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.”


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Lonely Boy - 6/21/2017

An Arkie's Faith column from the June 21, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.


Once upon a time, in a land far far away, there lived a lonely boy. In that same land, there lived a girl with beautiful golden hair. One day as the lonely boy walked into history class, he looked across the room and saw the girl with beautiful golden hair. His heart jumped, and he was sure that this was love at first sight. He knew that he had to get up the courage to talk to this vision of loveliness with the beautiful golden curls.

The lonely boy was too shy to talk to girls, so it was almost a year before the girl with the beautiful golden hair had any idea that the lonely boy was interested. The good Lord knew that the lonely boy needed all of the help he could get; so the Lord made it so that the lonely boy and the girl with the beautiful golden hair crossed paths in several ways that year.

The history teacher selected five students to work together each week producing learning packets for history class. The girl with the beautiful golden hair and the lonely boy were both in the group that met in the library each week to produce the history learning packets. They both worked at the furniture factory. The lonely boy worked on the dresser jig, and the girl with the beautiful golden hair made drawers. The lonely boy would spend his break time with the drawer makers, but the girl with the beautiful golden hair still didn't catch on.

It came time for their high school graduation, and the lonely boy still had never gotten up the nerve to ask the girl with the beautiful golden hair out on a date. Finally, the lonely boy mustered up every ounce of courage he could find and asked the girl with the beautiful golden hair if she would march with him at the graduation. She told him that she would like to, but that she had already told another boy that she would march with him. If the lonely boy talked to the other boy and it was okay with him, she would march with the lonely boy. Once again the lonely boy summoned up every bit of courage he had and spoke to the other boy, who was very gracious and bowed out. The lonely boy was on cloud nine. The girl with the beautiful golden hair would be walking down the aisle beside him when they graduated.

This fairytale had a very happy ending. After a year of a long distance relationship, with five hundred miles separating them, the lonely boy and the girl with the beautiful golden hair were finally in the same place at the same time. Then the lonely boy knew that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with the girl with the beautiful golden hair. On a marvelous June day, they were married in a fairytale wedding.

Most fairy tales are not true stories, but I can assure you that this one is true. I was that lonely boy. If you ask me if I believe in love at first sight, I will tell you that I do. I also know that God believes in love at first sight.

The Bible tells us that “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 (NKJV) And in 1 John 4:19 (NCV) we read, “we love because God first loved us.”

God created you as an object of his love. David understood this when he wrote, “You made my whole being. You formed me in my mother’s body.” Psalms 139:13 (ICB) He made you so that He could love you and so you could love him. God’s love for you is the reason you are alive.

God has loved you longer than you can even imagine. Ephesians 1:4 (NLV) tells that “even before the world was made, God chose us for Himself because of His love.” It wasn’t just love at first sight; it was love before you were even born.

Just like a marriage relationship has its good days and its bad days, so does our relationship with God. Some days our hearts are full of love for God. Some days we are rebellious and angry with Him. But the good news is that God loves you on your bad days as much as he loves you on your good days. He loves you when you can feel his love, and he loves you when you aren’t sure that He even exists. He loves you whether or not you think you deserve his love.

There is nothing you can do that will make God stop loving you. In Romans 8:38,39 (NCV) Paul wrote, “I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor ruling spirits, nothing now, nothing in the future, no powers, nothing above us, nothing below us, nor anything else in the whole world will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Gentle Reader, are you lonely and looking for love? God has already chosen you. He loved you before you were even born. If you will just love Him back, He has promised you a happily ever after. In John 14:2,3 (NKJV) Jesus tells us, “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.”

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Crossing the Bridge - 6/14/2017

An Arkie's Faith column from the June 14, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.


AGGR is the only magazine devoted exclusively to the Auto Glass Repair/Replacement industry. In the May/June issue, I read a story by columnist Lyle R. Hill. He told of a personal experience while he was walking in the Fullersburg Woods along Salt Creek in Oak Brook, Illinois. He had been walking for some time and hadn’t seen anyone. He was enjoying the scenery and the solitude when he heard voices in the distance.

Lyle came upon a thirty-something dad talking with his son who appeared to be about six years old. The boy asked, “Dad, look at this bridge. Isn’t it cool?” “Yes,” replied the dad, “It is pretty cool. I’m going take a picture to show to Mom.” After the dad had taken several photos, the little boy asked, “Do you think we could walk across the bridge?” “Oh,” the dad replied, “I don’t think that would be a good idea.” “Why can’t we go across the bridge,” the boy asked. “We can’t go across the bridge because we don’t really know what’s on the other side.” replied the dad.

In his column, Mr. Hill went on to use the illustration as it pertains to the business world. He states, “the overly adventurous are often prone to recklessness, while the overly timid can often miss out on a lot of what life has to offer.”

Many Christians live their lives like the dad in the story. They don’t want to explore because they don’t know what they will find. They feel insecure and apprehensive. Christians have leaders telling us many things: how to pray, how to study the Bible, how we should vote, whom we should hate, and how we should live.

There is a message aimed at the average Christian that tells us we need to listen to and follow these leaders. We are told to buy their books, listen to their radio programs, attend their events, and follow their teaching because they have greater wisdom and learning than we do. Most of us are followers instead of explorers. Instead of searching the Bible for truth, we want a pastor or theologian to tell us what to believe. We don’t want to cross the bridge and find out for ourselves what is on the other side.

In their trip from Egypt to the promised land of Canaan, the Children of Israel came to a bridge in their experience. God had already promised to give them the land on the other side of the bridge. Genesis 12:7 (NKJV) says, “Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your descendants I will give this land.”’ God made a promise to Abraham long before the trip; victory was promised before they even left Egypt and headed to the promised land of Canaan. God said, “I will bring you to the land I promised to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I lifted up my hand and promised it to them. The land will belong to you. I am the Lord.” Exodus 6:8 (NIRV)

As the Children of Israel prepared to go into Canaan, God told them to, “send men to explore the land of Canaan, which I will give to the Israelites. Send one leader from each tribe.” Numbers 13:2 (NCV) When the twelve leaders returned, they reported to Moses, “we went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit.” “But,” they continued, “the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large.” Numbers 13:27,28 (NIV)

These leaders were saying, “God promised us this land, but the people who live there are powerful. God promised us this land, but the cities are fortified and very large.”  After hearing the report of the leaders, “all the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, ‘If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness! Why has the Lord brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?’ So they said to one another, ‘Let us select a leader and return to Egypt.’”

