Author Archives: ClarkU

Good News!

I was listening to the radio earlier this week and my wife commented that it was fairly depressing as they reported 3-5 unrelated deaths in about 90 seconds.  If it bleeds it leads, right?  We don’t normally make the news when we have a good day at work, love our spouses, encourage the kids, or help someone in need.  If we had a Good Newspaper it would eventually turn into a bunch of self-promotion with everyone trying to one-up each other on how good they are…wait that’s Facebook.  You get the idea, people doing the right thing isn’t gossip or newsworthy for the most part.  Most people like to point out how bad others are so that they can feel better about themselves.  At least I’m not like so and so.  It may not always be an overt thing for Christians, but we see and hear it more than we should.  What kind of news do I most often share? 

For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.  Luke 8:17

I am probably as guilty as anyone who focuses on what is wrong with my day/week/life than on the good things I take for granted.  If I am not sick, how seldom do appreciate my health and say, ‘Man, I feel great today!’  When my car runs without any issues, I am not very thankful, but just expect it to work all the time.  After I am saved by the blood of Christ, how long does it take for my enthusiasm to wear off and just list it as one more thing that happened in my life?  The best thing that ever happened to me, and is available to others, should be the first thing I share with them.  That will surely get me the label of ‘Jesus Freak’, but honestly, there are much worse labels to have.  The Gospel is good news that often goes unreported.  Maybe we are afraid to share more because we are not perfect and won’t always say the right things.  Yet the God who forgave so many imperfect people continues to do so, every time they turn back to Him.  Isn’t that good news?  Isn’t that worth sharing? 

As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him.  Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”  So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.  Mark 5:18-20

How often have you shared your testimony over the past year?  Not enough, right?  Same here.  I was a guest on a local radio show (called Oops! I missed church) this past week and the host started off by asking me about my story.  I basically summed up my life and testimony in about 3-4 minutes, which is all it takes to get the job done.   I could easily expand on any aspect of my experiences and what I have learned as a Christian and talk for hours on most any part of it, but will let the person I am sharing with dictate where that goes, as the last thing most of us want is to hear stories we don’t really care about.  I once had a conversation with a guy I just met while waiting for a library to open, and in those 10 minutes, we had a deeper conversation about faith, God, and our lives than I have had with most people I know or see every day.  So, the issue is not about interaction, but more about intent and opportunity.  If we just wait for the ‘right’ moment to come along, it will never likely arrive.  We need to find and create opportunities when we can by asking tough questions and being willing to share from our hearts about what matters most.  Allow God to lead you and bless you in the conversations you have today and each day of your life as you boldly share Good News!

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.  Matthew 13:44

Courage in Christ,
Clark

10 Days

It was 3 years ago yesterday that my mother was diagnosed with cancer.  I remember sitting at the kitchen table listening by speakerphone while my siblings and mom were at the doctor’s office.  I knew the news wouldn’t be good, but listened as the doctor explained what was going on and what options we had for treatment.  While chemotherapy offered the best short term options, it still did not look good 6-12 months down the road, but we were really hoping for at least a few more months that we could spend with her.  Little did we know that the treatment intended to prolong her life would actually hasten her death.  She did not respond well and her body started shutting down a few days later and she passed away just 10 days after her diagnosis.  Even though her suffering and pain was shortened, and she would see her Savior sooner than planned, it was not what any of us were hoping for.  It was a wake-up call of how much we take our lives for granted.

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.  Psalm 90:12

The thing about each person reading this now is that you have an expiration date as well.  It might be 50 years or 5 weeks from now, but at some point, life as we know it will end.  Sometimes we may see it coming with the onset of a disease or the progression of an illness, but there are times when it surprises us as much as a sudden accident can.  We live each day by the grace of God, often expecting our trend of days to go on indefinitely.  What would you do differently if you knew the number of days you had left to live?  If you only had 10 days left, how would your plans change?

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”  Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.  James 4:13-14

Even if Christ knew exactly how his last week would play out, it could not have been easy for him to walk toward his death.  Just his posture in the garden before his arrest indicated that he was struggling with what was about to happen.  On several occasions, he even said to his disciples that his time with them was short and soon coming to an end.  Where would you turn if you knew your time was short?  Would you spend much of it with those you love and want to share the moments with them?  Would you spend time talking to your Heavenly Father in preparation of meeting Him? 

