Author Archives: Clark

All Aboard!

Have you ever met anyone who agrees with everything you do?  Maybe you married this person who thinks exactly like you do, but likely not.  Most everyone will disagree with us on some point, from the way we live or spend our money to food preferences, politics, or our faith, the differences can be large or small.  So, what is your attitude toward such people?  Maybe you consider them just stupid and less educated than yourself on certain things, in which case you may share your views to help them understand.  Would you ever consider listening to another viewpoint, especially if from someone you respect?  Have you ever changed your views on certain issues? 

Deliver me from my enemies, O God; be my fortress against those who are attacking me.   Deliver me from evildoers and save me from those who are after my blood.  Psalm 59:1-2

I worked with an organization several years ago that was going through some major changes and restructuring.  They also developed an action plan and a list of principles that you had to agree with and then sign a paper stating such, meaning you were getting ‘on the bus’ with everyone.  If you didn’t agree, you got left behind, and some people were actually fired as a result.  But then, who wants to take a trip with others when they are headed somewhere you would rather not go?  Are you just along for the ride?  Do you know where you are headed?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’   But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.  Matthew 5:43-44

Most of us like to learn new things and consider this a part of growing and maturing, but there are likely certain principles we won’t change our minds about, especially as we get older.  I admit that changing to a new program or way we do things at work, or home, gets more frustrating the longer I have been used to doing things ‘the old way’, but realize that many things are constantly changing, and I need to as well to be relevant in my work.  How about in our faith?  How have you grown and matured in your faith over the years?  Would you disagree with yourself on certain things if you had a discussion with you from 15 years ago?  Know that God is constantly at work on us, not willing to leave us where we are, but always bringing us to a better knowledge of Him and His ways.  Growing is never an easy thing.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.  Romans 12:2

So, when you get into a heated debate with someone over a little, or even big issue, don’t leave them mad at you, but, if possible do it with kindness.  Be willing to find some things you can agree on with others, so at least you can live peaceably, even if you still disagree on what you consider a big issue.  Allow God to continually conform you to His likeness, which may mean giving up some things, and taking on new priorities from time to time.  Look to Him for the things you should value, and be quick to forgive others, as He was with you. 

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

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.  John 13:35

Courage in Christ,

How Great Thou Art

Over the past ten years or so, I have come to really appreciate the unique work produced by a young artist named Andrew Clemens, who grew up in Iowa in the late 1800’s and produced some amazing things that have not been matched since.  He became deaf at age 13 and taught himself how to create works of art in glass bottles using tiny grains of sand, all put together upside down.  The originality, patience, and dedication it took to learn this and then to complete each piece is what impresses me the most.  Don’t get me wrong, I also enjoy works by more traditional artists like Chagall, Vermeer, Russell, Rothko, Dingilian, etc, but really appreciate those who can create remarkable things from almost nothing.  What style of art catches your eye?

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.   Day after day they pour forth speech;  night after night they reveal knowledge.  Psalm 19:1-2

Maybe some types of fine art do not impress you as much as some people.  You may much more appreciate the design of a nicely built house, a vehicle, the layout of a garden, a well written book, or a catchy tune.  You might stand in awe when you look across the horizon just before sunrise and are amazed at the beauty in this world, or when you look up into the night sky you get a glimpse of the splendor and extent of creation.  There is design and beauty throughout this world that testifies to the creator when we stop to listen for a moment.  What most speaks to you? What do you hear?

“But ask the animals, and they will teach you,  or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;  or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you.   Which of all these does not know  that the hand of the Lord has done this?  Job 12:7-9

So, take a moment today, or any day to appreciate the beauty found throughout your world during the normal, daily routine.  Whether that is the engineering it took to put together the vehicle you are driving, the simple beauty found along the road, or the quality and effort some put into their work each day.  Give thanks to the God who gave each of us these abilities to use as we emulate what He has done in creating order out of chaos and beauty out of nothing.  Take a quick glimpse across the expanse of this earth and acknowledge Him in the wonders of creation, as well as the unique work he does in each of us!

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.   In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  John 1:3-4

Courage in Christ,

A Mixed Bag

I had a discussion a couple weeks ago with a friend and we talked about what made us think some people were good and others were bad.  If someone were to ask if you are a good person, what would you say?  I would guess 90% of people would say ‘yes’, and if asked why, we would most likely state some of the good things we have done, or compare ourselves to a worst case scenario…e.g. I haven’t killed anyone, or I’m not like Hitler, etc.  Maybe that is why it is so easy for people to gossip and look down on others, because it makes them feel better about themselves.  At least I’m not like him.  However, in reality, none of us are good.  99.9 % of people reading this have lied, cheated, stolen something, lusted, or broken the law in some way this past week.  We are all guilty, however some of our sins are more obvious than others.  What is your greatest flaw?

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good–except God alone.  Luke 18:19

Each day we face hundreds of choices and decisions in how we live our lives, treat others, spend our free time, and perform the work we are given.  Some of those choices turn out well, and some should teach us what not to do again.  What lessons did you learn yesterday?  Have you ever put yourself in someone else’s position and wonder, ‘how would I have handled that?’  What if you had been born to a nomadic Muslim family, or been born a prince with great influence, or born to a single parent without family nearby, or any other fathomable scenario.  How would your life be different?  How would your faith be different? 

