Author Archives: Clark

Too Much

Where do you start?  If you want to find out some information on any topic, where do you start looking?  Twenty years ago you might ask a friend, stop at the library, or even look up an ‘expert’ on the subject in the phone book to find out more.  Today you can do an internet search about any given topic and see what any number of sources, some credible and some not, may have for you.  You can even just ask your ‘virtual assistant’ to find it for you with mixed results.  By most any measure, even if you live in the boonies, you have access to more information than you can possibly consume in multiple lifetimes.  Is this a good thing?

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.  Psalm 24:1

A hammer can be used to build up or to tear down, and so can books, or any tool including the internet.  You don’t have to look long to find trolls and cyberbullies trying to tear someone apart with hurtful words.  When you have people sharing thoughts, feelings, and suspicions with little accountability, it becomes more difficult to discern the truth from mere speculation.  Even with credible news sources, revisionists selectively leave out or highlight certain points of a story to give it more emphasis using subtle suggestions.   Whether a news reporter uses the term Pro-Life or Anti-Abortion gives you an idea how they feel about the same group of people.  What you consume can influence your thoughts and life in ways that you may not even be aware, for better or worse.  Where do you stop? 

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

Now, if you have a smartphone or internet access, you have every word of scripture, in multiple versions at your fingertips.  Does this mean we read it more often?  Maybe not, but it does allow access to someone who otherwise may not have picked up a Bible.  While I was typing this, I just received a text from a friend who wanted me to listen to a sermon series, and sent me a link.  On this site, there are thousands of hours of video sermons and messages that I could watch.  Beyond scripture, you can even access nearly every sermon ever preached from pastors like John MacArthur, or even from a sermon given on July 8, 1741 by Jonathan Edwards.  The possibilities are endless.  

Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies.  Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.  Psalm 34:12-14

If you search Amazon for books about relationships you will have over 500,000 to choose from and not enough time in the rest of your life to get through 1 percent of those.  With a plethora of books, videos, and random things to read or watch, how do you decide where to invest your time and where to steer clear?  There is probably as much bad information as there is good information on the web, so how do you tell the difference?  If you are grounded in the Word of God and led by his Spirit, he gives you the ability to discern good things from bad, even if not obvious on the surface.  As you mature, you should be able to learn that spending hours of time watching meaningless videos or playing games is not beneficial to you or your family.  It can easily consume your life and take away from things that are good.  So use these tools for things that are beneficial to you and others, and use them in moderation to keep things in balance.  Many will be glad you did!

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

god or God?

What is the longest you have gone without giving a thought to God?  3 hours, 3 days, 3 weeks or longer?  If you ask anyone, myself included, you will hear that life is busy.  There are endless things we like to do, and a few we have to do to get through each day, and we still often feel like we barely made a dent sometimes.  Is everything we are doing each day worthwhile?  Do you ever find yourself saying, ‘well that was a waste of time,’ though we are usually  more critical of others wasting our time than us wasting our own time.  If we are not even giving a thought about God, much less talking to him for long periods of time, where are our thoughts and attention focused?  What do we value most and give our time and energy toward…what do we worship? 

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

It has been stated by many people that we all worship someone/something, and I have found this to be true as well.  If anyone is in doubt as to what they worship, just take a look at what they put their time, money, passion, and energy into and it should be fairly obvious.  For many it may be striving for money, fame, or power of some sort, and much of this goes back to the worship of self.  Just scan through the most popular Instagram feeds and it is almost always a bunch of selfies, attempting to make ‘me’ look as good as possible to everyone else.  This essentially says…’I worship my own image, maybe you should worship me too!’  This permeates most every aspect of life and media if you ever look very long into pop culture.  I heard someone ask recently how long we can go without checking our phone, or how we feel when we are without it.  We don’t have to look far to find other things upon which we have become dependent. 

