Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Rambler Down

An Arkie's Faith column from the May 29, 2019, issue of The Mena Star.

Back in 2016, I purchased a 1960 Rambler American. I have always loved these little cars. They are very simple with a small flathead six-cylinder engine that produces 90 horsepower. When I bought the car, the previous owner told me he had cleaned out the gas tank and rebuilt the carburetor. He assured me that it was drivable. The first time I drove the little Rambler, it quit running. I was able to pull over to the side of the road. Just as I got out of the car to see what was wrong, a friend of mine stopped to see if I needed help. He pushed me back to my shop with his 1961 Pontiac. I can only imagine what the passers-by thought, seeing an old Pontiac pushing the little Rambler down the road.

Since the gas gauge didn’t work, I thought that it might just be out of gas. I put several gallons in the tank, and the little Rambler started right up. That night I was driving it home, and once again the little Rambler quit running. With the help of some other motorists, I was able to push it to the side of the road. I was able to get the engine started again and headed to the gas station. After filling the tank, I started again, but the little Rambler didn’t want to run. I had to call my Dad and have him help me pull the car back to my shop. When I told my wife about the day's experience, she told me, “You need to get rid of that car.”

The next morning I determined that the fuel pump wasn’t working. After replacing the pump, the little Rambler fired up and ran smoothly. I was ready for another drive. This time it ran perfectly, but when I returned to my shop, I noticed a stream of coolant running out from under the front end of the car. After checking out the leak, I found that I needed a new water pump. I had also noticed that the steering was loose. When I had replaced the water pump and a tie rod end, the little Rambler was ready to drive.

Since that time, I have driven the little Rambler a lot. I have steadily worked on the car to improve it. It has a new gas tank, and clutch linkage. There is now a coat of new paint on the little car, and it looks nice. I recently replaced everything on the front brake system so I can stop safely. I hadn’t driven the Rambler for several months because the brakes needed to be repaired. On the first drive after the brake job, the little Rambler left me beside the road when the needle valve stuck and flooded the engine.

For the past couple of weeks, I have enjoyed driving the Rambler with her new coat of paint and good brakes. But yesterday as I was driving down Highway 71, The car started to vibrate severely and then seemed to buck like a bronco. I was able to pull into the center turning lane. When I got out to look at the car, the right front tire was leaning at a crazy angle. I knew I wouldn’t be able to move the car. I called the towing company to have the little Rambler towed back to my shop. Because something in the suspension was broken and the right side of the car was sitting on the ground, we had a difficult time loading the Rambler. Traffic refused to move over to give us room to work the tow truck. We finally had to call the police to help stop traffic so we could load the car.

Did I still love the little Rambler? She has given me a lot of trouble. This time I am afraid that it is serious. I haven’t had time to find out what needs to be done, but I hope to be driving again soon.
The Bible tells us in Romans 5:8(NLT) that, “God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” God loves us in our broken down imperfect state. Sometimes we feel that we have to become good before God can love us. But we learn in Isaiah 64:6 (AMPC) that, “our best deeds of rightness and justice are like filthy rags or a polluted garment.” We can never become good enough to deserve God’s love. Just like I love my little Rambler even when she isn’t driveable, God loves us in our sinful condition. The Apostle Paul said, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. And I am the worst of those sinners.” 1 Timothy 1:15 (ICB)

Because God loves us, He wants better things for us. Peter explains the process in 2 Peter 1:5-7 (NCV), “Because you have these blessings, do your best to add these things to your lives: to your faith, add goodness; and to your goodness, add knowledge; and to your knowledge, add self-control; and to your self-control, add patience; and to your patience, add service for God; and to your service for God, add kindness for your brothers and sisters in Christ; and to this kindness, add love.”

