Author Archives: Clark

Witnessed

Earlier today, my wife shared a gospel tract with me that she found when she opened a new box of diapers.  I read through it, just to be sure, and sure enough, it was a little cartoon story of a man who died and saw hell, then wanted to talk to a pastor after being revived.  I thought this may be a unique way for someone to see the gospel, who might otherwise not get a chance, and maybe a little more effective than passing by one on a bathroom counter.  There was no name or contact printed on it, but it made me wonder what the efficiency rate is of this type of ‘evangelism’, maybe 1 in 50 or 100 tracts that are read lead someone to seek the truth of the Gospel?  Just speculation, but if that were the case, you may ask, is it worth the effort?  If this were so, I would expect to see more of these, or maybe engage in more of this myself.  Do you know anyone who came to faith through a tract, a billboard, a radio show, or some other indirect means? 

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?  And how can anyone preach unless they are sent?  As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”  Romans 10:14-15

What means of evangelism do you practice?  In a post-modern culture, street corner evangelism or witnessing to strangers is almost taboo to many in the younger generations.  Even though they may need to hear it, superficial advice coming from a stranger about something which they likely have a preconceived opinion is not always a good impression either.  But it is better than nothing, right?  Or wrong?  Even if intended as a means to share the love of Jesus, some methods of sharing this information don’t come across as very loving, or at least are not perceived that way.  How about you or others you know?  How did you come to the knowledge of your need for a saving faith in Jesus for your salvation? 

The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.  Isaiah 40:8

You may not have tracts that you give out to strangers or friends, but one thing you do have, that is likely even more effective, is your own story.  When you can engage in a conversation (not a debate) with someone and are able to share how and why you came to faith in Christ, there is a much greater chance that they may be willing to consider doing the same.  When you meet with someone once, or multiple times, it shows you care about them, and may create a place where they feel more comfortable asking questions of you, or sharing what struggles they are having as well.  With an invitation from you, they may even be more open to discussing or exploring God’s story in the Word, which should eventually open up to them the truth of the Gospel.  Have you ever had meetings like this with a non-believer, even if it did not go exactly how you thought?  To be honest, I would enjoy meeting with someone every day if it meant we could have a conversation about God’s Word. 

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

So, even if you don’t get a chance to share the Gospel or your story of how you came to believe it very often, seek out opportunities to do so.  I would challenge you to make some time to write an outline of where you started and how you have grown in your faith over the years, and list the reasons you have come to trust the Bible and what it says.  Once you write it out, you may be able to relate some main points of your faith story to a friend of even a brief encounter with a stranger if the opportunity presents.  I have been meaning to make time to do the same, so I can come up with new ways to share what is most meaningful in my life with anyone who will listen.  After all, if I truly value the Good News found in God’s Word, why wouldn’t I want others to share in this treasure? 

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”  And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”  Isaiah 6:8

Yours in Christ,

Clark

Game Day

Well, for those who like sports, these past couple weeks begins an exciting time for some with the onset of the Football season.   I had not been much into football, since my Elementary and High School days.  The past several years, I have been invited to participate with a Fantasy Football league.  Honestly, prior to this time, I mostly only watched the Super Bowl and knew  a handful of players in the whole NFL.  I rooted for my favorite childhood team, the Steelers, when they made the playoffs or Super Bowl, but I wasn’t a true fan each season.  I enjoyed a good game or two, but have really been a fair weather fan when it comes to most sports teams.  How about you, is there a team that you are dedicated to? 

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.  James 1:12

Years ago, when I was in college, I lived for one Summer in Danville Virginia.  I found the place to stay when I visited a small church and met an older fellow named Orville Eichhorst, who coincidentally, was originally from Iowa.  Well he rented out rooms to myself and a couple other guys for the Summer, and when we returned home most evenings, he could be found watching the Chicago Cubs on WGN.  While he had been a life-long Cubs fan, he never got too excited or upset if his team won or lost, but was just a faithful follower.  Orville passed away before he could see his team win the World Series, but I have a pretty good idea of what he would have thought.  He impressed me so much with his commitment, not just to baseball, but to his faith as well, that I said a special cheer in his honor, when that near impossible feat did occur.  Who in your life has impressed you with their faithfulness? 

