Author Archives: Clark

Get Away

If you had a few days without work or any other obligations, what would you do?   If you had a week to go anywhere in the world, where would it be?  Last week, I had a chance to visit with a friend I only see 1-2x each year and we eventually got to what vacations we have taken or plan to take this next year, as we both like to travel.  Another friend who is very busy during tax season also takes a vacation when things have calmed down in late April.  What’s the point of taking vacations?  Is it to brag to your friends about what you have done, to take the family to a new place, to add another thing to the ‘to do’ list, or maybe even to rest?  All of the above?  Everyone is a little different in what they prefer to do on vacation, as some like to relax and others take in as much as possible.  My default is the latter, as I like to see and do as much as able with little chance of overload, especially when far away from home, but I have come to appreciate the opportunity to rest as well.  How often do you take a break from your normal routine?  What’s the point? 

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.  Genesis 2:2

Have you ever felt isolated from the rest of the world?  Maybe it was when you were far away from home, or on a hike in the wilderness without any one around for miles, but you felt far apart from everyone else.  It may not be as extreme as the Maine Hermit, who went 27 years with only 1 other human encounter, but most of us have taken time to get away from our normal routine.  I recall a mission trip I was on in the Bolivian jungle when we were a 3 hour drive or boat ride from the nearest town of 2,000 people, seemingly far away from civilization.  Just yesterday, I took 15 minutes during a lunch break in Centerville and went for a walk along a trail into the woods along the edge of town.  This gave me a chance to slow down, refocus, reflect with God, and energized me for the rest of my busy day.  Sometimes, just closing the door and turning off the computer is all we need to take a few quiet minutes to do the same.  Do you recognize the need to take a break during a busy season, or even on a hectic day? 

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.  Luke 5:16

When we don’t have a chance to step away from the work before us, whether that be ministry, our job, taking care of others, or other obligations, we can become burned out.  We can get physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted if we overextend ourselves in a number of ways.  We may not always recognize our own need to take a break before we have overdone it, but others may see it in us.  Look to the example Jesus gave us in his 3 year ministry.  He knew he only had a limited amount of time and ministered to many, but not to everyone.  He often took time and went away by himself to pray and seek direction from his Father.  Should we not do the same? 

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

Following time away with God, the response is not more seclusion, but almost always a call to action of some sort, directed by God.  Christ was rested and refocused to continue his mission and ministry.  Remember when Elijah wanted to run away from everyone because life was so overwhelming?  What happened?  He rested and spoke with God, who empowered him to finish his mission instead of giving up.  Every time I go on a 2 day retreat or even take 10 minutes in the middle of my day to pray and wait on the Lord, He calls me to action in some way, and gives me the knowledge and encouragement to go forward.  So, the next time you get to take a vacation, or even just a break from your daily burdens, ask the tough questions of God and let him guide you in your next steps.  When we are in step with his Spirit, the work before us does not seem as daunting and the path ahead is one taken by steps of faith, regardless of where it leads.  Walk with boldness when you are walking with Him!

Strength in Christ,
Clark

On Edge

Have you tested the limits of what you thought you were capable of doing?  Maybe played with fire and not quite got burned.  Or maybe you feel you have cheated death a time or two and count your blessings.  There are lots of ways you can live life on the edge, but if you keep testing the limits, there may be a time you trip over the edge and don’t land on your feet.  One thing that comes to mind when we think of pushing the limits are extreme sports.  People have been pushing the limits of what we thought was possible since the beginning of time, only more recently with video running.  Whether it is trying to survive a trip over Niagara Falls, landing bigger and more dangerous jumps, skydiving without a parachute, or flying at over 100 mph within inches of a mountain, there is always someone willing to try something new.  The thing with extreme sports is that once you do what was once impossible regularly, it is no longer extreme.  It is a constantly moving target of everyone trying to one-up each other and taking it to a new and more intense level each time, until you find out that you have reached your limits and end up severely injured or dead.  Maybe you are not testing your limits by trying to cheat death in a dramatic way, but where do you take risks in life?

