day, knowing our forgiveness is complete and our eternity is secure. Fear and anxiety leave, and peace and joy move in.
Because God has done this for us, we should extend the same to others. Releasing them frees us to enjoy life at its best.
Is your record clean?
Prayer: Father, we thank You for cleaning our records by forgiving our sins. May we be as forgiving toward others as You are toward us.

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Saturday, July 11, 2020

Cheating on God - Martin Wiles

You’re cheating on God. If all you want is your own way, flirting with the world every chance you get, you end up enemies of God and his way. James 4:4 MSG
Adultery. Betrayal. 
By one spouse on the other. Perhaps more than once. Perhaps a habit. Maybe not because of love. More than likely because of lust. A fall into temptation. A slip from which there is a return road, but one not often taken. Then death. Death of a relationship. Death of trust. Death of love. “I’m sorry” sometimes doesn’t work. The confession doesn’t restore trust. Confusion reigns. Decisions present themselves. Life forever changes. What has happened can’t be undone.
According to experts at Divorce Magazine, 45-50 percent of married women and 50-60 percent of married men cheat on their spouses. The American Psychological Association says unfaithfulness in the United States accounts for 20-40 percent of divorces. They also report that forty-two percent of divorced individuals confess to more than one affair.
But infidelity doesn’t have to lead to divorce. Experts at Divorce Magazine report that about 70 percent of couples who have experienced infidelity actually stay married after the affair comes out into the open. Still, adultery is the most cited reason for divorce.
In the Old Testament, God compared His relationship with His people as a marriage—and He often accused them of cheating on Him. Which they did by worshipping other gods and by turning their focus to other things rather than Him. Although He didn’t divorce them for their unfaithfulness, the consequences for their unfaithfulness were often severe.
God wants, and deserves, my worship. And not just on Sundays or whatever day I choose to gather with other believers. Worship is an all-day, everyday experience wherein I live with a God-consciousness and try my best to honor Him through my attitudes, actions, and words. I do good to others with the intention that God receives the glory for my good works and that people are pointed to Him when they observe my deeds.
When other things or people steal this worship—or when we give it to something or someone else voluntarily—we cheat on God. And unfaithfulness doesn’t make Him happy. He is jealous for our attention because He knows the awful things that can happen when we make other things or relationships that squeeze Him out a priority.
Take time each day to refocus your worship on God. He deserves your faithfulness. Then, let everything else you enjoy about life come beneath your marriage to Him.
Prayer: Father, may our attention be turned only toward You.

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Friday, July 10, 2020

Flashback Friday - How Can I Know Christianity Is the Only True Religion? - Martin Wiles

How Can I Know Christianity Is the Only True Religion?

Series: Hey God…I Have a Question

I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. John 14:6 NLT

Why can’t choosing a religion be like many other things in life? Many options…none wrong…some with just better benefits?

As a teacher, I’ve noticed most students tend to score higher on multiple-choice tests than they do on short answer or fill in the blank. Recognizing answers is easier than producing them completely on my own. Multiple-choice tests also allow one to use the process of elimination. One answer is clearly wrong and normally easy to eliminate. If I can find one small error in two of the other answers, then I can select the correct choice. Read more...

Tweetable: Are you sure that Christianity is real? 

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Thursday, July 9, 2020

Soul Drought - Martin Wiles

He led me all around among the bones that covered the valley floor. They were scattered everywhere across the ground and were completely dried out. Ezekiel 37:2 NLT
The crunch beneath my feet told the story.
A moderate drought often descends on our area of the state. Spring rains come, and then about the time grass, flowers, trees, and gardens need water to stave off the summer’s heart, a drought strikes. Weeks pass with little or no rain. Things that aren’t watered by people or sprinkler systems wither and die. Grass crunches beneath my feet as I walk across the yard. Brief showers here and there do more harm than good when the sun quickly reappears with a ferocious bite of heat.
And vegetation isn’t the only thing affected during these drought periods. People’s attitudes sour. Their patience level deteriorates. Fights break out more often and more easily. Coarse words flow from mouths, fingers, and pens—words that ordinarily would remain unspoken. The ground is dry—and so are souls.
When the rains finally arrive, miracles occur. Branches on the trees perk up. Flowers raise their heads. Grass springs back to life. And people become nice again. Rain ends the physical and the soul drought.
God’s people in Ezekiel’s day experienced a soul drought. God had sent them into exile because of their disobedience to Him.
I’ve experienced the soul droughts more times than I care to remember. And I’m sure I have more ahead. I can bring on the drought the same way God’s people of old did when I choose to live in disobedience to God’s commands. Jesus promised abundant life for His children, but it only comes through obedience. When I choose another route, He sends a soul drought. One that zaps my happiness, my focus, and my joy of living.
But there are other times when the droughts come through no fault of our own. Life happens. Friends and family members die. Jobs disappear. Tests are failed. Relationships end—without us wanting them to. Health episodes happen. Surgeries occur. Falls take place. Tragedies strike. And if we are not careful, a soul drought will come on the heels of any of these things.
Droughts are staved off by turning to God—through confession, if needed, and through trust. We confess our sin, and we confess our inability to handle life without His assistance. When we do, He sends the rain that refreshes our souls and gives us the energy to take face another day.
When your soul drought comes, turn to the only One who can send the rain.
Prayer: Father, we depend on You to send the rain for our parched souls when the droughts come.

