Author Archives: Clark

Please Pass the Bread

The older I get, the more I like food.  When I was a kid, I ate most everything my mom made, which was mostly meat and potatoes, and soup, and toast, and pancakes, etc.  I do recall an aversion to peanut butter, strawberries, as well as cooked spinach and Brussel sprouts when I was younger.  But at different times, I eventually overcame these aversions, when I tried some good examples of these foods, which tells me most food can be good when done right.  I like most every vegetable best when raw or steamed, even Brussel sprouts, which I grew in my garden one year.  There has also been a movement in recent years away from mass produced produce and canned/processed food toward more flavorful, locally grown things for your dinner table.  For the past 5-10 years I planted several varieties of heirloom tomatoes that I enjoyed trying and sharing each year.  What do you most enjoy about food?  Do you live to eat, or eat to live? 

This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot.  Ecclesiastes 5:18

Cooking is definitely an art.  There has also been a boom in the amount of cooking/baking shows on television since the days of Julia Child, Justin Wilson, and Emeril Lagasse.  People don’t just like to eat, they like to watch others prepare and eat good food as well.  You can go out to eat almost anywhere and visit a local greasy spoon to one of the top restaurants in the world.  If you are like me, you may find it fun to explore new restaurants and discover new ways that others prepare food.  My wife doesn’t like to experiment too much with recipes, but can follow one well and makes great meals at times.  We signed up for a menu plan called emeals and for several years tried 2-5 new recipes each week without repeats, except when specifically requested to try a favorite again.  You could go through a cookbook and try a new meal every day, or eat your favorites for the rest of your life and still be happy, so long as you don’t start to worship or become addicted to what you eat and drink.  Is there anything, besides water, you feel you could not live without? 

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.  Matthew 4:4

I could share with you the best food experiences I have ever had, some in my own home and some in far off countries, but it would probably mean nothing to you, as you were not there to experience it with me.  One of the best pizzas of my life was made a month ago by my wife and included fresh roast beef and blue cheese.  The best steak I had was grilled with some friends on a farm near Centerville.  I met some strangers in Louisiana who shared with me some fresh boiled shrimp they caught that morning.   I think back to the Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts I shared and enjoyed with my family over the years.  When I think about it, most of my favorite food experiences were those I shared with others.  Maybe it makes us appreciate the experience even more, despite the quality of the food.  When we take communion, it is not just about the food we consume, but sharing in the experience with those around us and with God himself.  What is the best meal you can remember? 

And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”  Revelation 19:9

Is there more to life than what you put in your mouth?  God gave us our senses, not just to survive, but to occasionally stop and appreciate and enjoy the life we have been given.  Not just to constantly chase after our next meal, but to be thankful just for having a meal each time we stop to consume it.   When you give thanks and slow down to enjoy each meal, like it was your last supper, you start to appreciate all we have been blessed with, just a little more.  When we start to have reverence for each meal or glass of water as if we were taking communion, God does a work in you, not just in physical sustenance, but in your spirit as well.  We shouldn’t just revere food and drink like so many do, but to revere the One who made it and is the ultimate Provider for all things.  The next time you sit down to dine on whatever you have been blessed with, give thanks not just for the food in front of you, but for the ability to commune it with the One who made it, and you, and all those around you as well.  Make sure you don’t just satisfy the desires of your belly, but make sure your spirit is fed as well.  Enjoy your meal!

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.  John 6:35

Yours in Christ,

Clark

Cold Christians

Fall is one of my favorite times of the year.  The leaves change color, harvest time is winding down, the air is starting to chill, and you still get a few warm days to appreciate.  The inevitable thing, though, is that Winter is just around the corner, knocking at the door.  The first snow always reminds us of that.  Most local people I talk to don’t have much good to say about Winter.  Its cold, you have to move snow, plans may change, etc.  But there are also good things if you look hard enough.  No bugs, now mowing, Christmas, a new perspective on the world covered in white, a warm home to appreciate.  With every change, there are good and bad things that people can see, in every season of life.  What do you appreciate and what do you complain about in your current state of being? 

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.  Proverbs 4:23

Are there any people in this world that you don’t really care about?  Maybe there is a negative neighbor to the North that has lots of opinions different than yours.  Or maybe there are some countries in this world, in which you know no one and wouldn’t know or care if they ever existed.  Usually, unless you know someone in a given town, state, or country, you don’t give a second thought to things that happen there.  I’ve done some short-term missions trips to Bolivia years ago, and though I only know 10-20 people who live there now, when I hear about it in the news (which is seldom), my ears perk up, because it could be affecting people I care about.  We see videos of disasters from various places around the world, and feel sorry that anyone had to go through some of those things, even though we don’t know them.  Those people facing death and devastation could be Christians, though many are not.  Do we care at all?  Are our hearts cold toward most of the world? 

