Friday, January 22, 2016

Caesar's Household

Study Starter: Caesar’s Household
By: Christopher Wiles

I marvel at the spread of the gospel of Christ.  The speed at which it travelled, the depth at which it spread in all cultures, the variety of the class systems who grasped it’s grace amazes me.  So I wonder in awe at a seemingly small and insignificant verse found in the tail end of Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

All God’s people here send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household.” – Philippians 4:22

Paul likely resides within the prisons of Rome as he writes his letter of joy to his family in Christ near 600 miles away (as the crow flies).   Ending his letters with salutations is not abnormal, yet Paul draws a purposeful distinction by throwing in the Greek word “malista” here.  This word often translated “chiefly” “especially” or “greatly” gives us an idea that the deep healing faith in Christ seeping into Caesar’s house would encourage Christians.  Here’s why it would encourage them and should encourage us today.

The “Caesar” at the time of Paul’s writing was Emperor Nero who was one bad man.  Adam Clarke’s commentary writes of Nero thus, a more worthless, cruel, and diabolic wretch never disgraced the name or form of man.” Nero was infamous for his treatment of his enemies and of Christians.  One particular story of drowning his stepson on a fishing trip to remove a potential rival sticks out in my mind as a particularly diabolical act.

The fact that faith could infiltrate into the abode of the greatest Christian persecutor of the times would indeed bring joy and hope to our brothers and sisters in Christ abroad in the Roman empire.  Who were the converts?  How deep did the faith travel in Nero’s house?  These are questions we don’t have many answers to, although Josephus the Historian does mention that Nero’s second wife, Empress Poppea, was a “deeply religious woman”.  Could faith in the God above reached all the way up to Nero’s wife?  We likely won’t know till we see the saints on the other side of life. 

Yet we can be filled with joy and hope at the thought of Christ’s gospel reaching the presence of even the most resistant of places.  Have you given up hope on someone because of their desire to oppose the will of God in their life?  Take courage, if grace can reach deep into Caesar’s house, it can reach anywhere. 
“Jesus told him, ‘Don’t be afraid.  Just believe.’” – Mark 5:36b

Friday, January 15, 2016

Five Married Vacation Do’s for Dudes

Living Lessons:  Five Married Vacation Do’s for Dudes
By: Christopher Wiles
     When a deacon at church suggested I use some of the Christmas bonus we received to take my wife on a vacation, I thought, “Ashley will never go for that.”   She’s a thrifty penny pincher that has been one of the primary forces in ensuring our family is in sound financial condition.  A vacation just doesn’t fit her near future plans of home upgrades, children’s orthodontics, and vehicle repairs.  Hello $30 airfare and remote island camping!  This article isn’t detailing our recent trip (which you can learn more about by CLICKING HERE) but is about wisdom I gleaned from our first real vacation together (sans kids & work) in nearly a decade.   While this is directed to husbands, we could all benefit from more of these moments.

1)      Invest time in things she wants.  Sunrise seashelling doesn’t sound too exciting does it? 
It sounds so mundane that just saying the word “seashelling” five times fast seems like it would be more adventurous than actually going. I would rather be fishing, yet my wife’s morning suggestion turned out to be my favorite part of the trip (and picking up a live octopus IS adventurous).  Invest time and energy doing what she wants to do.  Plus, you'll be grateful when she invests time in your interests in return, like when she came up with the idea of using a seashore vine for my fish stringer!
2)      Cook the meals.  Does your wife organize the meals at home?  In many marriages, whether she has a full time job or is a full time stay at home wife, your wife plans meals.  Give her a vacation from meal preparation.  It doesn’t matter if you are sautéing vegetables over an open fire, making instant Spanish rice over your little camp stove, or cooking up a wild, protected, illegal fish (I still plea ignorance); spend time cooking the meals for her.  Don’t pass up the opportunity to let her sit and read a book while you do the work this time. (For extra deposits in the old “Love Bank”, make sure to do the dishes too!)
3)      Let her tell the story.  You’ve invited the neighboring campsite residents over to your fire to eat some of the massive amount of Spanish rice you cooked (portion planning was never your forte anyway), so make sure she isn’t only included in the conversation, but that she leads some of it.  When the other couple asks about your kids or how you met, remember that these are parts of life that she cherishes and spends more time focusing on than you.  Defer to your beautiful bride to share these joyful moments and enjoy it as her smile grows with each word.
4)      Slow down.  You’re a dude; you’re adventurous; you’re successful because you pack every resourceful moment you have in life full of practical and beneficial work.  It really wouldn’t hurt you to plan to let your wife read a book in your hammock, while you sit quietly next to her, ready for any conversation she might be willing to have.  You don’t have to squeeze every ounce of adventure out of every moment.  Your wife’s relaxation and conversation can produce wonderful adventures later.  Trust me (Wink Wink)!
5)      Pack her Bible.  You are the “spiritual head” of your house. 
Make sure her Bible goes on the trip with her.  Are you packing light for a flight?  Since you are handy with technology, make sure it gets installed on her cell phone/kindle/ipad device.  Make sure you read it every morning when you wake up to set the tone for the day.  You may be surprised by the deep spiritual insight your wife offers that benefits your vacation like when she comes up with this tidbit from Psalm 104 after picking up that octopus that tried to eat your hand! "How many are your works, Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your  creatures. 25 There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number—living things both large and small."

