Author Archives: Clark

The Outer Limits

When I was growing up, I remember watching episodes of the Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits, which were science fiction shows that tested the limits of the imagination.  Both series were interesting in that they explored the human condition and how our values and morals were tested in a variety of sometimes extreme scenarios.  We test the limits of our abilities as we grow from childhood into adulthood.  Our intellectual abilities are challenged in school, as we learn to read, and as we explore other areas of interest.  We challenge our physical limits through individual and team sports, and as we find a balance between working, eating and sleeping.  I have been putting in extra hours with some projects and have found the effects that limited and interrupted sleep have on my body, and the results are not good.  Hopefully, in every area of life, we come to understand what things are beneficial and what activities are detrimental to our overall health. 

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.  Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.  Proverbs 3:5-8

Kids like boundaries, though they would never admit to it.  They test the limits of what they can do, but they eventually want to know what is acceptable and what is not, and why.  As we grow from children into adults, we learn what is good and not good for us through our experiences or from listening to advice of someone wiser than us.  Maybe even as adults, we like to know where our boundaries are located, so we can function well within them.  Even if someone warns us that an activity may be bad for us, or cause us to get hurt, at some point we may challenge that assumption and find out through experience that they were right.  At some point, even with rules and boundaries, kids will have the freedom to make choices and face consequences as they leave home and become more independent. 

Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.  Proverbs 22:6

We even test the limits of God’s grace.  We always want salvation and more…a nice house, job, community, respect, and whatever else we may be chasing.  The more is that part of our heart that is reserved for God, but that often gets sold out to some other god.  We are challenged to grow in our faith as we are tested through different circumstances, trials, and challenges we face each day through life.  We make choices to either submit to God or to rebel against Him in little ways each day.  As we encounter difficulties in life, we are either compelled to turn toward God or away from him.  How do you react when things don’t go your way?

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  2 Corinthians 12:9

What are the limits of your abilities?  What happens when you reach the end of what you can do…where do you turn?   Whether physical, intellectual, emotional, or spiritual, we all encounter challenges in life and encounter the limits of what we can do on our own.  We can either run away and try to hide these limitations, or accept the challenge to grow from these experiences.  God wants us to grow more dependent on Him as we mature, even if we have the ability to ‘do it all by ourselves.’  What areas of your life do you still need to surrender to Him?  Take steps to do that today.

 

Strength and Courage in Christ,
Clark

 

The High Way

Often, when taking a car trip, you have several options as to which route to take to get there.  You can take the ‘fastest’ route, which usually involves major highways and may be a longer distance, but often has fewer stops.  Then there is the ‘scenic’ route, which may be fewer miles overall, but often involves more stops, travel through small towns, and slower highway speed limits.  How do you choose?  If you are in a hurry, often you want the fastest route to just git er done quickly, maybe even passing people along the way.  If we have more time, or want to enjoy the ride, we might enjoy the stops along the backroads. 

Who, then, are those who fear the Lord?  He will instruct them in the ways they should choose.  Psalm 25:12

I hate being in a hurry.  If I am running late while driving to a meeting in another town, my irritability levels are high, I get angry at other drivers more easily, and my tendency to speed increases greatly.  Even if I make it on time, no one wins.  If I give myself enough margin, say 5-10 minutes or more, I don’t fly off the handle when I encounter a slow vehicle, road construction, or other slight delays.  I make space for the unknowns I may encounter, even for opportunities to help someone if needed, or just visit with others for a few minutes if I arrive early at my destination.  The same happens when we create enough margin in our lives to listen to what God is trying to say to us, instead of just putting our heads down and plowing forward.  There are many chances we may be passing up.  Margin gives us time and opportunity to be open to what God wants to show us in any and every situation.

