Author Archives: Clark

Thank You, Jesus

It has been nearly 2 months since many stopped to give thanks for things during Thanksgiving.  Have we stopped to give thanks since?  The question I ask is, ‘have I stopped appreciating what I have and thanking those who have given it to me?’  During an average day, how often to you simply tell someone else, ‘thank you’?  If you ever stand in line at the store, you see a variety of reactions from gratitude, to impatience, to entitlement.  Just ask someone who has ever worked in retail about some of their worst customers.  That’s not a good way to be remembered.  Who do you thank each day as you go through life?  Your employer, your children, your spouse?  Do you do this with your voice, by written word, or with other actions like a thank you gift?  Maybe you do it so often that you really don’t mean it sometimes.  Is it ok to say thanks to someone, even when they don’t deserve it?  Do you like to be appreciated by others in your life? 

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.  Psalm 107:1

More often than not, we give thought to what we want or do not have than what we already have in front of us.  How much of your day and thought life is filled with, ‘what do I have to do or get done next’?  Its not bad in that it propels us forward to get things done, but seldom allows us to stop and appreciate what we have or what is going well.  Instead, we may blow a gasket when something happens to derail our plans and things don’t go as we think they should.  Whether that is a family member, co-worker, or stranger that fails us and causes us to change our plans, it may also cause us to lose sight of the things that are really important in our lives.  How often do you give thanks for the people who are important to you in your life? 

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.  1 John 3:1

How often do you give thanks to God?  I questioned how many times I audibly say, ‘Thank You, Jesus!’ and if I would do it more often, would that help me appreciate him more?  We regularly stop to give thanks for food and other things relevant to our day when we sit down to eat as a family.  It’s a good chance for me to stop and look at what is going on today and find things to appreciate, even if the day hasn’t gone particularly well or as planned, which to some degree is most every day.  Aside from grace before meals and worship in church, how often do we stop to say thank you?  Maybe in prayer time, starting by being grateful for the relationship we have with God, and for His gift of salvation can put us in a state of humility and willingness to hear from Him.  The more we look, maybe the more we can find things to be thankful for and time to do it. 

Rejoice always, pray continually,  give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

An even bigger question beyond ‘are you thankful’, is what do you do in response?  Does being thankful cause you to do something?  Maybe there have been people in your life that you really appreciate now, but never got to tell thank you.  Maybe it was a teacher, coach, mentor when you were younger, who helped you in ways that you never appreciated at the time.  Is it ok to tell them thanks now, after many years have passed?  Many of us focus on the negative aspects of our parents and never really appreciate what they have done for us.  Maybe it compels you to do better and go the extra mile for others in your life.  Often, when I realize the enormity of how much God has forgiven me, and how he generously loves me and others in this world who don’t  deserve it, it causes me to feel and act in a similar manner toward others.  To have compassion, patience, love, and even kind words for those who don’t deserve it that I may encounter each day.  What will you do today to demonstrate to someone the love and gratitude in your life? 

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.  Ephesians 4:32

 

Yours in Christ,

Clark

Clean Again

This past week felt a lot like Spring around many parts of Iowa.  Saturday was Sunny with highs in the 50s around many parts of the state.  If you have walked through your yard or driven on any gravel roads, you may have also noticed another Springtime phenomenon, Mud!  We got some rain early this week and my car was looking pretty clean afterward.  Later that day, I had an appointment about 5 miles out on gravel and though I tried to avoid any big puddles, regardless, it was covered in a nice dusty brown again.  I even saw someone this morning scraping mud off the highway, near where a lot of vehicles were going in and out of a muddy parking area.  No matter where you encounter mud, you will eventually end up with some of it on, or all over you, and you will get dirty.  How do you avoid getting dirty when everything around you is covered in mud? 

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;  wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.  Psalm 51:7

One early memory I had, when I was probably 2-4 years old was playing with my brother around one of the mud puddles we had on our farm.  It probably started out innocently, but eventually became a mud wrestling challenge.  I don’t recall many of the details, but I do recall my mother’s reaction when she found us, and having to clean up the mess we made of ourselves.  It may have seemed fun at the time, but getting dirty always has consequences.  Someone has to clean up our messes.  I often comment to myself, or my wife, that raising kids is a constant cycle of cleaning up one mess after another, whether mine of someone else’s mess.  How about you, who cleans up after you?  Whether that is around the house, or a work project, or relationships that have been damaged in some way by what you have said or done? 