God could have easily given up on the Israelites. He could have said, “what is wrong with you people? The land I promised to give you is only ten days away, and you want to go back to Egypt.” But He didn’t give up on His promise. It just took forty years instead of ten days.

Gentle Reader, If you, like the dad in our story, are either uninterested or too afraid of the unknown to cross the bridge into the life God wants for you, I want you to know that God has a promised land in store for every one of His children. Only God knows what is in store for you if you cross the bridge. He wants to see you through to the Promised Land! Don’t spend forty years wandering in the wilderness afraid to cross the bridge. God wants you to walk across the bridge into your promised land today!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Wisdom Teeth - 6/07/2017

An Arkie's Faith column from the June 7, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.


A customer stopped by my business to get an appointment for replacing his windshield. He said he was taking care of some things because he had taken the day from work. He spoke with a slur and looked a bit rugged. I asked him what had happened to him, and he replied that he had had wisdom teeth pulled that morning. I told him that I could empathize with him because I had gone through the same thing.

A few years ago, I had a very painful toothache for several weeks. I finally made an appointment and went to the dentist. After taking x-rays, my dentist told me that second molar on the lower left was in bad shape. One of the reasons that it had deteriorated was because it was up against my wisdom tooth. He recommended that I have both teeth pulled. I was in a lot of pain, so he made time to pull the teeth the very next day.

Having the teeth pulled was quite an ordeal. The wisdom tooth was laying sideways, and the root had a hook that was in the bone. The procedure wasn't that painful, but the pulling, pushing, cutting, tugging and prying made it very uncomfortable. When the anesthetic wore off, I was in a lot of pain.

While I was at home nursing a very sore mouth, I started wondering why the third molars are called wisdom teeth. I found out that they are called wisdom teeth because they usually come in when a person is between the ages of 17 and 21. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term wisdom tooth is used because they appear so late – much later than the other teeth, at an age where people are presumably "wiser" than as a child when the other teeth come in. Wisdom teeth are the third and final set of molars, and come in when a person is old enough to have supposedly gained some "wisdom."

Sometimes these teeth can be a valuable asset to the mouth when healthy and properly aligned, but more often they are misaligned and cause trouble. Wisdom teeth have been known to cause dental issues for centuries. In the 4th century BC, Aristotle wrote about wisdom teeth “causing great pain in their coming.”

I found the explanation of the term "wisdom teeth" to be somewhat amusing. 17 to 21-year-olds aren't the first age group that I think of when I think of wisdom. Wisdom comes with experience. The Oxford English Dictionary definition of wisdom is " the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment.”

Often we aren't sure of the difference between wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. There is some overlapping of the definitions. Wisdom is knowledge with understanding. Anyone can get knowledge, but understanding is another thing. The Bible tells us in Proverbs 3:13 (NIRV), "Blessed is the one who finds wisdom. Blessed is the one who gains understanding.”

Intelligence or knowledge or even understanding isn’t necessarily wisdom. Wisdom is using knowledge, understanding, and intelligence in a common sense way, making choices that are beneficial and productive. You can get knowledge out of a textbook, but not wisdom. Experience is valuable in gaining wisdom.

I crave knowledge. I am curious about so many different things and want to learn about them. It is interesting to me to see all the different "facts" that you can find on a given topic. Sorting through the "facts" can make understanding an almost impossible task. But according to the Bible, there is a way to obtain wisdom.

In Proverbs 9:10 (CEV) we read, “Respect and obey the Lord! This is the beginning of wisdom. To have understanding, you must know the Holy God. True wisdom comes from God.” According to a quote that has been attributed to Cicero, a Roman statesman and philosopher, “the function of wisdom is to discriminate between good and evil." Cicero is widely considered to be one of Rome's greatest orators. I think he had a good grasp on the meaning of wisdom. Wisdom begins with reverence for God, and respect for Him and His Word, The Bible. Where there is no respect of God, there can never be any true wisdom. Earthly knowledge isn’t the same as the wisdom that comes from God.

1 Corinthians 1:19-20 (NLT) tells us "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and discard the intelligence of the intelligent. So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish.”

Gentle Reader, I want to make sure that in my quest for knowledge, I look to God for understanding and wisdom. He has promised to give us wisdom if we ask for it. James 1:5 (NKJV) tells us that, “if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” Won’t you ask God for wisdom today – and every day? He has promised to give it to you.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Walking With Hershey - 5/31/2017

An Arkie's Faith column from the May 31, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.


While friends of ours traveled out of state to attend a wedding, we took care of their dog. Hershey is a beautiful chocolate lab. His sleek coat and strong muscular body make him a very handsome dog. He loves to come to our house because my wife spoils him and he is accustomed to being spoiled.

Hershey’s favorite foods are graham crackers and cheese. He knows that my wife is a soft touch, so he will go to her and put his head in her lap and look up at her with his big brown eyes as if to ask, “may I please have some cheese.” It works every time. Hershey likes to spend time on the sofa. He has a special place on the sofa with a blanket.

Although Hershey is a big strong dog, he is afraid of many things. He was frightened when anyone would come to our house. When we got home from work in the evening, he wouldn’t come downstairs until we would go upstairs and talk to him. He didn’t like the sound of a bouncing basketball. After the neighborhood kids had been playing basketball, he didn’t want to go out the front door because there might be someone bouncing a basketball. One day as he and I were walking down the street he suddenly noticed the neighbor girl playing in her driveway and almost pulled my arm off as he rushed to get away from her.

Every morning Hershey and I went for a mile long walk. He loves to take his time and sniff every bush along the way. When he sees a squirrel, he frantically tugs at his leash. I would love to be able to walk with Hershey without having to put him on a leash, but I don’t dare do it. I couldn’t trust him to stay near me and not run off.

One day as I was walking with Hershey, he spotted another dog. He pulled and tugged at the leash wanting to get away from me. I wasn’t sure of his intentions toward the other dog, but I didn’t want to find out. I shortened up the leash and held on tight. “Crazy dog,” I thought, “he’s got it made, and he still wants to run off.”

