Monday, December 31, 2018

2019: Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

2018 was a year of seismic changes in my life. The beginning of the end of my 20-year marriage has taken center stage but I would say that I have grown exponentially because of it and there were many good things that happened this year despite the turmoil. 

My daughter Haley graduated high school! Haley has overcome some trials of her own this year as she was diagnosed with diabetes and suffered the relocation of her long-term boyfriend to another state.  She is becoming the independent woman I raised her to be. She is learning to drive, going to college, and celebrating the new year in Atlanta!

My son, Brennan, has continued to flourish despite everything too.  He has continued to excel in chorus and drama in school and has really shined in both realms performing solos and being selected for all county, and all state in chorus and becoming one of the leading actors in drama in last spring’s musical, and this fall’s Shakespeare festival. This spring he secured the role of Rock Star: Conrad Birdy in THS’s upcoming “Bye-Bye Birdy!”

Through it all my kids have supported me completely. We have stuck together, committed to find a way to maintain our home as we look to the uncertain future of preparing for a new one.  

This morning as I was preparing for the future by packing boxes for the eventual move?  I discovered some notes from the Men’s Bible study group I go to on Sunday mornings.  The notes in question must have been from the heat of my filing for divorce because they revealed the sharp pains I was going through at the time.  

The notes were based on a teaching from one of the guys in our group, He presented the “3 needs of life”.    The three needs of life were:
1.    Love
2.    Significance
3.    Security

So, I had written those points out with the following personal reflections.

1.    Love – No Love.  My wife loves _______.
2.    Significance - Job re-assignment and transfer feels like a demotion.  My wife’s complete disrespect and betrayal.  Divorce will cost almost everything.
3.    Security – I have no idea where me and my kids will live and what we will live on.
   At the bottom of these delightful insights, I had scrawled: GOD help me! 

It may have been bright in August but those were some dark days. 

But you know what?  God did help me!

Back in the spring of this year, before this craziness, I signed up to take classes to get my master’s degree in Christian Counseling.  So, around the same time as I wrote this note, I got on with my studies. The class?   “How to Deal with Emotional Crisis”.  No kidding. 

One of the texts for this class was “How to Handle Your Emotions” by June Hunt.  The book leads Christians through the process of how people of the Christian faith are to determine their Self-worth and to deal with emotions like depression, grief, anger, fear, and rejection.   It was an invaluable resource in getting me to properly deal with everything I am going through.  The Lord has used it to bless me and I have taken it and taught lessons from it at Celebrate Freedom, our local Christian Recovery group.

It showed me that I had LOVE, SIGNIFICANCE, and SECURITY in God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. My worth is not based on my marriage, my job, or my performance.  I am priceless. God loved me so much that He sent His Son to die for me.  He has given me His Holy Spirit to live in and through me. I am never alone because He will never leave me nor forsake me.  I will never die. If this body gives out, I will find myself in the kingdom of heaven surrounded by loved ones and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who cheering me on as I walk in faith.

My divorce isn’t over.  I still have to list and sell my house. I don’t know when it will be over or where I will live afterwards but I know that come what may I will overcome because of the blood of Jesus Christ that has washed me clean and given me life never ending.  

Thank You JESUS! Thank You GOD! Thank You HOLY SPIRIT!  

If you have had a bad year, say a simple prayer to make Jesus your Lord and Savior.  Put your faith in Him and you can walk through anything!

God bless you and yours!

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 24, 2018

Merry Christmas! : 2018

With a pending divorce, an uncertain future that will include selling the house and moving, my daughter has decided to spend the Christmas holiday and New Year’s with her boyfriend in Atlanta leaving me and my son to celebrate the holidays “together alone” or “alone together”.  At 18 and 17 years old, my kids are learning there are some harsh realities to life that Santa and Rudolph didn’t plan for.

In preparation for that uncertain future and certain relocation, my kids recently cleaned out their rooms and many items that were gifts of Christmas past were throw in the trash.  What gave delight and joy one year, has been enjoyed, used, out grown and disposed of. 
The building that housed our family is going to be emptied out and sold.
The Christmas family gathering has been forever changed. 

However, the good news is Christmas isn’t about some jolly fat man flying through the skies dispensing material goods to provide happiness.  And much to the protest to the generic Christmas specials that fill the airwaves at this time of year, Christmas isn’t about family either. 
Christmas is about a kingdom.  Christmas is a story of a king who, out of love, made himself vulnerable and lowered himself to save his subjects.