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”  Isaiah 30:21

In your business dealings, often there is an honest way and an unethical or even illegal way to go about doing things.  Either route may accomplish what you want to get done, but the means to get there may be significantly different.  You may even say ‘what I did was not illegal’, but at the same time if you took advantage of someone or a situation, it may rub some people the wrong way, and may make them less likely to desire future interactions with you.  Especially if you run a business, you may have an opportunity to overcharge someone or just not provide the service they need.  In the short term, it may benefit you, but in the long run, it erodes relationships.  Is there a best way to do business? 

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.  Matthew 7:13-14

So, when you make choices each day, it is easy to get stuck in the mode where everything we do tries to benefit us at the expense of hurting others.  It’s my way or the highway.  But when we try to put others needs before our own, even if they don’t deserve it or appreciate it, we do the right thing.  They may not acknowledge your kindness, but others may, and you will have fewer regrets in life knowing that you took the right way, the high way.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,  not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.  Philippians 2:3-4

Strength and Courage in Christ,
Clark

Lost and Found

I misplace things almost every day.  Some may think this is an early sign of dementia, which it can be, but for many of us, it is just a way of life.  The other morning, I was rushing to get ready and took the truck across town to do some work, but left the keys to the building I eventually needed back in my other vehicle.  Frustrated, I drove back across town to get them and headed back again.  In doing this, I misplaced another set of keys and thought I should maybe start my day over.  When I found them a short time later, I rejoiced a bit, but was still frustrated at myself for the extra running around.  Often, when I misplace something, I look around in the most logical places, but when that doesn’t work, I often turn to God in frustration and humility and ask for direction.

Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.  Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.  Psalm 25:4-5

The world is full of stories of people who got bad advice or unclear directions and ended up in trouble.  Each of us probably has similar stories.  Most of us have probably heard of the Donner Party, primarily because of how some survived the difficult Winter they faced.  The reason they ended up in this situation was because of some bad direction and advice that caused delays of weeks and days along their trek to California.  These along with some other mishaps led them to a point of a few hours from crossing a pass in the Sierra Nevada mountains when the snow started falling.  Unable to make it over the pass at this time caused them to be snowed in for months, ultimately leading to starvation for many.  It was not just one thing that caused this demise, but a series of unfortunate events. 

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.  Matthew 7:13-14

At some point, we have all been lost.  We all try to find our own way, wind up at a lot of dead ends, and even get a lot of bad directions from those who think they know the way.  Fortunately, God gave us a road map in His Word on how to find forgiveness, true love, and salvation.  He showed us the way that leads to life, and that way is through Christ.  When we find out about this path, it often seems too good to be true, but it is true.  Truth found in grace and forgiveness, which is contrary to the demands of the world.  When you have a chance to show others this way, they may be a little cautious when they start down this path, but one day will be thankful that someone was kind enough to show them The Way!

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  John 14:6

Strength and Courage in Christ,

Clark

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,Was blind, but now I see.                           John Newton (1725-1807)

Graced

Recently, I have been dealing with a difficult person in a difficult situation.  They have been lying to me and others, stealing, doing hurtful things, and in many ways, they are just being nasty.  As a Christian, what is my response?  Even if they would listen to me, is there anything I could say or do that can make a difference?  Part of me wants to retaliate and speak the truth, no matter how hurtful it is, so that maybe they will see the error of their ways.  Part of me never wants to see them again and would be fine with that.  Part of me prays for them because of the situation they are in, even if a consequence of their own actions.  How much kindness do you show to people who abuse kindness?  You will find out.

A person may think their own ways are right, but the Lord weighs the heart.  Proverbs 21:2

Years ago, we went door to door and often asked people several questions including why they thought God should allow them into heaven.  The most common answer from people who claimed to be Christian and even those who did not was that “I’m a pretty good person (compared to murderers, child abusers, thieves, Hitler, etc).”  Basically, in their own eyes, everyone thinks they are pretty good when compared to ‘most’ everyone else…my works are good enough to get me to heaven.  How about you?  At times, we may all find ourselves comparing our good deeds to others and ranking others as good or bad, depending on what sin they have committed.  Every once in a while in our survey, someone would mention that only God’s grace shown in Christ allowed them to go to heaven.  How often do I reflect on God’s grace allowing me to be His child now, to experience his grace and love now, to share that with others now, and to one day fully know that grace in Heaven?  When I do, it humbles me to the core.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.  Ephesians 2:8-9

