Author Archives: Clark

Benched

We are right in the middle of Baseball season and it won’t take you long to find a game if you look around for glowing lights on any given night.  From the Pee wees to the Pros, there are also guys sitting on the bench, just waiting for a chance to get in the game and prove themselves.  They may be filled with a variety of thoughts as well, from ‘when am I going to get a chance – I’m better than half the guys out there’ to ‘I hope I don’t mess up when I get a chance to show what I can do.’  All that raw or underdeveloped talent just sitting there wasting away on the bench…what is the coach thinking…what would it take to put those guys in the game?  Have you ever felt underutilized?  That you were made for something more than what you are doing now and maybe you should be given a chance to prove yourself? 

Pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor.  Proverbs 29:23

We have all probably been there at some time or other.  I remember my first year playing baseball, basketball, or my first part time job when I was nervous and excited to show what I could do all at the same time.  What about other areas where you feel you may some underdeveloped talent, yet haven’t had a chance to explore these possibilities, how will you ever know?  If you never take an opportunity to write, to preach, to pray, to serve, to create a unique work, or any other thing, how will you ever know what possibilities lie within you?  Theodore Roosevelt was a man with varied interests and talents who had many successes and failures in life, yet kept going.  Even Emily Dickinson who is considered one of the most important American Poets of the 19th century had fewer than 12 of her 1,800 poems published while she was alive, yet she kept on writing.  At what point would you give up?  What do you think Moses was thinking after about 35 years of living on the run in the wilderness?  He may have thought that was it for the rest of his life, but God had other plans.  What other plans do you think God has for you yet? 

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

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  Romans 12:11-12

If you find yourself sitting on the bench in some area of your life for longer than you think necessary, consider why you feel this way.  If you think your talents are not used to the best they can be, are you at least putting them out there a little, so that you can employ them to a degree, even if not to the full extent possible?  Or are you holding back, as a new, entitled graduate, waiting for the perfect job before accepting anything?  Or maybe the issue is that you are not recognized fully for your talents, to the extent you think you deserve.  Your own pride gets in the way of being fully utilized to the degree possible.  Maybe this current time or place is just not fitting to where you are best able to serve.  There may be a variety of barriers keeping you from using the best of your talents or abilities, or keeping you from producing any fruit in your life at all.  Take those questions to the Lord, and he may not always give you the answer you want, but almost always it will be the answer you need.  Don’t be discouraged, but serve Him and others as best you are able and you will be a blessing to many, even if it does not make the headlines!

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

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

Be Bold in Christ,
Clark

Pro or Con

When do you feel most encouraged?  When are you most discouraged?  It may be when your week is going well, then its just a matter of time before your ‘luck’ turns and something happens that steals your joy.   When trials come regularly, it can lead us down a path of discouragement or even depression.  If things have not been going your way for a while, we may have a tendency to think that the whole world and even God is against us at times.  It is easy to look at our lives through the world’s eyes and see that we do not measure up to expectations, realistic or not, in regard to our jobs, home, family, finances, relationships, or any other device of comparison.  Is there someone who believes in you and encourages you, even when you do not believe in yourself? 

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Hebrews 10:24

A missionary family who has been working in central Africa with an unreached group of people has recently had their world turned upside down.  They have been making connections and building relationships with a nomadic tribe of people in the Central African Republic over the past several years and just this past month have had to leave the country and many friends, as their safety and lives were in danger.  They are currently on hold to see where God leads them, as the ability to return to the ministry they had been doing may never happen.  To quote a letter from this past week:  “So again… I’m reminded that there are two things that stay stable for us…. Our perfect competent King, and the incredible body of Christ. That is what keeps us hopeful…. That is what keeps us going. “

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:28

Things happen in each of our lives that we do not plan on, and that none of us would wish on others.  When we lose a job, a family is divided, have health problems, or when a friend or loved one unexpectedly dies, we may question who is in control.  Often we have a choice when we face life’s challenges to either let it push us into discouragement, or to make us more resilient and move forward with greater strength.  Where do you turn when all you hold dear gets emptied from your life?  Do you blame God or others, or do you pick up and carry on and continue to trust in Him regardless of your current situation?

So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  Isaiah 41:10

So, whether you are having a bad day, good week, or frustrating year, don’t be discouraged.  Turn to the one who made you and let Him guide you through the truth of his Word.  Allow others to pray with you and pray for others, even when you don’t feel like doing so.  Have joy in realizing that you have been given the greatest treasure known or unknown in salvation through Christ, and no one can take that from you.  Through encouraging others, you also will be encouraged.  Step out in courage and boldness and let Him guide your steps!

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  2 Corinthians 4:8-9

Courage in Christ,
Clark

Greener

Who’s yard is nicer, your’s or your neighbors?  Who has a better mower, car, house, family, etc?  It doesn’t take long, whether you are 2 or 20 years old to find something to be envious of when we start to look around at others.  It is mowing season again and just yesterday, along with 2 of my neighbors,  I was out riding around in that futile pursuit of trying to keep the entire yard looking the same again.  It is only temporary, as it will be calling me out again within the week.  It doesn’t take much for us to conform to the demands of our communities, whether motivated to have a nicer yard than our neighbor, or just to avoid the city fine for having a jungle environment.  What drives you to be competitive in life to try to one up the guy next to you?  Does winning in these little pursuits bring you satisfaction or drive you to be even more competitive? 

