Author Archives: Clark

Wait a Minute

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had.  Romans 15:5

In our supersonic society, it is difficult to wait for much of anything anymore.  Whether it is waiting for our smartphones or computers to connect and get to the program we want to use, or waiting on someone else to get ready so we can leave, there are multiple opportunities to become impatient throughout the day.  When someone hits your pause button, what is your reaction?  Does it take much for you to flip your lid or say something that you could easily regret later?  What can you do to keep your cool?

A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.  Proverbs 15:18

Do you have any pauses built in to your day?  It seems to go against our chronic desire for more efficiency, yet in the long run, it can actually make us more efficient.  Honestly, when I can take 2-10 minutes to go for a walk, or stop and take a break to refocus, breathe more slowly, pray, or otherwise reset, I move forward with more purpose and motivation than I had previously.  This is not something that I get to do every hour in this way, but maybe once or twice when a day is becoming crazy.  A simple break can reset our attitude and take the focus from myself to what is most important.

The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.  Psalm 103:8

So, brethren, the next time you find yourself stuck in a long checkout line, behind an unexpected line of cars waiting for road construction, or anything else that makes you wait longer than you think you should, be thankful.  Instead of becoming angry at whoever or whatever might have done this to you, take a moment to pray for the person right in front of you, or ask God to temper your impulses and guard your heart and mouth from being led down the wrong path.  Change a miserable moment into a merciful moment and one that may be memorable.  The more often we laugh at the sad predicaments we get in to, the less power they have over us and the greater chance they will be less irritating in the future.  Allow God to transform, like He has done so many times before.

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.  Isaiah 40:31


Strength and Courage in Christ,
Clark

Limitless?

We often hear parents tell their kids ‘you can be anything you want’ in regard to their future and careers.  It may be good to open their eyes to possibilities and give them hope, but it also may not be entirely true.  Not every child will get straight A’s and get in to every school they want and get a perfect job (no job is perfect).  We all face disappointment at some time.  We all have limits.  This past week has been one of the most challenging in recent memory.  It was not one catastrophic thing, but a series of events that tested the limits of what I thought I could handle in a day and over time.  Without going in to too much detail…my wife was gone for 11 days, I was in charge of 2 young kids, they got sick, got medicine, got worse, I got sick, the cat is nearly dead, work deadlines loomed, my father had health issues and is still in the hospital.  Granted, things could have been worse and there is an end in sight to some of these challenges, but in the midst of them, I felt like I was overboard, even after receiving help. 

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.  Psalm 46:1-2

Have you ever bitten off more than you can chew?  Whether it is more at work, overindulged in a hobby, kids in more activities than you can keep up with, or whatever you find yourself drowning in, you realize you have over committed.  It may not even be things you have chosen, but responsibilities imposed on you by someone else.  In the midst of the chaos, you may stop and ask – What am I doing?  Why am I doing this?  or Am I doing the right thing?  Just questioning your actions may help point you in the right direction.  Maybe it is starting to say no to things that are not necessary, to improve your ability to do the things that are necessary.  Maybe it is putting down your pride and asking for help in a season of need.  Maybe it is trusting in God to help you endure a difficult time in your life.  It may feel impossible in the midst of a time of struggle, but there is hope, even to the point and beyond death. 

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.   For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  2 Corinthians 4:16-17

We often hear that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.  This is true when it comes to temptation, as he gives us a way out, but not when it comes to trials.  Do we know how much we can handle?  Not unless we have been tested.  I believe often, he lets the natural consequence to events play out to what we believe is our detriment, and in reality, just reveals the true nature of our hearts.  We find out what we are made of and the limit of our abilities when the pressure cooker is on.  If what comes out of difficult situations is frustration, anger, and despair, then you are putting your hope in your own abilities instead of the one who made you.  When you are pushed beyond the limits of your own abilities and resources, you grow and are forced to trust in someone other than yourself.  You are being refined. 

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

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  James 1:2-3

Limitless?  No, we all have limits to what we can do, though we often do not know what they are until we are tested.  Many times, the limits we perceive are often self imposed as we say “I could never do that.”  Instead of navel gazing and complaining in the midst of our difficulties, we need to look up, look beyond this momentary thing to the one who transcends time and death.  Christ is our example and the one who went before us, enduring more than we could imagine through the cross and beyond death.  He is our advocate and offers that same strength to us in our time off need.  Where we have limits, he does not!

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.  Hebrews 12:1-3

Strength and Courage in Christ,

Clark

Hungry

Steak 2

From the time we are born, it is one of our most driving desires – to get our bellies full.  Kids have a built in alarm against hunger – when they want fed, they let you know.  We can go a while without food, but the longer we do, the more we are reminded of our hunger.  Every night this week, I have had food cravings before going to bed.   Most nights I eat plenty earlier in the evening at dinner time, but still, I am getting into a pattern of a late snack.  I don’t need it, but I am really starting to crave it.  Who is in charge, me or my stomach?  What are you hungry for? 

He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.  Deuteronomy 8:3

What lengths will you go to get the meal you want?  Maybe it is a certain restaurant you will drive hours for to sit down for your favorite meal, a special desert that only your mom can make, or a certain sweet corn that you track down when the season draws near.  People will drop a lot of cash to get that special meal or drink that they long for.  Is it worth the effort?  It must be, or we wouldn’t be doing it.  Do we put forth the same effort to fill our spiritual hunger as we do to meet our physical needs? 

