Author Archives: Clark

Happy Dependence Day!

I hope you enjoyed Happy Birthday USA, Yesterday.  How did you celebrate your independence day?  For most, it has turned into a day off work to celebrate and be a little self-indulgent with friends and family, food and fireworks.  Not all bad, right?  I mean if I earned my paycheck, I’m entitled to spend it however I want, etc, etc.  Most of us think we are fairly independent, self-sufficient, and masters of our own domains, yet we do not often realize how much we owe to those that have gone before us to make this country and our lives what they are today, as well as how dependent we truly are on others for our day to day existence.  How much to you depend and rely on others, or on God each day to get your needs met?

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

Maybe you even heard some reference to the Declaration of Independence, which was the statement which initiated the movement away from Great Britain and into our own sense of self-identity.  Yet, even after the revolutionary war and onward in the world, the United States was still quite dependent on other countries to accomplish these things.  Trade within the colonies, and with other countries was robust and essential for growth as a nation.  Even today, with all the drama over trade and tariffs, we are all still fairly dependent on international trade to sustain our appetites, as much as we would like to be self-sufficient.  How much of what is in your home was made or sourced from outside the region, state, or even country you live in? 

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.  Romans 13:1

In the same way, we are really dependent on our government for meeting many of our needs.  As much as we complain about taxes and keeping the government ‘out of our business’, we often take for granted the infrastructure, protection, laws, and means for living our lives each day.  It is not a perfect system, but without highways, law enforcement, medicine, and recourse for injustice, our lives would be much different.  It is also said that many in this country are one paycheck away from disaster, or being homeless, if they lose a job.  Even if you have enough savings or other supports to keep you off the streets, if the supply of gas, electricity, or food at the grocery store were cut off today, mass panic would ensue, as most of us are extremely dependent on these things for our day to day comfort and survival.  Also, when we become sick or injured, we realize we depend on technology and the expertise of others for our continued survival.  Not as independent as we believe ourselves to be. 

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.  What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?  Matthew 16:25-26

So, how much do we depend on God each day?  With an attitude and culture of ‘doing it my way’ and wanting to have it all without much effort on my part, or anyone else’s help, is there any wonder many don’t feel the need for God in their lives?  Many, whether Christian or not, would like to make the life they want without any consideration or consultation from God in the equation.  How do we avoid this mindset, or how do we grasp the concept of how much we truly need God for our existence?  Little do we realize, how much we depend on God for all that sustains us…food, water, air, shelter, etc.  We can start just by regularly giving thanks for these things.  The more I do this, the more I understand His provision.  We can also move away from excess and things that take away from what is most important in life, e.g. less entertainment and more engagement.  As you come to understand how dependent you are on others for your needs, may you grow more in your trust and faith in God as the ultimate Provider and Sustainer of our lives!

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 lie down and sleep;  I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.  Psalm 3:5

Yours in Christ,
Clark

Fresh Fruit?

Maybe you have been asked this question, ‘If you could eat only one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?’  For me, it would probably be grapes.  I don’t eat them every day, but it is one food that I never seem to grow tired of.  I would say that of most good, fresh fruit.  This past week, the black raspberry bushes that grow along the ditch and our yard started producing ripe fruit.  I walk down there most every day with two eager helpers and can pick almost a ½ gallon of yummy berries.  If you want some, let me know.  We are also promoting a fruit sale for fresh peaches if you are interested.  We are surrounded by a variety of fruit each day.  Is most of the fruit in your life good or bad? 

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 5:22-23

Would you eat any fruit that did not appear perfect?  What if it was starting to get too ripe, or had a few spots on it, or maybe just a little oddly shaped?  Most of us would discard these for the best looking examples.  I have tested the limits of how ripe a banana can be to still be edible, otherwise it may make for good banana bread.  One of two apple trees in my yard produces small, greenish-yellow apples of the mushy variety.  I do not like them and they are barely edible when they are at their best, and I am truly tempted to cut the whole tree down.  I will likely trim it way back to see what happens.  Do we do the same with people in our lives?  If the fruit they produce looks bad, do we not give them a second glance, or try to avoid them altogether? 

Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.  By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?  Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.  Matthew 7:15-20

If someone were to look at your life and judge your fruit, how would they describe it?  Maybe it is not easy to categorize, as with a stop at the produce isle, you can find an assortment of quality.  You may be able to find examples of good fruit and not so good as well.  Even just in the words that you say, if like me, you can be encouraging someone one minute, and condemning someone, or even yourself the next.  We may never get it perfect, but there should definitely be a dominant, good fruit when your heart and mind are in tune with the Lord.  We are all imperfect, and can be thankful for forgiveness, but the condition of our hearts definitely motivates our words and actions.  I find this definitely the case in my own life.  What branches in your life need trimming?