Hershey isn’t that different from you and me. As I was trying to get him back under control, I thought of the passage in the Bible that I had read earlier in the morning. “This is what the Lord says—your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: ‘I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is good for you and leads you along the paths you should follow. Oh, that you had listened to my commands! Then you would have had peace flowing like a gentle river and righteousness rolling over you like waves in the sea.’” Isaiah 48:17,18 (NLT)

“Consider this: The Father has given us his love. He loves us so much that we are actually called God’s dear children. And that’s what we are.” 1 John 3:1 (GW) We are the children of God. We have access to Him and His wisdom twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. He gives us His protection and has promised to fulfill our needs. “God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 (RSV)

We have it made, living with God. We are spoiled. “He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.” Ephesians 1:7 (NLT) But, like Hershey, we want to roam, to be on our own, and leave the presence of God. We want to make our own decisions and not listen to God’s instruction. The Bible warns us about going our own way. “There is a way that seems right to a person, but its end is the way that leads to death.” Proverbs 14:12

As long as I spend time each day with God by studying the Bible and praying, it is easy to stay connected to God. If I decide that I don’t have time to spend with Him, before long I don’t feel close to God. I run off and go my own way even though God has spoiled me with His love for me. Before long, I realize that I am lost and want to go back home to the safety and peace of living with God. I like to think that I am a strong and capable Christian, but when I run away from God, I realize that I can’t do it in my own strength.

Gentle Reader, what about you? Do you occasionally run away from God and roam the world on your own? It is my prayer that if that happens, you would quickly run back into the safety and peace of living with God. We need to go back home to where we’ve got it made! God wants us to walk with Him. In Micah 6:8 (ISV) God asks us to, “to act with justice, to treasure the Lord’s gracious love, and to walk humbly in the company of your God.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Keeping the Lawn Mowed - 5/24/2017

An Arkie's Faith column from the May 24, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.


Spring is a wonderful time of the year. One of the reasons that I moved from Colorado to Arkansas is that I don’t like to be cold. Spring brings with it warmer weather and the end of winter, so I look forward to spring every year.

There are many things about spring that I enjoy. When the redbuds and the dogwoods bloom, they remind me how much I enjoy living in Arkansas. I love to take a ride on country roads just looking at the trees and wildflowers. Driving through town when the azaleas are blooming is great. When spring comes, there is something else that we can look forward to. The grass begins to grow.

When the grass begins to grow, it means that the yard has to be mowed. In my business as an auto glass installer, I get busy during the mowing season. Lawn mowers and weedeaters break a lot of glass that has to be replaced.

In the past, it has been my responsibility to keep the churchyard mowed at my church. We have a large churchyard, so it takes quite a few hours to mow. I had to mow during the evenings after I got off work. It took two or three evenings a week to keep the churchyard looking good. I enjoyed mowing with the riding mower; it was just difficult to find the time. Finding several evenings a week to mow was never easy. I was relieved when it was no longer my responsibility.

Riding on a mower gave me time to think. What else would I do while riding back and forth across the churchyard? One evening while I was mowing, my mind started thinking about how my devotional time with God and my mowing time were similar. In my busy life, it is difficult to find the time to spend with God, just like it is difficult to find the time to get the mowing done.

The Apostle Paul knew that it could be difficult to find the time to spend with God. When he was writing to Timothy, he warned him about becoming so busy that there wasn’t time for spiritual exercise. In 1 Timothy 4:7,8 (AMPC) Paul gave Timothy this inspired advice. " Train yourself toward godliness, [keeping yourself spiritually fit]. For physical training is of some value, but godliness (spiritual training) is useful and of value in everything and in every way, for it holds promise for the present life and also for the life which is to come.

Just like it is important for me to find the time to get the yard mowed, it is also important for me to find the time for what Paul calls spiritual exercise. What was Paul talking about when he said that spiritual exercise was important? Spiritual exercise is Bible reading and study along with prayer. That is talking to God through prayer, and listening to him through reading and studying the Bible.

In Colossians 3:1,2 (NRSV) Paul says, “if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”  There are many ways to focus your mind on " the things that are above.” Just like different people have different ways to exercise, there are many ways to exercise spiritually.
For physical exercise to be effective, you need a regular plan. The same is true for spiritual exercise. Have a plan for your time with God. Don’t just exercise if you have a few extra moments. There is no set amount of time that is proper for personal devotions. You have to decide how much time you can realistically commit to each day. Make sure to include prayer in your spiritual exercise plan.

Prayer is simply communication between you and God. Talk to Him, tell Him about your problems, tell Him about your needs and desires. Don’t just pray for yourself, be sure to include prayers for the needs of others. “Pray for one another, that you may be healed. The insistent prayer of a righteous person is powerfully effective.” James 5:16 (WEB)

Our spiritual exercise needs to include more than just asking God for help. God created us to praise him. Psalms 106:1 (NKJV) urges us to, “Praise the Lord! Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.” Another aspect of spiritual exercise is listening. Some Christians don’t realize that prayer includes listening. “My child, pay attention to what I say. Listen carefully to my words.” Proverbs 4:20 (NLT)

Gentle Reader, have you noticed what happens when a yard misses a mowing or two? It begins to look bad. The same thing can happen to our spiritual life. If we miss our spiritual exercise, we begin to get flabby and out of shape. Like a yard that hasn’t been mowed our life begins to look out of control. The longer we let it go, the worse it gets. For a neat and trim life, regular devotional time spent with God is a must. The next time you are mowing your yard, (I know it will be soon), think about your spiritual life. Are you spending enough time with God to keep your life neatly trimmed?

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Moonshots - 5/10/2017

An Arkie's Faith column from the May 10, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.


When I attended school during the 1960’s, I had two passions that consumed me. I loved baseball. I chewed lots of bad gum to collect baseball cards. As much as I loved baseball, what intrigued me the most was space exploration.

My heroes were the astronauts in NASA’s space program. I read everything about them that I could get my hands on. In 1969, my interest in space was at a fever pitch. Everyone was talking about the race to land on the moon. When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon, the entire world was captivated. Every newspaper covered the story. I soaked it all in. I couldn’t believe what a marvelous world I was living in. The moonshot was a part of pop culture. After watching the Apollo 11 landing on TV, the Moody Blues drummer, Graham Edge, penned the poem "Higher and Higher," which was used to open their next album. "Blasting, billowing, bursting forth, with the power of ten billion butterfly sneezes. Man, with his flaming pyre has conquered the wayward breezes.”

