Wednesday, May 22, 2024

In God’s Presence - Martin Wiles

In God's Presence
She had a sister named Mary. Mary sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he said. Luke 10:39 NLT

We vowed we’d remain the best of friends, but distance fought against us. We attended church together, worked with the youth together, and ate at each other’s house almost every Saturday night. Don and Tessa Lisa were our best friends.

Then, one day, we received shocking news. They were moving. Originally, Tessa hailed from Denver, Colorado—almost clear across the United States. She and Don had met when he settled there after helping a friend move. They had moved back to South Carolina for him, his brother, and a cousin to begin a construction business. Now, the Denver National Airport—where he once worked—offered him a job. We promised each other distance wouldn’t separate us.

Initially, we called each other frequently. They even flew us out two times for a week of visiting. But eventually, the calls became more infrequent. We each got busy with our lives, and voicemail messages became more common than actual conversations. Before long, once-a-month conversations became the norm. Even then, it wasn’t the same. Presence was missing. Tech conversations can’t replace actual body and time spent together.

Martha and Lazarus had a sister who had her priorities in order. Mary could hear stories about Jesus, busy herself serving him like Mary, or simply revel in Jesus’ presence. Mary chose the latter. This would nurture her relationship with him more than anything else.

What Mary knew, I’ve had to learn, too. I can busy myself serving God in many capacities. Opportunities to do good abound. But the doing can’t replace what happens when I choose to sit in his presence. As I do, I may pray, read his Word, meditate, or simply listen for him to speak to my Spirit. The key, however, is reveling in his presence.

Getting alone with God is essential for spiritual health, as presence is necessary for friendships to develop and grow. Having a plan, a time, and a place ensures we’ll not neglect the power found from remaining in God’s presence.

Father, may my goal be to stay in your presence, where I can be taught, loved, and nurtured. 


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Monday, May 20, 2024

Preparing the Vessel - Martin Wiles

preparing the vessel
And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. The old skins would burst from the pressure, spilling the wine and ruing the skin. Matthew 9:17 NLT

If we didn’t prepare the vessel, the contents would spoil.

One year, my wife and I decided we’d can jelly. Our landlord had an apple tree loaded with apples he didn’t plan to pick. He invited us to pick as many as we wanted. We sat on our front porch in the old glider for hours and peeled away. 

Once we eliminated the peels, we boiled the apples, using the juice to make our jelly. But first, we had to prepare the jars. We didn’t have a canning system, so we boiled the empty jars in a large pot of water. Removing them one at a time, we filled them with the prepared apple juice and sealed them. One by one, we heard the tops pop, signifying the seal had secured the contents, which would shortly jell into jelly. Yet, had we not prepared the vessel, we would have had only juice—and it would have eventually ruined.

Putting new wine into old wineskins that had already been stretched from the fermenting process resulted in the skin either bursting or being lost. But Jesus wasn’t actually teaching how to make wine. He was warning against trying to put legalistic traditions into the truth skins He was re-instituting. A vessel had to be prepared to accept His teachings.

Enjoying the abundant life Jesus offers requires prepared vessels. We begin with a relationship initiated through a faith step in God’s direction. Then, we have to nurture our vessels so we can grow spiritually. Pouring His Word, prayer, relationships, spiritual disciplines, and witnessing about His love into our vessels propels us forward spiritually like a jet propelling off an aircraft carrier.

Preparation also takes place when we remember our vessel is a temple of God’s Spirit. Nothing should enter it that contaminates: addictive substances, unhealthy eating habits, unwise relationships, or focus-stealing hobbies.

Additionally, staying away from tempting situations helps us keep our vessels prepared. God gives wisdom to know what we’re easily tempted by. Acknowledging our weaknesses keeps us away from situations Satan would use to create havoc in our lives.

Prepare your vessel daily so God can fill it with abundant life.

Father, I dedicate my vessel to you. Fill it properly. 


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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Cheesy Bacon Dip

 

cheesy bacon dip

Ingredients
2 CUPS SOUR CREAM

1 JAR REAL BACON BITS

2 CUPS SHREDDED CHEDDAR CHEESE  

8 OUNCES CREAM CHEESE (SOFTENED)

Directions
COMBINE ALL INGREDIENTS TOGETHER AND PLACE IN A GREASED BAKING DISH.

