Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Corn Maze - 10/18/2017

An Arkie's Faith column from the October 18, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.


Have you ever experienced a corn maze? I recently had my first corn maze experience at Holly Springs Homestead, a local family farming operation owned by Luke and Deedee Alston. Both Luke and Deedee grew up on a farm. The land they farm includes land originally owned by Luke’s great-great-grandfather, and the very land where Luke’s father was born. Holly Springs Homestead is recognized as a Century Farm by the Arkansas Agriculture Department.

My wife and I made plans to go to Holly Springs Homestead for this year’s Fall Fun on the Farm. It looked like it would be lots of fun. We wanted our granddaughters from Louisiana to be able to go with us, but the timing didn’t work out. We decided to go even if our grandkids couldn’t. The website description of the event tantalized us. “You can get lost in the corn maze, enjoy a beautiful ride through the country and see the sights on the hayride, admire acres of the sunflowers, learn something new at the Crops of Arkansas display or one of our many on-farm educational events, step back in time for some old-fashioned play in The Kids Farm, and experience a real pumpkin patch – see how they are planted, watch them in various stages of growth and take one home!”

The day we planned to go to the farm turned out cloudy, breezy, and overcast. As we pulled into the parking lot, a few drops of rain started falling. We decided to go ahead and experience the farm and the corn maze even if there were a few raindrops. We headed for the corn maze, but at the entrance to the maze, they were getting ready to leave on a hayride. During the hours that the Fun on the Farm is open, there is a hayride every thirty minutes. Since the hayride was ready to leave, we climbed aboard. The hayride travels along the outside edge of the corn maze and through the sunflower patch, the pumpkin patch, the barnyard, and the crops of Arkansas plots where we saw rice and cotton growing.

By the time the hayride was over, the rain had stopped, and the sky seemed to be clearing. We made our way into the corn maze. The maze covers six acres and is covered from one end to the other with winding paths. The corn is very tall, and there is no way to see anything except corn stalks and the path you are currently on. It didn’t take long for us to realize that trying to figure where we were on the tiny map they provided was almost impossible. We ended up going around in circles several times. We thought we were in a completely different part of the maze when we turned a corner a found ourselves at the exit. We had been having so much fun that we turned around and tried to find our way back to the entrance. By the time we found our way back to the entrance, the sun had come out and we were hot, sweaty, and thirsty.

It may sound corny, pun intended; but our corn maze adventure has parallels with our Christian walk. While walking through the maze, we learned to be prepared to change directions. In this life, you are going to have to be willing to change your course. In the cornfield, if we had decided that we would only go straight, we would have never gotten out of that maze. We had to be flexible enough to move out of the area we knew into a new area to get to the end. In the same way, God doesn’t want us to become complacent as we go through life. He wants us growing, and often that means taking us on a new path and learning new things.

It can be hard to understand where you are going when you are concentrating on what is directly in front of you. But when you rise above and see the situation from a different viewpoint, you will be able to see the path you have been taking all along. Once my wife and I found the exit of the corn maze, we were better able to understand the layout of the maze. When we knew where the exit was in relation to the treeline, we had a much better idea of our location in the maze as we made our way back to the entrance.

In Colossians 3:2 (NKJV) the Bible tells us to “set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” We can get bogged down in the worries and cares of this world and fail to see the way God is leading in our lives. The rest of your life is just like a maze. There will be many times that you will have to decide whether to go left, right, or straight ahead. It is important to have a plan, to seek out help. In 1 Corinthians 9:26 (NIV) Paul said, “I do not run like someone running aimlessly.”

If you run aimlessly, make the wrong choices, and choose the wrong paths in life, you will waste part or all of your life. You will be angry and frustrated, and you will never reach the end successfully. But God has given you something to help you through the maze of life. You have the word of God, which is “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalms 119:105 (NKJV)

Gentle Reader, you will be lost in the maze of life without God's word. It sheds light on all your decisions so you can see what you should do. “We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” 2 Peter 1:19 (NIV) The word of God and the prophecies it contains are the signposts that keep you going in the right direction in life. The only way you can successfully navigate the maze of life and have a successful exit strategy is to read the Bible and learn of Jesus, ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand what Jesus has done for you, and love and obey Him.  Jesus says, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” John 14:15 (NKJV) Don’t be lost in the maze.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

A Loose Screw - 10/11/2017

An Arkie's Faith column from the October 11, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.