The longer you are a Christian, hopefully, the more sensitive you become to sin in your life and in those around you.  The Holy Spirit refines you, so that your heart becomes more like that of Christ.  Maybe not perfect, but ever closer.  Doing so could lead us to become more judgmental of others who are not ‘as good as us’, and bring us to a place where we are a modern day Pharisee.  Or, it could bring us to an awareness of how much greater God’s grace is than we once thought, humbling us once again by undeserved grace.  The more we become like Christ, the more we are able to show that same grace to others.  And I often ask myself ‘how am I doing?’ 

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.  Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.  Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.  1 Peter 4:8-10

Through this life, we will all encounter people who require extra grace from us.  They may be the person who’s personality just rubs you the wrong way, or even someone who has done or said hurtful things toward you or others.  I truly think these EGR (Extra Grace Required) folks not only help us grow as Christians, but also show us the true nature of our own hearts.  When I don’t have the patience to listen to someone who spends 90% of the time rambling and 10% getting to the point, I see that I need to grow just as much as they do.  Sometimes after a difficult encounter, I reflect and wonder if I could have handled it better.  Next time I will.  Next time, God willing, I will have an extra measure of grace and forgiveness to show to others, even if they don’t deserve it.  Because the grace and forgiveness he has already shown me is definitely undeserved. 

Strength and Courage in Christ,
Clark

Burdens to Bear

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.  Galatians 6:2

Every day we see opportunities to offer help to those in need.  Everything from taking a few seconds to hold the door for someone, offering to buy a meal for another, to stopping to see if you can help when a vehicle is stranded along the road.  Just yesterday morning, I saw a car stopped along the highway with a fellow looking under the front wheel.  If I had not been running late for an appointment, is there anything I could have done?  I have stopped several times before when I actually did have enough time to offer assistance, even if just a word of encouragement.    Inconvenient…sure, but worthwhile…yes, which is why I like to ask when able.  What about you?  Are there things you are willing to do for others and things you are not?  Have you ever given till it hurts?

There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.  Deuteronomy 15:11

It has often been said, your priorities are revealed in where you spend your time and your money.  This shows where we give to what is valuable to us, good or bad.  Some of the greatest joys in my life have come from when I was challenged by God or others to give more than I was comfortable giving.  Some of the bigger regrets are from when I had a chance to give or help, but for whatever reason, held back in my words or actions.  We can rationalize most any behavior and feel justified, but God’s Spirit is always at work on us and challenging us to grow with each new opportunity.  Where is He wanting you to grow?

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.  Proverbs 3:27

What if someone in need doesn’t want our help?  Whether that is someone struggling with an addiction, a person you know with dementia or mental health issues, or just a stubborn minded friend who refuses to receive any help or listen to any good words of advice.  Maybe you know someone who has heard the Good News of Jesus, yet refuses to have anything to do with ‘religion’.  Your first reaction may be to just ‘give up’ on them, as you did your part and they want nothing to do with you.  But God often places these ‘difficult’ people in our lives to help us grow, to test the limits of our compassion, and to realize that no one is hopeless.  Keep them in your prayers and continue to show kindness even when you face opposition or anger. 

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.   For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.   Matthew 11:28-30

What about you?  Are you willing to accept help when you are struggling, or does pride hold you hostage and make you say ‘No, I can do it myself’ beyond all reason.  Whether that is help offered by a friend, or from God, who wants you to receive something better than that to which you are clinging.  Men, most of us think we are right in our own eyes, and hearing otherwise is always humbling.  In my experience, taking help offered by others often helps keep me humble and then I am also reminded of how I can help others as well.  We can try to do it all ourselves, but it is so much more rewarding when we can share the burden with others, just as Christ has done for us!

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.   And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.  Hebrews 13:15-16

Strength and Courage in Christ,
Clark

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