Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Summer Camp

An Arkie's Faith column from the July 17, 2019, issue of The Mena Star.

Softly splashing raindrops hit the windshield as I drove out of town early in the morning. The skies were overcast, and a blanket of grey shrouded the landscape. I watched the raindrops trickle down the side windows as the wipers kept the windshield clear. The drops were steady but soft, and I hoped that it wouldn’t begin to rain harder. I don’t like to drive in heavy rain, especially on the crooked, winding roads of Western Arkansas.

I was heading to Mountain Pine to pick up my eleven-year-old granddaughter. She had spent the week at summer camp. Campers from the week had to be picked up early so that a new group of campers could be dropped off to spend a week at camp. After an hour or so, the rain became intermittent, and there was a hint of blue skies trying to break through the grey clouds. By the time I reached Camp Yorktown Bay on the shore of Lake Ouachita, the rain had stopped, and it was a beautiful partly cloudy summer day.

Camp Yorktown Bay was built by the Hot Springs Navy League Council in 1960. The idea for a camp started when the League wanted a training base for its sea cadets along the shores of Lake Ouachita. Camp Yorktown Bay was named in recognition the Aircraft Carrier, U.S.S. Yorktown. The camp is now operated by the Arkansas-Louisiana Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. 700 to 800 kids attend each summer.

When I arrived at the camp, I checked in with security and stepped into the cafeteria to find my granddaughter. At first, as I glanced around the room filled with campers and their luggage, I didn’t spot my granddaughter, but then I saw her running towards me with her arms open wide. She gave me a huge hug and immediately started talking ninety miles an hour. She wanted to introduce me to the girls who had been in her cabin. They all had to say their goodbyes and then wanted me to take a photo of the group.

We loaded her things into the car and then started the two-hour drive home. As we drove, my granddaughter chattered away, telling me all the things that she had done at camp such as swimming, boating, riding horses, climbing the rock wall, and many other things. She told me stories of things that happened in her cabin. She told me about the evening campfire programs with skits, singing, and storytelling. She thought the skits were hilarious, and she liked the speaker. She sang songs that she had learned at camp even though it was hard to make the hand motions in the car. She talked non-stop about her camp experience. There was no doubt that she had a good time at summer camp. After an hour or so, she started to slow down, and before I knew it, she had fallen asleep.

I was so pleased that my granddaughter had such a good time at camp. After listening to her chatter, there was no doubt that she loved summer camp. It made me think about how Christians talk about God and spirituality. More than 70 percent of Americans identify as Christian, but you wouldn’t know it by listening to them. An overwhelming majority of people say that they don’t feel comfortable speaking about faith. Those who do feel comfortable speaking about their faith often focus on the things that they don’t like, and how much they dislike those who have different religious or political beliefs.

The Barna Group, a social research firm focused on religion and public life, surveyed 1,000 American adults. This study revealed that more than 75% of Americans do not often have spiritual or religious conversations. A mere 7 percent of Americans say they talk about spiritual matters regularly. Many people now avoid religious and spiritual language because they don’t like the way it has been used, misused, and abused by others.

If being a Christian is so great, and I think that it is, why don’t more Christians talk about how great it is? If we are having a wonderful time, we should be like my granddaughter who had so much to say about how much she liked summer camp. 1 Peter 3:15 (NIV) says, “in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” Often the Christians that I do hear talking about spiritual matters are not doing it with gentleness and respect.

I recently read a story about a waitress and her encounter with a group of Christian women. The waitress hears the table of women she is serving speaking excitedly of another person. They seem to be genuinely enthusiastic. Curious, she listens more closely and finds out that these women are talking about Jesus.

The waitress can see that the women seem very nice, and enjoy each other’s company. But when she takes their orders, they are cold and superficial toward her. When she returns with their food, she hears them talking about how amazing the church service was and how good God has been to them. But as she serves them, they are harsh and complaining.

The women leave the table, barely acknowledging the waitress. As she starts cleaning up, she finds a gospel tract on the table with a single dollar bill. The tract is cleared away with the rest of the trash and thrown away. She quietly picks up the dollar bill and slips it into her pocket. The waitress now has a negative impression of Jesus and the people who claim to worship him.

