Author Archives: Clark

In Harmony

Life seems to flow so  much better when things are in harmony.  Whether it is with our work, health, home life, relationships with others, or our relationship with God, we may seldom have everything in balance, but when things are, we know it.  Some of the greatest musical groups are known for their vocal harmonies including, but not limited to the Beatles, Beach Boys, Statler Brothers, and one of my favorites, Acappella.  The dictionary defines harmony as 1. the combination of simultaneously sounded musical notes to produce chords and chord progressions having a pleasing effect.  2. agreement or concord.  I suppose we could also say we know something is in harmony when we hear it or see it.  How about you?

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”  Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  Matthew 22:36-40

When we sum up the 10 commandments, we say the first four are about loving God, and the rest are about loving others.  As Christ said, these two sum up the whole of God’s law.  Is it possible to do one and not the other…to love God and not love others, or to love others and not love God?  Not really, as the two are tied to one another.  If we say we love God, the natural outflow of that is to love those around us, and to repent when we are not doing so.  If someone does not acknowledge God as their source of love, trying to love others from our own will and strength has significant limits and ultimately draws us back to selfishness.  We love because He first loved us, we forgive because He forgave us, we serve because Christ taught us how to serve.  We are made in His image. 

In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.  James 2:17

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  1 John 4:10

All our relationships work best when we are in harmony with one another, including our marriages.  If things are out of compliance on either side, things do not seem to go very well.    We do not have to look very far for bad examples of this.  When we live with a servant heart and an attitude of love toward others, we don’t get as worked up about the little things, or the big things, for that matter.  When we demand things be done our way, sparks will inevitably fly when we butt heads with others.  So, as you go about your day, let your life song sing in harmony with God’s will and those around you will hear it loud and clear.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.  If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.  Galatians 5:16,25

Yours in Christ,
Clark

A Prayer in the Air

This past week, I was sitting in a window seat as we took off in a flight from the Midwest to the West coast of our vast country.  It is a unique perspective as you quickly rise from a few feet to thousands of feet about the city and countryside and you catch a glimpse of little vehicles and houses along the way.  I have done it a few times before, but I found myself praying for the people in those little cars, houses, and buildings as we flew overhead.  A prayer in the air, way up there, could that even make a difference in some stranger’s life?  What if we all asked ‘what is possible’ for the friends and strangers we encounter each day? 

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.  James 5:16

Just stopping to wonder what God could do in someone’s life left me caring a little more for the stranger sitting next to me, as well as the one I may never meet.  I took that further to the people I encounter on a daily basis, as I seldom fly above the rest of the world anymore.  I often spend over 100 miles behind the wheel of my car during the work day and thought about the people who pass by me, as well as those who are driving a few miles per hour slower in front of me.  My usual attitude is ‘how fast can I get around this guy,’ instead of ‘I wonder what kind of day this person is having?’  If I am running behind schedule, it is often more about me and my needs instead of caring at all about the people around me.  This should not be.  People should be more than obstacles to be hurdled, right?                 

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.   Matthew 5:44

So, as you go through your day, look for opportunities to consider those around you and how God could touch their lives in a unique way that day.  For those you see and talk to each day, and for those you may never even see at all, but just pass by for a moment, say a quick prayer and blessing, and ask God to touch their heart today.  In doing this, maybe as often happens to me, your heart and attitude will be changed in a better way moving forward as well.  If our prayers and concerns for people around the globe can be effective, how much more for the person crossing the path in front of us through our prayers, actions, and words.  May your day be blessed as you go about life, right here, or way up there!

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 5:15-18

Yours in Christ,
Clark

Redemption Value

The other day, I drove by the can recycling place and saw three people standing in line with several large bags of cans and kept on driving…not worth the wait.  I stopped back later after finishing a few things and was in and out in about 45 seconds…score!  I used to redeem my cans at a different place years ago and recall standing in line for over 20 minutes at times and thinking ‘this is not even worth the effort.’  I know some who don’t even bother taking in their Iowa cans for the nickel, while others walk miles along the road looking for a few random cans.  How can the same thing have such variable value to so many people?  What determines the value you place on a can or on a person’s life? 

You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.  I Corinthians 6:19-20

When you see a pile of trash bags, your first thought may be to ‘get rid of that before it starts stinking up the place!’  Others may say, ‘Wait, some of that can be used again’…proving that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.  One phrase that has been popular in encouraging people to lessen the amount of waste they produce is to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.  Reducing the amount of things you buy and consume will naturally cut down on waste and improve your budget.  If there are good things you no longer use such as clothes, furniture, tools, etc, then sell or donate them to someone who can use them.  Of all you have left, take it somewhere that will recycle it and make it into something useful.  We probably recycle 90% of what most people would toss out including paper, metal, plastic, cardboard, glass, and the like.  Even most food waste not eaten by the dog goes into the compost pile and eventually into the garden.  Sure, it takes a little extra effort, but the satisfaction is worth it. 

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.  Genesis 1:27

Can you see the same intrinsic worth in other people that you might see in a pile of things?  Do you determine someone’s worth based on what they can do for you, their ability to work hard, the clothes they wear, vehicle they drive, or their physical attractiveness?  Suppose someone comes along with a reputation, a criminal record, wild hair, or a lot of other baggage…would you give them a chance to prove themselves and work with you?  When we devalue others because of their physical appearance, disability, shade of skin, past actions, or other criteria, we devalue the God who created them.  Don’t get me wrong, there are bad people out there who would like to harm or take advantage of you, but what would happen if someone shared the good news of salvation and redemption in Christ with them?  God only knows.