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.  James 5:16

It doesn’t even have to be someone ½ way around the world, it could be someone right next door to you, or even in your own house.  Our hearts can turn cold toward anyone, given the right circumstances.  Is it good to have coldness or even hatred toward someone and then try to love others you do care about?  Is there a cure to warm a cold heart?  It starts with awareness and then forgiveness.  Take an inventory of your thoughts and the words leaving your mouth.  If they have any hatred, even a little, then you are not on a good path.  I see this even when I comment to myself about strangers while driving.  A critical word is usually a selfish word.  I also find that regularly praying for others helps melt my coldness toward them.  Even for people in countries where I know no one.  The book Operation World is a good tool to learn about some people you have never met and a guide to pray for them.  Or just look up some info on a place or people group online and see what a little prayer does, not just for them, but for you.  Praying for your enemies and those you don’t know often helps you appreciate those closest to you even more. 

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Psalm 51:10

As things turn cold, remember to keep your heart warm for others and to keep them in your thoughts, prayers, and actions as we let joy emerge from the depths of the cold Winter months ahead.  As our hope eventually turns toward new life in Spring, may your hope in Christ bring you new life each day as well. 

Yours in Christ,
Clark

Hold On

I enjoy history.  Whether it is the genealogy of my family, the development of the Americas, or the life and times of Abraham Lincoln, I think there is something to be learned from most good and bad aspects of history in this world.  The older people get, the more they tend to long for things of the past.  I appreciate nostalgia and reminiscing about the ‘good old days’, whether they be 5, 15, or 30 years ago.  I even enjoy listening to stories of things that happened decades or centuries before I was born.  I also realize that the good old days were not always so good.  There were challenges with using horses for transportation, just as using cars can be a challenge today.  There have been people who did evil things to others since the beginning of time as well.  When we tend to glamorize what was, over what is, we may be trying to alter reality and not just criticizing the current state of things.  The times and technology are always changing, but it can still be fun to play an LP or an 8 track from time to time.  What things from the past do you hold on to, or most miss? 

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  Matthew 6:19-21

The other thing that people tend to hold on to is a variety of things.  We become enthralled and distracted by shiny things in life, and it can take most any form.  Whether it is just simply money, or the worth we attach to things such as houses, cars, clothes, electronics, toys, food and drink, or family heirlooms, it can be anything that we feel has some value in our lives.  It is not all bad, as we need some things to get the job done and do the work of living we need to do.  Everything can be helpful when used properly.  But when that thing turns from just a vehicle to get the job done to an item of pride, or dare I say, worship in our lives, then it has crossed the line.  The accumulation of money and things tends to allow room for greed in one’s life and limits the ability to give and bless others.  Again, it can happen with anything, but the challenge is to realize when you are crossing that line and to put things back in their proper place.  We need to repent and turn our attention to what matters more than stuff, namely people. 

What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.  Philippians 3:8

The one thing that we should hold on to most is the hope of our faith and commitment to Christ.  When everything else is worn out or broken down, the one thing that endures is our relationship to God and to others in this life, and the influence that has.  Maybe your cell phone will be in a museum someday, but most things in this world do not last too long anymore.  The time, energy and money we invest in others will give a better return than the latest gadget.  Living a minimalist life, like a hermit, may not be the best solution, but putting things in the proper perspective is for everyone’s benefit, now and in the future. 

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Matthew 6:33

Yours in Christ,

Clark

Power Up

Back in the day, when you played video games, you were always on the lookout for a mushroom or other object that increased your power, often multiple times, to help you get through the game.  If you didn’t find them, or got hit too many times, it was Game Over.  What things do you use to get energized each day?  A good night sleep, a good meal, a mug of coffee, a run, a nap, some reading, or just alone time?  Each of us likely has a preferred routine to help us get going in the morning, and stay going throughout the day.  Lately, for a variety of reasons, I have not been sleeping well, feeling more exhausted earlier in the day than I should, etc and it affects all areas of my life.  I need to figure out where I am off, and do something different to help get back to full power.  What can you do different to help you optimize your health, attitude, faith and efficiency through the day? 

