Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Press Gangs - 8/09/2017

An Arkie's Faith column from the August 9, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.


While I was doing genealogy research, I came across an interesting story from many years ago. When I was in school, I learned that one of the causes of the War of 1812 was that Americans were outraged by the British Royal Navy’s practice of impressment, or removing seamen from U.S. vessels and forcing them to serve in the British Navy. Impressing American sailors became a common practice, with an estimated 15,000 American sailors impressed into the British Royal Navy in the years leading up to 1812.

Although I knew about the impressment of American sailors, I was not aware of the impressment of sailors from the Maritime Provinces in Canada. The Crown claimed a permanent right to seize men of seafaring experience for the Royal Navy. The men pressed into service were usually sailors in the merchant fleets, but would often be ordinary apprentices and laborers.

The Royal Navy used press gangs to force men into service. Press gangs operated in British North America with the legal backing of the British Parliament. A commissioned officer would lead the press gang with ten or so sailors under his command. A ship would come to a seaport, and if they needed men, the press gang would go ashore and force men to serve on the ship.

As you can imagine, these press gangs were extremely unpopular. They took men from their families by force and left many cities with a diminished work force. The use of press gangs sparked resistance, riots, and political turmoil in seaports such as Halifax, St. John's, and Quebec City. In spite of its unpopularity, the Royal Navy increased the use of press gangs in coastal areas of British North America. In response, sailors and residents fought back with a range of tactics. They sometimes reacted violently.

The story that I uncovered happened in St. John’s, Newfoundland in 1794. In October of that year, the warship Boston was ready to set sail from St. John’s after taking on supplies for a long voyage. The Boston was short eighteen men, so Lieutenant Richard Lawry led a press gang ashore to impress men into service. Lieutenant Lawry and several other sailors were escorting two recently impressed sailors when a mob attacked them.

According to reports from that time, the crowd behaving in a “riotous and tumultuous manner,” liberated the two pressed sailors and then beat “Lieutenant Lawry in so unmerciful a manner that he died the next morning of the wounds he had received in this fray.” Lawry’s murder was the only large-scale press gang disturbance in Newfoundland’s history and is considered one of the most serious crimes ever committed in Newfoundland. The incident brought press gangs into the spotlight, and they were used much less after the murder of Lieutenant Lawry. The last use of press gangs in Newfoundland was in 1815.

I’m glad that I don’t live in a place and time where it is legal to kidnap people and force them to work on a ship. The United States has other ways to keep its military forces properly manned. I was in high school during the Vietnam War. The military used the draft to keep the armed forces at full strength.

In 1969, President Nixon ordered a lottery system for selecting men to be drafted. I remember the tension that all of us boys felt when the lottery dates were announced. The draft was ended on Jan. 27, 1973, just a little more than a year before I turned eighteen. The relief that I felt was immense. Because I have experienced the possibility of being drafted, I have empathy for those who feared the press gangs of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Now, the United States operates under an all-volunteer armed forces policy. The military relies on recruiters to find men and women interested in the military and by explaining the benefits of military service, entice them to join.

God doesn’t use a draft to get people to serve Him, and He doesn’t use press gangs. God created us to be in a mutually loving relationship with Him. He doesn’t force us into a relationship, but He gives us the free choice to decide for ourselves to love and serve Him or not.

God says, “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.” Jeremiah 31:3 (NLT) God wants to draw us to Himself with loving kindness. He pursues us and tries to win us over with His goodness, His mercy, and His blessings. When we reject God through disobedience and ask Him to leave us alone in our sin, God does not force us to change. He will pursue us, but when we ask Him to leave us alone through our disobedience or our direct requests, He does what we ask.

God doesn’t force His love on us, and He does not force us to love Him. He doesn’t use press gangs or the draft to obtain followers. God draws and woos us through His kindness, to win our affection. Since God wants to have a genuine loving relationship with us, He gives us the freedom of choice to love Him or not.

