Thursday, March 31, 2016


Why did Jesus come to this earth? Here is what Jesus said in John 10:10, "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly."

Jesus said that he came to this earth so that you could have life and have it more abundantly. When He said have life, he was talking present tense. You can have it now. It isn’t a future reward; it is something you can have now. In The New Living Translation John 10:10 reads this way, “My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”

Jesus wants to give you a rich and satisfying life, right here right now. He doesn’t say that you have to wait until later to get His rewards. Now I’m not talking about the prosperity gospel here. The rich satisfying life isn’t about money. It’s about being happy. It’s about being at peace. It’s about overcoming sin. Jesus has promised these things now.

Television commercials claim that a rich and satisfying life goes along with drinking the right beer, wearing a certain kind of tennis shoes, or driving a certain type of car. Christians never seem to advertise this positive aspect of being a Christian. You are more apt to hear of the trials that a Christian must endure before he can receive his ultimate reward in heaven. But Jesus says that He came to give you a rich and satisfying life right here. We have not been the best witnesses.

In Matthew 10 we have the story of when Jesus sent His disciples out to witness. In verse 7 Jesus said, “As you go, preach, saying, ‘the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” Notice that the kingdom of heaven – the reward of the gospel – is not in the future, it is now. It is at hand.

Over and over we find in the gospels that Jesus talks about the kingdom of heaven. Eleven times in the book of Matthew Jesus tells stories and gives illustrations where he says, “The kingdom of heaven is like.”
1. A man who sowed good seed in his field
2. A mustard seed
3. Leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal
4. Treasure hidden in a field
5. A merchant seeking beautiful pearls
6. A dragnet that was cast into the sea
7. A householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old
8. A certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants
9. A landowner who went out to hire laborers for his vineyard
10. A certain king who arranged a marriage for his son
11. A man traveling to a far country

Jesus refers to the kingdom of heaven in the present tense. His kingdom is here and now and he wants you to be a part of His kingdom and live a rich and satisfying life.

In Romans 15:13 Paul tells us, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” God wants to fill you with joy and peace NOW. He wants the Holy Spirit to fill you with hope. He wants these things for you NOW.

God wants so much more for us that just waiting for the future, waiting for heaven. 2 Corinthians 6:2 reads, “In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you. Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation."

God says I have heard you. I hear you NOW. I have helped you. I am helping you NOW. NOW is the accepted time. NOW is the day of salvation.  It is NOW!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Missouri River

An Arkie's Faith column from the March 30, 2016 issue of The Mena Star.

Recently we made a trip to Ashland, Missouri to visit my sister. My nephew was the lead in his High School play and we were excited to be able to go see him perform. He played the part of Shrek in Shrek the Musical. He and his classmates had worked hard, practicing every school night for weeks. The production was very entertaining and my nephew was incredible as Shrek.

Ashland, Missouri is just a few miles from the Missouri River and is situated halfway between Columbia and Jefferson City. One morning while I was there I got up early to photograph the sunrise. I ended up at the little town of Hartsburg. It is a small town of 100 people situated on the Katy Trail, a 225-mile bike path that stretches across Missouri. I saw a sign that said Missouri River Access. I decided to check it out. The road to the access was called River Road. From Hartsburg Access to Wilton the River Road runs along the banks of the Missouri River. It was a beautiful drive and I enjoyed taking photos along the river. I was impressed by how wide and how swift the river was.

My mind drifted back in time and I imagined steamboats making their way up the river. Recently I had read portions of the book, Old Man River: The Memories of Captain Louis Rosche, Pioneer Steamboatman by Robert A. Hereford. In the book, there was a quote from an old steamboat man that Rosche met on the St. Louis levee in 1866.

