Author Archives: Clark

Cold Christians

Fall is one of my favorite times of the year.  The leaves change color, harvest time is winding down, the air is starting to chill, and you still get a few warm days to appreciate.  The inevitable thing, though, is that Winter is just around the corner, knocking at the door.  The first snow always reminds us of that.  Most local people I talk to don’t have much good to say about Winter.  Its cold, you have to move snow, plans may change, etc.  But there are also good things if you look hard enough.  No bugs, now mowing, Christmas, a new perspective on the world covered in white, a warm home to appreciate.  With every change, there are good and bad things that people can see, in every season of life.  What do you appreciate and what do you complain about in your current state of being? 

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.  Proverbs 4:23

Are there any people in this world that you don’t really care about?  Maybe there is a negative neighbor to the North that has lots of opinions different than yours.  Or maybe there are some countries in this world, in which you know no one and wouldn’t know or care if they ever existed.  Usually, unless you know someone in a given town, state, or country, you don’t give a second thought to things that happen there.  I’ve done some short-term missions trips to Bolivia years ago, and though I only know 10-20 people who live there now, when I hear about it in the news (which is seldom), my ears perk up, because it could be affecting people I care about.  We see videos of disasters from various places around the world, and feel sorry that anyone had to go through some of those things, even though we don’t know them.  Those people facing death and devastation could be Christians, though many are not.  Do we care at all?  Are our hearts cold toward most of the world? 

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

It doesn’t even have to be someone ½ way around the world, it could be someone right next door to you, or even in your own house.  Our hearts can turn cold toward anyone, given the right circumstances.  Is it good to have coldness or even hatred toward someone and then try to love others you do care about?  Is there a cure to warm a cold heart?  It starts with awareness and then forgiveness.  Take an inventory of your thoughts and the words leaving your mouth.  If they have any hatred, even a little, then you are not on a good path.  I see this even when I comment to myself about strangers while driving.  A critical word is usually a selfish word.  I also find that regularly praying for others helps melt my coldness toward them.  Even for people in countries where I know no one.  The book Operation World is a good tool to learn about some people you have never met and a guide to pray for them.  Or just look up some info on a place or people group online and see what a little prayer does, not just for them, but for you.  Praying for your enemies and those you don’t know often helps you appreciate those closest to you even more. 

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

As things turn cold, remember to keep your heart warm for others and to keep them in your thoughts, prayers, and actions as we let joy emerge from the depths of the cold Winter months ahead.  As our hope eventually turns toward new life in Spring, may your hope in Christ bring you new life each day as well. 

Yours in Christ,
Clark

Hold On

I enjoy history.  Whether it is the genealogy of my family, the development of the Americas, or the life and times of Abraham Lincoln, I think there is something to be learned from most good and bad aspects of history in this world.  The older people get, the more they tend to long for things of the past.  I appreciate nostalgia and reminiscing about the ‘good old days’, whether they be 5, 15, or 30 years ago.  I even enjoy listening to stories of things that happened decades or centuries before I was born.  I also realize that the good old days were not always so good.  There were challenges with using horses for transportation, just as using cars can be a challenge today.  There have been people who did evil things to others since the beginning of time as well.  When we tend to glamorize what was, over what is, we may be trying to alter reality and not just criticizing the current state of things.  The times and technology are always changing, but it can still be fun to play an LP or an 8 track from time to time.  What things from the past do you hold on to, or most miss? 

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  Matthew 6:19-21

The other thing that people tend to hold on to is a variety of things.  We become enthralled and distracted by shiny things in life, and it can take most any form.  Whether it is just simply money, or the worth we attach to things such as houses, cars, clothes, electronics, toys, food and drink, or family heirlooms, it can be anything that we feel has some value in our lives.  It is not all bad, as we need some things to get the job done and do the work of living we need to do.  Everything can be helpful when used properly.  But when that thing turns from just a vehicle to get the job done to an item of pride, or dare I say, worship in our lives, then it has crossed the line.  The accumulation of money and things tends to allow room for greed in one’s life and limits the ability to give and bless others.  Again, it can happen with anything, but the challenge is to realize when you are crossing that line and to put things back in their proper place.  We need to repent and turn our attention to what matters more than stuff, namely people. 

What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.  Philippians 3:8

The one thing that we should hold on to most is the hope of our faith and commitment to Christ.  When everything else is worn out or broken down, the one thing that endures is our relationship to God and to others in this life, and the influence that has.  Maybe your cell phone will be in a museum someday, but most things in this world do not last too long anymore.  The time, energy and money we invest in others will give a better return than the latest gadget.  Living a minimalist life, like a hermit, may not be the best solution, but putting things in the proper perspective is for everyone’s benefit, now and in the future. 