As I listened to these words, I realized even as a boy that this optimism that space exploration would make the world a better place wasn’t the way things would be. I read in my Bible in Obadiah 1:4 (NLT), “’But even if you soar as high as eagles and build your nest among the stars, I will bring you crashing down,’ says the Lord.”

As a Christian, I had always looked at space exploration as a way to learn more about the awesome things God had made. I was excited by the new discoveries and what they could show me about how awesome God is. As I studied science and read about space, I always kept God in the picture.

The Apollo 11 Moonshot was an amazing achievement, but does God care about moonshots? Somebody will always come along and do it better, faster and higher. What God cares about is you. “The Lord your God is with you; the mighty One will save you. He will rejoice over you. You will rest in his love; he will sing and be joyful about you.” Zephaniah 3:17 (NLT)

The term moonshot has entered into America’s vocabulary. Although it refers to the Apollo 11 mission to the moon, it is now most commonly used to mean fantastic, almost impossible to achieve, the best, reaching the highest point. In modern business usage, a moonshot is an ambitious, exploratory and ground-breaking project undertaken without any expectation of near-term profitability or benefit. But there is another use of the term moonshot that predates even the Apollo 11 mission to the moon.

Meet Wally Moon, major league baseball player. It is 1954 and Wally made the St. Louis Cardinals’ spring training roster. He had already determined that if he did not make the team, he would head back to his native Arkansas and take a teaching job that he had been offered. Wally had his Master's Degree in teaching. He was ready to pursue his second career if baseball didn’t work out. Wally not only made the team, but at the end of the season, he was voted the National League Rookie of the Year.

Wally was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for the 1959 season. He was concerned about batting in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum because right field was 440 feet away, making it difficult for a left-handed batter. However, the left field seats were only 251 feet away, protected by a 42-foot high screen. Wally adjusted his batting stance to emphasize hitting to left field. He developed a swing that he described as an inside out golf swing, to launch the ball up and over the 42-foot high screen in left field. The results were very successful. Dodger announcer, Vin Scully, called the towering home runs moonshots.

When Wally Moon retired from baseball, he returned to Arkansas to teach and coach at John Brown University. A friend of mine was a student of his. One day as Professor Moon was teaching, two girls were talking in the back of the class. Professor Moon was agitated with them for disturbing the class. He picked up an eraser and with a perfect strike, hit one of the girls on the forehead creating a cloud of chalk dust. They paid attention for the remainder of the class. I think that just maybe we can call the eraser strike to the forehead a moonshot.

What is your moonshot? What is your most important goal? People set goals for different areas of their lives such as careers,  finances, and spiritual growth. Is it your goal to have a lot of friends? To be popular? To be good at your job? To be healthy and happy? It is your ultimate goal that determines the direction of your life.

Jesus gives us some guidance on our goal setting in Matthew 6:33,34 (CEB) “Desire first and foremost God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, stop worrying about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

We are all in pursuit of something. Everyone has a goal, and that goal determines the direction of their life. Paul wrote about his goal in Philippians 3:14 (NCV), “I keep trying to reach the goal and get the prize for which God called me through Christ to the life above.”

Gentle Reader, What is you moonshot? What is your ultimate goal? Just like the Apollo 11 moonshot, we need to put our focus on the heavens. 2 Corinthians 4:17,18 (VOICE) explains what our moonshot should be. “You see, the short-lived pains of this life are creating for us an eternal glory that does not compare to anything we know here. So we do not set our sights on the things we can see with our eyes. All of that is fleeting; it will eventually fade away. Instead, we focus on the things we cannot see, which live on and on.”


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Causing a Splash - 5/03/2017

An Arkie's Faith column from the May 3, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.


My wife and I enjoy visiting Eureka Springs. It is our favorite place for a weekend getaway. We try to go there several times a year. It is a beautiful three and a half hour drive from home. The city has steep winding streets filled with Victorian-style cottages and houses. The old downtown section of the city has an alpine character with well-preserved Victorian storefronts.

Not long ago we spent a weekend in Eureka Springs with my sister and her husband. We try to spend a weekend together at least once a year. As we traveled toward our destination, it started to rain. Before long the weather had deteriorated, and the rain became severe. Visibility on the interstate was very poor. Along with the heavy rain, the big trucks were constantly splashing the smaller vehicles. The bad driving conditions made the trip to Eureka Springs very tense.

When we arrived, it was still raining hard. Our plans were to meet at Mud Street Cafe for lunch.  As we drove down Main Street, there were several inches of water running down the street. After a great lunch, Mud Street Cafe is one of our favorite restaurants; we headed out to do some shopping. That is my wife and my sister went shopping while my brother-in-law and I tagged along. Shopping in crowded stores is not my favorite thing to do, so I was waiting outside the store. Because it was still raining, I was standing in the doorway that was covered by an awning. As the cars made their way down the flooded street, the spray from the wheels would come up onto the sidewalk.

Occasionally a car would drive past going a bit too fast, and the water would splash all the way to the doorway we were standing in. We decided to find another place out of the rain before we got wet from being splashed. The rain became lighter as the afternoon progressed, but water ran down the streets the rest of the day.

The next morning we were greeted with a light drizzle. Even though it was a dismal day, we didn’t let the weather dampen our spirits. The ladies went for massages at Basin Park Hotel, while my brother-in-law and I visited Inspiration Point and Thorncrown Chapel. For lunch, we decided to go to the Aquarius Taqueria. The food there is inspired by the street food of Oaxaca, Mexico. Their specialty is tacos made with fresh ingredients on handmade tortillas. Our server was very friendly. As we were visiting with her, she related a story about something that had happened to her the day before.

When her shift ended, there was still a steady, persistent rain. As she stepped out onto the sidewalk to wait for her ride, a car came speeding down the street creating a large rooster tail spray that soaked her. She was drenched from head to toe. She didn’t have a change of clothes with her, so she had to make the thirty-mile trip to her home uncomfortably wet and cold.