Gentle Reader, God will never force you to serve Him, but He wants a relationship with you. He loves you, and He longs for you to love Him in return. “We love Him because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19 (KJV) David understood this when he wrote in Psalms 27:8 (NLT)  “My heart has heard you say, ‘Come and talk with me.’ And my heart responds, ‘Lord, I am coming.’” I hope that you will respond to God’s love for you and volunteer to join His forces. God is “longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9 (NKJV)

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Loving Maggie - 8/02/2017

An Arkie's Faith column from the August 2, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.


Last week we had a special house guest. Her name is Maggie, and she is a sweet girl with long beautiful hair. Although we haven’t known her for very long, we have become very close. She enjoyed her stay here very much. I don’t know when we have had a more pleasant house guest.

Every day when I would get home from work, Maggie would look at me with her big beautiful eyes as if to say, “I have missed you so much.” All evening Maggie wanted our attention. Her favorite place to be was on my lap. Maggie was well mannered and obedient. She has a way about her that makes you feel special.

When I would come downstairs in the morning, Maggie would be there prancing around wagging her tail and waiting to be let outside. If she strayed to the edge of the yard, all I would have to do was say “Maggie,” and she would come right back. One morning Maggie spotted a squirrel and started to chase it, but with one word she abandoned the chase and came back to me. She was very obedient and eager to please.

Every moment Maggie was awake she wanted to be with us; she wanted us to pay attention to her. Although she is a border collie and a fairly large dog, she loves to be on your lap. She not only wants to sit on your lap, but she wants to lay back and if it were possible to melt into you. As much as she wanted to be with us, when it was time to go to bed she would get in her kennel without being forced. She sleeps in a large wire kennel and when she is told to go to her room, she immediately goes into her kennel.

Over the years I have known many dogs, but Maggie is the most loving, devoted, and obedient dog I have been around. It is hard to describe just how much Maggie loves you and wants to please and obey you. As I was reading my Bible, I came across a verse that I thought described Maggie. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” Deuteronomy 6:5 (NKJV) Maggie loves with all her heart, with all her soul, and with all her strength. And in John 14:15 (NKJV) Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” Maggie was eager to please us by obeying our commands, whether it was to go into her kennel or stop chasing a squirrel.

I think that Maggie is a good object lesson on the kind of relationship God wants with us. He doesn’t want obedience that comes from fear; He wants obedience that comes from love. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear.” 1 John 4:18 (NKJV) Do we have that kind of relationship with God?

Just like Maggie puts every part of her existence into loving her people, God wants a total relationship with us. He wants us to love Him with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our strength.

In the Bible, the heart is representative of the seat of our emotions. Although we know that thoughts and emotions take place in our brains, we still use the concept of the heart as the seat of emotions. When we send a text to someone we love, we might add a heart emoji. When we are committed to someone we say, I gave them my heart. If that relationship ends, we say we have a broken heart. God wants us to be emotionally committed to Him. He doesn’t just want us to have a dry, formal knowledge about Him; He wants us to love Him with all of our heart.

God wants us to love him with all of our soul. In the Bible, the “soul” refers to one’s whole being as a living person. For example, Genesis 2:7 tell us that “the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” (KJV) In the New King James Version and almost every other English version Genesis 2:7 reads, “and man became a living being.” God wants us to love Him with every part of our life.

We are to love God with everything that we are. Both the heart and soul have to do with the very center of our lives as living human beings. We are to commit everything to God and bring everything under His control, giving ourselves to Him entirely for the rest of our lives. This includes our desires, our feelings, our thoughts, our affections, our time, our money, our plans, our purpose and our goals.

To love God with all our strength means we are to love Him one hundred percent. It means that we are to not only love Him emotionally, but we are to show our love by our actions. James 1:22  (NIV) says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” Loving God with all our strength is to love with our resources, our abilities and our time. It is love in action.

But God doesn’t ask us to produce this love for Him out of thin air. The Bible says that “we love him, because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19 (KJV) And that “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 (NKJV) When we become aware of how much God loves us, our natural response should be to love him back with all our heart, soul, and strength.