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Matthew 6:33

Yours in Christ,

Clark

Power Up

Back in the day, when you played video games, you were always on the lookout for a mushroom or other object that increased your power, often multiple times, to help you get through the game.  If you didn’t find them, or got hit too many times, it was Game Over.  What things do you use to get energized each day?  A good night sleep, a good meal, a mug of coffee, a run, a nap, some reading, or just alone time?  Each of us likely has a preferred routine to help us get going in the morning, and stay going throughout the day.  Lately, for a variety of reasons, I have not been sleeping well, feeling more exhausted earlier in the day than I should, etc and it affects all areas of my life.  I need to figure out where I am off, and do something different to help get back to full power.  What can you do different to help you optimize your health, attitude, faith and efficiency through the day? 

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  John 15:5

When you rely only on your own strength, it is usually motivated by selfish reasons, to make you look good and seek the admiration of those around you.  I take a close look at my life and ask, what are the things that drive me every day?  One of the biggest is commitments.  I have committed to do my job, and I want to do it well and earn my paycheck.  I want to keep my word and follow through on my commitments to others.  I want to provide a good home for my family.  After I try to follow through on doing all these things, what is left?  Sometimes, we spend more time and energy on things that don’t matter so much in the long run, and short ourselves and others short on the things that truly do matter.  The key is to seeing this in our lives and making changes to do something about it.    

Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come.  Psalm 71:18

When things get rough, it may be helpful to admit that we can’t always do it on our own, and seek help from an outside source.  To some, asking for help (from others, from God) may feel like they have given up, or are less of a man because they couldn’t do everything they set out to do.  It is often a reality check, to help re-prioritize one’s life, and to ask if everything I have been doing has bee worth it, or if I should have spent time, energy, money, on other things.  Also, when we try to make everything ‘work out’ on our own, we tend to become more self-centered than we already are, pride becomes more central, and before we become burnt out on life, we refuse help from most who care about us, even God.  Our love for God is most easily reflected in how we love others, either we are usually doing both well, or not so well. 

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

So, if you are trusting in your own strength to get everything done, it is a sure recipe for crash and burn, at some point.  When you are connected to God, it energizes your relationships with others as well.  Take a few minutes to assess where you are on that spectrum and where God is asking you to trust Him more with your life.  Hand over a few things to Him, and eventually you may trust Him with everything in your life.  You will have more power that comes from a source much greater than your own!

Yours in Christ,
Clark

More or Less

 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

If you won the lottery or were given 5 million dollars, what would you do differently?  How about if you ended up with an extra $5,000, what difference would that make in your life?  How about if you have an extra $50 in your pocket now, what do you do with that?  When I was a kid and before I worked much, I thought $50 was a lot of money, then $500 was a lot, then $5,000, etc.  There was always a bigger amount I could earn or save or strive for, and still is.  There are people ½ my age that have a net worth 10x or 100x what I have accumulated in my life, but is that the measure we should be using.  How about how much money or time or energy we have given to worthy causes and to help others, do people ever keep track of those things?  I had a conversation in a small group this past week about we often find that those who have the least money are often the most generous with it toward others – part of the reason they don’t often have much.  When all is said and done, would you rather be know for how much you have or how much you have done with what you have?

I find that people are often sensitive and very guarded when they talk about money, how much they have, or where they spend it, etc.  They may feel judged, especially by those close to them about their ability to earn it, manage it, save it, give it, care about it or not.  Who do you trust for advice when it comes to what you have?  I have always liked what Paul had to say in these verses.  It is more a question of your attitude and plan with what you have than the amount of what you have.  Have you ever had to ask for help, either financially or physically or any other way?  Most of us want to be self-sufficient and never want or need to seek help if we don’t have to.  When you do, it humbles you.  Should this not be our same attitude toward God?  How often do we go to him in need?  The more we do, the more we trust Him to be faithful to us.  If we never ask for help, we will never appreciate what we have, and grow in our ability to manage it.  When we manage the assets and well-being of others, we grow much more in our responsibility, as others trust us.  Whether we feel we are in need or have plenty, our attitudes towards what we have should be the same, just as Paul stated. 

If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.  Luke 16:10

Do you have a retirement plan?  What is your dream for what you will do when you are ‘sufficient’ enough to not have to work, or not able to work anymore?  I made a comment a while back about having more to do in a day that I am capable of doing, and am not lacking for things to put on my ‘to do’ list.  That may change as I age, but I find there is always something to do, what that is or whether I should or not is the bigger question.  So, whether now or in retirement, we each need to ask whether the things we are doing are worthwhile for us or anyone else, in the long term.  We can spend our whole lives trying to accumulate money or things and it doesn’t take long for all that to disappear, whether we have anything to do with it or not.  I’m sure you have heard stories of squandered wealth from a variety of reasons.  How much would you have to trust someone to put them in charge of everything you have?  Each of us need to learn to be faithful with what little we have if we are to be trusted with anything more.  Honestly, none of it is ours anyway, even what we think we have one day will be gone.  So, put your trust in things that will last, and use what is given to you to make a difference in this life and the next. 

