Author Archives: Clark

To Live

Do you ever get stuck on just one verse?  You may be reading a chapter or section of scripture and one word or phrase leaps out and won’t let you keep going.  I have been considering and dwelling on one verse lately, trying to grasp the full weight of what it means and how it applies to my life in all its various ways.  Often, I find it is an area where God wants me to grow in my life.  It may also be areas where I need pruning, so that I might become more fruitful as I allow his Spirit to work on mine.  What is your response when He gets your attention? 

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.  Philippians 1:21

We can look at our own lives and ask at any given moment ‘what am I living for?’  How does the evidence of my life answer that question?  Where do I spend most of my time, attention, and money…i.e. what am I pouring my life into?  It is probably good to ask this on a regular, if not daily basis if we want to know what or who we are living for.  If we really don’t want to know, we probably try to avoid these types of questions.  Or take it a step further and ask others what they see us giving ourselves toward the most.  God will surely show you the truth when you ask him.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.  John 10:10

Can we ever fully live for Christ?  It becomes more evident as we surrender more and more of our lives to him. Maybe it is easier to see in others than in ourselves at times.  As we read the words of Paul…was he living this way?  I believe so, after his conversion, his life was fully devoted to one main purpose, while he continued to deal with the struggles of life.  That is evident in many of the words he wrote as he kept surrendering more of his life and work and plans to Christ.  Is this what we strive for also?  What would my faith look like if this were true in my life?  To truly believe that living my life is promoting Christ, and to die is to be with him.  Is that what we believe? 

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

Sometimes it’s a song or a catch phrase that gets stuck in your head that gets replayed multiple times.  But when it’s a scripture verse that God gives you which gets mulled over and over, does it take on any new meanings for you?  It often does for me.  Especially when he reveals it in context and how it applies to all areas of my life.  It makes me consider whether I just provide lip service in acknowledging God’s word as true, or whether I am ‘all in’ to Christ and His Word in every part of my life.  It is not often an easy process, but is one that usually needs to be done.  May our desire be for more of Christ in more of our life, so that we become a reflection and a testament to Him.  As we allow him to refine us, may we find hope and joy in the process as we realize we are living for him and because of him. 

To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.  Colossians 1:27

Striving to live for Him,

Clark

Circumstantial

Does your love wax and wane depending on your circumstances?  Do you love your wife one day and hate her the next, or are those just your feelings that change?  We are a fairly fickle lot, and for most of us, our emotions and feelings can change at the drop of a hat, or a hammer, or when someone else drops the ball, or with the weather…you get the idea.  In our culture, we use the word love fairly loosely and recklessly, so that it loses the impact of its true meaning.  Kids can love a movie, you may love spaghetti, or you may love your child, or your wife, but all those loves should have different meanings.  Is our love for God and his love for us the same thing?  Not really. 

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

We may sing of our love for God and really feel that we mean it at times.  We may read a verse of scripture that really rings true in our hearts and feel that we love God, but then circumstances change and these feelings change from one moment to the next.  The same with our thankfulness.  We may feel truly grateful one day and selfish and indignant the next, but does genuine love truly depend on our feelings and emotions? 

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  Luke 6:35

Does God’s love for you depend on your behavior?  Often, we may feel we deserve his love when we are doing good things, and may feel unworthy of it at other times when our actions don’t warrant love from anyone.  But the truth is, no matter what we do, we don’t deserve his love, but he shows it to us anyway.  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Why would he show us his love when we didn’t deserve it? 

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,  may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  Ephesians 3:17-19

Honestly, I cannot fathom the depth of God’s love, because mine often seems to be more conditional than unconditional.  When strangers show me kindness, I am more apt to show the same in return, and when they are selfish, my gut reaction is to act the same in return (especially on the road).  But when I am filled with gratitude for God’s love, when his Spirit overflows from me, I am more apt to filter my words and actions and be loving toward others, regardless of the circumstances.  The fruit of love is displayed in our actions.  When we feel love and compassion toward another person, we are often moved to do loving things for them.  When we don’t feel kind or loving toward others, we may still choose to show them love. 

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 4:31-32

So, regardless of the circumstances you find yourself in today, remember to show your love to others who don’t deserve it.  Just as God showed his love to us when we didn’t deserve it, to be like Christ is to do the same.  Easier said than done, but maybe putting this on my ‘to do’ list is more important than some of the other things I have on there.  May God’s love continue to grow in your heart each day, regardless of the circumstances!

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.  2 Corinthians 13:14

With the Love of Christ,
Clark

Potential

Within each of us is the potential for great good or great evil.  The only thing that seems to determine how that may play out in our lives are some of the influences and opportunities we have to lead us down one path or another.  Just watch a 2 year old for a few minutes and this may become quite obvious.  Every child born defenseless and dependent on others has the potential to do great things, no matter how long or short that life is.  Did George Washington, Mother Teresa, Hitler, or any one of us fully realize how our lives would play out when we were a toddler, or did that become more and more clear as we learned who we were? 

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

When you were young, did anyone ever see something developing within you that you did not even realize yourself?  Whether it was a parent, a teacher, a coach, a pastor, or someone else who knew you enough to call out a particular strength that they saw developing in you.  They encouraged you to be all that you can be, and called out a particular talent or skill within you that they saw the potential to become something good.  When we are young, the words from a peer or an adult we respect can be very significant in the development of our value and self-confidence, either in a positive or negative manner.  Can you recall the words someone said to you years or decades ago that seem as if they were just yesterday? 

