Monday, June 24, 2019

A Best Friend - Martin Wiles


You have taken away my companions and loved ones. Darkness is my closest friend. Psalm 88:18 NLT

She was there—and then she was gone.

Izzy and Annabelle became friends in kindergarten. I taught them Language Arts in middle school when I first met them. In one of their composition papers, Izzy told the story. She and Annabelle were lifelong friends. Until one year when Annabelle didn’t return to school. Izzy didn’t know what had happened to her. She later found out Annabelle had moved to another state. Then, one school year, Annabelle returned. They acted as if she had never left. Their friendship picked up where it left off, and they remain good friends today.

I can’t relate. I have no lifelong friends. Dad preached, and we moved on average every two years. Knowing this would happen, I chose not to get close to anyone. I continued the tradition when I became a minister and the moves continued. Although I have many friends, I have no one person I’ve been friends with since my kindergarten days.

One friend I’ve had a few times—but one I certainly don’t want for a lifetime—is darkness. The psalmist didn’t want him either, but he came anyway. Desertion by others, along with afflictions, caused him to show up.

Darkness. Depression. Disappointment. Either name will do. He tends to hang around longer than I want and can show up more often than I’d like. A couple of times in my lifetime, he stayed much too long. No matter how often I told him to leave—that I didn’t want him as my friend—he wouldn’t budge. His companionship made me feel worse, not better. He wasn’t the type of friend I wanted, but he wanted to be my friend nevertheless.

Trials and difficulties pepper our lives. M. Scott Peck said it best: “Life is difficult.” A simple yet profound statement. If I don’t respond correctly to trials, my friend darkness will show up and make my experience darker. He’ll zap my strength, isolate me, and ruin every day.

Counseling, medicine, and friends may help, but only my best friend—yes I have one—can deliver me. Jesus is the only companion who will never leave us, who will always give us good advice through His Word, and who will walk with us through our periods of darkness while comforting and encouraging us along the way.

When darkness shows up, introduce him to the Light.


Prayer: Father, in our dark periods of life, we ask You to walk by our sides.



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Saturday, June 22, 2019

A Beautiful Home - Martin Wiles


How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of Heaven’s Armies. Psalm 84:1 NLT

I’ve lived in many, all of various shapes and sizes—but none like the one I’ll enjoy one day.

The first home I rented after graduating from high school was an asbestos-sided green home, square-shaped, with four rooms and a bathroom and a hall in the middle. Nothing fancy, but I took pride in it. The second home I owned. A single-wide trailer where everything was cramped and too small. Nor was it safe, as I found out when a large pine tree fell on it—almost cutting it and me in half.

When I entered the ministry, my homes increased in size. Churches tended to have larger homes to accommodate the pastor’s family and any guests he might have for revivals and such. After I temporarily left full-time ministry, the homes decreased in size again. One was a hundred-year-old home, square in shape like my first home. After a short stint in another church-owned home, we are now in a diminutive patio townhouse—too small for the junk we collect.

While my homes have varied in size and shape, they’ve all been beautiful, as the psalmist classified the Lord’s. The tabernacle—and later the Temple—symbolized God’s presence with His people. The tabernacle was plain; the Temple ornate. The loveliness came because God inhabited them.

Churches once carried a unique design, easily recognizable by anyone who saw the structure. Now they exist in storefronts and other vacant buildings. Many look nothing like a traditional church design. It matters not. God dwells in them through the presence of His people who worship there, and that makes them beautiful.

Even when no structure exists—as there often isn’t for my pastor friend in India—God inhabits as long as people gather. Through the presence of His Spirit in us, God’s dwelling place exists wherever we do. This makes us beautiful, regardless of how our bodies are shaped.

When unity reigns among God’s people, we are beautiful. By our love for one another, others know we belong to God. And the beauty of holiness and unity equips us to accomplish the work God assigns us.

Regardless of how your house looks, it is beautiful and equipped when God indwells it.

Tell us how you make your home beautiful. 


Prayer: Father, may we use our houses to take Your love to the world.



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Friday, June 21, 2019

Flashback Friday - Pointing the Finger - Martin Wiles

Pointing the Finger

Amazing how one small part of the anatomy can lead to fierce reactions.

My index finger seems insignificant, but using it incorrectly can drum up heated responses. Pointing it at my dog when he has committed an offense—and scolding him simultaneously, immediately results in bared teeth, growling, and then barking. What is it about the finger that makes him react this way? Putting a finger in someone’s face during a heated argument often results in flying punches or angry words. And when asked “Who did it,” a pointing finger becomes a weapon of accusation. A middle finger—when used in a wrong fashion, can also bring lightning-quick reactions. Read more...

