Author Archives: 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

Benched

We are right in the middle of Baseball season and it won’t take you long to find a game if you look around for glowing lights on any given night.  From the Pee wees to the Pros, there are also guys sitting on the bench, just waiting for a chance to get in the game and prove themselves.  They may be filled with a variety of thoughts as well, from ‘when am I going to get a chance – I’m better than half the guys out there’ to ‘I hope I don’t mess up when I get a chance to show what I can do.’  All that raw or underdeveloped talent just sitting there wasting away on the bench…what is the coach thinking…what would it take to put those guys in the game?  Have you ever felt underutilized?  That you were made for something more than what you are doing now and maybe you should be given a chance to prove yourself? 

Pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor.  Proverbs 29:23

We have all probably been there at some time or other.  I remember my first year playing baseball, basketball, or my first part time job when I was nervous and excited to show what I could do all at the same time.  What about other areas where you feel you may some underdeveloped talent, yet haven’t had a chance to explore these possibilities, how will you ever know?  If you never take an opportunity to write, to preach, to pray, to serve, to create a unique work, or any other thing, how will you ever know what possibilities lie within you?  Theodore Roosevelt was a man with varied interests and talents who had many successes and failures in life, yet kept going.  Even Emily Dickinson who is considered one of the most important American Poets of the 19th century had fewer than 12 of her 1,800 poems published while she was alive, yet she kept on writing.  At what point would you give up?  What do you think Moses was thinking after about 35 years of living on the run in the wilderness?  He may have thought that was it for the rest of his life, but God had other plans.  What other plans do you think God has for you yet? 

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Jeremiah 29:11

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 you find yourself sitting on the bench in some area of your life for longer than you think necessary, consider why you feel this way.  If you think your talents are not used to the best they can be, are you at least putting them out there a little, so that you can employ them to a degree, even if not to the full extent possible?  Or are you holding back, as a new, entitled graduate, waiting for the perfect job before accepting anything?  Or maybe the issue is that you are not recognized fully for your talents, to the extent you think you deserve.  Your own pride gets in the way of being fully utilized to the degree possible.  Maybe this current time or place is just not fitting to where you are best able to serve.  There may be a variety of barriers keeping you from using the best of your talents or abilities, or keeping you from producing any fruit in your life at all.  Take those questions to the Lord, and he may not always give you the answer you want, but almost always it will be the answer you need.  Don’t be discouraged, but serve Him and others as best you are able and you will be a blessing to many, even if it does not make the headlines!

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  Galatians 6:9

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.  Isaiah 40:31

Be Bold in Christ,
Clark

Pro or Con

When do you feel most encouraged?  When are you most discouraged?  It may be when your week is going well, then its just a matter of time before your ‘luck’ turns and something happens that steals your joy.   When trials come regularly, it can lead us down a path of discouragement or even depression.  If things have not been going your way for a while, we may have a tendency to think that the whole world and even God is against us at times.  It is easy to look at our lives through the world’s eyes and see that we do not measure up to expectations, realistic or not, in regard to our jobs, home, family, finances, relationships, or any other device of comparison.  Is there someone who believes in you and encourages you, even when you do not believe in yourself? 

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Hebrews 10:24

A missionary family who has been working in central Africa with an unreached group of people has recently had their world turned upside down.  They have been making connections and building relationships with a nomadic tribe of people in the Central African Republic over the past several years and just this past month have had to leave the country and many friends, as their safety and lives were in danger.  They are currently on hold to see where God leads them, as the ability to return to the ministry they had been doing may never happen.  To quote a letter from this past week:  “So again… I’m reminded that there are two things that stay stable for us…. Our perfect competent King, and the incredible body of Christ. That is what keeps us hopeful…. That is what keeps us going. “

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:28

Things happen in each of our lives that we do not plan on, and that none of us would wish on others.  When we lose a job, a family is divided, have health problems, or when a friend or loved one unexpectedly dies, we may question who is in control.  Often we have a choice when we face life’s challenges to either let it push us into discouragement, or to make us more resilient and move forward with greater strength.  Where do you turn when all you hold dear gets emptied from your life?  Do you blame God or others, or do you pick up and carry on and continue to trust in Him regardless of your current situation?

So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  Isaiah 41:10

So, whether you are having a bad day, good week, or frustrating year, don’t be discouraged.  Turn to the one who made you and let Him guide you through the truth of his Word.  Allow others to pray with you and pray for others, even when you don’t feel like doing so.  Have joy in realizing that you have been given the greatest treasure known or unknown in salvation through Christ, and no one can take that from you.  Through encouraging others, you also will be encouraged.  Step out in courage and boldness and let Him guide your steps!

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  2 Corinthians 4:8-9

Courage in Christ,
Clark

Vital Mission

Be part of the Vital Mission and commit to a regular monthly donation to help with the costs involved with supporting our Vital Men events and outreach in our communities.

Click the donate button below to setup your recurring monthly donation.

Every Sunday at 8:30 AM

Listen to Mike on kBOE 104.9FM

LISTEN NOW