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.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Great American Eclipse - 8/30/2017

An Arkie's Faith column from the August 30, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.

On August 21st, my wife and I along with my Dad and a customer who happened to be at my business watched the eclipse of the sun. We took turns sharing the two welding helmets at the shop to safely watch the shadow of the moon march across the face of the sun. It was an amazing experience. During the peak minutes of the eclipse, there were light clouds that made it impossible to get a good photograph. But a few minutes later the clouds dissipated, and I could get useable photos by holding the dark glass from my welding helmet over the camera on my smart phone. I was happy to have a record of this incredible experience.

The eclipse was truly the great American eclipse. It was visible as a partial eclipse from all 50 states and as a total eclipse from a 70-mile-wide sliver of 14 states. The solar eclipse path of totality stretched from Salem, Oregon, to Charleston, South Carolina. Everyone in the continental U.S. was able to see at least a fifty percent eclipse.

While total solar eclipses occur somewhere on Earth about every 18 months, This was the first total solar eclipse in the continental U.S. in 38 years. The last one occurred on February 26, 1979. Not many people saw it because it clipped just five states in the Northwest and the weather blocked the view of the sun in most places. It had been 99 years since the last coast-to-coast eclipse. When the next total solar eclipse over the continental U.S. occurs on April 8, 2024, Mena, Arkansas will be in the path of totality. I’m excitedly waiting to see a total eclipse on that day.

On August 21st, large numbers of people across North America watched the eclipse. Because of the attention the eclipse received from the media, and the information went viral on social media, more people observed and photographed this eclipse than any other eclipse in history. There is no hard evidence on the number of people who watched the eclipse, but a CNN poll taken shortly before the eclipse indicated that about half of the US population planned to watch the eclipse.

About 12 million people live in the solar eclipse’s 70-mile-wide path of totality. An estimated seven million people traveled to the path of totality to have the opportunity to observe a total eclipse. Some friends of mine made reservations months ago in Missouri so they could view the total eclipse. In many locations, this large number of travelers created massive traffic problems. Over one million people traveled to Oregon for the eclipse, causing the worst traffic mess in Oregon history. In Kentucky, there were twenty-mile long traffic jams on the Interstate. One man reported that had been in a traffic jam for eleven hours.  Another tweeted that the Bluegrass Parkway interchange “might be the worst traffic jam in the world right now.”

Eclipse travelers in Wyoming made history. The sparsely populated state had the most traffic it has ever seen, with more than a million visitors. Wyoming Department of Transportation spokesman Doug McGee said, “Our highway system was taxed like it’s never been before. The roads just weren’t designed for that volume of traffic.” He added, “the number of cars participating in the mass exodus rivaled the 636,294 registered cars and pickup trucks in Wyoming as of 2016.”

Even though a large number of people viewed the great American eclipse of 2017, I know of a celestial event that will have many more viewers. Shortly before Jesus was crucified, “His disciples came to him privately and said, ‘Tell us, when will all this happen? What sign will signal your return and the end of the world?’” Matthew 24:3 (NLT) After giving His disciples many signs and much information, Jesus told them, “And then at last, the sign that the Son of Man is coming will appear in the heavens, and there will be deep mourning among all the peoples of the earth. And they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” Matthew 24:30 (NLT)

No event in the history of the world has been more anticipated than the return of Jesus Christ to this earth. Every generation of believers has believed that Jesus would return. When He was on this earth, Jesus promised His disciples that He would return. He said to them, “let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 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.” John 14:1-3 (NKJV)

This promise was reaffirmed when Jesus ascended to heaven. He had gathered His disciples and given them some final instructions. In Acts 1:9-11 (NLT) we read that, “after saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!’”

From that moment until now those who believe in Jesus have been waiting for the world’s most amazing celestial event. And It will be the most viewed event in the history of the planet. “Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him.” Revelation 1:7 (NKJV)

Gentle Reader, Jesus is coming back to this earth to reward His people just as He promised and to take them to the beautiful home He has prepared for them. My prayer is that on that day, you will be among the people who say, “Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” Isaiah 25:9 (KJV)

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Video Shoot Miracles - 8/16/2017

An Arkie's Faith column from the August 16, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.


Last month, the producer of the Advent Heralds Quartet contacted us about the possibility of using one of our classic cars. They were planning a video shoot in multiple locations in Texas, including Houston, Galveston, San Antonio, and Wimberley, for their upcoming DVD and wanted to feature a classic car. After several calls and reviewing photos of some of our cars, he decided to use the 1940 Plymouth.

I enjoyed meeting the producer, Craig, and his family when they came to pick up the car. I learned that the video was much more involved than I had originally thought. I had assumed that the car would be used in a music video for one song. The plan was to spend a week shooting video for the songs from an entire album. The 1940 Plymouth was to be used to help tie all of the songs together. The quartet members would discuss the key spiritual thoughts that lead the audience through the gospel; building on the messages of each song and tying it all together while driving in the old car.

