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

My 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.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter at Garvan Woodland Gardens

Yesterday Gina and I along with my daughter and her family visited Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The Gardens were the dream of Verna Cook Garvan. The site for Garvan Woodland Gardens was purchased in the 1920's. In 1956 Mrs. Garvan began to develop it as a garden and possible future residence. She was intimately familiar with the land and laid out each path, marking every tree to be removed. She also personally chose each new plant and selected its location.

When she died in 1993, Mrs. Garvan gave the property to the University of Arkansas Foundation. The Gardens are now an independent department of the University's Fay Jones School of Architecture and continue to flourish and grow.

Every spring Garvan Woodland Gardens has a tulip extravaganza. Over 150,000 tulips line the walkways of Arkansas' premier botanical garden.  Every year that we can we visit the gardens during the tulip extravaganza. Yesterday was a perfect day for a visit.  The weather was perfect as we walked the tulip lined trails.

The peak tulip viewing times at the gardens are March 15 through April 1. Garvan Woodland Gardens are beautiful any time of the year, but I think that the tulip season is quite possibly the best.

Garvan Woodland Gardens is the largest remaining undeveloped tract of land on Lake Hamilton, the Mid-South's most popular recreational Lake. There are over three miles of recreational trails.  This time of year many of the trails are lined with thousands of tulips.

We had a very enjoyable afternoon. The temperatures were warm and the flowers were so beautiful. This time of year the tulips are quite impressive, but there are other flowers in bloom.

My granddaughter Elisabeth loved the flowers and kept saying these flowers are pretty, take my picture here. As a Papa, of course I did.

Garvan Woodland Gardens is an amazing place.  If you ever visit Hot Springs, Arkansas I highly recommend a visit to Garvan Woodland Gardens.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday Thoughts

Today is Good Friday and the Easter weekend is approaching, My daughter and her family are coming to spend the weekend with us and my granddaughters will be spending the week. I'm looking forward to being with them.

Because of the Easter season, I have been thinking about the final week of Jesus' life.  One of the stories that is recorded during that final week is of Jesus crying for the city of Jerusalem.  If he cried over the city of Jerusalem, can you imagine how he is crying over the world today?

When I was growing up I attended a small church in Fort Lupton, Colorado 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 take turns reciting a favorite text. Being somewhat of a smart aleck, I thought it was amusing to say that my favorite verse was John 11:35 – “Jesus wept”.

As I have been studying recently, it has actually 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 cry? 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. He was moved by their sorrow. Jesus is painfully aware of your suffering. When you 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.

There is one other place in the Bible where it tells us that Jesus cried. We find it in Luke 19:41 - “But as they came closer to Jerusalem and Jesus saw the city ahead, he began to cry”.

Why was Jesus crying? Was he crying for a city?  I think that Luke 13:34 gives us some insight into this story. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!

Jesus was crying for the people of Jerusalem. He had come to save them, but most were not willing to be saved. Even though they had rejected him and his salvation, he had compassion on them.

As Christians our example is Jesus.  If we are to follow the example of Jesus, how should we relate to sinners? We should have compassion. It seems to me that many Christians have lost their compassion. As I look around I don’t always see Christians dealing with others with compassion. I am more apt to see hate than compassion.

I don’t want to meddle, but maybe I will just a little bit. Just think about a few of the hot button topics of our day and see what your response is toward the following groups. Gays, Muslims, Adulterers, Abortionists, Thieves, Drug Dealers, Prostitutes, Atheists, etc.

Do you have compassion on them, or is your response something different? Can you hate someone when you are praying for their salvation?  Should we hate someone that Jesus loves and was willing to die for.

Following the example of Jesus and having compassion on sinners is very liberating. It allows us to leave the judging up to God while we practice the self-sacrificing love He demonstrated on the cross. It allows us to hold ourselves to a high moral standard without feeling that we must hate those who do not see things the way we do.

Daniel Darling states, "we must not allow our protest against values with which we disagree to overshadow our responsibility to show Christ's love for the world. It may very well be the person who offends us the most whom God is in the process of saving. And our gracious response might be the bridge that the Spirit uses to usher him from death to life".

A very popular catch phrase in Christianity is,"What Would Jesus Do?".  WWJD is found on jewelry, emblazoned on bumper stickers and has made it's way into popular culture.  The only way to determine what Jesus would do is by learning what Jesus did.

