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They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. I recently found out how true this was on a missions trip to Brazil. It was a trip with the purpose of laying block for a new church building. I was excited and nervous all at the same time. What made it more significant was the fact that I had never flown before.

The day to leave quickly approached and I made all the preparations to leave. We were scheduled to meet at the church at four in the morning and I set my clock for three. My alarm went off quickly since packing and nerves kept me up until midnight.

My wife instructed me to wake her up where she could tell me goodbye. The hardest part of the trip was not the nine hour flight, or the strenuous labor involved in laying block. The hardest part was saying goodbye.

We embraced each other tightly and the tears began to flow. It was the hardest thing to let go. Then, I stepped into my twin baby girls’ room to see them before I left. They were only seventeen months old and they were sleeping soundly. The tears flowed once more.

I said another goodbye to my wife and got into my truck to leave for the church.

Upon arriving at the airport in Brazil, I was pleased to learn that they had free wifi. I was able to send my wife a few texts via iMessage before we left for a two hour bus ride. It was nice to make contact with home.

There was also wifi at the missionary’s house and I was able to FaceTime my wife and girls with my iPad. The girls loved seeing their daddy’s face.

As enjoyable as the trip was, I was eager to be with my girls again. The whole experience brought new meaning to “absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

This experience brought to my mind the departure of our Lord Jesus Christ.
It says in Acts 1:
“And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven”
And in John:
“In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also”

If I was missing my family and so full of eagerness to see them, I can only imagine the desire Jesus has to be with His children. I was gone for 9 days. Jesus has been gone for 2000 years.

And I know that the tremendous love I have for my family pales in comparison to the infinite love Jesus has for us. He must long to be with us more than we can imagine. I know He desires to return soon.

Even so come, Lord Jesus

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M&M Moments is a new segment that I’m starting in my blog to chronicle our various adventures with our twin girls Mattie and Macie. They have just turned a year old and they are surprising us daily with new tricks. The latest accomplishment was Macie taking her first steps. Mattie has been walking for a while now, but Macie hadn’t tried too much. She was always too busy playing to worry about walking. Crawling worked just fine for her.

We have been helping Macie walk by holding her hands while she takes a few steps. She would get so excited, but she was too nervous to venture out on her own. Then, all of a sudden, she started taking a few steps, and, this past Sunday at church, she walked in the lobby. I was so proud of her. Macie still hasn’t quite perfected the art of walking, but she’s working on it.

Raising children constantly reminds me of my relationship with my Heavenly Father. Just as I work with my sweet girls in basic things like walking and talking, God is working with me to teach me how to grow as His child. I was so proud of Macie walking, and I can imagine God being proud of us when we finally grasp some spiritual lesson that He was trying to teach us.

Sometimes we think we are pretty good the way we are, but God is always trying to lead us closer to perfection. Macie was perfectly content crawling from one place to another, but she didn’t know the possibilities that walking would open up to her. We hold on to our opinions and methods, but God has a better way. God desires the best for us and He just might be leading you to a better Christian walk. We just need to let go and trust Him.

Walking seems such a simple task, but it’s a huge accomplishment for a one year old. With time Macie will perfect her walk. She’ll progress from toddling behind us to running and skipping in the back yard. Her walk will carry her to school, to her first job, and on to college. One day her walk will lead her down the aisle to meet her groom.

One day our walk in this life will end and we will begin a new walk as we stroll down the aisles of Heaven with our bridegroom Jesus. Along the way, He’ll perfect our walk day by day.

“For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;” – Colossians 1:9-11

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Dusty Boots

Posted: April 27, 2013 in Uncategorized
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“That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,” – Ephesians 5:26

I was so excited when my new work boots arrived. I had purchased them online and saved a lot of money in doing so. I even wore them to church the Sunday after they arrived. I was so proud of them.

Then the inevitable happened. They got dirty. Yes, it’s true. Work boots get dirty.

What made matters worse was that I bought these boots in the spring and it was full blown pollen season in the south. Northerners have snow. Southerners have pollen. Every step I took stirred up a storm cloud of pollen. They were coated every day when I came home. No matter how careful I was, they still got dirty.

I then took the step that made the most sense. I read the manufacturer’s instructions for care and maintenance. They said to wipe them down with a wet cloth to remove the dust and then apply mink oil. It’s a process that I have to go through daily to keep the boots in good shape. I usually wipe them down daily, then apply the oil as needed.