“Just because the Mississippi is the biggest river in the country, you mustn't get the idea that she's the best and the boats on her the finest and her boatmen the smartest. That ain't true. Son, real steamboatin' begins where the Missouri and the Mississippi join up. It takes a real man to be a Missouri River pilot, and that's why a good one draws down as high as a thousand dollars a month. If a Mississippi boat makes a good trip to New Orleans and back, its milk-fed crew think they've turned a trick. Bah! That's creek navigatin'. But from St. Louis to Fort Benton and back–close on to five thousand miles, son, with cottonwood snags waitin' to rip a hole in your bottom and the fastest current there ever was on any river darin' your engines at every bend and with Injuns hidin' in the bushes at the woodyard landings ready to rip the scalp off your head–that's a hair-on-your-chest, he-man trip for you!”

Back in the days when steamboats were common, a passenger stood watching the pilot as they went through a tricky spot on the river. The passenger asked the pilot, "How long have you been piloting a boat on this river?"  "About twenty years," was the reply.  The passenger said, "so I suppose you know every rock and shoal and sand bank and all the other dangerous places."  "No, I don't," said the pilot.  "You don't!" exclaimed the passenger in alarm. "Then what do you know?"  The pilot said, "I know where the deep water is."

Many Christians waste a lot of precious time and resources studying error.  They think that to avoid error they must understand all of the ins and outs of it.  Instead of focusing on Jesus they focus on these erroneous ideas and the people who are teaching them. They become conspiracy theory Christians who spend more time focusing on these conspiracy theories than they do on Jesus.

In Philippians 4:8 (NRSV), the Bible tells us, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” That seems to tell me that God wants us to focus on the positive.  There is so much evil and error in the world that we could never hope to understand it no matter how long we studied it. Why would we want to take time away from Jesus to study such things?

I am quite often given materials or sent e-mails and internet links to articles that are meant to expose certain groups or organizations. I don't want to take the time to study things that I already believe to be in error. If we know our Bibles and we know our Savior we will not be deceived.  We don't need to see the evil side of life to be able to seek the good.  Jesus tells us in John 8:31,32 (NCV), "If you continue to obey my teaching, you are truly my followers. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Gentle Reader, we need to know where the deep water is.  We need to travel in the deep water as we negotiate the river of life. Too many lives have been wrecked by the rocks and sandbanks of life as they have strayed from the deep water.  Let's resolve to stay in the deep water of Jesus.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

He's Alive - 3/23/2016

An Arkie's Faith column from the March 23, 2016 issue of The Mena Star.

During the 1970’s as I listened to Contemporary Christian Music, Don Francisco was one of my favorite artists. Last year for my birthday my daughter gave me an album that had just been released titled, "We Will Stand.” It is a one of a kind live recording that includes 30 CCM artists who performed together on Jan. 21, 2015. Don Francisco was one of those artists and he sang his signature song, "He's Alive.”

Don’s music often tells a story and “He’s Alive” is one of his best. The song tells the story of the resurrection of Jesus from Peter’s point of view. It ends with these words: “Suddenly the air was filled with strange and sweet perfume. Light that came from everywhere; Drove shadows from the room. Jesus stood before me with His arms held open wide. And I fell down on my knees and just clung to Him and cried. He raised me to my feet and as I looked into His eyes. Love was shining out from Him like sunlight from the skies. Guilt in my confusion disappeared in sweet release. And every fear I'd ever had just melted into peace. He's alive, He's alive. He's alive and I'm forgiven. Heaven's gates are open wide. He’s alive."

What a powerful message the song delivers. This is the gospel; the good news that Jesus is alive. Let’s take a look at the story as it is recorded in Mark 16:9-16 (NIV) “When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it. Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either. Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen. He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.’”

Jesus gave his disciples the job of going to the entire world and preaching the gospel. Most Christians realize that Jesus didn't just tell his disciples to preach the gospel, he asks all of his followers preach the gospel. But just what is the gospel? The gospel is the good news that Jesus is alive. He has achieved victory over death. He wants to give us eternal life.

Paul explained it very clearly to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 (NIV) “Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”

The gospel is very simple. 1-Jesus died for our sins. 2-He was buried. 3-He rose again.