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.  Ephesians 1:4-5

Isn’t this the true nature of God…To redeem what was once worthless and make it into something valuable?  How often do we let discouragement and lies lead us to believe that we are not worth the price God paid for us?  Once you have been redeemed with Christ’s blood, know that you are worth more than you will ever realize or fully understand.  When you realize this value, both in yourself and others, it is much easier to live out the potential you have within you and to encourage others to do the same. 

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

Throughout scripture, we are reminded of our inherent worth as humans born in the image of God, and the value he placed on a people damaged by sin, enough to send his Son into a broken world to redeem us.  When we realize, or even partially realize how precious we are to God because of the price he paid for us, we should be encouraged by the Spirit to live up to and to live out our full potential.  Granted, we may never live up to our own expectations, but if we are striving in the right direction, we will still have opportunities to fully realize much more of the potential God has given to us than we could have ever imagined as we live for Him.

So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.  Matthew 10:31

Strength and Courage in Christ,
Clark

 

Maundy

Maundy Thursday, also called Holy Thursday, is when we commemorate Jesus’ washing his disciples feet as well as the Last Supper.  The word “Maundy” comes from the Latin word for ‘mandate’ or ‘command’ and is a reference to Jesus’ words in the book of John, in which he told his disciples, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”  This was a precursor to the even greater act of love he would demonstrate in the coming days as he gave up his life for them.  The church practice of washing the feet of the poor is often referred to as the Maundy,  which is even seen in weddings and other ceremonies as a commitment to be a servant leader.    

 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.  I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.   Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.   Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.  John 13:14-17

If you have ever participated in a Passover Seder, maybe you would agree that the symbolism found throughout the meal is fairly meaningful.  For the Jews, it was a traditional festival to remind them of God’s provision as he delivered them from slavery in Egypt.  For me, I couldn’t help but recognize the similarities between the part of the Seder where the bread is broken and part of the bread (the afikoman) is wrapped and hidden (buried) only to be found  and used later.  It is no wonder that Jesus referring to himself as the bread of life had even greater meaning to those that regularly took part in these practices. 

And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”   In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.  Luke 22:19-20

 Despite that many of his disciples would argue about who would be greatest in the kingdom, even though they walked and ate with Jesus, they didn’t always grasp his full message right away.  Throughout his ministry, culminating in the week leading up to his death, Jesus lived out examples of what it means to love and serve others.  His whole life was an example of that to those who walked with him and to those that know him today.  He is patient with them as he is with us.  So should we also act toward others?

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:   Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!  Philippians 2:5-8

As we progress through the season of Lent toward Easter, let us take opportunities to embrace traditions which better help connect us with God.  Let us also incorporate new practices which do the same, or help our families or those around us better understand the significance of what Christ did during Holy Week and throughout his ministry.  Let us also remember the power of the cross in how Christ atoned for our sins.  In contrast to every other religion, we are unable to earn our way to heaven through our works, because no amount of good works can measure up.  Only what Christ did through his death and resurrection will allow us to overcome death as well.  Christ paid the price and is the narrow gate which allows us a way to commune with God, now and forever!

Strength and Courage in Christ,
Clark

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The Hunt

 

 

We spend much of our lives chasing after things.  When we are young, we are in pursuit of the woman we want to become our wife.  Then, we go after things we hope will bring us status and recognition, from our degree, to our job, our house, our family, our church, to everything else we think we can possess.  We spend our spare time in pursuit of greater thrills, a faster car, the best food or drink, seeing our team win, obtaining the ultimate collection, or any other hobby to distract us from the boredom of life.  We are constantly hunting down the next biggest thing that gets in our sights, or that seems to elude us.  To what end?  At what point do we say, ‘that is enough, I have my trophy and my crown.’  Or are we constantly chasing down the next best thing till the day we die?

Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.  Ecclesiastes 2:11

Recently, I heard about a treasure that was hidden in the Rockies by a rich, old man who then gave some clues to its whereabouts.  He now watches with glee as people from all around try to track it down and regularly ask him for more clues to help them narrow down the search.  There is something in the heart of man that is sparked when we have the chance to find something of great value with just a little work on our end.  The ability to ‘get rich quick’ is what motivates many to leave their home in search of greener pastures, to head to California or Alaska with gold fever, to buy the next lottery ticket, or to send in money to the telemarketer in hopes of finding the secret to great wealth.  The promise or hope of what might be is often greater than the reality that awaits when the pursuit has ended. 

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  Matthew 6:21

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.  Matthew 13:44

Where do you invest most of your resources?  When you look at where you have spent most of your time, energy, and money over the past 5-10 years, what fruit has come from it?  For most of us, it is a mixed bag.  We can probably find things that were a good return on our investment, whether financially, or in time spent with others where we both grew.  There are probably other things we invested in which left us feeling empty or with more regret than anything when we look back on how it turned out.  Maybe there is as much to be learned from our bad investments as there is from our good ones.  As much as we keep trying, do we ever fully get it? 

You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.  Revelation 3:17

What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?  Matthew 16:26

Little do many realize that we have stumbled on the greatest treasure we can find in this life, when we come to know Christ and what he has done for us on the cross.  When you find the truth wrapped up in this mystery, the more you investigate and discover, the more rewarding it is.  Even greater than the reward we can obtain for ourselves, is the fact that even greater returns are found when we share this treasure with others.  It is like a chest filled with gold and each time someone goes back and takes more from it, there is always more to be found.  What is more valuable than that? 

 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

Celebrating the Wealth found in Christ,
Clark

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