Author Archives: Clark

Not into Temptation

I have struggled lately when reminding a 3 year old about the things he should and should not do, and then watching him do exactly what I just warned him about 10 seconds earlier.  He gets it for a short while afterward, when he discovers the consequence of his actions, e.g. ‘sit in your chair so you don’t get hurt’, and after he falls, he cries and looks for sympathy.  I get it too, a 3 year old is still learning to control his body, remember what you tell him, and testing boundaries, so hopefully will show some improvement over time.  But should a 30 year old man know better when he does the same things?  After suffering the same negative consequence multiple times, how long does it take to behave better and ‘act your age’?  What things have you been repeatedly tempted by, with some successes and failures on your scorecard?  What has worked?

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.  Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.  James 1:13-15

Just this past week, a kitchen cupboard door was broken and I warned my wife to be careful if she opened it.  Then without thinking, one morning I yanked it open and ended up with a gouge on my lower eyelid, not far from losing an eye.  Good and bad habits start at a young age, and we can change, but old habits die hard when you depend on your own self will and environment to facilitate those changes.  Each day we can be tempted to make poor choices with what we eat, what we watch, what we say, how we react, or with just about anything we do.  What do you struggle with the most and what have you done to try to change your behavior and how you react?  Has it worked?

Who would want to, but if we made a list of all the bad choices we have made in our lives, and the consequences of those actions, could we look at our lives now and say we have learned a thing or two and don’t make the same mistakes we once did?  When we boil it down, most poor choices are made out of selfish motives.  We put ourselves and our needs ahead of whoever is in front of us, or suffers the consequences with us, whether a spouse, a child, or the stranger that happened to encounter us at that moment.  Whether it is the result of greed, lust, impatience, or hate, the results can be equally devastating.  How often do we turn to God in those moments and ask for forgiveness, and for help not to do the same again?  What does it take to turn to put down our pride and turn to others for help when we have made the same mistake for the 70th time?  Let us give others the same amount of grace that our Lord offers to us, but forgives when we turn back to Him.  Let Him empower you with the Spirit that brings life and not the spirit of selfishness that brings you back down the same worn paths of failure. 

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

Yours in Christ,
Clark

Walk n’ Talk

You have likely heard the phrase, ‘Don’t judge someone until you have walked a mile in their shoes.’  Well, if we all did a little more walking and a lot less talking, maybe we would be better off.  It is easy for us to criticize, judge, and condemn people because they made a mistake, or didn’t do something the way you do, are of a different political party, or look different from you.  Just ask any armchair quarterback how the refs screwed up or what play the coach should have made.  We can all be geniuses with hindsight.  Sometimes constructive criticism can be helpful if it makes someone aware of the damage they are doing to themselves or others, but that may be the only case, and it doesn’t often work.  How do you feel when someone speaks negatively about you, your job, your family, your faith, or anything about you?  Not good.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.   “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?   Matthew 7:1-3

So, for the past 13 days, I’ve been playing solo parent with 3 kids still in diapers.  With schools canceling more than not the past 10 days, I’ve been cooped up at home from 6 am till 10-11 pm without much more than a 5 minute break through the day.  I once had 2 kids napping during the same 30 minute period, which was nice.  I’ve had all the kids days at a time before, but not for this long, as my wife is doing a 2 week tour.  Anyway, I can better appreciate what a single parent has to deal with on an every day basis and without support of friends or family, am not sure how some do it.  I heard a story this past week about a single parent who worked a minimum wage job, and without supports like WIC, EBT, and Medicaid, would not be able to afford much of what is needed on a day-to-day basis for very long.  I know it is easy to criticize some on the taxpayer’s welfare dollar, but honestly, I can understand why someone would choose to do it, if an option.  I still don’t fully understand how my parents managed with 6 kids.  Maybe we helped out – no, not really, but there were probably stretches where we kept out of trouble.  What can I do now to help out a family that is struggling? 