The driver of the car that splashed our server suffered no consequences from their actions. They probably weren’t thinking about how much they were splashing as the drove down the flooded street. They may have never known how much discomfort they cause our server. But as she made the long trip home soaked to the bone, she was very aware of her discomfort.

Our decisions and actions affect others. We never sin in a vacuum; our sinful actions have an effect on the people around us. Sir Isaac Newton's third law of motion states, for every action, there is a reaction. Sin affects the spiritual well-being of the person who has sinned, but it also affects his or her relationship with others. Every sin you commit can hurt someone.

There is some excellent counsel found in Titus 3:1,2 (NIRV). “Remind God’s people to obey rulers and authorities. Remind them to be ready to do what is good. Tell them not to speak evil things against anyone. Remind them to live in peace. They must consider the needs of others. They must always be gentle toward everyone.”

For every choice we make, for every action we take, there will be a reaction. When you are about to make a choice, think of the consequences of that decision and ask yourself, “how will this decision affect those around me?” We should consider the needs of others. We should be gentle towards everyone.

Our sinfulness means we have the capacity to hurt others. We hurt one another with the words we say and with the things we do. Throughout history, human beings have hurt each other. When we sin, intentionally or unintentionally, we are dangerous to those around us. In Ephesians 4:29 (NTE) Paul gives us some good advice. “Don’t let any unwholesome words escape your lips. Instead, say whatever is good and will be useful in building people up, so that you will give grace to those who listen.”

Gentle Reader, we need to be aware of how much our words and actions influence the people around us. Every day we are tempted to make decisions that we think will be the best thing for us but could have a negative effect on others. Before we make decisions, we need to ask ourselves, “will my choice harm other people?” Be careful not to “splash” others as you go through life. “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.” Luke 6:31 (NASB)

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Back Country Roads - 4/26/2017

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


I love driving on the back roads in western Arkansas. I love the scenery. I love the adventure. I love to explore new roads. When I see a road, I always wonder where it goes. Last weekend my wife and I took a long drive on back country roads. It was a beautiful day, and the scenery was gorgeous. The wildflowers were in bloom. Fire Pink, Dwarf Crested Iris, Phlox, Spiderwort, Skullcap, Daisies, and Violets adorned the hillsides. 

We traveled through Posey Hollow to Brushy Knob, where we turned onto Forest Service Road 216. The road meandered up the side of the mountain providing magnificent views. The exposed rocks and deep ruts made the road difficult to negotiate as it made its way over the mountains. While we were enthralled with the commanding views, we weren’t sure where the road was taking us. We considered turning around and going back the way we came, but the road was narrow and turning around would have been difficult. We were curious where the road would lead us.

The condition of the road worsened as we carefully made our way down the back side of the mountain. At times my wife had to get out of our sport utility to help guide me over the large rocks in the road. It seemed to us that we were a hundred miles from civilization. When the road made its way from the side of the mountain to the valley below, we found ourselves in the community of Highland. I still wasn’t sure exactly where we were. Although I have lived in the area for over 35 years, I had never been to Highland. I didn’t even know it existed. Just a few miles on down the road we came to Cherry Hill. Finally, I knew where I was.

Sometimes exploring a new road can be quite an adventure. When you are traveling a rural Arkansas road, you just don’t know where you will end up. I find that narrow mountain roads are much more interesting than four-lane highways.

I think that Jesus liked country roads and mountainsides. In Matthew 5:1,2 (NIRV) we find Jesus teaching. “Jesus saw the crowds. So he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him. Then He began to teach them.” Christians often refer to the teaching Jesus did on that day as the sermon on the mount.

As Jesus was teaching the people, he talked about roads. He said, “enter God’s kingdom through the narrow gate. The gate is large and the road is wide that leads to ruin. Many people go that way. But the gate is small and the road is narrow that leads to life. Only a few people find it.” Matthew 7:13,14 (NIRV)

In one of his most famous poems, Robert Frost wrote about roads. The poem starts with the line, “two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both and be one traveler, long I stood.” I know how he felt. When I am traveling on back roads, and I come to a fork in the road, I have to make a decision. Robert Frost ended his poem with these words; “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

As we go through life, following the most popular road is usually not the best choice. Following Jesus often goes against popular opinion. Following Jesus is to take the road less traveled. Taking the road less traveled doesn’t mean we prefer to go against what everyone else is doing just to be different. It means we follow the narrow road because God calls us to do what is right.

Jesus tells us that most people want to follow a lifestyle without restrictions. But those people tend to be selfish, putting their desires ahead of anything else, and other people get hurt. That kind of life leads to self-destruction. Many lives, marriages, families, and communities have been harmed or even destroyed because people have insisted on following their own self-serving path.

One of the last songs that George Harrison recorded was a song titled “Any Road.” The chorus of the song says “If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there.” His words are very true. They describe the kind of roads that I like to explore. I like to drive on them because I don’t know where I’m going. I like to explore new roads. When I see a road, I always wonder where it goes. Sometimes I have been completely lost, but eventually, I made it home. It can be fun not knowing where you are going.

Gentle Reader, it can be fun to explore unknown roads on a Sunday afternoon drive, but it’s not a good plan for our spiritual lives. We should know where we are going. We should all have the same destination in mind. I hope that you know where you are going. Jesus told us that not just any road would take us there. Have you found the road that leads to life? Have you studied the map? The Bible is the roadmap for our lives. “Your word is like a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.” Psalms 119:105 (NCV)


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The BMW - 4/19/2017

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



Jim, a friend of mine, used to work as a used car manager at one of the first Lexus dealerships in the United States. One of the responsibilities of a used car manager is to appraise cars. When a customer is considering trading in their car, someone has to look at the car and complete an evaluation in a matter of minutes. It is even a bigger challenge when dealing with luxury cars. Most of the trade-ins at the Lexus dealership were big European cars such as Mercedes Benz, BMWs, and Jaguars. On these expensive cars, making a mistake on the appraisal could be costly.

People who buy high-end luxury cars do not go to a local body shop for repairs; even when there is only a minor door ding. They go to a luxury car specialty shop that repairs cars at a level that it is virtually undetectable to the untrained eye. Having a body repair done on a luxury car causes the car’s value to plummet much more than a repair to an entry level car. That makes it even more important for the used car manager not to miss repaired body panels on a luxury car when he is appraising the vehicle.