Jesus cried for a city of sinners who rejected him.  He asked his Father to forgive those who tortured and killed him.  We should love the "sinner" as Christ loved us sinners and, by our own conduct and words, model a better way. When we uplift the right and the good, sin will appear in its true colors. However, if we do not model the love of Christ and give no evidence of His power in our lives, no amount of argument will induce the "sinner" to give up his sin. Holding a sign that says “God Hates You” is not an effective way to witness to sinners.

Let’s follow the example of Jesus and love sinners and hate the sin in our own lives. John, the disciple that Jesus loved, tells us in 1 John 4:8 “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love”.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Mena Fun Run

My article from the March 23, 2016 issue of The Mena Star

The Mena Fun Run will be held on April 9th at the Mena School Bus Loop at 10:00 a.m. A fun run is a friendly race in which participants take part for enjoyment rather than competition. It is a great chance to come together as a family and teach your kids the importance of health and fitness.

The event is sponsored by the Quarters For A Cure Relay For Life Team and all proceeds will go to The American Cancer Society. All participants who have pre-registered by April 1st will receive a t-shirt. The adult pre-registration fee is 25.00 and the fee for children 17 and under is 10.00. There will be registration at the event from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. The day of the event adult registration fee is 30.00 and the day of the event registration fee for children 17 and under is 15.00.

The focus of the Mena Fun Run is on fun! There will be awards given out for “Best Dressed Individual” and “Best Dressed Group” so dress up in anything silly or funny.  There will be bubbles and other interesting and fun things throughout the route. There will be medals given in several age groups as well as for the overall male walker and female walker.

Sign up and enjoy the company of friends and family, and the comfortable April weather, while running or walking for a great cause. We’ll see you out there! The Mena Fun Run will be an event you won’t want to miss.

Pre-registration forms are available at any local Bear State Bank. For more information call 479-394-3838 or email or

He's Alive

My 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!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016


Today, March 22,  is World Water Day. World Water Day is an international day of observance and action to draw attention to the plight of over 600 Million people world wide that lack access to clean, safe drinking water. 

World Water Day is a way of focusing on how important freshwater is to humanity. We all need water. For most people in the world, it's not as easy as turning a tap. It takes 5 gallons of water for all of our daily needs—basic hygiene, household chores, and what we consume! Most people around the world do not have access to 5 gallons of freshwater a day, yet the average American uses over 70 gallons per day. I looked at my last water bill, and with the two of us we each used 90 gallons per day.

I never think very much about our water except when I pay the bill.  I found some statistics that made me realize how fortunate I am. Six hundred sixty million  people do not have access to clean water and almost 2.5 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation. 85% of the world population lives in the driest half of the planet. I need to be reminded how lucky I am.

Even in places that have clean water, a lot of people's time is spent in carrying water.  I'm sure that I wouldn't be using nearly 100 gallons of water a day if I had to carry it several miles. Look at the photos below, and then remember how lucky you are the next time you get a drink of water, use the toilet, wash your hands, do the laundry, or take a shower.

Many women and young girls in rural areas in Sub-Saharan African and other parts of the world must trek as much as six miles every day to retrieve water for their families. 

The lack of clean water, coupled with the lack of basic sanitation and a dearth of hygiene education, is one of the largest obstacles to progress and development in these regions and across the world.

ADRA, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, is a charity that I support.  They are joining the United Nations and other nongovernmental organizations in celebrating World Water Day by pressing ahead with projects that make water available to people around the world.

Villages and communities around the world are trying to sustain life from contaminated water sources because that’s the only water available.  ADRA recognizes the importance of safe drinking water. ADRA’s water, hygiene, and sanitation projects are designed to provide families with improved access to safe water sources, latrines, and education on hygiene practices that keep entire communities healthy and thriving.

In Sri Lanka, for example, ADRA is one of the few nongovernmental organizations with a high-powered drilling rig. In the past six years, ADRA has brought clean water to more than 400 communities around the island.

Last year, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency funded water, hygiene, and sanitation projects in a number of countries, including Armenia, Bolivia, Chad, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Democratic Republic or Congo. 

Lack of water, or being forced to drink unhealthy water, will kill thousands of people today and every day. Clean drinking water and better sanitation practices mean the difference between life and death.  Giving people clean water allows them to flourish. Crops grow. Communities thrive. Families bathe. Children who would otherwise spend all day finding water get an education.  

Be thankful today for your clean safe water source, and remember the many people that do not have the luxury of clean safe water and proper sanitation.