Saturday, May 30, 2020

The Changeless Among Change - Martin Wiles

Series: Nature Lessons About God

I am the Lord, and I do not change. Malachi 3:6 NLT

Each year, I go. And each year, I notice the same thing.

I love nature, and one of my favorite places to visit is the mountains. Mountains make their own weather, so the seasons there appear to be more concrete than in other areas of my state. If I go in the spring, I expect to see trees budding and wildflowers bursting forth from under layers of leaves left over from the previous fall.

If I make the trip in the fall, I expect to see leaves in various shades of color, some already having fallen off. I also anticipate seeing thousands of people who have come to observe the same things I have journeyed to view.

If I visit during the winter months, I expect cold temperatures, bare trees, and icy spots. Winter views trump those of other seasons because fronts have cleared out the humidity of summer and no leaves on trees block my view. I can also expect some roads to be closed due to inclement weather.

And if I travel to the mountains in the summer, I can anticipate hot temps, but not as hot as where I live. Flowers are alive with color, and the grass is rainforest green.

Regardless of what season I visit the mountains, I’ll find similar scenarios. That’s because God created certain conditions to accompany particular regions. And He says these seasons will remain until the end of time.

Through the prophet Malachi, God reminded the people of why He had not destroyed them despite their repeated disobedience: He was a God of grace and mercy. He had been in the beginning, and He would remain the same until the end of time and throughout eternity.

And God hasn’t changed. God gives forgiveness when we don’t deserve it. He restores us to a right relationship with Him when we don’t merit a relationship at all. He gives blessings we can’t earn, and certainly don’t deserve. His nature of mercy, love, and grace allow Him to do no less. When we fail Him, He doesn’t return the favor. He holds us up when we let Him down. He sustains when we don’t have the energy to take the next step. He enables us to move forward when we don’t know how.

God has never let His people down—and He never will. Trust the changeless nature of the unchanging God.

Prayer: Father, among life’s many changes, we are thankful that You never do.

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Friday, May 29, 2020

Flashback Friday - Is It Fair for God to Punish Eternally in Hell? - Martin Wiles

Is It Fair for God to Punish Eternally in Hell?

Series: Hey God…I Have a Question

How do you measure eternity?

I’ve heard different definitions for eternity. Evangelists have stood in churches my father pastored and attempted to explain how long eternity is, hoping to encourage the unsaved to believe. One illustration involved a bird and a mountain made of the hardest diamond. Every one hundred years, the bird approached the mountain to sharpen its beak. When he had finally worn away the mountain, only one second of eternity had passed. Unfortunately, these and other similar illustrations are attempting to relate eternity to time. Eternity can’t be measured in chronos (chronological) time because it is concocted in kairos (God’s) time. But the message gets across. Eternity is a long time to spend in hell apart from God. Read more...

Tweetable: Do you struggle with God's fairness? 

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Thursday, May 28, 2020

When Suffering Is Good - Martin Wiles

My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees. Psalm 119:71 NLT

His messages fluctuate between good and bad.

Santhosh pastors in India. One of his recent messages said, “Twenty-five people have taken water baptism today. All of them came to Christ from non-Christian background. God is doing great work here.”

But the news isn’t always good. One message read, “Please continue to pray for Kerala. The situation is very horrible. There is no electricity, there is no toilets, no place to stay, even the hospitals are full of water and not working. Pregnant women and children are suffering literally.   Scarcity of food, drinking water. Dead bodies of animals are floating everywhere.”

Then come the stories of persecution. The accounts of pastors and other believers being burned or persecuted in other ways. The stories of Hindu nationalists who stop missionaries and burn an entire trunkful of Bibles they had intended to distribute.
His conclusion: “In spite of the increasing persecution and opposition, many people are coming to Christ and taking water baptism publicly.”

The psalmist would agree with my friend: suffering for his faith brought good. And, ironically, persecution has always led to the growth of Christianity while good times have resulted in complacency.

Suffering reminds me to pay attention to God’s commands and that I suffer because I obey them. God’s commands most often run counter-cultural. Although enacting them would result in a better society, sinful natures take us in the opposite direction because we think we know better than God. When we put God’s commands into action, they run against the grain, offend others, and often bring forms of persecution and suffering.

At the same time, suffering refines my faith. It takes faith to go against the norm. Others reject us, ridicule us, persecute us. When we take this path of most resistance, God grows our faith. We can’t walk this way without the strength He provides. Trying to go it alone leads to failure.

Suffering also brings good because it creates empathy for others. When we suffer for doing the right thing, we’re more likely to identify with others who suffer for the same reason. In turn, we’ll band together to do this great Kingdom work God has given us to do.

God doesn’t waste anything, and He won’t waste your suffering. Let your suffering—physical, spiritual, and emotional—lead to good in your life.

Prayer: Father, we accept the persecution as a part of our responsibility in following You.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Living Ready - Martin Wiles

“Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!” Acts 1:11 NLT

“We live ready.”

The private school where I teach once underwent a rigorous second accreditation process. Actually a double accreditation, the second being SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools). Since the second was more prestigious, the process took large amounts of time and paperwork. We passed with flying colors. Our school could now boast of three accreditations, which would draw prospective students.

Several years later, the time came for a re-visit from the board to see how we were doing. These visits normally happen in the spring of the year, but the team asked our headmaster if they could come in the fall. They weren’t sure we would be ready. That’s when our head of school told them we live ready.
His words were not spoken in pride, but as reality. As teachers, workers, and administrators, we conduct our school within the guidelines of the accreditation board daily. We don’t have to put on a show when we know the review board is coming.

