Author Archives: Clark

Childlike

There are probably lots of things that remind us of our childhood.  Maybe you watch something that reminds you of an event, or you do some of the same things with your own children that you did as a child.  We may become nostalgic for the time we grew up when we see photos or hear songs that remind us of our youth.  I don’t know about you, but the memories I recall most from my childhood are generally good ones.  Growing up with my family, going for walks, going sledding, celebrating Christmas, Vacation Bible School, taking trips, and visiting relatives.  There are probably things that I didn’t enjoy, like when I first lost a grandparent, but they are not as frequent as the positive memories.  How did the things you experienced as a child shape you into who you are today? 

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.  Proverbs 22:6

What did you like about your childhood?  The lack of responsibility and the ability to play.  The ability to work without the obligations of as many bills to pay?  There are lots of advantages to growing up in America, but lots of things to long for as well.  We don’t have the right to do many things until we become adults…the right to vote, drive, get a loan, etc.  Yet we have the God given right to live and the desire and will to learn new things.  We have many legal rights that we may not even understand as a child, but our parents and those in charge over us ensure we have the best life possible.  Children are often humbled by the peers and adults around them, until they become adults.  When we lose our pride and have a humble, open attitude as a child toward God, he can use us more effectively than when we act as childish, selfish adults.

He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them.  And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  Matthew 18:2-4

If someone calls you childish, do you take it as a compliment?  It probably means you are acting selfishly, or with the impulsive attitude of a child.  I may also imply you are thinking simply about something, which may not always be a bad thing.  As we grow older, things tend to get more complicated.  Relationships become more complicated, we have more obligations and not as much time for ‘fun’ things and we get more selective with what we do.  Returning to an uncluttered, simple childlike way of looking at life is not always a bad thing, and may even help us understand things better.  As it is with God, some principles of His Kingdom are simple enough for a child to understand.   Yet, there is more depth to explore and understand than is possible in multiple lifetimes if we desire more knowledge.

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.  I Corinthians 13:11

So, take those things that were significant and meaningful from your own childhood and share them with your own children.  Read bible stories with young children, so they will remember them in a positive light.  Talk to youth and model good behavior, so they will have someone to look up to.  Even a simple word of encouragement can go a long way.  Have an openness and a curiosity like that of a child toward the things of God, so that He can continue to show you the ways of His Kingdom.  May this bring you joy as you grow and discover how this applies to every area of your life. 

People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them.  When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”   And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.  Mark 10:13-16

His Child,
Clark

Wasted

How much time do you waste throughout the day?  You might say none, as you usually spend it how you choose to do so.  Then again, you might add up all the time you spend waiting in lines, dealing with surprise technical or mechanical problems, or doing other things you don’t want to do, but have to.  You may also look back on the day and, in hindsight, realize you spent more time than you should have just surfing on the computer, watching a pointless TV show, or playing games.  After watching a bad movie, I often say ‘that was 2 hours of my life I’ll never get back.’  If you could redeem all those hours wasted on any number of things through your life, what would you do with them instead? 

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.  Psalm 90:12

Ask anyone in their 50’s and beyond what regrets they have in life, and they will likely tell you about missed opportunities and time spent on selfish endeavors instead of with those they love.  We can look back years or decades to when we were young and long for the good old days, but we may also realize that we may not have used our time as wisely in any number of areas.  What advice would you tell your 18 year old self that would have served you better in the future?  Do you share this same advice with your children or any others who could learn from your wisdom? 

Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days;  let me know how fleeting my life is.  You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you.  Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure.  Psalm 39:4-5

In the books and movies, when someone has a chance to go back in time, they often want to reveal winning sports teams or lottery numbers, so they can ‘win’ at what they think will improve their lives.  More money doesn’t always solve our problems.  We have all probably wasted money on things we later regret and are not able to recoup it, but hopefully have learned from some poor decisions.  What things have you invested in with your time, energy, or money that have proven fruitful, or that have been a bad investment.  Can you tell the difference now?  What opportunities have you wasted that you wish you could do-over?  Maybe you could have shared some nuggets of truth with someone and you let that chance slip away.  Take advantage of the next opportunity.  You can’t usually go back and have a do-over, but what good can come of these lessons?  Learn from it and try not to repeat the experience?  Share your mess-ups with others, so they can learn, if pride does not keep you from doing so.