God told us in His Word that He would cleanse us by the water of His Word. As we go into the world from day to day, we accumulate dirt and filth with each step we take. From the provocative magazine on the grocery store shelf, to the profanity from the lips of a coworker, we pick up the filth of this world whether we like it or not. We need to be cleansed every day.

Just as my boots will dry out and fall apart without cleaning, we will eventually succumb to the filth of this world if we don’t wash ourselves daily.

We hear it so much that it seems to simple. Read your Bible and pray. This is the basic instructions for the Christian walk, but how many of us fail in these simple tasks? Martin Luther said, “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” Most us of don’t even spend three minutes in prayer.

We must combat the filth of this world with the Word of God. Have lustful thoughts pressed upon your mind because of the revealing images plastered everywhere we go? Find a verse to cleanse you. Try Job 31:1: “I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?” Maybe some thoughtless person has filled you with anger. “Be ye angry, and sin not” Ephesians 4:26. God has a word for every situation.

Then we must be led by the Holy Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit is represented in the Bible by oil. Jesus said in Luke 4:18, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,” Anointing was done with oil.

Oil was used for anointing. The Holy Spirit anoints us for the tasks God wants us to perform. Oil was also used for lighting lamps. We need the Holy Spirit to keep our lights shining brightly in this world. We are filled by the Spirit by prayer and Bible reading. You are filled with what you pour into yourself. We need more of Bible than world inside of us.

The Word keeps us clean, the Holy Spirit keeps us soft and useable. If we are to be effective in this filthy world, we must apply the water and the oil to our lives. Combined with prayer, God can work through us day by day.

Prep Work

Posted: March 7, 2013 in Uncategorized
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And when they came nigh to Jerusalem, unto Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount of Olives, he sendeth forth two of his disciples, And saith unto them, Go your way into the village over against you:and as soon as ye be entered into it, ye shall find a colt tied, whereon never man sat; loose him, and bring him. And if any man say unto you, Why do ye this? say ye that the Lord hath need of him; and straightway he will send him hither. And they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door without in a place where two ways met; and they loose him. And certain of them that stood there said unto them, What do ye, loosing the colt? And they said unto them even as Jesus had commanded:and they let them go. – Mark 11:1-6

In the electrical field, as well as other areas of construction, prep work is essential. Without it, every job would be a disaster. It’s the little things that are done in the beginning stages of a job that make all the difference. If your foundation is not level, the building won’t be either.

One thing that requires precise prep work is post lighting, from the conduit to the bolts, everything must be put in the right place. Once the concrete is poured, there’s no turning back. Most post lights come with a bracket that positions the bolts in the proper place, and a lot of adjusting, positioning, and leveling is required. If done correctly, the post light will fall right into place when it comes time for the installation.

With that in mind, let us consider the story of Jesus riding the donkey into Jerusalem. Jesus told the disciples where to find the donkey that he was to ride upon, and, if anyone were to question them taking the donkey, they were to tell them that Jesus commanded it, and they would let them go.

This story begs the question: why would the owner of the donkey just let them go? Was there some divine altering of the will of the owner, or did he choose this himself? Who was this person that owned the donkey? The bible seems silent on this fact. There must be more to this than the text suggests.

Perhaps The Lord had prepared this person to give the donkey to Jesus. This seems to fit with the character of God. He is always molding and shaping us to prepare us for His service. Just as the bolts were prepared for the pole light, God prepares us to fit the plans He has for us.

Donkeys were symbols of wealth in this era. And they were loyal creatures that loved their masters. So, this was no small sacrifice for the owner to give his donkey away. Maybe the Lord spoke to him in the still of the night. Maybe tragedy softened his heart to the riches of this world. Somehow, The Lord prepared him.

The Lord may be preparing you as well. Has your life been shifting and changing? Has it been unstable? God may be fitting you for His purposes. The day will come when everything will fit together perfectly.

The bolt may be a small insignificant thing, but, without it, the light could not stand. Some of the greatest people in the Bible were insignificant, but they were used mightily of God. Think of the boy who’s lunch fed thousands, a fisherman, a tax collector, and a nameless owner of a donkey that would carry the Messiah into Jerusalem.

You may feel insignificant, but God may be doing the prep work for His great purpose for your life.