Gentle Reader, Do you love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength? In John 14:15 (NKJV) Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” Let’s resolve to be as devoted as Maggie; to love Jesus with our entire being, keep His commandments, and want to spend time with Him.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Playing With Slime - 7/26/2017

An Arkie's Faith column from the July 26, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.


This summer, our granddaughters have been spending time with us. Each one gets to spend a week at Grandma’s house. They like the extra attention that comes from being the only grandchild at Grandma’s. My nine-year-old middle child granddaughter was the last visitor to Camp Grandma. While she was here, one of her favorite activities was making slime with Grandma.

Every night of the week she made slime. She made plain slime, colored slime, glitter slime and fluffy slime. She enjoyed making the slime and playing with it after it was made. Grandma helped her find recipes for slime on the internet and Papa was sent to the store to buy the ingredients. Some recipes worked better than others.

Her favorite recipe used one bottle of Elmer’s Clear School Glue with ½ tablespoon of baking soda mixed in and then one tablespoon of contact lens solution added. To this basic recipe, she would add food coloring and glitter to make different varieties of slime.

She isn’t the only kid that likes making slime. Slime is everywhere. Kids around the world are a part of this fad. Whether they live in South America, Asia, Europe, Australia, New Zealand or just about anywhere in the world, the slime craze has spread like wildfire through social media.

Many stores can’t keep the glue needed to making slime in stock. There are many recipes and video tutorials for making slime on the internet. Instagram alone lists more than 2 million posts with the hashtag #slime. The slime mania has led to a spike in sales of Elmer’s School Glue. Caitlin Watkins, a spokeswoman for Elmer’s Glue, said the company had seen a recent surge in liquid glue sales “due in large part to slime mania.” The firm plans to increase production of Elmer's White School Glue, the most popular glue for making slime.

According to Wal-Mart spokesperson Michelle Malashock; “Walmart has seen a rise in glue sales, and we are rolling out a plan to respond to the increase to make sure kids and parents can find the glue they need to have fun with the latest crafting trend.”

I wondered what was so intriguing about this squishy, oozing, not quite solid, not quite liquid substance. Why had this become a worldwide fad? I asked my granddaughter why she liked making and playing with slime. I told her that it was a disgusting substance with no point or purpose. She said, “but Papa, it’s fun.”

I think that one of the things about slime that is so interesting to kids is that it seems like something they shouldn’t be playing with. It seems like something that would ruin your clothes or stain your hands, but you can squish your fingers through the slime, and none of it gets on you. It has the feeling of playing with something that is forbidden.

In our Christian experience, we often go looking for slime. We want to play with things that are forbidden to us. We want to see how close we can come to the edge of what God has forbidden. We want to see if we can enjoy the pleasures of Satan without it sticking to our hands and staining our clothes.

In James 1:14,15 (NET) the Bible shows us what happens when we desire to play with Satan’s slime. “But each one is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desires. Then when desire conceives, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is full grown, it gives birth to death. James 1:14,15 (NET)

How often do we allow ourselves to play with sin? How often do we tell ourselves that we’re justified in our behavior? We tell ourselves that the slime is fun to play with and it doesn't have any lasting consequences, but Jesus tells us that there are consequences. In the parable of the sower, He talks about Christians who allow their desires for other things to choke them out. “Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.”  Mark 4:18,19 (NKJV)

Several years ago my wife and I were driving on a dirt road not long after a heavy rain. We came up to a tee in the road, and I asked my wife which way we should go. She didn’t answer me, so being the smart aleck that I am, I pulled straight through the intersection right up to the edge of the road. Because of the recent heavy rain, the edge of the road was very soft. As I pulled up to the edge of the road, my front tires sank deep into the mud. I put the car in reverse and tried to back up; the front wheels just sank deeper and deeper into the mud. We were stuck. I had to get the small jack out of the trunk of the car and with great difficulty jack the car up and find something to put under the tires so we could back out. By the time I finally got the car out of the mud, I was covered in mud myself.

Gentle Reader, when it comes to our Christian experience, God doesn’t want us to be playing in the slime. He doesn’t want us to get close to the mud. But if we do, He will rescue us from the mud, mire, and slime of sin. Psalms 40:2 (NIV) says, “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” I’m thankful that God has set my feet on a rock and given me a firm place to stand. I want to stay away from the mud, mire, and slime. How about you?

