Monday, September 16, 2019

Precious in Life, Precious in Death - Martin Wiles


The Lord cares deeply when his loved ones die. Psalm 116:15 NLT

Death takes what is precious.

As time passes, so do my loved ones. Dad has passed, as have all my great grandparents and grandparents. Many cousins have also joined their number. Mom is getting older too. I try not to think of life without her. Only my two brothers and I will remain. No parents to check on. No one to meddle in our business. No one to step in and do special things for us when we need help. Parents just do those types of things, and when they’re gone, a void develops.

At present, I still have my mother- and father-in-law too. I can only imagine how my wife will react when they leave this earth. She’s already lost one brother, but their passing will change her and my life forever. Death does that.

And as I lose family members, I must come to grips with my own demise. Periodically, I find myself counting how many years I have left—if I make it to the average lifespan. Many fewer years are ahead of me than are behind me. I long to relive some of those years, but can’t. I wonder what will happen to my children and grandchildren. How long they will live. What they will do. Will they miss me and tell stories about me.

According to the psalmist, God cares deeply when His children die—but He doesn’t prevent their death. Death is a part of life. Perhaps if sin had never entered our lives, we would have lived forever. Not all theologians agree with that statement. Death happens, and no amount of caring for our bodies can prevent it.

I take comfort in knowing God controls the time and manner of my death. Of course, I can alter the plan with foolish decisions, but apart from that my death is in His hands. As God has comforted me when I’ve lost loved ones, so He’ll comfort my family who is left behind after my demise.

Although sin has marred our existence, our lives are still so precious to God that He wants us to spend eternity with Him in a better place—a new heaven and a new earth. For all who choose to follow Christ, that place is reserved.

Don’t fear death. God controls that piece of your existence just as He does your life.

Prayer: Father, our lives are in Your hands. Do with them as You desire.





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Saturday, September 14, 2019

Disciplining Love - Martin Wiles


For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child. Hebrews 12:6 NLT

Johnny slumped in his chair. His grades had slipped, along with his attitude.

Since returning after Christmas break, teachers had witnessed the decline. Along with his I-don’t-care attitude came the tendency to talk when he shouldn’t. He talked while the teacher talked. He talked when he was supposed to be working on classwork. He talked to other classmates who attempted to do their work. Although a minor offense—all things considered—Johnny’s talking disrupted the class and demonstrated disrespect for his teachers and fellow students.

After receiving a few lunch and learns and discipline slips, his mom called for a conference. Johnny attended. His posture reflected his attitude. Teachers expressed their concerns, mom expressed hers, but Johnny seemed unconcerned. Finally, after the lead teacher and classroom teachers expressed their concern to him, Johnny seemed to perk up. Perhaps, he thought he was going to escape discipline. But he didn’t. The lead teacher instituted disciplinary measures. He wasn’t thrilled but assured us he’d do better. Time will tell.

Johnny’s not the first student I’ve taught who I’ve had to discipline, nor do I expect him to be the last. Just as I disciplined my children when they were home, so I do with my students who stray from the standard by not following the rules.

Children and students sometimes mistake discipline as cruelty, but actually, it’s a form of love. The writer says the same of God. He disciplines His children because He loves us, not because He hates us and wants to make our life miserable.

God’s discipline comes when I choose to disobey His rules and principles. Rather than make my life unbearable, these rules are designed to lead me to the best life ever. God knows this—and this is why He gave them—but I sometimes don’t know. His discipline teaches me to obey Him. Even young Johnny knew the purpose of discipline when we asked him.

God disciplines because God loves, just as teachers do students and parents do children. If He didn’t care what I did, He’d let me go my own way without intervention. His discipline proves love, just as the teachers’ disciplinary measures demonstrated love for Johnny. We had high hopes for him, as God does for His children.

When God disciplines you, thank Him that He cares enough to intervene in your life.


Prayer: Father, help us respond positively to Your discipline, knowing You send it because You love us.




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Friday, September 13, 2019

Flashback Friday - Snow White and the Forgiven Sins - Martin Wiles

Snow White and the Forgiven Sins

Once the snow gets dirty, there’s no turning it white again.

During the winter of 2014, snow fell for three consecutive days in Upstate South Carolina. I’ve lived in South Carolina 46 of my 54 years, and never can I remember a three-day snow event. Six days later, spots of snow still lingered in shaded areas. The freshly fallen snow was beautiful as it lay on the ground. But as temperatures slowly rose and people ventured out in their vehicles, what was perfectly white became dingy. Piled beside the roadway, it no longer appeared as it did when it first made its landing. As bad as I wanted, I couldn’t make it white again. Read more...

Tweetable: Are your sins as white as snow?




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Thursday, September 12, 2019

When God Gives You a Hand - Sarah Lynn Phillips

I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. Psalm 73:23

I stopped typing … mid-sentence.

What was going on? I wiggled my right thumb, pressed the space bar a few times, and wiggled it again. Why did my thumb joint hurt . . . suddenly?

My mom's arthritis issues came to mind. She lost the ability to cut apples, peel potatoes, slice bread, and even write well because the joints in her thumbs prohibited her from doing so. My heart sank. Wasn't I a little young for this? Didn't God know I needed my hands to keep house, cook, and write? Didn't I deal with enough limitations? And why my
right hand?

Another voice echoed in my thoughts. That of a doctor … four years after our car crash. "People who've been victims of trauma develop severe arthritis after ten years." She pointed her finger at me. "You have six years left." Eight years had passed.

Over the next few weeks, the pain came and went. Some days, I could type and work like normal. Other days, I noticed some discomfort—not bad, but enough for me to breath a prayer asking God to preserve my hand and thumb capabilities.