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Wednesday, July 8, 2020

God’s Plan: Confusing or Clear - Martin Wiles

We were out in the field, tying up bundles of grain. Suddenly my bundle stood up, and your bundles all gathered around and bowed low before mine! Genesis 37:7 NLT
Soren Kierkegaard, a nineteenth-century Danish philosopher, said, “Life must be understood backwards … it must be lived—forwards.”
Tending to a three- and a five-year-old grandson five to six days a week is no easy task for my wife and I, but we love having them around. We spend much of our time teaching them directives that are for their own good—good we see but good I’m sure they don’t understand at their age.
Such as running in the house. We live in a small patio townhome, cluttered with too much furniture. We have a small yard—too small for them to run around in—so they often try running in the house. Not a better choice. When they fall, or run into something, and get hurt, we remind them that’s why we tell them not to run.
Even running in the great outdoors can be dangerous for them. Occasionally, we take them to a nearby Revolutionary War site where plenty of room exists for them to run. We still caution them. Falling on the paved walkway—which they have done—skins knees and hands. So does running down the steps of the overlook building. The five-year-old can attest to this.
Walking backward is another trick they once tried while we strolled uptown with them. They laughed as they did, and I cautioned them as they did. I saw what was coming: a pole.
Although my grandboys may not understand our directives, I know the reason behind giving them. And one day, they’ll understand that what confused them was clear to me. Joseph learned that about God’s directive. Through two dreams, God showed Joseph that he would one day rule over his family. What he didn’t know—or perhaps even later understand—was that the journey to that point would entail hatred, betrayal, slavery, and prison.
Scripture clearly teaches God has a plan for our lives. Through stories, it also shows we might not understand the plan—or enjoy the things we have to go through for God to accomplish His plan.
We have two choices: turn our backs on God’s plan, or trust Him to accomplish it in the way He sees best, whether or not we understand. My grandboys choose to trust my wisdom, and I plan to do the same with God’s plan for me.
Don’t rebel against God’s plan. Enjoy the journey, even when it involves misunderstanding and pain.
Prayer: Father, give us the faith to trust Your plan even when it appears confusing to us.

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Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Throwback Tuesday - Is God Real - Martin Wiles

Is God Real?

Series: Hey God…I Have a Question

They told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.” John 20:25 NLT

Some things I’m challenged to believe even when they fail every apparent test.

I have certain tests I use to determine validity. Quite naturally, they involve my senses. How do I know my wife is real? This may seem like an absurd question, but the tests I employ to test her reality are the same ones I use for more complicated issues. I see a body lying beside mine every morning, and I know I’ve seen this person before. I smell her odors…but in a pleasant way. With my ears, I hear her speak to me and others, and I recognize the voice. I can touch her. She feels like the same person I’ve touched for the last ten years. Touch lets me know she’s not an apparition. And if I’m really bold, I can nibble on her neck. When I’ve employed all these tests, I conclude, “She is real.” Read more...

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Monday, July 6, 2020

Building a Lasting House - Martin Wiles

Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted. Psalm 127:1 NLT
He wasn’t a carpenter by trade—and he never built a house.
As far as I can remember, Dad never had a hobby—until he began pastoring a smaller membership church in the lower regions of South Carolina. Since he had a lot of time on his hands, he needed a hobby. He chose woodworking.
He began with small projects—a square piece of wood on which he glued a nice outdoor picture. Then he started fancying up the frames a bit. From this small beginning, he moved on to more detailed and complicated projects such as potato bins, shelves, cedar chests, toy boxes, a canopy bed for my daughter, and finally a bedroom suite from mom. Any little nick nack around the house Mom wanted, he built. Most of what he built stayed around the house or was given to a family member.
Dad had perfectionistic tendencies, so nothing he built had flaws—at least not noticeable ones. He spent more hours than he should have on everything he built. When he finished, he proudly stamped his name in some inconspicuous place.
No matter what Dad built, he always used tools of some type: saws, lathes, sanders. And of course, glue and screws. Something had to hold together the items he constructed. Without these, nothing he built would have been of any use to anyone. By the time Dad died, he had an entire shop full of tables and woodworking tools.
Jesus also knew a little about building. He was a carpenter and had been taught the trade by His earthly father. What He built, we’re not told, but He built. And by the inspiration of His Spirit, He told the psalmist hundreds of years before a little something about carpentry—although carpentry of a different type. We must involve God in the building of a house—whatever type it is—if the house is to survive.
Earthly homes are only shells. The home is the relationships that inhabit the shells, and unconditional love, time, patience, and a willingness to adapt and change must characterize these shells if the home is to survive the storms that will rage against them. Dad knew a lot about those tools too. And so did Jesus … and the psalmist.
God is the only one who can give us the tools to build lasting homes. Let Him teach you how to build such a home.
Prayer: Father, we entrust our homes to You. Teach us how to make them endure.

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