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.   And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!  Philippians 2:6-8

As you look down the road, however far that may be, there are some things you can do now to prepare for that day.  Don’t wait till your last minutes to tell people that you care about them.  Let them know whenever you can.  Demonstrating love to others is a lifestyle, not a last second shot at doing the right thing.  Not only be prepared by having a will and making plans for what you would like to happen after you are gone, but write something down for those you love and will leave behind.  They will appreciate it, even the little things.  I just found an Easter card my mom wrote me years ago and I do appreciate even that.  Even consider making a video of what you would want others to know when you are no longer with them.  Share your thoughts, share your faith, share your life.  You may not be remembered 100 year from now, but your life does matter, especially to those you are living it with right now!

Courage in Christ,
Clark

Stuck

Have you ever been stuck?  I’m usually good at getting out of tough situations, but sometimes I can’t.  I’ve had my car stuck in a swampy ditch in Louisiana and a couple of times on the edge of a snowy road in Iowa, not counting breakdowns.  When I was in elementary school, my brother and I were exploring a construction site near our home and both ended up at the bottom of a 7 foot hole trying to reach the top.  Getting stuck is humbling.  There are lots of places we can find ourselves stuck in life, and we can either resign ourselves to staying there forever, look for new ways to get out, or ask for help.  In each of the above situations, I had to find someone else to help me, as I was unable to get out on my own.  In the last case, my brother climbed my back to reach the edge, then reached down a hand to pull me out.  When you find yourself stuck somewhere in life, what is your first reaction?

I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.  He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.  Psalm 40:1-2

The past few months, I have been setting a live trap to catch a groundhog I have seen running around our home.  So far, I have caught 2 cats, 2 possum, and 2 raccoons, who are now all relocated to better homes.  One raccoon tore up the carpet covering, dug up dirt, made a nest and seemed to have resigned itself to making the best of its live in the cage.  Do you know any people like that?  They won’t admit they need help, and seem somehow comfortable in the mess of life in which they find themselves.  Maybe they have given up hope of ever changing their situation.  Have you ever been there? 

We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowlers;  the snare is broken, and we have escaped!  Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.  Psalm 124:7-8

Whether you are a raccoon, or a prideful young man, most of us never intend to end up stuck in our lives, but at some point, it may happen.  There are many traps set for us as we journey through life, but knowing what they look like and staying clear of them is the best way to avoid getting caught.  Some problems in life can hit us out of the blue, but most follow a series of poor choices on our part.  Just read through Proverbs to get a few clues to the traps inherent in pride, lust, laziness, selfishness, and greed, among others.   Often, pride keeps us from seeing our own vulnerabilities as we say ‘that will never happen to me.’  But none of us are fireproof. 

Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and a stone will come back on him who starts it rolling.  A lying tongue hates its victims, and a flattering mouth works ruin.  Proverbs 26:27-28

When you are playing around a trap, it is best to get away from it, as the more you play with fire, the more likely you are to be burned.  It is best to have regular counsel with trusted friends who may be able to see things you can’t and keep you from any major mistakes.  When you get stuck, and you will, these same friends will be there to help you out when the need is there.  First and last should always be your direct line to God.  Don’t hesitate to call out to him, no matter how small or big a predicament in which you find yourself.  He may even keep you from unforeseen pitfalls in live, though you may never know how many.

Courage in Christ,
Clark

Cry Out

What is your earliest memory?  I recently looked up a schedule to find out when a certain train passed near our home, as I remember being in my dad’s truck early one morning as this train went by.  It turns out it was less than a month after my second birthday.  I have other memories from around that time including once when I fell and scraped up my arm, then went looking for my parents to help.  There were other instances I recall of getting hurt or when emotions were running high, but it was usually followed by seeking sympathy or help from mom or dad.  Who did you call out to when you were hurt as a child?  How about now?

