Author Archives: Clark

Born Again

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.  James 1:17

When have you felt the most alive?  Maybe you can still remember a moment that is frozen in time and feels like it was just yesterday.  Many of us remember moments around when we graduate, are born again, get married, have a child, celebrate with friends, or experience the death of a loved one.  Some of these things are planned, and some catch us by surprise.  The moments we remember that are most meaningful to us are usually tied to a strong emotion such as extreme joy, fear, sadness, or even peace.  How do these moments shape your life?

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.  James 4:14

One big day for us we may not remember is the day we were born.  Just 5 days ago, I had the opportunity to welcome a new person into the world, as my wife gave birth to our daughter.  While she was not new to us, as we had talked to her and prayed for her several months prior, she is now a much greater responsibility and joy to interact with each day.  Holding her for the first time in my hands brought up thoughts and emotions that I had never experienced before.  A new life is definitely a life changer.  It also made me jump down the road 5, 20, or 40 years to what the future might hold for this little girl, as I asked God to look after her and bless her in ways that I would not be able to do.  I asked Him to use me in whatever way would bring about His will for her.  It humbles me to think of what lies ahead, all expectations aside.  This was a moment for me. 

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;  I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”  Psalm 46:10

People can spend their whole lives chasing experiences, trying to make it from one thrill to the next to fill the emptiness in between, and in doing so miss much of the full experience of life that God offers us.    My greatest thrill during my failed attempts to surf were not in catching a big wave, but just in lying on the board and taking in the world all around me as I moved with the waves.  A term used fairly loosely today is the word ‘mindfulness’, which means an awareness of something, or oneself, and is often tied to practices like meditation.  A similar, but different, take on this is a focus not on oneself, but others, and notably on God, which Brother Lawrence outlines in ‘The Practice of the Presence of God’.  You can experience God’s presence with you not just in the peaks of life, but in the valleys and day-to-day routines as well.  Can a life have significance without acknowledgement or interaction with God?  Have you visited with God today? 

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 5:18

While it is good to celebrate unique experiences and milestones in life, we also realize that life is more than just these things.  One feeling that most fills my heart during these times is gratitude – an appreciation of what God has done for me, and others, in any given moment.  One speaker termed this ‘appreciation love’.  When we regularly, and sincerely, give thanks to God for all things in life, we live life with a greater awareness for what He has done and is actively doing in our lives and the world around us.  An attitude of gratitude helps us be more aware of opportunities to share with others, the love that God has shown to us. 

Yours in Christ,

Clark

Energized

I seem to be running out of fuel lately, both in the literal and figurative sense.  This past week, I was gifted a tiller that ‘doesn’t work’ and the issue seems to be no fuel getting from the tank to the carburetor, as with a little gas, it fires up just fine.  I had a similar issue trying to start an old truck after cranking to no avail, then adding another gallon of gas, it started just fine.   Without the right amount of proper fuel, nothing really moves, even us.  Also, like a dog or cat who likes to bask in the sun, some days I feel like I am solar powered.  The sun shining in my face on a cold Winter day, or after several gray Spring days, seems to invigorate the soul and motivate me for what lies ahead.  What is your source of energy? 

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  Colossians 3:17

One area I have not been lacking lately is food intake.  Maybe I am still storing up for a hibernation that will never come, but when opportunities present, I can still put away a fair amount of food.  Plus, this past week, I declared it was now warm enough for ice cream.  Granted, we have to eat something to function through each day, but probably in over 90% of cases, we all eat more than is necessary.  At times, we may be driven to eat or drink in a way that it becomes an idol.  Outside of Lent, fasting and taking a break from food is not something most Americans, even Christians do.  We justify most of our actions saying ‘more is better’ when in fact it does us more harm.  Finding a good balance between food intake, activity and sleep is a challenge we may all face. 

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”   Matthew 4:4

Are you energized by what you take in to you mind, by what you listen to, read, or watch?  Other than this blog, some things have the ability to inspire us and motivate us to action.  I recall when I was young and watched a good movie, I felt inspired for a couple hours afterward, then eventually returned to normal.  Remember when you were a new Christian and couldn’t get enough of God’s Word?  Would you like to have that hunger again?  Do you still regularly spend time in the Word, and how does that impact your mind and soul through the day?  The converse is true as well.  Some things we take in can move us to frustration, anger, greed, or lust, as easily as things that are beneficial.  The phrase ‘garbage in- garbage out’ is true for us as well as computers.  So be careful little eyes and ears what you see and hear, as we dictate what most of that will be in the battlefield of our minds. 