I once heard a preacher who stated that whatever topic he was preaching on he always included John 3:16 (NKJV)  "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 is the gospel. Whatever we as Christians are teaching needs to have the gospel at its center. Jesus, his death and resurrection, should be the center of any doctrine, teaching or belief. Too much of what Christians are focused on is not gospel oriented.

Gentle Reader, the most important part of the story of the cross is that He’s alive!  We read in Acts 1:11 (NIV) “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” Christians are looking forward to the second coming of Jesus because He’s alive!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Second Death

Four places in the book of Revelation the Bible refers to the second death. Both the first death and the second death are the result of sin, but the first is temporary and occurs by means of physical causes, such as disease or tragedy or old age. We are all too familiar with the first death. The second death however, does not occur on merely a physical level, but on the psychological level as well, due to the lethal power of one’s guilt. It is complete and final.

Revelation 2:11 says, "He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.” Those who overcome don’t experience the second death. We could say that another way. Those who do not overcome will experience the second death.

Revelation 20 mentions the second death two times. Revelation 20:6 states, "Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years." The second death has no power over those who reign with Christ.

Revelation 20:13-15 is very specific about what the second death is, "The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire." Being cast into the lake of fire is the second death.

Revelation 21:7,8 confirms this, "But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

Hell is equivalent to the second death. God will not subject the wicked to eternal torture in the flames of some underworld. They will be resurrected to face the record of their lives in one final reckoning, then they will be eternally annihilated “as though they had never been” (Obadiah 16).

When we understand the nature of the second death as opposed to the first death, we can understand what Jesus endured for us as He agonized in Gethsemane and died on the cross. As Jesus and His disciples enter the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus is staggering under the weight of some invisible burden. The disciples can see that something is wrong. Jesus explains what’s happening to Him: “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death” (Matthew 26:38).

Jesus has suffered no physical abuse and yet He is dying. No blood has yet been spilled from His body by violence and yet He is bleeding. Luke tells us in Luke 22:44, “And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” He is bleeding through His pores due to the intense internal stress the shame of our sin is imposing on Him.

Jesus took it all of our sin and shame into His own conscience as if He were the guilty party instead of us. From Gethsemane, Jesus is taken to the cross and nails were hammered through His hands and feet. His body was tortured and yet He never uttered a word about the physical pain, because His mental suffering was so intense that it nearly eclipsed His physical pain.

In the book Desire of Ages, author Ellen White gives us this deeper insight: “The Savior could not see through the portals of the tomb. Hope did not present to Him His coming forth from the grave a conqueror, or tell Him of the Father’s acceptance of the sacrifice. He feared that sin was so offensive to God that their separation was to be eternal”

For a sustained period of time, as our guilt immersed Him in impenetrable emotional darkness, Jesus could not see life for Himself beyond the grave. Jesus faced the prospect of eternal death, and yet, because He loved you and me, He was literally willing to die for ever and never be reunited to His Father to save us.

The wonderful thing is that no one needs to experience the second death, because Jesus experienced it for all of us—and conquered it. He tasted the second death for every person and He alone could not be held in it because He alone was sinless.

Jesus never sinned. Under the fiercest temptations to save Himself, He kept on loving all of us at any cost to Himself. That selfless love was in perfect harmony with the law of God. By love alone, Jesus triumphed over the second death. Therefore, it was impossible for the second death to hold Him. His resurrection is proof of His victory over our sin, our guilt, and our death.

What an amazing love. Is it really true that the creator of the universe loves me so much that He was willing to endure the second death in my place? Is this really what God is like? The answer is YES! "God is love." 1 John 4:8


Portions of this blog post were inspired by Ty Gibson of Light Bearers Ministries.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

My Little Rambler

An Arkie's Faith column from the March 16, 2016 issue of The Mena Star.