Just Around the Bend

Posted: February 28, 2013 in Uncategorized
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“For we walk by faith, not by sight” 2 Cor. 5:7

Clingmans Dome is located in the Great Smoky mountains national park in Tennessee. It’s the highest point in the park and it has an observation deck that offers views of over 100 miles in every direction. A steep, strenuous, and winding walk up a half mile trail leads to the observation deck.

This is the setting that I found myself in on our family vacation one year. We began the “short” half mile walk up to the observation deck. With the high altitude and the steep trail, the path seems anything but short. After a few minutes, your lungs feel like they’re about to explode.

Benches were wisely installed along to trail to allow you to catch your breath and they were usually occupied. I was there with my parents and my mom had to stop fairly often. Eventually, I went on ahead.

I arrived at the top a few minutes before my parents and waited on them to go onto the observation deck. When they finally made it, my mom told me about an elderly lady that was walking along with my her. She said they talked all the way up and wondered with exhaustion how much farther they had to go. They hoped their destination was around each curve.

Finally, as they were resting at a bench, the elderly lady announced to my mom that she had endured enough. She was going to turn back. My mother wished her well and continued up the trail.

Then, to my mother’s surprise, she arrived at the top just around the bend from where they were sitting. The elderly lady was so close and she didn’t even know it. My mom said she looked back down the trail and saw the lady slowly descending. She gave up just short of her destination.

In our lives, we have goals that come and go. We have goals for our jobs, goals for our children, goals for our walk with Christ. Sometimes the path to our goal is short, and sometimes it is long. Sometimes the way is hard. But we must not quit. Our destination may be just around the bend.

And God is gracious. He places benches along the way so that we might rest. These benches may come in the form of trials beyond our control. They force us to rest. God gives us rest so that we might have the strength to continue. But we must not confuse the resting place for defeat. It is only a delay. We must not quit.

When we arrive at the summit, we will discover that a glorious view awaits us. The path we have trod will be seen clearly.

What are you facing today? Does the thing you have cherished so long seem so far away? Have circumstances hindered your progress? Faint not. The destination may be just around the bend.

When we feel we have nothing left to give
And we are sure that the “song has ended”–
When our day seems over and the shadows fall
And the darkness of night has descended,

Where can we go to find the strength
To valiantly keep on trying,
Where can we find the hand that will dry
The tears that the heart is crying–

There’s but one place to go and that is to God
And, dropping all pretense and pride,
We can pour out our problem without restraint
And gain strength with Him at our side–

And together we stand at life’s crossroads
And view what we think is the end,
But God has a much bigger vision
And he tells us it’s only a bend–

For the road goes on and is smoother,
And the “pause in the song” is a “rest,”
And the part that’s unsung and unfinished
Is the sweetest and richest and best–

So rest and relax and grow stronger,
Let go and let God share your load,
Your work is not finished or ended,
You’ve just come to “a bend in the road.”
-Helen Steiner Rice

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“So Moses brought Israel from the Red sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water.
And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah. And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink? And he cried unto the Lord; and the Lord shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet: there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them,” – Exodus 15:22-25

I was eating at a local barbecue restaurant one day during my lunch break. I am a serious sweet tea addict and my glass was low and I was in need of a refill. I noticed that they had an automatic tea brewing machine that was in the process of making a fresh batch of tea. I was glad for the chance to get a nice, fresh glass of iced tea, so I filled my glass up from the dispenser as the brewer continued to pour tea into the large container.

Everything seemed great until I took a sip of the tea. The overwhelming taste of tea and caffeine almost knocked me off my feet. I didn’t realize that I was drinking concentrated tea without any water added. The machine had not yet added the water when I poured my glass. I didn’t drink any tea for a couple of weeks after that.

Sometimes the circumstances of life leave us with a bitter taste in our mouths. Such was the case for the children of Israel in the wilderness of Shur. They had travelled for three days without water, and, when they finally found something to drink, it was bitter. They murmured and complained about the hand that had been dealt to them.

As we look closer at the passage, we see that the water wasn’t the only thing that was bitter.

First, the wilderness was bitter. They had travelled three days in the hot, dry wilderness with no water. Try that and see how long it is before you complain. But, sometimes life can be this way. We follow The Lord faithfully, but it seems as though He has led us through a wilderness. Days of suffering and dryness pass, and we find no relief for our thirsty souls. It seems The Lord has forsaken us. Life has seasons of bitterness.

Second, the water was bitter. They had travelled all this way to finally find water and it was bitter. But, instead of turning to God, they complained. They sought an earthly solution to their problem. This world and all it has to offer is nothing but a bitter drink of water. Not matter how far we travel in this life, we will find nothing but bitterness apart from God.