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning;  great is your faithfulness.  Lamentations 3:22-23

So, if you are running on empty, take a moment to consider what is your source of energy.  Are you putting the right things in your fuel tank to help you run your life well?  Remember, just a little contamination in your food or fuel tank can make it unusable.  Even if you are doing 80-95 percent of things right, and struggling with the rest, it can cause you to derail or crash.  This applies to all areas of our lives, physically, spiritually, mentally, emotionally, or in relationships.  Just as good fuel in one area of life can give a boost the others, struggles with one can impact the others as well.  Encourage one another in the things you are doing well, and be willing to try what works.  Just because something works well for others, it may not work for you, but chances are good that it will.  We have thousands of years of history to teach us a thing or two, so don’t feel the need to reinvent the wheel each time you face a new challenge. 

Yours in Christ,

Clark

R&R

What would you do if you received a letter in the mail informing you that a warrant had been issued for your arrest and you were to report to jail immediately?  You might think someone is playing a practical joke on you, or that someone finally found out and you are finally getting what you deserve.  Maybe we should be thankful that there is not always justice, instant karma, or fair play given in every situation we encounter.  If so, most of us would get a speeding ticket every day we drive, and the prisons would be full of all us thieves and scoundrels, because we are all guilty.  Instead, we encounter the self-righteous and sinners who just have not been caught yet, which even includes us in its numbers.  How often are we thankful for being treated unfairly? 

Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.  Proverbs 28:13

Just like the Pharisees in Jesus’ time, we have a tendency to try to manage our sins.  Instead of seeing them for what they truly are, and confessing them, we try to downplay and minimize our faults, compare our misdeeds to those greater infractions of others, and just plain hide or even justify our sins and hope that no one ever finds them out.  It is a constant struggle to try and make us look good in the eyes of others, and ourselves, when we know full well that we are not who we pretend to be.  Maybe if we do some of the right things, go through the motions and show up at church and say the right words, no one will ever know what hides in our hearts.  Maybe we can even fool God, if we try hard enough?  Who are we really fooling? 

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.  Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.  Psalm 51:1-2

In scripture, we hear that David was a man after God’s own heart, but what does that really mean?  Was it because he knew what God wanted in most every situation and followed Him perfectly or failed Him – David dreamed big, won big, and failed big?  Was it because he fought battles, sang songs and danced with abandon and all that was within him?…maybe a little.  When we read Psalm 51, we get a glimpse into David’s heart and realize he didn’t think as much of himself as others made him out to be.  He was a sinner, plain and simple, and the only One who could restore and renew him, was God.  He realized, as we often do, that he deserved nothing but judgement and condemnation from God, yet he finds mercy and forgiveness, when he returns time and again with a contrite heart.  Maybe that is it? 

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.  Acts 3:19

Regular Repentance is a key sign of a true Follower of Christ.  Confession is a practice we seldom seek, but often need.  We have a tendency to think that we should almost be perfect, but it is a target we are unable to hit.  Because men have a tendency to go it alone when it comes to getting things done, we tend not to have close friends to whom we can confess and bear our souls to, though it is definitely a healthy thing to do.  If you are married, ideally you would be willing to confess your sins with your spouse, though it is a difficult thing to do.  Maybe before reading the whole laundry list, start with some small things first to show that you are imperfect.  If you are not able to confess your sins to others, begin with sharing them with God, you know, since He already knows.  Confession starts to bring about more forgiveness and freedom in your life to areas you didn’t even know you were in bondage.  May you experience that freedom daily, in the forgiveness that Christ reveals and brings to us each time we confess and repent!