Gentle Reader, what kind of witness are you? Are you one of the many Christians who never talk about spiritual things? Or are you one of the Christians who says all the right things about God, but who treats others with indifference? Maybe you are one who speaks words of hatred towards people of other religions or people who are non-religious. I hope you are a Christian who can’t help telling others about how great it is to be a Christian and how much you love it; Like my granddaughter talked about summer camp. We need to be like Peter and John, who said, “we cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:20 (NLT)

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Stand Up Paddleboards

An Arkie's Faith column from the July 10, 2019, issue of The Mena Star.

“You will be riding with me on the Megalodon,” my daughter said. Everyone had such a good time floating the Ouachita River the week before that we decided to do it again this weekend. Last week six of us floated the river in a rubber raft while the rest of the group used paddleboards. This week the water wasn’t high enough to float in a raft, so we used paddleboards, kayaks, and canoes. The Megalodon is a large, very stable, multiple person paddleboard, but I was a bit nervous about riding it. I had never been on a paddleboard. Even though my daughter has lots of experience on paddleboards, I wasn’t sure how I would do.

Once all the paddleboards were inflated, we were ready to head down the river. I crawled onto Megalodon and sat down. As we paddled down the river, I was surprised by how stable the Megalodon was. I had expected more movement. Before long, I was comfortable enough with the board to try a kneeling position. It was easier for me to paddle from that position. When I got the courage to try standing, I was able to balance standing up without any problems. I enjoyed paddling down the river, standing up on the paddleboard.

As we made our way down the river, it started to rain. It was a soft, gentle rain, and the water was beautiful as the raindrops made tiny splashes and rings all over the surface of the river. The rain didn’t last too long, but it rained off and on all day. The scenery on this stretch of the Ouachita River, from Simms to Dragover, was spectacular. There were many beautiful rock formations along the banks of the river. We saw Great Blue Herons fishing in the river. The water was so clear that we could see the fish, including several large Gar. The serenity of the river was occasionally interrupted by frogs croaking and fish jumping and splashing.

I was enjoying going down the river on the paddleboard. I became comfortable standing up and felt stable most of the time. Occasionally I would feel a bit unstable, but by bending my knees and shifting a foot, I was able to regain my balance. Before long, I was quite comfortable and had confidence in my newfound ability to stand up and paddle a paddleboard. We went through several small rapids, and each time I would go from a standing position to a kneeling position before we went through the rapids. As my confidence level rose, I thought, “the next rapids we come to; I will stay standing,”

Before long we came to some small rapids that looked very tame. “I am going to stay standing through these rapids,” I told my daughter. As we started into the rapids, my daughter realized that they were very shallow. “We are going to stick,” she hollered back to me. I knew that when we made that sudden stop, I would not be able to keep my balance. I started to go down into a kneeling position, but before I could get down, the paddleboard came to an abrupt stop, and I was thrown into the water. It was a hard fall into the rocky shallow river, and it hurt. After sitting in the water for a few moments, I realized that even though my leg and my hand were aching, I wasn’t badly hurt. After my daughter dragged the board off the rocks, I crawled back on, and we continued down the river. Although I stood back up, I wasn’t as cocky about my abilities and the next rapids we came to, I kneeled on the board instead of standing up

At Fulton Branch, we stopped for a picnic lunch of sandwiches, chips, hummus, cherries, grapes, and cookies. As we ate our lunch, we had a short devotional. We talked about how important stability is in our lives. Stability is important when you are on a paddleboard, but stability is also important in life. In either case, if you lose stability, you will be thrown off. We talked about the things that help make us stable, like family, church, faith, and the Bible.

On, I found the following information. “We think it’s helpful to focus on the most important factor for true beginners: stability. Why is SUP stability so important when buying your first SUP? You need something stable to get your bearings. Becoming familiar with balance and water surface fluctuations involves practice and developing muscle memory. If you start with a narrow board – say a racing or touring design – you will constantly fight the board and lose out on this fundamental phase of learning. Plus it will be less fun. The wider the board, the more stable the platform.”

Just like stability is an important factor for stand up paddle boarding, it is important in our lives. Have you ever felt uneasy, unsettled, or unstable? Or maybe a better question is; who hasn’t? How do we overcome these feelings? George Muller, director of the Ashley Down orphanage in Bristol, England, had these feelings, but he had a plan for stability. He wrote in His diary on May 9, 1841; "Now, I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God, and to meditation on it, that thus my heart might be comforted and encouraged.” Isaiah 33:6 (NET) tells us that God “is your constant source of stability; he abundantly provides safety and great wisdom; he gives all this to those who fear him.” When we search for wisdom and knowledge in the Bible, we become more stable in our lives! Let’s aim to spend more time in the Word and gain more stability in our lives.

