Author Archives: Clark

Sew What?

This past week, I was challenged and put to the test a few skills I had learned years ago.  When anyone challenges a man to a certain physical task, there often seems to be a certain competition gene that kicks in and gives you the motivation to see what you can do, even if it is a skill you are not great at normally.  If someone challenged you to foot race, a feat of strength, a driving competition, a trivia challenge, or even a thumb wrestling match, depending on the competition, we may give it a manly go.  What if it was something that was not considered that manly?  I had to see if I could still thread a needle, do some tiny stitches and repair a few items that needed fixed (one of which I broke myself).  After about 7 small repairs, I had some success and was ready to take on the world again, or at least stitch up a few wounds, if needed.  What are some of your God-given skills, or untapped talent, that you don’t get to use that often? 

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.  Proverbs 27:17

Several years ago, I was flying from Denver to San Diego and sat next to a young man in the Air Force special forces who was a good sized, strong looking fellow.  I asked him a little about what he did and his training for his work and one thing he mentioned he had to do a lot of through his training was sewing exercises.  This big, macho dude had been trained to use a needle and thread, really well.  It was important for his work, he said, but also taught him patience and focus on the task at hand.  That is the last thing I would have guessed, but it made sense.  My wife, who is in the Army, also reiterated this and said that you have to learn to sew well fairly quickly, or be a weasel and try to get someone to do it for you all the time.  So, being able to sew, cook, and take care of children will not only help you grow as a man, but it will give you a greater appreciation for what others can do as well. Is there anything that you consider beneath you as a man?

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.  1 Corinthians 16:13-14

In your opinion, what qualities does it take to be a strong man?  There are things that this world says we should be and there are things that God says we should be.  Some are similar and some are not.  By most measures, a man should be strong, not only because of his testosterone and physically being able to do some things that require extra strength, but also to be mentally and emotionally strong and having the determination to address what really needs to be done in any given situation.  Having certain skills to do his job well and to be respected by others is also admirable.  If you can believe a man at his word, and trust that he is telling the truth in any given interaction is also a quality to be valued.  He is as honorable in his private life as he is in public.  Being responsible and putting others needs before his own desires takes strength.  What other things does it take to be a good man?

How can a young man keep his way pure?  By guarding it according to your word.  With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!  I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.  Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes!  Psalm 119:9-12

What qualities did Jesus exhibit to us that is admirable in a man?  He knew his mission while here on earth and carried it out by honoring his Father’s will.  He was tempted and had the opportunity to use his power and position for selfish gain, but instead chose to be a servant to all.  That is the most admirable quality I have ever seen in any person.  Having the opportunity to use position and privilege for selfish reasons and instead choosing to serve others for a greater good takes strength and discipline.  That is love in action!  That takes guts, determination, and being able to see beyond your own self.  May we all strive to do such in our own lives this day and always!

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.  Hebrews 4:15-16

Yours in Christ,
Clark

Word Up!

Later this week, I get to start leading a bible study for a group of people I don’t really know.  Some may be Christians, and some may not, so deciding on a place to start was not too difficult (a gospel), but figuring out the format and how to go about it has been a little more challenging.  Honestly, walking with anyone through the Word is something that I look forward to, because it is not up to me to make sure they learn everything I want them to, as just being in the Word does that on its own.  Simply spending time reading through the Word has the power to instruct and transform, just as it has time and time again in my own life.  So, maybe it’s a little selfish, but I hope to grow through this process as much as I desire others to do so as well.  In what ways has the Word of God been most transformative in your life?

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

You have likely heard the phrase, ‘seven days without the Word makes one weak.’  It’s not much different than what happens with regular physical exercise.  If you have ever been confined to bed for several days, you realize that if you don’t keep active on a regular basis, you can lose strength and endurance fairly quickly.  I have noticed the difference in my own life when I am keeping in the Word daily, versus when I go for extended periods without feeding on it.  So, the key is to develop a discipline and good daily habits that keep you regularly in the Word.  If it is a struggle for you, as it has been for me at times, often accountability to another person or group that you meet with (e.g. a Bible study) to discuss is often helpful in refining this practice.  I recall, as a fairly new Christian how hungry I was to delve into the Word and talk about it with fellow believers.  What system have you used to keep in the word regularly? 

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

Another thing I appreciate about being in God’s Word is that it never really gets old.  I’ve read through the same book of the bible several times, and each time, God reveals new things to me that I have not noted as much before.  There are often new ways that you can relate and apply it to your life and more to be learned than in several lifetimes.  Whether just looking up a verse that you already know and dwelling on that, or reading new material and discovering the context in which it was written or new things about it can help you expand your understanding of God’s redemptive work in the world today and throughout history.  Using other commentaries or study guides to help you gain other perspectives is also a good way to grasp additional insights.  Maybe you have heard verses misused to suit a particular agenda that takes away from the original intent.  Having a solid foundation can also allow you to help others grow and develop a hunger for being in the Word as well.  The best way to teach is to lead by example, right? 