A few weeks ago I purchased a 1960 Rambler American. I have always loved these little cars. They are very simple with a small flathead six cylinder engine that produces 90 horsepower. If you are old enough you may remember the song, “Beep Beep.” “While riding in my Cadillac, what to my surprise. A little Nash Rambler was following me, about one third my size. The guy must have wanted to pass me up as he kept on tooting his horn. I'll show him that a Cadillac is not a car to scorn. Beep beep, beep beep, his horn went beep beep beep.” The song, popularized by The Playmates, featured a Rambler like mine.

When I bought the car the previous owner told me he had cleaned out the gas tank and rebuilt the carburetor. He assured me that it was drivable. The first time I drove the little Rambler it quit running. I was able to pull over to the side of the road. Just as I got out of the car to see what was wrong, a friend of mine stopped to see if I needed help. He pushed me back to my shop with his 1961 Pontiac. I can only imagine what the passers by thought seeing an old Pontiac pushing the little Rambler down the road.

Since the gas gauge didn’t work I thought that it might just be out of gas. I put several gallons in the tank and the little Rambler started right up. That night I was driving it home and once again the little Rambler quit running. With the help of some other motorists I was able to push it to the side of the road. I was able to get the engine started again and headed to the gas station. After filling the tank I started out again but the little Rambler just didn’t want to run. I had to call my Dad and have him help me pull the car back to my shop. When I told my wife about the days experience she told me, “You need to get rid of that car.”

The next morning I determined that the fuel pump wasn’t working. After replacing the pump the little Rambler fired up and ran smoothly. I was ready for another drive. This time it ran perfectly, but when I returned to my shop I noticed a stream of coolant running out from under the front end of the car. After checking out the leak I found that I needed a new water pump. I had also noticed that the steering was loose. When I had replaced the water pump and a tie rod end, the little Rambler was ready to drive.

Did I still love the little Rambler? She had given me a lot of trouble. I had yet to take a drive in her that didn’t end badly. I didn’t get upset with the little car when things went wrong. I knew it wasn’t a new car when I bought it. My first drive after the repairs was to Cossatot River State Park, which is eighty miles round trip. The little Rambler rambled right along without any trouble. There were rattles, creaks and groans, but the engine ran fine. It was a beautiful afternoon and I loved driving the little Rambler.

The Bible tells us in Romans 5:8(NLT) that, “God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” God loves us in our broken down imperfect state. Sometimes we feel that we have to become good before God can love us. But we learn in Isaiah 64:6 (AMPC) that, “our best deeds of rightness and justice are like filthy rags or a polluted garment.” We can never become good enough to deserve God’s love. Just like I loved my little Rambler even when she wasn’t running, God loves us in our sinful condition. The Apostle Paul said, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. And I am the worst of those sinners.” 1 Timothy 1:15 (ICB)

Because God loves us He wants better things for us. Peter explains the process in 2 Peter 1:5-7 (NCV), “Because you have these blessings, do your best to add these things to your lives: to your faith, add goodness; and to your goodness, add knowledge; and to your knowledge, add self-control; and to your self-control, add patience; and to your patience, add service for God; and to your service for God, add kindness for your brothers and sisters in Christ; and to this kindness, add love.”

Even though I didn’t get rid of the little Rambler when it seemed that I would never be able to drive it without a break down, I did want to improve it. Gentle Reader, God is the same way with us. He tells us that “nothing can ever separate us from His love” Romans 8:38 (NLT), but Jesus came to “save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21 (ESV) He wants a relationship with us. He wants to improve us.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Theology in the Raw

I recently started listening to a podcast called Theology in the Raw. It is a daily radio show hosted by Preston Sprinkle. He is a professor at Eternity Bible College in Boise, Idaho. Each weekday he does his best to take a fresh look at what the Bible really says. Putting down his own opinions and traditions, Preston tries to address each issue by looking at what scripture truly has to say about each topic.

In talking about his teaching style he says, “rather than telling students what to believe, I point them to study scripture to form their beliefs. I mean, really comb through the text and soak themselves in the biblical narrative to gain the massive view of God that Scripture beautifully sets forth.”