Author Jim Gerrish writes, “In other articles, I have referred to this age as the ‘Jello Era’ of human history.  In the last twenty or thirty years, we have seen many things shake and tremble before our eyes. These are things we used to trust in, like banks, jobs, companies, governments, family values, etc. In all these areas, and in many more, our world is beginning to look about as stable as a big bowl of Jello. Today, we are all being blasted with the words and opinions of men. The evening newscast is a good example of this. These opinions change by the day. In a week or even in another day these opinions may no longer be considered true. They are like the grass and flowers Peter mentions, but the word of God stands forever. If we build our opinions, our theologies, and our lives upon God’s word, we will be like the man who built his house on the rock.”

Gentle Reader, we all need stability in our lives. Stability is important on a stand up paddleboard, and it is important in every aspect of our lives. Let’s aim to spend more time with God and his word, the Bible. That is the only way to gain more stability in our lives. Don’t let it be said about you; “You are mistaken, because you do not know the Scriptures. And you do not know the power of God.” Matthew 22:29 (NIRV)

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Angels on the Ouachita

An Arkie's Faith column from the July 3, 2019, issue of The Mena Star.

The house was with a flurry of activity as kids and adults prepared for a day on the river. We were excited because the Ouachita River levels were perfect for floating a raft. Seven adults, four kids, food, drinks, a rubber raft, and three paddle boards including the Megalodon multi-person paddle board loaded into the vehicles and we were ready to head out. It had been raining off and on, but our spirits were high as we headed to the Ouachita River.

By the time that we reached the Pine Ridge access and started unloading, the rain had stopped. While others were blowing up the rafts and paddleboards, a couple of us ran the shuttle to drop off a vehicle at the Shirley Creek access, six miles downstream. When everything was ready, we pushed off into the water and started downstream. The river was gently winding its way between the banks with lush green trees whose roots have been exposed by high water earlier in the year.

It was a perfect summer day; not too hot, and the early morning rains were gone. There was blue sky and sunshine with enough cloud cover to make it comfortable. The river was peaceful and serene as we floated past amazing rock formations and the occasional home. The kids were having a great time jumping off the Megalodon paddle board, swimming in the river for a while then climbing back on the board. Shrieks and laughter filled the air as we made our way downstream.

After an hour or two, we found a gravel bar and beached our raft. We pulled the coolers out of the raft and had a lunch of sandwiches, chips, fruit, and cookies. It is amazing how hungry you can get paddling on a river. Just upstream from the gravel bar was a large rock outcropping. The water at the base of the rock was quite deep, and the kids, along with my son-in-law, had a great time jumping off the rock into the water. The kids were having a good time swimming and jumping and didn’t want to leave, but it was time to get back on the river.

While we were on the river, we pulled the paddle boards around the raft and stopped in the middle of the river for a devotional. We talked about Naaman and the Jordan River. Naaman left Syria and came to Israel looking for Elisha. His servant girl had told him that Elisha could heal him of his leprosy. When he knocked on Elisha’s door, “Elisha sent Naaman a messenger who said, ‘Go and wash in the Jordan River seven times. Then your skin will be healed, and you will be clean.’” 2 Kings 5:10 (NCV) But Naaman wasn’t impressed. He said, “‘the rivers of Damascus, are better than all the waters of Israel. Why can’t I wash in them and become clean?’ So Naaman went away very angry.” 2 Kings 5:12 (NCV)

Naaman’s servants spoke sensibly to him, helping him to see that what Elisha asked was not that difficult. He went to the Jordan River, dipped seven times, and was healed. Why was he healed? It was not because of the Jordan River. It was not because he dipped seven times. It was because God told Naaman, through His prophet Elisha, that if he obeyed he would be healed. God healed Naaman because he obeyed. God wants to heal all of us, but he asks that we obey Him. Obedience doesn’t save us; God saves us. But He asks that we obey Him as a sign that we trust Him.

