Author Archives: Clark

Out of Bounds

This past week, I was driving along a county highway and came across several cattle standing along the road looking at me like I didn’t belong there as I drove by honking at them.  I made a note of the nearest intersection and called it in to the local authorities.  One wrong step with an inattentive driver and it’s hello deductible – goodbye T-bone.  While the white and yellow lines on a road are meant to keep drivers from running into each other, they mean nothing to the bovine.  Without the boundary of the fence they are accustomed to, they put their lives in danger.  What happens to us when we ignore the boundaries set by our society or our God?

And because I consider all your precepts right, I hate every wrong path.  Your statutes are wonderful;  therefore I obey them.  Psalm 119:128-129

Football season is upon us again and people have already started flocking to watch clashing bodies fight back and forth between lines.  There are lots of rules in this sport and if you don’t follow them, your whole team gets penalized.  There are consequences for playing like a fool, and every sport has them, otherwise chaos would ensue.  Do you remember playing games as a kid and someone would change the rules part way through to suit them?  It usually resulted in hurt feelings, a fight, or someone walking away with the ball.  Not good.  When everyone plays by the rules, we can all enjoy the game much more. 

Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him.  Proverbs 26:4

What about the boundaries God has set for us in his Word?  Are the Ten Commandments and other decrees just there to frustrate us, or is there a bigger purpose?  Jesus tells us the summary of the Ten Commandments is to love God and to love others, which is illustrated in how he lived his life.  When living in a society where nearly anything goes, what did the life of an Israelite or Christian look like in comparison to their neighbors?  Is that contrast still visible in our lives and the world today?

You shall have no other gods before me.  Exodous 20:3

What happens to us when we don’t stay within the boundaries which are set for us?  If we break the speed limit – we deserve a ticket, if we steal from others – we must pay it back or go to jail, when we build a house on someone else’s property – they own it, when we sin- we hurt others.  All of our actions, good or bad, have consequences in our lives, if not now…down the road.  Often, we selfishly may claim the only person we are hurting with our actions is ourselves, but in reality we often hurt those around us as much or more with our poor choices.  So, we may be tempted to step over the line and hope we don’t get caught, but it is almost always better in the long run to steer clear of any debate and stay well with bounds.  Your team will be glad you did!

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.  Galatians 6:9-10

Courage in Christ,
Clark

Book ’em

Book ‘em

I have a problem.  I like books.  Over the years, I have taken in more than I have given up and the net gain is more than I should have.  I often say, at the pace I am reading, I will not be able to read all of them in the remainder of my lifetime, not even counting what I borrow from the library.  Therefore, I should start to narrow down this collection to a manageable selection and get rid of the rest.  If you would like a good read, or know of a good place to donate (almost all non-fiction) books, please let me know.  Do you judge a book by its cover, or how do you decide what to read and what to ignore, if even a book? 

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.  Psalm 119:105

I think it is a great feeling when you can get to the end of a good book and you feel fairly satisfied in knowing a little more than when you started.  Whether fiction or not, it may leave you wanting to find out more about the people, about which you just read, or it may give you an insight into what makes us all tick.  Regardless, a good story has a way of drawing us in, whether you read it or hear it.   What books or stories you have heard that stand out the most in your mind…why?  Do you share them with others?

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  Matthew 7:24

What is it about God’s story that is most interesting to you?  The stories between Genesis and Revelation are just part of the story God is writing, but those are the ones which we are most familiar.  Are you still in the Word and learning from these stories?  I never cease to be amazed when I find out something new I have never known before, even if I have heard the verse.  God’s word contains many treasures waiting to be found.  Do you still seek them?

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

So, do you still share these stories?  Not only the stories found in the Bible, but also the new stories God is writing in your life?  As you relate a bible story, do you also share with your family, friends, or anyone who will listen how God is at work in your own life?  It not only takes a little examination, but also a little faith to share this reality of how God is living and active in your story.  Even if you just type out a few pages, take some time to write down these stories you want to share with those you care about.  They will be glad that you did.  We all have a story to share!

Yours in Christ,
Clark

 

Why Me, Lord?

Have you ever asked that question?  It might be in the context of wondering why something bad has happened to you in any given situation.  Maybe you have had a friend confide in you and ask why God would allow such a thing to happen.  We often don’t have good answers for such questions.  When a loved one suddenly dies, it is difficult to see any good that can come from the situation.  I admit, when major things and even little things don’t go the way I had planned, the thought often wants to creep into my mind.  What about you, have you ever asked God, why?

Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said:  “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge?”  Job 38:1-2

I have spoken to a few war veterans over the years and often, deep down, this is one question they struggle to answer.  If a good friend of theirs lost their life in the war and they were spared, the question of why they remain is not an easy one to answer.  A parent who loses a child may ask the same thing, and often would rather have given up their own life in place of them.  It is often our tendency to somehow assume that some of these people deserve the tragedies that befall them, that they are somehow cursed by God to satisfy the curiosity of why?  People asked Jesus the same question.

Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?   I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.  Luke 13:4-5

Have you ever said the same thing in the opposite situation?  The other side of the coin is to ask the same question when you feel blessed beyond what you deserve.  If you are a Christian, you most likely have experienced this the first time you understood the full depth of forgiveness offered to you by God in Christ’s sacrifice.  Even when you revisit this reality, it humbles you to the core and you realize you don’t deserve anything, and are grateful for the life you have, no matter how good or bad.  This sentiment has often been expressed through words of thanks and even in popular songs over the years.  When is the last time you asked ‘why me’ with a heart of gratitude?

