Monday, June 17, 2024

When Death Stares - Martin Wiles

when death stares
The grave wrapped its ropes around me; death itself stared me in the face. 2 Samuel 22:6 NLT

She lay quietly on her bed … pale … yellow … a picture of death.

Though uncommon in their historical time, my parents came from families with only two children. Mom once received word that doctors had detected cancer in several of her sister’s major organs. The prognosis wasn’t good. Six months at best. Her daughter called to say we should come if we wanted to see her.

A number of family members gathered on a cool Friday morning to make the three-hour drive. She greeted us with a smile, especially when she saw two of my grandchildren she had only heard about. One, too young to know what was happening, sat on her stomach and cooed. The other, perceiving something was amiss since she was lying in a hospital bed, shyly gave her a kiss and said he loved her.

After a short visit, most of us said our goodbyes. While Mom hung around a little longer, my brother and I took a stroll. Since my aunt lived next door to what was once my grandparents’ farmhouse, we had a chance to gander over the property. As I took the short stroll, I was struck by a thousand resurrected childhood memories—hunting, playing in the hog pens, picking weeds from cotton fields, and sitting on my grandmother’s front porch.

I knew I’d probably set foot on this property only one more time. Suddenly, it wasn’t my aunt’s impending doom staring me in the face anymore. My mortality gazed into my eyes—intensely.

David penned these words after God had rescued him from his enemies—particularly his father-in-law and archenemy Saul. On numerous occasions—as he fought and ran for his life--death stared him in the face. But each time, God delivered him.

My aunt wasn’t delivered from death--only its sting. Neither will I when the time comes. Unless I’m alive when the Lord returns, I, like everyone else, will walk through and be overcome by death’s haunting shadow. It is appointed for everyone to die and, after that, to face judgment. Yet I can do like David: cry out to the Lord in my distress.

Death is a reality. We may prolong it by making healthy living choices, but eventually, it will make its appearance. When it might stare us in the face is not as important as being ready when it does. Faith in Christ is the only preparation. We made sure our aunt had taken care of this. She had. Sometimes, we focus so much on others that we forget our family.

Good news awaits. When we’ve made the faith connection, death ushers us into a beautiful eternity prepared by our heavenly Father. Be confident of your eternal dwelling when death looks into your eyes.

Father, thank You that in Jesus Christ, death loses its sting. 

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Saturday, June 15, 2024

Baked Beans

 

 



Ingredients

4 16-ounce cans of baked beans (drained)        


1 onion (chopped)


2 cups brown sugar


1 bottle chili sauce    


1 pound thick bacon (cooked and crumbled)


Directions

Combine all ingredients.


Stir until blended.


Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 45 to 60 minutes.


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I invite you to try my newest book, Hurt, Hope, and Healing, in eBook or paperback. These 52 devotions will take you from hurt to hope to healing. And thanks to all our faithful followers who share our posts on FacebookTwitter, and Linkedin.

Friday, June 14, 2024

The Throw-Down - Martin Wiles

the throw-down
“Throw it down on the ground,” the Lord told him. So Moses threw down the staff, and it turned into a snake! Moses jumped back. Exodus 4:3 NLT

As a child, I loved to read. During my rebellious teen years, I stopped reading. In college, I re-discovered my love of books. My library grew—this was before eBooks came along. Since my wife and I later became antique collectors, I suppose it was natural for me to collect old books—old meaning books published before 1940. The spare bedroom in our small patio townhome became my office and library. Bookshelves lined each wall, mostly filled with old books my wife and I discovered at thrift stores.

Only a few of my books held value to anyone else or an antique dealer—such as my oldest book, which came from a Charleston, South Carolina, library and boasts a publication date a shade over two hundred years ago. But all hold great value to me. When I am dead and gone, my children will either sell them at a yard sale or, more likely, donate them to a thrift store. I don’t read any of my old books. The time-worn pages wouldn’t stand turning without falling out, or the binding would crumble. They sit on my shelves or at various places around the house where my wife uses them as decorations.