Taste and see that the Lord is good;  blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.  Psalm 34:8

We are often reminded throughout scripture of the connection between our spiritual needs in relation to our physical hunger and thirst.  God provided manna and water in the desert when they were in need.  Jesus began his ministry with a 40 day fast as he was tempted in the desert.  Most of his miracles involved meeting the physical desires (blind, lame, sick, hungry) of those he encountered, while emphasizing the even greater spiritual needs that they had.    We are reminded to give thanks before gorging ourselves on whatever sits on our plate.  The very act of taking communion incorporates all of our senses in the process.  When we fast, our hunger reminds us of an even greater need for God in our lives. 

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.  Matthew 5:6

As we start to reap the benefits of our gardens and other Summer time produce, let us be reminded of how fragile our lives are.  We wouldn’t have to go more than a day without food, before we would start taking drastic measures to get what we want.  The next time you celebrate around food or sit down to your favorite steak, be reminded of how blessed we are that our physical needs are so well met, but even more so, sing and praise Him for meeting every spiritual hunger that we long for.  When that hunger comes back time and again, know where you can go to be fully satisfied. 

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.  John 6:35

Strength and Courage in Christ,
Clark

Turn Around

Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.  Isaiah 45:22

Where are you looking?  In this life, we may put our hope in a lot of different things and a lot of different people.  Where is your hope?

Just look at the world around you and you can see where people are putting their faith.  They try to accumulate wealth to be self-sufficient and not need from anyone, even God.  Some put their hope in their health and youth, trying to control how they eat, sleep, and exercise to prolong their lives, until they realize they have little control over what happens.  There are some who are motivated by pleasure and experience, seeking only the next best meal, drink, thrill, or self-indulgent behavior, ultimately leading to their own self demise if they do not realize the path they are on.  Remember, none of these activities in their proper place are bad, in and of themselves, but when it is your source of purpose and hope for why you are here, it then becomes an idol. 

All people will disappoint you sooner or later.  Either because they are sinners and don’t do what they promised you, or because your expectations are unrealistic.  Every politician may fit in this category, as they make promise after promise we want to hear during their run for election, and then are unable to deliver on everything.  When we are young children, we think our parents are the best people ever, then as we mature, we realize they have some flaws, just like everyone else, even if they still love us.  For various reasons we may let down others as well, even if we justify our actions in our own minds.  Even God may disappoint us when he doesn’t come through in the way we expect Him to act.  When our prayers go unanswered, something doesn’t turn out how we wanted, or we experience a series of unfortunate events, we question whether he hears us, or cares about us. 

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.  Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.  Psalm 62:5-6

So, wherever you turn for meaning and purpose in this life, remember if it is on anything or anyone other than God, sooner or later you will be disappointed.  There are many things that will disappoint us in this life and eventually we will learn that most things are fleeting, including this life.  Stand on the promises that God makes and take hope in him.  Share with others this truth found in Christ alone.  He is our hope. 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Hebrews 12:1-2

Strength and Courage in Christ,
Clark

Seeking

 

What are you pursuing?  What are most people seeking in this life?  When you look at the lives of those around you, why do most people do what they do?  In America, you may hear the phrase ‘keeping up with the Jonses’ as a term to illustrate the constant pursuit of getting the next new thing that makes you appear just as good as your neighbor.  Whether it is posting your latest conquest on Facebook, keeping your yard looking perfect, kids with the best report card, having a new vehicle in the driveway, or any number of other achievements for which you can compare yourself to others.  Behind this, the motive may be to make as much money as possible to promote this lifestyle.  Looking at what we see in commercials and the media would seem to support this.  Is this what we were made for?  Just to appear better than most of our neighbors by our things and accomplishments? 

I heard a quote by Ravi Zacharias some time ago which summarized the end pursuit of three different empires.  He said the end goal of the Hebrews was light, the pursuit of the Greeks was knowledge, and for the Romans it was glory.  Throughout scripture, especially the Old Testament, there is often a contrast between darkness and light.  The Greeks thought amassing knowledge of the natural world would give them the answers they sought.  The Romans fought to be strong and powerful to bring glory to themselves and the city that was not built in a day.  While these may be strong motivators, what is the end goal of each…to appease our own selfish desires, or for a better purpose?  Where does God fit into this picture? 

 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.  2 Corinthians 4:6

The apostle Paul summarizes these pursuits in this one verse and connects them all in Christ.  He is the light of the world.  Of all of us, he is the one deserving any glory.  The knowledge of the savior of the world brings a greater transformation than any other truth we may find.  In fact, all pursuit of truth should lead us to Him.  In a world full of lies and half-truths, it is refreshing to be grounded in the truth, which Christ reveals in all we do. 

 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.  Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”  John 18:37

Who’s glory am I seeking, my own or God’s?  What knowledge is most beneficial to me and others?  Does my life reflect more of the light from God or the darkness found deep within my selfish heart?  While many of these pursuits can have the appearance of being good intentioned to those around us, even we may not always even know why we are chasing after some of these things.  Often, only God knows the true nature of our hearts and can reveal that to us and others.  In scripture, Jesus often makes statements that get to the heart of why those around him are doing what they do.  If you struggle with this, simply ask him to reveal your true motives.  The truth found in Christ does this time and again when we encounter him.  May our true motives be made known to us and may we seek to honor God in all we do.  It is not always easy, but it definitely produces joy that last longer than any other accomplishment or prize that we may attain in this life.

Strength and Courage in Christ,
Clark

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