 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,  so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.  2 Timothy 3:16-17

Whatever way you get in the Word, whether tried and true for you, or something new, each time is a new adventure.  If you haven’t done it, plan to read through the entire bible sometime.  Not to brag to your friends about it, but just to expose yourself to the entire expanse of what new things you can learn.  I’m nearing the end of going through Ecclesiastes with a Sunday School group, and it has been as exciting for me now as the first time I went through it, years ago when I was in College.  One thing you can ask of the Lord each day is to reveal the truths found in His Word to you.  I’m sure this is a prayer He never gets tired of answering.  May you be blessed and be a blessing to others as you continue to learn and grow in the Word each day of your life!

Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.  Psalm 119:105

Yours in Christ,
Clark

Security Alert

In what do you have the most trust on any given day?  We may be traveling down the road and just assume that everyone around us will obey the traffic laws, say on their side of the road and not come barreling through a stop sign or red light.  Surely you have witnessed and remember an instance where this was not the case.  On a coupe of occasions, I stopped at a 4-way intersection, and saw a vehicle go straight through without even slowing down for the stop sign.  I may have been in the right to go through, but would likely have been hurt, or at least not able to drive my car after the collision.  So, we most realize when laws and standards of a society are not being followed when they directly impact us, and we may not take them for granted as we once did. None of us like to have our safety and security compromised.  Where do you turn when it is?

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

Surely, there have been times in your life, where someone you trusted took advantage of that and used it to their own advantage.  Hopefully, you have not responded to emails to claim an inheritance you were promised from a rich Nigerian benefactor, or any other scam messages or phone calls.  You wonder how people can fall for such things, but you know that it would not be happening unless they had some success, even if it was 1 in 1,000 people.  You may know someone who has had their credit card number used, their computer hacked, or their identity stolen.  All these things and others can take a fair amount of work to rectify.  When someone takes advantage of your trust, you usually end up more guarded and suspicious the next time, or more forgiving of others, which seems less often the case.  Either extreme may not be good.  When we trust no one, we end up isolated in a bunker with 2 years worth of bland rations and a defensive stance toward anyone that comes our way.  When we blindly trust everyone, we will surely be taken advantage of many more times.  Maybe there is another 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

Just look at those around you and you can see where they are putting their hope and trust.  For many, it is in their finances.  We assume that when we show up for work, we will still have a job and an ability to earn money for our family and ourselves.  We try to accumulate what we can to ‘make a good living’, or at least feel like we are keeping up with everyone else.  Here in the United States, even if we are in poverty, we have more than the majority of the rest of the world.  Despite that, the rich and the poor alike are never satisfied and always want more, even if they have enough, so that they feel more secure.  For some, it may even mean borrowing or stealing to maintain a certain lifestyle.  How much is enough for you?

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Matthew 6:33

Regardless of what wealth, things, or status we can put our trust and security here in this world, there is a more secure place to put it.  Just as we saw in Paris a week ago, something that took decades to build, can be gone in a matter of minutes.  A lifetime of wealth can as easily disappear when attacked or mismanaged.  It may not happen to everyone, but it is a reminder that these things around us, which we steward, are not as secure as we thought.  When we put our trust in the Lord and live that out, the things in this world which we tend to hold too tightly at times, become less important.  Even when we lose those people close to us, we are reminded that we can take nothing for granted.  So, if you are trusting in the things around you for security, take a step back and invite God to be your foundation instead.  Trust his Spirit in you to guide you in all things. 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15:13


Yours in Christ,
Clark

Church

What do you think of when you hear someone say, I’m going to Church?  Probably the Sunday morning worship service you are most familiar with, or possibly they are stopping at the building to do something.  That is how I grew up understanding what a church was, and to a degree, still is today.  But since that time, I have come to understand it is much more than this.  Especially when you consider the church as the whole accumulated body of believers throughout the world…past, present, and future.  There are several instances where I visited a church for the first time and I felt a closer connection to some of these people I just met, than others I have known and seen for years.  I remember arriving at a small mountain village in rural Bolivia and a group of 10 or so members from a local church wanted to pray with us.  We all held hands and prayed for 15 minutes in the middle of no-where and felt just as connected to God and his other children as in any other place I have worshiped.  How about you?  Is the church more about the building, the people, or the experiences you have had with them? 

Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.  And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.  Matthew 16:17-18

If you visit a new church for the first time, what strikes you most?  It may take you a minute to figure out which door to enter, where things are around the building, the order of worship, etc, but eventually you encounter the people who spend time in that place.  These people may leave you feeling warm and welcome, or not, or somewhere in between.  Is your first impression fairly accurate?  One Summer while in college, I was working door to door in Southern Louisiana and encountered several people from a local church who were kind, outgoing, and even invited me to their service.  In fact, as the Summer went on, when I encountered other bold, Spirit filled folks, I found that they were often members of this Church as well.  This and other experiences left me with a the impression that it may be more important how a Church looks and acts away from the walls of the building than what goes on inside, even if it does influence who they are.  In fact, whether a person has good experiences or not with people from a particular church may influence their attitude about the Church or Christians for years to come.  I’ve met several people who had a bad experience when they were younger and resolved never to set foot in a church again.  Though the more then interact with other believers, these attitudes may change. 

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.  Matthew 18:20

This past week, with the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, we are reminded that every physical thing in this world has limits to how long it may last.  It may have been around for centuries, but it can be gone in a short amount of time, just as the temples in Jerusalem have come and gone.  Back in 2005, I took my father on a trip to Europe, where we saw some new places where friends of mine lived and re-visited some sites my dad liked.  He had been to Europe several times before and since a stroke a few years earlier, was not able to travel as independently as he once had.  As it turned out, and I suspected at the time, this was the last trip we were able to take there before he passed away, years later.  The last couple days we were in Paris and I happened to stop at Notre Dame as they were having a Palm Sunday service, which was the only time I visited.  Often when traveling in Europe or Latin America, I liked to sit and rest in usually empty churches not only to take in the building, but also to re-connect with God in the midst of a busy day.  An encounter with a church or its people can leave a lasting impression, no matter how brief or long it is. 

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.  In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.  And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.  Ephesians 2:19-22


The Church is who we are and how we reflect God to our families, co-workers, and strangers we meet and interact each day on this earth.  When we are invited to become children of God, we enter a large family with brothers and sisters all over the world who meet in homes, schools, fields, designated churches, and all kinds of other places where the Spirit of God dwells.  Where once hundreds of people would come to a temple to meet with God, now hundreds of temples gather together to worship God.  Since Christ came to this world and died for our sins, he removed the geographic barriers between us and God, since his Spirit dwells within us.  We can worship God wherever we are.  As we consider what He has done for us this Holy Week, remember that you are Ambassadors of Christ.  We take him wherever we go this day, whether to Church or any other place around this great earth. 

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?  1 Corinthians 3:16

Yours in Christ,

Clark

One Minute

I had a conversation the other day with someone about home repairs.  The joke is that by the time you get everything done you need to and would like to do, you basically start over on that list again, because there is always something that needs worked on that you can be doing.  Imagine if you have multiple houses and/or very little time in which to get things done.  On a different, but similar note, if you have young children, it may feel like there is very little time to get more done than the basics of keeping everyone fed, clean, and alive.   Anything beyond that is just bonus if it can be done.  Just think back to different seasons in your life in how you had, or didn’t have, much free time.  Do you perceive time the same way not that you did 10 years ago? 

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.  Ecclesiastes 3:1

How valuable is your time?  When you are young, it seems to last forever, but as you age, it goes by faster each year.  We don’t always consider how long something takes, unless we are in a hurry.  Then a few seconds seem a bit more precious to us.  Unless you are in an automobile race, speeding to gain a few extra seconds does not always make that big of a difference in your day.  Would you consider yourself a wise person when it comes to using your time?  I seem to be more efficient when I have more to do and less time to do it, than when I have more flexibility.  Crunch time seems to be a motivator to get things done quickly.  What would you do differently if you were given an extra hour in each day? 

And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.  2 Corinthians 5:15

When did you become aware of your own mortality?  Unless you have a close relative that passes away, when you are young, death is not on the radar screen of most of us.  As we enter adulthood and later in live, it becomes more of an awareness, as we realize that we all have the same fate, just at different times.  It is humbling to realize that God only knows when your time will manifest to pass from this life to the next.  I’m not sure how our lives would change if we all knew when our lives would end.  As if we all had an expiration date, and all we had to do was look at it.  Would we treat others any differently as they got closer to expiring? 

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

Its easy to ask what we would do different if we knew we had one week left to live.  It is harder to say or know what we would do.  The things that are most important to us would re-prioritize quickly and we would soon forget the things that tend to waste our time, and make the most of what we have left.  Shouldn’t this be what we do every day?  Would you want to spend meaningful time with those you loved?  Again, shouldn’t this be the case every day?  Take a moment to share with others today how much they mean to you.  Enjoy, as much as possible, the moments spent with others through the day, even if just in ordinary things.  Be grateful for each day you have been given and use the time you have in the best way you are able.  I need regular reminders of this to make my time lived meaningful, not just for me, but for everyone around me as well.

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.  Psalm 90:12

Yours in Christ,
Clark

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