Wednesday, April 19, 2017


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

April Fool's

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 10, 2017

Sierra Hull

Back in January my wife and I attended a concert at South on Main in Little Rock, Arkansas. Our favorite band, Smokey and the Mirror, was opening for Dylan LeBlanc. South on Main is a restaurant and performance venue featuring the best of Southern cuisine and culture. The food was amazing and the music venue is great. We enjoyed the venue so much that I checked out the concert schedule to see who would be appearing at upcoming concerts.

Sierra Hull was scheduled to appear on April 6th. I listened to her music on Spotify and decided that we would enjoy hearing her in concert. When the tickets went on sale I was able to purchase tickets at the table directly in front of the stage.

We enjoyed the concert more than we could have ever imagined. Sierra and bassist Ethan Jodziewicz are simply the best at their instruments. Even though they both are virtuoso's on their instruments, the mandolin and the bass, the live show takes on a minimalist approach. Being in the audience felt more like sitting in a living room listening to friends play music for you than being at a concert.

The sound quality of the concert was phenomenal. Every nuance of the music could be easily heard, but the sound was acoustic - never sounding amplified. Acoustic music that is over amplified is a pet peeve of mine. Sierra and Ethan played a wide range of music focusing on her Grammy-nominated album Weighted Mind but also including some traditional bluegrass numbers, classical music, and covers such as People Get Ready, the Tears For Fears song Mad World, and an amazing encore - Prince's 1999.

It is hard to pick a favorite song from an evening where every number was extraordinary but Sierra's song Lullaby from the Weighted Mind album is not only beautiful, but is achingly personal.

Sierra played for two hours and the time flew by. I didn't want the concert to end. It was obvious that she and Ethan were enjoying themselves as much as the audience was. When they came back out for an encore they partied like it's 1999.

After the concert, Sierra visited with anyone who wanted to talk to her, signing autographs and taking photos. When I posted a comment on her social media about the concert, she replied, remembering specifics of our conversation. If you ever have a chance to see Sierra Hull live, I highly recommend it.


More music from the South on Main Concert

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Wall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Self Promotion

I am brand new to self-publishing, having just published my first book. I have learned a lot in the last month; at least I hope that I have learned from my mistakes. One of the first things that I discovered was how hard it is to self-edit. By the time that I have written and re-written a story, I am so familiar with it that it is hard to see typos and poorly written elements. My mind sees the page as it should be instead of how it actually is.

The second thing that I discovered is how uncomfortable I am with self-promotion. There is a line from the movie Field of Dreams that says, "if you build it, he will come." In popular culture, the line is more often misquoted as "if you build it, they will come." I must admit that I had that mindset when I published my book. I now have a book, surely people will come and purchase it.

The reality that every author, musician, artist or other creative person faces is that if you don't promote yourself, nobody will. Self-promotion is a necessity even if it is an uncomfortable one. No one likes a braggart, and self-promotion seems a bit like bragging. Look at me! Look what I have done!

I think that the reason that many authors, musicians, etc. are uncomfortable with self-promotion - and aren't very good at it - is a lack of self-confidence. Should anybody care about what I have created? Is it worth anyone's time or money? What will people think about what I am trying to promote? Just about anyone who creates something has doubts about how good it is.

If you are confident that you have a good product, it is a fine line between having confidence in what you are promoting and appearing to be full of yourself. I am trying to walk that fine line as I promote my new book.

I am quite aware that I have a lot of room for improvement as a writer, but in this book, The Little Things, I believe that I bring a unique perspective to a very crowded genre. There are lots of people writing about spiritual things. I use personal experiences, local events, and national news as a way to bring out spiritual truths in the short devotionals included in my book. Each story ends with a simple, uncomplicated point and is less than 1,000 words in length so that the book can be read a few minutes at a time.

As a part of my promotion for the book, The Little Things, I am offering a download of the kindle version on Amazon for free through April 6, 2017. You can read it at no cost to you other than time. Don't let my uncomfortable self-promotion have been in vain. Go to Amazon and download your free copy of The Little Things. If you would like a paperback copy it is available for just $3.58.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Sophie's Journey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Albert and Sophie Smith

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Guest Writer - Katherine Keys

Because I have written about Mesothelioma in the past, Katherine Keys contacted me and asked if I would post her story on An Arkie's Musings.