Gentle Reader, even though I haven’t gotten rid of the little Rambler though it seems that I can never drive it without a breakdown, I do want to improve it. God is the same way with us. He tells us that “nothing can ever separate us from His love” Romans 8:38 (NLT), but Jesus came to “save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21 (ESV) He wants a relationship with us. He wants to improve us.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

A Birthday Surprise

An Arkie's Faith column from the May 22, 2019, issue of The Mena Star.

Last weekend, I made a trip to southeastern Kansas with my Daddy to the area where he grew up. We went to church at the little church in Thayer, Kansas, where his family attended church. I have many fond memories of the Thayer church. When I was a child, we always attended there when we were visiting my grandparents. I still have cousins who attend there.

While we were in the area, we visited places that are nostalgic for Daddy and me. We tried to find where the Morehead School had been. My Daddy attended grade school there. We found the road it was on, but everything had changed so much in the seventy years since he had been there that he wasn’t able to tell exactly where the school had been. We looked for familiar places in the small town of Altoona where my grandparents, great grandparents, and many other family members had lived. I had a wonderful time reliving old memories. My cousin, Don, drove us around the countryside, showing us the places where family members had lived. I had a wonderful time reminiscing, and hearing stories about family.

The reason that we were in the area was to attend a cousin’s birthday party. Her family had planned a surprise birthday party and had invited us. It wasn’t easy to keep it a secret with so many people involved, but my cousin was surprised. I almost let it slip when I posted on social media that I was heading to Thayer. I didn’t say anything about the party, but my cousin saw the post and wondered why I was coming. She told me that when she saw the post, she wondered If I would contact her so that she could see Daddy and me while we were in the area.

It’s not easy to pull off a surprise party with a lot of people, but this party was very successful. Everyone loves a good party. Even the Bible loves a party. One of my favorite chapters in the Bible is Luke 15. I like to call it the party chapter. It is Luke’s account of three parables, each one describing a lost item that is found, and each one describing a party that was held to share the joy and happiness of finding the lost item.

The audience for these stories was the Pharisees who were complaining about Jesus' lifestyle and his welcoming of tax collectors and sinners. For the Pharisees, the term "sinners" was used for a class of people who lived immoral lives or had questionable occupations; people that no respectable Jew would ever associate with.

These people, the social and religious outcasts, were coming to Jesus, and he was receiving them and eating with them. In Luke 5:30-32 (NIV), the Bible says, “But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, ‘Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’ Jesus answered them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.’”

The Pharisees didn't like Jesus’ association with sinners. Why were they so upset that Jesus associated with sinners and enjoyed their company? Why were they unwilling to associate with them? We find the answer in the story of the older brother found in Luke 15. In this parable, the older brother represents the Pharisees, who grumbled at Jesus’ reception of sinners. In the story, the older brother is out in the fields working, when his younger brother, “the sinner," returns. The older brother does not know of his younger brother’s return until he hears the sounds of a party coming from the house. He became very angry and refused to join the party. When the father came out to ask him to join in, the older son refused.

We find the story in Luke 15:29 (MEV), “But he answered his father, ‘Look! These many years have I served you. Nor have I ever transgressed your commands, yet never have you given me a goat, so that I might be merry with my friends.’” The older brother was at work in the field when his younger brother, “the sinner,” returned home. He thought that the basis for obtaining his father’s love was his works. He didn't need to work to win his father’s love; he only needed to be his son. This emphasis on works was the error of the Pharisees. They were “hard at work,” keeping the law, as they interpreted it, thinking that it would win God’s approval and blessing.

The older brother continues complaining to his father in Luke 15:30 (MEV), “But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed the fattened calf for him.” This complaint is the flip side of the first complaint. The older brother expected to be rewarded because his works, so he expected his younger brother to be disowned because of his lack of works.

The father answered in Luke 15:31-32 (MEV) “He said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. But it was fitting to be merry and be glad, for this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” The father was not celebrating because of the younger brother’s sins, but because of his repentance and return. The older brother not only failed to comprehend grace, but he resented it. The problem of the older brother is self-righteousness. His self-righteousness expects, and even demands, God’s approval and blessings.  His self-righteousness is so strong that he resents the grace of God and refuses to rejoice in it.

