Author Archives: Clark

Kingdom Minded

 

How often do you think about God’s Kingdom? How often are you aware of it, or do you see it, or do you want to? Jesus’ teaching on the kingdom was pretty radical in his time, as the Jews were hoping for a political movement or military to redeem them and overthrow the oppression they faced. We have the whole bible and countless examples and stories of God working in the lives of his people through the ages, and yet we still struggle to live this out from day to day. Where is our hope?

Your kingdom come. Your will be done. On earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:10

Often, there is a battle within us with desires for the things of this World and all it has to offer, versus the things of God. If we see these clearly, it can be easy to see the difference, but at times they are not what they appear to be, as we are fooled into believing they are something else. The enemy would desire to deceive us all into chasing after the worldly kingdoms and not to trust in God’s kingdom.

Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation;  nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17:20-21

Here are a few indicators and things to evidence that the Kingdom of God is within you:

-You have pledged allegiance to Jesus as your Lord, and if anyone asks, you will acknowledge this.

If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9

-As you mature, you are more aware of any sin, or hint of sin in your life, and you are repulsed/offended by it. It is also easy to see in the lives of those around you.

-You desire more of God and Less of the World’s influence in your life. There will always be temptations you will face, but you are aware of these and the empty promises they offer compared to the riches found in following God.

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.  Matthew 6:33

Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.  And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’” Matthew 4:8-10

-Your love for others is a natural outflow of who you are and often is something that others can see in your life. It is not always easy to show love to those that are difficult to love, but it is something you desire to do and have acted on.

-You forgive others quickly.

And forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.  Matthew 6:12

This list is not exhaustive, as there are things that you may also have observed in others that indicate they are citizens of God’s Kingdom. There is often tangible fruit you can see that shows where your heart is and where that comes from. If you are aware of things that you struggle with and areas you need to work on, that is good, as God may be calling you to grow in these areas. If you are not aware of any areas in your life where growth was needed (or if others have concerns for you here), that would be more concerning.  It should be our desire to invite as many who are willing to accept the call to join us in becoming citizens of God’s kingdom.  Interact with others in the kingdom who will both challenge and encourage you in your walk. May God’s Spirit continue to grow more and more influential in your life as you seek to live out each day in his kingdom!

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

In His Service,
Clark

Too Fast?

 

When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.  But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face,  so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:16-18

For most of us the question is if we fast more than when we fast. Giving up food for spiritual reasons is not something we see much of anymore, especially in places where food is easy to get. Many of us are living life too fast to give up much of anything, but always seem to be seeking to add more to our already too busy plate. Taking a break from one or more of those things may be the best prescription, and help us realize that less can be more beneficial.

“Well, you know, I’m actually giving up watching TV commercials for Lent, that’s why I’m going to binge season 4 of my favorite show.” “Oh, really, I’m giving up chocolate on Tuesday nights.” While some things may seem trite, whether we give up any type of food, entertainment, social media, or other indulgence, only we know the degree to which the sacrifice we make is meaningful in our lives. Bragging about what we are giving up kind of misses the point of the verses we read in Matthew. If we want our spouse or a friend to hold us accountable, that may be helpful if we need encouragement. We can believe any small or large sacrifice to be significant, but only God knows our hearts true motive, regardless of what others think.  

We are reminded by Richard J. Foster in Celebration of Discipline about the point of fasting or any other spiritual discipline:   “We must always remember that the path does not produce the change; it only places us where the change can occur.” So, the process of fasting is to create a greater hunger for God in our lives, not just to check fasting off our list of spiritual things to do. We might say, I would never intentionally stand in front of people looking ragged and seek their attention when fasting. But don’t we do the same with our words, when we seek the attention of others? That is what Christ was addressing when he talked about prayer, fasting, and other spiritual practices, as they were more matters of the heart, not just outward appearances.  When we try to make fasting easy, we miss the whole point. It is difficult, a sacrifice, which makes it significant.

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

I would encourage you to give up something for Lent, even if for the wrong reasons. Hopefully, you will grow closer to God through the experience, and be challenged when you evaluate the reasons for what you do and the decisions you are making. I already know I am overdue for an inventory, and giving up some meals over the next 40 days will only serve to help me accomplish that. May you be blessed in the small and large sacrifices you make each day, and in doing so, may you grow in love toward Christ and each person you encounter from one hour to the next.

