Author Archives: Clark

A New Season

Earlier this week we got a little taste of Spring and people seemed to like it.  I saw joggers, people walking in short sleeves, motorcycles, and open windows driving around town.  Technically, we are a few weeks till the end of Winter, but you can sense something different in the air.  The change of seasons is part of the reason I enjoy living in the Midwest, as there is always something new around the corner.  Each season has its ups and downs, but there is always something good about it.  How do you handle a season you are not looking forward to in your life? 

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

One month from now begins the start of another season – Baseball!  Do you know what is unique to this upcoming season that has not happened in 50 years?  Years ago, when I was in High School, I could probably name most every player on every MLB team, used to check the league stats most every week and even enjoyed playing the game through the Summer, but that season in my life has now passed.  I have to admit, I am currently a fair weather fan and don’t get too worked up over my formerly favorite teams, unless they have a shot at the World Series, but even then it doesn’t really matter much to me.  At the beginning of each season, the records are all the same, 0W 0L, so everyone gets a fresh start.  There may be some pressure to do better than last season, or to repeat if you were the champs, but once again, its anyone’s game and almost like pushing the ‘reset’ button on your console. 

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

We go about each day and each year usually fairly short sighted, taking care of whatever daily tasks and urgent situations arise from week to week.  What we do each day plays a small part in how each year, and ultimately our lives play out.  Before you know it, you are in your 60s to 70s and will be saying ‘where did the time go?’    But as the Keynesian quote goes, ‘in the long run, we are all dead.’  So the little blip we make on this earth as we pass from season to season eventually takes us to the last game.  When you are standing at the plate in your last at bat, what things will you wish you had done differently, and what things will you want to do yet as the 9th inning comes to a close? 

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  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 4:29-32

If we look very long, we can all find things in our lives we regret we had done or not done, but cannot change now.  The one thing we can do is to forgive others for the wrongs inflicted on us, and to seek forgiveness for our own misdeeds.  Even if the person who we hurt is no longer living, we can ask God to forgive us for those things.  He wipes away our sin, and a clean slate to work from moving forward.  When we look back and see our failures, hopefully we can learn from them and allow them to transform us into better players as we have new opportunities to take at bats in life.  As opportunities present, take some time to share what you have learned with the rookies on your team, to encourage them to mature and to develop strategies that will serve them and everyone around them better in the long run. 

Yours in Christ,
Clark

Surprise!

Do you like Surprises?  How you react to surprises probably depends on what kind of surprise it is, or whether it is a ‘good’ or a ‘bad’ thing, and often evokes excitement or fear.  Most of us like a nice surprise, like an unexpected gift, a day off work, or a discount on your most recent purchase.  Maybe you know someone who doesn’t like unexpected things, such as a birthday party, but prefers to be in control over what is happening.  Maybe you know others who blow a gasket when something doesn’t go their way or they get delayed while driving – surprise, a traffic jam!  This past Sunday afternoon, I found that I had another sewer issue after having just paid out $375 for a plumber the week before.  Within a couple hours, I also found my computer had been attacked by malware and thought I might have lost everything I had not backed up in the past couple months.  Every surprise, good or bad, eventually resolves with the right input or in time.  The result is not always to our liking, but if viewed correctly, can strengthen our faith. 

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.  Philippians 4:12-13

If you have been watching any of the Winter Olympics, you have undoubtedly seen more combined excitement and disappointment than should be allowed in any given competition.  Often, the difference between gold and 4th place is a tiny slip-up or fractions of a second making up the difference.  There are unexpected moments of a last second goal, or the leader wiping out and others passing to victory.  You never know what each day holds, whether in the Olympics or in our own little lives.  How we deal with victory or defeat on varying levels says a lot about our character and where we put our hope.    Where is your hope when things don’t go your way? 

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles;  they will run and not grow weary,  they will walk and not be faint.  Isaiah 40:31

How often are you surprised by God?  Maybe you were reading some scripture and discovered something that was extremely relevant in your life, or had an insight you had never seen before.  Maybe your prayers were answered when you least expected them to be.  Have you been astounded by the depth of love and joy found in the forgiveness of Christ?  When we discover the undeserved grace God has given us, we often lack words to describe it.  Maybe you have rarely if ever put yourself in a position to challenge your faith, but have always ‘played it safe’.  Keep seeking and keep asking and you will assuredly encounter more joy and more surprises in this life and the one to come!

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.   Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.   Jeremiah 29:11-13

Yours in Christ,

Clark

What is Love?

So, most people either tend to hate or love Valentine’s day, no pun intended.  If a woman, or romantic type of guy, you may be motivated by mushy words and gifts from a spouse or friend.  If not this type of person, or not in a relationship, you may poo-poo the foo-foo of people celebrating seemingly superficial things, or just a chance for someone to make a buck or two off you.  I often tell my wife that I don’t love her more or less on any given day, but still get her a card or dark chocolate as a small reminder that she is loved.  What do you think, is it good to show your love on some days more than others?  What is love? 

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.  Romans 12:9-10

If you are much like me, then maybe you grew up thinking love was just strong feelings for another person, as that is pretty much what we are bombarded with in movies, music, and most media.  I would guess about half of most pop songs have something to do with a love related theme and ask such questions as ‘what is love’, ‘where did our love go’, ‘where is the love’, as well as ‘tainted love‘, ‘let your love flow‘ and countless others.  Maybe you had your heart ‘broken’ in High School by being rejected, or when who you thought was the love of your life turned out not to be so.  We often used the term love in a frivolous way as an attraction toward something…I love cheesy fries, or I love that girl I just saw for the first time, etc.  How did your understanding of what love really is change from something so selfish to something selfless? 