We continued down the river until we reached the Shirley Creek takeout. When we had pulled our raft and paddle boards up the steep muddy stairs to the picnic area where our shuttle vehicle was parked, we realized that the keys to the vehicle were back at the Pine Ridge drop off point. What would we do? We had a group of tired people who had just spent the day floating six miles on the river, and they were ready to go home. But we were miles away from the keys that we needed. Walking would take several hours. Just as we realized our dilemma, a vehicle drove into the picnic area. Two guys were scouting out the river for a float trip. They were asking some of our group questions, so they sent my son-in-law to talk with them. He is very knowledgeable and has floated many rivers, including the Ouachita several times. He told the guys about our predicament and asked if they would take us back to Pine Ridge. They agreed to take us.

My son-in-law and I rode back with them to pick up the two vehicles that we had left at Pine Ridge. As we drove along, we talked about our river floating experiences. When they dropped us off at our vehicles, I told the guys, “I have always wanted to know what angels looked like, but you really surprised me.” The laughed, and said that no one had ever called them angels before. But if they weren’t angels, I still think that they were sent by God. We could have been at the picnic area for hours without seeing anyone.

When we had returned with the other vehicles, I was reminded of the fact that. “your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!” Matthew 6:8 (NLT) It made me think of my heavenly Father in such a loving and caring way. In the middle of taking care of the universe, God saw fit to remind me that just because I didn’t yet know how He was at work in my situation, didn’t mean He didn’t know exactly what was happening. He provided the answer to my problem even before I knew I had a problem.

Gentle Reader, God knew what I needed even before I asked. He provided a way out of my predicament. He sent angels on the Ouachita. He will do the same for you. Just because God provided two guys to give me a ride when I needed it doesn’t mean they weren’t actually angels. “Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!” Hebrews 13:2 (NLT)

Wednesday, June 26, 2019


An Arkie's Faith column from the June 26, 2019, issue of The Mena Star.

Black clouds began to sprawl across the sky as we sat at Papa’s Mexican Café. It was our weekly family night, and we were having a wonderful meal at Papas. The kids wanted to sit at their own table separate from the adults. They were making up storylines for their very own superhero movie. From the adult's table, we could see out the front door. As the clouds rolled in and we began to hear thunder, we thought that we should cut the evening short. On our family nights, we usually sit and visit for quite some time after we have eaten. But tonight, we decided that it would be a good idea to get home before the storm hit. My Daddy had driven his Shay Model A Roadster, and with no side windows, it would be good to get home before it began to rain.

As we walked to our cars, we could see dark, brooding, black clouds to the southwest. The skies looked ominous. We made it home before the storm hit. As we sat in the comfort of our living room, we could see the boughs of the trees in the back-yard swaying in the strengthening gusts of wind. The rain started with just a few drops; then the dark clouds unleashed a torrent of water, driven by the strong wind. The sky turned a strange color, and the thunder rolled as lightning flashed all around. I checked the radar on my phone and saw that there were serious storms to the south of us.

While the rain fell in great sheets, lightning flashed around us followed by loud cracking booms. We were concerned about how severe the storm would be. Some small, pea-sized hail beat on the windows. When I checked the weather radar on my phone, I saw that there were very severe storms a few miles south. Reports started coming in on social media, showing very large hail south of us.

Baseball-sized and even softball-sized hail fell in the Cove, Vandervoort, and Wickes area. We wondered if the hailstorms were heading our way. Before long, the storm in our area weakened, and the winds died down. The rain slackened and began floating down in gentle waves.

Later that evening when I saw the photos on social media that several residents in the towns of Cove and Vandervoort posted of hailstones ranging from the size of a tennis ball to larger than softball-size, I knew that there would be a lot of damage. I was sure that the hail had damaged many cars and trucks. Sure enough, the next morning, as soon as I opened my auto glass shop, the phone started ringing off the hook. Many people in the area had their glass broken by the hail. I was busy all day pricing, scheduling, and ordering glass.

What could have caused such large hailstones? Hail forms when thunderstorm updrafts are strong enough to carry water droplets well above the freezing level. This freezing process forms a hailstone, which can grow as additional water freezes onto it. Eventually, the hailstone becomes too heavy for the updrafts to support it, and it falls to the ground. The hailstones grow larger as they move up and down in the thunderstorm updraft.  Eventually either the hailstones get too large and fall to the ground or get blown out of the updraft. For hail to get the size of a baseball, you need the updraft in the thunderstorm to be moving more than 100 mph! I can’t imagine what the speeds were to form softball and even grapefruit-sized hailstones.

