Author Archives: Clark

R&R

What would you do if you received a letter in the mail informing you that a warrant had been issued for your arrest and you were to report to jail immediately?  You might think someone is playing a practical joke on you, or that someone finally found out and you are finally getting what you deserve.  Maybe we should be thankful that there is not always justice, instant karma, or fair play given in every situation we encounter.  If so, most of us would get a speeding ticket every day we drive, and the prisons would be full of all us thieves and scoundrels, because we are all guilty.  Instead, we encounter the self-righteous and sinners who just have not been caught yet, which even includes us in its numbers.  How often are we thankful for being treated unfairly? 

Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.  Proverbs 28:13

Just like the Pharisees in Jesus’ time, we have a tendency to try to manage our sins.  Instead of seeing them for what they truly are, and confessing them, we try to downplay and minimize our faults, compare our misdeeds to those greater infractions of others, and just plain hide or even justify our sins and hope that no one ever finds them out.  It is a constant struggle to try and make us look good in the eyes of others, and ourselves, when we know full well that we are not who we pretend to be.  Maybe if we do some of the right things, go through the motions and show up at church and say the right words, no one will ever know what hides in our hearts.  Maybe we can even fool God, if we try hard enough?  Who are we really fooling? 

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.  Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.  Psalm 51:1-2

In scripture, we hear that David was a man after God’s own heart, but what does that really mean?  Was it because he knew what God wanted in most every situation and followed Him perfectly or failed Him – David dreamed big, won big, and failed big?  Was it because he fought battles, sang songs and danced with abandon and all that was within him?…maybe a little.  When we read Psalm 51, we get a glimpse into David’s heart and realize he didn’t think as much of himself as others made him out to be.  He was a sinner, plain and simple, and the only One who could restore and renew him, was God.  He realized, as we often do, that he deserved nothing but judgement and condemnation from God, yet he finds mercy and forgiveness, when he returns time and again with a contrite heart.  Maybe that is it? 

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.  Acts 3:19

Regular Repentance is a key sign of a true Follower of Christ.  Confession is a practice we seldom seek, but often need.  We have a tendency to think that we should almost be perfect, but it is a target we are unable to hit.  Because men have a tendency to go it alone when it comes to getting things done, we tend not to have close friends to whom we can confess and bear our souls to, though it is definitely a healthy thing to do.  If you are married, ideally you would be willing to confess your sins with your spouse, though it is a difficult thing to do.  Maybe before reading the whole laundry list, start with some small things first to show that you are imperfect.  If you are not able to confess your sins to others, begin with sharing them with God, you know, since He already knows.  Confession starts to bring about more forgiveness and freedom in your life to areas you didn’t even know you were in bondage.  May you experience that freedom daily, in the forgiveness that Christ reveals and brings to us each time we confess and repent!

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  Colossians 3:12-13

Yours in Christ,
Clark

Planning Committee

Monday morning, I checked the radar to see where the snow was and it all looked like it was leaving Iowa and heading through Wisconsin.  Then I sent a message to some friends North of Appleton and asked how things were up there and got the reply ‘everything is closed’ as they had 15-20” of snow on top of ice.  If you live in the Midwest, especially Northern Iowa or Southern MN the past few weeks, you are used to weather changing things.  What do you do when things don’t play out according to how they were planned, or how you hoped it would go?  If you are like me, surely you encounter this on some level every day.  Whether it’s the weather, an illness or accident, a computer problem, someone not doing what they promised, or any number of things, how we deal with adversity each day says a lot about our character.  What do you say to God when things don’t go your way? 

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

Any one of us can look at our live and in one moment say we are miserable, and then looking at another poor soul, and say its not so bad.  When we compare our situation to anyone else, we can always find something to complain about and covet in others, especially if we have a lot of negative self talk.  If we listen to the Word regularly, we may find that we are blessed more than we thought, and when we see someone else in a worse situation, we would seek to help or give an encouraging word instead of gloat or criticize.  Consider how often Jesus gave up what He could have selfishly taken in any given situation.  Instead, he put others before himself because it was best for everyone.  When we think selfishly, we act selfishly.  When we think of others, we act in love.