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Romans 5:8

We often hear the phrase ’love is a verb’, which basically means it is something you do, and not just something you feel.  It is demonstrated in selfless actions toward another in how we put their needs above our own.  Ask any parent what they have done to show love to their children.  You may have heard the different Greek forms for love including Agape, Eros, Philia, and Storge, which each depict a certain aspect or type of love.  The primary one used in scripture is Agape, which is the type of unconditional love demonstrated between men and God.  Looking at examples of this helps us understand it, share it, and experience it more and more.

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  1 John 4:10

So maybe you don’t get into the hype or commercialism of trying to show someone your love when everyone else does on a holiday, but hopefully you take time to show and share your love in some way each day.  The more you share it and receive it, the easier it gets to be a natural part of your life.  What greater way to show someone you love them than to share the Good News of the love of God in Christ!  It is the gift that keeps on giving as the love it contains has no end.  May you be blessed and know you are loved today and always!

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”  Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.   And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  Matthew 22:36-40

Yours in Christ,
Clark

 

Above and Beyond

Just yesterday, I was waiting for a class to start at church and sat down in a wheelchair and decided to see how well I could get around some places, drink at the water fountain, etc.  Within 5 minutes, I had several people ask me what happened and if they could help me, to which I said I was just trying something out.  Afterward, I commented that everyone should spend a day in a wheelchair to get an appreciation of how life would be different.  A friend made a revealing video of what a day in his life is like.  Most of us, including myself, have no idea of what it is like being dependent on a wheelchair or other device, but when we spend time around others who are, we get a much better idea.  We also get a glimpse into the kindness and cruelty of others. 

Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly. John 7:24

It is easy to judge others, in fact this is often our default setting.  Its not always overt, where we go up to someone and tell them they need to do something differently, but it is usually subtle in our hearts and minds.  We like to think that if others would just act like us, drive like us, and do as we do, the world would be a much better place.  That is until someone points out our own faults, and we try to hide or justify them.  We like to judge and talk about the misdeeds of others because it tends to validate our own actions in comparison.  ‘Well I know I do that, but at least I’m not like them, didn’t kill anyone, or get caught stealing, etc!’

You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.  Romans 14:10

What is your standard for how to treat others?  We have heard the saying ‘Don’t judge a man until you walk a mile in his shoes.’  In other words, treat others as you would like to be treated.  If we take it a step further, we could even say, treat others better than you would like to be treated, because isn’t that what God did for us?  We deserve his wrath, but through Christ, he has shown us His forgiveness and love.  When we experience this mercy, how much more are we compelled to act the same toward others?  When you go above and beyond what others expect, the light God put in you will shine in a dark world. 

But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,  bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.  If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.  Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.  Do to others as you would have them do to you.  If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.  Luke 6:28-32

In Christ,
Clark

Yes or No?

This past week, I saw the Facebook status about the need of a friend who serves as a missionary in Europe.  The father of this young family, with no medical history, collapsed when out in the community and was resuscitated by CPR and is recovering in a hospital, still without a reason for the incident.  They asked for prayers for his recovery and health.  I have to say, I didn’t say I was going to pray or post the little praying hands emoji, but I did pray for them, quietly in my living room ½ way around the world.  When you see someone publically ask for prayers what is your response?  Do you ask for more details, hoping you don’t appear nosy, thinking ‘if I know what to pray for, maybe that will help?’  Or maybe if you live nearby, do you take time to go visit in person to pray and see what you can do to help.  You can always just join the others and say ‘praying for you’, but then forget to do so.  Do you believe your prayers are effective?

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.  James 5:16

When I was younger, and single, and seemed to have more time, I didn’t usually even wait for friends, or strangers to ask for prayer, I would often say, ‘Do you mind if I pray for you?’  and I would right then and there pray out loud, often in public, for whatever God put on my heart to say.  This was often some of the most meaningful, connected times I would have with people, as you are essentially pleading together, beseeching God for whatever issue you bring that is beyond your control.  I often felt blessed to be able to pray and ask for whatever was at hand.  In reality, this also shows others that you genuinely care for them as well.  In fact, I would even say it is more intimate than almost any other form of action or communication, because you are connecting on a spiritual level, and not just socially.  In fact, if you are not regularly praying with your spouse, you are lacking in true intimacy. 

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.  Ephesians 6:18

Prayer is essentially communicating with God.  Sharing your desires, concerns, frustrations, and basically anything that is troubling you is probably foremost on your agenda when you pray, but the other half of good communication is listening.  Even for those that practice it, listening does not come easily, as our default setting is usually to say and do, and not to wait on others.  Sitting quietly and waiting on God seems to go against the daily stream of movement.  You don’t need a special posture or place to pray, but sometimes it can help start a new practice.  Asking God what you should pray for is a door to a whole realm of possibilities.  Simply asking ‘God, what breaks your heart?’ or ‘Help me see others as You see them’ can help bring better understanding to what is going on in the world.  No matter how experienced you are, prayer is a discipline with limitless potential for growth.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7

So, if you tell someone you will pray for them, then pray for them, even more than once if you can make the time.  And for fun, even if no one has asked, just ask God who or what you should pray for today, then try it.  Honestly, I have not regretted praying for anyone, ever.  Even if you are not sure if what someone is asking for is the best thing for them, pray that God would reveal the truth in every situation.   You will not always get what you ask for, but you will most certainly grow through the process. 

Yours in Christ,
Clark

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