Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Become a Possiblitarian

My An Arkie's Faith column from the April 25, 2018, issue of The Mena Star.

For the past few years, my wife and I have met my sister and her husband in Eureka Springs each April. Eureka Springs is about halfway between our homes, so we can easily meet there for a weekend. We have had great times over the years during our spring get-togethers.

Each year we try to find an interesting cabin, bed and breakfast, or cottage where we can stay together over the weekend. This year we rented the Sunflower Cottage. It is located on First Street with a porch that looks out over downtown Eureka Springs. Sunflower Cottage was originally built in 1880 and has been updated into a very comfortable place to stay. We enjoyed staying so close to downtown. We were able to walk everywhere we wanted to go and never had to find and pay for a place to park.

There was rain in the forecast for the weekend, but there were no more than a few drops until late Saturday evening. We enjoyed walking the streets of Eureka Springs and sitting on the front porch of our cottage, hanging out with the resident cat. Our favorite thing to do in Eureka Springs is to eat, and we enjoyed wonderful meals at our favorite restaurants, Local Flavor, Mud Street Cafe. Aquarius Taqueria, and Thai House.

Sunflower Cottage is painted bright yellow and decorated in a quaint and whimsical style that is very Eurekan. There is a piece of wall art hanging in the bathroom that caught my attention. It was a print with the words, “become a possibilitarian,” across the bottom. The print intrigued me, and I found that it was by the artist, Kelly Rae Roberts.

Kelly had been working for years as a medical social worker when she started painting.  She began to use the part of her that cared deeply for others as a catalyst for her artwork. She says that “when I finally put paint onto paper, my heart + life exploded with renewed passion and joy.” She goes on, “an important part of my journey was realizing that I hadn’t abandoned my former social worker self or the people I’d helped. I was still listening, sharing, healing, navigating messy emotions, making an impact — except I was now using a paintbrush in a studio, instead of a clipboard in a hospital. Same message. New medium.” Her website has the header, “I’m Kelly Rae Roberts, and I’m a Possibilitarian.”

I decided that I need to become a possibilitarian. Jesus tells us that “all things are possible to him who believes.” Mark 9:23 (NKJV) How many times have you said to yourself, “that will never happen!” It is very easy to get discouraged and to postpone our hopes and dreams, feeling that they will never happen. We often keep our focus on what is instead of on what could be.

Sometimes a door is closed, and we can’t see a way forward. I know that I have experienced closed doors in my life. I recently had a door closed to me that I worked on for over 35 years. I now realize that even though that door is closed, there are an endless amount of other possibilities. I need to become a possibilitarian, and so do you.

You and I are created in the image and likeness of God. We have gifts and talents that will allow us to make a positive contribution to society. You and I are unique and special because God made us that way. He “has made us what we are, and in our union with Christ Jesus he has created us for a life of good deeds, which he has already prepared for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10 (GNT) God has created us for a life full of possibilities. I believe that we, as followers of Jesus, should be the most innovative and creative people on the planet because we serve a God who says all things are possible.

Often we can’t see the possibilities in our life because we are trying to reach them on our own. In John 15:5 (NKJV) Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” For the possibilities in our life to become realities, we need Jesus in our life. Paul wrote in Philippians 4:13 (NKJV) “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Imagine the possibilities when we work with Jesus.

It is all about Jesus and not us. It is about what He has done, is doing and will do. It is about trusting Jesus in this life and believing the He is the one who created all things, knows all things and can do all things; even the impossible. Dan Peek, of the group America, had this concept in mind when he wrote the title song from his debut album as a solo artist, “All Things Are Possible.” In the chorus, he sings, “All things are possible. With you by my side. All things are possible. With you to be my guide.”

Jesus knows that for us there are so many things that are impossible. In Luke 18:27 (NKJV) Jesus tells us that “the things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” God has possibilities in store for us that are greater than anything we can ever humanly achieve.

Gentle Reader, if you are facing what seems to you an impossible situation, give it to Jesus, and trust Him to see you through it. Say with the prophet Jeremiah, “Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You.” Jeremiah 32:17 (NKJV) There is nothing that is too hard for God. Ask Him to help you become a possibilitarian!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Jury Duty

My An Arkie's Faith column from the April 18, 2018, issue of The Mena Star.

Have you ever received a letter asking you to report for jury duty? If so, what was your reaction? From talking to people, I have found that many people try to find an excuse that will allow them to be released from serving. When my letter came in the mail, I must admit that I wasn’t pleased. As a small businessman with no employees, If I am on jury duty, my business is closed.

I believe in our justice system, and I believe in each citizen doing his or her part, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t find serving inconvenient. When I received the phone call telling me to report to the courthouse on Thursday at 9:00 AM, my heart sank. I was in the middle of a very busy week and had been going in to work early and working late. Why did it have to be this week? I called customers to let them know that there might be a delay in completing their jobs.

