Author Archives: Clark

Lost and Found

Have you ever come across something you had tucked away some time ago, or thought you had lost and exclaimed ‘There it is!’  It is a good feeling.  This past weekend, I was playing junior lumberjack and clearing some invasive trees in some timber, when I noticed a locking nut was missing from the chainsaw.  I looked around where I had been working and did not see it, so I finished the work I had been doing as it was starting to get dark.  The next day, I took a 5 year old helper with me to help look once more, though I was doubtful anything could be found over an acre of grass and sawdust.  We first stopped where I had cut a small branch, which was about 100 yards from where I was doing most of the work near a larger tree and first noticed the nut was gone.  We looked down in the brush and there it was!  While not worth nearly as much as a silver coin, we still did a little happy dance to celebrate.

Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?  And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’  In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.  Luke 15:8-10

Have you ever gotten lost, or gone looking for someone who has?  There is a greater sense of urgency than when looking for a lost object.  Once, when I was 5-8 years old, I was walking with my family of 8 through a large crowd at the fair.  I remember looking around at all the sights and signs and then realizing that I was not walking with my family anymore.  I stopped and looked around for a bit, then decided to walk in the opposite direction to see if they stopped earlier somewhere.  After going up and down the main concourse for several minutes, I spotted them standing at a corner and walked quickly to rejoin my family.  I specifically recall my mother’s reaction as a mix of anger that I had gotten lost with joy and relief that I had been found.    While not as dramatic as a rescue at sea or finding survivors after an earthquake, it gave me a glimpse of how it must feel when your life is saved.

Remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.  James 5:20

Have you ever been with someone when they made a commitment to give their life to Christ?  Do you remember when you first did this?  It may not have been with many people, or maybe you were even alone by yourself, but there was likely much rejoicing.  When we realize the treasure found in trusting Christ with our earthly and eternal lives, there is little that compares to the joy we experience in this.  So, as others were rejoicing when you first stepped into the Kingdom, now you can rejoice with them whenever someone new does the same.  Share your story and invite others to join in this adventure with you as we celebrate along the way.  Regardless of your abilities, a life changing experience like finding out about a God who loves you and being adopted into His kingdom is surely worth singing about!

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.  Luke 19:10

Yours in Christ,
Clark

Your Word

When you were a kid, do you recall making promises or sharing something to your friends or siblings, then having to convince them that you were for-real telling the truth?  Maybe you had to say that you were honestly, ‘if your lying-your dying’, ‘as god as your witness’ telling the truth.  Why would you need to convince someone unless you had lied to them in the past?  Whether you have sworn on your mother’s grave, or just told amazing stories that seem unbelievable, at some point you develop a reputation for being an honest person, or not.  So, what determines whether people believe your word? 

The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy.  Proverbs 12:22

Most of us can rationalize any behavior in which we partake.  We think that lying to our children about tooth fairies, Santa Claus, or any type of boogeyman is justified because everyone else does it, or maybe because the ends justify the means.  Little white lies may get you out of something in the moment, but in the long run, they develop into something that can destroy you.  So how many times a week do you either not do what you said you would, or lie to others?  If even more than once, it can easily become a habit that is difficult to break.  In my experience and observations, the closer one becomes to God, the more they detest any amount of lies in their lives, whether from themselves, or others. 

Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices.  Colossians 3:9

In a World where the truth is covered up and lies are perpetuated, where do we go to find what is true?  Fanciful stories abound, even about famous people being good guys or Christians, but if they are not true, what purpose do they serve?  Even with fact-checking sites like Snopes, the lies perpetuated on the internet just seem to be growing.  So, who do you trust?  When you turn to the Word of God, do you hold any of it suspect?  Do you trust that the Word is as true today as when it was written? 