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.   Ephesians 5:15-16

We may look at some people and not even give them a chance because of their dress, history, attitude, or any number of things.  There may be some hopeless people out there (or in your own family) into whom you have invested much time, resources, prayer, etc and it doesn’t seem to make an ounce of difference.  You may have said all the right or wrong things to them and they seem more hardened toward God or you than ever.  You may have focused your attention elsewhere, but don’t give up hope, as even something as small as a mustard seed can grow and bloom in time.  It was the 11th hour for both Christ and the man next to him on the cross, yet some drastic changes lie ahead shortly for each of them. 

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.  Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.  Colossians 4:5-6

Like it or not, where you spend your time and money actually reveals where your true priorities lie.  If I spend 9 hours each week in front of the tv or computer screen and 15 minutes reading or listening to scripture, it is evident what I truly value.  Doing a time study or taking a quick inventory of where we actually spend our time can be quite revealing.  If we feel something is misguided or not right in our lives, what can we do to change our priorities?  It usually comes in 2 forms…several big changes all at once, or gradually.  Making big changes can work, but often doesn’t stick (see New Year’s resolution success rates).  If we make smaller, gradual changes one at a time, it is often more manageable and allows success to foster more successes.  Also, if God impresses on you to make some changes, talk with Him regularly about it in prayer, and he can help guide you in the right direction.  Also, regular accountability to a Christian brother can be a great motivator.  I will be the first to confess that there are some patterns and things in my life that I do not like, so there is work to be done.  May God continue the good work that he has started in us. 

Yours in Christ,
Clark

The Sickness

Its that season again!  During cold and flu season the bugs are out and about, have they caught up with you?  I visit several communities and schools through the week and it is the same story in most of them – lots of students and staff are sick.  There always seems to be some sort of cold or virus making the rounds in the community, so what determines whether you get sick or not?  Does any amount of hand washing, non hand shaking, or hospital mask wearing keep us from getting sick?  Not always.  Even within some families, not everyone comes down with whatever is going through a household.  And when you do get sick, how do you treat it, and what can you do to get over it quickly?  Does prayer help?

Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases.  Psalm 103:2-3

When Jesus was preaching the good news of salvation, he often healed all kinds of sickness.  But even more profound, he also forgave sins, which was an even greater need than their physical healing.  Why would he forgive sins when all they asked for was physical healing?  Because He knows what we need better than we do?  Or maybe sin is the greatest sickness and need for healing that each of us has, regardless of our physical well-being.  We live in a fallen world and there will always be sickness, disease and death that come to the righteous and the unrighteous.  Yet God provides a way to overcome each of these through our faith in Christ. 

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  Romans 3:23

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.  John 10:10

So, if you do fall ill or catch the flu over the next few months, do what works best to get over it quickly.  And while we are taught to share, this is something that is best kept to ourselves.  Be kind and avoid going out in public if you can, or cover your cough and keep from touching much if you do.  Doing what you can to keep someone from getting sick is definitely an act of love.  And when your loved ones do fall ill, do what you can to comfort them and help in recovery.  Pray for healing as well.  Remember that sharing the good news of salvation in Christ is the best remedy for everyone, regardless of our afflictions.  There are many ways to treat our illnesses, but the only remedy for our sin is through Christ. 

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.  I Peter 2:24

Abundance in Christ,
Clark

More

What are you pursuing right now?  What drives you to move, to work, to accumulate, to investigate, to engage at an increased rate?  Maybe you are passionate about a hobby, watching or playing sports, exploring food, or in caring for your land and home.  Do you fully engage at work and give your best effort there, or maybe you are distracted by something else and wish you could be there while at work.  These things are not bad in and of themselves, depending on the role they have in our lives, but there is usually a reason we become excited to chase after something that holds our interest.  We were made to desire more…of what?

I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.  Ecclesiastes 1:14

You can always learn more about an area of life through reading and learning about it and also through experience.  A veterinarian learns about principles of anatomy, physiology, and medicine while in school, then applies this knowledge in treating a variety of animals.  They can specialize in certain areas like cats, dogs and other small animals, or treat mostly race horses if that need exists.  You can expend huge amounts of time into learning about hands on skills like welding, auto repair, etc, or you can even become proficient in fantasy through the world off video games, movies, Narnia, Harry Potter, and the like.  At some point, through your work or leisure, you may have accumulated enough knowledge and experience in a certain area that some would call you an expert in what you do.  Do you know a ‘master gardener’?  In what area would someone come to you for advice? 

Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.  Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.   Proverbs 19:20-21

We can do the same in our faith.  We can learn a lot about certain things like prayer, the history of the bible, the doctrine of the church, etc, but unless we put these things into practice, we will never fully understand them.  Every expert, at some point, had to take a first step, see their first client, say their first prayer, sing their first song.  Even if you never become an expert in any one area, you can know and experience enough to be effective in what you do.  Most churches and communities have a variety of areas and opportunities where you can serve.  Maybe you have spread yourself fairly thin and feel that you know a little about many different things.  In what one or two areas do you feel God is calling you to grow? 

Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.  Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your justice like the great deep.  You, Lord, preserve both people and animals.  How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!  People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.  Psalm 36:5-7

How much more about God would you like to know?  Simply asking a few questions may lead you to want to investigate further.  Why did God want me to be born into the family and place where I am?  How can God use my limited gifts and abilities to further His Kingdom?  How has God revealed his glory through all creation?  How does God see me?  There are endless questions we can ask of Him for selfish or selfless reasons.  Do you believe He cares about you in such a personal way as to have your questions answered?  If you seek the truth, do you think He would hide it from you?  A pastor could study the Word and shepherd people his whole life and only learn a drop in the ocean of what there is to know about God.  But He could easily reveal himself in just that drop. 

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!  “Who has known the mind of the Lord?  Or who has been his counselor?”    “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?”  For from him and through him and for him are all things.  To him be the glory forever! Amen.  Romans 11:33-36

One day, when in Heaven, we will have the opportunity to explore the world in the way it was intended to be seen, in the light of our Lord Jesus.  We will see things as he does and with the right motive, devoid of the taint of sin.  The knowledge of God’s power and glory as well as his love for us will allow us to pursue things with the right motive.  All things should be observed through the lens of the Gospel.  When you ask, God will give you discernment to help direct your steps in what to avoid and where to move forward.  The path may not always be clear, but trust that your guide can see better than you. 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;  in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.  Proverbs 3:5-6

Through faith in Christ,
Clark

Renew Year

When do you feel most alive?  After a near miss accident?  When home for Christmas or on vacation with your loved ones?  When you take in a small glimpse of the beauty of God’s creation?  When you lose someone you deeply love?  Sometimes it takes a major life event to wake us up to the realities of life.  To make us appreciate what we so often take for granted….life itself.  How about when you fall into the day to day routines of work and life, are there any practices that you do weekly or even daily to renew your spirit?  Things that encourage you or serve as reminders that you are truly alive and living boldly for God?

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Psalm 51:10

Do you stay up late to usher in the New Year at midnight, or go to bed early and hope to sleep in an extra 30 minutes the next morning.  I have attended events where we have brought in the year with prayer and worship with thousands of other Christians, and I have done it with a small group of family and friends, or by myself – Just me and God.  I can’t say one was more meaningful than the others, but just appreciated life and where God had me at the time.  If anything, take a few moments to reflect on what has transpired over the past year and thank God for the little blessings in your life and what opportunities the coming year holds. 

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  2 Corinthians 4:16

How often do you renew your commitment to God?  When you experience a major life event, or whenever you feel like you messed up somehow?  Maybe every morning that you wake up alive.  Some churches with a liturgical service recite many of the same things each week, even from memory.  Is this good?  It could serve as a memorized reminder of what you believe, or you could fall into a rote routine and just say words without any real knowledge of what they mean to you.  How often do you need to be reminded of what you believe or to renew your pledges?  Can you recite the Apostles Creed or the Nicene Creed from memory?  Do you believe it?  We can be prone to temptation either by routine, or lack of it.  Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior.  Titus 3:5-6

So, however you bring in each New Year, or each day in your life, find some practices that help you strengthen your spirit and tune your heart to God.  Speak with Him regularly from your soul and He will direct your steps.  If you don’t already do so, find a small group or someone to meet with regularly so that you may encourage one another in your faith walk.  Celebrate life as each new day arrives and thank the One who gave us this life, one life, to live for Him. 

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Romans 12:2

Born again in Christ,
Clark

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