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  Philippians 4:8

On any given day we can examine our lives and see a mixed bag of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.  We will not likely get to the point of perfection in this life, but if we have boundaries and keep to good principles of living, like those found in scripture, our batting average should improve with practice.  Others may even call you a good guy, despite your flaws.  Whether we try or not, we have a tendency to become more like those we spend the most time around and those we admire.  Who is that for you?  The more time you spend in the Word and in prayer, the more we tend to become like the One who saved us.  Even when you are struggling in any given area, take it to Him and surrender more of your life to Him.  He wants to refine you and make you holy, because He is holy.  You are never justified because of your good deeds, but they are definitely evident in your life as you are sanctified and become more like Him.  Look to Jesus today to renew your spirit, refine you, and make each day a good day!

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.  Philippians 1:6

Courage in Christ,

Good News!

I was listening to the radio earlier this week and my wife commented that it was fairly depressing as they reported 3-5 unrelated deaths in about 90 seconds.  If it bleeds it leads, right?  We don’t normally make the news when we have a good day at work, love our spouses, encourage the kids, or help someone in need.  If we had a Good Newspaper it would eventually turn into a bunch of self-promotion with everyone trying to one-up each other on how good they are…wait that’s Facebook.  You get the idea, people doing the right thing isn’t gossip or newsworthy for the most part.  Most people like to point out how bad others are so that they can feel better about themselves.  At least I’m not like so and so.  It may not always be an overt thing for Christians, but we see and hear it more than we should.  What kind of news do I most often share? 

For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.  Luke 8:17

I am probably as guilty as anyone who focuses on what is wrong with my day/week/life than on the good things I take for granted.  If I am not sick, how seldom do appreciate my health and say, ‘Man, I feel great today!’  When my car runs without any issues, I am not very thankful, but just expect it to work all the time.  After I am saved by the blood of Christ, how long does it take for my enthusiasm to wear off and just list it as one more thing that happened in my life?  The best thing that ever happened to me, and is available to others, should be the first thing I share with them.  That will surely get me the label of ‘Jesus Freak’, but honestly, there are much worse labels to have.  The Gospel is good news that often goes unreported.  Maybe we are afraid to share more because we are not perfect and won’t always say the right things.  Yet the God who forgave so many imperfect people continues to do so, every time they turn back to Him.  Isn’t that good news?  Isn’t that worth sharing? 

As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him.  Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”  So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.  Mark 5:18-20

How often have you shared your testimony over the past year?  Not enough, right?  Same here.  I was a guest on a local radio show (called Oops! I missed church) this past week and the host started off by asking me about my story.  I basically summed up my life and testimony in about 3-4 minutes, which is all it takes to get the job done.   I could easily expand on any aspect of my experiences and what I have learned as a Christian and talk for hours on most any part of it, but will let the person I am sharing with dictate where that goes, as the last thing most of us want is to hear stories we don’t really care about.  I once had a conversation with a guy I just met while waiting for a library to open, and in those 10 minutes, we had a deeper conversation about faith, God, and our lives than I have had with most people I know or see every day.  So, the issue is not about interaction, but more about intent and opportunity.  If we just wait for the ‘right’ moment to come along, it will never likely arrive.  We need to find and create opportunities when we can by asking tough questions and being willing to share from our hearts about what matters most.  Allow God to lead you and bless you in the conversations you have today and each day of your life as you boldly share Good News!

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.  Matthew 13:44

Courage in Christ,

10 Days

It was 3 years ago yesterday that my mother was diagnosed with cancer.  I remember sitting at the kitchen table listening by speakerphone while my siblings and mom were at the doctor’s office.  I knew the news wouldn’t be good, but listened as the doctor explained what was going on and what options we had for treatment.  While chemotherapy offered the best short term options, it still did not look good 6-12 months down the road, but we were really hoping for at least a few more months that we could spend with her.  Little did we know that the treatment intended to prolong her life would actually hasten her death.  She did not respond well and her body started shutting down a few days later and she passed away just 10 days after her diagnosis.  Even though her suffering and pain was shortened, and she would see her Savior sooner than planned, it was not what any of us were hoping for.  It was a wake-up call of how much we take our lives for granted.

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

The thing about each person reading this now is that you have an expiration date as well.  It might be 50 years or 5 weeks from now, but at some point, life as we know it will end.  Sometimes we may see it coming with the onset of a disease or the progression of an illness, but there are times when it surprises us as much as a sudden accident can.  We live each day by the grace of God, often expecting our trend of days to go on indefinitely.  What would you do differently if you knew the number of days you had left to live?  If you only had 10 days left, how would your plans change?

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”  Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.  James 4:13-14

Even if Christ knew exactly how his last week would play out, it could not have been easy for him to walk toward his death.  Just his posture in the garden before his arrest indicated that he was struggling with what was about to happen.  On several occasions, he even said to his disciples that his time with them was short and soon coming to an end.  Where would you turn if you knew your time was short?  Would you spend much of it with those you love and want to share the moments with them?  Would you spend time talking to your Heavenly Father in preparation of meeting Him? 

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.   And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!  Philippians 2:6-8

As you look down the road, however far that may be, there are some things you can do now to prepare for that day.  Don’t wait till your last minutes to tell people that you care about them.  Let them know whenever you can.  Demonstrating love to others is a lifestyle, not a last second shot at doing the right thing.  Not only be prepared by having a will and making plans for what you would like to happen after you are gone, but write something down for those you love and will leave behind.  They will appreciate it, even the little things.  I just found an Easter card my mom wrote me years ago and I do appreciate even that.  Even consider making a video of what you would want others to know when you are no longer with them.  Share your thoughts, share your faith, share your life.  You may not be remembered 100 year from now, but your life does matter, especially to those you are living it with right now!

Courage in Christ,

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