Jim told me a story about appraising a BMW 700 series sedan. He said that when he first looked it over, it looked very nice. But to make sure that he didn’t miss anything, he carefully inspected the car; opening each door, the trunk, the hood, and even the gas filler door looking for tape lines, overspray, and checking body panel gaps.

The car looked great, but Jim still felt uneasy. He looked even closer, and couldn’t find so much as a scratch or a paint chip. He still wasn’t able to shake the feeling that he had missed something. As Jim walked inside to his office to write up the appraisal, the longtime used car manager from the neighboring Porsche dealership was waiting for him. He was taking in trade a Toyota Supra and wanted Jim to look at it to see if he was interested in buying it.

He had been watching as Jim inspected the BMW. He asked Jim why he took so much time looking at it and wanted to know what he had been inspecting so closely. Jim told him that he just had a feeling about the car and was concerned that he had missed something. The old experienced used car manager told him, “you did miss something.”

Jim asked him how he could be so sure when he was inside the building over one hundred feet away from the car? He answered, “you spent most of your time looking for hidden damage or inferior paintwork, which was good, but you failed to step back and look at the car as a whole.”

As Jim had walked up to the car, he saw the whole thing, but his mind was already in detail mode. His focus was on thoroughly inspecting each panel up close, not missing a single detail. It was about noon on a bright day. That kind of sunlight hides all sorts of paint issues. But the old veteran used car manager was looking at the car from inside the building over one hundred feet away and out of the bright noon sunshine.

He said to Jim, “now look at it from here and tell me what you see.” Sure enough, they both could see the slight difference in the right front fender which had mismatched paint. He told Jim that on all cars, but especially high-end luxury cars, he should inspect them up close but make sure to step back and take one final look at a distance; removing yourself from bright lights or midday sunshine. Details are important, but after studying the detail, stepping back and taking one more look at the whole is equally important.

Christians tend to focus on the small details of their life. I know that I do. My family has been going through some difficult times. I have thoughts like, “I cannot believe this is happening to me.” “Things like this are not supposed to happen to good people.” “Why is God allowing this to happen?” I’m sure that you have had similar thoughts when you were going through difficult times. If you have, like me you probably focused on the details of your setbacks. When you go over those details, life can seem devastating. But when you face difficult situations, what should you do?

I don’t have the answers, but I think that it is important to step back and take a look at the whole picture. In Proverbs 3:5 (NIRV) Solomon tells us, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Do not depend on your own understanding.” Difficult times call for complete trust in God. It is in these times that Satan will try and get you to focus on the details of your problem. When we do, Satan can plant seeds of doubt. Don’t let this happen. Trust God, and He will get you through.

Gentle Reader, when we are going through difficult times, we must remember to step back and take a look at the whole picture. God knows what we are going through. In Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) He tells us, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” God sees our entire life, start to finish, from beginning to end. He sees the whole picture, and He asks us to trust Him even if we can only see the little details of our current situation. “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 (NKJV)


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

April Fool's - 4/12/2017

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



This year, April 1st passed by without much notice on my part. There was an announcement that a local man was running for governor, but other than that no one I knew tried to play any April Fools pranks. I have never been much of a prankster, but last year I did fool a lot of people.

On April 1, 2016, I posted the following on my blog, An Arkie’s Musings, under the title Brilliance in Blogging Award. “I was shocked and surprised to receive the Spring 2016 Brilliance in Blogging Award. Over 150,000 blogs were nominated this year, so it is a huge achievement that An Arkie's Musings won this prestigious award. The award celebrates great writing, great photography and great commitment to storytelling.

I am thrilled to win the award. I'm still in shock that my blog has been recognized for its brilliance. It feels like a dream come true. Who knew that a little blog from Mena, Arkansas was being noticed? This is a big deal for me. Winning this award has confirmed that what I am doing is important. All those late nights busily tapping away at the keyboard were not wasted. I'm just a bit worried about the date of the award, April 1, but any day is a good day for an award.”

Many people congratulated me and told me how much I deserved the award and how happy they were for me. Not one person who talked to me or contacted me caught on to the prank. I intended the post to be tongue in cheek and thought that most people would understand that it was an April Fool’s post. I felt that I had to respond to all of the nice things people were saying to me, so in the evening I posted the following comment on the Brilliance in Blogging Award post. “It's been a great April Fool's Day, but tomorrow I have to go back to being a blogger who has never won an award.”

Over the years there have been many April Fool’s Day hoaxes perpetrated by the media. The tradition goes back a very long time. The earliest known instance that I could find of an April Fool's Day hoax reported by the media was in the London paper, Dawk’s News-Letter in 1698. On April 2 of that year, they reported, “several persons were sent to the Tower Ditch to see the Lions washed.” There were no lions being washed in the moat of the Tower of London. For more than one hundred years after this, getting people to go to the Tower of London to see the "washing of the lions" was a favorite April Fool's Day joke. In the mid-nineteenth century, official-looking tickets were distributed around London on April 1st, promising admittance to the annual lion-washing ceremony.

In modern times, newspapers, radio, television, and internet media outlets have used April Fool’s Day to report stories that have fooled their audiences. On April 1, 1957, the British Broadcasting Corporation broadcast a segment on Swiss farmers and their record spaghetti crop. The segment showed footage of the farmers harvesting spaghetti from trees. The BBC seems to enjoy April Fools Day hoaxes. On April 1, 2008, they announced that the camera crew of the nature show, Miracles of Evolution had photographed Adélie penguins flying through the air. It even offered a video clip of these flying penguins, which quickly became one of the most viewed videos on the internet. Presenter Terry Jones concluded that “instead of huddling together to endure the Antarctic winter, these penguins took to the air and flew thousands of miles to the rainforests of South America where they spend the winter basking in the tropical sun."

Other media hoaxes include the Sports Illustrated article from the April 1985 issue about a New York Mets pitching prospect named Sidd Finch who could throw a baseball at 168 mph. Supposedly Finch had never played baseball but had learned to throw in a Tibetan monastery. On April 1, 1996, a full-page ad appeared in major newspapers announcing that Taco Bell had bought the Liberty Bell and was renaming it the Taco Liberty Bell. BMW has a long history of April Fool’s Day hoaxes. In 2004, ads touted the new "Retina-evaluating sensory technology" (R.E.S.T.) option available in its cars. This system scanned the eyes of the driver to detect sleep. When sleep was detected, the system took control of the car, allowing the driver to sleep peacefully. "Lose consciousness, not control," was the ad tagline.