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  John 15:5

When you rely only on your own strength, it is usually motivated by selfish reasons, to make you look good and seek the admiration of those around you.  I take a close look at my life and ask, what are the things that drive me every day?  One of the biggest is commitments.  I have committed to do my job, and I want to do it well and earn my paycheck.  I want to keep my word and follow through on my commitments to others.  I want to provide a good home for my family.  After I try to follow through on doing all these things, what is left?  Sometimes, we spend more time and energy on things that don’t matter so much in the long run, and short ourselves and others short on the things that truly do matter.  The key is to seeing this in our lives and making changes to do something about it.    

Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come.  Psalm 71:18

When things get rough, it may be helpful to admit that we can’t always do it on our own, and seek help from an outside source.  To some, asking for help (from others, from God) may feel like they have given up, or are less of a man because they couldn’t do everything they set out to do.  It is often a reality check, to help re-prioritize one’s life, and to ask if everything I have been doing has bee worth it, or if I should have spent time, energy, money, on other things.  Also, when we try to make everything ‘work out’ on our own, we tend to become more self-centered than we already are, pride becomes more central, and before we become burnt out on life, we refuse help from most who care about us, even God.  Our love for God is most easily reflected in how we love others, either we are usually doing both well, or not so well. 

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  2 Corinthians 12:9

So, if you are trusting in your own strength to get everything done, it is a sure recipe for crash and burn, at some point.  When you are connected to God, it energizes your relationships with others as well.  Take a few minutes to assess where you are on that spectrum and where God is asking you to trust Him more with your life.  Hand over a few things to Him, and eventually you may trust Him with everything in your life.  You will have more power that comes from a source much greater than your own!

Yours in Christ,
Clark

More or Less

 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.  Philippians 4:12-13

If you won the lottery or were given 5 million dollars, what would you do differently?  How about if you ended up with an extra $5,000, what difference would that make in your life?  How about if you have an extra $50 in your pocket now, what do you do with that?  When I was a kid and before I worked much, I thought $50 was a lot of money, then $500 was a lot, then $5,000, etc.  There was always a bigger amount I could earn or save or strive for, and still is.  There are people ½ my age that have a net worth 10x or 100x what I have accumulated in my life, but is that the measure we should be using.  How about how much money or time or energy we have given to worthy causes and to help others, do people ever keep track of those things?  I had a conversation in a small group this past week about we often find that those who have the least money are often the most generous with it toward others – part of the reason they don’t often have much.  When all is said and done, would you rather be know for how much you have or how much you have done with what you have?

I find that people are often sensitive and very guarded when they talk about money, how much they have, or where they spend it, etc.  They may feel judged, especially by those close to them about their ability to earn it, manage it, save it, give it, care about it or not.  Who do you trust for advice when it comes to what you have?  I have always liked what Paul had to say in these verses.  It is more a question of your attitude and plan with what you have than the amount of what you have.  Have you ever had to ask for help, either financially or physically or any other way?  Most of us want to be self-sufficient and never want or need to seek help if we don’t have to.  When you do, it humbles you.  Should this not be our same attitude toward God?  How often do we go to him in need?  The more we do, the more we trust Him to be faithful to us.  If we never ask for help, we will never appreciate what we have, and grow in our ability to manage it.  When we manage the assets and well-being of others, we grow much more in our responsibility, as others trust us.  Whether we feel we are in need or have plenty, our attitudes towards what we have should be the same, just as Paul stated. 

If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.  Luke 16:10

Do you have a retirement plan?  What is your dream for what you will do when you are ‘sufficient’ enough to not have to work, or not able to work anymore?  I made a comment a while back about having more to do in a day that I am capable of doing, and am not lacking for things to put on my ‘to do’ list.  That may change as I age, but I find there is always something to do, what that is or whether I should or not is the bigger question.  So, whether now or in retirement, we each need to ask whether the things we are doing are worthwhile for us or anyone else, in the long term.  We can spend our whole lives trying to accumulate money or things and it doesn’t take long for all that to disappear, whether we have anything to do with it or not.  I’m sure you have heard stories of squandered wealth from a variety of reasons.  How much would you have to trust someone to put them in charge of everything you have?  Each of us need to learn to be faithful with what little we have if we are to be trusted with anything more.  Honestly, none of it is ours anyway, even what we think we have one day will be gone.  So, put your trust in things that will last, and use what is given to you to make a difference in this life and the next. 

 

Yours in Christ,
Clark

Vital Mission

Be part of the Vital Mission and commit to a regular monthly donation to help with the costs involved with supporting our Vital Men events and outreach in our communities.

Click the donate button below to setup your recurring monthly donation.

Every Sunday at 8:30 AM

Listen to Mike on kBOE 104.9FM

LISTEN NOW