Author Archives: Clark

Convictions to Resolve

With the turning of a new year, it prompts us to pause a moment and take a look back and examine our lives a bit.  What has happened, what have we done, where have we succeeded and where have we failed?  What changes do you want to make in your life?  If there are things that you prompted to improve, chances are, this is not something new to you.  We all have things that we struggle with, that we are usually well aware of, on an ongoing basis.  So, whether you actually resolve to make changes in certain areas, or even create a goal for what you want to accomplish, without an action plan, chances are you will see limited success.  Being accountable to someone, other than yourself, for what you want to accomplish may be the best indicator for success.  We can all say we want to be healthier, but in what area of life are you most convicted to make changes?

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.  This is what the ancients were commended for.  Hebrews 11:1-2

The most common area people want to change is with something physical.  This may include restrictions and improvements on what we eat or drink and how that impacts our weight and health.  We should also ask, why am I compelled to eat better or improve my health?  Maybe it is so you can be able to better engage with your family or be able to serve others for more years.  Maybe you want to be able to maintain what abilities you currently have.  I have not been able to run as often as I would like to do over the past 6 months, so I either need to adjust my schedule to better accommodate this, or change my priorities.  I always say the best exercise is going for a long walk with someone else, as it has a positive impact on multiple areas of our health.   Where do you want to improve your physical health?

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;  you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Another area we may want to grow, is our spiritual live.  This may resemble our relational/social well-being as well.  How we relate to others is often similar to how well we converse and interact with God.  Is it as natural as breathing, or does it feel like a struggle each time you try to pray or spend time in the Word?  With any discipline, the more we do it, often the more natural it becomes.  Also, the more fruit you see from the time invested, the more motivated we are to continue on with each discipline.  Just as the first time you were convicted of sin and trusted in Christ for your salvation, He is willing to renew your spirit each time you turn back to him.  Even if you feel you have so much to do that making time for God is not a good option, commit to pray and talk even for a short time, but more frequently, and watch how that can still make a difference in  your day.  I’ve been doing this for years and can still be surprised how even a small investment to God can make a big impact in my life. 

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.   And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deedsHebrews 10:23-24

What areas of your social and emotional side of life do you feel convicted about?  Especially for men, we don’t feel there is much wrong with how we relate to others, unless it makes others want to avoid us.  One thing that seems to help, is to spend more time and time listening to others.  It doesn’t have to be everyone, but maybe even just one person, e.g. your spouse, and see what a difference that can make.  Simply ask a question, and commit not to interrupt for at least 3 minutes.  Time spent actively listening to someone shows that you value them and what they say.  Try it first with those you love, and then with those you don’t like to see if it can make you care for them more. 

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.  1 Corinthians 15:58

This is not meant to be a comprehensive list of everything we need to do to become a perfect Christian, but just a personal reflection of things we can do to bring awareness of small things we can do to create changes in our lives that can make a big difference.  If you ask, most of us would like to be more effective and efficient with how we spend our time on things we both have to do and want to do.  If where I spend my time, money, and energy helps me improve my life and further God’s Kingdom, then I want to move in that direction.  May you continue to spur others on to good works, and potentially be all that you can be, regardless of which army you are in!

Yours in Christ,
Clark

I told me so

Have you ever gone back to read what you have written before?  Maybe it is a letter you wrote and found again, an email you sent, or just a journal entry you made when you were younger.  It may even be an audio or video recording of something you watched again and maybe even asked, ‘do I sound like that?’  Whether that be something from a few months to years or decades before, as you go over what you had expressed (in your own voice) you realize that it may or may not be the same thing you would say today.  It may even reinforce something you had said, and you are even more convicted by those things as you read them again.  What value does It have in going over it again now? 

Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways.”  Haggai 1:5

How well do you keep your word?  If you say to a friend or business acquaintance that you are going to take care of something today, do you do it?  Its not always a question of how good your memory is, but whether or not people will believe you if you give them your word.  I hate committing to something that I am not sure I can make happen.  I may say I will try to get something done, but if the outcome is questionable, I don’t want to lie.  I dealt with some proclaimed professional people this past year who stated they would do something and did not follow through, even after repeated inquiries.  I also dealt with a much smaller handful of professionals who did what they said and were fairly prompt in replying to phone calls.  Those who followed up on their word have earned my trust for any future collaboration, and honestly, I would be much less likely to ask, much less hire any of the others to do any work for me.  How many chances do you give others who have failed you to try and make it right again?  Would you ever trust someone who can’t keep their word to you? 

The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.  Proverbs 11:3

How much do you trust God’s Word?  Do you ever hear a verse and recall it, but realize it has even more meaning in your life now?  Do you really believe all that the Bible says from Genesis to Revelation?  If we doubt even a part of what God has declared in His Word to us, then we call the whole thing into question.  When we trust Him at His word, then we are more apt to believe what he has said throughout his word, and in what he says to us daily as well.  When we trust God with our prayers and our lives, we can better see how He proves himself to us over and over again.  If we don’t take him at his word, then we are less likely to believe the truth, even when it is right in front of us.  How much are you willing to trust Him today? 

The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.  Isaiah 40:8

The next time you read something you have written, or something from another author, your view of them will influence how much you trust what they are saying.  I often hold a new writer under suspicion until I can verify whether or not they speak the truth, and therefore whether I can trust what they say.  God has proven himself through his word and by other means, so I trust him with my life today and the rest of my years.  Do you?

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

Yours in Christ,
Clark

Tradition!