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;  his love endures forever.  Psalm 118:1

As I heard someone state earlier this week ‘the only offering we bring to God is our sin.’  The only thing any of us deserve is death, and it is only through Christ’s sacrifice that we are given anything more than that.  Though we often fail to grasp the measure of this contrast, when we seek God, He often gives us a glimpse of it and it should always bring us to a place of humility.  The measure of his love and grace should always leave us in awe and then call us to action.  Would anything less than acting in love be an appropriate response?

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  2 Corinthians 12:9

Courage in Christ,
Clark

Live!

This past week, I had the opportunity to attend a free Christian music concert on the square in Oskaloosa featuring several local artists and bands and a couple who were nationally known.  It was a great event which brought a lot of people together and allowed me to luxury to leave early with a couple of wily, whining kids without too much regret.  Of course, it wasn’t really free, as it cost donors a fair amount of money to pay the cost of bringing these folks to town, as well as many hours to promote, set up, and take down the event.  There is always a cost.  So was it as good as a show that I would have paid $30-60 or more per ticket to enjoy as most concerts are these days?  Probably better, because someone cared about me that much to make it happen. 

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.  John 4:23

Honestly, I really enjoy music, but I don’t attend as many live shows as you might think.  When I didn’t have kids, I would probably buy tickets to about one show per year, and it was usually someone I had known for a while who was doing a show not too far away.  One of my favorite concerts was when I was around 8 years old along with my family and went to see Johnny Cash and the Carter family, who’s songs I knew fairly well by then.  Who you are with and the whole experience is maybe more meaningful than the music itself.  Honestly, I could probably get as much enjoyment out of listening to a song alone in a car as I could with thousands of others in a big stadium, but that is me.  When you worship God with many others at the same time, it is a unique experience, but it really doesn’t strengthen my faith any more than a good 30 minutes in the Word and alone with God.  What about 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

Does the experience of seeing and meeting the artist make the music that much more meaningful for you, or is your life about the same a month down the road?  In my experience, going to a live concert doesn’t usually make me a better singer, or a better Christian, or help me more in my devotions, or anything more than something to brag about to my friends.  Maybe it sounds like I am a better Christian if I tell people I went to hear a Christian artist, but probably doesn’t change their life much, unless it allows me an opportunity to share the Gospel message with them.  What would Jesus do? 

On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”  John 6:60

I always wonder, how would I have responded if I were living and walking around Israel in 32 AD.  If I saw and heard the Real Deal speaking the truth to my heart, how would I have responded?  There were many who were turned off by the truth that Jesus spoke to them, which went against many traditions and customs of the day.  If people chose to follow Him, they would have to give up many of the safe things and luxuries of the world they lived in.  Is this not true still today?  We must choose to surrender our own lives to truly follow the One who gives us what we cannot gain through all our works.  There were some that walked and listened to our Lord for days and years and yet still did not believe, yet He still changes lives today through faith when led by his Word and the Spirit.  How much more will he continue to do!

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.  Hebrews 11:1

Confidence in Christ,
Clark

Whole Hearted

When you hear that someone has spoken from the heart…what does that mean?  Usually it implies that they spoke openly and honestly and directly about what they were saying…they poured their heart out.  You can hear someone speak from the heart, sing from their heart, and even work with their whole heart.  More often than not, most of us go about life half-heartedly, with 10-40 percent of the enthusiasm and work ethic of which we are capable.  Would we burn out if we gave it our all?  Would others think we are too emotional…or a bleeding heart? 

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it?  Jeremiah 17:9

One statement about a person in the bible has always intrigued me was that David was a man after God’s own heart.  What does that mean, and even more, am I a person after God’s own heart?  There is probably more written about David than most others in the bible, so we get a pretty good look at his character, flaws and all.  We see him standing up to a formidable giant, fending off predators of sheep, anointed a king as a young boy, leading the Jewish people, and spilling out his guts all throughout the Psalms.  David was a man who left it all on the table, so is this why God smiled upon him? 

But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.  1 Samuel  13:14

One way to get a bigger picture of David is to compare him to his predecessor, Saul.  Why would God reject Saul and promote David to the leadership role?  If we look at their hearts, we see that Saul was often proud and disobedient, while David was more sensitive and repentant.  We know that both men were sinners and were far from perfect, but when confronted with their sin, one justified it, while the other confessed it.  When David was challenged on the issue of murder and adultery with Bathsheba, instead of covering up his crimes and having the leaker executed, he owned his sins and was repentant.  Maybe this is what God admired in the young man. 

He mocks proud mockers but shows favor to the humble and oppressed.  Proverbs 3:34

Humility is not the only admirable trait that David exemplified, but it was a strong one.  We can look at which of the fruit of the Spirit matches up with his life and get some good examples of how we can live those out as well.  His ability to express love, joy, patience, kindness and other fruit is exemplified in many of the stories we have come to know.  I read a book around 10 years ago called “Leap Over a Wall: Earthy Spirituality for Everyday Christians”, which looked at several character qualities of David and applied them to our own lives.  It is a good read.  Look to the examples of people you admire around you as well, and let God guide your heart and your life.

A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.  Luke 6:45

Blessings in Christ,
Clark

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