My name is Katherine Keys and I have been fighting mesothelioma cancer for the past 9 years. If you don’t know, mesothelioma is a cancer caused by asbestos exposure. My exposure came from doing years of wiring work for Texas Power and Light Company.

At the age of 49 I was diagnosed with Stage 1 Pleural Mesothelioma and was told I had less than two years to live. But I was determined to stay positive and beat this cancer against all odds! My treatment included having my right lung and the lining of the lung removed--a major surgical procedure. Soon after, I began several months of radiation therapy.

I am overjoyed to say that my fight paid off and now 9 years later I am still cancer free! But I know I did not face this battle alone. The doctors and staff at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center are true miracle workers and I am forever grateful to them.

I was also helped greatly by the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma Lawyer Center. Not only did they help me obtain financial compensation which helped with my treatments and quality of life, they genuinely care about my well-being. I am proud to call them my friends and they continue to stand by my side as I fight mesothelioma.

I feel it is my duty to give back to the community--to let people with asbestos diseases know they are not alone. There is help available!

If you would like to contact Katherine you may do so at

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Little Things

Because of some issues with Amazon and a third party; My book, An Arkie's Faith, will no longer be available. To satisfy Amazon, I have taken most of the stories in An Arkie's Faith and added new material to produce a new book. The title is The Little Things.

I use personal experiences, local events, and national news as a way to bring out spiritual truths in the devotionals included in this book. Many of these devotionals were first published in the hometown newspaper of Mena, Arkansas, The Mena Star. In December 2015, the editor of The Mena Star called me and outlined a plan that she had for the newspaper in the new year. She was planning on a weekly column for the religion page written by a local writer instead of using a syndicated column. She asked him if he would be willing to commit to writing a weekly column. I agreed, and the new column, An Arkie’s Faith, premiered on January 7, 2016.

The Little Things uses plain and simple stories in an easily readable style to illustrate important life lessons. The 105-page book includes 32 stories. Here is an excerpt from the title story.

"There are many simple things we can do that seem little but can accomplish so much. One of the easiest is to put a smile on your face. When you wear a smile, you become approachable, and that can sometimes make all the difference in the world to another person. A kind word is a small thing, but you never know how it will affect someone."

I appreciate all of you who purchased An Arkie's Faith either in paperback or on kindle. I have priced both the paperback and the kindle version of The Little Things as low as Amazon allows; $3.58 for the paperback and $0.99 for the kindle version. If you purchase the paperback, you can download the kindle version for free with the Amazon MatchBook program.

To purchase The Little Things click here.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Dominion, War, and Love

"God said, '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.'" Genesis 1:26 (NKJV)

Dominion is an important biblical concept. As free moral agents made for love, Adam and Eve were given the high privilege of self-governance. The earth would be the material space where their love for God and one another could flourish. Their dominion of the earth was a big responsibility; it was up to them to decide which way it would go.

Since God gave Adam and Eve dominion over the earth, it was theirs to do with as they pleased. God’s intent was that they would use the power of their free will to be fruitful and multiply and build a loving society. Tragically, Adam and Eve surrendered their position of authority over the earth by giving allegiance to Satan.

The Fall of humanity was a moral fall, but it was also a legal fall, as well, because it involved a transfer of power. Adam and Eve lost their dominion because they chose to give it away. Through the exercise of human free will, Satan became the ruler of this world.

Satan’s is not earth’s legitimate ruler. His triumph over humanity was an act of war based on deception. He led Adam and Eve into rebellion by denying the existence of love in God’s heart for them. Questioning God’s love made it hard for them to trust God. The hope of humanity from that day until now is the revelation of God's true character of selfless love.

Once the war began here on earth, God made a promise. Speaking to Satan in the hearing of Adam and Eve, God said, "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will crush your head, and you will strike His heel." Genesis 3:15 (NIV)

God here announced that a deliverer would be coming to Earth to crush Satan’s head. Just to make it very plain, If your head is crushed you do not survive. The King James version doesn’t say crush but instead, says bruise. So I refer you to Romans 16:20 (KJV) where it says, "the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly."