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Fireworks and Liberty - 7/19/2017

An Arkie's Faith column from the July 19, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.


On the 4th of July, my wife and I were invited to a cookout at my cousin’s place. They recently purchased a house and acreage that sits on the top of a high hill. The property has commanding views of the Ouachita Mountains to the south and the Kiamichi Mountains to the west along with the broad valley below.

After watching a beautiful sunset and being entertained by our own private fireworks show, we sat on the deck and watched fireworks from one end of the valley to the other. There were so many fireworks that we didn’t know where to look next. It was truly a spectacular sight.

As I watched the fireworks and thought about what the 4th of July celebrations meant, I wondered why we shoot off fireworks to celebrate Independence Day. Since I have a small personal computer, aka a smart phone, with me at all times, I looked up the history of fireworks and the 4th. I found out that fireworks were set off on July 4, 1777, to celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence one year earlier. The Pennsylvania Evening Post wrote that “The evening was closed with the ring of bells, and at night there was a grand exhibition of fireworks (which began and concluded with thirteen rockets) on the Commons, and the city was beautifully illuminated.”

When, we as Americans, think about the Fourth of July, we think about liberty. On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress officially adopted the Declaration of Independence. One of the most remembered lines is, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." I have been noticing that although Americans want liberty, they are becoming less likely to want to extend liberty to others.

When I was in school, I was taught that the Pilgrims came to America aboard the Mayflower in search of religious freedom in 1620. The Puritans soon followed, for the same reason. Ever since the Pilgrims arrived millions from around the world have done the same, coming to an America where they found a place where everyone was free to practice his faith.

Unfortunately, this isn't true. The arrival of the Pilgrims and Puritans in New England in the early 1600's was a response to the persecution they had experienced in England, but the leaders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony did not tolerate opposing religious views. Their colony was a dictatorship that allowed no dissent, religious or political.

People who disagreed with the official theology of the colony were banished. Catholics and other non-Puritans were banned. Four Quakers were hanged in Boston between 1659 and 1661 for standing up for their beliefs. The Puritans did not understand the principle of religious liberty. The freedom which they sacrificed so much to secure for themselves, they were not equally ready to grant to others.

True religious freedom in America started with the vision of one man, Roger Williams. Governor Bradford of Massachusetts wrote that Williams fell "into some strange opinions which caused some controversy between the church and him." In October 1635 Williams was tried by the General Court and convicted of sedition and heresy. He was then ordered to be banished. In the spring of 1636, Williams and a number of his followers from Salem began a settlement. He called it "Providence" because he felt that God's Providence had brought him there.  He said that his settlement was to be a haven for those "distressed of conscience.”

Roger Williams believed that any effort by the state to dictate religion or promote any particular religious idea or practice was forced worship. He colorfully declared that "forced worship stinks in the nostrils of God."

Are your feelings on religious liberty like those of Roger Williams, or are they more like the Puritans?  The Puritans believed in religious liberty. They just didn't believe in it for others.  If you haven’t thought much about religious liberty – and we seldom do if our liberties aren't being taken from us – spend some time today thinking about it.

Do you believe in religious liberty for those with whom you disagree? What about other Christian denominations with different practices? What about the Muslim, the Buddhist, the Hindu or the Wiccan? What about the agnostic or the atheist. Do you believe in religious liberty for them?

If you do believe in religious liberty for all, you will not make disparaging or hateful remarks about anyone. John Wesley said, “Condemn no man for not thinking as you think. Let everyone enjoy the full and free liberty of thinking for himself. Let every man use his own judgment since every man must give an account of himself to God."

It is a good thing to do what we can to stand up to those governments that are trampling on the liberties of Christians around the world, but will we be as vocal when the liberties of others religions are taken from them.  If we truly believe in religious liberty, we must be advocates for anyone whose liberties are threatened.