Strength and Courage in Christ,
Clark

Jesus for President

 

If you live in Iowa, you probably noticed a significant change in the atmosphere from this time a week ago. Phone calls and political ads have decreased from the flurry of what they were. Whether you caucused for your favorite candidate or not on Monday, you may be breathing a small sigh of relief for the break in all the activity.  Are you still for the original candidate you supported initially?  Are you going to be fore them till the end? 

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31

As humans, it is natural for us to like people who are like us, and to be more suspect of those who are different from us. Whether these similarities or differences are based on your faith, sex, skin color, background, political party, or any number of things, the more like you the better, right? At least that is how most of us tend to behave. As a Christian, are we looking for the sinner who is most like Christ, and do we want the most ‘christian’ candidate to be president, or are there more important criteria? In fact, we had the option of choosing between several candidates who claimed to be Christian, with varying evidence to support their claims. What criteria are most important to you in choosing a President, a city official, an employee, or a spouse? Does it vary? Why?

 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  Matthew 5:44-45

From the time we are in preschool, we like to categorize people. We can say they are ‘good’ or ‘bad’ depending on what they do and how they treat us. This can change, after what people do or say toward us or our family offends us or we are unwilling to forgive, they may change from good to bad in our eyes. This may also apply to our view of God. When things go well for us, we can say He is good, and when we encounter struggles and trials, or when things don’t go our way, we may question how much he cares.  How committed are you to caucusing for God when things don’t always seem to be going your way?  Do you say ‘I didn’t vote for him’ when this happens, or are you still with him when He is criticized? 

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  I John 4:10-11

Are you for God if the economy is good or bad? Are you for him even if you don’t agree with him 100% of the time? If the candidate you think is best for president doesn’t make it in, does that mean God doesn’t care? I venture that He does care, but may not be working in ways that we would not, or do not like. Are you an advocate for Jesus in the good times and bad? When the tide does not seem to be trending for him, are you still for him? Continue to back the best candidate whether you are the only one speaking for him, or not.  Instead of condemning everyone who disagrees with your views, show them kindness and respect, even if they do nothing to deserve it.  Just as Christ died for us in our sins, we also ought to love and forgive others, as he would.  His platform has not changed with the winds of public opinion, but is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  Win others to be for Jesus by treating all of the voters as he treats them. 

Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:16-18

For Christ,
Clark

In Your Anger…

 

What ticks you off? Is it the crazy fast or slow drivers that seem to surround you on the road? When someone doesn’t appreciate or tries to take credit for the work that you do?  The words that come from your least favorite political candidates? When your words or actions are taken the wrong way? The list of what seems to upset people anymore can include almost anything. Just turn on the news and you can listen to hours of discussion and arguments over what anyone did or said. The world is full of people who love to chime in with their opinion, solicited or not, about what they think of others, which often offends a whole new segment of the population. This is especially noted with comments on Facebook, Twitter, and other internet discussion forums. We have always been able to say things to offend others, now we can do it in a greater variety of ways. Blessings and Curses are now possible with the touch of a button.

“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Ephesians 4:26-27

A few days ago, I had several things happen within about 30 minutes that elevated my frustration level from normal to nuts and made me act in ways that I later regretted. I was trying to get several things done within a short time when I got a phone call from a person upset at me for something they failed to do. Afterward, I was trying to help my dad with some things and started a load of laundry, then found I needed more water pressure in another part of the house.  I ran back, hit the shut off button on the washer, and finished my other project. When I returned, I found the water would not fill on the washer, and in fact, nothing worked. I later looked it over and tried for 30 minutes to figure out what was up, but concluded I must have broken something when hitting the shut off button earlier when frustrated. In hindsight, taking a few more seconds to do things calmly, may have saved me a couple hours of effort and a working washing machine. Maybe this is just a reminder from God, that my words and actions have consequences, and better a washer than a human damaged as a result. Have you ever used a little more force than you should when angry and ended up with more things broken than necessary? Or maybe the family pet was in the way or someone else was on the receiving end of harsh words when you were upset. We all know things can escalate quickly if we let them. How do we avoid getting to that point or beyond?