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.  Psalm 119:105

May my tongue sing of your word, for all your commands are righteous.  Psalm 119:172

If you believe the Bible as the true Word of God and try to live out what it promotes, you should emulate that truth in your life.  When you give your word to someone, you should not have to make promises and try to convince them of your honesty.  When someone doesn’t follow through on what they say once, I have trouble trusting anything else they tell me.  So, whether in business dealings, or managing things at home, let your word be true so that others will come back to you for advice and counsel in the future.  May your life reflect the One you worship in spirit and in truth!

All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.  Matthew 5:37

Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.  John 17:17

Yours in Christ,

Clark

I Have Issues

A week from now marks the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther proposing his Ninety-five theses, which was influential in beginning the Protestant Reformation movement.  We don’t typically use the word theses these days, but it was an academic position against the church tradition of selling indulgences, and why it went against scripture.  This was a strong condemnation against a common practice at the time, which also made the church a considerable amount of money.  What would your reaction be if you showed up to church on Sunday, and someone had posted a list of grievances against the way the church was operating?  Would you consider the reasoning and take it to the church leadership, or try to put a stop to it right there? 

Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.  Acts 17:11

While our society and church practices are somewhat different now than they were in Luther’s time, the idea of challenging the powers that be and consequences for doing such a thing are not too different than they are today.  You may know, or even have been a part of a disagreement within a local church that caused a portion of the believers to break off and start their own church.  This happened a few months after I started attending a church when I was in college, and I realized there was more going on behind only what we saw on Sunday.  What about you…if there is something going on in a church that you don’t agree with, or don’t understand, where do you go for answers?  What measures do you use for the way you worship or practice your faith? 

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.  Revelation 2:11

If the reformation ended after the theses, Europe and much of the world may have only ended up with just Catholic and Lutheran churches, which looked similar except for the practice of indulgences.  But the reformation continued in a number of different locations, resulting in a wide variety of practices and denominations including the Episcopalian, Reformed, Baptist, Anabaptist, Methodist, Pentecostal, and Presbyterian churches, among others.  So how do you decide which church practices are the most true and under which you will follow and raise your family?  Do you compare them to the scriptures and look at the lives of those who worship at each place?  Will there be Baptists and Catholics together in heaven?  Truth be told, you will not find a perfect church community, because they are all filled with imperfect people. 

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.  1 John 4:1

When deciding on anything, ask God to give you direction through prayer.  Seek his guidance and leading and have trusted friends to consult, who will be truthful with you in all things.  Test everything you do and believe against the scriptures, and if there is anything in question, take a closer look at your life and practices, and keep asking ‘why’.  Holding to these things will help bring out the truth in your life an in others.  There will always be wolves in sheep’s clothing among us and people who want you to join a movement for the wrong reasons.   So always guard your heart and mind and keep a strong connection with your Heavenly Father, to avoid such pitfalls, and you will be glad you did. 

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  John 15:5

Courage in Christ,
Clark

Why Jesus?

Have you ever had anyone ask why you were a follower of Jesus?  Maybe not directly, but you have probably had people ask you questions about your faith, or why you do something the way you do.  Was it fairly easy to give an answer for why you call yourself a Christian?  In our culture, this is not a conversation that seems to happen that often, unless you are regularly asking others about their faith.  With all the movies, TV shows, and other media, it seems that almost any subject is fair game, except for questioning people about their faith.  What would you say if someone asked you why you chose to follow Jesus? 

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.  1 Peter 3:15

I once had a conversation with someone who was seeking the truth and exploring the claims of Christianity and he kept asking me a variety of questions regarding the creation story, the Flood, the God of the Old vs. New testament, the crucifixion, communion, etc, etc.  It was almost as if he wanted every question answered to his satisfaction before he would take a step of ‘faith’ and believe in the claims of Christ.  Or it may have been a smokescreen to avoid making any sort of a commitment.  Regardless, I still shared how I came to accept the whole bible as truth, whether I could explain every detail or not, and still believe the rest by faith.  The real question for us all is ‘What are we going to do with Jesus?’  We have heard the claims, so who do we say that He is? 

