Devotions

This is the "devotional blog" area. If you would like to contribute, please send your contributions to me via email, using the information listed in the Contact page. Thanks, and I hope you enjoy yourself here!

If you would like to see summaries, rather than full articles, visit the "Devotion Summaries" page.

Teachable Moments - I'm Still Learning

posted Apr 2, 2017, 2:35 PM by Nathan Wheeler   [ updated Apr 2, 2017, 2:35 PM ]

Last August, I married a woman who had 3 children (8-year-old twin boys, and a 6-year-old girl) from a previous marriage. She was divorced for unrepentant and continual infidelity by her spouse. She is, as typical of most women whom I've observed, lax on discipline - extremely hesitant to spank, and barely will even put them in time out. She's become frustrated that the kids don't listen to her. Last week, we had a little family meeting, in which I informed the kids that in the future, if I heard their mother have to repeat herself because they were not doing what they were told, they would be spanked posthaste. This was after she had yelled for them three times and none had responded. I yelled for them once, and they came running. Their excuse - "We weren't sure who she was yelling for..."


Anyway, a few days later, it happened. We were in a hardware store, and the kids were all playing with the demo lights, flipping them on and off. After they'd been at it for several minutes, she told them to stop. They didn't. I reminded them of what I had told them. When we got home, I went into the bedroom, and prayed a short prayer for guidance and patience. I pulled each of them into the bedroom one by one, with each one fearful of the discipline that was coming.


When I had been praying though, an idea had just dawned on me, which I feel was the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I walked them over to the side of the bed, and knelt down on the floor, which I often do, as it makes talking to kids easier). "Do you know why you're in here?" "Yes, because I didn't listen to mommy." I then patted the floor beside me, and asked them to kneel with me. I put my arm around them, and instead of spanking them, I prayed with them. I prayed that God would help them understand the importance of their obedience and respect to their mother, and for myself to be patient and loving, as God loves His children. Then I gave them a big hug, and went and got the next kid.


After all of them had been taken into the room, I gathered them all up, and had a chat with them. I reiterated the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden, how God had said when they ate from the tree, they would die, but then God clothed them, and let them live, but that God had said there were still consequences to their actions. I then explained to them that I had told them that I would spank them, but instead I had done what I could to "clothe" them, and that I believed that God would help them to be more respectful and obedient, but that SINCE I believed God would help them, they would be held to a higher standard.


I think that, at least for me, this was a great way to help them understand God's mercy and grace. As parents, and especially fathers, we are models of the Fatherhood of God. In general, how a child views the dominant male/father figure in their life is the view they will have of God. In that, there is the necessity for love, patience, kindness, gentleness, and yes, even sometimes, discipline.

Straight Talk

posted Jan 11, 2016, 5:07 PM by Nathan Wheeler   [ updated Jan 13, 2016, 9:41 AM by Nathanael Wheeler ]

What’s your water cooler chat like? Do you get wrapped up in the stuff that’s going on in everyone else’s lives? Do you laugh at vulgar jokes or even tell a few yourself? I know that I’ve been guilty of all of these things more than a few times in my Christian life, and it’s an area that I have to constantly and actively watch. Today’s devotion begins in 2 Timothy 2 where we find Paul talking to Timothy about living a Christlike life. 

“No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.” - 2 Timothy 2:4

We see that it pleases the one who enlisted us, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, when we choose not to get tangled up in what’s going on around us (gossip, vain talk, heresies, etc.). So, what should we do then? I’m not one of those overzealous people who thinks that anything not specifically about God should be avoided. But where should we draw the line, and what should we or shouldn’t we be a party to? And what should we do when we see others getting involved in this sort of behavior?

“But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. [...] Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of light [...] trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light.” - Ephesians 5:3-13

Ephesians 5 here gives us more insight into what our reaction should be. Most of my life, I’ve either idly stood by and thought that as long as I wasn’t an active participant in a conversation, I could stand there with the rest of the guys and laugh at the dirty jokes, and if it got “too bad” I could just walk away. But we see here a lot of action words, like “don’t partake,” “don’t participate,” “expose,” and so on. We’re supposed to be a “workman” (2 Timothy 2:15). You can’t be an idle workman. And you can’t stand by doing nothing and be active in any manner.

“And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell… But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.” - James 3:6,8

The tongue defiles the whole body, and has an effect on the course of our life! I know there are lots of things that I’ve been a part of that other spiritual men stood by and saw me do, and didn’t guide me away from those things. I hold only myself responsible for those things, but wouldn’t it have been better to have been gently reminded that what I was partaking of was immoral? Wouldn’t it have been nice if someone had “exposed” what I was saying before I dug myself deeper and deeper into moral debt? And since I’ve become a Christian, there are many things that I had said or done in my life before, that now I’ve had to go back and apologize to someone for wronging them.