Gentle Reader, don’t be an older brother. Don’t resent the grace that God so freely offers to sinners. I challenge you today to see “sinners” the way that Jesus sees them, people to associate with and to love. Remember that Jesus throws a party whenever one of his lost sheep comes home, and he wants you to join the party.

Thursday, May 16, 2019


An Arkie's Faith column from the May 15, 2019, issue of The Mena Star.

I was busy installing a windshield when the phone rang. I laid down my tools and picked up the phone. “Last night the window was broken out of my Lincoln,” said the voice on the other end. “I need to get it replaced. How much will it cost?” “Let me get into the office where I can look it up,” I answered. After getting all the information and pricing the glass, I told him, “that is an expensive piece of glass. It will cost 550.00 for the glass and installation. I can have the glass here on Tuesday.” “Well, I have to have it,” he answered. “Go ahead and order it.” “Do you want me to come by and pay for it before you place the order,” he added. I told him that it wasn’t necessary to pay for it before the job was done.

About an hour later, the customer with the Lincoln drove up to my shop. “I want to pay you for the glass,” he said. I told him that it wasn’t necessary, but he insisted. “Thank you,” I said. “That is very thoughtful of you.” He wrote me out a check handed it to me and then drove away.

The Lincoln glass was delivered and at my shop on Tuesday morning. But the customer didn’t show up to get it installed. It was a busy day, and I didn’t have time to think about it until late that afternoon. I called the customer, but only got his voice mail. I left a message telling him that the glass was in and asked him to give me a call to reschedule. I didn’t hear from him for the rest of the week. I thought that was unusual, but I didn’t worry about it because he had prepaid for the glass.

A week went by before I heard from the customer. He called, and we made an appointment to install the glass. I was glad to have the job completed. I was surprised that he waited so long to have the work done, especially since it had already been paid.

In my warehouse, there are quite a few pieces of glass that customers have special ordered but never came to get the work done. It is a frustrating part of the business. But I also have several pieces of glass that customers paid for but have never picked up. I am puzzled that someone would pay for a piece of glass and then never pick it up.

I am also puzzled that more people don’t accept God’s grace. It has already been paid for. The Bible is clear that God’s grace is a gift. Why don’t more people accept the gift? If you were to ask one hundred random people, “how do you get to heaven?” you would hear a lot of different answers. You would hear things like, “try to be good and do your best” or “work hard at being a good moral person” or “do more good things in life than you do bad things.” All of these ideas are based on our abilities and actions. They are not based on the idea of a gift. People that don’t feel the need of the gift see no need to accept God’s grace. Many religious people fall into this way of thinking. They feel that they can do it themselves and that they don’t need some gift.

In 1 Corinthians 6:20 (NCV) Paul tells us, “you were bought by God for a price. So honor God with your bodies.” God paid the price of his Son to purchase your salvation. “He suffered the things we should have suffered. He took on himself the pain that should have been ours. But we thought God was punishing him. We thought God was wounding him and making him suffer. But the servant was pierced because we had sinned. He was crushed because we had done what was evil. He was punished to make us whole again. His wounds have healed us.” Isaiah 53:4,5 (NIRV)

Jesus suffered for you. He took on himself the pain that should have been yours. Your sins were the ones that pierced him. He paid the price to heal you and make you whole. Jesus died for you. The stain of sin that marred your life has now been washed white as snow. He has paid your debts. All of them. Jesus has paid it all.

John 19:28-30 (NCV) tells the story of the last moments of Jesus’ life on the cross. “After this, Jesus knew that everything had been done. So that the Scripture would come true, he said, ‘I am thirsty.’ There was a jar full of vinegar there, so the soldiers soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a branch of a hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ mouth. When Jesus tasted the vinegar, he said, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and died.”