There are always people who are trying to deceive you. The Apostle John wrote to the believers in the first century, “these things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you.” 1 John 2:26 (NKJV) God has given us the Bible to keep us from being deceived. In Colossians 2:4 (NLT) Paul wrote, “I am telling you this so no one will deceive you with well-crafted arguments.” Christians need to be on the lookout for those who would deceive them. Things haven’t improved since the first century. In his letter to Timothy, Paul wrote, “evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.” 2 Timothy 3:13 (NKJV)

Gentle Reader, Satan is the great deceiver. He wants you to believe lies about God and his character. In John 8:44 (NLT) Jesus is referring to Satan when he said, “he has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.” In the Garden of Eden, God asked Eve, “What is this you have done?” She answered, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” Genesis 3:13 (NKJV) Humanity has known from the beginning that Satan is a deceiver and yet we consistently fall for his deceptions. Don’t be fooled by Satan. April Fool’s Day comes just once a year, but when we fall for Satan’s hoax, it is for eternity.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Wall - 4/05/2017

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



While The Wall That Heals was in town at the high school stadium, my wife and I stopped by to see the exhibit. The traveling memorial wall is a half-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Since 1996, the mobile wall has visited more than 400 communities throughout the United States. According to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, the sponsors of The Wall That Heals, “bringing The Wall to communities across the country spreads its healing legacy to millions.” This year The Wall will be displayed in over forty communities. I feel very fortunate that I was able to visit the exhibit and help honor the over 58,000 Americans who gave their lives for their country in Vietnam.

As my wife and I viewed the mobile Education Center that is part of the exhibit we were carried back to our childhoods. The exhibits told the story of the Vietnam War, The Wall, and the American experience in Vietnam in a historical and cultural context. Both my wife and I were in school during the Vietnam Era. Although neither one of us had any close family members that were casualties of the Vietnam War, anyone who lived through that period knew people who were affected. Every Vietnam veteran that I have met has been profoundly changed by their Vietnam experience.

While we were viewing The Wall, there were people of all ages at the site including a busload of senior citizens from an assisted living retirement community and families with children and teenagers. Everyone viewed The Wall quietly and respectfully. Many of the people there were looking for specific names. I overheard parents talking to their children about friends and loved ones who had died in Vietnam.

The local VFW Post hosted the exhibit, and many of the volunteers on site were veterans. I could see how meaningful the memorial was to them and how much they appreciated those who were respectfully viewing The Wall. The exhibit has an impact on those who visit it. Many people find the visit a healing experience. To be able to honor someone, to be able to reach out and touch their name is cathartic. Just knowing that these names will never be forgotten because they are permanently etched in stone is important to those who remember them.

As I experienced The Wall, I was reminded of a traveling spiritual memorial that anyone can visit. Just a few hours before Jesus was captured, tortured, and sentenced to die by the humiliating and painful method of crucifixion, He established a memorial for our benefit. He sat down for the Passover meal with His closest friends. “While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it, He broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’” Matthew 26:26 (NRSV) And then the Bible says that “He took a cup, and after giving thanks, He gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’” Matthew 26:27,28 (NRSV)

We are told the purpose of this memorial service in 1 Corinthians 11:26 (NKJV) where we read, “as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.” Just like many who visited The Wall, those who partake of this spiritual memorial service are remembering someone who sacrificed their life.

Christians have several different names for this memorial service such as The Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, Breaking of Bread, Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and The Eucharist. The Lord’s Supper is a ceremony in which we remember what Jesus has done for us through His grace, and give thanks. Eucharist comes from the Greek word eucharistia which is translated in the English Bible as thanksgiving. The root word in eucharistia is charis. The most common translation of the word charis is grace. Whenever Christians celebrate The Lord’s Supper, they are thankfully accepting the grace made possible by Jesus.

The Lord’s Supper is the most important memorial ever established. Its beauty is its simplicity.  It doesn’t cost thousands of dollars to transport across the country. It doesn’t involve an elaborate ceremony reserved for just the elite. It can be celebrated inexpensively and easily by anyone. You can participate anywhere.

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin took communion on the moon. In his book Magnificent Desolation, he recalls the message he radioed to NASA just before he and Neil Armstrong were to step out onto the surface of the moon. "I would like to request a few moments of silence … and to invite each person listening in, wherever and whomever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours, and to give thanks in his or her own way." Then he ate the bread and drank the wine.

In an article in Guideposts magazine, Aldrin wrote, "I poured the wine into the chalice our church had given me. In the one-sixth gravity of the moon, the wine curled slowly and gracefully up the side of the cup. It was interesting to think that the very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the first food eaten there, were communion elements."

Gentle Reader, The Lord’s Supper is the most effective memorial ever created. I hope that you find it meaningful. Jesus said, “do this in remembrance of Me.” Luke 22:19 (NKJV) The next time you participate in The Lord’s Supper, remember what Jesus has done for you through His grace, and give thanks.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Sophie's Journey - 3/29/2017

An Arkie's Faith column from the March 29, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.


A few weeks ago I self-published my first book. It is titled An Arkie’s Faith and includes over twenty-five articles from this column. After learning the process of self-publishing, I started thinking again about a project that I have been considering for some time. A few years ago my wife started doing some genealogy research. Early on in her research, she ran across the incredible story of her great-great-grandmother, Sophie. The story is compelling and fascinating. It needs to be told.

Sophie and her children emigrated from Denmark in 1856. She traveled from Denmark to England where she sailed from Liverpool to New York City. From New York, she traveled by train to Iowa City, Iowa where she became a part of the Willie Handcart Company.

In 1856, the Willie Handcart Company made the thousand-mile journey from Iowa City to Salt Lake City on foot, pulling handcarts. Although Sophie and her children arrived safely in Salt Lake City, over sixty members of the Willie Handcart Company died on the trail.

As these pioneers pulled handcarts across the plains and over the Rocky Mountains, they faced starvation, hypothermia, frozen limbs, and death. Jens Nielsen, who traveled with Sophie in the Willie Handcart Company wrote, “No person can describe it, nor could it be comprehended or understood by any human living in this life, but those who were called to pass through it.”