I volunteer at a local food pantry. Once a month we receive a shipment of food from the River Valley Regional Food Bank. The last time that we received a delivery, I met the delivery truck with a couple of friends of mine who also volunteer at the food pantry. After picking up the food and delivering it to the food pantry, we each went our separate ways. I headed back to work in my 1962 Rambler American.

As I pulled away from the food pantry, my Rambler started sputtering and running poorly. Because my gas gauge doesn’t work, I thought that I might be running out of gas, so I headed for the nearest gas station. It only took seven gallons of fuel to fill the Rambler’s tank. I knew that being low on fuel wasn't the problem. After filling the tank, I wasn’t able to keep the little car running enough to drive it. The engine would start, but it ran so poorly I couldn’t move the car.

After a few minutes, I decided that it wasn’t going to run, so I would have to walk back to my shop. Just as I was closing the hood, someone stopped and asked me if they could help. I told them that I could use a ride, so they drove me to my shop. I returned with my Dad, and we towed the Rambler back to the shop.

It was a couple of days before I had time to look at my Rambler. I suspected the fuel system, but when I checked it out, the fuel pump was working great, and plenty of fuel was being delivered to the carburetor. Even though I had rebuilt the carburetor several months ago, I took the top off to inspect the needle valve and jets. Everything looked fine.

When I checked the ignition system, I found that there was a very weak, almost imperceptible spark. What could be causing a weak spark, I asked myself. The points were brand new just a few hundred miles ago, and I checked that they had the proper gap. It wasn’t the points. I replaced the ignition coil and the coil wire. I still had a very weak spark. It wasn’t the coil. What could it be?

A few months ago I had a similar problem with the car, and after rebuilding the carburetor, replacing the spark plugs, replacing the points and distributor cap the problem was finally fixed when I replaced the condenser. Could the new condenser have gone bad already? I decided to change the condenser. When I was replacing the condenser, I noticed that the screw that attaches the condenser lead to the terminal of the points was a bit loose. I didn’t think too much about it, but when I was reinstalling the screw, I found that it was very difficult to get tight.

After installing the condenser, the little Rambler started right up and ran fine. I’m sure that the condenser was good, and that the problem all along had been the loose screw. Such a small thing had caused to much trouble. It made me think about how important each part of a car is if you want it to run properly. Just one small screw being a bit loose made it impossible for me to drive my car.

Henry David Thoreau wrote, “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Many people feel like they are unimportant. They feel that their lives just don’t matter. Nothing they can do will make a difference in the world. They feel that they are just a small insignificant part of the world.

Even though the screw that fastens the condenser lead to the ignition points terminal is very small, if it isn’t doing its job the car can’t function. The same is true in God's Kingdom. 1 Peter 2:5 (NLT) tells us, "you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple.” In a physical building, a missing brick leaves a hole in the wall. God wants us to be a part of something so much bigger than just ourselves, but he wants us to know that we have an important part to play.

Another symbol that the Bible uses for believers is the body of Christ. I Corinthians 12:12,13 (NLT) tells us that “the human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.

When you become a Christian, you become a part of the body of Christ. He is the head. He leads the body. But He needs you. He has a special purpose for you. We read in 1 Corinthians 12:18 (NIV), "God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be." There are more than seven billion people on this planet, but God made only one you. You are unique. You are unlike anyone else who has ever lived or ever will live. He made you because He wants someone exactly like you. He has plans for you. You are important and necessary. The  Bible says, “All of you together are Christ’s body, and each one of you is a  separate and necessary part of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:27( NLT)

Gentle Reader, many people today are experiencing feelings of insignificance because they compare themselves to others. There will always be someone who you feel is more important than you. There are many more important parts of an automobile than a small screw inside the distributor. But that small screw is so important that if it is loose, the automobile isn’t usable. We each have an individual purpose that cannot be compared to anyone else. You are a separate and necessary part of the body of Christ.


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Butterfly Palace - 10/04/2017

An Arkie's Faith column from the October 4, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.