In my distress I called to the Lord;
    I cried to my God for help.
From his temple he heard my voice;
    my cry came before him, into his ears.  Psalm 18:6

When you become a parent, or even when you are babysitting or working with someone else’s children, the roles flip and you become the responsible one who can help or offer comfort when something happens.  Do you remember the first time someone came crying to you for help?  Maybe it was even a sibling or a friend, but you were the closest one who was there when needed.  If you have ever held a crying baby, you hold, rock, and speak soft, comforting words to let them know they are ok…that they are loved and will be alright.  Isn’t this what we all seek, someone who will comfort us in our distress and speak words of truth, to tell us we are loved? 

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.   And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”  Romans 8:15

In our culture, most of us don’t like to show our vulnerability, much less cry out to others for help very often.  Even though emotions can run high on social media, most of these folks still prefer to remain anonymous.  But we still feel and experience the same sadness, loss, joy and fears that everyone else has through history.  Some cultures are more expressive than others.  Looking to Jesus as our example, he did not always hide his emotions, but showed them fairly often as he ministered, even crying when his friend died.  He called on his Father in times of need as well.   

Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.  Luke 23:46 

So, if someone calls out to you in their distress, whether they are 2 months or 20 years of age, lend them a listening ear.  Give them words of truth and encouragement, just as your heavenly Father does for you, whenever you cry out to Him.  Take time to talk with Him today.

Courage in Christ,
Clark

Happy Happy Joy Joy

What makes you happy?  When you feel happy, how long does this feeling last?  Maybe you receive an unexpected gift, saw a really cool sunrise, or you really enjoyed that mid-morning coffee break, which gave you a feel-good boost.  Each day we likely experience a roller coaster of emotions ranging from anticipation, happiness, satisfaction, discouragement, frustration, anger, anxiety, and others to varying degrees of intensity and duration.  Most of these are temporary depending on our experiences and circumstances from one minute to the next.  What brings you joy?  Some may describe joy as intense happiness, but I would argue it is more of an attitude of the heart (such as love, hope, and sorrow) than it is a feeling.  Can you still have joy inside you as you go through a multitude of experiences and emotions in any given season of life? 

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

What do you way when someone asks ‘How are you doing?’  As Christians, should we expect to be happy all the time?  Should we even give the outward appearance that we are happy, when we are not, or should we be open an honest with how we feel?  It probably depends on the context.  Sometimes we need to get work done, so we ‘suck it up’ and move forward even if we don’t feel like it.  Is our end goal in life, as much of the secular world seeks – to be happy?  Just look around you a little and you can see others (or yourself) seeking happiness and pleasure in money/things, relationships, status, food, lust, etc, but these things alone are only temporary fixes until something bigger or better can be found.  Is that what you want, or is there something better?  Some try to justify sin (stealing, leaving a spouse, pornography, overindulgence, etc) by saying ‘doesn’t God want me to be happy?’  When your happiness comes at the expense of others and in the end brings you more pain and difficulty than you anticipated, you find out that what makes you happy is not always what is best for you. 

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  James 1:2-3

I experience as much happiness from finding a close parking spot, as much as I do from getting a work assignment done.  It happens on and off throughout the day and is fairly fleeting and superficial as any ‘happy’ feelings wear off quickly, and it doesn’t change me much at my core sense of being.  The other day a friend asked me what my favorite fruit of the spirit was, and I said I liked them all, as they were all closely connected.  When we try to love well, the other fruit naturally appears, and vice versa. 

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 5:22-23

I heard an interesting comparison once that for the Christian, Joy is central and pain is peripheral, as the major questions of ‘who am I’ and ‘why am I here’ have been answered.  For the non-Christian, Pain is central in life and joy is peripheral, as those central questions of meaning have not been answered and there is a constant struggle to cover or hide those feelings.   When we have come to understand salvation and surrender our lives to Christ, an unmistakable joy begins to flood in at the core of our being.  This is not deterred by the trials, challenges, and changing emotions we experience in life, but helps us overcome these difficulties to the point of death and beyond.  So, as you seek the little things that bring you some happiness each day, be reminded of the one thing that sustains your joy for living.  Rejoice in Him!

Blessings in Christ,
Clark

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