So, as we go about our workday, and as we live our lives, let’s keep an active guard for the words that you hear, and the conversations that we’re a part of. Let’s be active in our conversations to speak out against immoral, untrue, and unclean topics. Remember that it’s our God-given responsibility to not only “not participate”, but also to shine the Light as well. Let’s think in every conversation, “Could I stand here in the presence of the Righteous and Holy Judge, and participate in this conversation?," and then let’s act accordingly.

Share this post with others!


Five-Lesson Friday

posted Jan 1, 2016, 1:22 AM by Nathan Wheeler   [ updated Jan 13, 2016, 9:40 AM by Nathanael Wheeler ]

I've dabbled in the stock market for a few years. I haven't really made anything - I'm mostly break-even. Recently I started following a fairly well-known penny stock trader to see what I could learn. One of the things which he does that I found very interesting was his "Five Lesson Friday." At the end of every week, he puts together a list of five things learned for the week. They might be things he did wrong, things he did right, or things he could have done better, but they're all lessons about stock trading.

I started thinking, trading is important to this guy - it's how he makes money. So, he sets aside the time at the end of every week for reflection to see what he can learn from his week of trading. Just like trading stocks is a part of his life every day, being a Christian is a part of mine every day - it's important to me. Despite the importance of my Christianity, I don't often take the time for reflective analysis of my experiences as a Christian. How can I learn from my mistakes if I don't even take the time to recognize them? How can I improve, how can I become more like Christ, if I don't even take a periodic look into my recent past to see where I've been and how I've been doing?

For myself, and likely many others, I often deem it acceptable enough to simply read a few passages from the Bible, read a devotion or two, and go to church on Sunday. Sometimes I even miss one (or more) of these pretty basic and easy things. Maybe it's partly because I don't want to look back at the ways I've screwed up. Maybe it's because I'm too lazy, or maybe too busy. If there was money on the line, would I be able to find the time? Shouldn't I be even more concerned about my soul? Even at work we review our past work, and we review each others' work to help educate, correct, and improve the quality of our product. Shouldn't we be doing that as Christians as well?

As we ring in the new year, I want to encourage everyone to challenge themselves, and maybe even find some other people to challenge you to become a better Christian. Take a look at where you are right now, and determine that you want to become more like Christ in 2016!

Share this post with others!


Running... (and Quitting)

posted Apr 27, 2014, 4:28 PM by Nathanael Wheeler   [ updated Jan 13, 2016, 9:40 AM ]

Running has fascinated me since I first started around 4 years ago. Running was like the holy grail of exercise to me. I had always been one of the fat kids - never the slowest in P.E., but the close runner up. When I got out of school and wasn't forced to do physical activity, the most active I might be would be to take a leisurely hike or something... with frequent breaks and no hills. Running never even entered my mind as a potential activity.

At one point, around the age of 26, I started to realize just how bad of shape I was in. I was around 100 pounds overweight, and I got out of breath just walking up a single flight of stairs. Over the course of the next year, I started walking, and after some research I took up a program called Couch to 10K (now called "Run 10K"). Just 13 weeks later, I completed my first ever 10K run, coming in right around an hour if I recall correctly. I was hooked.

My life was forever changed, and I couldn't get enough of running. I didn't care much about competitive running, but I ran nearly ever day. I lost 50-60 pounds - the first time I had weighed 200 pounds since I was around 14. I felt great, and life was amazing. Bad mood - run it away. Good mood - run and make it better. Rainy day - go to the track and run anyway. No matter how good or bad I felt, running always made it even better. If I had something bothering me, I could simply go for a run, get it off my mind for a while, and have some quiet time just to process things. Then everything changed.

I got a new job, and I moved. I had been paying $5.00 a year for access to an indoor track. I moved to a new location where the cheapest access to running facilities was $35.00 a month. That seemed preposterous! I would run outdoors, I wouldn't let the price stop me... and then winter set in. I quit running because it was muddy, snowy, nasty, and cold outside. I wasn't willing to pay the price.

Over the next year and a half, I got outside very few times, even when the weather was nice. I regained almost every pound I had lost. I kept telling myself that I was going to get back out there and start running again, but I never actually did it. I was finally approached by a guy I worked with about getting together to go work out, and I finally accepted. We went 3 times each week, and I started running again. I could barely run. What had been a nice 6-7 mile per hour pace before had slowed to barely a 4.5 mile per hour pace. It was discouraging, but I kept going back.