The Butterfly Palace is a family owned attraction in Branson, Missouri. On my last visit to the area, I visited The Butterfly Palace with my sister and her family. In the butterfly aviary, which is designed to be a living rainforest, there are over 1,000 live tropical butterflies from around the world. Butterflies of all sizes and colors were flying everywhere and even lighting on us.

As we walked through the aviary, it was hard to decide where to look next. As a photographer, I was most interested in taking photos of the beautiful butterflies. While we were there, we took part in the daily butterfly release. The Butterfly Palace purchases butterflies in the chrysalis stage from around the world. Each chrysalis is placed in a plastic container. Every day, the butterflies that have emerged from their chrysalis are released into the aviary. The average lifespan of a butterfly is about one month, so the Butterfly Palace must release new butterflies to keep a large population in the aviary.

I enjoyed being a part of the butterfly release. People who are in the aviary at the time of the release are allowed to participate. Each butterfly is in the clear plastic container that has been the home of the chrysalis. Those of us participating were instructed to hold the container over our heads, remove the lid, and turn the container upside down, allowing the butterfly to go free. Some of the butterflies had to be coaxed out of the container after it was opened. My butterfly was eager to be free and flew out of the container before I even turned it upside down.

The butterfly release provides for some great photo opportunities. When the butterfly emerges from its chrysalis, its wings are wet, and the butterfly cannot yet fly. The wings must dry, and the butterfly must exercise flight muscles before it can fly. When the butterflies are released, they like to find a place to land and stretch out their wings. I took some beautiful photographs of these butterflies with their wings spread out.

Butterflies are born as an egg. Next, they turn into a caterpillar. This caterpillar will eat constantly and will grow through this stage of its life. As the caterpillar grows, it will molt or shed its skin. When the caterpillar is fully grown, it goes into a resting stage and becomes a chrysalis. When the chrysalis breaks open, and a butterfly comes out, the adult butterfly will begin the process all over again by laying eggs of its own.

Scientists refer to this process of transformation as metamorphosis. It is an amazing process that is difficult to understand. First, the caterpillar digests itself, releasing enzymes to dissolve its tissues. Certain highly organized groups of cells known as imaginal discs survive the digestive process. Once a caterpillar has disintegrated all of its tissues except for the imaginal discs, those discs use the protein-rich soup all around them to form the wings, antennae, legs, eyes, and all the other features of an adult butterfly. One butterfly expert said, “The creation of the body of a caterpillar into the body and wings of a butterfly is, without doubt, one of the wonders of life on earth.”

Just like the rebirth of a caterpillar into a butterfly can be a difficult process to understand, so can the rebirth of a person. When Jesus was talking to Nicodemus, He said, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.” John 3:3 (NLT) Nicodemus then asked Him, “how can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?” John 3:4 (NLT)

The caterpillar’s metamorphosis provides a great illustration of a believer’s spiritual transformation. The caterpillar's main purpose in life is eating. It eats the leaves in its world just as we feed on the ideas of the world around us. In the chrysalis stage, the caterpillar appears lifeless. Paul described this stage of a Christians life in Romans 6:6 (NCV); “We know that our old life died with Christ on the cross so that our sinful selves would have no power over us and we would not be slaves to sin.”

When the caterpillar emerges from its chrysalis, it is transformed into a completely new creature. When we recognize our sin, confess it, and receive God’s forgiveness, we are transformed into a new life in Him. 1 John 1:9 (NKJV) tells us that, “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV)

Once the butterfly emerges, it does not return to the caterpillar state. When a butterfly emerges from its chrysalis, it flies; something it couldn’t do before. The butterfly drinks sweet nectar instead of gorging on leaves. The butterfly has a new life, a new purpose, a new way of feeding itself.

Gentle Reader, are you a new creation in Christ still trying to gorge on the leaves of this world? Are you still trying to crawl back inside the chrysalis to live as you once lived? Once a butterfly breaks free from the chrysalis, it is free to soar to new heights. It never goes back to its former way, of being in bondage in the chrysalis. Instead, it lives its life as God fully intended. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1 (NIV)

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Waiting Tables - 9/27/2017

An Arkie's Faith column from the September 27, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.