God wants all to come to repentance and be saved, but He will not force us to come to him. Free will to obey or disobey is not only biblical but essential to man's relationship to God.  He wants us to love, obey, serve, and worship Him and to do so by choice. God allows us to choose Him or to chose not to follow Him. Joshua told the Children of Israel, “Now therefore revere the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:14,15 (NRSV)

Gentle Reader, God doesn’t want any obedience, worship, or love that doesn't come willingly from the heart. He wants you to willingly choose to serve Him. If God so freely gives liberty – even to do what is wrong – we should be willing to give religious liberty to all.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Dearly Beloved - 7/12/2017

An Arkie's Faith column from the July 12, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.


Last week I had the honor of officiating at my niece’s wedding. It was a lovely ceremony, and we had a wonderful time visiting with family.

In my wedding talk I asked the question, why are we here? Why do we spend lots of money on dresses, tuxedos, flowers and a special venue? When you think about it, the whole thing is a bit weird. Why do we have the wedding traditions that we do? Why do we have a wedding party, a veil, special flowers, dresses, and cake? What made my niece decide to come to a chapel and stand on the stage looking fancy; to be stared at by friends and family?

The marriage ceremony has been important to nearly every society, religion and culture for thousands of years. Throughout our lives we have many important moments, but why is marriage so important that we mark it with a special ceremony and want to share the ceremony with our friends and family?

It is because of love. No matter what you believe, love is the great unifier. Love is the universal truth. In the Christian tradition, we know that the Bible says that, “God is love.” 1 John 4:8 (KJV) It also tells us that, “Three things will last forever – faith, hope, and love – and the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13 (NLT)

The week before the wedding, my niece wrote, “I often get caught up in the busyness of life, and it is easy to focus on all the wrong things; But if you focus on love, your whole perspective changes!”

Weddings are wonderful, joyous events. There is a lot of time and expense involved in preparing for a wedding because it is such an important symbol of a loving relationship. Marriage is the most intimate of all relationships. When God wanted to express the love He has for His people; He could not have chosen a more powerful image than the church as His bride.

In Ephesians 5:25 (NKJV) the Bible tells us, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.” When a bride and groom are in love, they can think of nothing else but each other. That is the kind of love God has for His church, His people.

The symbol of marriage between God and his people also occurs in the Old Testament.  In Isaiah 62:5 (NLT) it says, “God will rejoice over you as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride.”

In the New Testament, the symbol of the bridegroom is used in a story found in Matthew 25, where it says that God’s kingdom is like ten young women who took oil lamps and went out to greet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were smart. The foolish women took lamps, but no extra oil. The smart women took jars of oil to refill their lamps.

The bridegroom didn’t show up when they expected him, and they all fell asleep. In the middle of the night, someone yelled out, “He’s here!” All ten women got up and got their lamps ready. The foolish women said to the smart ones, “our lamps are going out; lend us some of your oil.” They answered, “there might not be enough to go around; go buy your own.” While they were out buying oil, the bridegroom arrived. When everyone who was there to greet him had gone into the wedding feast, the door was locked.

Who does the bridegroom represent in this story? Jesus is the bridegroom, and the parable refers to his second coming. Jesus wanted us to know that He will return at an unexpected time. The bridesmaids knew the wedding was near; they could read the signs, but five of them were unprepared. When the bridegroom came, they weren’t ready.

Revelation 19:7,8 (NLT) says, “Let us be glad and rejoice, and let us give honor to Him. For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb, and His bride has prepared herself. She has been given the finest of pure white linen to wear. For the fine linen represents the good deeds of God’s holy people.” No earthly honeymoon can be even remotely close to what Jesus has in store for his bride. In 1 Corinthians 2:9 (NLT) we learn that “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”

During the time that Jesus lived here on the earth, a man would never consider getting married unless he had a house ready for his new bride. Jesus has promised us that he will prepare a place for his bride.  We can find His promise in John 14:2,3 (NKJV) where it says, “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 to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”

Gentle Reader, Jesus has promised to prepare a place for you. It will be more awesome than anything you have ever imagined. The most beautiful places on Earth will be nothing compared to what Jesus is preparing for you. When a bride and groom are passionately in love, they can think of nothing else but each other; it is an obsession! God has passionate love for His bride, and He desires us to have passionate love for Him. Today Jesus is asking for your hand in marriage.  What will your answer be?

