Author Archives: 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

Grounded

If someone came to your door or called you and said they had something for sale that you really needed, how would you know if they were telling the truth?  How could you tell if they really had your best interest in mind?  More often than not, they probably don’t, but whether or not it is something that may benefit you, is up to you, as you should know yourself better than they do.  If we try hard enough, we can likely convince ourselves that anything may be good for us (have you ever had buyer’s remorse after you made an emotional purchase).  If others try hard enough or blow enough smoke, they may be able to convince us that something is true even if it is not.  How can you tell the difference?  If you know yourself and your family well enough, you know what is good and what is not good for you.  Know the truth and then what is false is easier to disregard. 

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1

These days, there is a lot of discussion in politics and the media about what is true and what is not.  In fact, the word of the year from a couple sources was ‘post-truth’ and ‘surreal’.  When lies and half-truths are being regularly delivered, it is easy to get muddled in what to believe or not from a variety of people.  Instead of being swayed by someone’s emotion, hold what they say up to the gold standard – what we know is true.  In a post-modern culture which holds truth and tradition as suspect anyway, it is fairly normal for many to disregard the truth and hold fast to many a lie.  As Christian, be thankful that we have something that has proven true yesterday, today, and forever…God and his Word. 

If you point these things out to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed.  1 Timothy 4:6

Some people cringe when they hear the word ‘doctrine’.  They may feel that it is harsh, stifling, academic, and restrictive.  They may say that all you need is love and Jesus, but even good intent, when misguided can be harmful.  Even with a basic knowledge of the Gospel, you can share this truth with others.  But when people throw back dozens of objections and smokescreens, they are not open to hearing the truth, but often just want to argue away your faith.  You can decide which conversations are worthwhile and which may not be productive, but holding to the truth is imperative.  Even with believers, you can become drawn into discussions where you are splitting hairs over fine details of doctrine or interpretation, but for your own sake, it may be good to explore some of these issues and hold them to the truth of the scriptures.  Being graceful in your speech while holding to the truth is not always easy, but is helpful to avoid either party becoming angry or hostile.

Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.  And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.  Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth.  2 Timothy 2:23-25

So, look for opportunities to engage others in conversation, and test whatever you hear or say against the truth found in scripture.  It will make God’s Word more true in your life and much easier to discern what is truth from what is false in the world.  Encourage others by sharing these truths and living them out as well.  Share the truth in love with one another and be thankful you are standing on the Rock instead of a foundation that could easily give way.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.  Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.  Ephesians 4:14-15


Strength and Courage in Christ,
Clark

Out of Control

I tell my wife that there are usually 1-2 days a year that I would like to have an all-wheel drive vehicle, and on those days, I probably shouldn’t be out anyway.  The rest of the time, I usually get by just fine with front wheel drive and good tires.  If you were out and about in the past 24 hours, maybe you saw a vehicle or two in the ditch, hopefully not yours.  I put in quite a few miles over the snowy roads and though I drove fairly conservatively, a couple of times I had a wake-up call that things might not be going my way.  It wasn’t even more than a second, but I could feel the tires slip on the pavement, letting me know that I was not fully in control of the situation.  The second time, just a moment after I noticed a 4 wheel drive truck off the shoulder in a ditch, the car did a slight side slide at highway speeds again.  I was extra cautious the next mile or so.  It doesn’t take more than a moment for life to go from cruising speed to sideways or upside down, given the right circumstances.  Where do you turn when you lose control of the situation?

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.  Psalm 46:1-3

I find that experiences with a vehicle can provide many metaphors that may apply to life in general.  Taking a variety of routes to get to our destination, mechanical failures, overkill, dealing with adverse conditions, accidents, road rage, etc. can all teach us something about how we live our lives.  Trying to negotiate mud roads without sliding off, driving through a blizzard, and having engine trouble have all led me to turn my attention to God for help when things were not going as planned.  Maybe these are teachable moments where He can get my attention more quickly than in other ways.  Or, it is a quick reminder that all my actions have consequences that also impacts others, regardless of the situation.  May God open our eyes to the reality of any selfish or destructive habits we have picked up in our lives. 

