Author Archives: Clark

Doom and Gloom

In my world, the past few weeks seem to have mostly been filled with clouds and rain with a better than average chance of maple tree helicopter seeds.  If we did get a day without rain, everyone and their brother was slogging it out in the yard to try to keep the grass in check, or clearing water from their basements.  The week ahead looks wet as well.  Coupled with other daily challenges, it may be enough to get you down.  It might not be as bad as everyone complains about, but when you get stuck in a rut of disappointing things, whether weather, illness, difficulties at work, trouble with relationships, or other life events, it can be easy to become discouraged.  What is your response when the storms come and life gets you down? 

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.  Matthew 5:4

Sometimes when things seem bad, out of control, or heading in the wrong direction, I play the worst-case scenario game.  You come up with a way in which the situation could be worse, because it always can, and it makes the current mess seem less tragic.  I’m not trying to belittle the current situation, but more so, trying to be thankful for the things that are going well, or counting my blessings, so to speak.  I’m sure you know people in your life, where everything is a drama, whether minor or major issues.  There are those that seem to roll with the punches better than others as well.  Not to downplay discouragement, but there are also those who also struggle with significant depression, which can threaten livelihoods and lives.   Be aware of this in those around you. 

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  2 Corinthians 1:3-4

What is your first response in an unexpected emergency, whether work related changes, or something more significant?  Do you come up with the best solution right away, or consult others on what options you have?  How often do you give it to God, or at least ask for guidance in your next steps?  It may not always be your first response, but when we pray, it takes some of the pressure out of the situation.  Often when I ask for guidance, help, or answers from God, it helps put the situation I perspective, as often it is not the worst thing that I could be dealing with.  Often, the urgency of the situation can also be tempered with hope and a direction to start walking. 

He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.  Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.  Isaiah 53:3

Lastly, you have a friend who can identify with you in your pain and suffering.  We fist think of the poin and suffering Christ went through surrounding the crucifixion, but that was just part of it.  He was rejected by many during his lifetime, whether the religious elite, or the folks from his hometown.  He was betrayed by one of his disciples, and rejected by people he met each day.  But he was not only seeking fame and the praise of other men, but only of his Father in Heaven.  Yet, by doing this, he is the most famous person to have walked the earth.  Let him be our example whether it is raining or the son is shining in our lives today!

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.  Psalm 147:3

Yours in Christ,
Clark

Or the Highway

 

We have a strong-willed 3 year old who is usually a fairly good kid, most of the time.  When he gets tired, or if he decides there is something he wants he becomes determined and won’t budge from his demands.  We often give him an option from two acceptable choices and let him pick, and if neither is a good choice in his eyes, he stands there and pouts and tries to wait you out.  It doesn’t work.  We don’t budge, but if we did, his determination would instantly grow ten-fold.  Once we think a tactic works to get our way, we are even more motivated to try it again.  I am amazed at how often I think some of these 3 year-old tactics will work for me as well.  What about you…what strategies have you used to convince someone that you are right and should get what you want?  Does it always work?

“This, then, is how you should pray:  “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Matthew 6:9-10

If we think we can trick God into getting what we want, then we would stick with this strategy and always try to find a way, because we know better, right?  If we were just persistent in asking for what we thought was best for us, we may be able to wait him out, or change his mind.  Or maybe by waiting, we may change our own minds.  When we go to God in prayer, it is not about asking God to give us what we want, but to conform our wills to His, because what He wants is always best.  Maybe not always for us, but for others, and maybe not in the short term, but often in the long-term.  May we hear from God today about what is best and may we then act accordingly!

“Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”  Mark 14:36

Yours in Christ,
Clarrk

Sew What?

This past week, I was challenged and put to the test a few skills I had learned years ago.  When anyone challenges a man to a certain physical task, there often seems to be a certain competition gene that kicks in and gives you the motivation to see what you can do, even if it is a skill you are not great at normally.  If someone challenged you to foot race, a feat of strength, a driving competition, a trivia challenge, or even a thumb wrestling match, depending on the competition, we may give it a manly go.  What if it was something that was not considered that manly?  I had to see if I could still thread a needle, do some tiny stitches and repair a few items that needed fixed (one of which I broke myself).  After about 7 small repairs, I had some success and was ready to take on the world again, or at least stitch up a few wounds, if needed.  What are some of your God-given skills, or untapped talent, that you don’t get to use that often? 