For several years, I have been involved with the American Cancer Society’s Celebrity Waiter Event. Celebrity Waiter is an annual fundraiser where local “celebrities” are asked to wait on guests that they have invited to the event. Money is raised for the American Cancer Society by tipping the waiters.

In the past, I have been involved in organizing the event, but this year I agreed to be a “celebrity waiter” and help my wife wait on a table. It was an eye-opening experience. I have always appreciated the waiters and waitresses that serve me when I go out to eat. But after helping with just one table of eight people, I have a new found appreciation for those who wait tables for a living. During the evening my activity tracker logged over five miles.

Waiting tables is among the most common occupations in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than two million people work as waiters and waitresses in the United States. They are a part of a food service industry that employs more than 7 million people. These people work hard to make it possible for Americans to enjoy eating out.

The term waiter, meaning a servant who waits on tables, was first used in the late 15th century in reference to household servants. By the seventeenth century, it also referred to those who worked in public inns and eating houses. Another term used for someone who waits on tables at a restaurant is server. Whatever term is used to describe someone who waits on tables, it is derived from being a servant.

Jesus talked a lot about those who serve. In Mark 10:43-45 (MEV) He said, “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever among you would be greatest must be servant of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

Service to others is not a glamorous concept. Why do people choose to be a waiter or a waitress? It can be a demanding, draining job. I read a blog post by D. Conrad that told the story of life as a waiter. “I waited tables for thirty-nine years. I started out working six days a week for eleven years. Then four days a week for twenty years. The last eight years was three days a week. Each day was a nine-hour day. All days were very busy. One day my hands were hurting so bad my hips hurt my legs hurt. I just could not do it anymore. I had surgery for carpal tunnel, and shots in my spine. This job is very hard on the body. I hate not working, I loved the people and miss them.”

Why would someone want to spend their lives serving people? Is it because the job is easy? No, it’s not an easy job, but those who excel at it do so because they love serving people. I think that is what God has in mind for His children. He knows that service to others will bless us as well as the community around us. In 1 Peter 4:10 (ERV) Peter wrote, “God has shown you his grace in many different ways. So be good servants and use whatever gift he has given you in a way that will best serve each other.”

Service is a great way to put aside our selfish nature and become connected to others. When we start seeing the needs of others, it takes our focus off of ourselves. Serving others not only strengthens the bonds between us; it reflects the love of God.

As Christians, are we looking out for others the way we look out for ourselves? Do we put their needs ahead of our own? When we do serve others, we often try to serve better and harder if we serve in high-profile situations and are our efforts are noticed by others. When our service goes unnoticed, we aren’t motivated to further service. We want recognition for our service.

God made you for service, not for self-centeredness. In Philippians 2:3-7 (ESV), "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men."

Jesus modeled for us the ultimate example of serving others when He performed a task that was only done by the lowest of household servants in his day. In John 13:4,5 (NET) the Bible says that “He got up from the meal, removed his outer clothes, took a towel and tied it around himself. He poured water into the washbasin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel he had wrapped around himself.” Jesus demonstrated his love for his disciples by serving them.

When we serve others, we demonstrate our love for them. To have a servants heart, we must be willing to do whatever needs to be done. God wants us to develop a lifestyle of service to others. Studies have shown that volunteering is so good for the mind and body that it can ease symptoms of stress and depression. Serving others can be a distraction from our own worries.

Gentle Reader, do you want to prosper and get ahead in life? Jesus said, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” Mark 9:35 (NKJV) “It is God himself who has made us what we are and given us new lives from Christ Jesus, and long ages ago he planned that we should spend these lives in helping others.” Ephesians 2:10 (TLB) To have a happy, meaningful and rewarding life we need to be of service to others. God planned it that way.

Once a Gangster - 9/20/2017

An Arkie's Faith column from the September 20, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.


A few weeks ago, my wife and I took a day trip to Hot Springs with some friends and my sister. After a wonderful lunch at La Hacienda, we toured the historic bathhouse row in Hot Springs National Park. I have visited in the past and am intrigued by the history of Hot Springs.

The first permanent settlers came to the Hot Springs area in 1807. They were quick to realize the area’s potential as a health resort. By the 1830s, log cabins and a store had been built to meet the needs of visitors to the springs. By the 1880’s bathhouses were lining the streets of Hot Springs. The health resort industry led to Hot Springs becoming known as the "American Spa."