Tell us how pointing the finger has gotten you into trouble. 

Tweetable: Are you guilty of pointing your finger?


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Thursday, June 20, 2019

Joy in the Body - Martin Wiles


For the joy of the Lord is your strength! Nehemiah 8:10 NLT

Buffed bodies and bragging rights. But not me.

The bragging started around middle school. I heard the remarks from male classmates: “I can bench press ….” Or, “I can leg lift …” Or I can squat with ….” I wasn’t one of the braggers. They either played sports—and were trying to build their muscles—or attempted to make an impression on some of the popular girls.

Me? I had no interest in sports. For one thing, I was as skinny as a rail. I could have buffed and toned it and been lean and mean, but I still wouldn’t have made the team. And my interest in girls hadn’t started yet. Nor were they interested in skinny boys—who, by the way, were shy also.

Although only a middle schooler, my joy came not from sports or girls but from another place: my relationship with the Lord. Dad and Mom taught me the need of attending to my relationship with God . . . making Him happy. I attempted this through spiritual disciplines that to me carried more importance than anything else. As a result, the girls ignored me and most of the boys made fun of me. But my joy remained.

As Ezra the priest, Nehemiah the governor, and the Levites read and interpreted God’s Word for the people, the people wept. They realized how far they had fallen below God’s standards. But Nehemiah encouraged them. God would forgive their sins. They needed to find their joy in serving the Lord.

I could have played sports, lifted weights, and served the Lord at the same time. Sports and weightlifting weren’t sinful. I decided, however, to find my joy in spiritual pursuits.

Weeping over sin almost seems a lost art. I’d rather use another word that’s less offensive and picture God as a God who overlooks sins. Sin offends God, but God also forgives when asked. When my slate is clean, I find joy by serving the Lord. Doing so changes my priority list. I don’t have to own certain things to find happiness—which is only momentary. Joy lingers no matter what I have and regardless of my circumstances.

Joy is the overflow of having received Jesus—along with His continual presence—and of living obediently to His principles.

Don’t look for joy anywhere else other than in your relationship with God.

Tell us how you handle self-esteem issues. 


Prayer: Father, may the joy we experience be found in our relationship with You.



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Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Aggravating God - Martin Wiles


Then the Lord said, “I have seen how stubborn and rebellious these people are.” Exodus 32:9 NLT

I’ve heard about it and read about it, but never experienced it firsthand.

Of late, my wife has been going through emotional changes normal for her age of life. Knowing this doesn’t make it any easier for me to cope. I find it difficult to do anything right. 

I wipe my nasty shoes off before entering the house, but I never do a good job. I don’t take the trash out at the right moment. I forget to unscrew the top of my coffee cup. When I finally mastered that task, I forgot to pour out the remaining coffee and put the cup in the dishwasher. I waste powder on the bathroom floor when I should wipe it up with a towel. 

When we first married, these and other things didn’t bother her. Or if they did, she kept quiet or instructed me with a loving tone. Now the tone has changed. One moment she can use that same sweet voice but the next use an angry and aggravated tone that seems to come from a different person.

Initially, I responded to her demands with anger, aggravation, and accusations. Then I tried to show understanding, knowing she couldn’t help her emotional outbursts. She aggravated herself as much as she did me.

One thing I never did—regardless of how hard I bit my tongue—was stop loving or caring for her. What she is going through is a part of life and will pass. My love for her is permanent.

So was God’s for the nation of Israel—as much as they aggravated Him with their disobedience. He delivered them from four hundred years of slavery in Egypt. On the way to the Promised Land, they stopped at Mount Sinai for Moses their leader to receive the Ten Commandments and other laws. 

While he was on the mountain obtaining God’s Word, the people down below were rebelling. God classified them as stubborn, rebellious, and stiff-necked. But one thing He never did was stop loving them.

God loves because it’s His nature to do so. Our failures and sins aggravate and disappoint Him, but He continues to pursue our wellbeing—emotionally, spiritually, and physically. He lovingly convicts and draws us back to the right way, wanting us to realize He knows what’s best for us.

Don’t ever fear that your failures will drive God away. He’s as near as your next prayer.

Tell us what makes you feel like a failure.


Prayer: Father, thank You for continuing to love us in spite of our many failures.



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