According to Weather Underground historian Chris Burt, the world's largest hailstone by diameter and weight was observed in the U.S. on July 23, 2010, near Vivian, South Dakota. The hailstone measured 8.0 inches in diameter, and it weighed 1.9 pounds. The National Weather Service has confirmed the hail which fell during the evening of June 19 in the Vandervoort community in south Polk County tied for an Arkansas record of approximately five inches. By comparison, a softball is 3.5 inches in diameter. The largest hailstones in this storm were the size of large grapefruit. There were reports of a calf that was killed by the hail.

As large as the Vandervoort hailstones were, the Bible tells of much larger hailstones that will fall in the future at the very end of time. “Huge hailstones weighing about 100 pounds each fell from the sky. The hail crushed people. And they spoke evil things against God because of the plague. That’s because the plague of hail was so terrible.” Revelation 16:21 (NIRV) After seeing some of the damage that was caused by this storm, I can’t imagine the damage that 100-pound hailstones would do. The hailstones at the end of time are not the only hailstones mentioned in the Bible. In Joshua chapter 10, we find the story of the day that the sun stood still when Joshua and the Israelites were in battle with the Amorites. Did you know that a hailstorm was a pivotal point in the battle? “As the Amorites retreated down the road from Beth-horon, the Lord destroyed them with a terrible hailstorm from heaven that continued until they reached Azekah. The hail killed more of the enemy than the Israelites killed with the sword.” Joshua 10:11 (NLT)

Hailstorms can be deadly. Forty years ago, when we were living in Loveland, Colorado, a hailstorm damaged our new Toyota Corolla and broke out the windshield and the back glass. The hail punched holes in our neighbor’s camper. Hail damaged the roof of our home and had to be replaced. In that same storm, a baby died when a grapefruit-sized hailstone came crashing through a skylight in a shopping mall.

Gentle Reader, when 100-pound hailstones are falling at the end of time, I want to be among the people who say, “this is our God; We have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is the Lord; We have waited for Him; We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.” Isaiah 25:9 (NKJV) I don’t want to be among those who see the hail and say to the mountains and rocks, “fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!” Revelation 6:16 (NKJV) I look forward to the day that “God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:3,4 (NKJV) I hope that you are looking forward to that day too.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Anniversary at Steel Creek

An Arkie's Faith column from the June 19, 2019, issue of The Mena Star.

The warm evening sun shone on the towering and picturesque Roark Bluff. The Buffalo River rushed past the bluff, which is one of the most iconic and photographed bluffs along the river. In an open grassy field at Steel Creek Campground, over one thousand people gathered, waiting for the concert to begin. The band, National Park Radio, would be playing a free outdoor show in this beautiful location for the fourth consecutive year.

National Park Radio is a modern folk band from Harrison that is known for its hopeful, heartfelt lyrics with themes about life, love, and difficult choices, all while echoing the enduring beauty of the band’s deep-seated roots in the Ozark Mountains. I first heard them when they headlined the 2018 Lum and Abner Days Festival. I became a big fan of National Park Radio and their music. I made plans months ahead to attend the Steel Creek concert. The concert date just happened to be on my 44th wedding anniversary.

In an article about the concert, Superintendent Mark Foust of the Buffalo National River said; “This is a highly popular event among our local communities and park visitors alike. Last year’s concert brought out almost 1,300 people, many of whom spent the weekend in the area and supported local businesses while they were here. This event has proven year after year to cultivate stewardship and appreciation for the Buffalo River and the Ozarks through National Park Radio’s poignant lyrics, and it has also served as a great boost for the local economy.”

My wife and I, along with my sister, brother-in-law, and granddaughter, were among those who boosted the local economy. We rented the lovely Azalea Falls Cabin near Kingston and had a wonderful anniversary dinner at the Low Gap Café.  We arrived at the campground early in the afternoon. So early, that we were the first to set out our chairs in front of the stage. We spent the afternoon swimming in the Buffalo River and picnicking while taking in the incredible scenic beauty of the area.