Gentle Reader, Jesus said “It is finished” on the cross. He paid in full all the costs required for our sin to be forgiven. And when we place our trust in him, our debt for sin is forever wiped off the books! We all need the gift of grace. We all need to have the penalty paid for our sins. “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23 (NKJV) We need the gift of God, eternal life. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”  Ephesians 2:8 (NRSV) Don’t be too proud to accept the prepaid gift.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Don't be Afraid

It seems like a day doesn't go by that someone doesn't talk to me about the condition of our country and the world. What I have noticed in the past few months, is that it seems like the people I have talked to who have been the most worried are Christians. I have gotten numerous e-mails from Christian people who are sure that doom and gloom are right around the corner. I can't believe that God wants us to live that way. 2 Thessalonians 3:16 says "may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way."

I do believe that we are living in the last chapter of Earth's history, but I am puzzled by many of my fellow Christians. Does God want us to worry about the future?

I saw something the other day that puzzled me. I was in a Christian bookstore, and I saw that they had Christian worry stones for sale. According to tradition, a worry stone is a smooth, polished stone that when rubbed is believed to reduce one's worries and add a sense of calmness. When the stone is rubbed, the negative energy and worries are supposedly transferred into the stone and you are left calm and peaceful. I don't think worry stones are compatible with Christianity.

In Matthew 6:31 Jesus tells us "Do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?" He goes on to say "do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own".

Why do we worry? We worry because we fear the future. Over 100 times, the Bible tells us; do not fear, do not be afraid, fear not. In Proverbs 3:24-26 we read; “You can go to bed without fear; you will lie down and sleep soundly. You need not be afraid of sudden disaster or the destruction that comes upon the wicked, for the Lord is your security.”

And Psalm 46:1-2 tells us that “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea.”
Many Christians teach us to be afraid of the end of time and the second coming of Jesus. I know that when I was a teenager, I was taught to fear the time of trouble and the last days before Jesus comes. I was taught to be afraid that I would not be worthy of making it through the end times.

Let me ask you a question. At what point in the future does your salvation stop being about what God does and start being about what you do? I was taught to ask if my faith would be strong enough to stand in the end-time persecution? Instead of asking that question, why don’t we ask ourselves a better question: Am I learning to trust God now? Am I giving God my everything now? Because if we are, then God will get you through the end times. By listening to God and surrendering today, you are doing the very best thing you can do to get ready for what’s coming tomorrow. And if God helped you yesterday to prepare for the challenges of today, what makes you think He won’t continue to do so through to the end? Jesus says, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” Matthew 28:20

I was taught that I had to perfect my character so that I could make it through on my own without a mediator. But making it through to the end is all about trusting God and not about trusting myself and my perfect character. In the end, it is God who vindicates His name, not us. He simply uses us in this process. If the universe at the end is remarking about how good we are instead of how good God is, something will have gone terribly wrong.

I feel that some of these false ideas that are taught is why so many of us fear the end times. I want to be with the group that says, “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 I don’t want to be with the group that is afraid.

In Isaiah 41:10 God tells us, “Do not be afraid - I am with you! I am your God - let nothing terrify you! I will make you strong and help you; I will protect you and save you.”

When my daughter was little, my wife would sing to them when she was trying to get them to go to sleep. “Rock, rock, rock, little boat on the sparkling sea, Rock, rock, rock, dear Jesus rides in thee; Rock, rock, rock, o’er the waters swiftly flee, For Jesus rides in the little boat on blue Galilee.”

While researching the Sea of Galilee, I found out that it is the lowest freshwater body of water in the world at 685 feet below sea level. It lies in the Jordan Rift, a fault zone with steep hills and mountains all around it. The Mediterranean Ocean is only 27 miles to the west.

Ocean winds funnel through passes of the hill country and down the steep hillsides. As the warm moist air rises from the Sea of Galilee, it collides with the dry, cool air from the mountain heights to the east and thunderstorms can develop over the sea.