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!  Philippians 2:8

Take a few moments to consider where you would be if some things had gone different in your life.  If  you had not had the parents you did, or lived where you are, or met those you have in your life now.  You may think things would be a lot better or could also be a lot worse than what they are.  If everything had gone according to your plans, you surely wouldn’t be where you are today.  Thank God for the blessings in your life.  Be grateful for what you do have, and even for what you don’t have.  Find opportunities to be a blessing to others as well, no matter where your plans take you today. 

“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.”   Jeremiah 29:11

Yours in Christ,
Clark

KISS

As I was growing up, I heard a phrase in reference to trying not to make things more complicated than we have to.  KISS:  Keep it Super Simple.  Or the more pejorative, Keep it Simple, Stupid!  Generally in life, we tend to make things more complicated than they need to be.  We can get lost in the details of what we are doing and lose sight of our original objective.  We can make mountains out of molehills, when we fear a task looming before us that we are not prepared for, or that seems impossible to complete.  However, after we start and work to completion, it may not seem as difficult as it once did.  I think it is a good challenge to sum up things in one or two sentence descriptions, whether it is your job, a gameplan to complete a task, or any number of things, it helps you keep focused on what you are trying to accomplish.  There is even a principle called Occam’s razor, which postulates that the simplest answer is usually the most likely or accurate one.  How about when it comes to God…does He like to keep it simple, as well?

“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

Jesus summed up the Old Testament law with two simple commands.  It was much simpler than the myriad of laws and extra commands that the religious leaders of the time gave people to be ‘accetable.’  The Ten Commandments can be divided by 2 as well, when you consider the first 4 are directed toward Loving God, and the last 6 are toward Loving others, it seems to fit well with Jesus’ love commands.  When you approach challenges of life with these two principles, it is not difficult to come up with a valid way to approach almost anything you may encounter.  When we get puffed up with pride, greed, envy, anger, and the like, problems are bound to result.  When we approach people and situations with love as our primary motive, we will still face challenges, but the results will be less problematic.  Now we know the answer to the question, ‘What’s Love got to do with it?’

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  1 John 4:11

How well do we love God and others?  The more we practice, the better we get, though we will never do it perfectly.   Jesus shared many parables, like the Good Samaritan, which illustrated the degree we would have to go to love perfectly, which is ultimately an unattainable ideal.  More often than not, when we consider these areas of our lives that we ‘need to work on,’ it reveals to us the degree to which we are all still sinners in need of saving, no matter how ‘good’ we get.  Sure, we may appear to our neighbors like we’ve got it all together, but they don’t see our hearts like God does.  If they only knew X,Y,Z.  But the good news is that God continues to forgive us, when we humble ourselves and come to Him, we receive mercy.  Though we are imperfect now, when we model the fruit of the Spirit toward others, as He does toward us, we become more like Him. 

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  Galatians 6:9

So, let us not give up our pursuit of striving to be like Christ in all we say and do.  The more we read the Word and become familiar with his life, the more we will see opportunities to do the same.  We can demonstrate love toward others as He has toward us.  We can forgive others, as He forgives us.  We can give our lives for him and others, as He has for us.  Keep it simple and love the way He loved!

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.  John 13:34-35

Yours in Christ,
Clark

Small Things

I’m starting to realize I’m being watched.  Not by Big Brother or the NSA, though if they want to monitor my phone calls, I have to pity whoever would listen to the conversations.  However, there are little eyes in my home taking note of everything I do from how I hold my arms, to the way I dance, to the words I say.  I’m being copied on a fairly regular basis.  I didn’t realize the small things I do would have such an impact on another person.  I hope he doesn’t pick up on any bad habits, which I may not realize are even bad habits.  I hope I don’t pick up any of his bad habits, or start having more temper tantrums.  I suppose we all have some influence on one another, both in big ways in small ways.  Who is most influential in your life? 

Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.  Luke 16:10

We hear headlines every day of people in positions of power getting exposed for crimes and misdemeanors they commit both on the job and in their private lives.  In reality, one mistake can end a person’s career or family without much of a chance to ‘take it back’ or ‘make things right’.  Less famous folks like us don’t make the headlines with similar deeds, but there are also relationships that are restored through forgiveness and changed lives.  These stories with a good ending don’t usually make the news, but when we hear them, it gives hope for any and all of us who have messed up in the past.  When we think about it, we are all guilty of more things than we would like to admit, and most of us could probably go to jail if we lived by the letter of the law and confessed every misdeed to the authorities.  Hopefully, we learn from our mistakes and keep from doing stupid things in public, as well as in private, when no one is watching.  What if your deepest secrets were posted in the headlines? 

Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”  1 Corinthians 15:33

I’ve often wondered what kinds of things we will be given to do in Heaven.  I don’t think lying around playing harps will even be on the list.  Learning new skills and composing new worship songs is more likely, even if you are not musically inclined now.  Exploring the fullness and intricacies of creation and building new structures to promote God’s glory will be an adventure.  We may get to explore and practice these things to a lesser degree here and now, but think of the possibilities in either place!  As Mr. Rogers used to remind us, ‘sometimes it’s good to imagine.’   Do you think what we do in this life will have an influence on what we do in Heaven? 

Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.  Do not be conceited.  Romans 12:16

If you are a parent, you have people looking up to you as a role model.  If you work with anyone else, you have people watching you as an example to them.  If you have siblings or a spouse, you are a living example of how a Christian practices their faith on a daily basis.  The pressure is not to be perfect in everything, but to strive to do your best, to grow from mistakes, and to seek forgiveness as you forgive others.  What we practice in this life, we will be able to live out fully, without the tangles of sin, when we sweep the streets in heaven. 

Yours in Christ,

Clark

Out to Lunch?

What do you like to do when you go out to lunch, or dinner, or even breakfast?  Do you like to be waited on and given what you like, do you just like to get your food quickly and then out the door when done, or do you like the social aspect of dining out as much as the food itself?  My wife and I get an opportunity to go out to eat together about once a month, usually when we are sans kids, and we really enjoy it.  We have come to the conclusion that it is ten times easier to eat at home, or snack till we can, than to do so at a restaurant when young children are involved.  We eat well with a lot of variety at home and enjoy it, as we can engage in conversations and clean up messes much more easily than on the road.  Do you relax and enjoy your food more in some places or with some people than others?  What is your most memorable meal?

He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.  Deuteronomy 8:3

I had the opportunity, on a couple of different occasions to attend a traditional Jewish Seder meal during Passover.  While this traditional celebration with storytelling was likely developed after Jesus’ time, it does give symbolism to the food items served at the meal.  It also gives a good illustration of the significance of the Passover celebration in the Jewish culture at the time.  While it may not be the best tasting meal of your life, you do get a better understanding of the spiritual significance and role of food in our lives.  It is also hard to miss the similarities between Jesus and the sacrificial Passover lamb, which were both killed to save the people from God’s wrath.  How often do we overlook or take His sacrifice for granted today? 

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.  Revelation 3:20

The Last Supper, as described in scripture, has been the subject of countless conversations and been depicted in a variety of ways through history.  The thing that often strikes me, is even though Jesus made many allusions to what was to come for him and his disciples, they often didn’t seem to get it.  Why were the disciples ‘out to lunch’ at times even when they had the greatest access and even dined with the one who would be taken from them?  Maybe they weren’t always listening to Him.  Have you ever had a dinner conversation with a friend, or spouse, and realized you had not heard, misheard or forgotten something they said earlier in the conversation?  If we knew it was the last time we would dine with them, we may have been more attentive. 

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.”   Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it.  “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them.  Mark 14:22-24

This Holy Week, as you hear and even participate in activities that bring to life a greater understanding of events that happened nearly 2000 years ago, may you grow in your faith and love for the One around which these events centered.  Each time you participate in communion, it can be as if you are dining with Jesus and having a conversation with him.  Each time you say Grace and give thanks at your dinner table, you can be inviting Jesus to sit down and dine with you.  May each meal with Him be as if you were there at the Last Supper, learning a little more each time you listen to him.  May it also be a glimpse of the feast with Him that is yet to come. 

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:  “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”  The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.  Revelation 5:13-14

Yours in Christ,
Clark

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