Third, the words were bitter. The Israelites are infamous for murmuring and complaining. They had witnessed many mighty miracles from the hand of God, and, yet, they still complained when a little discomfort came their way. What do you do when life hands you a bitter pill? Do you complain? God said “In every thing give thanks” (1 Thess. 5:18). God performed the greatest miracle of all when He saved your soul, so, nothing you face in life is too big for Him to handle.

So, what was the answer?

First of all, Moses prayed. He sought the face of The Lord. This should be our reaction in all the circumstances of life. Pray about every decision that comes your way, no matter if it be great or small, just pray. Second, Moses obeyed God’s command. He told Moses to cast a tree into the water. Moses obeyed and the waters were made sweet. Always obey The Lord.

Notice that God showed Moses a tree. What a beautiful picture of the cross. Mankind was full of bitterness, thirst and sin until the cross was cast into the waters of humanity. Now the sinful are made sweet.

What are you burdened with today? What bitter waters have come your way? Look to the cross and all will be made sweet. God always points us to the cross. Romans 8:32 says, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” If God can save our souls, then He can sweeten our situation. Look to the cross.

Shattered

Posted: February 6, 2013 in Uncategorized
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And the one went out from me, and I said, Surely he is torn in pieces; and I saw him not since:
Genesis 44:28

Sometimes no matter how hard we try, things seem to work out differently than we had planned. This was the case one day as I was working at a local printing business. We had been called to install a new light on the outside of the building for security purposes. The kind of light I was installing is called a wall pack, and it was big and heavy.

These lights have a large hinged cover on the front with a thick glass lens that is used to cover the bulb. The hinged cover stays on the light fixture securely except for when it is open. Then it can be completely removed by sliding it to the right. A safety wire is usually hooked between the cover and the rest of the light to prevent it from falling.

I had finished mounting and wiring the light and I was attempting to install the hinged cover. All I had to do was hook on the safety wire and I would be done. The whole time I was doing this, I was consciously aware of the fact that I needed to be extremely careful not to drop the cover. I was constantly thinking “be careful” as I was screwing on the safety wire.

Then it happened. My hand slipped and time seemed to slow down as I watched helplessly as the cover fell in slow motion. It landed on the pavement and shattered into a million pieces. I was sick. Sick that it had happened. Sick with myself for letting it happen. Wondering how it happened when I had been so careful to make sure that it wouldn’t happen. But it did happen.

My incident with the cover is insignificant compared to the hopes and dreams that have been shattered. Jacob’s world was shattered when he came to believe that Joseph had been torn to pieces by a wild animal. I’m sure he had big hopes and dreams for his favorite son. Perhaps he would inherit all of Jacob’s possessions and lead the family and his herds. It was a noble dream. But God had other plans, and Joseph was taken away. The dream was dead.

Either we have had that happen to us, or we will have it happen. God tends to bring us to a place where he asks us to let go of that which is dearest to us.

It happened with me. I had great and mighty plans. I had fasted and prayed for hours each day to make sure that I was on the right path. I had planned out the girl I wanted to marry and how I would go into the ministry as an evangelist. I would sing and preach. But God had other plans. The girl broke my heart and I watched as all that I had planned shattered and crumbled. I was broken.

Maybe you are broken as you read this. Maybe your world has come crashing down beyond your control. Maybe you have obeyed God and done everything right and, yet, the bottom has fallen out. Take heart for you are not alone. Many great Christians of old have been where you are and watched as God took their broken dreams and replaced them with His own. And His way is always better. His way is best.

Soon your Joseph will be restored, and, this time, he will be a prince. Jacob could have never fathomed in his early years the riches his family would know. He was placed among the elites of the day. God’s way is best.

The pain I suffered caused me to leave my church of 16 years to attend a new one. I needed a new beginning. I arrived there shattered and broken. There I met my wonderful wife and now we are blessed with beautiful twin daughters. I play my guitar and sing in front of hundreds of people every week. God restored and renewed my life. His way is best.

I drove to the shop that day hoping that I might find a replacement cover. I walked in and was thrilled to find a spare cover laying on the shelf. It worked perfectly and I thank God as I rode back to install it.

If you are broken today and your dreams have been shattered, turn it over to The Lord. He may just have a place for you in the royal halls of Egypt. Our plan may be beloved, but God’s plan is best.