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

Where do you turn for strength and stability when life takes a U turn?  Whether that is a career change, financial trouble, illness, or death of someone in your life, sometimes the future may seem gloomy.  When going through some of these seasons when the outcome seems out of our hands, we can deal with it in healthy or destructive ways.  Trying to ‘go it alone’ and isolating ourselves is not the best route in the long run.  We may even take this negative attitude toward God when we believe we are being punished, treated unfairly, or getting what we deserve.  Talking it out with God and/or a trusted friend may help us get beyond the gloom of our current circumstances to see the bigger picture.  When things are out of our control, often we have to trust in the experience or expertise of others to help us get through it.  If you know someone going through a difficult time, offer to spend some time with them where you can listen, just as God would do for you. 

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 4:16

So, the next time your life takes an unexpected turn, dip, or dead end, remember that you will get through it.  Life almost never goes as planned, but with the right relationships and perspective on life, we can deal with it.  An when we each reach the ultimate end of this life in our physical death, may we be reminded that something better awaits us through that trial as well.  When life goes out of control, remember to put your trust on the One who is in control of all things.  May the peace of God be with you now and always.

Strength and Courage in Christ,
Clark

The Long Haul

We live in a society that promotes a ‘get it now’ mindset when it comes to satisfying our carnal desires.  Eat as much as you want at our 50’ buffet, Buy now – pay later, use this and the women will swarm around you like flies, do this and you will get rich with little effort, there are lots of promises to make us feel better.  When you just live life for each moment, you lose sight of any long term purpose you are serving with your life.  While it takes more discipline, foregoing short term pleasures for long term gains is more beneficial to both you and others.  That’s not to say you shouldn’t splurge on ice cream once in a while, but keeping a more distant perspective can help us make better choices now and avoid regrets down the road.  Simple life lessons that we often forget. 

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

It is much easier to run harder when you can see the finish line.  I had to help cover for a co-worker for a couple months, and I actually enjoyed the new variety, especially since I knew the extra workload was only for a set time.  I have been given additional responsibilities without an end time, and these quickly become much more tedious.  I am currently playing Mr. Mom for two young children while my wife is away for 2 weeks, and while the extra work is not always convenient, knowing it is only for a season is helpful.  As we were reminded this past week, even experiencing several cloudy, grey days in a row can lead us to start yearning for the sun again.  I often wondered how Moses and the Israelites kept going after wandering in the desert for the 33rd year of waiting on the promised land.  Maybe they held out hope because it was exactly that…a promised land.  They trusted God to fulfill his promise.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  2 Corinthians 12:9

Maybe it is human nature, but we always seem to want what we don’t have, while taking for granted what we do have.  We often overlook the blessings that our family, job, friends, etc. are in our lives.  At the same time, we selfishly long for a bigger or better house, car, bank account, family…and the list goes on.  We are dissatisfied and grumble with our current situation and what we have or have not, and may blame God after pleading with him and seeing no change, often when we are unwilling to change ourselves.  We lose sight of what is most important for the lesser things of this world and become blind and lost in the darkness, though there is a light.

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  John 1:4-5

So, where is your hope?  We can all be fooled into the mentality ‘If I only had x, my life would be better’ for so many times before we start to see the emptiness of these promises.  When we put our hope in things and how we feel and the status of our current situation, we are destined for discouragement, and lots of it.  When we look beyond our world of materialism and longing for what we don’t have, we encounter things that last.  Things like faith, hope, and love.  As the song states “my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ love and righteousness.’   So, when you get discouraged, be reminded to look up, see beyond your current situation and put your hope in the One who has always been and will be forever. 

I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.  Psalm 121:1-2

Trusting in Christ,
Clark

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