I have started researching Sophie’s story and am in the process of writing a book about her experience. As I was researching the early part of Sophie’s story while she was still living in Denmark, I came across information that sent a chill up my spine when I read it. I knew that Sophie was a widow when she made her amazing journey. I was trying to learn more about her husband, and their life together before he died.

I discovered that during the summer of 1853, a cholera epidemic struck Gentofte, the area of Denmark where Sophie and her husband Peter lived. Peter became ill and died on August 8, 1853, leaving Sophie a widow at age twenty-nine with four small children. At the time of Peter's death, Sophie was not aware that she carried her and Peter's last child. Baby Otto was born eight months and eighteen days after Peter died.

Baby Otto was my wife’s great-grandfather. He was conceived just a short while before his father died. That is how close my wife, who is my best friend and soulmate, came to never having a chance to be born.

I’m thankful that all those years ago baby Otto was conceived. I’m sad that he grew up never knowing his father, but I’m thankful that he was born and that as a toddler, he survived the long journey from Denmark to Salt Lake City. I imagine God telling Otto; “I am your Creator. You were in my care even before you were born.” Isaiah 44:2 (CEV)

Otto’s birth was no mistake or accident, and your life isn’t either. Your parents may not have planned you, or your birth may have been part of a carefully thought out plan. But God planned for you. He was not at all surprised by your birth. In fact, he expected it. God says, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born, I set you apart for my holy purpose.” Jeremiah 1:5 (NOG)

Before you were conceived by your parents, you were created in the mind of God. It is not by chance or coincidence that you are alive right now. You are alive because God wanted to create you! Not only did God want to create you, but He also had a plan for your life. In Psalms 139:16 (NIV) we read, “your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

Knowing that God knew us, and formed us, and gave us life, helps us to make sense of our world. We are all looking for a sense of meaning and purpose in our lives. Not only did God know us before we were born, He knows everything about our present situation. He knows everything about you. The Bible says that “the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” Matthew 10:30 (NKJV) God cares about your personal journey because he cares about you. No one has ever loved you more or ever will.

Gentle Reader, God wants you to know how much He loves you. He created a plan for your life before you were even born. That is how special you are to God! What a wonderful thought, to know that the God of the universe knew us intimately and set us apart for His purposes even before we were born! Not only did God have a plan for you before you were born, but He also promises to help you fulfill that plan. Won’t you join me in claiming the promise found in Psalms 138:8 (ESV); “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me.”






Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Snowbound - 3/22/2017

My An Arkie's Faith column from the March 22, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.



A year ago my oldest granddaughter was diagnosed with scoliosis. My son-in-law did extensive research on scoliosis treatments and braces. He was impressed with the success of Dr. Marc Moramarco in Boston. He made the decision for the family to travel to Boston last summer so that my granddaughter could see Dr. Moramarco, and be fitted with a Gensingen Brace®

In his research, my son-in-law found that the Gensingen Brace® is unique in that, for adolescents it offers potential improvement of the Cobb angle, a measure of the curvature of the spine, rather than just halting the progression. According to Dr. Moramarco, the brace’s asymmetric design focuses on overcorrection. It is the highest standard in scoliosis bracing and successfully addresses most curve magnitudes.

After she returned home from Boston and began wearing the new brace, my granddaughter showed improvement in the curvature of her spine. This winter she has been growing rapidly. She is three inches taller than when she was fitted for the brace last summer. Curves progress rapidly during growth spurts, so she needed to return to Boston to be fitted with a new brace.

Her paternal grandparents took her to Boston to see Dr. Moramarco. After she had been measured, photographed and x-rayed, the technicians built her custom brace. The night before she was to fly home from Boston, winter storm Stella moved into the northeast. The storm grounded over 6,000 flights including the one that was to fly my granddaughter home.

According to the Weather Channel, winter storm Stella dumped from three to four feet of snow in some areas, paralyzed several major cities including Boston, and knocked out power out to over half a million people. Several places in Massachusetts reported winds of 70 to 80 miles per hour. The Bolton Valley Ski Area in the Green Mountains of northern Vermont reported a storm total of 58 inches of snow.

Because of the storm, it was several days before my granddaughter was able to fly home. She was snowbound in Boston. I don’t know what her grandparents thought about being stranded, but my granddaughter was ecstatic. Being from Louisiana, she has only seen small amounts of snow. When I talked to her, she excitedly told me, “Papa, the snow was up to my knees!” As I talked with her, I was thankful that it wasn’t me stranded in a snowstorm in Boston.

I have never liked the cold. The last few days have been unseasonably cold for March, and I have been miserable and just a bit whiney. But as I talked with a bubbly, vivacious, excited girl who was experiencing a real winter snowstorm for the first time in her life, something else crossed my mind. There isn't anything quite like a big snowfall that leaves the ground a fluffy pure white, without any dirt or debris.

A fresh snowfall makes any landscape beautiful. What lies underneath the snow might be ugly, but the snow hides any blemishes and makes everything pure and white. God does the same thing with each of us. We may have a sordid past. We may not be currently living as we should. But God longs for us to ask for forgiveness so that he can cover our sins. “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Isaiah 1:18 (KJV)

Have you ever been pleasantly surprised when you woke up and looked out your window to see snow covering the landscape? A dull and dreary day unexpectedly transformed into a beautiful day blanketed with snow. Bare and seemingly lifeless trees turned into marvelous works of art. In the same way, God is pleased when we allow him to cover our sins.

Because of His great love for us, God doesn’t abandon us in our sins. Instead, by His grace, He wants to change and transform us. “He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Col. 1:13,14 (NRSV)

Have you ever noticed how quiet it seems after a heavy snowfall? As snowflakes pile up, there is space left between them. With all that space, sound is unable to bounce off snow as easily as it would off water, dirt, or grass. As a result, the sound gets absorbed.

When God takes our sins and makes them white as snow, it cuts down on the noise of the world around us. The world becomes just a bit quieter and more peaceful. We can more easily hear God as he communicates with us.

Gentle Reader, we all have sin in our life that makes us dirty and separates us from God. But God has provided a way for us to be clean again. Through Jesus, we can all be as white as snow. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9 (KJV)