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,  not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.  Hebrews 10:24-25

Whenever I can, I tell teenagers to do a variety of jobs while they are young.  It may help them find a career they will like, or if not, and you don’t like a job, you can better appreciate those who are doing it on a daily basis.  If a kid in school who didn’t respect his/her teachers had to get up and teach something for 30 minutes, they might have more respect.  So, we may never fully understand what the people we meet each day have to deal with, we can give them the benefit of the doubt.  We can do or say something to make their day a little more pleasant, instead of criticizing or complaining about them.  I need daily reminders to do this, but when I do, it makes my day a little more enjoyable too.  A simple ‘thank you’ or letting someone go ahead of me helps take me off the #1 pedestal in my heart.  When we place God and others before us in the priority line, it lets humility work a little better in our lives.  I don’t’ know about you, but I need that on a daily basis.  I will even appreciate my job a lot more when I get back into a ‘normal’ routine too.  I have to go, a baby is crying.

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

Yours in Christ,

Clark

Lost Love?

Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.  Revelation 2:4

Have you ever had your heart broken by someone?  Maybe in middle school and the person you had a crush on gave you the cold shoulder, or as an adult, maybe a relationship you hoped would work out didn’t?  Have you ever been the one to put an end to a relationship or love interest?  No matter which side you have been on, losing the hope of love, infatuation, or the object of your affection is difficult, because we all want to love and be loved, even if we won’t admit it publicly.  Maybe that’s why it is the subject of so many books, movies, and topics of discussion in every culture.  We were made to love!

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  John 3:16-17

Who is your first love?  In your life right now, who would you drop anything for to go help if they were in need.  For me, it is probably an 8 month old little girl, who fell asleep in my arms a few times today.  Oh, I still love my wife and the rest of my family as much as ever, but just thinking about this little sweetie brings me joy, and makes me act a little goofy sometimes.  She is not always sweet (though almost) as when playing, she will occasionally try to bite me with four new teeth, and pinch me with her super strong little fingers, but I still love her.  Your first love may not even be a person, it may be an activity, or thing that takes front seat in regard to your thoughts, time, money, and passion right now.  Is it, or has it ever been Jesus?  You would know if it was. 

Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said:  “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.    Luke 14:25-26

Since I’ve been married, I find that I seem to have less and less time, energy and passion to love the things and people I once did.  Maybe the enthusiasm, or frequency of it, has dissipated, but my willingness to do things, in love for others has probably grown.  We show people we love them by what we say to them and do for them.  The questions I tend to ask is, how well am I doing this for my family, and for strangers, and for God?  There is usually a close correlation between how we love others and true selflessness.  If we say we love our family and hate others, our love is probably very conditional or more of a feeling, and may wax and wane a lot.  Genuine love forgives and perseveres through adversity. 

 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.  1 John 3:16

How often do you hear about people falling out of love?  What does that mean, when you don’t love someone anymore?  Especially in reference to a married couple.  If you are married, do you love your spouse as much today as you did the day you were married?  You may not have the exact same feelings toward them, but you may love them better, or worse, as you did earlier in your marriage.  If you don’t like or love them as you once did, is it possible to return to that state, and be ‘in love’ again?  God calls us to this in regard to our commitment to Christ.  Are we willing to give up everything else in our lives for Him?  If it can happen between people, it can surely happen between a forgiving God, and us.  So, if you have forsaken the love you once had for Christ, ask him back to that place.  Not just to be a co-pilot, but to be the pilot and Lord of your life!

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Yours in Christ,
Clark

 

Thank You, Jesus

It has been nearly 2 months since many stopped to give thanks for things during Thanksgiving.  Have we stopped to give thanks since?  The question I ask is, ‘have I stopped appreciating what I have and thanking those who have given it to me?’  During an average day, how often to you simply tell someone else, ‘thank you’?  If you ever stand in line at the store, you see a variety of reactions from gratitude, to impatience, to entitlement.  Just ask someone who has ever worked in retail about some of their worst customers.  That’s not a good way to be remembered.  Who do you thank each day as you go through life?  Your employer, your children, your spouse?  Do you do this with your voice, by written word, or with other actions like a thank you gift?  Maybe you do it so often that you really don’t mean it sometimes.  Is it ok to say thanks to someone, even when they don’t deserve it?  Do you like to be appreciated by others in your life? 

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.  Psalm 107:1

More often than not, we give thought to what we want or do not have than what we already have in front of us.  How much of your day and thought life is filled with, ‘what do I have to do or get done next’?  Its not bad in that it propels us forward to get things done, but seldom allows us to stop and appreciate what we have or what is going well.  Instead, we may blow a gasket when something happens to derail our plans and things don’t go as we think they should.  Whether that is a family member, co-worker, or stranger that fails us and causes us to change our plans, it may also cause us to lose sight of the things that are really important in our lives.  How often do you give thanks for the people who are important to you in your life? 