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.  2 Timothy 1:7

Everything we do in life involves some level of risk.  The chance of being killed by a terrorist is much less than flying on a plane, which is much less than driving across town, yet our fear of these things is likely the opposite.  We all have variable levels of fear in our lives which dictates what risks we are willing to take.  Just look at your friends and family and we can surely find some lives which went in a direction that no one intended.  Experimenting with smoking, alcohol, or other drugs can easily lead to a life of addiction and impaired health.  The lure of lust has led some to risk their marriage by cheating on a spouse directly, with wandering eyes, or through pornography.  Or we may think no one will notice if we take a little extra of what is not ours to pad our wallet.  Every time we spend or save the money God gave us can lead us toward poverty or more greed without much effort.  There are choices we make each day which can lead us down the wrong trail or the high road.  What guides your decisions?

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.  Psalm 24:1

What if we were designed to take risks?  The bible is full of examples of people, when called, to boldly go where no man had gone before.  Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jonah, Paul and others were led by God to step out in their faith to do what seemed foolish to the common man.  Christ took on the role of a servant to the point of death, when he had the power to choose anything else.  These are our examples of stepping out in faith to live honorably before God and man.  Yet we have examples of this in our own lives.  There are veterans living among us, and some who are not, who risked their lives to protect the freedoms we hold dear.  There are neighbors who gave up a high paying job to give more to their family, or to go into a ministry.  Where have you stepped out in faith and taken a risk to answer a call God had given you?

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.  Joshua 1:9

Challenge yourself in ways that will edify you instead of kill you.  You can take small risks every day that will save lives instead of destroy them.  Get up 30 minutes earlier to pray.  See how fast or how often you can read through the bible.  Challenge yourself to say 10 kind things to others each day.  Give more than you thought was possible.  Share the gospel with someone, even if you think they are a lost cause.  Take steps to go down the path you hear God calling you and leave behind the selfish world of the flesh.  Taking the risk to follow God may cause you to lose your life, but it will be worth it!

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.  Matthew 16:25

Blessings in Christ,
Clark

Wait a Minute

We live in a culture that does not promote patience.  We are bombarded almost daily with messages that say ‘if you want it now, you can have it, and we’ll help you get it.’  We are turning into an on demand society.  When I was a kid, I remember filling out an order form from a catalog and after mailing it in, you waited 2-3 weeks for a package to arrive.  Anymore, if it takes more than 2-4 days, it is slow.  When was the last time you wrote something using a typewriter?  I remember becoming frustrated when I made mistakes on this years ago, but it taught me to make fewer mistakes.  What have we learned, besides impatience, from demanding and getting things faster every time?  Where are you impatient?  Where are you wasting time?

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.  Psalm 27:14

What is our reaction when something does not go our way?  We look for alternate routes to the same destination.  Abraham did this after God promised a blessing through him and his descendants, as it did not come about in the manner and time he expected.  Maybe we tend to do this as well.  We may half-heartedly offer up a prayer to God, and if we do not hear back what we were looking for within an hour or a day, we blaze our own trail toward what we were seeking.  Can you imagine waiting for decades like Abraham or Moses and the Israelites.  At what point would your patience start to wane?

And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope.  Romans  5:2-4

Where are you struggling today with waiting on the Lord?  Maybe there are some hopes and dreams you had long ago that you are starting to doubt will come about.  Are you refining your desires as you wait and realizing that some things you had dreamed about were not as important as you once thought?  For some of us, it may take going through some bad experiences before we realize that putting our own desires first does not always play out how we would like it.  Sometimes our eyes are opened when we walk with friends or family through some heartache and realize we are on a similar path unless we change some things.  Hopefully, as time moves forward, we develop more patience as we wait on the Lord for better things.  Sometimes those better things do not even come about in this lifetime, but afterward.  May you be blessed as you learn and grow and come to understand His timing, as it is always just right.

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.  Isaiah 40:31

Courage in Christ,
Clark

 

 

Remember

The older I get, the more I enjoy history, especially decades and experiences that occurred before I was born and that I did not experience first-hand.  I regularly lean about historical people and events that I have never heard of before through references I hear or an article I see.  A few weeks ago, my brother posted an article about a man I had never heard of who almost single handedly averted World War 3.  Just when I thought I had seen it all, something else comes along to remind me that people find new and creative ways to do both great things as well as stupid things that have been done for centuries.  There are several variations on the phrase “Those wo cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  Essentially, if we (as a society or individually) cannot learn from our mistakes, we will surely make them again.  Do you prefer to learn from your own mistakes, or those of others? 