Christmas is the dividing line of history. It’s the point in time and space where God entered the universe of His making to reach out to save those who couldn’t save themselves. It’s a rescue mission. 

Christ was born and grew into a man that proclaimed that entrance into the kingdom of heaven was only possible through faith in Him. 

From that point forward, while we have the freedom to choose whatever we wish, the only choice that leads to eternal life is Jesus Christ. 

Christ is the Christmas gift from God. You can accept Him as Lord and Savior or you can reject Him.  For those who surrender to Christ, freedom from sin and death is given.  To those who choose themselves or anything other than Christ, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth in Hell.
The choice is simple. 

I believe my kids have made that choice but like so many concerned fathers at Christmas time, I want to make sure they are getting the most out of the gifts they received.  Sometimes we (myself included) have to be reminded of all we have received when we make Jesus our Lord and Savior. 

Gifts of Faith
·         Forgiveness – If you have put your faith in Christ as Lord and Savior, you have been forgiven of every sin you have done or will ever do (past, present, and future).
·         Assurance of Salvation – If you are in a covenant relationship with Jesus, there is no way you can be lost. You are a part of His kingdom family forever.
·         Freedom – You finally have the freedom to choose to not sin. You also have the freedom to enjoy your freedom. Many traditions of men are just that “traditions of men”.
·         Relationship – The Holy Spirit indwells you! You have a constant companion to turn to for communion, fellowship, and guidance.
·         No Condemnation –Don’t listen to the voices that lead you into sin or criticize you. God will guide you through His Word which way to go. You are now approved by God Himself! You are part of the Holy Royal Family. Don’t let anyone or your internal dialog tell you otherwise.
·         No fear – Death has lost its sting!  Knowing and being assured of our final destination, we are free from the fear of death and the fear of the opinions of men. 
·         Never Alone – No matter what our circumstances or location, the Lord is with us! He will never leave us nor forsake us. 
·         Eternal Family – Body of Christ – Upon accepting Christ as Lord and Savior, we have been grafted into an eternal body of believers, both here on earth and in eternity. Go to a local church and fellowship!
·         Fruit of the Spirit – Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, gentleness, and Self-Control. These fruits are established and are  increased the more you follow God.
·         Baptism of The Holy Spirit – The power source for living the Christian life comes through the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Seek it, ask for it, receive it and be transformed.

Books could be (and have been) filled with descriptions of the benefits to faith in Christ. If you aren’t experiencing the benefits, you have to examine your knowledge, faith, and behavior and determine what to correct. God loves you and wants what is best for you, seek out His Will for your life and experience it!

The purpose of all human life on earth is to make Jesus Lord and Savior.  Once that purpose has been met, eternal life is gained and the freedom that comes from knowing God can be experienced continually. 

Accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior is the beginning of a relationship that lasts for eternity. So, take our time and get to know Him by reading His Word, honoring it by doing what it says, and talking to Him through prayer. 

Earthly riches, relationships, and euphoric experiences fade and pass away. They can be enjoyed right up to death, but after death comes the judgment and only those with a covenant relationship with Christ will live.

Choose life, Receive Jesus as Lord and Savior, and then seek what He has for you.

So yeah, life might have taken an unexpected turn this year but I have peace this Christmas knowing that no matter what happens or where I go, The Lord is with me, Always and Forever! 
Merry Christmas!!

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Thomas says Happy Easter!

Thomas says Happy Easter
It has been a while since posting in this blog. Like most of the people I have a busy life.  My hours are consumed with work, family, and other interests. Work and family are common to most of us. It’s the “other interests” that can vary widely from person to person. Those other interests are the things that help to define us. We are what we do, or what we invest our time in, or what we are into. 
Since making Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior with a simple prayer in response to a radio message, one in which I listened to only with the intent to mock by the way (Ha, Ha, the jokes on me. Right, God?), my other interests have changed.  Since placing my faith in Christ alone, one of my major interests is reading and studying the Bible.  It is an interest that I am passionate about and which receives daily attention. 
Yesterday’s Bible reading of John 20 highlighted the interaction of the resurrected Jesus and the apostle, Thomas.  For those who don’t know, my middle name is Thomas.  I go as MT Clark on Facebook and that partially explains why I do.  Ironically, I think I have a lot in common with Thomas.  Thomas is known as “the doubting Apostle”.  Here is what I read yesterday:
John 20:24-25 (NKJV)
24 Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.
25 The other disciples therefore said to him, "We have seen the Lord." So he said to them, "Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe."
Just to give you some context, the preceding 23 verses of John 20 tell the story of Christs resurrection and how it was witnessed by other disciples.  They told Thomas about it, but he wasn’t buying it. Even though he lived and traveled with these other disciples for three and a half years, he didn’t trust what they said.  Not only that but he made an extreme demand for proof: probing the crucifixion wounds.  Who does that?!!  Well as extreme as that request was, we find out that Jesus would oblige him.  
John 20:26-27 (NKJV)
26 And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, "Peace to you!"
27 Then He said to Thomas, "Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing."
            So, eight days later, with everyone talking about how Jesus came back from the dead, Thomas remained unmoved.  Had Thomas been American he would be from Missouri because unless he saw it, he wouldn’t believe.  Thankfully, Christ loved him enough to prove He was who He said he was and, as my experiences in my relationship with Him would confirm, He even used his own words to convict Thomas.   The proof presented, Thomas proclaims the truth:
John 20:28 (NKJV)
28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!"
Jesus’s response is to Thomas is to us as much as it is to Thomas. 
John 20:29 (NKJV)
29 Jesus said to him, "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