The promised Deliverer came to this world as a helpless, dependent baby. Jesus came to win back the world by truth and love rather than by deception and violence. Satan recognized Jesus for who He was.

With an arrogance developed by thousands of years of apparent victory, Satan claimed the earth as his domain and offered it to Jesus in exchange for worship. Luke 4:5-7 (NKJV) "Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, 'All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.'"

Jesus refused, of course, knowing that Satan could not possibly see what was coming. Satan had become blind to the character of God; He was incapable of grasping that Jesus was about to defeat his dark empire the power of self-sacrificing love.

With Jesus now living on this earth as a human being, the battle was underway, and a showdown was about to happen. Jesus doesn’t use a weapon. He isn’t commanding a violent army. But there is a war.
Pointing to the sacrifice He is about to make on the cross, Jesus explains the victory He will achieve over Satan in John 12:31,32 (NKJV) "Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself."

At the cross, all of Satan’s lies about God were shown to be false by the revelation of God’s character and His love. Paul explained it like this: "Having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross." Colossians 2:15 (NIV)

Love, not force, triumphed over evil. In principle, the Great War between good and evil was won in one supreme act of self-sacrificing love on Calvary. Love conquered all. But even though Jesus was victorious, there are still small battles to be won in individual human hearts, person by person, home by home, town by town, all over the world. And that is where you and I come in.

Even though Jesus won the War so to speak – we know what the outcome will be - there are still battles going on. Some people, including Satan, don’t understand that the war is over and they continue to fight.

On December 24, 1814, Great Britain and the United States signed a treaty in Belgium that ended the War of 1812. The news was slow to cross the Atlantic Ocean, and on January 8, 1815, the two sides met in the Battle of New Orleans. Andrew Jackson and a ragtag group of local militia, frontiersmen, slaves, Indians, and Pirates defeated a superior British force. Although it was a decisive victory for the Americans, the outcome was meaningless because the war was already over.

The battles that are going on right now in the Great War are not battles of territory. The real war is over the minds of human beings. God wants our “foreheads.” Revelation 14:1 (NKJV) says, "Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads." God wants His name, his character, written on our forehead. In other words, He wants our mental and emotional center.

Satan also wants to leave his mark on our foreheads. Revelation 13:16 (NKJV) reads, "He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads."

God and Satan are engaged in a battle over your mind. The Bible often refers to your mental and emotional center as your heart. Philippians 4:7 (NKJV) equates your heart with your mind; "The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." The war we are fighting occurs in our mind, where thoughts and feelings are formed, and where we store knowledge.

Satan is waging his battle against us by filling our minds with arguments that are designed to slander the character of God. When we are going through trials, Satan whispers in our ear, "God doesn’t care what happens to you. He doesn’t hear you. He doesn’t love you. He will not answer your prayers. If God loved you, he would deliver you from this trial." These arguments are much more effective on the minds of God’s people than false doctrine.

Our mission as Christians is to fight against Satan by telling people about God's beautiful character of love as revealed in Jesus Christ. Satan is filling their minds with false perceptions of God. Our mission is to counteract Satan’s propaganda by presenting the true character of God. Too often I am afraid that we are ourselves misrepresenting the character of God and by doing so are on the wrong side of the war. Think about how you witness. Is your witness about God's beautiful character of love as revealed in Jesus Christ? If it is not, maybe you need to change your battle plan.

Our mission is to use our talents, our energies, and our resources for the one task of reclaiming individual minds for Jesus. In the minds and hearts of men and women, Jesus has laid claim to the territory stolen by Satan. We are to do the same. By forgiveness, compassion, feeding and clothing the poor, and always by loving people the way Jesus loved them, we are on the front lines of the Great War.