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.  Romans 15:4

I remember a fair amount from history class in school, but was never ‘formally educated’ much beyond the Civil War because the school year ended before we could finish the book into the 20th century.  Fortunately, I have since picked up on most of the last century from other sources.  Even though some of the references in Billy Joel’s ‘We Didn’t start the Fire’ were foreign to me, I had the capacity to look them up.  Is it the same with scripture?  I regularly work with young kids in Awana, where the primary goal is to teach kids scripture.  I am regularly impressed with the ability of several children to learn it quickly, as this was always somewhat of a challenge for me, even in Junior High.  We are often learning much and have the capacity to do much more, so the question is ‘are we and the next generation focusing on the right things?’    

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.  Psalm 103:11-12

I heard a question earlier this week that asked whether or not your memories from childhood were mostly positive or negative.  I have to say that most everything I recall I think was good.  So either the bad experiences were not that bad in time, or I have mostly forgotten them.  I remember fighting with my siblings, but mostly over trivial things.  I still love them today.  So are there things we should forget?  When someone wrongs us and sins against us, it is often difficult, but important to forgive them.  Just as God forgave us when we didn’t deserve it, so we ought to act the same toward others.  When someone regularly sins against us, it may be difficult to trust them as much in the future, but God often gives us the knowledge and strength to do what we cannot do on our own. 

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”  Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. Matthew 18:21-22

Courage in Christ,

Clark

Others

So, this past week for Spring Break, instead of heading for the sunny South or even moderate Southern Iowa, I loaded up the family and trekked to Northern Wisconsin a day before the snow fell once again.  We were not really seeking out a ski vacation or even a fun indoor water park, but went to visit friends we had not seen in person for some time.  It was an opportunity to see the families of a couple different friends I have had now for decades.  One friend has been a follower of Christ for about the same amount of time as I have, and who I try to meet up with at least once a year.  I have been an ‘uncle’ to his 9 children and watched them all grow up over the last 15 years as well.  We can talk on the phone from time to time, but meeting in person seems to be a good practice as well.  People change, families change, and the world we live in changes, but God doesn’t, and it is good to have a few friends to confide in about these things.  Are there relationships you value and invest in on a regular basis? 

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.  Proverbs 18:24

How do you tell your true friends from those who are not?  Maybe you recall a time in High School where your friends changed like the seasons?  Some may say things to drive a rift in the relationship, some move away, and others may just start running with a new clique or group of friends.  Even with ‘friends’ on Facebook and other social media, have you ever wondered where some of your childhood friends ever went?  Hopefully, as you matured, you found friends or family in whom you developed long term trust and friendship over the years.  For a variety of reasons, it is good to have a few close relationships in whom you can confide most anything and with whom you show love and forgiveness.  Often the relationship is mutual, where you share struggles with one another, but it can also be in the form of a mentor who has good advice for those willing to listen.  Have you had others like this in your life?  Do you now?

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

I’ve always said, when you hang out with someone different from you, either you tend to become more like them, or they become more like you, whether a friend or a spouse.  Who has the greater influence?  This is not to discourage you from talking with non-Christians, but maybe temper what activities in which you choose to participate together.  Whether it is running, working, managing money, praying, or any other skill in life, when you spend time with someone who does things better than you, you tend to improve your skills as well.  They rub off on you.  So, it would be good to spend at least some time with others whom you respect to find out what makes them good at what they do.  Ask if you don’t know.  Maybe others will seek the same in you now or in the future as well. 

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.  Proverbs 17:17

How committed are you to maintaining the relationships you have with your friends and family?  Do you have at least one friend in whom you can confide your fears, failures, and other things you try to conceal from others? Do you have someone who’s advice has proven trustworthy?  Do you regularly bring these same things to God and seek his advice?  Most men try to ‘go it alone’ and be self-sufficient as often as possible, but it can bring about as much trouble as good at times.  Confiding in others is not a sign of weakness, but a source of strength, especially when necessary.  So, take some time this week to catch up with a trusted friend, even if just to let them know they are appreciated.  If you don’t already have this kind of relationship with Jesus, seek Him out as well.

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command.  I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.  John 15:12-15


Strength in Christ,
Clark

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