Author Archives: Clark

Greener

Who’s yard is nicer, your’s or your neighbors?  Who has a better mower, car, house, family, etc?  It doesn’t take long, whether you are 2 or 20 years old to find something to be envious of when we start to look around at others.  It is mowing season again and just yesterday, along with 2 of my neighbors,  I was out riding around in that futile pursuit of trying to keep the entire yard looking the same again.  It is only temporary, as it will be calling me out again within the week.  It doesn’t take much for us to conform to the demands of our communities, whether motivated to have a nicer yard than our neighbor, or just to avoid the city fine for having a jungle environment.  What drives you to be competitive in life to try to one up the guy next to you?  Does winning in these little pursuits bring you satisfaction or drive you to be even more competitive? 

A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.  Proverbs 14:30

In an age of pervasive social media, it is easy to put forth an image of ourselves that is contrived and not the full story of what is going on.  We can pose for great images of ourselves, our travels, our perfect smiling kids, and even the dinner from last night and have the words to build it up even more.  It’s not much different from what we do and say in public compared to what happens behind closed doors.  If they saw the reality beyond the image, what would they really think?  If we knew the time, effort, and cost involved with those things we tend to be envious of in our neighbor, we may have second thoughts ourselves.  Instead of letting our desires for something bigger and better drive us toward more, let us take those desires to God and ask Him to reveal to us the condition of our hearts. 

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.  Philippians 4:12-13

One good test of our spiritual maturity is whether or not we can rejoice in our brother’s success.  If we can be genuinely glad (not fake happy) when they prosper, it helps keep jealousy and envy at bay.  In fact, the antidote for envy in our lives is love.  When we genuinely care for others and go out of our way to speak kind words and encourage them in good work, it puts any quiet resentment we may have in check.  It may try to return again in other forms, but genuine love is still the cure. 

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  1 Corinthians 13:4-5

So, if you are tempted to be jealous or bitter toward a rival at work, in your community, or even in your own family, pray for them.  Also, pray that God would give you the awareness when you are headed down that path again and to keep your heart from residing there.  May your love for others always overcome any envy in your life!

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

 

Yours in Christ,
Clark

Testify

“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”  John 18:37

How many lies do you tell in a day?  How many do you believe?  Most of us would say that we try not to lie at all on any given day.  However, when we ignore or avoid the truth on any given issue, spread rumors and half truths about people, or would rather have someone believe something better about us than what is reality, then we are in fact living a lie.  Some may say that little white lies and half-truths are no big deal as they don’t hurt anyone or that they are done to protect someone, but in fact they promote a reality which is false.  When people are caught in life changing scandals, they never started out as such, but began as small compromises which grew into much more.  We should ask, Where have I compromised the truth in my life?

Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.  Luke 16:10

Just watch the news for a day and you will learn quickly that it is human nature to cover our mistakes and weaknesses as well as to promote or even exaggerate our strengths.  Relying on and living out a false reputation is nothing more than living a lie.  Do you strive for honesty in all your business interactions, and in your professional as well as personal life?  The only way to never get caught in a lie, is not to tell one.  You never have to cover your tracks or worry about being discovered.  I often say, that no matter the issue, the truth comes out in the end.  Whether in this lifetime or on judgement day, the truth will be revealed.  Does that give you comfort?

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  1 John 1:8

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

Recently, I’ve been listening to a sermon series on Creation vs. Evolution and always find it interesting how easy it can be to persuade others when only part of a story is told.  We can find some evidence to support a theory and then extrapolate that to cover everything, when there is little foundation for it to stand.  When we believe and give credence to false theories and philosophies in our lives, we are in fact testifying to what is false.  I once heard someone say that if you can believe the first verse of the bible, you can believe all of it, and if you can’t, then you may have trouble with the rest of it as well.  Do you believe the whole Word of God?  How do you pick and choose what to believe?

If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.  1 John 1:6

So, where do you stand?  Do you stand for truth and what is right?  Do you seek that in all areas of your life and live it out as best you can?  If you struggle in any area with this, ask the One who stands for all truth to guide you, and He surely will!