For several weeks the podcast has been doing an in depth study on the doctrine of hell. The majority of the time has been spent looking into the question, is annihilation a biblical view of hell?

Just to give you a bit of background, Eternity Bible College is the educational arm of Cornerstone Community Church in Wildomar, California. Eternity Bible College’s statement of beliefs says, “We believe that after death, the souls of unbelievers remain in conscious misery until the Second Resurrection when they shall appear at the Great White Throne Judgment and shall be cast into the Lake of Fire, not to be annihilated, but to suffer everlasting, conscious punishment.”

After reading the statement of belief I was surprised by the recurring theme of the podcasts on hell: Without a doubt the annihilation view of hell is an evangelical option.

In the podcast Preston asked for dialog via e-mail. I sent him the following e-mail. “I recently started listening to your podcast, Theology in the Raw. I enjoy the way that you really dig into the scriptures. I appreciate your insistence that the weight of evidence; i.e. the number of verses that talk about an end to the wicked vs. those that seem to indicate something eternal. It seems to me that the white elephant in the room when Christians discuss this topic is something that you alluded to but then seemed to pass right over. That is conditional immortality. If man's immortality is conditional then Eternal Torment cannot be what the Bible teaches. If man's soul is immortal then annihilation cannot be correct. I would love to hear you delve into this topic with the thoroughness that I have heard in your podcasts on hell.

One comment you made in the podcast was that our emotions shouldn't come into play when we study the topic of hell. I would like to respectfully disagree. The subject of Eternal Torment is also wrapped up into the character of God. We all have slightly different views on the character of God depending on our background and our experience but my view of His character does affect how I discern scripture. Eternal Torment doesn't fit with my view of God's character and I think that if most Christians really thought about their view of His character they would realize that Eternal Torment isn't compatible with their view of God either.

I appreciate a fresh voice that actually studies the scriptures instead of totally relying in thus says church tradition.”

On the February 29,2016 podcast Preston referred to my e-mail and answered the question,  “What role do emotions play in interpreting the Bible?”

He stated, “The reason why I try to stay clear from emotions when interpreting the text is primarily because the annihilation view often gets accused of being built on emotional arguments only. I’ve seen a lot of people say, ‘well it's obviously not in the Bible, people just want that view because they can't stomach eternal conscious torment.’ Let’s try to set our emotions aside and look at what the biblical text says apart from emotions. I don't like the fact that people write off annihilation without even looking at the Bible. So that's my main point in saying that it shouldn’t be based on emotions. I do agree though that whether you like it or not your emotions do play a role in interpreting scripture. That’s just a fact. Human emotions and background and baggage and culture and gender; all these things go into interpretation. They shouldn't dictate your interpretation but they do contribute to it and shape it. I don't want to say that no, we just read the Bible with no emotions.  I don't think that’s possible.  We're human beings that have emotions. I just don’t think our views should be dictated purely by emotions.

This commenter said something really interesting, and I agree with this, that if our view of hell is incompatible with the character of God, then that should mean something. If my emotions regarding the nature of hell, say the eternal conscious torment view, stem from my view of God. I look in Scripture and see the character of Christ, the character of God and the Holy Spirit and that shapes my emotions and therefore my emotions have sort of an allergic reaction against eternal conscious torment; not because of just my emotions but because that view conflicts with what I know about the character of God, then I do think that that should be considered. That's different. I would call those theological emotions. These aren’t just raw emotions like, I don’t like that I will dismiss it, I like that I will take it. We can’t just pick and choose what we want to believe based on emotions but I do think that as we reflect on the character of God certain doctrines should line up with what we know about God.

I would put the burden of proof on those who would say that the character of God in the Bible, the character of God revealed in Jesus Christ, necessitates that He would keep people alive for billions and billions and billions and billions and billions and billions of years so that He can torment them and then He is just getting started. That doesn't make sense to me when I look at the character of God.  But again I need biblical support specifically for why the view is or isn't correct."