Jesus Himself admitted that the resurrection was hard to accept but for those of us who didn’t have the benefit of see the resurrected body of Christ, we can rest in the assurance that we are blessed.  Through our faith in Jesus we are given a life that is free of sin and death. Our faith in Jesus gives us eternal life on the other side of death and the actual power to turn from our sinful ways if we ask Him to help us and trust in Him. 

Due to this exchange in John 20, Thomas is forever associated with doubt.  David Jerimiah addressed this issue in the Jeremiah Study Bible and I had to share his insights. 

“Often called “doubting Thomas” for his questions. We can learn much from this man and his encounter with Jesus.

1.       Jesus did not rebuke Thomas for his questions: He simply answered them. While we may not receive answers from God so quickly, a sincere and loving relationship with Jesus allows His followers to seek Him out with their questions.
2.      Thomas went on to serve God. He preached Jesus in India and was killed by a spear in his back.  The church is there today because of this man who asked a question.

Doubter? Not really. Believer who asked a question and then bore much fruit?  Absolutely.

Christianity ultimately comes down to something more than theological questions.  In the end it is all about a Person, not a proposition. 

The questions are the beginning of the journey, but the answers come finally in experience- in reaching out to touch, and to be touched ourselves, by those nail scarred hands. Jesus meets His followers where they are.”   
I was a doubter. I knew who Jesus was and heard the stories of His life, but I doubted their truth and I didn’t see how they applied to me.  I understood that Jesus died for our sins, but I thought that I had to be a “good person” to be accepted by Him.  I knew my heart and I knew I had desires and feelings that were far from holy so because of my sin I felt hopeless to be “a good person” so rather seek the Lord’s help to change I decided that there was no God and thus I didn’t need to change. I thought I was intelligent and religion was a creation of man, made to control the feeble minded. 

   I spent most of my life searching for meaning, identity, and purpose.  After atheism, hedonism, and materialism came up empty, I rejected it all to try to find inner peace and wisdom on my own not realizing that by doing so I became my own god: “I am on the path to enlightenment where my efforts at my practice will result in perfect knowledge, wisdom, and escape from all realms of suffering.” 

I was on this idealized path when I heard a simple gospel message on the radio back in 2010.  I heard the truth of gospel of Jesus Christ as if for the first time and I quickly accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior.  I had a hunger to verify my faith and started investigating Christianity with the skepticism of a Thomas.  While I couldn’t probe the wounds of Christ, I wanted to know that I hadn’t blindly turned my life over to a fairy tale.  I joined a Bible preaching church, listened to countless teachings, and have read books on Christianity, theology, and apologetics.  I joined a Bible college and received a bachelor’s degree in biblical studies. Beyond this academic research, I applied the teaching from the Bible to my life, causing me to go into recovery for my lifelong habit of consuming mass quantities of alcohol.  Within all of this, I have come to know beyond all doubts that God is real, Jesus is the Savior, and the Holy Spirit is active in our world today. 
The Lord understands if you doubt the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, but it is on you to thoroughly investigate the question of Jesus Christ.  I, like many others can tell you, that if you seek God, or truth, you will find Jesus Christ. 
·         To those who know Christ, I wish you a Happy Resurrection Sunday and, if you insist, I will even wish you a Happy Easter.  I encourage you to know Him more and to take hold of the new life that He has promised you, now. 

·         To those who don’t know Christ, I invite you to begin asking the questions that will begin the journey, that I pray, will lead you to the kingdom of God and eternal life.  
God bless you all!