Along with the bathhouses, there were gambling establishments. From the Roaring 20’s until the end of World War II ten major casinos and numerous smaller houses operated in Hot Springs. Hot Springs became a haven for notorious criminals and mobsters, including Owen “Owney” Madden, Charles “Lucky” Luciano, and Al Capone. Word spread that Hot Springs was the perfect hideout for criminals running from police investigations. Al Capone and his bodyguards would rent out entire floors of hotels.

During that time, Al Capone virtually owned Chicago. Capone rose to infamy as the leader of the Chicago mafia during the Prohibition era. A gangster needs a good lawyer, and Capone hired one nicknamed "Easy Eddie." Eddie's skill at legal maneuvering kept Al Capone out of jail for a long time.

Capone paid Eddie very well. He and his family occupied a fenced-in mansion with live-in help. The estate was so large that it filled an entire Chicago City block. Eddie lived the high life of the Chicago mob and paid little attention to the vicious crimes committed by his mob friends.

Easy Eddie had a son that he loved dearly. He saw to it that his son had the finest clothes, the fastest cars, and a good education. Eddie wanted his son to be a better man than he was.

One day, Eddie made a difficult decision. He decided he would go to the authorities and tell the truth about Al Capone, clean up his tarnished name, and offer his son a name with some integrity. He knew that he would have to testify against Capone, and he knew that the cost would be great, but he testified anyway. Within the year, Easy Eddie's life ended in a blaze of gunfire on a lonely Chicago street.

In his eyes, Easy Eddie had given his son the greatest gift he had to offer, at the greatest price he could ever pay. When the police found his body, they removed from his pockets a religious medallion, and a clipping from a magazine. It read: "The clock of life is wound but once, and no man has the power to tell just when the hands will stop, at late or early hour. Now is the only time you own. Live, love, toil with a will. Place no faith in time. For the clock may soon be still."

Let’s fast forward to World War II. Lieutenant Commander Butch O'Hare was a fighter pilot assigned to the aircraft carrier Lexington in the South Pacific. One day his entire squadron was sent on a mission.

After he was airborne, he looked at his fuel gauge and realized that someone had forgotten to refuel the plane. He would not have enough fuel to complete his mission and get back to his ship. His flight leader told him to return to the carrier. He dropped out of formation and headed back to the fleet. As he was returning to the ship, he saw a squadron of Japanese aircraft flying toward the American fleet.
The American fighter planes were all gone on a mission, and the fleet was defenseless. Commander O'Hare couldn't reach his squadron and bring them back in time to save the fleet. He had no way to warn the fleet of the approaching danger. He decided that he must somehow divert the Japanese planes from the fleet. With no thought for his safety, he dove into the formation of Japanese planes. His wing-mounted 50 caliber guns blazed as he charged in, attacking one surprised enemy plane and then another. Commander O'Hare wove in and out of the now broken formation and fired at as many planes as possible until his ammunition was gone.

Even though he couldn’t fire his weapons, he continued the assault. He dove at the planes, trying to clip a wing or tail in hopes of damaging as many enemy planes as possible. Finally, the exasperated Japanese squadron took off in another direction.

Commander O'Hare and his tattered fighter plane barely made it back to the carrier. The film from the gun-camera mounted on his plane told the story. It showed the extent of his daring attempt to protect his fleet. He had, in fact, destroyed five enemy aircraft. This action took place on February 20, 1942, and because of his heroism, Lieutenant Commander Butch O'Hare became the Navy's first Ace of World War II, and the first Naval Aviator to win the Medal of Honor.

A year later Butch was killed in aerial combat at the age of 29. His home town of Chicago would not allow the memory of this WW II hero to fade. O'Hare Airport in Chicago is named for Lieutenant Commander Butch O'Hare in tribute to the courage of this great man.

Gentle Reader, Butch O'Hare was "Easy Eddie's" son. No matter what your past has been, it’s never too late to make a change. The Bible tells us about a gangster, a criminal, who made a change. “There were also two criminals led out with Jesus to be put to death.” Luke 23:32 (NCV) As he was hanging on the cross waiting to die, one of the criminals turned to Jesus and said, “‘remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Jesus said to him, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.’” Luke 23:42,43 (NCV) God says, “’At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.’ Indeed, the ‘right time’ is now. Today is the day of salvation.” 2 Corinthians 6:2 (NLT)

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Winding Stairs - 9/13/2017

An Arkie's Faith column from the September 13, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.