For more information from Evangelical Christians who believe the Bible is the final authority for Christian beliefs and strive to understand what it teaches concerning Hell go to Rethinking

You can purchase the recently released book, Four Views on Hell, edited by Preston Sprinkle on Amazon. The book highlights why the church still needs to wrestle with the doctrine of hell. It uses the familiar counterpoints format, as four leading scholars introduce the current views on eternal judgment.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Kermit the Snake 3/09/16

An Arkie's Faith column from the March 9, 2016 issue of The Mena Star.

Recently my wife and I along with friends spent the afternoon at Cossatot River State Park. The park stretches for 12 miles along the scenic Cossatot River. The visitor information center is located on U.S. 278 east of Wickes where the highway crosses the Cossatot River. The center is beautiful and features an exhibit gallery, a lovely sitting room with a wildlife viewing area, and a gift shop.

One of the park interpreters is a longtime friend. She grew up in the area and loves the outdoors. We were able to spend some time with her during our visit to the park. One of her duties is to care for the reptiles that are onsite at the visitor’s center. While we were there she removed the resident rough green snake from its enclosure. Rough snakes are docile and nonvenomous. They live in grassy fields and forests, preferably close to water sources. The rough green snake has a bright green back and a yellow underbelly, with rough scales covering its very thin body. They can grow to be between three and four feet long.

The park interpreter introduced the snake to us and told us its name was Kermit. She offered to let my wife hold Kermit. She was hesitant at first but we encouraged her. She was instructed to hold her hands out palms up. Kermit was placed in her hands and after smelling the air and investigating a bit, he wrapped himself around her arm and settled in.  The snake appeared to be very comfortable. The park interpreter explained that the snake likes the warmth of a person’s skin. Kermit and my wife became very comfortable with each other.

When a friend that was with us was given the opportunity to hold Kermit, her response was a forceful no! She said that just like the Bible stated, she had a lot of enmity for snakes. Is there a biblical reason that so many people have a fear of snakes? I’m sure you remember the story of Eve’s encounter with the serpent in the Garden of Eden. The serpent convinced Eve to disregard God’s command and eat fruit from the one tree that was forbidden. Because of her and her husband Adam’s decision to disregard God’s command everything changed.

When God came to walk in the garden in the cool of the day, He asked Eve, “Did you eat fruit from the tree from which I commanded you not to eat?” She answered, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” So the Lord God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed.” Genesis 3:13-15 (NKJV)

As I read this passage in different versions I found these variants; “I will make you and the woman enemies” (NCV), “I will cause hostility between you and the woman” (NLT), “I’m declaring war between you and the woman” (MSG), “I will put animosity between you and the woman” (TLV), and “I will make you and the woman hate each other.”(NLV) Even if we no longer commonly use the word enmity, I think that we get the idea that there is a problem between the snake and the woman.

The Bible tells us that the snake is Satan. Revelation 12:9 (NCV) says, “The giant dragon was thrown down out of heaven. He is that old snake called the devil or Satan, who tricks the whole world.” I hope that you have enmity with Satan. Even though God placed hostility towards Satan in humans, not everyone feels that way. The Bible tells us in James 4:4 (NKJV), “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”

Too often Christians become comfortable with the snake. Just like my wife at first was hesitant about holding Kermit the snake but after a while became comfortable, as we put ourselves in compromising situations we lose our enmity towards Satan. How do we keep that from happening? 1 John 2:15,16 (NLT) says, “Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.”

Sometimes the things that the world offers us seem so enticing just like the fruit of the forbidden tree did to Eve. Gentle Reader, don’t let the love of this world make you an enemy of God. Your enemy is Satan. “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8 (NLT)

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Blustery Day - 3/02/16

My An Arkie's Faith column from the March 2, 2016 issue of The Mena Star.

