Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Table of Contents




A Gentle God
Waiting For Sunrise
Mother's Day
All You Need Is Love - 5/11/2016
What is Truth?
Newborns
Serenity
Tornado Remembered
Opening Day
Urethane Stains
Unselfish Christianity
Now!
The Missouri River
He's Alive - 3/23/2016
Second Death
My Little Rambler
Theology in the Raw
Kermit the Snake
The Blustery Day - 3/02/16
Atticus Finch - 2/24/16
Was Jonah Right?
Algebra Concepts - 2/17/16
Grandkids - 2/10/16
George the Sea Lion - 2/03/16
I'm Sorry - 1/27/16
Open My Eyes - 1/20/16
Tornado Warnings - 1/13/16
Love = God
One Little Candle - 1/07/16
Do You Know?
Confess, Ask, Believe, Receive
A Time For Rest
Lessons From Little League
Pharisees
Don't Be Dissapointed
Born Again
Little Children
I'm Sorry
Rejoice With Me
He's Alive
I Think I Can
You Did It To Me
You Did It To Me - Part 2
The Golden Rule
Nicolas N. Scott Eulogy
Grace Happens all Around Us
Overflowing Grace
Passion
Bears
Stranded
A Picture of God
Plato's Soul
Unforgivable
How Much Are You Worth?
Failure To Thrive
Voyage to Tarshish
Tolerance
Jump
Liberty
Power
Memorial
Criticize or Encourage
The First Lie
Reunion
Reflections On Our Flooding
Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone
My Jewels
Marching To Zion
Deep Water
The Seventh- Day Adventist Church
Your GPS
Back Roads
Road Of Death
What Did Jesus Do?
Who Do You Think You Are
Let Them Eat Cake
Belief Or Trust
Speeding Tickets
Dirty Hands
Even Our Adversaries
Love And Hate 
The Roman Road
All You Need Is Love
Shepherds
Thanksgiving Proclamations
I Can't Get No Satisfaction
For Want of a Nail
Walking With Papa
Identity Theft
Christmas Gifts
Thank God for Grace
The Verdict
Higher and Higher
Let Me Count the Ways
Body Armor
Orphans
Your Kindness
The Bridegroom
Unforgiven
Character Assasination
Like a Child
God's Will
Walking a Tightrope
Lasik
The List
Jesus Wept
Mowing
What a Friend
Spice
Are You Experienced?
Comfort Zone
Old Friends
My Resolution
Imagination
The Wisdom of Teeth
Taste and See
The Legend of the Candy Cane
Doom and Gloom
Any Road
Five Kernels of Corn
A Little Thanksgiving History
Justice Mercy Grace
The Hammered Dulcimer
Halloween Grace
Moses
Stop to Think
The Best Gift
Sludge
Rebekah's First Steps
Why?
What Matters Most

The Lonely Boy

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

Funeral Sermon for Aunt Kathy


When I was growing up, I attended a small church with my family. The small church shared a pastor with another church. Sometimes when the pastor wasn’t there for the mid-week prayer service, those in attendance would recite a favorite text. Being somewhat of a smart alec, I thought it was amusing to say that my favorite verse was the shortest verse in the Bible, John 11:35 – “Jesus wept.”

As an adult, it has become a favorite verse of mine. I believe the simple words, “Jesus wept,” may reveal as much about Jesus as any other words ever said about him.

I’m sure that you remember the story of Lazarus. When he became ill, his sisters sent a message to Jesus telling him, “Lord, the one you love is very sick.” Jesus chose to wait until Lazarus had died before he came. We read the story in John 11:33-35. “When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, he was moved with indignation and was deeply troubled. “Where have you put him?” he asked them. They told him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept.”

Let me ask you a question? Why did Jesus weep? Was it because of his love for Lazarus? He knew Lazarus would be alive in a few minutes. Jesus was crying because of the grief of his friends. Their sorrow moved him. Jesus is painfully aware of your suffering. He knows why we are here today. He knows that we are saying goodbye to someone we love. When we cry, He is aware. Psalms 56:8 tells us, “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.”

