Author Archives: 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

Refuse or Refuge

If someone told you at gunpoint to leave your home and never come back, where would you go?  If you were only allowed a couple minutes to take with you only what you could carry, what would you take?  If you had no access to food and your family was starving, what would you do?  It is difficult to believe scenarios like this would happen in our current age, but they are more common now than ever before.  There are more people who have been forced from their home currently than at any other time in history, some 65.6 million people.  Among these are some 22.5 million refugees, half under the age of 18, who have left their home country to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.  Can you imagine the conditions it took for each of these families to flee their homes? 

When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them.  The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born.  Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt.  I am the Lord your God.  Leviticus 19:33-34

We might hear these numbers or stories about refugees and displaced people in the news and say ‘wow, that’s too bad’ because likely we don’t know anyone in this situation or who has gone through an experience like this.  Most of us are insulated from the realities and the struggle for identity and life many of these people face each day.  Can you imagine walking your family across hundreds of miles of unfamiliar terrain with thin hopes of a better life or ever returning home?  Or being stuck in a refugee camp with thousands of strangers in a similar situation as you for years on end?  In reality, people who flee are not that much different from you and me or others you may know.   Some are good, hard working people, and some are not, just like the mix of folks in your own home town.  We may hear stories of crimes committed by some in these groups and assume they are all the same.  The further we are from their reality, the easier it is to become cold and hardened toward an alien, or refugee, or anyone that is ‘not where they are supposed to be.’  If this is our attitude toward any people group, we need a wake-up call!  How many of us came to know the love of God because we were condemned and chastised? 

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

So, you say, ‘what can I do?’ there are no refugees knocking on my door looking for a place to stay.  Listen to some of the stories of what people have gone through and why they left their homes.  Everyone has a story.  I got to hear and ask questions of a man and his family who are refugees from SE Asia and had recently settled in Iowa for now.  Believe me, you wanted to shake his hand and welcome him, even if he looked nothing like you, after hearing what he went through.  If you have an attitude of hate or indifference in your heart, ask God to give you more compassion.  Even if you can’t give anything directly to these people, there are organizations that are effective in the help they provide with food, shelter, and resettlement.  Pray for these people as a group, but also individually, that they may hear the Gospel message and come to experience His mercy through those that show them kindness and help during a traumatic time in their lives. 

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Matthew 25:34-36

Yours in Christ,
Clark

Count the Cost

Whenever you make a purchase, you decide if something is worth the asking price.  You stop at a convenience store and are craving a candy bar or soda and don’t care if they cost 3 times what you would pay elsewhere.  Maybe you are debating whether or not to bail a friend out of trouble and ask yourself if it will really make a difference this time of if he will just end up in the same place again.  A few hours or a few years later, you look back at some of your choices and say, I’ll never do that again, or maybe that was well worth it!  Many of our poor choices in life are fueled by strong emotions like anger, frustration, pride, or greed.  There was an incident a couple weeks ago within 2 miles from my home where emotions between 2 young men escalated to the point where one was stabbed to death.  When we get into trouble, either by saying something we shouldn’t, or by doing something stupid that we later regret, or any number of small or large costly mistakes, we hopefully learn from it with as little negative consequence on us or those around us.  What are your biggest failures or regrets, so far? 

In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.  Luke 14:33

In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.  2 Timothy 3:12

When you make a purchase, like a car or a house, you may often be so excited about the benefits of the item that you overlook some of the flaws or drawbacks.  Maybe you didn’t notice a few things that may cost you more in repairs later on.  At one point in your life, when you said yes to Christ, were you mainly concerned with the cost or the benefit of becoming His disciple?  For many of us, we may have been motivated by the understanding of our depravity and need for a Savior, while at the same time fearing the other option of eternal damnation.  There are even some who chase after a false prosperity gospel message of getting rich by following Christ.  When we become His, the desires of our heart often change from worldly things to eternal things, and we also learn that we are not promised wealth, but more so persecution.  Some of us do not really surrender our whole life to Him, but often try to hold on to many of our selfish desires and maintain control of what we want and not what He wants for us.  How many of us have fully surrendered our lives to Christ saying ‘do with me as you please’?

If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.   And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.  Luke 14:26-27

Following Christ in the West often has little implication on our family and friends.  Your friends may change a bit, but its not usually socially unacceptable to be a Christian, even if your family does not do the same.  If you are living in a primarily Musilm, Buddhist or Hindu country, becoming a Christian can have much more significant implications.  You often may disown your own family, or become shunned by them to make such a decision.  After reading only a few stories of persecuted Christians, you realize that some may even face the threat of imprisonment or even death as a result of their faith.  Have you ever wondered or asked yourself what you would do in a situation like this?  If given the option to hold on to your faith or your life, which would you choose?   We may hope that we never face such a threat, but pray for those who do, and for what you would choose if in their shoes.  Maybe a more pressing question for you today is ‘What do I want’ vs. ‘What does God want’?

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  Galatians 2:20

Yours in Christ,
Clark

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