Author Archives: 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,

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,

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,

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,

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,

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