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  Colossians 3:12-13

Yours in Christ,
Clark

Planning Committee

Monday morning, I checked the radar to see where the snow was and it all looked like it was leaving Iowa and heading through Wisconsin.  Then I sent a message to some friends North of Appleton and asked how things were up there and got the reply ‘everything is closed’ as they had 15-20” of snow on top of ice.  If you live in the Midwest, especially Northern Iowa or Southern MN the past few weeks, you are used to weather changing things.  What do you do when things don’t play out according to how they were planned, or how you hoped it would go?  If you are like me, surely you encounter this on some level every day.  Whether it’s the weather, an illness or accident, a computer problem, someone not doing what they promised, or any number of things, how we deal with adversity each day says a lot about our character.  What do you say to God when things don’t go your way? 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;   in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.  Proverbs 3:5-6

Any one of us can look at our live and in one moment say we are miserable, and then looking at another poor soul, and say its not so bad.  When we compare our situation to anyone else, we can always find something to complain about and covet in others, especially if we have a lot of negative self talk.  If we listen to the Word regularly, we may find that we are blessed more than we thought, and when we see someone else in a worse situation, we would seek to help or give an encouraging word instead of gloat or criticize.  Consider how often Jesus gave up what He could have selfishly taken in any given situation.  Instead, he put others before himself because it was best for everyone.  When we think selfishly, we act selfishly.  When we think of others, we act in love.

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!  Philippians 2:8

Take a few moments to consider where you would be if some things had gone different in your life.  If  you had not had the parents you did, or lived where you are, or met those you have in your life now.  You may think things would be a lot better or could also be a lot worse than what they are.  If everything had gone according to your plans, you surely wouldn’t be where you are today.  Thank God for the blessings in your life.  Be grateful for what you do have, and even for what you don’t have.  Find opportunities to be a blessing to others as well, no matter where your plans take you today. 

“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.”   Jeremiah 29:11

Yours in Christ,
Clark

KISS

As I was growing up, I heard a phrase in reference to trying not to make things more complicated than we have to.  KISS:  Keep it Super Simple.  Or the more pejorative, Keep it Simple, Stupid!  Generally in life, we tend to make things more complicated than they need to be.  We can get lost in the details of what we are doing and lose sight of our original objective.  We can make mountains out of molehills, when we fear a task looming before us that we are not prepared for, or that seems impossible to complete.  However, after we start and work to completion, it may not seem as difficult as it once did.  I think it is a good challenge to sum up things in one or two sentence descriptions, whether it is your job, a gameplan to complete a task, or any number of things, it helps you keep focused on what you are trying to accomplish.  There is even a principle called Occam’s razor, which postulates that the simplest answer is usually the most likely or accurate one.  How about when it comes to God…does He like to keep it simple, as well?

“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

Jesus summed up the Old Testament law with two simple commands.  It was much simpler than the myriad of laws and extra commands that the religious leaders of the time gave people to be ‘accetable.’  The Ten Commandments can be divided by 2 as well, when you consider the first 4 are directed toward Loving God, and the last 6 are toward Loving others, it seems to fit well with Jesus’ love commands.  When you approach challenges of life with these two principles, it is not difficult to come up with a valid way to approach almost anything you may encounter.  When we get puffed up with pride, greed, envy, anger, and the like, problems are bound to result.  When we approach people and situations with love as our primary motive, we will still face challenges, but the results will be less problematic.  Now we know the answer to the question, ‘What’s Love got to do with it?’

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  1 John 4:11

How well do we love God and others?  The more we practice, the better we get, though we will never do it perfectly.   Jesus shared many parables, like the Good Samaritan, which illustrated the degree we would have to go to love perfectly, which is ultimately an unattainable ideal.  More often than not, when we consider these areas of our lives that we ‘need to work on,’ it reveals to us the degree to which we are all still sinners in need of saving, no matter how ‘good’ we get.  Sure, we may appear to our neighbors like we’ve got it all together, but they don’t see our hearts like God does.  If they only knew X,Y,Z.  But the good news is that God continues to forgive us, when we humble ourselves and come to Him, we receive mercy.  Though we are imperfect now, when we model the fruit of the Spirit toward others, as He does toward us, we become more like Him. 

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  Galatians 6:9

So, let us not give up our pursuit of striving to be like Christ in all we say and do.  The more we read the Word and become familiar with his life, the more we will see opportunities to do the same.  We can demonstrate love toward others as He has toward us.  We can forgive others, as He forgives us.  We can give our lives for him and others, as He has for us.  Keep it simple and love the way He loved!

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.  John 13:34-35

Yours in Christ,
Clark

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