At least, that’s how the bedroom looked before we decided to turn it into a bedroom for the grandboys or other overnight guests. My wife—an intelligent woman—produced a solution using a picture she had seen on Instagram. We needed to eliminate four shelves of books to make room for the bed, but how? Use the books as a headboard, of course. We needed one anyway, since we only had a frame for the mattress.

So, I handed my wife books I’d probably never use—newer books—and she stacked them on the floor. Before I knew it, she had constructed a headboard, carefully placing old books that the grandboys would one day read on the top so they could reach them. We slid the bed frame against her masterpiece and had a headboard. This allowed me to display my old books on the remaining shelves.

Our headboard stood firm until I decided I wanted a book near the bottom of the headboard stack. I carefully removed the book, thinking it would not affect my wife’s masterpiece. I was wrong. Like dominos, three-fourths of the books tumbled to the floor and onto me. I had created a mess—one my wife was not in the mood to fix. She made several attempts but could never arrange them as they were initially. Finally, she turned the catastrophe over to me to do the best I could.

All of this in the name of keeping old books. I can’t imagine throwing them down and tearing up their fragile bindings, casting them aside, selling them, or donating them to a thrift store or library. Perhaps Moses also couldn’t imagine casting aside what he depended on so much: his shepherd’s staff.

God’s people had languished in Egyptian slavery for four hundred years, but now the time had come for their deliverance. Moses had been shepherding his father-in-law’s sheep. Shepherds need a good staff for many reasons. But when God appeared to Moses in a flaming bush and told him to tell the king of Egypt to let the Israelites go, Moses had to throw down what he depended on temporarily.

This wouldn’t be the last time Moses had to throw down his staff. He later used it to divide the Red Sea so the Israelites could cross. He also used it to strike a rock so water would flow out for the thirsty wilderness wanderers.

Letting go of things we cherish is difficult, but sometimes they get in our way of serving God. Moses had to change his view of his staff. He had to throw down what he had once used it for and begin to see it as an instrument to fulfill God’s plan.

Jesus said He would reward those who gave up everything to follow Him. He didn’t always ask everyone to surrender all they had, but some He did. Whether we have to misses the point. Our willingness is the key.

Moses made a few excuses for why he wasn’t the right man for the job and couldn’t go to the king at God’s request. God answered each excuse. Moses had to throw them down, as he did the staff.

God’s plan for us varies, but it always involves a throw-down. Not a fight with God—although sometimes it might come to spiritual blows—but a voluntary letting go of what keeps us from moving forward with God’s will.

Some of the things we hold onto are sinful; some are not. But even those that aren’t, we need to throw down if they interfere with us doing what God asks. The list is endless, interesting, challenging, and unique to each of us. It may include relationships, jobs, play toys, hobbies, habits, friends, family members, education, and dreams. God will help us forge forward without looking back when we’re willing.

Consider at least one thing you might need to throw down so God can have your full attention.

 

Father, lead me to throw down those things that keep me from Your best. 


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I invite you to try my newest book, Hurt, Hope, and Healing, in eBook or paperback. These 52 devotions will take you from hurt to hope to healing. And thanks to all our faithful followers who share our posts on FacebookTwitter, and Linkedin.

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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I invite you to try my newest book, Hurt, Hope, and Healing, in eBook or paperback. These 52 devotions will take you from hurt to hope to healing. And thanks to all our faithful followers who share our posts on FacebookTwitter, and Linkedin.

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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I invite you to try my newest book, Hurt, Hope, and Healing, in eBook or paperback. These 52 devotions will take you from hurt to hope to healing. And thanks to all our faithful followers who share our posts on FacebookTwitter, and Linkedin.

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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I encourage you to try my newest book, Hurt, Hope, and Healing, in eBook or paperback. These 52 devotions will take you from hurt to hope to healing. Thanks to all our faithful followers who share our posts on FacebookTwitter, and Linkedin.

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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I invite you to try my newest book, Hurt, Hope, and Healing, in eBook or paperback. These 52 devotions will take you from hurt to hope to healing. And thanks to all our faithful followers who share our posts on FacebookTwitter, and Linkedin.