Author Archives: Clark

Investing 101

 

The first thing most people think of after hearing the word investing is likely what you can do with money you have earned by putting it in a savings account, IRA, 401k, stock market, etc in an attempt to earn interest or allow your money to make more money.  While interest rates on savings accounts have been lackluster lately (I think I earned $1.50 on one account this past year), most people have several options as to where to invest their money.  Some consider short term investing in the stock market as a form of gambling, as you may just as easily lose stock value as you could make gains.  Some may consider investing in something more tangible, such as your own house or a rental property, by making improvements and seeking to gain value and increased return with time.  There are many ‘things’ we can purchase, hoping they will increase in value, but in the end, what is the purpose of these things or a big pile of money in a bank account? 

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.  1 Timothy 6:10

Here is a short list of some good investments I have made, or maybe they are just things that turned out to be good ‘values’.    I bought a shop vac for $5 at a garage sale over 10 years ago, and though it has lost its wheels, which sucks, I have removed hundreds of gallons of fluid and filth with this thing, and it is still going strong.  I also purchased an 86 Ford F150 about 12 years ago at an auction for $450 and though not a parade-worthy truck, this has proven helpful more than once over the years.  We all probably have made some solid investments and gotten some good values over the years, but are we just as willing to talk about our bad investments, or endeavors which cost us more than we bargained for?  When I was in High School, I scrapped together several hundred dollars for some company to put together a folder with a drawing and rudimentary summary of an invention idea that I had.  The next step was several thousand dollars, which I decided not to pursue at the time.  There have been several other places where money was spent that I later regretted.  We all could probably come up with lists for each.  These experiences probably teach us as much about where to invest our resources as what not to do. 

Whoever sows injustice reaps calamity, and the rod they wield in fury will be broken.  The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor.  Proverbs 22:8-9

Besides money, what other resources do you have that you could invest into a variety of places or things?  We can invest in educating ourselves or others, spend time in ministry to children or adults from all walks of life, or volunteer and serve others through a variety of organizations or causes.  Where you spend your time, your talents and abilities, and your money all give an indication as to the condition of your heart and what you value most in life.  When we choose to sit in front of the TV instead of catching up with our family or friends, what we value most at that time is evident to everyone.  When we spend hundreds of dollars on our hobby and complain about giving ten dollars to someone in need, our priorities may be out of balance.  When our words are harsh and critical, we are just expressing the inward condition of our hearts, which may be more difficult for us to see than for others.  What you value most is expressed in your words and actions throughout the day, not just at church or where you work. 

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  Matthew 6:19-21

Sometime this week, take an inventory of some good and bad investments you have made over the years.  Has that changed your view of the value you place on things, or your time?  What kind of returns would you like to see when you invest your resources?  Where do you feel God is calling you to change in where you give your resources?  Sometimes simply asking God to show you where your heart is in what you are doing is a good practice to check your motives and re-direct your path when necessary.  Don’t be afraid to also ask others who know you well what they think about how you spend your talents and resources, and what most motivates you to action.  Next week we will dig a little deeper as we look at where God calls us to invest our resources. 

Strength and Courage in Christ,
Clark

Tested and True

 

Is there any piece of equipment you have used at work or home that has proven itself and convinced you to be a loyal fan?  Maybe it is a brand of vehicle, tires, tools, shoes, etc. that has worked well for you and will be what you turn to first when you need something new.  Maybe when someone asks you for advice on what to buy, you give them your testimony on said product and encourage them to try it out.  I have done the same with some businesses and services I have used.  In every profession (doctor, mechanic, accountant, pastor, contractor, etc), there are some people I would trust with my life, and others I would not trust for one moment, even with my dog.  Whether they have proven trustworthy or dishonest in the past will greatly influence your recommendations.  Do we do the same with God’s Word?  Do we find it true, once it has been tested?

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

I am amazed at what some people will believe.  In a world full spinning and twisting of the truth and flat out lies, one may become discouraged to believe anything is true.  Just listen to the banter of politics for a day and you may wonder if the truth will ever be found out.  They say seeing is believing, and it is almost as easy to dupe some with edited photos that seem to show evidence, yet is far from being true.  The saying ‘if it sounds/looks too good to be true, then it probably is’ is true more often than not.  The only exception we may ever find to this is when it is from God.  The truth found in the Gospel of Jesus may sound too good to be true to some, but it is true.  Using God’s word to change the attitudes of unbelievers (aka ‘bible bashing’) does not always work because most of them don’t accept God’s word as truth.  The Gospel opens the eyes of those who are seeking the truth, and returns those of us who are believers to these truths time and time again.  They are proven true as we live out his word in our lives. 

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  John 20:19

Even as Jesus walked among so many in his time, there were many who rejected him.  Even some among his disciples did not always understand or believe in what he was saying.  Have you ever wondered what you would have thought or done if you would have crossed his path 2000 years ago, or even today?  The attitudes and actions of people have really not changed all that much in all the years we have been around.  Schemers and scammers trying to get to your personal info through online, email, and phone ploys are nothing new.  People like this have been around forever, its just the techniques they use that changes with technology.  There are many who will lie, cheat, and steal to get what they want.  Though there are many wolves in sheep’s clothing all around us, being able to discern the truth from the lies gets a little easier with practice, the more you see, and as you learn to trust his Spirit to lead you in all truth.  As he sanctifies us, the more we will strive for what is true and abhor what is false. 

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.  I John 4:1

What truths do you hold closest to your heart?  How has God proven himself and his word true to you?  Maybe there are some verses that inspire you and have special meaning in your life.  When you have opportunities, share these with others when you can.  It is encouraging to your fellow believers, and reveals the truth found in God’s Word to those who may not know it.  Brothers, as God enables us, let us strive to live a life that reflects the Spirit of Christ within us, full of grace and truth!

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

Strength and Courage in Christ,

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

 

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