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”  Luke 4:8

Other symptoms of a growth in selfishness in society are increased entitlement, people quick to anger, increased criticism and lack of care for other humans, excessive concern about what others think of me, misguided priorities, and the list goes on.  With an increase of our on-demand culture, I think we are losing the ability to patiently wait for anything.  Even when Christians don’t get the answer they want from God, they may decide to ‘do it my way’ anyway.  I find myself laughing at how quickly I can become impatient anymore, and I realize that I shouldn’t put myself in situations where I need to rush.  Instead of blaming others, I should be blaming myself.  Instead of worshiping my own self-interests, I should be listening to God to guide me in where I should go.  You think we would realize our own faults by now.

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

So, take a little inventory into where we are investing the resources we have been given, and what fruit has come of it.  Take time to talk about this with those you care about, or anyone who will listen.  Change the attitude of worship from the created to the Creator and priorities will fall into proper perspective.  May God continue to reveal His worth to you as you seek Him!

Yours in Christ,
Clark

Change it Up

When most people set New Year’s resolutions, they take a look at their lives and ask what they most ‘want’ to change, not often what they ‘need’ to change.  It tends to be along the lines of ‘I want to lose weight’ or ‘I want to be healthier, therefore I should change how I eat, sleep, exercise, etc’.  Wants and needs are not always in the same ballpark.  I would estimate that most of us would seldom ask others what we need to change, because you know, they might suggest something we don’t like, or that would offend us.  Simply, we are afraid of what they might say, so we don’t ask.  Does this ring true in other areas as well?  I don’t want to talk to them about Jesus because they might think I’m weird or something.  There are many ways that we are prisoners of our own fears.

Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.  Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.  Psalm 25:4-5

Have you ever made a resolution to spend more time in prayer or the Word?  If you would ask most Christians if they should read the bible or pray more, I would guess most everyone would say,’I probably should.’  This is something we should all ‘test’ out to see what happens.  Even if it is a commitment to read through the New Testament, or to just spend a set number of days, weeks, or months in the Word, share with at least one other person whether or not it changes anything in your life.  Maybe even ask what benefit it is for others and not just how it affects you.  Also, remember that it is not a true test if we ‘try’ a few times and fail to follow through on the time we commit. 

So is my word that goes out from my mouth:  It will not return to me empty,but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.  Isaiah 55:11

At what point in our faith walk do we transition from telling God what we want to asking God what He wants?  When we are young, most of our prayers are fairly selfish, asking for help or answers in our work or personal lives.  Not that we shouldn’t ask, but most of our concern is for what we think will benefit us most.  When we start to ask more of what God wants from us and we actually start to listen, we find that the attention moves away from us and toward how we can be used by God to accomplish a greater purpose in our lives.  It is a change that starts to diminish anger, frustration, and selfishness, and produces greater fruits of the Spirit in our lives, almost without exception. 

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.  James 1:5

So, if you are willing, conduct a small test this week: 

Ask God what changes you should make in your life and listen to what He tells you, not out of guilt or condemnation, but because He wants something better for you.  Don’t just ask once and be done, but keep asking Him to show you what He wants in all areas of your life.  This is a fearful proposition for many, but one with great rewards to those willing to listen.   

If not already doing so, make a plan to get in the Word and pray at a consistent time and place.  Make it happen for even just 2 weeks and let me know the result.  Though I shouldn’t be, I am often surprised about where God leads me when I commit time to Him.  Wishing you all the best when you are willing to ask tough questions and change it up for the better.

Yours in Christ,
Clark

Tick Tock

So, did you stay up this past week to ‘watch’ the time change and usher in 2018?  To me, it was more enjoyable to just go to bed early and wake up in the New Year!  Each year that goes by seems to speed up, just a little more, though the seconds are the same.  How about you, do you do anything special at the turning of the calendar each year?  Do you take inventory of all that has transpired over the past year and look to where you want to make changes?  Some make new goals or resolutions of how they will work to improve their lives.  Someone even asked me to rate the year (0-10) on how well I though it went.  What will the new year have for you? 

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.  Psalm 90:12

The time each of us are given each day is the same, yet how we use it varies widely.  Have you ever felt that you have ever ‘wasted’ a day because you were unproductive or that some bad choices led you to a place you would rather not be?  Or maybe the opposite is true as well, where you had an extremely productive day, or the experiences were something you will remember the rest of your life?  We can even expand this to a whole lifetime.  Who comes to your mind when asked if you know of someone who has basically ‘wasted’ their life, likely through consistent selfish actions, or the number of people they have hurt over time?  Just looking at a day or a year out of our lives can help us get a good idea of how things are going, and where we need to improve, to forgive, or to grow in our future. 