All afternoon people streamed into the concert area, and by the time the show began, the field was a teeming mass of people. When the first strains of music filled the air, everyone in the audience cheered as they settled down to watch the band play with the beautiful bluffs above the Buffalo River in the background. During the intermission, I was able to talk with the leader of the band, singer/songwriter Stefan Szabo, and asked him if he could acknowledge our anniversary and told him that we considered, “If the Rain is Fallin” our song. The song begins, “If the rain is fallin', it makes me think of you. And when the birds are callin', it reminds me too.” And it includes the lines, “And though the years have tired and worn us. We hold hands, and I can't hide, that now the only thing I truly need is just to have you by my side.”

Before the band played “If the Rain is Fallin',” Stefan let everyone in the crowd know that it was our anniversary and that we had chosen to spend our special day at the concert. He then dedicated the song to us. It was a special moment and came as a big surprise to my wife. After the concert, National Park Radio posted on social media; “We had another magical evening with all of our Buffalo National River family at Steel Creek! You guys and this place completely fill our souls. We are forever grateful for the love and support you all give us.”

Why do we celebrate wedding anniversaries? I think that it is because we make a covenant with God to become like one person. “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife. The two of them become one.” Genesis 2:24 (NIRV) Celebrating your anniversary says, “you matter enough to me to do something special to remember our union.” Remembering helps you continue to value each other and reflect on all you have been through since you were first married. And if it’s anything like our marriage, you’ve been through a lot.

We celebrate wedding anniversaries because if there is anything that should be celebrated, it’s a time-tested marriage. Even if you haven’t been married that long if you have made it to at least one of your anniversaries, your marriage has been tested. There is something special about another year of marriage that deserves to be celebrated. It is sacred because you have kept a covenant to God and your spouse. Your marriage milestone is meant to mean something. It is not just another day that comes and goes without recognition. King Soloman wrote; “Let your fountain be blessed, And rejoice in the wife of your youth.” Proverbs 5:18 (NKJV) and Paul wrote, “on top of all this you must put on love, which ties everything together and makes it complete.” Colossians 3:14 (NTE)

In Ephesians 5:25 (NKJV) the Bible tells us, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.” When a bride and groom are in love, they can think of nothing else but each other. That is the kind of love God has for His people.  The symbol of marriage between God and his people also occurs in the Old Testament. In Isaiah 62:5 (NLT) it says, “God will rejoice over you as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride.”

Gentle Reader, your relationship with Jesus is meant to be a symbol of your marriage. They are both by grace. A good marriage only happens because your partner gives you grace. They both require focused attention and learning more about the other. So celebrate your marriage anniversary and enjoy the blessings of being together over time. It is something to be proud of because God says marriage is meant to last a lifetime. “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Mark 10:9 (NRSV)

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

The Summer of Love

An Arkie's Faith column from the June 12, 2019, issue of The Mena Star.

I can still remember the summer of 1967. I was just a kid, but it seemed like the world was changing. 1967 became known as the Summer of Love, and the song All You Need Is Love by The Beatles was the anthem. Just like other kids from around the world, I loved The Beatles. I remember visiting my cousins in California that December and listening to the Magical Mystery Tour album for the first time. One of the highlights of the album was All You Need is Love.

Is there any truth to the catchphrase, “all you need is love?”  I believe that it is the truth.  “All you need is love – Love is all you need.” In 1 John 4:7,8 (NCV)  the Bible tells us, “Dear friends, we should love each other, because love comes from God. Everyone who loves has become God’s child and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

Love should be the basis for everything we do.  In Matthew 22:36-40 (NLT), Jesus was asked, “what is the most important commandment in the law?” Jesus answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.’”

The entire law and all the demands of the prophets – The entire Bible is summed up in these words. “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind… Love your neighbor as yourself.” When you distill it down that much, it seems so simple. It really is true – All you need is love.

In the love letter God wrote to you called the Bible it says, “I am sure that nothing can separate us from God’s love—not life or death, not angels or spirits, not the present or the future, and not powers above or powers below. Nothing in all creation can separate us from God’s love for us in Christ Jesus our Lord!” Romans 8:38,39 (CEV)

How would you feel if you wrote these beautiful words to the love of your life and they were ignored? God says to us, “there is nothing that can separate you from My love for you in Christ Jesus.” We will never know all the ways God shows His love to us.