 

Yours in Christ,
Clark

Life and Death and other things

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 39:5

I was excited this morning after I crept out of bed, trying not to wake anyone, as I grabbed some clothes I needed for a run, and then checked my email.  I saw Brandon’s post about running, and I chuckled because I have not gone for a run in weeks, and the day I finally decide to make it happen, I see a shoe.  Its not that I don’t like to run, that I haven’t gone lately, but it’s that a dozen other things seem to take priority over this activity most days.  And with forecast temps in the 30’s this coming week, it seems the warm weather will be waning soon, and I should get out and enjoy the warm, humid air.  I like running because it is good for me, not just physically, but more so mentally.  It helps me think more clearly and focus on what’s most important.  It is a diversion from my normal routine that helps me look at what is going on in my life a little better.  What activities help you get a better perspective on life? 

As I did a couple loops, I paused briefly at a cemetery and thought of a retired co-worker, whose  husband is buried there, as well as others I’ve known who have passed away and the need to make our time here count, because it slips away faster than we would like.  Often, when we consider death, whether that of others or our own, we tend to embrace life a little more fervently.  If you have ever heard anyone talk who had a near death experience, you realize they greatly appreciate each new day they are given.  How much do we appreciate and give thanks for this new day?  In Christ’s time, death was much more evident in society than it is here.  Generally, we try to hide death from everyone and we try to make the dead look as alive as possible the few days before they are buried.  Up till this past century, which was the bloodiest on record, people tended to spend more time with those who lost a loved one.  In Christ’s time, there were dead bodies hanging on crosses as a sign to others to ‘stay in line’.  I’m not advocating for more morbidity or dead bodies in the public arena, but more of an awareness that death is just as much a part of each day as life is.  It seems to help us appreciate this life we are given a little more. 

This too is a grievous evil:  As everyone comes, so they depart,  and what do they gain, since they toil for the wind?  Ecclesastes 5:16

The one commodity that is limited for us all, is time.  If I had 48 hours in a day, I still would still probably not be able to get everything done that I need to and would like.  Work, Home, exercise, rest, projects, social time, reading, Time with God?  Where does all that fit in?  Up till the past few years, I was usually able to juggle most everything, not always perfectly, but in an acceptable manner, sometimes to my own detriment.  As I take on more responsibility with extra kids and commitments, it seems to be getting more difficult.  It’s all about prioritizing, you do what you feel is most important in any given moment or day.   Just do a time study – an inventory of where you actually spend your time for a few days, and you might be surprised what you find.  Our natural tendency is to do what is easiest, and if you have ‘free’ time, what do you usually do?  My natural tendency is to turn to the internet or television.  These and other things are ok in moderation, but often can gobble up time in a hurry if we let them.  Where do you waste the most time? 

So, how do you choose what you will be doing today?  Likely some things seem like you have to get them done, like work, paying bills, raking the leaves, etc, or there will be consequences.  Then there may be things you choose to do, because you enjoy doing it…hobbies, helping others, visiting friends, volunteering, reading, eating, watching a show, etc.  These may fill in most of the rest of the things in our day if we let it.  Everything we do has consequences.  If we choose to do something we like, we give up time serving in other areas, or seeking to grow and do new things, which are more uncomfortable.  Are you seeking new areas in which to learn and grow on a regular basis?  It is easy to say, ‘I don’t know much about that’ and either leave it to someone else, or avoid it all together.  This is fine in some areas, like constructions, where you don’t want to mess up multiple times before getting it right, but not all the time.  It is important to keep a curious mind and seek to grow on a regular basis.  Do you think there is room to grow in your faith?  What areas is God asking you to try new things and to grow in trust, love, or forgiveness?  Honestly, as much as I have an opportunity to practice these things, there is always room for me to grow.  May you be blessed in the attempt.

Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter:  Fear God and keep his commandments,  for this is the duty of all mankind.   For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.  Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

Yours in Christ,
Clark

Vital Mission

Be part of the Vital Mission and commit to a regular monthly donation to help with the costs involved with supporting our Vital Men events and outreach in our communities.

Click the donate button below to setup your recurring monthly donation.

Every Sunday at 8:30 AM

Listen to Mike on kBOE 104.9FM

LISTEN NOW