Prep Work

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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

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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

Daddy’s Arms

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“The name of the Lord is a strong tower:
the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.” – Proverbs 18:10

I am the father of beautiful twin baby girls. In a few weeks, they will be a year old. They never cease to amaze me with all they can do and how much they make me laugh. I’ve learned so much since I was blessed with them.

One of our daily rituals with the girls involves a polyester fabric tent that their uncle gave them for Christmas. They like to play a game that usually takes place between bath time and bedtime. One of the girls usually crawls into the tent and waits for somebody to come in and “get” her. They become overwhelmed with excitement when we crawl in after them.

They love it the most when I climb into the tent with them. It’s a little small for me, so my feet wind up sticking out the bottom of the tent. They will sit in my lap and wait anxiously for mommy to come and “get” them. As soon as she crawls in with a playful yell, they both giggle and climb into my arms and up into my chest. It’s a fun game to them, but they find comfort in daddy’s arms.

As Christians, it’s comforting to know that we can find refuge in our Heavenly Father’s arms. No matter what comes our way, we can find security in God’s arms. Romans 8:39 says that nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And, our Father cherishes the times when we climb into His arms. “I love them that love me;
and those that seek me early shall find me.” Proverbs 8:17. As a father, I love it when my girls seek me for security. I do everything I can to protect them and I would lay down my life for them, but I cannot protect them at all times. Our Heavenly Father can. He is our “very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1

What evil threatens you today? Is some temptation weighing heavy on your resolve? Is your health facing a questionable future? Are your relationships near the breaking point? These and other circumstances often come to drive us into the arms of God. We may have drifted to far from His loving embrace and He longs to hold us close once again.

Do not refuse Him. Climb into His arms and find rest.

I’ll never forget these times we share in the tent with our girls. Eventually they’ll outgrow the tent, but I’ll always hold the memory close as a reminder of the love and protection of my Heavenly “Daddy.” He ever awaits to embrace us.

The eternal God is thy refuge,
and underneath are the everlasting arms:
and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee;
and shall say, Destroy them. Duet 33:27

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Bitter

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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

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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.

Charlie Benter

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I waited patiently for the Lord;
and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.
He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay,
and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.
Psalm 40:1-2

His name was Charlie Benter. That’s a name I’ll never forget. He was a customer of ours that we worked for on several occasions. He was from Michigan and he was your stereotypical northerner. I live in the holy land of the south with sweet tea and grits, so I was not used to that culture. He was a little rough around the edges, but a very nice man.

A coworker and I went to work at his house for a few days and, when we arrived, we discovered that he was in bad health. His wife had recently passed and he sat in a lonely living room watching tv from a recliner. He could barely walk.

Most of the work we had to do was outside and in the basement. We spent one particular day in the basement. As the day neared an end, we were working steadily and I kept hearing a faint tapping noise. I heard it several times, but I passed it off as nothing. We finished for the day and waked upstairs to tell Mr. Benter that we were done, but he was nowhere to be found. Then we heard him calling for help.

We followed his voice and found him laying helplessly in the bathroom floor. He had fallen and wasn’t able to pull himself back up. I felt terrible. That tapping I heard was Mr. Benter beating on the floor in a desperate attempt to get our attention. We asked if we needed to call an ambulance, but all he wanted was for us to help him to his recliner. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

My coworker was a big guy. 6’4″. 240. I work out at the gym regularly and think I have a respectable amount of strength. It took ever last ounce of strength we had to move him. He couldn’t walk at all, and we had to drag him to his recliner. After what seemed like an eternity, we finally lifted him into his chair. We were all sweating and exhausted. We asked if he needed anything and he said no. We left feeling totally traumatized.

Like most Christians, I have seen my walk with The Lord go up and down. There have been times that it seemed like God was walking by my side, and others where my prayers seemed to stay below the ceiling. This was a time that I felt very close to The Lord. As the days passed, I felt the Holy Spirit urging me to go see Mr. Benter. I felt like the situation we experienced would be a great way to witness to him.

I could tell him that we are all helpless and laying on the floor of life with no hope or strength to pick ourselves up. If we send for help, The Lord will come to our rescue, and lift us up out of the miry clay. I couldn’t hear the taps on the floor, but God hears the faintest cry. It would have been so easy to witness to him, but I never went. I am not proud of that fact.

The days went by and my boss told me that Mr. Benter was in the hospital. His was a wealthy man and my boss told me stories of a Mr. Benter handing out wads of cash to everyone at the hospital. Then he told me that he had died. That shook me to the core. I can only hope that God sent another willing vessel to give the gospel to Mr. Benter. If not, he is probably in hell and his blood is on my hands.

When the Holy Spirit whispers in our ear to share the gospel with someone, we should respond right away. That person could be a step from eternity. I’m not perfect and I don’t witness like I should, but I try and be a light to those around me. Whether it’s through telling someone the gospel, or giving out a tract, I try and obey The Lord. I still have a long way to go. Charlie Benter taught me that there may not be a second chance.

Perhaps you are reading this and you don’t know The Lord as Savior. He can and will save you if you pray and ask him to. We are all born helpless sinners laying bound for hell after death, but God can reach down and pull us up. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” That’s all there is to it. Jesus paid for your sins when he died on Calvary. Ask Him to save you and He will.

We had great difficulty in helping Mr. Benter, but God is mighty to save. He can and will reach down in the miry clay and pit and lift you up to new life in Him.
Trust Him today.

Passing Clouds

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“For ever, O Lord,
thy word is settled in heaven.” – Psalm 119:89

I was working one day in a gas station parking lot to repair some inoperative pole lights. We have various methods for working on these type of light fixtures. Depending on the height of the pole, we usually rent some sort of a motorized lift.

In this particular case, the poles were not very high, so I decided to use my extension ladder to reach the light. This is not the safest way, so I wouldn’t recommend it. I tend to be a little adventurous at work and I try to complete the job as efficiently and with as little cost as possible. Lifts are expensive to rent.

I climbed the ladder, removed the light fixture’s cover and began to work. It was a beautiful day filled with blue skies and white puffy clouds, and, as I was working, my eyes drifted to the clouds. As I watched the clouds pass by, I suddenly felt dizzy and began to loose my balance. My heart jumped into my throat as the thought of falling overwhelmed me.

Then, I focused my eyes on the light. I was able to steady myself and regain my balance. It took focusing on a stable object to help me regain my footing.

This world is an ever changing mixture of opinions and philosophies. Entire television shows are devoted to debating the latest political topics. Social media provides a stage for millions to voice their thoughts and opinions on every subject under the sun. The only certainty in this world is that nothing is for certain.

Scientists, politicians, movies stars, and many others tell us how we must think and feel, and others say that there is no absolute truth. “If it feels good, do it.” “Love whoever you want to. ” “It’s a woman’s choice.” And on and on it goes.

God said that His Word was forever settled in Heaven. That’s a comforting thought.

It’s high time we got our eyes off the world and on the Word. Every day another Christian looses their balance and falls for the schemes of the world. We must not allow the passing clouds of opinion to catch our gaze.

Is your world unstable today? Do you need to regain your footing? Turn your eyes upon Jesus and his eternal unchanging Word.