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Empty Cupboards - 7/05/2017

An Arkie's Faith column from the July 5, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.

No one likes to go to their cupboard and find it bare. When I was a child, I loved to listen to records. I still remember a record of nursery rhyme songs that I listened to over and over. One of the songs was ”Old Mother Hubbard.” The song began, “Old Mother Hubbard went to the cupboard, to give the poor dog a bone; When she came there, the cupboard was bare, and so the poor dog had none.” I always felt sorry for the poor dog. I don’t know why I didn’t feel sorry for Mother Hubbard.

I am a volunteer at a local food pantry. The food pantry purchases a lot of the food that they distribute from an out of town food bank. Once a month the food bank brings our order on a truck. The food bank changed our delivery time from the first Wednesday of the month to the fourth Wednesday. Because of the change, the food pantry was open for almost two months without being restocked. The cupboards were almost bare. Today the food pantry received a shipment, and it felt good to help restock the shelves. The next time the food pantry is open, there will be plenty of food to distribute to those who need it.

The Bible has several empty cupboard stories. I like the one that we find in 2 Kings chapter 4; the story of a widow with empty cupboards. The widow came to the prophet Elisha and said, “my husband, is dead. You know he honored the Lord. But now the man he owes money to is coming to take my two boys as his slaves!” Elisha answered, “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?” The woman said, “I don’t have anything there except a pot of oil.” Then Elisha said, “Go and get empty jars from all your neighbors. Don’t ask for just a few.” 2 Kings 4:1-3 (NCV)

I find it interesting that Elisha didn’t tell the widow to ask her neighbors for food or money. Instead, she was to ask for containers. Imagine with me what her neighbors were thinking. “What in the world is she going to do with all these containers?” I imagine that the widow was wondering the same thing herself. But she believed in God, and she trusted God’s prophet, Elisha. She could have said, “that’s crazy, my boys and I are starving, and my creditors are going to take my boys as slaves, and your solution is for me to borrow containers from my neighbors. How can that possibly help our situation?”

God gives us what we have, and then tells us that if we use what He has given us, no matter how seemingly little or small in our eyes, we have what we need. He has given each one of us talents and gifts and strengths and abilities. The story of the widow teaches us that we have to make them available to God; and even though they seem small and insignificant, He can do great things for us.

Once they gathered the containers, Elisha told the widow, “go into your house and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and set the full ones aside.” So she left Elisha and shut the door behind her and her sons. As they brought the jars to her, she poured out the oil. When the jars were all full, she said to her son, “Bring me another jar.” But he said, “There are no more jars.” Then the oil stopped flowing. She went and told Elisha. And the prophet said to her, “Go, sell the oil and pay what you owe. You and your sons can live on what is left.” 2 Kings 4:3-7 (NCV)

God will use what little we have in a great way if we will let Him. But first, have to be willing to give God all of the little we possess! If we put what little we have in Gods hands, it’s not limited by our capabilities anymore; it is only limited by how much we think God can do. It is limited by how many containers we have rounded up. In the story of the widow, when there were no more jars, the oil stopped flowing.

In Luke 18:27 (NKJV) Jesus says, “the things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” The widow and her sons were in an impossible situation. Their cupboards were empty. But God had a way to take care of their impossible situation. The only thing that limited them was the number of jars that they had borrowed.

In Mark 9 there is another story of a family in an impossible situation. Their son couldn’t speak, and he would foam at the mouth, grind his teeth, and become rigid. Since he was a baby, he had a spirit that would often throw him into the fire and sometimes into the water, trying to destroy him. The father came to Jesus and said, “I have run out of options; I have tried everything. But if there’s anything You can do, please, have pity on us and help us.” Mark 9:22 (VOICE) Then Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” Mark 9:23 (NKJV)

Gentle Reader, all things are possible when you place them in God’s hands. If your cupboards are empty, put the empty cupboards in God’s hands. Ask Him to take care of your impossible situation. God doesn’t need what we have to produce more for us, but what He is looking for is for us to trust Him with what we do have. “Taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” Psalms 34:8 (NKJV)

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Final Exam - 6/28/2017

An Arkie's Faith column from the June 28, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.