When I arrived at the courthouse, I had to park a few blocks away because all the parking places near the courthouse were full. When I stepped into the courtroom, every seat was filled, and people were standing in the back. Sheriff’s deputies brought chairs to sit across the back of the room and along the sides. I looked around and saw how many potential jurors were there, and thought that I had a good chance of not being picked for the jury. I hoped it wouldn’t take too long so I could get back to work.

After roll call to find out who was present, the judge asked questions of the potential jurors to find out if they would be able to remain unbiased. His questions were simple. Several people were dismissed during this stage of the jury selection process. When the twelve jurors were picked, I breathed a sigh of relief. My name hadn’t been chosen. But after the prosecution and defense attorneys met, four jurors were dismissed. After the four were replaced, and my name still hadn’t been chosen I thought that would be it. But three of those jurors were dismissed. After one of next group of replacement jurors was replaced, the jury was finally seated, and I was able to go back to work.

As I was driving back to work, I thought about the verse in Hebrews 9:27 (NLT) where the Bible says, “each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment.” Even though I was a bit frustrated that the process of picking the jury had taken up two and a half hours of my time, I realized how important it was to the defendant that the jury was impartial so that he would receive a fair trial.

As much as I wanted a fair trial for the defendant, I don’t want a fair and impartial trial when it is my time to be judged by God. “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” 2 Corinthians 5:10 (NIV) And Romans 3:23 (KJV) tells us that, “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”

Fortunately, the Bible tells me that I have a mediator. “There is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus. 1 Timothy 2:5 (NKJV) And it also tells us that Jesus “is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf.” Hebrews 7:24,25 (NLT)

In this heavenly trial, who is the judge, who is the accuser, who is the witness, and who is the defense attorney? “The Ancient of Days was seated … the court was seated, and the books were opened. Daniel 7:9,10 (NKJV) God the Father, the Ancient of Days, presides in the judgment. 1 John 2:1 (NKJV) tells us that “we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” Jesus is our defense attorney, our advocate. But in a strange twist, Jesus is also our judge. “The Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son.” John 5:22 (NKJV)

Who is our accuser? Many people think that God accuses us. But even though we all have many things to be accused of, God isn’t our accuser. The Bible tells us that “Satan, who deceives the whole world” is “the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night.” Revelation 12:9,10 (NKJV) Satan is your only accuser. In the heavenly court, Jesus, who loves you, and is your best friend, will be your attorney, judge, and witness. I like my chances before that court.

You and I are no match for Satan, but with Jesus as the judge and our defense attorney, we can face the judgment without fear. Throughout history, Satan has presented God as a harsh, demanding, and relentless God, who is ready to condemn us. Many of us as Christians have helped Satan in his quest to paint God as a harsh, demanding tyrant. Don’t listen to Satan’s lies.

Gentle Reader, instead of being afraid and dreading judgment, we can look forward to judgment because we know that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Rom. 8:1 (NIV) The Bible makes this very clear in John 3:16-16 (NKJV) “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” I hope that you believe in Jesus as your Saviour. You can’t have a better defense attorney.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Columnist Book Signing Scheduled

Article from the April 11, 2018, issue of The Mena Star.

In December 2017, Richard Lawry published his second book in the Devotionals From a Small Town series titled In the Fog. He will be signing his books at the Mena Wal-Mart on Sunday, April 15, from Noon till 3 P.M.

Richard Lawry was born in 1956 in Madison, Tennessee, while his parents were attending Madison College. He grew up along the Front Range in Colorado, attending schools in Longmont, Brighton, Boulder and Loveland, Colorado. Two years after graduating from Campion Academy, he married his sweetheart, Regina. They lived in Loveland, Colorado for six years before moving to Mena in western Arkansas.

He loves the people of Mena and the friendly easy going way of life there. He has owned and operated his own business since moving to Mena. Richard enjoys the natural beauty of western Arkansas and being out of doors. In 2008 he started writing a blog, An Arkie's Musings, that he continues today.

In December 2015, the editor of The Mena Star called Richard 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. From reading Richard's blog, she knew that he often wrote on spiritual topics. She asked him if he would be willing to commit to writing a weekly column. He agreed, and the new column, An Arkie’s Faith, premiered on January 7, 2016.

Richard has used personal experiences, local events, and national news as a way to bring out spiritual truths in his column. In March 2017 he published his first book, titled The Little Things.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

A Little Help From My Friends

My An Arkie's Faith column from the April 11, 2018, issue of The Mena Star.

In the summer of 1967, The Beatles released their seminal album, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine ranked the album number one on its list of the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time.” The album has sold more than 33 million copies, making it one of the best-selling albums in history. 

During the recording of the album, John and Paul wrote a song specifically for Ringo to sing. Drummer Ringo sang a song on most of The Beatles albums. The song they wrote was titled, “With a Little Help from My Friends.”

After an all-night recording session, laying down the backing tracks for the song, an exhausted Ringo began to trudge up the stairs. Ringo was often very nervous when it came time to record his vocals, so his fellow Beatles hatched a plan. Ringo was almost at the top of the stairs when Paul called out, “where are you going, Ringo?” “Home, to bed,” Ringo replied. “Nah, let's do the vocal now,” Paul answered. Ringo looked to the others for support. “But I'm knackered,” he protested. But both John and George were taking Paul's side. “No, come on back here and do some singing for us,” John said. Reluctantly, Ringo took his place at the microphone.