Our family spent a day hiking to the Winding Stairs area on the Little Missouri River over the Labor Day weekend. Winding Stairs is the name given to a series of bends and rapids causing the Little Missouri River to drop down in elevation. The rapids are formed by a narrow water gap through one of the novaculite ridges. The trail to Winding Stairs is a moderately difficult out and back trail with several river crossings. The trail is part of the Eagle Rock Loop Trail, a 26.8-mile loop through the rugged mountains of the area. Many hikers think that the Eagle Rock Loop is the best hike in the Ouachita Mountains, with its mix of rugged hills with hardwood and pines along with crystal clear streams.

Our planned destination was Raccoon Island. My granddaughters had named the spot Raccoon Island because on a previous backpacking trip to the area, a raccoon drug one of the backpacks away from the campsite. The day was perfect for hiking, partly cloudy and not too hot. The hike included several river crossings. We enjoyed wading across the river and cooling our feet. The scenery along the trail was delightful. As we neared our destination, I was fascinated by the unique rock formations in and along the river. The bluff overlooking Winding Stairs has spectacular views and is one of those places that defines Arkansas as the Natural State.

After hiking for several hours, we arrived at Raccoon Island. We took time to rest and to eat our lunch of sandwiches, grapes and trail mix. The Winding Stairs area of the Little Missouri River has several nice swimming holes, and we spent some time swimming before heading back to the trailhead. My granddaughters were having such a good time swimming that they didn’t want to leave. As we made our way back along the trail, my wife and I noticed that we no longer had the strength and stamina we had when we were younger. Although we were very fatigued by the time we made it back to the trailhead, our granddaughters seemed to have just as much energy as they had when we started our hike that morning. We were tired and sore, but it was a beautiful hike and an awesome way to spend a day with family.

When my son-in-law was planning the hike, he asked my wife and me to go along. My wife had some concerns about the difficulty of the hike. My son-in-law downplayed the difficulty of the hike and stressed the incredible beauty of the Winding Stairs area that would be our destination. He assured us that being able to see the natural beauty of the area would make the difficulty of the hiking and river crossings all worthwhile. After completing the hike, I found that even though the Winding Stairs area was breathtakingly beautiful, I enjoyed the journey as much as the destination.

It made me think about our spiritual journey. Many Christians are focused on going to heaven. That isn’t a bad thing to focus on. I want to go to heaven, and I hope that you do to. But shouldn’t my focus be on more than just mansions and streets of gold?

A friend posted the following encounter on Facebook. “Today an individual stopped me in a parking lot and asked me if I were to die today, right this very moment, do I know I would go to heaven. I took a second to gather my thoughts because I have always thought this to be a strange question; As if the entire point of the cross, the tomb, the resurrection and my salvation is going to heaven. Sure, I want to go to heaven someday, but I also want to be saved for today. I need salvation to be the father and husband that my kids and wife need. I need salvation to be a good teacher. I need salvation to preach the gospel. I need salvation to love my neighbor and enemies alike. I have had a lot of life to live since I was saved. Sure, heaven is in the mix, but right now life is what is on my mind. When I talk to the lost, life seems to be their immediate concern as well. Perhaps we need a different question when sharing our faith. Perhaps we should talk about living because life is ultimately what Jesus gave.”

Instead of presenting the gospel as something that will yield a future benefit we need to present it as something that has already benefited. Something that benefits us now. The rewards of the gospel are present tense not future tense. This changes faith from being something that we are rewarded for to a way we express gratitude.

Back in the 70’s, one of my favorite music artists was Evie. She sang a song that was titled, “If Heaven Never Was Promised to Me.” Here are some of the lyrics. “You may ask me: Why do you serve the Lord? Is it just for heaven's gain? Or to walk those mighty streets of gold? And to hear the angels sing? Is it just to drink from the fountain that never shall run dry? Or just to live forever, ever and ever in that sweet all by and by? But if heaven never was promised to me. Neither God's promise to live eternally. It's been worth just having the Lord in my life. Living in a world of darkness, but He brought me the light.”