Today the Great War is nearing its close. The Holy Spirit and heavenly angels are working to help people choose God's side by showing His loving character. We are asked to be soldiers in this war for the minds of the people. I’m afraid that we are fighting many battles that we haven’t been asked to fight. Our mission isn’t to fight, but to represent the loving character of God. By showing the world the love of God, we counteract Satan’s propaganda. When we show our selfish carnal natures, especially when we claim to be followers of God, we strengthen Satan’s propaganda

In the end, the Bible assures us that there will be a complete victory for God and vindication of His character. Love will win out. But until then, good and evil will continue. The Great War is still being fought. "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." Ephesians 6:12 (NKJV)  Let’s resolve to be mighty soldiers in God’s defense. When was the last time you told someone about God’s beautiful, loving character?

Wednesday, March 22, 2017


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 20, 2017

Together Forever

In Ezekiel 16 God tells us a very graphic and emotional story. Starting in verse 4 we read, “When you were born, no one cut your umbilical cord. No one took care of you: you were not washed with water and purified, nor were you rubbed with salt and wrapped for warmth. No one felt sorry for you or had compassion on you or did anything to help you. Instead, your parents abandoned you, tossed you out into an open field. For on the day you were born, people looked upon you with deep contempt.

Then I passed by and saw you squirming around in your blood. As you lay there in your own blood, I said to you, “Live!” Again, I insisted, “Live!” And that’s exactly what you did. I helped you flourish like plants in the field. In time you grew, became a tall, beautiful young woman: your breasts developed and your hair grew thick and long. But you were still naked and bare. I passed by you again and saw you were old enough to love and to be loved, so I offered Myself to you in marriage. I wrapped my garment over you to cover your nakedness. Then I gave you My divine promise to always be your Beloved, and I entered the sacred covenant of marriage with you. I wed you, and you became Mine.”

What a graphic and revealing description the terrible predicament of humanity. God knows that we are lost and He knows we need to be loved. Every person longs for someone to love them. God knows that His love alone can save us. He explains it in Ezekiel 16:6 Then I passed by and saw you squirming around in your blood. As you lay there in your own blood, I said to you, “Live!” Again, I insisted, “Live!”

We were dying in our sins, but God came along and took us up into His arms—the abandoned baby that nobody loved—and He speaks to us saying, “Live! Live!” Then, under His nurturing care, the baby thrives and grows up into a beautiful woman.

Don’t miss the heart of God here. As He looks upon us, He’s looking for something specific and special. He longs for us to grow up spiritually to the point where we fall in love with Him in response to His love for us.

When God sees that we are ready for love, He says, “I wrapped my garment over you to cover your nakedness. Then I gave you My divine promise to always be your Beloved, and I entered the sacred covenant of marriage with you. I wed you, and you became Mine.”

Here we see God essentially saying, “I love you so much I want you to be My wife.” God gives us life—or salvation—by loving us into a condition of thriving. Then He asks for our hand in marriage with the hope that we will say “Yes” and love Him back. That’s the real goal of the plan of salvation.

The prophet Hosea helps us to understand how much God is willing to do to make this marriage happen. He describes the fallen human condition as promiscuity. In Hosea 2:13: God describes the lost this way. “‘She decked herself with her earrings and jewelry, and went after her lovers, but Me she forgot,’ says the Lord.” Every sinner is pursuing illicit love affairs with things that keep God from the center of our affections and passions. So what is God going to do? How is He going to save us? By forcing us? By manipulating us? No.

Force and manipulation are contrary to the ways of love and therefore contrary to the character of God since “God is love” (1 John 4:8). So He has a different plan. God describes His course of action in Hosea 2:14: “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, will bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfort to her.” God the allurer! I wasn’t sure allurer was a word, but I found it in the dictionary. It means, one who allures. Some versions of the Bible use the word entice or attract. This isn’t the picture most people have of God! That doesn’t sound harsh now does it? God intends to save us by alluring us, enticing us, attracting us. This concept reminds me of the words of Jesus. Not long before he was crucified, he foreshadowed the event when He said in John 12:32: “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” This sounds like Jesus is alluring, attracting and enticing us.