Throughout the week, I enjoyed getting messages and photos from Craig about the progress of the video shoot and how the car was doing. The constant message that I got from him was how God was leading. Their schedule was very tight, and they had numerous problems with the weather and their vehicles. But in each instance, things worked out, and Craig gave the glory to God and even considered them miracles.

To begin with, he had planned to shoot with one cameraman. The group had a video director who loved to shoot solo, and that was his style. Not long before the video shoot he resigned and took another job, so to fill his place for this shoot, Craig reached out to another cameraman. The miracle was that this cameraman took the job on short notice, and said that he had two young men who had just returned from an extensive shoot in Europe who would love to come along and assist him for the experience. Craig said, “God knew what He was doing—we could never have made it without all three men on the team! Working as we did, to film as much as possible in the ‘golden hour’ lighting near sunup and sundown, we desperately needed the efficiency that three on the team brought. God is good!”

Craig added, “The greatest miracle, honestly, was the classic car. I had followed leads on several cars, and one seemed to really be settled. It was a friend of my cousin who lives in Wimberley, TX. However, just as I was so happy that the search for a classic car was over - I had talked at length with an owner in Tennessee, and another in Michigan and one in southeast Texas - I got the call that explained that their insurance would not cover anyone else driving the car. God provided Bob and Pat Lawry. They believed in the music evangelism project we were doing. Not only that—God does everything all the way—the car they were willing to loan us fit our project perfectly.”

Well, maybe the 1940 Plymouth wasn’t quite perfect. One morning I received a call from Craig. The day before, the Plymouth hadn’t cooperated. It was a very hot day, and the car overheated and refused to run. The starter wasn’t working, so they had to push it to get it started. He wanted to know if I had any ideas about what they needed to do to get the car to run.

Later, Craig told me, “we lost a lot of time pushing that dear car in the stifling heat. That night we all fervently prayed that God would fix that car for us. We had fallen so far behind in filming discussions—the key spiritual thoughts that lead the audience through the gospel story—building on the messages of each song and tying it all together. The next day we filmed with that car for almost eight hours, and it never gave us any trouble. We did have to roll-start it a few times, so we got some exercise pushing it, but aside from that—it purred along so faithfully that we could hardly believe it has been so stubborn in refusing to run the day before! God answered our prayers again!”

When Craig returned the car to us, he recounted to me what was probably the most dramatic miracle of the video shoot. It happened on the last day of shooting. Craig said, “we had been getting to bed quite late and getting up very early day after day due to our travel and filming schedule trying to catch the early and morning daylight hours. So, every minute of sleep was precious. I arranged for the crew to rise at 4:30 am that morning. However, rising a bit earlier myself, I started doing the math on the time and realized that I had made a real mistake. We could have risen a whole hour later and enjoyed that precious sleep! I realized this about the time that the crew began to get up and pack. So, I left our schedule unchanged, and we arrive at the Alamo for what was probably the most critical shoot a bit early, for our 5:30 AM permit.

We had the permit for a whole 4 hours, and we generally only need 2 hours to shoot a song. However, the sentry on duty at the Alamo greeted us by saying, ‘You guys better hurry up with that piano and whatever singing you plan to do—a real downpour is due to hit here in half an hour!’ I must say, one look up into the night sky did reveal dark, ominous clouds, so we got into high gear and filmed for all we were worth, with God’s help. Raindrops were just beginning to fall as we put away our gear and ran to drop the ramps to load the classic car, which we had filmed driving to and from the Alamo. In just the few minutes it took us to load the classic car, the rain fell so hard that those of us doing that job were soaked all the way through to our socks—we were completely drenched! It was a miracle, a real miracle that we had awakened and started our day when we did! God had arranged that I am sure. We had had to book that film permit weeks in advance, and it was the most regulated and difficult permit of our whole production. If we had missed that 30-minutes to film that song—we could not have had the Alamo in our production. But, God knew all of that and arranged everything for us.”

Gentle Reader, on the day of the Alamo video shoot, San Antonio experienced very heavy rains, up to five inches in a few hours. Numerous people had to be rescued and homes evacuated due to flooding. But God arranged a video shoot so that the rain would not stop it. If God is concerned with a video shoot, He will also be concerned with your life. “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Matthew 6:8 (RSV)

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Press Gangs - 8/09/2017

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Loving Maggie - 8/02/2017

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Playing With Slime - 7/26/2017

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Fireworks and Liberty - 7/19/2017

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Dearly Beloved - 7/12/2017

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

During the time that Jesus lived here on the earth, a man would never consider getting married unless he had a house ready for his new bride. Jesus has promised us that he will prepare a place for his bride.  We can find His promise in John 14:2,3 (NKJV) where it says, “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”

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

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Empty Cupboards - 7/05/2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Final Exam - 6/28/2017

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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?