BAKE AT 400 DEGREES FOR 25 TO 30 MINUTES.

DIP MAY ALSO BE PLACED IN A HOLLOWED ROUND FRENCH BREAD LOAF, WRAPPED IN FOIL, AND HEATED THE SAME TEMPERATURE AND TIME.


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Friday, May 17, 2024

The New Norm - Martin Wiles

the new norm
We also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance. Romans 5:3 NLT

He stood and talked to his brother, never realizing that in a few moments, his life would change forever.

When I became his pastor, he was a vibrant man and a diligent church worker. Some years before, his life had been changed when he was diagnosed with a type of cancer most don’t survive. But he had.

Then it happened. Not the return of cancer, but something more permanent. Neither he nor his brother knew what was happening but that something was, was evident. A stroke slithered into his life. Although he incurred no permanent paralysis, he did suffer life-changing brain damage. For months, he couldn’t stay alone. His short-term memory, for all practical purposes, disappeared. He blurted out things he wouldn’t have dreamed of saying before in public. Time dragged along, but he learned he must adapt to his new normal.

Paul says what we don’t enjoy hearing: troubling times produce perseverance, and perseverance ushers in new norms. God has sent me troubling times that tested my faith more than once. I haven’t enjoyed any of them, but I have learned to find peace in the new norms.

When God sends faith-testing trials, He doesn’t design them to destroy but to hone our faith. God rarely gives us the inside scoop on why He’s testing our faith, but we can know it’s for a good reason. He may need to stretch our faith or prepare us for a new assignment. Either way, when we endure the stretch with the right attitude, we enter into the new normal with the right spirit instead of a bitter spirit.

Rather than resist the new normal, God wants us to adapt, learn, and enjoy the new place He has brought. Typically, the new norm will give us opportunities we’ve never experienced. Using what God has taught us during the stretching period allows us to make good use of the new opportunities.

Rather than resisting your new norm, enjoy it and use it for God’s glory.

Father, give me faith and courage to live in the new normals you bring. 

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Wednesday, May 15, 2024

The Power of Unity - Martin Wiles

the power of unity
Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. 1 Peter 3:8 NLT

I watched as they clung to my pants’ legs.

I never knew what I might run into when hunting in South Carolina’s Lowcountry—or just traipsing through fields exploring new lands. My grandfather had plenty of farmland and woods for my cousin and me to explore. But as young boys living in a time when backyards were large and parents didn’t have to worry as much about our safety—we were more likely to get into trouble ourselves than we were to have someone kidnap us—our grandfather’s land wasn’t enough. We wanted more. So we ambled across his land and onto neighbors’ lands. It didn’t matter. We might not have known the property owner, but they knew we were the grandsons of “Dan’l Martin.” That made walking across their land—and even hunting on it—permissible.

Beggar lice—or begga lice as we called it—was one thing that liked to cling to our clothes. If we came home with it, my grandmother insisted we pull it from our pants before we entered her house. Doing so wasn’t such a big deal, just time consuming. It stuck to clothes as if somebody had superglued it. And when I thought I had gotten it all, I’d see some more. As soon as we were lice-free, we could enter—usually to a good home-cooked meal she had slaved over the oven to cook. Rice, butter beans (with a ton of pot liquor, as she called it), fried chicken, pan gravy, and ears of fresh corn.

But another culprit often attacked my cousin and me as we scampered through the woods and fields. This one wasn’t as friendly as beggar lice. We called it cuka burs. The proper name is cocklebur. We often didn’t know we had accumulated them until we rubbed our hands on our pants for some reason or until our pants suddenly felt tight around the leg area. If we rubbed without looking first, we’d immediately recognize the culprit. Sharp pricks pricked our fingers. Removing them without contracting bleeding fingers proved difficult. Sometimes, we’d wait until we got back to our grandparents’ house, where we’d find a pair of gloves or perhaps use a pair of pliers. Like beggar lice, cockleburs stuck like glue.