For three years, the apostles had hung around with Jesus, listened to His teachings, and watched His example. Then they watched as cruel people crucified Him, but three days later they marveled as He rose from the grave. Now, He gave them a commission—and then ascended into heaven. Angels, however, assured them He would come again in the same way they witnessed Him leave.

No one knows when Christ will return. In His human form with limitations, Jesus didn’t even know. But come He will—at the Second Coming or at our death. Either way, we should live ready, for Jesus said we couldn’t know when that day would arrive.

Living ready takes intentionality. At school, it means doing the things we know the accreditation board expects of us. The same applies to Jesus’ return. I consciously remind myself that His coming could happen—in the air or at my death.

Being ready means living with purpose, with holiness, and with discipline. My purpose should be what God wants for me—knowing the gifts, talents, and callings He has given me and using them to advance His Kingdom’s work on earth. Living with purity in my thoughts, actions, and words is a part of that process. The discipline comes in doing those things that promote my spiritual growth: Bible study, prayer, meditation, fellowship with other believers, evangelism.

Whether at death or at His Second Coming, Jesus will come. Are you living ready?

Prayer: Father, whether You come for us at Your Second Coming or at our death, help us to live ready to meet You each day.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Throwback Tuesday - Is It Possible to Love Everyone? - Martin Wiles

Is It Possible to Love Everyone?

Series: Hey God…I Have a Question

She had once been a good friend, but for a time she was my enemy.

Four years after becoming her pastor, I noticed our relationship changed from friendly to unfriendly…at her request. The church’s governing body made a decision affecting her position in the church. A decision that was actually for her protection and the church’s, but she didn’t view it that way. They were questioning her integrity. And though I only consented to the decision, I became her target. I knew we were enemies when I noticed every Sunday that she was reading her Bible while I preached. Happily, a couple of years later we were friends again. Read more...

Tweetable: Can you love everyone? 

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Monday, May 25, 2020

Falling to Success - Martin Wiles

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. James 1:2-3 NLT

He came in and fell his way to success.

Jimmy was my favorite cousin—second cousin actually—and he was also my grandmother’s favorite nephew. He belonged to her sister, the one who died much too young from cancer they probably could have cured now.

Since this set of grandparents kept me much of the time when I was young, I saw Jimmy often. He loved to see my grandmother, his favorite aunt, and especially to get a couple of glasses of her famous sweet tea—two cups of sugar per gallon.

My grandmother’s favorite sitting spot was the end of her couch by the end table. Jimmy would knock at the back door, my grandfather would let him in, and he would walk through the kitchen and hall and into the living room.

That’s when the action began. After speaking to my grandmother, he strolled across the living room floor to get a hug, but just before he reached her, he buckled his legs and pretended to fall into her lap. He was a comic, and this was only one of his many shenanigans, but he fell his way into what he wanted: a hug.

I thought about his trick lately and how much truth inhabits it. Success never comes without fallings along the way—usually many of them. James told early believers their success in living the Christian life would only come through persecution. Not an inviting way to achieve fame. Through persecution, the early church blossomed, and through pain the believers would develop patience.

Jesus defined success as loving Him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and then others as myself. I must travel many side roads to reach that point. A regular pattern of taking up the spiritual disciplines being one of them—Bible study, prayer, meditation, worship, fellowship with other believers, evangelism. All of which require time, and in a busy world this means taking the initiative and planning.

While on the journey, we’ll fall—into temptation, into depression, into disappointment, into frustration, into unhealthy relationships, into busyness, and into many other things. But when we respond with faith and trust, these falls will lead to our eventual success. With faith, we’ll get up and trust God to lead us on to His goal for our lives.

Don’t let the falls of life lead you away from God’s goal for you: salvation and sanctification. Rather, let the falls propel you toward His desired end.

Prayer: Father, take the falls of our lives and make something beautiful from them.

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Saturday, May 23, 2020

Don’t Put Off until Tomorrow - Martin Wiles

Series: 3 Unforgettable Lessons Learned from Dad

Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper. Proverbs 13:4 NLT

“Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”

I heard the statement numerous times from dad. I’m not sure if he heard this from his parents—they were like second parents to me, and I never heard them say it—but if he didn’t, he must have picked it up from somewhere else. As the first-born child, this was another part of his effort to teach me responsibility. I suppose, along life’s way, he had learned some lessons about procrastination—a fancy word for not putting off until tomorrow what you can do today.

Dad pastored churches and in all of them had to unlock the doors on Sunday mornings. So he arrived early. Thirty minutes to be exact. Mom came later. She was never ready. His logic? He needed to leave early just in case something happened along the way. You never knew when things might happen. Traffic jams, wrecks, flat tires, etc.

My personality made learning this lesson easy. When I began working, I showed up thirty minutes early—sometimes earlier. Something might happen along the way, and I wanted to be ready to do my job when the time came for me to start. I’m now almost retirement age, and I still carry out the lesson. When I go to a movie, the theater, or out to eat, I always show up earlier than the starting time. If I have an appointment, I’m there early. The trouble is, I expect others to follow suit, but not everyone thinks the same as I do about procrastination.

I once taught a student who had an English project due on a Monday. A project she had known about since the first day of school when I gave her the syllabus. The Friday before it was due, she wanted more information and explanation. I refused. I wanted to teach her the lesson Dad had taught me: “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” She didn’t appreciate my effort.

The wisest man who ever lived said something similar: If you put off working, you won’t prosper. Nor will you have money to pay the bills or put food on the table.

Among the many things I shouldn’t put off are turning my life over to Christ, loving my spouse and children, being kind, sharing God’s love, praying, reading God’s Word, loving others, forgiving others, and working hard. I think I’ll do those today.

What are you putting off that you shouldn’t?

Prayer: Father, prompt us to do today those things we should.

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