Author Archives: Clark

Count the Cost

Whenever you make a purchase, you decide if something is worth the asking price.  You stop at a convenience store and are craving a candy bar or soda and don’t care if they cost 3 times what you would pay elsewhere.  Maybe you are debating whether or not to bail a friend out of trouble and ask yourself if it will really make a difference this time of if he will just end up in the same place again.  A few hours or a few years later, you look back at some of your choices and say, I’ll never do that again, or maybe that was well worth it!  Many of our poor choices in life are fueled by strong emotions like anger, frustration, pride, or greed.  There was an incident a couple weeks ago within 2 miles from my home where emotions between 2 young men escalated to the point where one was stabbed to death.  When we get into trouble, either by saying something we shouldn’t, or by doing something stupid that we later regret, or any number of small or large costly mistakes, we hopefully learn from it with as little negative consequence on us or those around us.  What are your biggest failures or regrets, so far? 

In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.  Luke 14:33

In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.  2 Timothy 3:12

When you make a purchase, like a car or a house, you may often be so excited about the benefits of the item that you overlook some of the flaws or drawbacks.  Maybe you didn’t notice a few things that may cost you more in repairs later on.  At one point in your life, when you said yes to Christ, were you mainly concerned with the cost or the benefit of becoming His disciple?  For many of us, we may have been motivated by the understanding of our depravity and need for a Savior, while at the same time fearing the other option of eternal damnation.  There are even some who chase after a false prosperity gospel message of getting rich by following Christ.  When we become His, the desires of our heart often change from worldly things to eternal things, and we also learn that we are not promised wealth, but more so persecution.  Some of us do not really surrender our whole life to Him, but often try to hold on to many of our selfish desires and maintain control of what we want and not what He wants for us.  How many of us have fully surrendered our lives to Christ saying ‘do with me as you please’?

If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.   And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.  Luke 14:26-27

Following Christ in the West often has little implication on our family and friends.  Your friends may change a bit, but its not usually socially unacceptable to be a Christian, even if your family does not do the same.  If you are living in a primarily Musilm, Buddhist or Hindu country, becoming a Christian can have much more significant implications.  You often may disown your own family, or become shunned by them to make such a decision.  After reading only a few stories of persecuted Christians, you realize that some may even face the threat of imprisonment or even death as a result of their faith.  Have you ever wondered or asked yourself what you would do in a situation like this?  If given the option to hold on to your faith or your life, which would you choose?   We may hope that we never face such a threat, but pray for those who do, and for what you would choose if in their shoes.  Maybe a more pressing question for you today is ‘What do I want’ vs. ‘What does God want’?

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  Galatians 2:20

Yours in Christ,
Clark

Fear Factors

I was working with a second grader on bible memory verses yesterday and the question came up about any concerns that he could take to God in prayer and he mentioned hearing noises at night.  While this may seem tame in comparison to other kids who are uncertain of their next meal or who live in fear of those in charge over them, but any fear is legitimate.  We can and should take any of our desires and concerns to the Lord in prayer because more often than not, He deals with the heart of the issue.  When was the last time you shared your deepest joys or concerns with another person or with the Lord in prayer? 

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.  Psalm 56:3

Maybe it has been a while since you have been scared of things that go bump in the night, but what things cause to you worry or make you say ‘I hope that never happens to me.’  The list of things that people are afraid of is as long as your imagination.  There used to be a show on TV called Fear Factor where they would put people in head to head challenges where there was an impending danger like crashing, falling from high places, drowning, or being surrounded by snakes or bugs.  We can usually control most of these physical worries by avoiding situations where we would feel threatened or choosing not to watch scary movies, but other fears are not as easy to get away from.  What are your greatest fears?

Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.  Joshua 1:9

The things that worry most of us are usually the things that are beyond our ability to control.  These are usually dominated by fears of not having enough money, fear of failure or losing a job, of relationships and marriages falling apart, our health deteriorating or getting hurt, and fears of our kids running into trouble or turning out ‘bad’ just to name a few.  We may feel much of our health is within our control (don’t drink, smoke, or engage in risky behaviors, etc), though much is not and is determined by genetics and other environmental factors.  We even hear of those that fear they are trapped in the wrong body, or don’t respect life.  Just read the news any day and we see stories of seemingly normal people who end up in tragic situations.  It’s a wonder that any of us make it through any given day, but by God’s grace. 

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.  1 John 4:18

While we may not be able to abate all the fear in the world, God can.  Though that usually starts with us.  When there are things outside our control that worry us, the best cure is to give those concerns to God.  When we fully surrender all these things to Him, in my experience, there is often an immediate peace that fills in where that worry formerly resided.  It also deepens our faith when we start to trust God, not just with things outside of our command, but with everything in every area of our lives.  Whenever those fears start to creep in again in new or familiar ways, we just keep giving it over to Him until it becomes our second nature.  May you experience joy where there was once fear as you continue to trust Him more and more each day!

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7

Yours in Christ,
Clark

A New Season

Earlier this week we got a little taste of Spring and people seemed to like it.  I saw joggers, people walking in short sleeves, motorcycles, and open windows driving around town.  Technically, we are a few weeks till the end of Winter, but you can sense something different in the air.  The change of seasons is part of the reason I enjoy living in the Midwest, as there is always something new around the corner.  Each season has its ups and downs, but there is always something good about it.  How do you handle a season you are not looking forward to in your life? 

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:  a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot.  Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

One month from now begins the start of another season – Baseball!  Do you know what is unique to this upcoming season that has not happened in 50 years?  Years ago, when I was in High School, I could probably name most every player on every MLB team, used to check the league stats most every week and even enjoyed playing the game through the Summer, but that season in my life has now passed.  I have to admit, I am currently a fair weather fan and don’t get too worked up over my formerly favorite teams, unless they have a shot at the World Series, but even then it doesn’t really matter much to me.  At the beginning of each season, the records are all the same, 0W 0L, so everyone gets a fresh start.  There may be some pressure to do better than last season, or to repeat if you were the champs, but once again, its anyone’s game and almost like pushing the ‘reset’ button on your console. 

Our days may come to seventy years,  or eighty, if our strength endures;  yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.  Psalm 90:10

We go about each day and each year usually fairly short sighted, taking care of whatever daily tasks and urgent situations arise from week to week.  What we do each day plays a small part in how each year, and ultimately our lives play out.  Before you know it, you are in your 60s to 70s and will be saying ‘where did the time go?’    But as the Keynesian quote goes, ‘in the long run, we are all dead.’  So the little blip we make on this earth as we pass from season to season eventually takes us to the last game.  When you are standing at the plate in your last at bat, what things will you wish you had done differently, and what things will you want to do yet as the 9th inning comes to a close? 

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.  Ephesians 4:29-32

If we look very long, we can all find things in our lives we regret we had done or not done, but cannot change now.  The one thing we can do is to forgive others for the wrongs inflicted on us, and to seek forgiveness for our own misdeeds.  Even if the person who we hurt is no longer living, we can ask God to forgive us for those things.  He wipes away our sin, and a clean slate to work from moving forward.  When we look back and see our failures, hopefully we can learn from them and allow them to transform us into better players as we have new opportunities to take at bats in life.  As opportunities present, take some time to share what you have learned with the rookies on your team, to encourage them to mature and to develop strategies that will serve them and everyone around them better in the long run. 

Yours in Christ,
Clark

Surprise!

