Author Archives: 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

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

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