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”  Matthew 16:15

Have you ever considered, ‘What if I was born into a Muslim, Hindu, or atheist family, would I still want to follow Jesus?’  Why would He be appealing to me if all my family belonged to another faith?  I have recently had some conversations with a missionary in an all Muslim nation and he shared that it was almost a cultural taboo to even discuss other faiths, as it is even against the law to proselytize, or try to convert someone to any religion other than Islam.  The barriers to others hearing about the Gospel are many in each area of the world, but there are some still hearing the truth, and some willing to deliver this message.  Even in your own home, how do you share the gospel message with a child or teenager, so they are informed to make a decision?  Think about the person who shared this same message with you and what led you to ask Him in.

Knowing that most people will never question you about your faith, have you considered how to engage others in a respectful conversation about faith in general?  Granted, it is not the most natural or easy thing to do, but once you have done it a few times, you may be able to do so more naturally.   How often have you shared your testimony with someone this past year?  I have been challenged to write mine out and send it to people I know, but with whom I seldom get to have a meaningful conversation.  As a challenge, see if you can use the name Jesus in a conversation with someone today, or even every day this week.  Even if it is with another believer, at first.  It is not a conversation that is easy to have, but it is one that is definitely worthwhile!

Yours in Christ,

Clark

Empty?

The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem:  “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever.  Ecclesiastes 1:1-4

We have all had times in our life where we look back on a season or episode where we were led astray or made a bad investment and wish we could have that time back to make a different decision.  Or we may recall all the time and effort we put into a hobby or other endeavor and realize it was mostly fruitless and didn’t really benefit us or anyone else much when it was all said and done.  Another version of this verse (NKJV, ESV) states “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”  Vanity is a word we seldom see or use much anymore, but at its essence, it means that something is hollow or empty.  I think it portrays a nice image of what we are considering.  Something appears good and helpful on the outside, but is empty at its core.  What things in your life have you chased after or invested in, only to find out later that it was not what it originally appeared to be, or was too good to be true and left you with regret? 

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

We could each make a list of things that turned out to be bad investments through our lives and even see some patterns develop.  We may have said things like “He seemed trustworthy, at first”, “I didn’t think there was any risk involved,”  or “If I make money doing it, it can’t be all bad, right?”  There is also the saying that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.  Solomon had it all…riches, fame, women, power, wisdom, etc, and through this book of the bible goes through how each one left him empty inside when it was all said and done.  We might get to some point in our lives and ask similar questions with everything we have been pursuing, and whether they were worthwhile.  Often, we can see this in others before we realize it in ourselves, even if someone else tries to open our eyes. 

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.   In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.  Matthew 23:27-28

Though we may not think so, the same can be true of how we serve in ministry.  If we are doing it for the wrong reasons, or without patience, or without seeking the leading of God, it may well turn out fruitless.  Recently, I have been reading about the People’s Temple founder Jim Jones, and how something that started out with seemingly good intentions could turn out the way it did.  As you learn more about the story, you find out there were warning signs and red flags along the way that some recognized and some did not before the tragic end.  While the choices we make with where to go to church, or how to serve in any given ministry, may not be as dramatic, we can use similar measures to help determine  whether our pursuits are worthwhile. 

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;  idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions  and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.   Galatians 5:19-23

While we may not be able to eliminate all selfish pursuits and emptiness from our lives, we can definitely learn from our own mistakes and from the lives of those around us to avoid falling into traps again.  We eventually get a good idea of which paths lead to death and destruction and which ones lead to life, but it may not be an easy choice when the consequence is not looking us in the face.  So, take everything before God and ask Him for discernment in all aspects of your life and He will surely give you direction.  Seek wise and Godly counsel from others on a regular basis and your pile of regrets in life will not be as big as you would have thought.  And when you hand them all over to God, He might just turn them into something else. 

And, when all is said and done, here is the last word: worship in reverence the one True God, and keep His commands, for this is what God expects of every person.  Ecclesiastes 12:13

Yours in Christ,

Clark

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