Above all, let the following verses guide your life and vacation planning.
25 “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing  her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church.” – Ephesians 5:25-29

Even a short & inexpensive vacation like ours (2 nights on a island) can be a great spiritual boon in your relationship.  I want to give a big "Thank you!" to the deacon that encouraged me to invest in my wife.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Quick Florida Getaway!

Following the advice of a church deacon, I took my wife on a quick Florida getaway to a remote island for 3 days. We made a lot of wild and tame friends along the way (human and animal alike!) These photos are now part of our fond memories. I would be happy to tell you all about it so you may enjoy similar adventures with your loved ones. One of our funniest moments was my shock at turning over a morning seashell to find an octopus emerging! We threw our found wildlife back after getting acquainted with them.
Click here to be taken to our Google Public Album of the trip.
Public Album

Following the advice of a church deacon, I took my wife on a quick Florida getaway to a remote island for 3 days. We...
Posted by Christopher Wiles on Wednesday, January 13, 2016

"Praise the Lord, my soul. Lord my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty. How many are your works, Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number— living things both large and small." - Psalm 104:1,24-25

Here are some of the trip breakdowns:
$50 Membership to Frontier Airways to get cheaper flights for a year
$30 Cost of roundtrip flight per person to Ft. Myers from Indianapolis
$25 Cost of checking one bag full of camping gear
$49 Cost of Thrifty rental car at airport for 3 days
$20 Cost of one night of tent camping on Cayo Costa Island
$45 Cost of round trip 6-mile ferry ride to get to the island per person
$9 Cost of Marina parking per night
$30 Cost of food & camping stove fuel at Walmart in Ft. Myers (Can't carry fuel on an airplane)
$10 Cost of renting a kayak on the island for 1 hour as I hunted for manatees to photograph
$17 Cost of Florida fishing license for 3 days.

Now that I have a frontier airline membership, I get a cheaper discount all year long and can get that discount for as many as 6 people who go with me, so I can take my whole family cheaper. The economic kicker on this whole trip was the cost of the ferry ride. You can only get to the island by ferry or boat rental, and I couldn't find a boat rental cheaper than the ferry for two people. We're looking into making the travel to the island cheaper on our next trip with the boys.

The campground was amazing and secluded. They have tent sites and cabin sites, right there next to the beach. This was our favorite place in the world to camp so far. There is so much woods hiking and beach hiking to enjoy. The shelling on the island is superb as it is so remote. The dolphins were wonderfully playful, coming within 20 feet of Ashley to get a good look at her. And the fishing, wow! It was great fun all the way around. God's glory was definitely on display!

On the island, we met people from Spencer IN, Cookeville TN, Canton OH, Seattle WA, Nebraska, Venezuela, South Korea, and England.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Declaring War

Living Lessons:  Declare War!

By: Christopher Wiles

     It didn’t take long for the leaders to declare war.  The very first moment when it was realized that an enemy had crept into our territory, total war while the goal of total annihilation was declared.  All the troops were mustered.  High grade weapons were purchased.  Defensive and offensive tactics were researched.  Biochemical vs. natural warfare was a hot topic due to the possible long term effect on the innocent.  Within minutes we had the enemy contained and within a couple hours, the total extermination of a race had begun within our borders. 

     That race that faced  instant wrath of our efforts was known as “Pediculus humanus capitis.” 
You may know it by the common name “Head Lice”.  I had sisters and I remember how awful it was in our household when I was young, how hard it was to get rid of once it spread to other members of the family.  The itching and scratching of head lice is a common problem to school aged children, second in the United States only to the common cold. Yet this commonality of the occurrence didn’t abate our swift and decisive actions to exterminate the enemy of head lice from our home.

     Within hours, every boy in our family had a hair cut, as longer hair is a breeding ground for our opposition.  Every scalp of each member of the family was meticulously combed by both Ashley and I in search of this enemy.  Every member had showers.  The only member who was visited with the rotten pests had their head coated in coconut oil (look up this natural remedy here) then wrapped with saran wrap and a shower cap for hours, on top of being combed at least 20 times within the first day alone.  Everyone has been combed every day since, in which we are glad to say, there has been no more evidence of our enemy.  Yet this won’t stop us from combing every day for the next two weeks to ensure victory.

     Ashley and I are quick to unite in eradicating things like head lice when they invade our home as I’m sure you are too.  Even more devastating than head lice, what do we do when sin enters our life?  When a family member comes home drunk, what do we do?  When a husband cheats on the family taxes, what is our response?  When our teenager accesses pornography on their Twitter account, how do we handle it?  When a child is openly defiant and disobedient to parents.  When an older child declares “there are no good churches to go to”, thereby ignoring the commandments of fellowship and encouragement given by God and disregarding the examples of His people in the Holy Scripture, what do we do in this spiritual war? 


     Paul says we are in a spiritual battle again forces arrayed against us and he urges us to fight against invading sin! “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Eph 6:12) “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Rom 6:1-2)
      You are called to fight, to wage war, to do battle against the foes that rise up in your home. Would you turn a blind eye to head lice? Of course you wouldn’t, then don’t ignore sin. Brothers and sisters, the cost of sin is far worse than head lice. Remove it completely from your home by swift, decisive, and gentle (Gal 6:1) action, and there will be sweet relief. “Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin.” (Psalm 1:5) “The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The LORD has spoken. “ (Isaiah 25:8)

Friday, January 1, 2016

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