A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.  Proverbs 14:30

In an age of pervasive social media, it is easy to put forth an image of ourselves that is contrived and not the full story of what is going on.  We can pose for great images of ourselves, our travels, our perfect smiling kids, and even the dinner from last night and have the words to build it up even more.  It’s not much different from what we do and say in public compared to what happens behind closed doors.  If they saw the reality beyond the image, what would they really think?  If we knew the time, effort, and cost involved with those things we tend to be envious of in our neighbor, we may have second thoughts ourselves.  Instead of letting our desires for something bigger and better drive us toward more, let us take those desires to God and ask Him to reveal to us the condition of our hearts. 

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

One good test of our spiritual maturity is whether or not we can rejoice in our brother’s success.  If we can be genuinely glad (not fake happy) when they prosper, it helps keep jealousy and envy at bay.  In fact, the antidote for envy in our lives is love.  When we genuinely care for others and go out of our way to speak kind words and encourage them in good work, it puts any quiet resentment we may have in check.  It may try to return again in other forms, but genuine love is still the cure. 

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  1 Corinthians 13:4-5

So, if you are tempted to be jealous or bitter toward a rival at work, in your community, or even in your own family, pray for them.  Also, pray that God would give you the awareness when you are headed down that path again and to keep your heart from residing there.  May your love for others always overcome any envy in your life!

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.  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 12:15-16

 

Yours in Christ,
Clark

Testify

“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”  John 18:37

How many lies do you tell in a day?  How many do you believe?  Most of us would say that we try not to lie at all on any given day.  However, when we ignore or avoid the truth on any given issue, spread rumors and half truths about people, or would rather have someone believe something better about us than what is reality, then we are in fact living a lie.  Some may say that little white lies and half-truths are no big deal as they don’t hurt anyone or that they are done to protect someone, but in fact they promote a reality which is false.  When people are caught in life changing scandals, they never started out as such, but began as small compromises which grew into much more.  We should ask, Where have I compromised the truth in my 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

Just watch the news for a day and you will learn quickly that it is human nature to cover our mistakes and weaknesses as well as to promote or even exaggerate our strengths.  Relying on and living out a false reputation is nothing more than living a lie.  Do you strive for honesty in all your business interactions, and in your professional as well as personal life?  The only way to never get caught in a lie, is not to tell one.  You never have to cover your tracks or worry about being discovered.  I often say, that no matter the issue, the truth comes out in the end.  Whether in this lifetime or on judgement day, the truth will be revealed.  Does that give you comfort?

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  1 John 1:8

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

Recently, I’ve been listening to a sermon series on Creation vs. Evolution and always find it interesting how easy it can be to persuade others when only part of a story is told.  We can find some evidence to support a theory and then extrapolate that to cover everything, when there is little foundation for it to stand.  When we believe and give credence to false theories and philosophies in our lives, we are in fact testifying to what is false.  I once heard someone say that if you can believe the first verse of the bible, you can believe all of it, and if you can’t, then you may have trouble with the rest of it as well.  Do you believe the whole Word of God?  How do you pick and choose what to believe?

If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.  1 John 1:6

So, where do you stand?  Do you stand for truth and what is right?  Do you seek that in all areas of your life and live it out as best you can?  If you struggle in any area with this, ask the One who stands for all truth to guide you, and He surely will!

Truth in Christ,
Clark

No Fair

We start hearing from a young age that life is not fair.  When we see someone else gets a bigger piece of pie, we don’t get all we asked for at Christmas, someone else won MVP, we soon realize inequality is a fact of life and pitching a fit doesn’t always help.  All around the world, there are things that happen every day that are not right, whether trivial or life changing.  People steal from one another, hurl insults in person and online, the poor are exploited, minorities are ostracized and condemned, people are exploited.  We may not see this blatantly done in our cushioned Midwest hometowns, but it still happens.  Kids are slighted and bullied in schools, and domestic abuse happens in every community, but in some parts of the world, it is just a struggle to survive, much less thrive.  We have all experienced injustice to some degree, and may have even been the instigator at one time or another, but what can we do about it now? 

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.  Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.  Proverbs 31:8-9

We have been trying for centuries to make things right, and as much as technology and laws may have improved life in some places, there are still atrocities that are taking place this very day.  That is because there is still one thing that doesn’t change from each generation and that is the human heart.  Each person is born in sin and has the capacity for great evil, but also great love.  We all have a need for forgiveness and a Savior.  When we realize this, we are then more capable and empowered to love and seek justice for ourselves and others in this world. As much as we may ‘improve’ as a society, there will always be needs and wrongs to be righted all around us.

We love because he first loved us.  1 John 4:19

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

So, what can we do about injustice in the world and even in our own community?  When we see it, speak up for those who do not speak up for themselves.  Alert those in authority when laws are broken or something can and should be done to intervene.  If no one else will take action, who should, do what you can to make things right, though not in a Batman/Robin Hood vengeance sort of way.  Get to know and give to organizations that can and do make a difference to correct wrongs and help those who truly need help.  Lastly and most importantly, pray for those in difficult situations and ask of God what part you can play in truly helping.  Love with your words and actions in ways that are honorable to God and your fellow humans and stand for His truth!

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place.  Ephesians 6:14

In Christ,
Clark

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