On the cross, Jesus gave the ultimate revelation of His love for us. And that love, if we look upon it, will draw us to Him. It will generate attraction in our hearts toward Him and allure us to His heart.
Now let’s go back to Hosea 2:16: “And it shall be, in that day, says the Lord, that you will call Me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer call Me ‘My Master.” What an incredible God! This is the most powerful being in the universe and yet He refuses to overpower us. He does not want a master-servant relationship with us, but rather a husband-wife relationship. He wants voluntary love to be the motivating power that defines our relationship with Him.

In verses Hosea 2:19,20 God pledges Himself to be our faithful spiritual husband: “I will take you for my wife forever; I will take you for my wife in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. I will take you for my wife in faithfulness; and you shall know the Lord.”

Jesus came to our world to fulfill this prophecy. Standing before us with the promise of unwavering faithfulness, He offers Himself to us for an eternal union that will never be broken, which just happens to be what His second coming is all about.

John 14:1-3, one of the most famous passages about the second coming. “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”

I want us to think about this passage with the understanding that Jesus uses the language of a marriage relationship to describe our relationship with Him. What Jesus says here in John 14 about His second coming makes perfect sense. Jesus foretold His second coming by employing the language of the marriage customs of His time.

First, there was the wooing phase. If a man loved a woman, he would interact with her in such a way as to draw her to himself. Once drawn to him, the couple would enter into the courtship phase, getting to know one another and growing in their love. Then the man would propose. If her answer was yes, the man would then depart from his bride-to-be with a promise to return for her. The reason for his departure was practical. He would go away so that he could prepare a place for her in his father’s house.

In other words, Jesus did not merely promise to return; He promised to return for His bride. He is coming back to Earth for one reason: because He deeply, passionately, longingly loves us and wants to spend eternity in intimate fellowship with us. Don’t miss the fact that He says, “I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” Later, just before He was to die on the cross, Jesus again expressed His heart in John 17:24: “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am.”

That’s what Jesus wants. He wants you to simply be “with” Him. Think of someone you like to be with, someone whose presence you desire and enjoy—your spouse, your mom or dad, your sibling, your best friend. The point is simple: we like to be with those we love.

Jesus longs for our presence, for our friendship, for the enjoyment of our love. When Paul talks about marriage, he uses it to describe the love of Christ for His people. Let’s read Ephesians 5:25. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.”
Paul is saying that the marriage relationship holds before us a deep, secret truth regarding our relationship with Jesus as His eternal bride. God has something in mind for us beyond our wildest dreams.

Presently, we are in the courtship phase of the relationship. He is wooing and winning us, revealing to our minds the beauty of His character so that we can mature in our love for Him. The total reality of our identity as the bride of Christ will not dawn upon us until the wedding itself. The time will come in the history of salvation when God’s people will spiritually “ready” to enter the marriage with her Lord. The whole universe will witness our readiness and make the wedding announcement.

Look at Revelation 19:6-8: And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.”

The entire story of the Bible points forward to a single point of climax: Jesus returning to earth to receive the church as His eternal bride.

The Song of Solomon is a prophetic love song that offers a unique window into the love of Christ for His church. In it we get a penetrating glimpse into God’s matrimonial love for His people and where it ultimately leads. Chapter by chapter, verse by verse, expressions of devotion are exchanged between the man and the woman. They describe one another’s virtues. They complement one another with exuberance. They want to with each other.

Have you ever wondered why the Song of Solomon is in the Bible? To some people, it seems unnecessary. I think that if we look closely, The Song of Solomon is more than just a silly love song.

The climactic point of the song has the woman saying something very profound to her lover: “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, he would be utterly despised.”(Song of Solomon 8:6, 7; ESV)

Suddenly, we are led to realize that the deepest love that is known to human beings - the love between a bride and her groom - tells us of God’s love for His church, and His hope that we love Him back. Dying on the cross, Jesus did, indeed, reveal to us a quality of love that is stronger than death, a love that no force in the world can quench.

Salvation is the plan by which Jesus allures our hearts back to Him and establishes a love relationship between Himself and us. And the second coming of Jesus is when the lover of our souls comes back to get us so we can be with Him forever. Now that’s good news! Jesus looks at us longingly even though we are a mess. He wants to be with us. He wants to be together forever. That’s why He’s coming back. The question is… do we want to be with Him?