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.  Genesis 50:20

Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story— those he redeemed from the hand of the foe.  Psalm 107:2

So we may look at someone who has squandered much of their life, someone who has wronged us in some way, or even our own life and ask ‘what good are they to society or to God?’  We need only look to the countless characters throughout the bible to see how the life of a murderer, a thief, an adulterer, a prostitute, a maniac, and countless others can be redeemed and used for the greater glory of God.  If God doesn’t give up on them, why should we?  We may even look at our own lives and say, ‘there is nothing special about me or my testimony that would make others take notice and change their lives’, but apparently you have never tried.  God uses the willing more than he uses the wonderful.  An ordinary person willing to take a step forward to be used by God and to speak the truth is worth more than 100 golden boys basking in their own glory, or the countless cold timid souls afraid to say a word.  Am I willing to look for the value in others that God does, and am I willing to go where He leads me? 

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.  Mark 10:45

Courage in Christ,
Clark

 

Made to Last

Look around your home and how many things can you find that were made over 100 years ago?  If you like antiques, maybe your home was even built over 100 years ago, but it likely doesn’t look now like it did back then.  One constant in life is that things change over time.  Things that seem like they will last forever eventually fade with time if they are not taken care of well.  Just ask someone a generation of two beyond you what the town you live near used to look like when they were young and you may not even recognize their description.  If things come and go that quickly within 50-100 years, what will become of you in that same time? 

For all people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.  1 Peter 1:24

I like a good value.  I still have a shop-vac that I paid $5 at a garage sale over 10 years ago and I can’t tell you how many hundred gallons of water and other unmentionable things that device has cleaned up in that time.  All the wheels may be missing, but it keeps on doing what it was made to do, but alas, it will not last forever either.  Surely you have a story of a favorite tool or utensil that your grandparents used and still works just as well as the day it was made.  Or maybe you had a favorite vehicle that has made it over 300k miles without any major mechanical issues and wish they all could last that long.  But as we know nothing lasts forever, or does it?

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.  Matthew 10:28

What does endure from generation to generation?  I had an interesting conversation with my Aunt a few weeks ago and mentioned to her that I appreciated the $10 I received for my birthday as a child more than any monetary gift today.  A gift when it is greatly needed, is greatly appreciated.  Kids can squander an inheritance faster than you can imagine.  If you think you are doing your family a favor by leaving them a nice inheritance, you are fooling yourself, and hurting them.  Instead of giving them something they will mishandle, teach them the value of work and to be good stewards of whatever they have.  If you have the opportunity, do something good with what you have today instead of taking the chance it will be wasted in the future. 

Freely you have received; freely give.  Matthew 10:8

If money and things won’t last much more than you will, then instill in others things that will endure beyond this life.  Teach your children and anyone who will listen about the truth in the Word of God, which has not and never will change.  Teach them about God’s love and mercy shown to us in Christ, and lives will be impacted for generations to come.  Introduce them to a friend named Jesus and they will never again need to feel alone or afraid.  Our words and actions will impact the lives of those around us for longer than any material thing could ever do.  Give to those in need, but don’t neglect their greatest need.  Give them something that will last!

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.  Hebrews 13:8

Courage in Christ,
Clark

Out of Bounds

This past week, I was driving along a county highway and came across several cattle standing along the road looking at me like I didn’t belong there as I drove by honking at them.  I made a note of the nearest intersection and called it in to the local authorities.  One wrong step with an inattentive driver and it’s hello deductible – goodbye T-bone.  While the white and yellow lines on a road are meant to keep drivers from running into each other, they mean nothing to the bovine.  Without the boundary of the fence they are accustomed to, they put their lives in danger.  What happens to us when we ignore the boundaries set by our society or our God?

And because I consider all your precepts right, I hate every wrong path.  Your statutes are wonderful;  therefore I obey them.  Psalm 119:128-129

Football season is upon us again and people have already started flocking to watch clashing bodies fight back and forth between lines.  There are lots of rules in this sport and if you don’t follow them, your whole team gets penalized.  There are consequences for playing like a fool, and every sport has them, otherwise chaos would ensue.  Do you remember playing games as a kid and someone would change the rules part way through to suit them?  It usually resulted in hurt feelings, a fight, or someone walking away with the ball.  Not good.  When everyone plays by the rules, we can all enjoy the game much more. 

Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him.  Proverbs 26:4

What about the boundaries God has set for us in his Word?  Are the Ten Commandments and other decrees just there to frustrate us, or is there a bigger purpose?  Jesus tells us the summary of the Ten Commandments is to love God and to love others, which is illustrated in how he lived his life.  When living in a society where nearly anything goes, what did the life of an Israelite or Christian look like in comparison to their neighbors?  Is that contrast still visible in our lives and the world today?

You shall have no other gods before me.  Exodous 20:3

What happens to us when we don’t stay within the boundaries which are set for us?  If we break the speed limit – we deserve a ticket, if we steal from others – we must pay it back or go to jail, when we build a house on someone else’s property – they own it, when we sin- we hurt others.  All of our actions, good or bad, have consequences in our lives, if not now…down the road.  Often, we selfishly may claim the only person we are hurting with our actions is ourselves, but in reality we often hurt those around us as much or more with our poor choices.  So, we may be tempted to step over the line and hope we don’t get caught, but it is almost always better in the long run to steer clear of any debate and stay well with bounds.  Your team will be glad you did!

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.  Galatians 6:9-10

Courage in Christ,
Clark

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