Do you like Surprises?  How you react to surprises probably depends on what kind of surprise it is, or whether it is a ‘good’ or a ‘bad’ thing, and often evokes excitement or fear.  Most of us like a nice surprise, like an unexpected gift, a day off work, or a discount on your most recent purchase.  Maybe you know someone who doesn’t like unexpected things, such as a birthday party, but prefers to be in control over what is happening.  Maybe you know others who blow a gasket when something doesn’t go their way or they get delayed while driving – surprise, a traffic jam!  This past Sunday afternoon, I found that I had another sewer issue after having just paid out $375 for a plumber the week before.  Within a couple hours, I also found my computer had been attacked by malware and thought I might have lost everything I had not backed up in the past couple months.  Every surprise, good or bad, eventually resolves with the right input or in time.  The result is not always to our liking, but if viewed correctly, can strengthen our faith. 

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 have been watching any of the Winter Olympics, you have undoubtedly seen more combined excitement and disappointment than should be allowed in any given competition.  Often, the difference between gold and 4th place is a tiny slip-up or fractions of a second making up the difference.  There are unexpected moments of a last second goal, or the leader wiping out and others passing to victory.  You never know what each day holds, whether in the Olympics or in our own little lives.  How we deal with victory or defeat on varying levels says a lot about our character and where we put our hope.    Where is your hope when things don’t go your way? 

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

How often are you surprised by God?  Maybe you were reading some scripture and discovered something that was extremely relevant in your life, or had an insight you had never seen before.  Maybe your prayers were answered when you least expected them to be.  Have you been astounded by the depth of love and joy found in the forgiveness of Christ?  When we discover the undeserved grace God has given us, we often lack words to describe it.  Maybe you have rarely if ever put yourself in a position to challenge your faith, but have always ‘played it safe’.  Keep seeking and keep asking and you will assuredly encounter more joy and more surprises in this life and the one to come!

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.   Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.   Jeremiah 29:11-13

Yours in Christ,

Clark

What is Love?

So, most people either tend to hate or love Valentine’s day, no pun intended.  If a woman, or romantic type of guy, you may be motivated by mushy words and gifts from a spouse or friend.  If not this type of person, or not in a relationship, you may poo-poo the foo-foo of people celebrating seemingly superficial things, or just a chance for someone to make a buck or two off you.  I often tell my wife that I don’t love her more or less on any given day, but still get her a card or dark chocolate as a small reminder that she is loved.  What do you think, is it good to show your love on some days more than others?  What is love? 

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.  Romans 12:9-10

If you are much like me, then maybe you grew up thinking love was just strong feelings for another person, as that is pretty much what we are bombarded with in movies, music, and most media.  I would guess about half of most pop songs have something to do with a love related theme and ask such questions as ‘what is love’, ‘where did our love go’, ‘where is the love’, as well as ‘tainted love‘, ‘let your love flow‘ and countless others.  Maybe you had your heart ‘broken’ in High School by being rejected, or when who you thought was the love of your life turned out not to be so.  We often used the term love in a frivolous way as an attraction toward something…I love cheesy fries, or I love that girl I just saw for the first time, etc.  How did your understanding of what love really is change from something so selfish to something selfless? 

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Romans 5:8

We often hear the phrase ’love is a verb’, which basically means it is something you do, and not just something you feel.  It is demonstrated in selfless actions toward another in how we put their needs above our own.  Ask any parent what they have done to show love to their children.  You may have heard the different Greek forms for love including Agape, Eros, Philia, and Storge, which each depict a certain aspect or type of love.  The primary one used in scripture is Agape, which is the type of unconditional love demonstrated between men and God.  Looking at examples of this helps us understand it, share it, and experience it more and more.

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  1 John 4:10

So maybe you don’t get into the hype or commercialism of trying to show someone your love when everyone else does on a holiday, but hopefully you take time to show and share your love in some way each day.  The more you share it and receive it, the easier it gets to be a natural part of your life.  What greater way to show someone you love them than to share the Good News of the love of God in Christ!  It is the gift that keeps on giving as the love it contains has no end.  May you be blessed and know you are loved today and always!

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”  Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.   And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  Matthew 22:36-40

Yours in Christ,
Clark

 

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