I want you to know that it is appropriate to grieve. Jesus understands our grief, and I believe that just as He cried at the tomb of Lazarus, He cries with us here today. But even as He grieves with us, Jesus holds out hope. When Martha confronted Jesus, telling Him that if He had been there, her brother would not have died; Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered Jesus, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus holds out the same hope to us today.

Paul wrote some of the most comforting words found in the Bible in Romans 8:37-39. “In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I want you to know for sure today that nothing can separate you from the love of God. Nothing can keep God from loving you. Nothing can keep God from loving Kathy. I want to read that scripture again and personalize it for Kathy.

Kathy is more than a conqueror through Him who loved her. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate Kathy from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Kathy lived her life as a Christian. She was a believer. Jesus said in Mark 9:23, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” John 3:16 is probably the best-known verse in the Bible. “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.” And in verse 18 Jesus restates the importance of belief this way, “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

But Kathy wasn’t just a believer; she was a doer. James 1:22 tells us to, “be doers of the word, and not hearers only.” Kathy lived her life as a doer. She had many friends and considered it a ministry to send them all encouraging Christian themed cards and sharing books with them.  She led a Bible study for older ladies at Oak Hill Baptist Church in Irving, Texas. She took her children to church every week, and when she had grandchildren, she took those who lived close to her to church.
She befriended several older women in Irving and Mena and ran errands and showed Christ's love by spending time with them and taking them to appointments. She took care of her husband, Lloyd in their home through his battle with COPD until his death.  A few years later she cared for her elderly mother until she died of cancer.

When she lived in Mena, my wife Gina and I spent a lot of time with her and her husband, Lloyd. We enjoyed spending the day with them and traveling to Jefferson, Texas to go antiquing and looking for old jars. We loved to play dominoes with them and spent many enjoyable evenings playing 42. Uncle Lloyd was a deep student of the Bible. He and I spent a lot of time in Bible discussions, and Kathy would join in with her thoughts and insights. She had strong beliefs and opinions and knew her Bible well.

I believe that in the final chapter of her life, Kathy could say with the Apostle Paul, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:6-8

And I’m sure that just like Job she could say, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth; And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God, Whom I shall see for myself, And my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” Job 19:25-27

Regardless of how deep our faith in God is, the death of a loved one makes each one of us feel the personal loss keenly. There is an aching void as we think of the one that we loved who is gone. We miss the companionship of our loved ones, and our grief is deeply personal. But in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave us the following promise. “Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4  And in Romans 15:4 we find one of the sources of comfort. “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.”

During the sad times in our lives, like this occasion, we know that we can find hope and comfort in the Bible. Jesus knows that you are going through a difficult time. When your heart aches, so does His. But He wants you to know that even in times of sorrow, there is hope.

In Thessalonians 4: 13-18 The Bible tells us;  "But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.  For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.  For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”

Crossing the Bridge

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

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

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

Are You Thriving?


I love reading history and learning new things. Recently I came across a historical person I had never heard of before. As I learned about him, I became quite fascinated with his life. His name is Frederick the second.

Frederick II was a man of extraordinary culture, energy, and ability. He was king of Sicily and Germany during the first half of the 13th century. He was crowned Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in 1220. Frederick is considered by modern historians to be the most gifted of the medieval Holy Roman Emperors.

Frederick astonished his contemporaries who called him Stupor Mundi, ‘wonder of the world.' His court blended Norman, Arabic, and Jewish elements. He was witty and entertaining in six different languages, Latin, Sicilian, German, French, Greek and Arabic. Frederick was a man of intellectual distinction, and he was friendly with Jewish and Muslim scholars. He encouraged scholarship, poetry and mathematics, and original thinking in all areas.

Frederick’s openness to ideas kept him at odds with the Roman Catholic Church. His demands that the Church renounce its wealth and return to apostolic poverty and simplicity did not sit well with the papacy and its supporters, who called him the Antichrist. He was excommunicated not once but four times.

Frederick was a patron of science and the arts. He had an unlimited thirst for knowledge and learning. He considered himself to be an equal of the greatest scientific minds of his times. Frederick carried out some cruel experiments on people.