Most people don't like to take tests. It makes them nervous. Some occupations such as nursing, law, civil service jobs, and many others, require passing a test before you can be licensed to work. Tests can create a lot of anxiety in people. Waiting to find out if you passed is very stressful.

I remember taking my driving test. I was driving a 1962 Chrysler. For the turn signals to work, you had to hold the turn signal lever in position because it wouldn’t stay if you didn’t. When I had to turn corners during the test, I had to hold the turn signal lever in position with one hand while I steered with the other. When the test was over, the driving examiner took off points because when I turned a corner, I didn’t keep both hands on the wheel. He didn’t notice that I was holding the turn signal lever in position with the other hand. I was afraid that I wouldn't pass the exam, but after a lecture on the importance of keeping both hands on the wheel, he gave me a passing grade.

When I was in high school, I had a teacher who told us that if we had an A in the class, we wouldn’t have to take the final exam.  I didn’t like to take finals, so I worked hard at making an A. The Monday of finals week the teacher posted the grades. I looked at the bulletin board and saw that I had an A-.  I was relieved; I wouldn’t have to take the final exam. Then the teacher told me that I would have to take the final exam because only those who had an A were exempt and I had an A-. I argued that an A- was still an A but it didn’t do me any good. I still had to take the final exam. I was not happy.

Many Christians go through life like they are in school. They are always worried about their grades. They are concerned about making a passing grade. They spend their lives in anxiety about the outcome. They have the belief that they cannot know if they are saved or lost! Many don't have that assurance of salvation.

The Bible has a lot to say on this topic. You can have the assurance of salvation. Jesus Himself gives assurance to those who believe in Him. In John 10:27,28 (NRSV) Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.”

While I was speaking to a group of people on the topic of assurance, I asked the question, “How many here are married? If you are, raise your hand.” Most of the hands in the audience went up. Then I asked a follow-up question, “How many of you don't know if you're married or not?” Not a single hand went up. Then I asked, “How do you know that you are married?”

Just about everyone knows if they are married or not. There might be the rare issue in the legal system that makes someone unsure of their marital status, but most people know whether or not they are married.

We can be sure of our marital status, but can we know if we are saved? Surely we can know. In Philippians 4:7 (VOICE) Paul tells us that we can, “know that the peace of God (a peace that is beyond any and all of our human understanding) will stand watch over your hearts and minds in Jesus.” If we are wondering every moment of every day what our score is on our final exam, we do not have peace. But God has promised his children peace. When Jesus was about to leave this earth, he told His disciples, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27 (NLT)

We can be sure of our marital status, but can we be sure of what our marital status will be ten years from now? Now that’s a different question, isn’t it? In 2 Peter 1:10 (NLT) the Apostle Peter wrote, “Dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. Do these things, and you will never fall away.”

We can know that we are saved today, but only God knows the future. Only He knows whether or not we will fall away. But we can know in our heart whether or not we are in a saved condition right now. We need to know that.

Works-oriented Christians know that they don’t measure up. They know that Romans 6:23 (NKJV) tells us, “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” They have a hard time believing that eternal life is actually a gift of God. They feel that to achieve eternal life; they must score high on the final exam.

If we think perfect obedience is the test, every time we make a mistake we feel that God can’t save us. That doubt is intensified by the accusations made by Satan against us. Satan delights in making us doubt our salvation. On the other hand, we can delude ourselves by looking at our works with an overblown view of our own goodness, seeing righteousness in ourselves when there is none.

Gentle Reader, Jesus wants you to be saved. 2 Peter 3:9 (NCV) says, “God is being patient with you. He does not want anyone to be lost, but he wants all people to change their hearts and lives.” When you believe in Him and change your heart and life, Jesus wants you to know that you are saved. In John 6:47 (NKJV) Jesus says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.”