When they were young my children enjoyed the Winnie the Pooh movies. I’m pretty sure that they still do. One of their favorites was Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day.

The movie begins with Winnie the Pooh on his way to his thoughtful spot. It is a very windy day. While Pooh is thinking, Gopher shows up and tells Pooh that he needs to leave because it is "Winds-day.” Pooh, doesn’t understand the warning, but goes through the Hundred Acre Wood wishing everyone a happy Winds-day. Pooh first visits his friend Piglet who lives in a beech tree. Piglet had gone outside to rake leaves but the wind was too strong. Piglet is almost blown away but Pooh grabs on to him by his scarf, like a kite on a string. Pooh hangs on to the scarf as Piglet is blown away. They go past Kanga and Roo, and Pooh wishes them both a happy Winds-day. Pooh ends up destroying Eeyore’s house as he struggles to hang on to Piglet in the heavy wind and is drug through the house. When the wind carries Piglet over Rabbit’s garden, Pooh inadvertently harvests the carrots as he is drug by.

The howling wind finally blows Pooh and Piglet over to Owl's tree house. Owl invites them in. Pooh wishes Owl a happy Winds-day, but Owl tells him that the wind is due to "a mild spring zephyr" and not because it is Winds-day.

A few weeks ago there was a day that I’m pretty sure was a Winds-day. At the very least it was a mild spring zephyr. The wind blew strong all day. It came from the north and had a sharp bite to it. The wind was so strong that our old shop building where my business is located creaked and groaned. As the day progressed some of the sheet metal on the roof became loose and started banging and making a horrible noise.

My Dad climbed up on a ladder to fasten the sheet metal. The ladder wasn’t on firm ground and it slipped. My Dad fell from the ladder and as he fell grabbed at the sheet metal, slicing his hand open. He wasn’t badly injured from the fall but he had to go to the doctor to have his hand sewed up. I feel very fortunate that he wasn’t hurt worse. If only I had been there to steady the ladder he wouldn’t have fallen.

In our spiritual lives God has promised to keep us from falling. The Psalmist wrote in Psalms 116:8 (NKJV), “For You have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, and my feet from falling.” If we ask God to steady the ladder of our life we can trust Him to keep us from falling. In fact He is the only one who can keep us from falling. In Jude 24 (CEV) the Bible tells us that “only God can keep you from falling and make you pure and joyful in his glorious presence."

Before God can keep us from falling, we have to put our trust in Him. It is fairly easy to say the words “I trust you” but it is more difficult to show by our actions that we trust someone.

Charles Blondin is considered to be one of the greatest tightrope-walkers of all time. He was the first man ever to cross Niagara Falls by tightrope. In 1860 the Prince of Wales saw Blondin cross the Niagara Falls tightrope on stilts, and again blindfolded. After that Blondin stopped halfway across and cooked and ate an omelet. Next he wheeled a wheelbarrow from one side to the other, and returned with a sack of potatoes in it. Then Blondin approached the Prince of Wales and asked, "Do you believe I could take a man across the tightrope in this wheelbarrow?" "Yes, I do", said the Prince. "Hop in", replied Blondin. The Prince declined Blondin's challenge. He might have believed Blondin could do it, but he wasn't about to trust him with his life.

When it comes to our relationship with God, this kind of trust doesn't do much good.  God doesn't want us to say "Lord I believe in you, but not enough to put my life in your hands."  Belief has to come with trust.  Proverbs 3:5,6 (NLT) tells us to “trust in the Lord with all your heart;  do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.

The Prince of Wales believed that Blondin could walk a man across the tightrope in a wheelbarrow, but he didn't trust him enough to get in. Do you believe in God? Do you trust him with your life?

Gentle Reader, trust God with all your heart, and if he asks you to get in the wheelbarrow, do it! Only God can keep you from falling. But for Him to be able to keep you from falling you have to put your trust in Him. You can’t depend on our own understanding. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Proverbs 14:12 (NKJV)