Author Archives: ClarkU

Why Jesus?

Have you ever had anyone ask why you were a follower of Jesus?  Maybe not directly, but you have probably had people ask you questions about your faith, or why you do something the way you do.  Was it fairly easy to give an answer for why you call yourself a Christian?  In our culture, this is not a conversation that seems to happen that often, unless you are regularly asking others about their faith.  With all the movies, TV shows, and other media, it seems that almost any subject is fair game, except for questioning people about their faith.  What would you say if someone asked you why you chose to follow Jesus? 

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.  1 Peter 3:15

I once had a conversation with someone who was seeking the truth and exploring the claims of Christianity and he kept asking me a variety of questions regarding the creation story, the Flood, the God of the Old vs. New testament, the crucifixion, communion, etc, etc.  It was almost as if he wanted every question answered to his satisfaction before he would take a step of ‘faith’ and believe in the claims of Christ.  Or it may have been a smokescreen to avoid making any sort of a commitment.  Regardless, I still shared how I came to accept the whole bible as truth, whether I could explain every detail or not, and still believe the rest by faith.  The real question for us all is ‘What are we going to do with Jesus?’  We have heard the claims, so who do we say that He is? 

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”  Matthew 16:15

Have you ever considered, ‘What if I was born into a Muslim, Hindu, or atheist family, would I still want to follow Jesus?’  Why would He be appealing to me if all my family belonged to another faith?  I have recently had some conversations with a missionary in an all Muslim nation and he shared that it was almost a cultural taboo to even discuss other faiths, as it is even against the law to proselytize, or try to convert someone to any religion other than Islam.  The barriers to others hearing about the Gospel are many in each area of the world, but there are some still hearing the truth, and some willing to deliver this message.  Even in your own home, how do you share the gospel message with a child or teenager, so they are informed to make a decision?  Think about the person who shared this same message with you and what led you to ask Him in.

Knowing that most people will never question you about your faith, have you considered how to engage others in a respectful conversation about faith in general?  Granted, it is not the most natural or easy thing to do, but once you have done it a few times, you may be able to do so more naturally.   How often have you shared your testimony with someone this past year?  I have been challenged to write mine out and send it to people I know, but with whom I seldom get to have a meaningful conversation.  As a challenge, see if you can use the name Jesus in a conversation with someone today, or even every day this week.  Even if it is with another believer, at first.  It is not a conversation that is easy to have, but it is one that is definitely worthwhile!

Yours in Christ,

Clark

Empty?

The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem:  “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever.  Ecclesiastes 1:1-4

We have all had times in our life where we look back on a season or episode where we were led astray or made a bad investment and wish we could have that time back to make a different decision.  Or we may recall all the time and effort we put into a hobby or other endeavor and realize it was mostly fruitless and didn’t really benefit us or anyone else much when it was all said and done.  Another version of this verse (NKJV, ESV) states “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”  Vanity is a word we seldom see or use much anymore, but at its essence, it means that something is hollow or empty.  I think it portrays a nice image of what we are considering.  Something appears good and helpful on the outside, but is empty at its core.  What things in your life have you chased after or invested in, only to find out later that it was not what it originally appeared to be, or was too good to be true and left you with regret? 

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

We could each make a list of things that turned out to be bad investments through our lives and even see some patterns develop.  We may have said things like “He seemed trustworthy, at first”, “I didn’t think there was any risk involved,”  or “If I make money doing it, it can’t be all bad, right?”  There is also the saying that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.  Solomon had it all…riches, fame, women, power, wisdom, etc, and through this book of the bible goes through how each one left him empty inside when it was all said and done.  We might get to some point in our lives and ask similar questions with everything we have been pursuing, and whether they were worthwhile.  Often, we can see this in others before we realize it in ourselves, even if someone else tries to open our eyes. 

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.   In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.  Matthew 23:27-28

Though we may not think so, the same can be true of how we serve in ministry.  If we are doing it for the wrong reasons, or without patience, or without seeking the leading of God, it may well turn out fruitless.  Recently, I have been reading about the People’s Temple founder Jim Jones, and how something that started out with seemingly good intentions could turn out the way it did.  As you learn more about the story, you find out there were warning signs and red flags along the way that some recognized and some did not before the tragic end.  While the choices we make with where to go to church, or how to serve in any given ministry, may not be as dramatic, we can use similar measures to help determine  whether our pursuits are worthwhile. 

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;  idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions  and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.   Galatians 5:19-23

While we may not be able to eliminate all selfish pursuits and emptiness from our lives, we can definitely learn from our own mistakes and from the lives of those around us to avoid falling into traps again.  We eventually get a good idea of which paths lead to death and destruction and which ones lead to life, but it may not be an easy choice when the consequence is not looking us in the face.  So, take everything before God and ask Him for discernment in all aspects of your life and He will surely give you direction.  Seek wise and Godly counsel from others on a regular basis and your pile of regrets in life will not be as big as you would have thought.  And when you hand them all over to God, He might just turn them into something else. 

And, when all is said and done, here is the last word: worship in reverence the one True God, and keep His commands, for this is what God expects of every person.  Ecclesiastes 12:13

Yours in Christ,

Clark

God’s Gym

If you step into a gym or weight room with thousands of pounds of weights and equipment around you, do you feel stronger just by being there?  Maybe, if it brought up memories of your High School glory days.  However, if you decided to pick up a moderately heavy pair of dumbbells and did a few curls or presses with them, you might feel a little sore the next day or so, but there wouldn’t be much of a long lasting effect.  If you visited this same place 2-3 times each week and engaged in a thorough workout routine each time, your neighbors might start to be intimidated by your new physique.  So, if getting others to admire or worship your body is not your end game, what is the point of working out?   