A long-forgotten phrase came to me as a whisper at first, nudging me to look it up. I found the words tucked in the writings of Isaiah: "For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, 'Fear not. I am the one who helps you'" (Isaiah 41:13). I noted verse 10: "I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

In ancient days, the right hand signified strength, authority, and blessing. I drew great comfort from the prophet’s words. The God of the universe holds my right hand, the very hand giving me trouble. His presence scatters my fears and offers reassurance—just as when a friend squeezes your hand, sharing hope and warm support without a word.  Only God’s touch is better. Infinitely better.

Humanly speaking, I will pursue a healthy lifestyle, including an anti-inflammatory diet. But every time my thumb acts up, I'm prompted to remember that God promises to hold my
right hand with His right hand.

God promises to help us, no matter what the future chapters of our life stories hold. 

Tweetable: Are you holding God's hand?



Sarah Lynn Phillips has authored numerous articles, devotions, and poems for both online and print publications. She offers a vision of hope in the hard times through her writing and speaking. Her favorite place is home where she enjoys spending time with her family, hosting her writers' group, and reading a great story. Contact Sarah: sarahlynnphillips3@gmail.com. You can get her book, Penned Without Ink, by clicking on the image. 







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Wednesday, September 11, 2019

The Right Clothing - Martin Wiles


“I can’t go in these,” he protested to Saul. “I’m not used to them.” So David took them off again. 1 Samuel 17:39 NLT

What I wear can change my life.

I’m glad I live when casual dress is the norm. I’ve never enjoyed wearing a tie, nor a three-piece suit. Where I teach, casual is accepted. No ties or suits. 

But neither can I wear blue jeans, except on Friday which is our casual casual day. If I wore jeans on other days, my lead teacher or headmaster would call me in, question why I was violating the dress code, and give me a warning. If I continued to wear clothing that violated the dress code, he would hand me my walking papers. My life would change. I’d be out of a job with no means to pay my bills.

Clothing speaks volumes. Women of the evening wear certain clothes so men will know they are women of the evening. People may dress in certain ways when they are attempting to impress or attract a certain girl or boy. Others wear particular clothes or shoes because they fit the going style and they want to join the “in” crowd.

Shepherd boy David discovered some clothes weren’t for him. When no one else would fight the cocky Philistine giant, Goliath, who made fun of David’s God, David stepped up for the job. King Saul offered David his armor. David tried it on, but it was too large, so he gave it back. He faced the giant clothed in shepherd’s attire with a sling and a few rocks. He wore the right clothing for the task at hand.

Paul says we should clothe ourselves with Christ (Romans 13:14). This happens initially when I believe Jesus paid for my sins on Calvary’s cross, acknowledge my sinfulness, ask Him to forgive me, and pledge to obey Him. God the Father then clothes me with the righteousness of His Son, justifying me and fitting me for heaven.

But I must put on Christ daily thereafter. This happens when I realize what’s on the inside carries more importance than what’s on the outside. While my clothing should be decent and not revealing, the styles are unimportant. So is the makeup, cologne, perfume, jewelry, and hair color.

Outward beauty comes from inner beauty—a relationship with Christ wherein I try each day to reflect His attitude, actions, love, and kindness toward others.

Focus more on your inner beauty. When that’s intact, it will shine brightly on the outside.


Prayer: Father, beautify us on the inside so our outside will show Your love to the world.




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Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Throwback Tuesday - Where is Your Confidence? - Martin Wiles

Where is Your Confidence?

Confidence misplaced can quickly be shattered.

From the moment I entered the ministry, I—along with my denomination and the churches I pastored, placed a certain monetary amount into a retirement account. The sum grew, and the interest earned was tolerable. Periodically, I received statements showing my balance and also what the amount of my monthly check would be if I continued similar investments until I retired. Surely this amount—along with Social Security, would be enough to live comfortably. But circumstances beyond my control triggered an early withdrawal to tackle emergency situations—losing a significant portion of it in the process due to penalties. What I placed a great deal of confidence in suddenly evaporated in a matter of days. Read more...

Tweetable: In what does your confidence lie? 




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Monday, September 9, 2019

Even the Birds - Martin Wiles


What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. (Matthew 10:29 NLT)
What might appear insignificant isn't to God.
Snow unlike I ever remember during my lifetime was falling. February had arrived and with it our worse weather of the winter. As I sat in my recliner and scanned our backyard, I observed a curious sight. A small sparrow perched atop our snow-covered birdbath. Earlier in the day, I had a strong desire to buy bird food and clear the snow from the bath. The inclement weather prevented me from going to the store for seed, so I had settled for removing a few of my wife’s cooked biscuits from the freezer, defrosting them, and scattering the crumbles across the top of the snow. I had also decided the snowmelt would fill the bath. Almost immediately after the crumbs settled upon the snow, birds of all varieties descended upon the feast.
The sight of the small sparrow perched atop the snow-covered birdbath and the above verse jostled in my mind, reminding me that God cares about the smallest details of my life. I sometimes only invite him into the larger problems when he wants to attend each one.
 According to Jesus, as a human being—the crown of God’s creation, I’m much more important than a sparrow. Others may be too busy to hear my story, but God never is. When others ask, “How are you today?” it’s often a common courtesy, not an invitation for me to actually tell them. With God, he really wants me to share, and I do this through prayer—often, consistently, and sincerely.
Yes, God cares for that small sparrow, but he cares immensely more about you and me. Are you sharing your struggles, questions, and victories with the One who loves you more than anyone else possibly could?
Prayer: Merciful God, thank You for caring about every detail of our lives, large and small. May we bring them all to You for cleansing, guidance, and healing.



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