Then I started college. I kept going though, even though it was tough to keep up with the college work and work out. Finally I hit one of the toughest classes I had taken, and I folded. During this time I was also dealing with a ton of extra stress from another situation, and I couldn't seem to deal with it all at once, so I quit running again. For five weeks, I didn't set foot in the gym. I started again last week. 

Why did I quit, though? Running makes me feel on top of the world. I can solve the most horrible problems in an hour of quiet time just running - and even if I can't solve them, I at least feel good about my problems, that they are no longer insurmountable. Today, I ran 1.4 miles and walked 0.6 miles in 26 minutes. I was stressed at 4:55 pm, but at 5:30 I can honestly say I feel better. My problems didn't magically go away, and I know that. However, my problems aren't going to control me.

Here's the question, though: Why quit running when other things get tough? Now, I'm not just talking physically, but spiritually as well. I'm guilty of this, and any honest person will confess to it as well - when life gets tough and our time gets crunched, the first things to go are the very things that make us feel best: being spiritually and physically active. We stop praying, reading our Bibles, going to church, and exercising. When college got tough, I quit the gym. I didn't address the problem, and instead I quit doing one of the very things that would have pulled me through it much smoother!

I'd love to hear your feedback on these three questions:
  1. When things get tough, what's the first thing you quit?
  2. Does quitting that thing actually help you address the problem?
  3. What advice could you give to someone instead to remain motivated to keep doing the things that are good for them?

Share this post with others!


Be Perfect, As Your Father in Heaven...

posted Mar 29, 2014, 1:34 PM by Nathanael Wheeler   [ updated Jan 13, 2016, 9:40 AM ]

I've been giving this a good amount of thought lately. It's been on my mind for the past week. Most of us are familiar with this verse in the Bible:

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect. 
- Matthew 5:48 (KJV)

But what does that really mean? Can we, as humans tainted by Adam's sin, actually be perfect? The second part of this, we generally accept - God is perfect. However, this first part provides us with some problems to overcome.

In the verses around this, Jesus is talking about being different than the world. He makes parallels between doing the good things that the world does in reciprocation. He tells us that we should be doing good things all the time, instead of reciprocating evil for evil. Then He tells us not to do things to gain recognition from men. He's definitely talking about some actionable items here.

"If a man could live the way Jesus has told us to in the chapter, he would truly be perfect." 
- David Guzik

I've already failed this "be perfect" thing. I try and I fail, then I ask forgiveness and I try again. But what if it's actually more than just trying to live a perfect life and treat other people perfectly? What if, when Jesus said this, He was actually making some statements about humanity, and about the nature of God?

God is perfect. As I said before, we generally accept this as fact. As a perfect God, He doesn't mess up, He doesn't make trash or junk - He makes us perfectly. And when we messed it all up, He provided the perfect means for us to be restored to perfection. See, if we think of ourselves as less than perfect, we are making the statement that God messed up, that He made us less than perfect, and that the sacrifice of His Son - Jesus Christ - is not enough to restore us to perfection.

What if all of the verses around this are telling us about the nature of God, and giving us amazing goals to strive for because of our gratitude for the perfect way God made us? 

"So, strike one. I didn't make it. I've come far from making it, therefore, I need help. And thank God he has provided that help that I needed through forgiveness through Jesus Christ through his shed blood for me." 
- Chuck Smith

Our perfection is found in Christ, and through the transformation of our lives by the power of His blood, we have a natural response to try to become more like the perfect God who has redeemed us. This is perfection - to be made perfect by the redemptive work of Christ.

Share this post with others!


First Devotion

posted Mar 23, 2014, 6:14 AM by Nathanael Wheeler   [ updated Jan 13, 2016, 9:39 AM ]

I'm still getting the site set up, and there's a lot to do, but one of the items on the list is to actually create a "first devotion." This morning as I was trying to think of a good Scripture to put on the front of the site, Psalm 1:1-2 came to mind:

"How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of the scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night."

We live in a world where we are inundated with media, advertisements, and advice from all of our friends. It's important that we surround ourselves with Godly influences in our lives to help counteract all the "counsel" that the rest of the world wants to give us. Verse 2 gives us a simple formula for finding the right kind of counsel in our lives - meditating on God's Word "day and night." Verse 3 goes on to show us what will happen as a result:

"He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers."

If you have been looking for a way to be wildly successful in life, this is your chance! I know, it's a cliché line, but really... God wants amazing things for each of us, and the only way we can ever learn what He has in store for us is if we get rid of (ignore) the sources of negative advice in our lives and listen to what God has to say to us.

Share this post with others!


1-6 of 6