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,  because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. James 1:19-20

If you have been married for more than one year, or in fact, if you have had any relationship that has lasted through the years, one of the likely components of your relationship is that you are not easily angered by the other person. If you are offended in some way, you at least must be willing to forgive them regularly. Unforgiveness in any relationship drives a huge wedge between you and eventually drives you apart. Unforgiveness brings up past hurts and offenses and uses them to justify retaliation and other hurtful actions. How easy is it for us to retaliate with harsh words and actions when we feel slighted, even by our spouse? Be quick to forgive, just as we have been forgiven, and avoid going down a road you will later regret.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.   Matthew 5:43-45

So, with all the opportunities to be upset and angered that we face each day, what is our response? The world usually says you are justified with equally harsh words or actions. An eye for an eye is not justification for retaliation, but is a reminder not to respond with twice the insult given. Christ reminds us that murder starts with growing anger in our hearts. We ought to recognize the early signs of this and be quick to forgive, before things get out of hand and we act out in ways that we will later regret. How about when you see others escalating an argument, is our role to play mediator or to help resolve the conflict? Sometimes helping others work out an issue instead of yelling at each other takes much work and patience, especially when everyone wants you to take their side, but tempering anger is usually better for everyone involved when all is said and done. Find a way, each day, to keep anger at bay.

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1

Strength and Courage in Christ,
Clark

Stories

 

What are your favorite stories? Maybe there some stories about your parents or grandparents you like to retell with your family. Maybe there are stories about your adventures in high school or college that you like to share when you get together with old friends. Is it a favorite book or song that you liked as a child and now share with your family? We all have favorite stories and traditions that we like to share with others, in fact, it is in our nature to do this, based on how things have been done for centuries. Whether it is through oral tradition, books, movies, or soap operas, we like to listen to and share good stories.

When I was a young child, I remember lying in bed as my dad told stories to my brother and I in effort to help us fall asleep. Several times, we would ask him to retell the one about the alligator, or when the car broke down, etc. They were probably just ramblings to my dad, but as kids, we remembered some of the smallest details that we would say. I have helped 5 year olds work on memory verses and am often surprised at how quickly some can get these down. Maybe we should not be so amazed at how a child’s ears, eyes, and mind are like sponges in what they remember, as they can often recall these with vivid details that we cannot. Both things we would and would not like them to remember.

My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart. Proverbs 3:1

I also remember my mom reading bible stories to us out of a book with vivid illustrations on each page. Maybe more than the stories, to this day, I recall even more the pictures that went with them. Some of us, like me, tend to be more visual learners, while others tend to recall more from hearing. This may be more reinforced in watching others act things out in front of us or on the television, where both forms of communication are reinforced. Is it any wonder how easy it is for us to become glued to a TV for hours at a time? Let us be mindful of what we allow ourselves to take in to our bodies.

The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”  He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them.  Matthew 13:10-11

So, what stories most resonate and are motivating to you? Something you can identify with in the characters or something in the sci-fi realm that is more fantastical in challenging your imagination? When we read the pages of scripture, we can explore a variety of these things as well. Whether it is through a personality that we identify with in various ways, or how we come to know the hear t of God through what Jesus said and did, or in things that seem impossible to have happened, but did to carry out God’s plan. Whether it is though Creation, or crossing the Red Sea, hearing a donkey talk, water turning into wine, or any number of other miracles, we can be amazed at how God can work in these things, or how he can know us so intimately and heal our hearts. When we experience the miraculous in ways not mentioned in the Word, he is creating new stories in our lives that we can share as well.

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:6-9

Maybe there are biographies or stories of the faithful that you have heard and been inspired by over the years. Again, maybe there are stories that happened in your life that strengthened your faith, and opened your eyes to what is possible with God. What is your response to these things? Will you share them with others who will listen? Will you write them down and share them with your family? I don’t want the lessons I have learned and the insights God has revealed to me to be wasted by just sitting in my heart and mind. I am compelled to share them with anyone who will listen, and even some who won’t. How about you? Who needs to hear what you have to say?

Living our God’s new story,
Clark

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