The worst storms on the Sea of Galilee are caused when a low-pressure zone to the east causes the winds to blow down from the Golan Heights. The air compresses in the passes of the Trans-Jordan mountains and rushes down onto the Sea of Galilee which has a relatively small area of 64 square miles. The water is forced down, but has no place to go, so it pushes up into towering waves. A storm surge on the Sea of Galilee in March of 1992 sent ten-foot waves on the west side of the sea crashing into downtown Tiberias causing heavy damage to the shopping area and marina.

The Bible describes one of these severe storms on the Sea of Galilee in the Gospels. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all tell the story. The storm in the story was a serious storm that put anyone out on the sea in grave danger. But Jesus was the master of the storm. Ever since then, people facing all kinds of storms in their lives that that threaten to destroy them have found hope in Jesus because of this Bible story.

The story is found in Mark 4:35-41. “On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.” Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”

Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!”

The disciples are sure they know who Jesus is. To them, he is a teacher and story-teller, a miracle worker and an exhausted man. He is a celebrity, someone exciting to be around. It makes them feel good to be useful to him--to sail away with him from the crowd on the shore that envies their closeness to him.

They know the Sea of Galilee like the backs of their hands. They know what it takes to sail these waters. They are out for a nice cruise this evening, certain that they are in control. Suddenly their certainties are shredded along with their sail. The storm almost kills them. They are powerless, adrift, just one gust and one wave away from drowning.

Jesus is sound asleep on a cushion in the back of the boat, oblivious to the terrible storm that is overpowering them. The disciples wake him up in a panic. “Teacher, don’t you care that we are about to die?” It's an odd question. Determining his state of mind about their welfare seems the least of their concerns. Something more direct would be in order like, "Help!" or "Lord, save us!"

Jesus rouses himself and tells the wind to stop. He says to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" although he may be addressing the terrified disciples as well. After all, it was his idea to cross the lake. They aren't going to drown on his watch, but they don't know that or trust him yet.

The wind stops, and the sea calms all in an instant. The disciples are surprised, but Jesus is disappointed. He had given them the amazing catch of fish when their best efforts had come up empty. They had seen him feed the 5,000 with only five loaves of bread and two sardines. He had healed the sick and raised the dead.  But they are still focused on their needs, not on what Jesus can do.

Jesus wants our trust because our salvation depends on him and our trust connects us to his saving power. Jesus wants us to trust Him to carry us through the end times.

Isaiah 12:2 “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the Lord God is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation.” Our salvation isn't a personal achievement. It is a gift of God, and we have to trust that even in the midst of the storm God will save us.

The disciples are finding out that there is a lot more to their "Teacher" than good stories and food distribution. He has faced down the worst storm that they have ever experienced, and they are stunned. They have only one question now, and it is the right one -- "Who is this, that even the wind and waves obey him?"

Having seen his power in action, the men are now more afraid of Jesus than they were afraid of the storm. "They feared exceedingly," is the way the Bible puts it in Mark 4:41. Phobos is the Greek word that Mark's Gospel uses for how the men felt when they witnessed Jesus calming the waves. Phobos is the root word of "phobia," an abnormal, intense, illogical fear. It is a pathological terror devastating them to the core of their very being. At that moment, they realized that Jesus was more than just a good luck charm. They thought that when Jesus was with them, surely there wouldn’t be any storms. But when they witnessed the actual power that Jesus had over the storm, they were afraid of His power.

We have a lot of sweet illusions about Jesus. He tells us to cross the sea. He comes to us just as we are and climbs in your boat just as he is. We sail out with the other boats. We're proud to be in his company--Jesus and us sailing off together into the sunset and he's picked our boat, not theirs! "It doesn't get any better than this--we're taking Jesus for a ride," we think. We even pride ourselves that we've got everything under control so Jesus can sleep.

