Author Archives: ClarkU

Remember

The older I get, the more I enjoy history, especially decades and experiences that occurred before I was born and that I did not experience first-hand.  I regularly lean about historical people and events that I have never heard of before through references I hear or an article I see.  A few weeks ago, my brother posted an article about a man I had never heard of who almost single handedly averted World War 3.  Just when I thought I had seen it all, something else comes along to remind me that people find new and creative ways to do both great things as well as stupid things that have been done for centuries.  There are several variations on the phrase “Those wo cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  Essentially, if we (as a society or individually) cannot learn from our mistakes, we will surely make them again.  Do you prefer to learn from your own mistakes, or those of others? 

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.  Romans 15:4

I remember a fair amount from history class in school, but was never ‘formally educated’ much beyond the Civil War because the school year ended before we could finish the book into the 20th century.  Fortunately, I have since picked up on most of the last century from other sources.  Even though some of the references in Billy Joel’s ‘We Didn’t start the Fire’ were foreign to me, I had the capacity to look them up.  Is it the same with scripture?  I regularly work with young kids in Awana, where the primary goal is to teach kids scripture.  I am regularly impressed with the ability of several children to learn it quickly, as this was always somewhat of a challenge for me, even in Junior High.  We are often learning much and have the capacity to do much more, so the question is ‘are we and the next generation focusing on the right things?’    

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.  Psalm 103:11-12

I heard a question earlier this week that asked whether or not your memories from childhood were mostly positive or negative.  I have to say that most everything I recall I think was good.  So either the bad experiences were not that bad in time, or I have mostly forgotten them.  I remember fighting with my siblings, but mostly over trivial things.  I still love them today.  So are there things we should forget?  When someone wrongs us and sins against us, it is often difficult, but important to forgive them.  Just as God forgave us when we didn’t deserve it, so we ought to act the same toward others.  When someone regularly sins against us, it may be difficult to trust them as much in the future, but God often gives us the knowledge and strength to do what we cannot do on our own. 

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”  Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. Matthew 18:21-22

Courage in Christ,

Clark

Others

So, this past week for Spring Break, instead of heading for the sunny South or even moderate Southern Iowa, I loaded up the family and trekked to Northern Wisconsin a day before the snow fell once again.  We were not really seeking out a ski vacation or even a fun indoor water park, but went to visit friends we had not seen in person for some time.  It was an opportunity to see the families of a couple different friends I have had now for decades.  One friend has been a follower of Christ for about the same amount of time as I have, and who I try to meet up with at least once a year.  I have been an ‘uncle’ to his 9 children and watched them all grow up over the last 15 years as well.  We can talk on the phone from time to time, but meeting in person seems to be a good practice as well.  People change, families change, and the world we live in changes, but God doesn’t, and it is good to have a few friends to confide in about these things.  Are there relationships you value and invest in on a regular basis? 

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.  Proverbs 18:24

How do you tell your true friends from those who are not?  Maybe you recall a time in High School where your friends changed like the seasons?  Some may say things to drive a rift in the relationship, some move away, and others may just start running with a new clique or group of friends.  Even with ‘friends’ on Facebook and other social media, have you ever wondered where some of your childhood friends ever went?  Hopefully, as you matured, you found friends or family in whom you developed long term trust and friendship over the years.  For a variety of reasons, it is good to have a few close relationships in whom you can confide most anything and with whom you show love and forgiveness.  Often the relationship is mutual, where you share struggles with one another, but it can also be in the form of a mentor who has good advice for those willing to listen.  Have you had others like this in your life?  Do you now?

Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”  1 Corinthians 15:33

I’ve always said, when you hang out with someone different from you, either you tend to become more like them, or they become more like you, whether a friend or a spouse.  Who has the greater influence?  This is not to discourage you from talking with non-Christians, but maybe temper what activities in which you choose to participate together.  Whether it is running, working, managing money, praying, or any other skill in life, when you spend time with someone who does things better than you, you tend to improve your skills as well.  They rub off on you.  So, it would be good to spend at least some time with others whom you respect to find out what makes them good at what they do.  Ask if you don’t know.  Maybe others will seek the same in you now or in the future as well. 