How about when it comes to your faith, would you consider yourself a fair weather fan, or a committed, die-hard fan?  We like to think that we will hold fast to the true faith and stay committed till our end, whenever that may be, but we may not know how that will all play out.  You may have seen others in your life that have been a good example of how to finish well in life.  What things stood out to you as an excellent example of a true follower of Christ?  Is this more common or the exception to those you have seen finish the race?  Most of us do not want to think about what we will do when our time comes, but that time is waiting for each one of us.  Maybe we can look to the Heroes of Faith listed in Hebrews and think we would like be remembered in a similar, maybe less notable way.  There is still time left in the game.  When the score is all said and done, may you be found on the winning team, because you know the final score!

 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.  2 Timothy 4:7-8

Yours in Christ,

Clark

 

Grounded

These past couple of weeks, we have been blessed with ample rain, including over 2” in the past 1-2 days.  This has been a change from recent weather, as we received no rain from July 20-August 20 and regular mowing had almost ceased.  In preparation for this time of year, I purchased a large bag of grass seed about 2 weeks ago, as I had planned to improve a few parts of the lawn.  Well, if I had been able to seed the lawn within a few days of getting the seed, it would have been perfect timing with warm weather and ample moisture to get those guys to germinate and grow, without having to run a sprinkler.  Well, hindsight is 20/20 and unfortunately, I did not get the yard seeded as I could have and have to wait a bit for things to dry up in the next week or so.  What is your response when you time things just right, or if you miss a perfect opportunity? 

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  Matthew 5:44-45

Another reason they say to plant grass seed in August to September is because most weeds do not germinate around this time and the grass has less competition to grow.  If you have ever had a bare spot in the yard, you know about the only thing that naturally grows there are weeds.  You may even get into battles with dandelions, creeping Charlie, or other weeds and wonder how some of these things can be so resilient to withstand being pulled out, sprayed, etc and still come back strong year after year.  And if you let it go, it will just take over everything around it.  I remember as a kid on the farm, we had a small section of our yard that was basically yellow in the Spring with all the dandelions growing on it.  Not the ideal for most folks.

But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.  Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.  Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.  Matthew 13:6-8

These two situations reminded me of some of the parable of the sower and the parable of the weeds found in Matthew 13.  When Jesus related the parable of the sower, he described a variety of conditions in which the seed lands which either encourage or discourage the seed to grow.  You may even look back in your own life and recognize times in your life where these conditions existed and played out as described.  If you are like me, you may have even experienced most of these at different times in your life.  I recall growing up learning about God, but the Word never really taking root in my heart.  I remember when I was first born again and grew tremendously as a Christian, when I was in college, to the degree you would have thought I was a weed.  In recent years, the busyness of life seems to choke out new opportunities to grow and be more fruitful, but I hope it is a season that can still be productive, just in a different way or not as much as it once was.  Maybe this is not the way it was intended, but it seems to fit how my spiritual growth has been at different times in my life. 

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:  a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot.  Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

We may look at the lives of those around us and point to some and say ‘look at that’, and say that someone is a good man, or a horrible person, depending on the situation.  We may look up to some we know or work with and aspire to be like them in some ways.  We may be as quick to condemn others based on what we have heard about them, or a situation we have seen.  Before we start to write off certain people as bad weeds, we should ask if they have ever had a chance to grow good seed in their hearts.  If others had given up on us, like we do to some, we may not have turned out like we have.  Plants grow better when they are cared for by a good gardener, and people do too.  Who has been that good gardener in your life?  Who are you helping to grow better this week? 

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.  Hebrews 10:23-25

Yours in Christ,
Clark

Reminder

If I just had to go from my memory alone, I would be very inefficient, miss appointments, and not be able to do my job very well.  My calendar and my daily routine usually help keep me on task and get done what I need to do.  Yet each day, there are things that I don’t get done that I wanted to accomplish.  There are also things that I spend time on, in hindsight, that were a waste of time and did not benefit me or anyone else.  Even though I keep lists and try to put things on my calendar, I don’t always remember to do so.  At times, I even remember to get done things that I forget to write down.  So, is it even possible to get through a day perfectly, without wasting time and getting done exactly what you need to do?  Maybe not, but what would help you move closer to using your time more wisely?  What is on your list of things to do today? 