Truth in Christ,
Clark

No Fair

We start hearing from a young age that life is not fair.  When we see someone else gets a bigger piece of pie, we don’t get all we asked for at Christmas, someone else won MVP, we soon realize inequality is a fact of life and pitching a fit doesn’t always help.  All around the world, there are things that happen every day that are not right, whether trivial or life changing.  People steal from one another, hurl insults in person and online, the poor are exploited, minorities are ostracized and condemned, people are exploited.  We may not see this blatantly done in our cushioned Midwest hometowns, but it still happens.  Kids are slighted and bullied in schools, and domestic abuse happens in every community, but in some parts of the world, it is just a struggle to survive, much less thrive.  We have all experienced injustice to some degree, and may have even been the instigator at one time or another, but what can we do about it now? 

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.  Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.  Proverbs 31:8-9

We have been trying for centuries to make things right, and as much as technology and laws may have improved life in some places, there are still atrocities that are taking place this very day.  That is because there is still one thing that doesn’t change from each generation and that is the human heart.  Each person is born in sin and has the capacity for great evil, but also great love.  We all have a need for forgiveness and a Savior.  When we realize this, we are then more capable and empowered to love and seek justice for ourselves and others in this world. As much as we may ‘improve’ as a society, there will always be needs and wrongs to be righted all around us.

We love because he first loved us.  1 John 4:19

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it?  Jeremiah 17:9

So, what can we do about injustice in the world and even in our own community?  When we see it, speak up for those who do not speak up for themselves.  Alert those in authority when laws are broken or something can and should be done to intervene.  If no one else will take action, who should, do what you can to make things right, though not in a Batman/Robin Hood vengeance sort of way.  Get to know and give to organizations that can and do make a difference to correct wrongs and help those who truly need help.  Lastly and most importantly, pray for those in difficult situations and ask of God what part you can play in truly helping.  Love with your words and actions in ways that are honorable to God and your fellow humans and stand for His truth!

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place.  Ephesians 6:14

In Christ,
Clark

Get Away

If you had a few days without work or any other obligations, what would you do?   If you had a week to go anywhere in the world, where would it be?  Last week, I had a chance to visit with a friend I only see 1-2x each year and we eventually got to what vacations we have taken or plan to take this next year, as we both like to travel.  Another friend who is very busy during tax season also takes a vacation when things have calmed down in late April.  What’s the point of taking vacations?  Is it to brag to your friends about what you have done, to take the family to a new place, to add another thing to the ‘to do’ list, or maybe even to rest?  All of the above?  Everyone is a little different in what they prefer to do on vacation, as some like to relax and others take in as much as possible.  My default is the latter, as I like to see and do as much as able with little chance of overload, especially when far away from home, but I have come to appreciate the opportunity to rest as well.  How often do you take a break from your normal routine?  What’s the point? 

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.  Genesis 2:2

Have you ever felt isolated from the rest of the world?  Maybe it was when you were far away from home, or on a hike in the wilderness without any one around for miles, but you felt far apart from everyone else.  It may not be as extreme as the Maine Hermit, who went 27 years with only 1 other human encounter, but most of us have taken time to get away from our normal routine.  I recall a mission trip I was on in the Bolivian jungle when we were a 3 hour drive or boat ride from the nearest town of 2,000 people, seemingly far away from civilization.  Just yesterday, I took 15 minutes during a lunch break in Centerville and went for a walk along a trail into the woods along the edge of town.  This gave me a chance to slow down, refocus, reflect with God, and energized me for the rest of my busy day.  Sometimes, just closing the door and turning off the computer is all we need to take a few quiet minutes to do the same.  Do you recognize the need to take a break during a busy season, or even on a hectic day? 

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.  Luke 5:16

When we don’t have a chance to step away from the work before us, whether that be ministry, our job, taking care of others, or other obligations, we can become burned out.  We can get physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted if we overextend ourselves in a number of ways.  We may not always recognize our own need to take a break before we have overdone it, but others may see it in us.  Look to the example Jesus gave us in his 3 year ministry.  He knew he only had a limited amount of time and ministered to many, but not to everyone.  He often took time and went away by himself to pray and seek direction from his Father.  Should we not do the same? 