Recording engineer Geoff Emerick recalls in his memoir, Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles; “To the sleepy Beatles' delight, it only took Starr a few takes to nail most of his part. Perhaps the shock tactic of having him sing when he was least expecting it took the nervousness away, or perhaps it was just how supportive everyone was being. All three of his compatriots gathered around him, inches behind the microphone, silently conducting and cheering him on as he gamely tackled his vocal duties. It was a touching show of unity among the four Beatles.”

Since the release of the album, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, the song “With a Little Help from My Friends” has been a favorite. We all need a little help from our friends.

One day last week at about closing time a friend of mine stopped by the shop. He knew that my windshield warehouse had some problems. The roof had been leaking, and several of the rafters were rotten. He said, “let's repair those rafters if you have time.” I am not much of a carpenter, so I had been dreading the job. But with my friends help, that is with me mostly watching my friend and being his gopher; the job was soon completed.

My friend’s actions really lifted my spirits. It had been a tough week with many negative things happening. Parts weren’t delivered when they were supposed to. Twice I had received damaged, “new,” parts. I had a strange problem with the wiring to my heat pump at home that required more than one visit from the repairman. An acquaintance felt that they needed to criticize my writing. We all have problems in life, but we can get by with a little help from our friends.

I remembered the passage in Proverbs 18:24 (RSV) where King Soloman wrote, “there are friends who pretend to be friends, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” No matter what we have to face in life, no matter how hard things get, we have a God who is always there for us. Jesus tells us in John 15:14,15 (NKJV) “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” Jesus calls you His friend.

Joseph Scriven is not a household name. Chances are you have never heard of him. When he was 24 years old, he had an experience that changed his life. The night before he was to be married, his fiance drowned while he watched helplessly.

Many years later, Joseph was making a living as a country tutor who worked for some families in Ontario. Joseph met Eliza Roche while he was tutoring for some of her relatives. He asked Eliza to marry him, and she agreed. Shortly after their engagement Eliza fell ill with tuberculosis. She died in 1857, a few days before the date she and Joseph had set for their wedding. Fate had dealt Joseph Scriven another broken heart.

Around this time, Joseph learned that his mother was seriously ill. He didn't have the money to visit her back home in Ireland. When he wrote to her, he sent her a poem he had written as an encouragement. He called it "Pray Without Ceasing."

The first verse read, “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer! O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.” Are his words familiar to you? You probably have heard them before.

Sometime later when he was ill, a friend who came to call on him happened to see the poem scribbled on scratch paper near the bed. The friend read it and asked Joseph if he had written the words. He replied, "The Lord and I did it between us."

Joseph never intended for the poem to be published, but it made its rounds as he gave copies to friends. Ira D. Sankey discovered the poem in 1875, just in time to include it in his well-known collection, Sankey's Gospel Hymns Number One. Later Sankey wrote, "The last hymn which went into the book became one of the first in favor."

Gentle Reader, you have a friend in Jesus. He is there to help you when you are going through difficult times. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” Philippians 4:6 (NLT)

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Jesus Wept

My An Arkie's Faith column from the April 4, 2018, issue of The Mena Star.

As I sit at my computer this morning to write, it is Good Friday and the Easter weekend is approaching. My granddaughters are still asleep, and the house is quiet. My sister and her family are here for a visit. I’m looking forward to a great weekend.

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

When I was growing up, I attended a small church in Fort Lupton, Colorado with my family. The small church shared a pastor with another church. Sometimes when the pastor wasn't there for the mid-week prayer service, those in attendance would take turns reciting a favorite text. Being somewhat of a smart aleck, I thought it was amusing to say that my favorite verse was John 11:35. “Jesus wept.”

As I have been studying recently, it has become a favorite verse of mine. I believe the simple words, “Jesus wept,” may reveal as much about Jesus as any other words ever said about Him.

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

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

There is one other place in the Bible where it tells us that Jesus cried. We find it in Luke 19:41 (ICB). “Jesus came near Jerusalem. He saw the city and began to cry for it.” Why was Jesus crying? Was He crying for a city?  I think that Luke 13:34 (NLT) gives us some insight into this story. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.”

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

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

I don’t want to meddle, but maybe I will a little bit. Think about a few of the hot button topics of our day and see what your response is toward the following groups. Gays, Muslims, Adulterers, Abortionists, Thieves, Drug Dealers, Prostitutes, Atheists. Do you have compassion for them, or is your response something different? Can you hate someone while you are praying for their salvation? Should we hate someone that Jesus loves and was willing to die for?

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

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

A very popular catchphrase in Christianity is, "What Would Jesus Do?"  WWJD is found on jewelry, emblazoned on bumper stickers and has made its way into popular culture. The only way to determine what Jesus would do is by learning what Jesus did. Romans 5:8 (NKJV) tell us that “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

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

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