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;  you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.  I Corinthians 6:19-20

If you are like me, maybe you don’t hit the weight room as often as you did in High School, but still enjoy participating in different sports, running, or being physically active to stay in shape.  Whether you seek out high level competition, enjoy the social aspect of sports, or just participate to feel healthy, there are many benefits to keeping physically active.  In fact, whenever someone asks me what the best type of exercise, I usually tell them regular walking is something people of all ages can do for most of their lives, and when paired with a friend, provides a double benefit, as you talk out life issues as you walk.  Whether you like a high intensity workout or just a change of pace to decompress from the day, our bodies were created in a way that responds to physical stress by increasing in strength and endurance.  The saying is true, If we don’t use it, we lose it. 

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

The same principles that apply to our physical well-being also apply to our mental and spiritual health as well.  When we are challenged to solve problems at work or home, we may feel tired at the end of the day, but our knowledge and abilities to solve similar problems should get better as we practice these things.  When we learn a new program, subject, or piece of equipment, it may seem overwhelming at first, but the more we understand it, the more easily we can perform, then teach it to others.   There is a learning curve in most everything we do.  The more we read, build, pray, or run, the better our knowledge, strength, and endurance becomes in those things. 

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  Romans 12:11-12

If reading the Bible seems like a chore, chances are we really don’t do it that often.  Maybe we have never taken up the challenge to improve in how regularly or how long we engage in a Word workout.  Something as simple as a commitment to read or listen to the Word 15 minutes each day, or reading through the Bible in one year can help you see the return on this investment.  The more we pray, the more natural it becomes.  I used to think that a 20 minute prayer time was intensive, until I joined a friend in ministry for their weekly prayer meeting that lasted over 3 hours.  We grow when we are challenged in most any aspect of our lives.  None of us may be the best in the world at anything we do, but we all have the capacity to improve at most everything we do.  Where do you feel God is asking you to exercise your faith and grow? 

Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.  Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.  I Timothy 4:15-16

Yours in Christ,
Clark

In Harmony

Life seems to flow so  much better when things are in harmony.  Whether it is with our work, health, home life, relationships with others, or our relationship with God, we may seldom have everything in balance, but when things are, we know it.  Some of the greatest musical groups are known for their vocal harmonies including, but not limited to the Beatles, Beach Boys, Statler Brothers, and one of my favorites, Acappella.  The dictionary defines harmony as 1. the combination of simultaneously sounded musical notes to produce chords and chord progressions having a pleasing effect.  2. agreement or concord.  I suppose we could also say we know something is in harmony when we hear it or see it.  How about you?

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”  Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  Matthew 22:36-40

When we sum up the 10 commandments, we say the first four are about loving God, and the rest are about loving others.  As Christ said, these two sum up the whole of God’s law.  Is it possible to do one and not the other…to love God and not love others, or to love others and not love God?  Not really, as the two are tied to one another.  If we say we love God, the natural outflow of that is to love those around us, and to repent when we are not doing so.  If someone does not acknowledge God as their source of love, trying to love others from our own will and strength has significant limits and ultimately draws us back to selfishness.  We love because He first loved us, we forgive because He forgave us, we serve because Christ taught us how to serve.  We are made in His image. 

In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.  James 2:17

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  1 John 4:10

All our relationships work best when we are in harmony with one another, including our marriages.  If things are out of compliance on either side, things do not seem to go very well.    We do not have to look very far for bad examples of this.  When we live with a servant heart and an attitude of love toward others, we don’t get as worked up about the little things, or the big things, for that matter.  When we demand things be done our way, sparks will inevitably fly when we butt heads with others.  So, as you go about your day, let your life song sing in harmony with God’s will and those around you will hear it loud and clear.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.  If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.  Galatians 5:16,25

Yours in Christ,
Clark

A Prayer in the Air

This past week, I was sitting in a window seat as we took off in a flight from the Midwest to the West coast of our vast country.  It is a unique perspective as you quickly rise from a few feet to thousands of feet about the city and countryside and you catch a glimpse of little vehicles and houses along the way.  I have done it a few times before, but I found myself praying for the people in those little cars, houses, and buildings as we flew overhead.  A prayer in the air, way up there, could that even make a difference in some stranger’s life?  What if we all asked ‘what is possible’ for the friends and strangers we encounter each day? 

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

Just stopping to wonder what God could do in someone’s life left me caring a little more for the stranger sitting next to me, as well as the one I may never meet.  I took that further to the people I encounter on a daily basis, as I seldom fly above the rest of the world anymore.  I often spend over 100 miles behind the wheel of my car during the work day and thought about the people who pass by me, as well as those who are driving a few miles per hour slower in front of me.  My usual attitude is ‘how fast can I get around this guy,’ instead of ‘I wonder what kind of day this person is having?’  If I am running behind schedule, it is often more about me and my needs instead of caring at all about the people around me.  This should not be.  People should be more than obstacles to be hurdled, right?                 

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.   Matthew 5:44

So, as you go through your day, look for opportunities to consider those around you and how God could touch their lives in a unique way that day.  For those you see and talk to each day, and for those you may never even see at all, but just pass by for a moment, say a quick prayer and blessing, and ask God to touch their heart today.  In doing this, maybe as often happens to me, your heart and attitude will be changed in a better way moving forward as well.  If our prayers and concerns for people around the globe can be effective, how much more for the person crossing the path in front of us through our prayers, actions, and words.  May your day be blessed as you go about life, right here, or way up there!

Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.  Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 5:15-18

Yours in Christ,
Clark

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