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.  Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.  James 3:17-18

We make judgements and decisions every day.  When you look at the fruit that is produced in your own life, or the lives of others, you can definitely get a look into their heart and soul of that person.  Even if you are discouraged by what you see, there is hope that they can change.  You may even know some who have come to Christ or even changed their lives seemingly overnight.  Even with a child, they definitely have a bent toward certain things, but how they use their strengths and abilities can definitely transform them or others.  With Christ, most anything is possible, even for you and me.

So that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.   Colossians 1:10

Yours in Christ,
Clark

Sometime

Well, as of today, its finally here!  Though you may have felt like this past weekend was a little hot and oppressive, it was only Spring, so it couldn’t have been that bad, right?  Most people I talk to seem to prefer the extra ‘hot’ they get in the Summertime compared to the extra ‘cold’ of Winter, but then this is Iowa, so most will complain about the weather regardless of what it is like.  Its either too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry, too cloudy, too windy, etc.  Even if we had on-demand weather that we could order, it still would not make everyone happy.  Honestly, being born and living most of my life in Iowa, I have come to embrace and celebrate the change of seasons.  We can find something to appreciate about each season and each day if we try, even just a little.  Whether it’s the weather or the hundred other little things that we experience each day, our perspective can be influenced for better or worse, if we allow it to.  What’s your favorite season? 

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot.  Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

If someone were to ask you, ‘what season of life are you in’, what would you say?  You can base it on your age, what career path you are on, or where you are in relationship to your family members, or even God.  Changes in any one of these areas can have a significant impact on your attitude or even outlook on life.  I was holding a 6 week old little girl this past evening and realized I had a depth of love and care for her as much or more than any other person I have known in my life, including myself.  There are many hopes and uncertainties ahead, but my goal is just to do the best I can each day to give her and my family and friends and even strangers the best life that I am able to do.  That doesn’t mean money and things as much as it means life lessons and the importance of knowing Jesus.  Being generous with what I have to give may vary from season to season, but the intent stays the same.  ‘God, use me to further your Kingdom and Your Love, however that may look in any situation.’ 

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

Most every night in our house, after we are done with dinner, I get a request for ‘Dance!’ from a 3 year old.  This usually consists of 2-7 songs, which I may change up a little, and lots of chasing one another around the kitchen, some hide and seek, and a few dance moves thrown in for fun.  We didn’t usually ever do this before these requests came in, but I am finding it is not a bad tradition, even with the baby sometimes.  We are in a season of dance in our home.  There are likely many other seasons we all will encounter as we pass through this life, with some being planned, and many unplanned.  When we have God central in our hearts, we can fully embrace and get through whatever seasons we encounter, till the time He calls us home.  We don’t always get it right the first time, but when our hearts are right, there is always an opportunity for a season to grow. 

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’  The second is this:  ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no commandment greater than these.”  Mark 12:29-31

Yours in Christ,

Clark

Food for Thought

 

Have you ever over done it on a buffet or eaten much more than you should have, even to the point you were very uncomfortable?  Why would we do this?  I recall being at a wedding reception of my wife’s cousin and after having a plate of food, saying ‘just one more’ of those sandwiches, because they were so good.  That ‘one more’ put me over the limit to where I knew I had overdone it and felt bad for the rest of the reception.  I wasn’t that hungry and didn’t need all that food, but did it anyway.  This behavior is not always limited to food, but can often apply to anything we take in our body, whether drinks, drugs, screentime, work, entertainment, etc.  Why do we still do things that we know are not good for us? 

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

One Summer while in college, I worked mostly outdoors in Southern Louisiana and started each day with a breakfast at Poche’s Fried Chicken.  As I recall, this consisted of made to order eggs, sausage or bacon, hash browns or grits, a biscuit and coffee all for $2.00.  This pretty much filled me up for the day till lunch and dinner on the road, but several times in between, the hot, muggy days made me sweat and created a thirst like no other time.  While I was often offered a Coke or Sweet Southern Iced Tea from hospitable folks I met, nothing quite satisfied like a few large gulps of water, which probably totaled a gallon or more each day.  I can’t imagine how I would have felt if I had not been able to drink at all while working some of those long, hot days.  What’s the thirstiest you can ever recall being?  Do you ever thirst for spiritual things the way you do physical ones? 

Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again.  But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”  John 4:13-14

While I am usually able to meet most physical needs myself, I could often relate in a small way to the wandering Israelites when I went long stretches without much to eat or drink or without making any sales.  The Israelites couldn’t just stop at the store, or a nearby house to ask for what they needed, as they were totally dependent on God to provide water or even food in the form of manna, when they needed it most.  While most of us think we are fairly self-sufficient, we are not that far from being in distress if those water or food supply chains that we take for granted were to be disrupted.  I recall once when we were under a ‘boil order’ and asked not to drink our town’s water till further notice, the bottled water in town was sold out at all the stores within a few short hours, as people did not know how long they would be without drinking water.  Most of us do not like being dependent on others to meet our needs, like when we were infants.  But when we are, even for brief time, we start to understand our need for God just a little bit better.  How much do you depend on God each day?

Taste and see that the Lord is good;  blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.  Psalm 34:8

God often relates to us in a practical and personal way, as we see examples of this throughout the bible.  We realize our physical needs when we hunger and thirst or gasp for air, and He relates these to our spiritual needs, which really impact our health in the same way.  When we have gone too long without a drink of water, we come back to life when that first drink reaches our body.  Our spirit also comes to life when the Living Water of his Spirit touches our soul.  We also experience this in a small way when we take Eucharist, or communion.  When we take communion and other meals into our bodies, we use all five senses to physically experience God’s provision for our daily physical needs, as well as how He sustains our spirit.  When you pause to give thanks before each meal, how does that impact how you experience the act of eating and drinking?  Do you regularly take into your body the things that satisfy your soul, as often as you do to meet your physical needs?  Once you have tasted what God has to offer, you will surely want more!

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.   Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.  Matthew 5:6-7

Yours in Christ,

Clark

Who are You?

If someone asks who you are, what is your reply?  Usually, the simplest way to convey our identity is through our name, so we just say ‘My name is Clark, who are you?’  Often tied to our name, especially our surname, is our family identity.  Especially when we are younger, not only are we often seen with our parents, but when we are often identified with them as well, ‘Oh that is Kevin Arnold’s son, Steve.’  In some Scandinavian traditions, they even took the name of their father, e.g. Leif Erikson was the son of Erik Thorvaldsson.  Though we can legally change our names when we are old enough, we really have no say when it comes to what family we are born into, good or bad.  There are likely times we are proud of our parents and immediate family, and other times we would not like to be associated with them.  So, how do you identify, and what comes to mind when someone asks ‘who are you?’

For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.  Matthew 12:50

Closely tied to who we are is the question, ‘what do you do?’  When someone asks me this, I often reply with what I am currently doing, ‘Oh, I often travel around and also attend 2 year old birthday parties.’  Most of us reply with where we currently or formerly worked.  Especially for men, much of our identity is tied into what we do.  We are often driven to do things and our work provides us an outlet for that.  Our identity is also closely tied to our roles with others in our lives, as a son, a husband, a brother, a father or grandfather.  Who or what in your life gives you the greatest sense of your identity? 

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—  children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.  John 1:12-13

How much of who you are comes from your identity as a Christian?  When you became a believer, you were adopted into a new family, with a whole new set of rights and responsibilities, many of which we did not fully realize when we ‘signed up’.  When God grants us rights as His heirs, through Christ, it is not something we have earned by our works, but something given to us through grace.  Many of us may not see ourselves as adopted children, but when we come to faith in Christ, that is what we are, part of a large and diverse family with the same Father.  This has become more significant to me recently, because in the coming weeks, we are planning to adopt two young boys who have been living with us for the past 2.5 years.  For better or worse, they will now be part of a new family, and will be given new names. 

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  Galatians 3:26-28

So, whether your identity comes from your family, your work, your community, your faith, or maybe a little of each, continue to examine how that influences your sense of self and how you view others.  One of most humbling and exciting things I realized when I became a believer, was that Jesus leveled the playing field for those that enter into His family.  Regardless of your family of origin, your background, and all the good or bad things you have done, He gives the opportunity for anyone to have a new life with Him.  When we do this, we still do not have all our questions answered or fully know how our lives will go, but we have faith that our new Father will be for us as we surrender our lives and our identity to Him, and we are given a new name. 

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.  Revelation 2:17

Yours in Christ,
Clark

 

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