Lord, what are human beings that you care for them, mere mortals that you think of them?   They are like a breath; their days are like a fleeting shadow.  Psalm 144:3-4

Occasionally, each passing year serves to remind us of how short our time on this big globe really is.  We see babies and children grow up quickly before us and wonder, ‘what will that 2 year old be doing 40 years from now?’ and at the same time, we wonder if we will even be here in 40 years.  We see how fleeting material things are as money comes to us and goes just as quickly, and how relationships cannot be bought and sold as easily as things.  We look at how we have grown closer or further apart in our relationships with others and with God over the years and wonder how things will go this next year.  We see society change around us, for better or worse, and wonder if it will influence us, or if we will be salt and light to the world we encounter.  Have you made any plans to spend your time any differently this year? 

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

So, as we start our first steps into this New Year, let us choose 1 or 2 things to focus our attention on that can help us produce better fruit in our lives.  It may take some discipline for us to give up some things so that we can have time to invest into other things we know are better for us.  Whether that be physical in how we sleep, exercise, or eat, or more spiritual and relational in how we spend time with God or others, good things can happen when we invest in the right ways.  Also consider how you may give more effectively in your use of money and time, so the rewards will last long after we are gone.

All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;  the grass withers and the flowers fall,  but the word of the Lord endures forever  1 Peter 1:24

Forever in Christ,
Clark

Cold

Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.  At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.  Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.  Matthew 24:9-13

It was just a week ago, here in Iowa, that we were experiencing high temperatures in the 40-50 degree range, just enjoying each day as it arrived.  Then on Sunday, we had our first measurable snowfall of around 2” and it was not too bad.  I even worked up in a sweat pushing snow around during my first Winter Workout of the season.  And now, we are struggling to see high temps out of the teens and single digits…cold by most measures!   Honestly, I enjoy the wide variety of weather we get here in Iowa, as they say, just wait and it will change.  But lots of snow and long stretches of days when temps fail to break above 30 degrees leave me feeling a bit cold and discouraged too. 

So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.  Revelation 3:16

What if we took your spiritual temperature, what would it read?  How would we even measure that…by how often you attend church, frequency of bible reading or prayer, or any other outward measurement?  A better question may be ‘How sold-out for Jesus are you?’  Again, it may be difficult to quantify this outwardly, but you definitely know it if you have been hot or cold before.  As we go through life, we may even experience different seasons of when we grow or become stagnant spiritually, of when we appear spiritually fruitful and times we are not.  Another question becomes, how do you respond when you or those around you become lukewarm or cold and inattentive to the presence of God in their lives.  What do you do then? 

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7

Most people do not turn cold overnight, but gradually drift that way over time.  Often, it may be specific trials, influential people, or life circumstances that trigger them to become discouraged or start to turn away from their once fervent faith.  Another response is when we become so self-sufficient that we start to feel we don’t really need God, as we are doing just fine on our own.  Or we become so busy with life, that we really don’t have much time to spend with God, or listen to Him.  Whatever the reason, there is still something we can do when our hearts start to turn cold toward God or others in our lives. 

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  James 1:2-3

Even when we do not feel like it, if we continue to practice spiritual disciplines such as prayer, fasting, bible study, service toward others, confession, worship and other disciplines, these can fan our flames of faith and grow the influence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  If our faith is as temperamental as our feelings and dictated primarily by life circumstances (e.g. we trust God when life is good, and doubt Him when it does not go our way) we are in for a roller-coaster ride.  When we persevere and look down the road to what lies ahead, our current status is not as daunting.  Just as we will one day hear the robins chirping in anticipation of the warm weather to come, a time of spiritual growth and renewal is likely for the frozen chosen when they persist in their faith.  May the promise of Christ and the work of his Spirit give you hope, regardless of what lies ahead.

Yours in Christ,
Clark

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