“Come now, let us settle the matter,”  says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet,  they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.  Isaiah 1:18

How often do you go to the Lord and ask Him to clean up your messes?  How often do you ask for forgiveness from the mistakes and sin in your life?  Even if you do not realize all the things you do or say and how this impacts you or others negatively, it is good to ask for forgiveness from these things in your life to be made right, and to feel clean again, for a time.  It is easy to downplay how much sin impacts our lives, when we say, ‘oh, its just a little thing, its not that bad.’  While we may not overtly intend to break the law, at various times, we do so, even if we are unaware of it.  We do start to notice the cumulative effect of sin, selfishness, and dirt in our lives when the person looking back at us in the mirror is barely recognizable.  As a regular, even daily practice, seek forgiveness from those things that tend to mar your face and life.  Know that you can be made whole and clean again each time you go back for the water that cleans not just the outside, but your entire body, life, and soul. 

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 1:8-9

Yours in Christ,
Clark

 

Convictions to Resolve

With the turning of a new year, it prompts us to pause a moment and take a look back and examine our lives a bit.  What has happened, what have we done, where have we succeeded and where have we failed?  What changes do you want to make in your life?  If there are things that you prompted to improve, chances are, this is not something new to you.  We all have things that we struggle with, that we are usually well aware of, on an ongoing basis.  So, whether you actually resolve to make changes in certain areas, or even create a goal for what you want to accomplish, without an action plan, chances are you will see limited success.  Being accountable to someone, other than yourself, for what you want to accomplish may be the best indicator for success.  We can all say we want to be healthier, but in what area of life are you most convicted to make changes?

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.  This is what the ancients were commended for.  Hebrews 11:1-2

The most common area people want to change is with something physical.  This may include restrictions and improvements on what we eat or drink and how that impacts our weight and health.  We should also ask, why am I compelled to eat better or improve my health?  Maybe it is so you can be able to better engage with your family or be able to serve others for more years.  Maybe you want to be able to maintain what abilities you currently have.  I have not been able to run as often as I would like to do over the past 6 months, so I either need to adjust my schedule to better accommodate this, or change my priorities.  I always say the best exercise is going for a long walk with someone else, as it has a positive impact on multiple areas of our health.   Where do you want to improve your physical health?

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;  you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Another area we may want to grow, is our spiritual live.  This may resemble our relational/social well-being as well.  How we relate to others is often similar to how well we converse and interact with God.  Is it as natural as breathing, or does it feel like a struggle each time you try to pray or spend time in the Word?  With any discipline, the more we do it, often the more natural it becomes.  Also, the more fruit you see from the time invested, the more motivated we are to continue on with each discipline.  Just as the first time you were convicted of sin and trusted in Christ for your salvation, He is willing to renew your spirit each time you turn back to him.  Even if you feel you have so much to do that making time for God is not a good option, commit to pray and talk even for a short time, but more frequently, and watch how that can still make a difference in  your day.  I’ve been doing this for years and can still be surprised how even a small investment to God can make a big impact in my life. 

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.   And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deedsHebrews 10:23-24

What areas of your social and emotional side of life do you feel convicted about?  Especially for men, we don’t feel there is much wrong with how we relate to others, unless it makes others want to avoid us.  One thing that seems to help, is to spend more time and time listening to others.  It doesn’t have to be everyone, but maybe even just one person, e.g. your spouse, and see what a difference that can make.  Simply ask a question, and commit not to interrupt for at least 3 minutes.  Time spent actively listening to someone shows that you value them and what they say.  Try it first with those you love, and then with those you don’t like to see if it can make you care for them more. 

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.  1 Corinthians 15:58

This is not meant to be a comprehensive list of everything we need to do to become a perfect Christian, but just a personal reflection of things we can do to bring awareness of small things we can do to create changes in our lives that can make a big difference.  If you ask, most of us would like to be more effective and efficient with how we spend our time on things we both have to do and want to do.  If where I spend my time, money, and energy helps me improve my life and further God’s Kingdom, then I want to move in that direction.  May you continue to spur others on to good works, and potentially be all that you can be, regardless of which army you are in!

Yours in Christ,
Clark

I told me so

Have you ever gone back to read what you have written before?  Maybe it is a letter you wrote and found again, an email you sent, or just a journal entry you made when you were younger.  It may even be an audio or video recording of something you watched again and maybe even asked, ‘do I sound like that?’  Whether that be something from a few months to years or decades before, as you go over what you had expressed (in your own voice) you realize that it may or may not be the same thing you would say today.  It may even reinforce something you had said, and you are even more convicted by those things as you read them again.  What value does It have in going over it again now? 

Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways.”  Haggai 1:5

How well do you keep your word?  If you say to a friend or business acquaintance that you are going to take care of something today, do you do it?  Its not always a question of how good your memory is, but whether or not people will believe you if you give them your word.  I hate committing to something that I am not sure I can make happen.  I may say I will try to get something done, but if the outcome is questionable, I don’t want to lie.  I dealt with some proclaimed professional people this past year who stated they would do something and did not follow through, even after repeated inquiries.  I also dealt with a much smaller handful of professionals who did what they said and were fairly prompt in replying to phone calls.  Those who followed up on their word have earned my trust for any future collaboration, and honestly, I would be much less likely to ask, much less hire any of the others to do any work for me.  How many chances do you give others who have failed you to try and make it right again?  Would you ever trust someone who can’t keep their word to you? 

The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.  Proverbs 11:3

How much do you trust God’s Word?  Do you ever hear a verse and recall it, but realize it has even more meaning in your life now?  Do you really believe all that the Bible says from Genesis to Revelation?  If we doubt even a part of what God has declared in His Word to us, then we call the whole thing into question.  When we trust Him at His word, then we are more apt to believe what he has said throughout his word, and in what he says to us daily as well.  When we trust God with our prayers and our lives, we can better see how He proves himself to us over and over again.  If we don’t take him at his word, then we are less likely to believe the truth, even when it is right in front of us.  How much are you willing to trust Him today? 

The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.  Isaiah 40:8

The next time you read something you have written, or something from another author, your view of them will influence how much you trust what they are saying.  I often hold a new writer under suspicion until I can verify whether or not they speak the truth, and therefore whether I can trust what they say.  God has proven himself through his word and by other means, so I trust him with my life today and the rest of my years.  Do you?

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  Hebrews 4:12

Yours in Christ,
Clark

Tradition!

Have you ever sung the praises of the family traditions in your life?  Maybe not publicly, but how do you promote what you do each year for Christmas, New Year’s, Birthdays, etc?  My wife and I are trying to decide what traditions we will incorporate into our annual Christmas celebration.  We each come with different things our families did when we grew up, and we have discovered some more meaningful things to do as well.  Each night before bedtime, we have been reading a bible story which leads up to the birth of Christ, and then having the children put a magnetic number decoration on a tree.  This is something neither of us did, but we feel it is a new tradition that has significance in pointing them to the real Reason for the Christmas season.  What are some of your favorite Christmas traditions? 

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.  Colossians 2:8

When I was growing up, my mother stepped her game up a notch and did quite a bit of decorating and baking and making sure lots of little things reminded us that December 25 was approaching.  She made several types of cookies and fudge that she never made any other time of the year, so they were special to us, not just because they tasted good.  I have mostly all good memories of celebrating these holidays with my family, even as we all held candles at the Christmas Eve service, no disasters that I can recall.  The smell of the Christmas tree, the records playing on our big old stereo, cards from friends and family lining the walls, the anticipation that seemed everywhere.  Everything wasn’t overtly religious or reinforced that it was about God’s Son, but it all worked together to remind us of how special a gift that Jesus was the night he was born.  What things are most meaningful in helping you appreciate the real meaning of Christmas?

He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:

“‘These people honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
   They worship me in vain;
    their teachings are merely human rules.’

 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”  Mark 7:6-8

Traditions can be good if they point you in the right direction and remind you of what is truly important, but they can also distract you and misalign your priorities as well.  Richard Foster reminds us in the book ‘Celebration of Discipline’ that the goal of each discipline is not that act itself (prayer, worship, etc), but what it brings about in your spiritual life.  The same can be said of traditions, they can help reinforce the meaning behind why you do what you do, but the danger is that they can become the focus as well.  Instead of just getting a really good meal at Thanksgiving, we forget to be thankful that we even can eat.  I’m not here to disparage or tell you to change traditions, but just to examine them for what they are.  If they do more to distract, then maybe let them go for a while.  Or maybe find a new tradition to try in its place. 

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Isaiah 9:6

As you celebrate the birth of our Savior this year, may you be reminded of how a little child born over 2000 years ago can still influence the world each day in remarkable ways.  May He still have that influence on you this year, whether you have known Him since childhood, or just found out how significant He is.  May you be Blessed this Christmas!

Yours in Christ,
Clark

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