One of his experiments used babies. The purpose of the experiment was to discover what language children would naturally grow up to speak if they were never spoken to. So King Frederick took babies from their mothers at birth and placed them in the care of nurses who were forbidden to speak in the babies hearing. Along with the prohibition on speaking, the nurses were not allowed to touch the infants other than to clean or feed them.

To his great dismay, Frederick’s experiment was cut short without finding out what language the babies would speak. The babies grew up to speak no language at all because they died. In the year 1248, an Italian historian named Salimbene di Adam wrote, “They could not live without petting.” The babies died for want of touch.

Modern medicine calls this phenomenon, “failure to thrive.” For some reason, humans flourish under the influence of love, and we gradually die without it. Dr. Dean Ornish in his national bestseller, “Love and Survival,” presents study after study demonstrating that love is a chief influence for mental, emotional, and physical health. He says, “The scientific evidence leaves little doubt that love and intimacy are powerful determinants of our health and survival. Why they have such an impact remains somewhat a mystery.”

Modern science is now proving through controlled studies that human beings are engineered for love. We are made for love, as if our DNA contains the message, “You must love and be loved to survive.”
The problem for many scientists is that they are trying to understand the human need for love within the context of Darwinian evolution. Evolution begins with a survival-of-the-fittest premise; it states that self-preservation is the highest law and the main factor in our survival. Love is self-giving rather than self-preserving, and, therefore, makes no sense in the evolutionary context.

If evolution is the truth of human origins, then human beings are merely biological animals, and there is no such thing as love. And yet, here we are; creatures who thrive on love and are utterly dependent on it. Every human has a desire to love and be loved.

In 1 John 4:16 the Bible tells us that “God is love.”  And in Genesis 1:27 it states that “God made mankind in His own image.”

Scientists may feel that the reason that love and intimacy have such an effect on our health and survival is a mystery, but I don’t. God made us to love and be loved.

We will never thrive until we learn to express and receive affection. But we have another need—one that may seem counter-intuitive: we need to have a healthy love for ourselves.

In Matthew 22:37-39 Jesus said, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” What Jesus meant is that a person’s love ought to reach in three directions—upward to God, outward to others, and inward to self.

You would probably agree that loving God and others is important, but is loving yourself important? Self-love is often associated with pride and self-centeredness—and there are plenty of both in our world. However, that’s not what Jesus meant. He was saying we should recognize and appreciate our worth. God created us in His image so we could have a relationship with Him. Jesus died for us so we could be forgiven and reconciled to the Father. Since the Lord values us so highly, shouldn’t we love ourselves? I’m not talking about a boastful attitude, but a quiet peace that comes from knowing we’re deeply loved by our heavenly Father.

A healthy self-love is essential. If it is missing or in some way incomplete, we can’t love the Lord or others as we should. A nagging sense of unworthiness leaves us empty and prevents us from looking up to God in devotion and reaching out to others with affection. God does not want us to have low self-esteem. He wants us to thrive. To thrive, we need to love God, to love others, and to love ourself. We also need to be loved by God, others and ourself.

The Bible has many passages that tell us what God has to say about our worth and our value in His eyes. Genesis 1:26-27 says “’Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
You were made in the image of God.

Psalm 139:13-14 says “You made my whole being; you formed me in my mother’s body. I praise you because you made me in an amazing and wonderful way.”

God made you in an amazing and wonderful way.

Ephesians 1:4 says that “God chose us before the world was made so that we would be his holy people—people without blame before him.”

God chose you even before the world was made.

In Romans 5:8, the Bible tells us that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

Jesus died for you not because you were good enough, but because he loved you.

John 3:16,17 “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. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

God loved you so much that he sent Jesus not to condemn you but to save you.

If we focus on how much God loves us and the price He paid to redeem us, we’ll come to see ourselves as God sees us, and that will help us understand just how much we’re worth as children of God.

Too often our self-worth is based on what other people tell us about ourselves. The one, true authority on our self-worth is Jesus Christ, and since He gave His life for us by dying on a cross, that should tell us just how valuable we are.