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.  Proverbs 27:17

Several years ago, I was flying from Denver to San Diego and sat next to a young man in the Air Force special forces who was a good sized, strong looking fellow.  I asked him a little about what he did and his training for his work and one thing he mentioned he had to do a lot of through his training was sewing exercises.  This big, macho dude had been trained to use a needle and thread, really well.  It was important for his work, he said, but also taught him patience and focus on the task at hand.  That is the last thing I would have guessed, but it made sense.  My wife, who is in the Army, also reiterated this and said that you have to learn to sew well fairly quickly, or be a weasel and try to get someone to do it for you all the time.  So, being able to sew, cook, and take care of children will not only help you grow as a man, but it will give you a greater appreciation for what others can do as well. Is there anything that you consider beneath you as a man?

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.  1 Corinthians 16:13-14

In your opinion, what qualities does it take to be a strong man?  There are things that this world says we should be and there are things that God says we should be.  Some are similar and some are not.  By most measures, a man should be strong, not only because of his testosterone and physically being able to do some things that require extra strength, but also to be mentally and emotionally strong and having the determination to address what really needs to be done in any given situation.  Having certain skills to do his job well and to be respected by others is also admirable.  If you can believe a man at his word, and trust that he is telling the truth in any given interaction is also a quality to be valued.  He is as honorable in his private life as he is in public.  Being responsible and putting others needs before his own desires takes strength.  What other things does it take to be a good man?

How can a young man keep his way pure?  By guarding it according to your word.  With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!  I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.  Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes!  Psalm 119:9-12

What qualities did Jesus exhibit to us that is admirable in a man?  He knew his mission while here on earth and carried it out by honoring his Father’s will.  He was tempted and had the opportunity to use his power and position for selfish gain, but instead chose to be a servant to all.  That is the most admirable quality I have ever seen in any person.  Having the opportunity to use position and privilege for selfish reasons and instead choosing to serve others for a greater good takes strength and discipline.  That is love in action!  That takes guts, determination, and being able to see beyond your own self.  May we all strive to do such in our own lives this day and always!

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.  Hebrews 4:15-16

Yours in Christ,
Clark

Word Up!

Later this week, I get to start leading a bible study for a group of people I don’t really know.  Some may be Christians, and some may not, so deciding on a place to start was not too difficult (a gospel), but figuring out the format and how to go about it has been a little more challenging.  Honestly, walking with anyone through the Word is something that I look forward to, because it is not up to me to make sure they learn everything I want them to, as just being in the Word does that on its own.  Simply spending time reading through the Word has the power to instruct and transform, just as it has time and time again in my own life.  So, maybe it’s a little selfish, but I hope to grow through this process as much as I desire others to do so as well.  In what ways has the Word of God been most transformative in your life?

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

You have likely heard the phrase, ‘seven days without the Word makes one weak.’  It’s not much different than what happens with regular physical exercise.  If you have ever been confined to bed for several days, you realize that if you don’t keep active on a regular basis, you can lose strength and endurance fairly quickly.  I have noticed the difference in my own life when I am keeping in the Word daily, versus when I go for extended periods without feeding on it.  So, the key is to develop a discipline and good daily habits that keep you regularly in the Word.  If it is a struggle for you, as it has been for me at times, often accountability to another person or group that you meet with (e.g. a Bible study) to discuss is often helpful in refining this practice.  I recall, as a fairly new Christian how hungry I was to delve into the Word and talk about it with fellow believers.  What system have you used to keep in the word regularly? 