I will remember the deeds of the Lord;  yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.  Psalm 77:11

What would it take to make a dramatic change to your life and/or your personality?  Often it needs to be something dramatic, like a wake-up call in the form of a near death experience or the death of a loved one.  Otherwise, we often just fall back into the same habits and routines we follow most every day.  What does it even take to add or eliminate a small thing from your daily routine?  To start a new habit, like regular walking, substituting water for less healthy beverages, engaging in things that stimulate your mind instead of numbing it, etc, you have to be consistently aware of what you are doing and aware of the change you are seeking.  As creatures of habit, we often fall back into how we have always done things, what is comfortable.  Believe me, there are often times each day, where 70 percent of my body and mind just wants to find a quiet spot and take a nap, but it is often not an option.  How many excuses do you make each day for not getting done what was most important? 

The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.  Isaiah 40:8

There are times when I don’t read a verse from certain books of the Bible for months or years at a time.  When I am able to revisit, it often feels like visiting an old friend.  There is a familiarity, yet there are so many new things to learn as well.  You can spend hours catching up and it rarely gets boring.  I’ve said it before, and it still holds true, that daily time in the Word and prayer often makes the difference between a good day and a bad day.  It doesn’t even need to be a set amount of time, but just consistently doing it.  How would you describe your relationship to God and His Word?  Like any worthwhile relationship, it is good to check in as often as possible.  May you be blessed in doing so. 

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.  Deuteronomy 11:18-20

Yours in Christ,
Clark

Condemned?

Over the past month, and more recently in the past couple days, likely you have heard the story of the missing University of Iowa student, Mollie Tibbetts.  The 24 year old man, Cristhian Rivera, who was charged with her murder has been the center of scrutiny for the past couple days.  Some things about this incident are known, but several others, such as ‘how’ and ‘why’ are not.  When a young person, like Mollie, is the victim of a horrific incident like this, it leaves many people heartbroken and angry.  I expected it, but am still amazed at how hateful many comments are in most public forums.  There are some cliché ‘prayers for family and friends of the victim’ as well, but didn’t see any concern for the family of the young man who seems to have committed this act, but mostly different variations on how he can burn in hell.  Is there a proper Christian response to a tragedy as horrible as this?

Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.  Romans 12:19

One friend who heard about this situation asked ‘why does it hit home for me?’  Many answered, because it happened in relatively safe, small town Iowa and it could have been anyone’s daughter, even yours or mine.  If it was close to home and was or could have been someone you know, how much more significant is it in your life?  My daughter is only 3 months old, but I have already thought about what she may face in 5, 10, or 18 years.  I want the best for her, but there are many things which may happen that are beyond my control.  The other thing we don’t often think about is what the family and friends of the young man involved must be dealing with.  I struggle to imagine what is must feel like for your child to be accused of murder.  What would you do in that situation?  Genuine prayers for all involved is not an unreasonable request.

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.  Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.  Do not be conceited.  Romans 12:15-16

Many people, Christian or not, seem to rank sins and take an odd ‘at least I’m not as bad as this guy’ pleasure in demonizing this man and his actions.  Maybe in some way this makes their own misdeeds seem more insignificant in comparison.  So, many are quick to cast the first stone when they hear about what happened and they lash out with words of anger.  Truth be told, we all deserve, and have received the death penalty for our sins.  Everyone reading this will one day be gone, and an ultimate judgement will be rendered to each of us.  To many, it doesn’t seem fair that a young person’s life should be over ‘before their time’, but it can serve to remind us of the limited time each of us has. 

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.  2 Peter 3:9

Honestly, my hope is that this young man comes to a place to know Christ and receives forgiveness for what he has done.  That is not what most people want to hear.  They want justice, now!  A man who killed a young girl entering Heaven is not what most in the world would call justice, but is it not our hope for him? If not, can you find a place in your heart where this could be your hope?  Isn’t repentance and salvation what God would seek for each of us, regardless of where we are in life, even for the ones convicted of every unimaginable act or dying in prison?  Many of the most notable persons in the bible were guilty of murder, among other misdeeds, including Moses, David, and Paul, yet they were still used by God for His ultimate good.  May our prayers be for those who are mourning the loss of a friend and family member, and that something good would come out of these tragic events.  May your words be used to build others up and not just condemn. 

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  Romans 8:1

Yours in Christ,

Clark

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