Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The Gathering - Martin Wiles

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NLT

The annual gathering happened two days before Thanksgiving.

Each year, the churches in the small town where I pastored gathered for a community Thanksgiving service. Different churches hosted the event, and pastors rotated preaching. A time of fellowship and food followed. But then we went home, often never to see each other again until we had our annual community Easter celebration.

In spite of the brevity of the event—and the fact that we wouldn’t see one another for months—I eagerly awaited this gathering each year. Thanksgiving tops the list of my favorite holidays, and spending a few moments of it with people from different races, nationalities, and social levels makes it more enjoyable.

I don’t know in what season of the year Paul wrote the above command, but he knew nothing about a Thanksgiving holiday. He didn’t need one. He had learned contentment … thankfulness … in all circumstances. And God’s will is for every believer to realize the same.

When I experience these community events at Thanksgiving and Easter, I imagine they mirror heaven. A place where race, nationality, wealth, mistakes, emotional states, and age will no longer separate God’s people. A day when the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., will finally come true: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

But the gathering is about more than the mixture and the breaking down of barriers. The lives of all gathered are peppered by a myriad of conditions. Regardless, we lift our voices to the God who controls our circumstances and to the One whom we believe involves Himself in all of our situations. Our voices blend as we praise Him through song. They sync as we say, “Amen,” to the truths heard from His Word.

The Thanksgiving season gives us the opportunity to remember God’s plan is always best—regardless of the path we must follow to realize it. God doesn’t expect us to be happy about tragedy and heartache, but we can have contentment in trying situations when we remember He’s in control, has our best interests at heart, and controls the intensity and time of our travels.

Celebrate Thanksgiving by gathering with others and thanking God collectively.



Prayer: Father, we say, “Thank You,” for Your many blessings over our lives.


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Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Throwback Tuesday - Woven Together by God - Martin Wiles

Woven Together by God

They always introduced their projects with identical stitches, but the ending products were never the same.

From the moment of my birth until her death 17 years later, my great-grandmother lived with my grandparents. Her trade—at least in her retirement years, was crocheting. For hours at a time and for days on end, I watched her slouch in her favorite chair or on her bed and work the needle that resulted in an assortment of items. She hand delivered this art to my grandmother who also spent hours and months on the couch crafting her next project. I’ve inherited most of their remaining pieces: tablecloths, doilies, Christmas ornaments, and tree skirts. Their largest projects, however, were afghans. Stitch after stitch, square after square, circle after circle, day after day, month after month…until a masterpiece emerged. I marveled at the intricacy and delicate patterns that produced these masterpieces. They knew every inch intimately. Read more...

Tweetable: Do you know God's purpose for you?


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Monday, February 18, 2019

Work at It Hard - Martin Wiles

Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Colossians 3:23 NLT

Wherever she made the bed, she worked hard at raising what she put in it.

Bait worms were important to my maternal grandmother. She fished for a hobby—but also to make money. She didn’t use a rod-n-reel. She cut cane from the woods and fashioned it into poles. A large one for catfish and a small one for bream. Nor did she use fancy lures. She loved fat, juicy night crawlers. And why spend money buying them when she could raise them.

Her favorite spot to raise worms was in the middle of the back yard. The house was old, and the sink drain line didn’t empty into the septic tank but directly into the yard. She covered the spot where the water held with a piece of tin. The muddy mixture this created made a perfect bed for bait worms to multiply. When she readied herself to go fishing, she simply took a jar or can, went to her created spot, lifted the tin, and scooped up the worms.

My grandmother’s hard work paid off. She didn’t have to purchase worms, and she caught myriads of fish with the worms that she could sell to neighbors. Paul instructed early Christians to work hard at whatever they did, just as my grandmother did.

Work isn’t a curse, as some imagine. God didn’t tell Adam and Eve to work because they sinned. He told them to care for the garden long before their disobedience. The nature and intensity of work changed after their sin. They’d have to fight thorns and weeds. Their work would be toilsome. But work was God’s plan from the beginning.

Some may imagine we’ll sit around on clouds doing nothing in heaven. I picture another garden, larger this time, where we’ll work for God throughout eternity. The work will be pleasant . . . enjoyable. 

Our work will have purpose. Perhaps we’ll manage large gardens in heaven . . . or on the new earth.
God wants our best from the work He assigns us. Sloppy efforts don’t glorify Him. And they also speak poorly of our association with Him. Our work is “as unto the Lord.” Regardless of who we work for, God’s our boss.

Whatever God gives you to do, do your best. Remember, you’re really working for Him.



Prayer: Father, help us see our work in life as coming from You. Change our attitude so we’ll do our best and represent You well by the work we perform. 


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Saturday, February 16, 2019

The Great Separation - Martin Wiles

He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left. Matthew 25:333 NLT

I’d been in many churches in my young life, but never one where men and women did what they did in this one.

My maternal grandparents attended a small United Methodist church nestled on a county highway that was once heavily traveled before interstates came along. When I stayed with them, I attended church.

The first time I walked in, I noticed something differed from any other church I’d ever attended: the men sat on the left and the women sat on the right. Of course, male children sat on the side with their moms and grandmothers, but all other males sat on the left. I thought the practice curious but never wondered why.

One day I googled, “Why did men and women once sit on separate sides of the church?” Various answers popped up. Some related to tradition. Others related to Bible verses that I felt didn’t justify the practice.
At some point, the men and women quit separating in that little church. And I’ve not seen this done anywhere since.

Tradition isn’t the only thing that has separated people throughout time. Prejudice, social class, race, nationality, and many other things have. Even Jesus spoke of a separation. But this one will be final and the most pressing of any separations anyone has endured. Those on His left, He’ll send into eternal flames. Those on the right, He’ll invite into His eternal Kingdom.

God doesn’t will this great separation. Peter tells us He doesn’t want any perish (1 Peter 3:9). But God is holy, and those who choose to remain in their sins rather than accept Jesus’ forgiveness must be separated from Him.

Nor does God want people to be separated in life. God’s love contains the power to remove things that separate us from each other. When I see others as God does, prejudice won’t barricade me from them. History’s pages are filled with the evils separations have brought. God wants us to live in peace with each other and to love our neighbors as we do ourselves.

God allows us to choose separation from Him and others—even the choice that determines our eternal destiny. Choice is what makes us human. But our choices have consequences.

Choose to love God and others so your life now and in eternity will be happy and peaceful.



Prayer: Father, draw us to love You and others above ourselves, so that in the great separation we’ll hear you say, “Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.”  


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