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  Hebrews 4:12

Another thing I appreciate about being in God’s Word is that it never really gets old.  I’ve read through the same book of the bible several times, and each time, God reveals new things to me that I have not noted as much before.  There are often new ways that you can relate and apply it to your life and more to be learned than in several lifetimes.  Whether just looking up a verse that you already know and dwelling on that, or reading new material and discovering the context in which it was written or new things about it can help you expand your understanding of God’s redemptive work in the world today and throughout history.  Using other commentaries or study guides to help you gain other perspectives is also a good way to grasp additional insights.  Maybe you have heard verses misused to suit a particular agenda that takes away from the original intent.  Having a solid foundation can also allow you to help others grow and develop a hunger for being in the Word as well.  The best way to teach is to lead by example, right? 

 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,  so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.  2 Timothy 3:16-17

Whatever way you get in the Word, whether tried and true for you, or something new, each time is a new adventure.  If you haven’t done it, plan to read through the entire bible sometime.  Not to brag to your friends about it, but just to expose yourself to the entire expanse of what new things you can learn.  I’m nearing the end of going through Ecclesiastes with a Sunday School group, and it has been as exciting for me now as the first time I went through it, years ago when I was in College.  One thing you can ask of the Lord each day is to reveal the truths found in His Word to you.  I’m sure this is a prayer He never gets tired of answering.  May you be blessed and be a blessing to others as you continue to learn and grow in the Word each day of your life!

Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.  Psalm 119:105

Yours in Christ,
Clark

Security Alert

In what do you have the most trust on any given day?  We may be traveling down the road and just assume that everyone around us will obey the traffic laws, say on their side of the road and not come barreling through a stop sign or red light.  Surely you have witnessed and remember an instance where this was not the case.  On a coupe of occasions, I stopped at a 4-way intersection, and saw a vehicle go straight through without even slowing down for the stop sign.  I may have been in the right to go through, but would likely have been hurt, or at least not able to drive my car after the collision.  So, we most realize when laws and standards of a society are not being followed when they directly impact us, and we may not take them for granted as we once did. None of us like to have our safety and security compromised.  Where do you turn when it is?

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.  Joshua 1:9

Surely, there have been times in your life, where someone you trusted took advantage of that and used it to their own advantage.  Hopefully, you have not responded to emails to claim an inheritance you were promised from a rich Nigerian benefactor, or any other scam messages or phone calls.  You wonder how people can fall for such things, but you know that it would not be happening unless they had some success, even if it was 1 in 1,000 people.  You may know someone who has had their credit card number used, their computer hacked, or their identity stolen.  All these things and others can take a fair amount of work to rectify.  When someone takes advantage of your trust, you usually end up more guarded and suspicious the next time, or more forgiving of others, which seems less often the case.  Either extreme may not be good.  When we trust no one, we end up isolated in a bunker with 2 years worth of bland rations and a defensive stance toward anyone that comes our way.  When we blindly trust everyone, we will surely be taken advantage of many more times.  Maybe there is another way?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;  in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.  Proverbs 3:5-6

Just look at those around you and you can see where they are putting their hope and trust.  For many, it is in their finances.  We assume that when we show up for work, we will still have a job and an ability to earn money for our family and ourselves.  We try to accumulate what we can to ‘make a good living’, or at least feel like we are keeping up with everyone else.  Here in the United States, even if we are in poverty, we have more than the majority of the rest of the world.  Despite that, the rich and the poor alike are never satisfied and always want more, even if they have enough, so that they feel more secure.  For some, it may even mean borrowing or stealing to maintain a certain lifestyle.  How much is enough for you?

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

Regardless of what wealth, things, or status we can put our trust and security here in this world, there is a more secure place to put it.  Just as we saw in Paris a week ago, something that took decades to build, can be gone in a matter of minutes.  A lifetime of wealth can as easily disappear when attacked or mismanaged.  It may not happen to everyone, but it is a reminder that these things around us, which we steward, are not as secure as we thought.  When we put our trust in the Lord and live that out, the things in this world which we tend to hold too tightly at times, become less important.  Even when we lose those people close to us, we are reminded that we can take nothing for granted.  So, if you are trusting in the things around you for security, take a step back and invite God to be your foundation instead.  Trust his Spirit in you to guide you in all things. 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15:13


Yours in Christ,
Clark

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