For us to thrive, we must be fully aware of just how much God loves us. When we fully accept God’s love for us, we’ll have a healthy appreciation for ourselves, an ever-growing love for Him, and the ability to love and care for others.

How much are you and I truly worth? What value should we place upon each other? Often we'll look at what someone is doing, and if they're doing a poor job, making mistakes; then we view that person as of little value. But is this the correct way of seeing value in someone?

If we truly saw the value of people as God does, would we still treat each other the way we do? Mathew 25:45 tells us, “I tell you the truth, anything you refused to do for even the least of my people here, you refused to do for me.’”

The key to seeing and understanding the value of you and me and all other people in the world is to see our value in light of what Jesus did to save us!

Are there people in our sphere of influence who are failing to thrive because we are not showing them the love that they need? It’s not enough for others to know that you love them – you must show that you love others! Love is not an abstract idea. True love is not just something you feel – it’s something you demonstrate!

We all need to grow in this area because everybody needs to know they are loved. You especially need to know how to show love if you are a follower of Jesus because He said, "All people will know that you are my followers if you love each other." John 13:35

1 John 3:17-18 the Bible says, “What if a person has enough money to live on and sees his brother in need of food and clothing? If he does not help him, how can the love of God be in him? My children, let us not love with words or in talk only. Let us love by what we do and in truth.”

We show our love through our actions.  God has asked us to love others to help them thrive. There are so many people in this world who are failing to thrive. Are there those that we know who are failing to thrive because we do not love them – by our actions. Words alone are not enough.

God's Word is His love letter to us. The love of Jesus waits in each page! Don’t leave your love letters unopened and unread. God loves you, and he wants to tell you just how much. Open his love letter to you and listen to what he has to say to you.

The greatest love poem found in the Bible is in John 3:16,17. “ 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. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

What beautiful words. We need to keep in mind that it is the world that God loves, not a single nation, not a single race. Not just the “good” people, not just the people who love God back. “God so loved the world.” This includes the lovable and the unlovable; those who are popular, and those who have no one else to love them; the ones who love God, and the ones who never think of God.

Reading God’s love letter to you is the only way you can learn to love others. In the Bible, we have the example of Jesus. As Christians, we are to follow in his footsteps. There is a popular Christian song titled, "The Proof of Your Love."  The lyrics to the chorus are:  "Let my life be the proof, The proof of Your love.   Let my love look like You and what You're made of.  How You lived, how You died, Love is sacrifice. So let my life be the proof, The proof of Your love".

Gentle Reader, let’s remember how valuable we are in God's eyes! All of us! God wants you to thrive. He also wants you to help others thrive. May our lives be the proof of God’s love.

Keeping the Lawn Mowed

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Vietnam Veterans Memorial


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

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

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

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

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

A memorial is something that serves as a focus to help remember an event.  Are there memorials in the Bible?  There is a memorial right in the Ten Commandments.  Exodus 20:8-12 says,  “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it”.

What are we to remember when we keep the Sabbath?  That God created the heavens and the earth. When did God set up this memorial to creation?  Genesis 2:1-3 tells us, “Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made”.

On the seventh day of creation, God blessed and sanctified the seventh day.  It is a memorial of creation.  Many people no longer believe that God created the world in seven days.   If we deny that God is the Creator, we have no reason to worship God.

One of the main topics of the book of Revelation is worship.  The first angel’s message in Revelation 14 includes a call to the world to worship God as our Creator.  Look at Revelation 14:6,7.  It says, “And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, saying with a loud voice, ‘Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come: and worship Him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.’”  God wants a people who will worship Him as Creator.

To reject the literal account of creation as found in Genesis is to reject not only Old Testament worship but New Testament worship.   In Romans 1:24,25 the Bible says,  “Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

When we deny God’s creative power we end up worshiping the creation instead of the Creator.   Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.”  And Hebrews 11:3 tells us that, “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible”.  Faith is important to the Christian, and by faith we understand that God created the universe.

Creation is important; It is the reason we worship God, and the seventh day has stood as a memorial to God’s creative power from creation week until today.

Moonshots

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Causing a Splash

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Back Country Roads

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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