God's Word is His love letter to us. The love of Jesus waits on 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 (NKJV). “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. It includes all of those people and people groups that you dislike. Many Christians on social media show their hatred toward certain races, religions, and lifestyles. These are people that God loves.

In 1 Corinthians 13 (NLT) Paul expresses the importance of love to the Christian, “If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing… Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless... All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.”

Gentle Reader, remember that God loves the world - the entire world. He has told us that no matter what we do for Him if we don’t have love it is nothing. You see, it is true. “All You Need Is Love” – God’s love!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Finding a Friend

An Arkie's Faith column from the June 5, 2019, issue of The Mena Star.

It seems like I spend a lot of my time answering the phone. If my hands are full, or If I am inside or under a vehicle, the phone is likely to ring. One day, I was setting a windshield in place when the phone began to ring. I had to finish setting the windshield before I could answer the phone. The phone rang and rang. When I was able to answer, the voice on the other end of the line asked, “Is this a car lot?” “Yes,” I answered tentatively, thinking it might be a telemarketer. “I know that this is a longshot, but I don’t know where else to turn. I am looking for a friend who I have lost touch with.”

As we continued the conversation, I learned that this man was trying to locate someone he had served with in the armed forces. He had a phone number for his friend, but it had been disconnected. He was afraid that his friend had passed away and that he hadn’t heard. He knew that his friend had sold used cars in this area. As we talked, I realized that I did know his friend. I promised him that I would get his information to his friend and let him know that he was trying to get in touch with him.

When I called the number that I had, I got the message that the number had been disconnected and was no longer in service. I knew where he lived, so later that day when I was out making deliveries, I stopped by his house. He and his wife welcomed me into their home. When I told them the reason for my visit, tears came to his eyes. He had lost track of his friend. Over the years, since their active duty together, they had always kept in touch. He was very happy to receive his friend's contact information. He thanked me for taking the time to bring the information to him.

I thought about how much the man must have wanted to reconnect with his friend, to start calling strangers in the hope that they might know him. I think that God may have directed him to call me because I did know his friend. His tenacity in searching for his friend reminds me of God as he searches for you and me. Luke 19:10 (NLT) tells us that “the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.” And in Ezekiel 34:11 (NCV) “the Lord God says: ‘I, myself, will search for my sheep and take care of them.’”

No matter what you have done, or where you are in this life, God will always be searching for you. He will use every method there is to save you. Often, we have no idea that we are lost, but God still searches for us.

One of the greatest historical search stories is Henry Stanley's 1871 expedition to find David Livingstone in the uncharted interior of Africa. Dr. Livingstone was a Scottish missionary and explorer who had become an international celebrity for his work in exploring the African continent. In 1866 he began his third exploratory trip to Africa, searching for the source of the Nile River. Over the years, Livingston had been known for his letters and constant updates during his journeys. Livingstone was rumored to be dead when three years had passed on this final trip with very little news of his progress.

Henry Stanley was a reporter who was commissioned by the publisher of the New York Herald newspaper in 1870 to go and find Livingstone. After a difficult expedition of more than seven months, he found Livingstone. He later wrote the following description of their meeting: “As I advanced slowly toward him I noticed he was pale, looked wearied, had a gray beard, wore a bluish cap with a faded gold braid round it, had on a red-sleeved waistcoat, and a pair of gray tweed trousers. I would have run to him, only I was a coward in the presence of such a mob—would have embraced him, only, he being an Englishman, I did not know how he would receive me. So I did what cowardice and false pride suggested was the best thing—walked deliberately to him, took off my hat, and said: ‘Dr. Livingstone, I presume?’”

Dr. Livingstone would later express surprise that he was considered lost. He was troubled by illness and was short of supplies but had no intention of stopping his exploration of African lakes. Livingstone remained in Africa, where he died in 1873.

God has been searching for the lost since the beginning of our earth’s history. Genesis 3:8,9 (NKJV) tells us the story of God seeking Adam and Eve after they had sinned. “And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, ‘Where are you?’

Gentle Reader, remember that we have a Father who actively looks for us. Just as God searched for Adam and Eve as they tried to hide from Him, He is searching for you. Just as Henry Stanley sought for Dr. Livingstone, in the wilds of Africa, your Father seeks for you! “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9 (ESV)