Then the wind changes and blows up a storm so severe that it robs us of rational thought. The waves turn rough and hit us again and again and then recoil and crash into us from the other direction with no let-up. Our carefully constructed little vessel begins to break up and take on water. "Hello, we're sinking here," we think. "We're dying!"

We wonder, "How can he be our sailing buddy when he is asleep in the back of the boat while we are bailing hard and not keeping up?" We call out in desperation, even anger, "Teacher, don't you care that I'm drowning?"

I know that I feel that way at times. When I am going through tough times, I wonder why God is allowing these things to happen. Sometimes I feel like David in Psalms 13:1, “How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?” And in Psalms 10:1 David wrote, “why do You stand afar off, O Lord? Why do You hide in times of trouble?”

Often when we are going through tough times others no longer seem as supportive or as friendly, an abandoned feeling leads us into the downward spiral of thinking: No one cares for me! Like David, we may then conclude: God has also abandoned me!

Jesus has promised that He will calm the storm. We forget that Jesus told us the destination and said that we would go across together. It's our perception, not his reality that has us scared.
Paul says that "the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus! (Phil 4:7). Jesus is our peace.

It isn't the boat that you are in that is going to save you. It is being with Jesus and trusting him that makes all the difference.

Christianity is built on faith and trust in Jesus. I want to close with a story about one of the greatest tightrope-walkers of all time. His name was Blondin. He became obsessed with the idea of crossing Niagara Falls the first time he saw them in 1858. A year after his initial visit, he returned to accomplish the feat. The stunt was not without controversy. Many people felt that a stunt like Blondin's would trivialize the falls, turning them into a backdrop for a circus act, and should not be allowed.

Eventually, Blondin was allowed to string his wire across the falls and on June 30, 1859, he was the first man ever to cross Niagara Falls by tightrope. A large crowd of 100,000 people watched him walk on a single three-inch rope, 1,100 feet long and 160 feet above the falls on one side and 270 feet at the other.

Blondin made many more trips across the gorge during the next year. Each time, he thrilled larger crowds with more exciting acts. He balanced a chair on the rope and stood on it. He took pictures of the crowd while he balanced on the rope. He cooked a meal on a small portable cooker and lowered it to amazed passengers on the Maid of the Mist below. He crossed blindfolded, in a sack, on stilts, and pushing a wheelbarrow.

In 1860 a Royal party from Britain that included the Prince of Wales saw Blondin cross the tightrope on stilts and again blindfolded. After that, he stopped halfway across and cooked and ate an omelet. Next, he wheeled a wheelbarrow from one side to the other and returned with a sack of potatoes in it. Then Blondin approached the Royal party. He asked the Prince of Wales, "Do you believe I could take a man across the tightrope in this wheelbarrow?" "Yes, I do," said the Prince. "Hop in, then," replied Blondin. Well, the Prince declined Blondin's challenge. He might have believed Blondin could do it, but he wasn't about to trust him with his life.

When it comes to our relationship with God, this kind of trust doesn't do much good. God doesn't want us to say "Yes Lord I believe in you, but not enough to put my life in your hands." Belief has to come with trust. Proverbs 3:5,6 tells us to "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.”

Is there a difference between trust and belief? The Prince of Wales believed that Blondin could walk a man across the rope in a wheelbarrow, but he didn't trust him enough to get in. Do you believe in God? Do you trust him with your life? Trust God with all your heart. Trust Him to take you through to the end. Trust Him through the storms of your life and don’t be afraid. Jesus says, “Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid. I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” Will you take Him at his word?

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

First Gear

An Arkie's Faith column from the May 8, 2019, issue of The Mena Star.

It was a beautiful spring evening with blue skies, fluffy clouds, and a perfect 70-degree temperature. The redbuds and dogwoods were in bloom, showing off their glorious beauty. I had not driven my little Rambler American for several weeks, so I decided that this evening would be a great time to take a drive. I headed for Wal-Mart to pick up some things that I needed. The sun was shining as I drove along with my window down. I pulled into the parking lot, found a space, and headed into the store.