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.  1 John 3:1

How often do you give thanks to God?  I questioned how many times I audibly say, ‘Thank You, Jesus!’ and if I would do it more often, would that help me appreciate him more?  We regularly stop to give thanks for food and other things relevant to our day when we sit down to eat as a family.  It’s a good chance for me to stop and look at what is going on today and find things to appreciate, even if the day hasn’t gone particularly well or as planned, which to some degree is most every day.  Aside from grace before meals and worship in church, how often do we stop to say thank you?  Maybe in prayer time, starting by being grateful for the relationship we have with God, and for His gift of salvation can put us in a state of humility and willingness to hear from Him.  The more we look, maybe the more we can find things to be thankful for and time to do it. 

Rejoice always, pray continually,  give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

An even bigger question beyond ‘are you thankful’, is what do you do in response?  Does being thankful cause you to do something?  Maybe there have been people in your life that you really appreciate now, but never got to tell thank you.  Maybe it was a teacher, coach, mentor when you were younger, who helped you in ways that you never appreciated at the time.  Is it ok to tell them thanks now, after many years have passed?  Many of us focus on the negative aspects of our parents and never really appreciate what they have done for us.  Maybe it compels you to do better and go the extra mile for others in your life.  Often, when I realize the enormity of how much God has forgiven me, and how he generously loves me and others in this world who don’t  deserve it, it causes me to feel and act in a similar manner toward others.  To have compassion, patience, love, and even kind words for those who don’t deserve it that I may encounter each day.  What will you do today to demonstrate to someone the love and gratitude in your life? 

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.  Ephesians 4:32

 

Yours in Christ,

Clark

Clean Again

This past week felt a lot like Spring around many parts of Iowa.  Saturday was Sunny with highs in the 50s around many parts of the state.  If you have walked through your yard or driven on any gravel roads, you may have also noticed another Springtime phenomenon, Mud!  We got some rain early this week and my car was looking pretty clean afterward.  Later that day, I had an appointment about 5 miles out on gravel and though I tried to avoid any big puddles, regardless, it was covered in a nice dusty brown again.  I even saw someone this morning scraping mud off the highway, near where a lot of vehicles were going in and out of a muddy parking area.  No matter where you encounter mud, you will eventually end up with some of it on, or all over you, and you will get dirty.  How do you avoid getting dirty when everything around you is covered in mud? 

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;  wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.  Psalm 51:7

One early memory I had, when I was probably 2-4 years old was playing with my brother around one of the mud puddles we had on our farm.  It probably started out innocently, but eventually became a mud wrestling challenge.  I don’t recall many of the details, but I do recall my mother’s reaction when she found us, and having to clean up the mess we made of ourselves.  It may have seemed fun at the time, but getting dirty always has consequences.  Someone has to clean up our messes.  I often comment to myself, or my wife, that raising kids is a constant cycle of cleaning up one mess after another, whether mine of someone else’s mess.  How about you, who cleans up after you?  Whether that is around the house, or a work project, or relationships that have been damaged in some way by what you have said or done? 

“Come now, let us settle the matter,”  says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet,  they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.  Isaiah 1:18

How often do you go to the Lord and ask Him to clean up your messes?  How often do you ask for forgiveness from the mistakes and sin in your life?  Even if you do not realize all the things you do or say and how this impacts you or others negatively, it is good to ask for forgiveness from these things in your life to be made right, and to feel clean again, for a time.  It is easy to downplay how much sin impacts our lives, when we say, ‘oh, its just a little thing, its not that bad.’  While we may not overtly intend to break the law, at various times, we do so, even if we are unaware of it.  We do start to notice the cumulative effect of sin, selfishness, and dirt in our lives when the person looking back at us in the mirror is barely recognizable.  As a regular, even daily practice, seek forgiveness from those things that tend to mar your face and life.  Know that you can be made whole and clean again each time you go back for the water that cleans not just the outside, but your entire body, life, and soul. 

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 1:8-9

Yours in Christ,
Clark

 

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