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

Following time away with God, the response is not more seclusion, but almost always a call to action of some sort, directed by God.  Christ was rested and refocused to continue his mission and ministry.  Remember when Elijah wanted to run away from everyone because life was so overwhelming?  What happened?  He rested and spoke with God, who empowered him to finish his mission instead of giving up.  Every time I go on a 2 day retreat or even take 10 minutes in the middle of my day to pray and wait on the Lord, He calls me to action in some way, and gives me the knowledge and encouragement to go forward.  So, the next time you get to take a vacation, or even just a break from your daily burdens, ask the tough questions of God and let him guide you in your next steps.  When we are in step with his Spirit, the work before us does not seem as daunting and the path ahead is one taken by steps of faith, regardless of where it leads.  Walk with boldness when you are walking with Him!

Strength in Christ,
Clark

On Edge

Have you tested the limits of what you thought you were capable of doing?  Maybe played with fire and not quite got burned.  Or maybe you feel you have cheated death a time or two and count your blessings.  There are lots of ways you can live life on the edge, but if you keep testing the limits, there may be a time you trip over the edge and don’t land on your feet.  One thing that comes to mind when we think of pushing the limits are extreme sports.  People have been pushing the limits of what we thought was possible since the beginning of time, only more recently with video running.  Whether it is trying to survive a trip over Niagara Falls, landing bigger and more dangerous jumps, skydiving without a parachute, or flying at over 100 mph within inches of a mountain, there is always someone willing to try something new.  The thing with extreme sports is that once you do what was once impossible regularly, it is no longer extreme.  It is a constantly moving target of everyone trying to one-up each other and taking it to a new and more intense level each time, until you find out that you have reached your limits and end up severely injured or dead.  Maybe you are not testing your limits by trying to cheat death in a dramatic way, but where do you take risks in life?

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.  2 Timothy 1:7

Everything we do in life involves some level of risk.  The chance of being killed by a terrorist is much less than flying on a plane, which is much less than driving across town, yet our fear of these things is likely the opposite.  We all have variable levels of fear in our lives which dictates what risks we are willing to take.  Just look at your friends and family and we can surely find some lives which went in a direction that no one intended.  Experimenting with smoking, alcohol, or other drugs can easily lead to a life of addiction and impaired health.  The lure of lust has led some to risk their marriage by cheating on a spouse directly, with wandering eyes, or through pornography.  Or we may think no one will notice if we take a little extra of what is not ours to pad our wallet.  Every time we spend or save the money God gave us can lead us toward poverty or more greed without much effort.  There are choices we make each day which can lead us down the wrong trail or the high road.  What guides your decisions?

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.  Psalm 24:1

What if we were designed to take risks?  The bible is full of examples of people, when called, to boldly go where no man had gone before.  Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jonah, Paul and others were led by God to step out in their faith to do what seemed foolish to the common man.  Christ took on the role of a servant to the point of death, when he had the power to choose anything else.  These are our examples of stepping out in faith to live honorably before God and man.  Yet we have examples of this in our own lives.  There are veterans living among us, and some who are not, who risked their lives to protect the freedoms we hold dear.  There are neighbors who gave up a high paying job to give more to their family, or to go into a ministry.  Where have you stepped out in faith and taken a risk to answer a call God had given you?

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.  Joshua 1:9

Challenge yourself in ways that will edify you instead of kill you.  You can take small risks every day that will save lives instead of destroy them.  Get up 30 minutes earlier to pray.  See how fast or how often you can read through the bible.  Challenge yourself to say 10 kind things to others each day.  Give more than you thought was possible.  Share the gospel with someone, even if you think they are a lost cause.  Take steps to go down the path you hear God calling you and leave behind the selfish world of the flesh.  Taking the risk to follow God may cause you to lose your life, but it will be worth it!

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.  Matthew 16:25

Blessings in Christ,
Clark

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