Much later in my life, another item was often used in place of glue: Velcro. I didn’t know its origin until years later when I taught grammar to my eighth graders, and we worked through an exercise picking out adjectives in sentences. There, I came across the story of Velcro’s beginnings. The story sparked my interest because it mentioned cockle burrs, which immediately took me back to my childhood.

George de Mestral, a Swiss engineer, while hunting in the Jura Mountains in Switzerland in the 1940s, discovered that cockle burrs had decorated his pants and his dog’s fur. He wondered how these tiny things attached so well to him and his feline friend. When he returned, he observed the cocklebur under a microscope and noticed a hook and loop design. With the help of friends in the weaving business, De Mestral duplicated the hook and loop of the cocklebur and began manufacturing what we now know as Velcro. The word comes from the French words for velvet (velour) and hook (crochet).

Peter encouraged first-century believers to be of one mind—to hook and loop. Still good advice. His directive didn’t’ mean then—nor does it now—that they had to agree on everything. But they needed to work together. Join hands, arms, feet, and spirits.

One hook and loop serve little, if any, purpose. Yet, a half- or one-inch square of Velcro shows the power of unity—hooks and loops working together to hold together the strongest of things.

Such is the power of unity when God’s people unite. We have different personalities and share various interpretations about some things in the Bible, but our common ground of belief in Jesus as the way of salvation and our mandate to share his love with others is stronger than the minuscule things separating us. We are many hooks and loops with unmeasured power.

The Coronavirus pandemic demonstrated what can happen when people and industries come together to fight a common unseen enemy. Our spiritual enemy is no different. He roams about like a roaring lion seeking to kill, steal, and destroy. But the power of God’s love, when hooked and looped together among his people, will overcome our enemy’s worse tirades.

Strive for unity with others, and be amazed by what God can do through you.

Father, give me a spirit of unity so my work for you might be effective to the uttermost degree. 

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Monday, May 13, 2024

Directing the Wandering Child - Devon Harrison

Directing the Wandering Child
With all my heart I have sought You; Do not let me wander from Your commandments. Psalms 119:10 NASB 1995

My eleven-year-old son is a wanderer.

He is at the age where action figures, Legos, and superheroes no longer captivate him for hours. Iron Man and Captain America will need to conquer more fearsome foes to grab his attention. His favorite phrases have turned into “I’m bored” and “There’s nothing to do.” And mine have turned into “Hey Bored, I’m dad,” and “Go outside.” He follows me around—mere inches behind me. I ask him what he is doing and what he wants. All I get is, “Nothing,” or “I don’t know.” He is aimless with no destination—a kid who’s growing up.

The Israelites were in a similar state. The pillar of fire that led them by night did not burn in their hearts, nor did the manna entice their appetites. The promised land seemed unreachable. They grumbled, doubted, and wandered. They did not seek the Lord or grow up. And only two of the original twelve spies reached their destination.

Will my son die in the wilderness? Or fail to grow up? I don’t believe so. But just like him, we all wander at different times. We stay at dead-end jobs because they pay the bills, focus on problems instead of God’s promises, and make decisions based on feelings rather than solid principles. We wander and lose our aim because we don’t plan a path to our destination.

I must give my son things to do and learn different ways to help him find his way—reach his destination. He will pick up pinecones and help his mom with the dishes. He will have a destination; I’ll ensure it.

But as my son comes to me, we must go to the Father. With God, we have direction and a promise. And we become much more than wanderers.

Don’t let your children be directionless wanderers. Consult the one who gives perfect direction for you and them. 

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Devon Harrison is a dad who shares his home with four rambunctious boys, one wife, and a small pooch—and loves every minute of it.
 


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Saturday, May 11, 2024

Bacon, Cheese, and Hashbrown Casserole

 



Ingredients
1 Bag of Shredded Hashbrowns 

2 Cups Shredded Cheddar Cheese

1 Can Cream of Mushroom Soup

1 Bag of Real Bacon Bits

Salt/Pepper

2 Tablespoons Butter

Directions

Mix all ingredients and place in a casserole dish.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes or until golden brown.

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