The promise of heaven and eternal life is awesome, but God loves us and wants us to love Him now. He wants a relationship with us now not just the promise of one in the future.

Gentle Reader, Jesus wants to be with you. Revelation 3:20 (NKJV) tells us, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” This promise is present tense. Jesus wants to come in now. He wants to be with you now. He has prepared a place for you in heaven, but He wants to be with you now, not just later in heaven.  He wants to give you a rich and satisfying life. He wants to do it now! In John 10:10 (NKJV) Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Restoration - 9/06/2017

An Arkie's Faith column from the September 6, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.


All of my life I have been around old cars. My Dad loves old cars and has always owned and repaired them. He has a large collection of cars from the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s. One of his favorite things to do is to visit with people who are interested in old cars and show them his collection. People from all over the U.S. and the world have stopped by his business to look at the cars.

Anyone in Mena who likes old cars looks forward each year to the Queen Wilhelmina Rod Run. Last month over 200 classic, antique and special interest cars were entered in the 42nd annual rod run held in Mena. I enjoyed looking at the cars and visiting with the owners of the vehicles and other car enthusiasts. As I visited with the owners of some of the cars, I was impressed by how much work they had put into their project, and by the attention to the smallest detail. You could tell that they loved their vehicle and talking about the process they had gone through to build such a fascinating car.

As I looked at the many beautiful cars lining the street, I realized that each one of these projects had started with a worn out car in need of restoration. To create these beautiful works of art takes a lot of time, energy, and money. It also takes a person with a passion and a vision of what could be. When they first purchased the car in need of restoration, they did so because they had a vision of what it could be.

I think that there is a parallel between beautifully rebuilt cars and our spiritual lives. “God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” Romans 5:8 (NLT) Just like the owners of the cars in the rod run loved an old car that was in need of restoration enough to purchase it and spend enormous amounts of time, energy, and money to make it beautiful; God loves us in our broken down condition. But even though he loves us in our sinful condition, He doesn’t want us to stay in that condition. He has a vision for our lives. He wants to restore us.

In Job 33:26 (NKJV) The Bible talks about restoration. There it says, “He shall pray to God, and He will delight in him, He shall see His face with joy, For He restores to man His righteousness.” God has a plan for each one of us. He plans to restore us to righteousness. The difference between you and I, and an old car in need of restoration is that the old car is passive. It isn’t part of the decision to restore. But you and I have to be willing to be restored.

Old cars that aren’t chosen for a restoration project eventually will rot and rust away until no one can see the possibility of saving the car and they end up abandoned or crushed and destroyed. Fortunately for us, God isn’t looking for just one project to restore, He want’s to restore all of us no matter what our condition is. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 (NKJV) God doesn’t want us to be abandoned and crushed by this life. He doesn’t want us to perish. 2 Peter 3:9 (KJV) tells us that God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

Unlike the old car that is passive in the restoration process, we have a part to play in our restoration. God wants us all to repent. Repentance is saying to God, “I know that I need to be restored. I want you to restore me.” In Romans 2:4 (NASB) the Bible says, “Do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?”
What leads us to repentance? The Bible says it is the kindness of God. Paul puts in another way in 2 Corinthians 7:10 (NKJV). “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation.” I like the way God inspired Paul to put that. Not just sorrow, but godly sorrow. My favorite verse of scripture is 1 John 1:9 (NKJV). It says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

What does it mean to confess? The dictionary says: to admit or state that one has committed a crime or is at fault in some way. To confess we have to admit we are wrong. The term repent, or repentance takes this idea a step further. The dictionary says that to repent is to feel or express sincere regret or remorse about one's wrongdoing or sin.

What leads us to repentance? What leads us to confess? We are led to repentance by the kindness of God. When we experience God’s kindness and feel his love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness, it makes us want to love him. When we love God, we want to please him. We want to be restored.

Gentle Reader, I hope that you will spend some time today reflecting on the kindness that God has shown you and tell Him that you are sorry for the things you have done to hurt Him. God has promised that if we confess our sins, He will forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. He will restore us if we let Him.