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.  Proverbs 17:17

How committed are you to maintaining the relationships you have with your friends and family?  Do you have at least one friend in whom you can confide your fears, failures, and other things you try to conceal from others? Do you have someone who’s advice has proven trustworthy?  Do you regularly bring these same things to God and seek his advice?  Most men try to ‘go it alone’ and be self-sufficient as often as possible, but it can bring about as much trouble as good at times.  Confiding in others is not a sign of weakness, but a source of strength, especially when necessary.  So, take some time this week to catch up with a trusted friend, even if just to let them know they are appreciated.  If you don’t already have this kind of relationship with Jesus, seek Him out as well.

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command.  I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.  John 15:12-15


Strength in Christ,
Clark

The Right Path

We make hundreds of choices every day, so how do we know we have been making the right ones?  Hopefully, we are able to learn from our mistakes, and even occasionally, we can learn from the teaching of others before making other mistakes.  Experience seems to be a good teacher if we have a good awareness of our successes and failures.  Over the past day, I made several mistakes and near mistakes that would probably have not been made if I had not been in a hurry, or would have planned my steps a little better.  From dinging my elbow, to making a mess on the garage floor during an oil change, they were not major mistakes, but things where I should have known better.  Where have you messed up today?  How will your successes and failures impact what you will do tomorrow? 

There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.  Proverbs 14:12

Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me.  Psalm 119:133

Most of our mistakes are born of our ignorance, pride, and selfishness.  We don’t ask for help when we are not sure what to do or how to do something.  Our pride keeps us from seeking advice or even learning from our past mistakes.  Or we want to do what makes us feel good, no matter if it is harmful to others or even to ourselves.  When we are aware of our actions and consequences, hopefully we are able to admit our faults, our sins, and change our direction.  We can even learn from our ‘small’ mistakes to keep us from making ‘big’ mistakes.  Do your failures lead you to discouragement or determination to make some changes?

Do as I do, for I am doing as Christ did.  1 Corinthians 11:1

Whether you realize it or not, others are learning from you.  Your family and your co-workers are watching and listening to you and picking up things as you go about each day.  Maybe you had the same experience as a child, but kids only need to see or hear something once and it can be locked in their memory for good.  Something as simple as how you keep your word leaves an impression on others.  Your word is your reputation.  Others will believe or doubt what you say depending on how well you keep your word to them.  We may do the same with God.  Once we are able to see how his Word holds up to what He says, leads us to trust it even more in the future. 

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.  Psalm 119:105

Who is watching?  I often remind myself to try and make decisions as if your boss, your whole family, God, and the whole world is watching.  I find this helps me avoid some selfish or stupid mistakes that cause trouble down the line, but is not fool proof, especially when I am acting like a fool.  I admit that I am not perfect, but if we strive for perfection and to get things right each time, our percentages go up.  If we turn ourselves in the right direction, and keep our eyes on our destination, we are less likely to wander from the path, to stumble or fall.  Plus, when we are walking in good company, it makes the journey a little easier and more enjoyable.  Enourage others as we walk this road together!

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.  Matthew 7:13-14

Blessings in Christ,
Clark 

On Time

I hate being late.  When I am late for a meeting or appointment, it’s like I am saying ‘my time is more important than your time.’  Usually everyone gets done what they need to do and life goes on, but I still don’t like making people wait on me.  When I was in college, I spent a lot of time with several friends from a variety of countries, and they often used the term ‘International Time’ to refer to people showing up late, or things starting later than planned.  It was often expected, and most everyone was forgiving of others when it happened, as it was also part of many cultures.  In America, when we are late, we often tend to miss out on things, even relationships.  How valuable is your time?

Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures;  yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.  Psalm 90:10

There are a lot of books and movies about time travel, most of which fall into the realm of science fiction, because aside from subatomic particles, the ability to transcend time has not been provable by science yet.  Often, they explore the implications of what we would do if we could travel back in time and how it would change our future and the world.  Shows like Dr. Who, Back to the Future, and others make for good stories because of how easy it is to jump into a machine and transcend the barriers of time and space we live within now.  Have you ever imagined what Heaven will be like, or whether or not the One who created space, time, and the universe has the ability to transcend these things?

Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”  Luke 18:27

All people are like grass, and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field.  The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever. Isaiah 40:6,8

Time is the universal equalizer for everyone, young old, rich or poor.  It is the one thing we cannot change, buy more of, hoard, or give away.  How much time have you ‘wasted’ in your life?  Maybe you have spent hours pursuing endeavors or hobbies, or even work that in the end seemed meaningless or empty.  Unless you learned something from your mistakes, or failures, it may seem like it was wasted.  How about when you were young and in school and you had ‘free’ weekends without an agenda or care in the world.  Were those wasted, or do you still long for an occasional day like this again?  How do you make your time count now when you have a day off?  Do you try to get caught up on things, truly rest,  or do you use it for other purposes?  Are you really free to choose?

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.  Ecclesiastes 3:11

So, whether you have just a half an hour break from your labors today, or you have weeks of ‘free’ time in your retirement, how do you make whatever time you have left count for something other than your own selfish endeavors?  Is giving your time for others really more valuable than doing nothing, or just doing what you want?  I would propose it is almost always more rewarding when you can give of your time to a friend, brother, child, or stranger to benefit them in some way.  It is important to find a balance.  Do not burn yourself out if you are giving of yourself all the time.  In the same way, do not close yourself off from everyone and waste away.  Find what is best with your time for God’s kingdom and rejoice in the ability to be a part of it!

He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.  Acts 1:7

Strength and Courage in Christ,
Clark

Any Moment

On any given day, I am sure there are moments when you say ‘this is terrible’ or maybe you feel frustrated with how things are going at your job or in your life.  You may hear the news and become discouraged with the state of affairs on any number of issues.  During that same day, you may also experience a closeness to God through his Word, or the beauty of creation, or the kindness shown to you by a friend or a stranger, or any number of things.  There are a multitude of experiences and feelings that may lead us to decreeing that we are having a ‘bad day’ or a ‘great day.’  Its all fairly subjective.  How are things going today?

And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 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 5:14-18

I had a professor in college who often would as us to take a ‘reality check’ when we would feel overwhelmed with understanding material or life in general.  It was often good to stop griping and complaining to take a step back and look at the big picture to help get perspective on things.  Do you ever do that?  Maybe you take a break from a project when you are getting frustrated and things are not working out so you can get an attitude adjustment or start again with a new perspective.  Maybe you even ask God for guidance or a little help seeing things as you should.  This might be part of the component of ‘pray continually’ that on the surface would seem impossible to do.  Maybe just going through life with an open line of communication with God on your heart and mind is all that is needed.  Talking out loud through the day may not always be necessary, but could prove helpful at times. 

So, I hope your day goes well, in the sense that you keep an open communication with God and with others, who can help you get through tough situations, rejoice with you when things are going well, and allow you to grow in patience in any and every circumstance.  It is easy to react or overreact when all you are concerned with is how things relate to me and my needs.  If everything isn’t going my way, I can feel slighted when something happens to disrupt things.  Selfishness makes us defensive , quick to anger, and capable of many a nefarious deed if we let it guide us.  At the end of the day, make a list of experiences and things you are thankful for that have happened over the past day.  Do an inventory of your life and take a reality check on where things are and where you should be headed the next day.  It will help make each day a Great Day!

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Philippians 4:4-5

Blessings,
Clark

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