When I had finished shopping, I put my purchases in the trunk of the Rambler and then slid behind the wheel, getting ready to start the engine and head home. I slipped the key in the ignition and pushed on the clutch. The clutch went to the floor with no resistance. “Oh no,” I thought, “what am I going to do? With no clutch, I wouldn’t be able to drive home.”

The car in the parking space in front of me pulled out of the space. I put the little Rambler in first gear and turned the key. The Rambler lurched and jerked as it started in gear. I was able to maneuver out of the parking lot in first gear and crept up to the stop sign at the exit. There was no one near, so I idled through the stop sign and made my way to the stoplight at the intersection. The light was red, but I made my way through the parking lot and onto the highway. Without a clutch, I couldn’t shift out of first gear. The engine raced as I drove down the highway at ten miles an hour. That was as fast as the Rambler could go in first gear.

I had three miles to drive to get back to my shop. The roar of the engine echoed in my ears as I slowly drove down the road. Traffic behind me had to wait for a chance to get into the other lane to pass me. I felt bad about impeding traffic, but I had no other choice. I only hit one traffic light while it was red. I had to kill the engine and sit at the light. When it turned green, I once again turned the key and started the engine while the car groaned and stumbled forward. I was worried about the engine overheating from being driven at high rpm’s but at such a slow speed that very little air was going through the radiator. When I finally reached my shop, I breathed a sigh of relief.

When I was able to get under the Rambler and check out the clutch linkage, I found that the reinforced fabric material of the clutch linkage flexible support assembly had torn apart. I would have to go online and order the parts before I could repair the Rambler and drive it again. I didn’t want to have to drive it stuck in first gear. I hope to have the clutch linkage repaired soon so that I can drive in high gear.

Too many of us are going through life stuck in first gear. We can plod along at a slow pace and eventually get where we are going, but life isn’t enjoyable. This isn’t the life that Jesus wants for us. He says, “I have come so they may have life. I want them to have it in the fullest possible way.” John 10:10 (NIRV) Jesus doesn’t want us to be stuck in first gear.

Some days it seems like everything naturally goes from good to bad. I know that I have had days like that, and I’m sure that you have too.  It seems like nothing is going right and we are just spinning our wheels and not making any headway. When things go wrong, and life is hard, heartbreaking, or even just disappointing, we can easily get stuck in a negative mindset. But a negative attitude keeps you stuck in first gear.

In his letter to the believers in Ephesus, Paul included this prayer. “I pray that Christ may live in your hearts by faith. I pray that you will be filled with love. I pray that you will be able to understand how wide and how long and how high and how deep His love is. I pray that you will know the love of Christ. His love goes beyond anything we can understand. I pray that you will be filled with God Himself. God is able to do much more than we ask or think through His power working in us.” Ephesians 3:17-20 (NLV)

When you are having that bad day, or if you feel that your life is going nowhere, remember that Jesus loves you beyond anything you can understand. “We are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things. God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives.” Ephesians 2:10  (CEB)

The life you have today, and all it includes or doesn’t include, is the life God has given you. It’s the only life you have. But you can live it to the fullest. Don’t let life pass you by as you allow problems, disappointments, or drudgery to steal your enthusiasm for living. Don’t go through life in first gear. God wants you to live life to it’s fullest in high gear. Your happiness is up to you.

Gentle Reader, “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 (NLT) But you don’t have to wait for heaven to experience a full life. King David wrote, “You direct me on the path that leads to a beautiful life. As I walk with You, the pleasures are never-ending, and I know true joy and contentment. Psalm 16:11 (VOICE) Even in this life, those who believe in Jesus can have a wonderful appetizer of future blessings! Jesus truly did come so that we can live life in the fullest possible way. He wants you to live life in high gear. Don’t get stuck in first gear