Have you ever sung the praises of the family traditions in your life?  Maybe not publicly, but how do you promote what you do each year for Christmas, New Year’s, Birthdays, etc?  My wife and I are trying to decide what traditions we will incorporate into our annual Christmas celebration.  We each come with different things our families did when we grew up, and we have discovered some more meaningful things to do as well.  Each night before bedtime, we have been reading a bible story which leads up to the birth of Christ, and then having the children put a magnetic number decoration on a tree.  This is something neither of us did, but we feel it is a new tradition that has significance in pointing them to the real Reason for the Christmas season.  What are some of your favorite Christmas traditions? 

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.  Colossians 2:8

When I was growing up, my mother stepped her game up a notch and did quite a bit of decorating and baking and making sure lots of little things reminded us that December 25 was approaching.  She made several types of cookies and fudge that she never made any other time of the year, so they were special to us, not just because they tasted good.  I have mostly all good memories of celebrating these holidays with my family, even as we all held candles at the Christmas Eve service, no disasters that I can recall.  The smell of the Christmas tree, the records playing on our big old stereo, cards from friends and family lining the walls, the anticipation that seemed everywhere.  Everything wasn’t overtly religious or reinforced that it was about God’s Son, but it all worked together to remind us of how special a gift that Jesus was the night he was born.  What things are most meaningful in helping you appreciate the real meaning of Christmas?

He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:

“‘These people honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
   They worship me in vain;
    their teachings are merely human rules.’

 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”  Mark 7:6-8

Traditions can be good if they point you in the right direction and remind you of what is truly important, but they can also distract you and misalign your priorities as well.  Richard Foster reminds us in the book ‘Celebration of Discipline’ that the goal of each discipline is not that act itself (prayer, worship, etc), but what it brings about in your spiritual life.  The same can be said of traditions, they can help reinforce the meaning behind why you do what you do, but the danger is that they can become the focus as well.  Instead of just getting a really good meal at Thanksgiving, we forget to be thankful that we even can eat.  I’m not here to disparage or tell you to change traditions, but just to examine them for what they are.  If they do more to distract, then maybe let them go for a while.  Or maybe find a new tradition to try in its place. 

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Isaiah 9:6

As you celebrate the birth of our Savior this year, may you be reminded of how a little child born over 2000 years ago can still influence the world each day in remarkable ways.  May He still have that influence on you this year, whether you have known Him since childhood, or just found out how significant He is.  May you be Blessed this Christmas!

Yours in Christ,
Clark

You do it

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.  No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.  1 Corinthians 24-27

Do you like competition?  If I am challenged to do something, I often make it a point to see what I or the person competing against me is made of.  Unless it is something stupid dangerous, e.g. ‘I double dog dare you to…’ then I am usually up for it.  I have been playing Fantasy Football with a group from our church for the past 4 years or so, and each year I think ‘I don’t really need to play this year’, and almost give it up.  The past 2-3 years I even had someone else pick my team, and then the challenge is to see what I can do with someone else’s choices.  It has gone surprisingly better than when I picked and overall had the best record this season.  So, we can really make a challenge out of any situation.  In fact, the challenge is to make the best of any and every situation, no matter how messy it is.   That is the daily challenge in life. 

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  2 Corinthians 4:7-9

So, the challenge to myself and to you this week is a simple one.  Double the time you put in the Word and prayer.  And if you really had not put anything into it, spend at least 10 minutes each day doing so.  One week, one challenge, do you accept?  It is a simple challenge.  If you normally spend 20 minutes a day doing this, find an extra 20 minutes sometime each day to spend talking or listening to your Heavenly Father and not just watching the clock.  Just one week.  I wish you the best and to be blessed in the attempt.

Yours in Christ,
Clark

Secret Weapon

A lot of Superhero movies are fairly predictable when the good guy(s) face the bad guy in the ultimate battle at the end.  It goes back and forth several times, until the good guy looks to be defeated, until they find a special reserve of energy or a secret move that thwarts the bad guy in the end.  It may even be a secret weapon that is used to help bring an end to the reign of terror they are facing.  Whatever special weapon or technique they find at the end, without it they would have been doomed.  You could have the best weapon to defeat the bad guy, and unless it is at your disposal and works when you need it, it is useless!  What is your secret weapon?

For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.  Luke 15:24

Have you ever been going through a box of something you stashed away or put in storage and found something you had thought was lost?  You find it and say, “Wow, there it is!”  I had misplaced a car charger for my phone several months ago and recently I found it in a collection of things I had tossed in a bad that I cleared from my car.  I had used a makeshift charger with the cord I used at night, but knew it had to be somewhere.  This can be the case with most anything.  Unless we have all the parts in working order to our vehicle, the furnace, or the right tool we need for the job, nothing works as it should.  When you are in the middle of a project, the last thing you want to do is run across town or to the store to find the tool you need for the job.  You really appreciate having what you need when you need it to get the job done.  Or it can be a person you depend on to get done what you are unable to don’t have time to do as well.  We often take our spouses or our parents for granted when they do these things for us.  What are you most thankful for in your life right now?

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.  2 Timothy 3:16-17

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

How about as Christians – do we have a secret ‘weapon’ that we have at our disposal to use?  Has there been anything you have discovered or used to strengthen your faith or relationship with God and others?  I find that when I am actively and regularly engaged in the Word and prayer, my attitude and my life seem to be better balanced than when this doesn’t happen.  You think I would make a point to prioritize these every day, but that does not always happen.  Its like if you realized you had a high end sports car sitting in your garage for the past few years that you forgot you had.  Unless you use it, you don’t even realize the full potential of what is available to you.  God is willing to give good gifts to his children who seek what is best for them and others.  What have you asked of your Father lately?  What have you been hesitant to ask because you doubt His power or ability to bring about in your life?  May you seek His power and influence in your life today and always as you strive to live your life in a way that honors Him and blesses others. 

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

Yours in Christ,
Clark

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