Friday, June 17, 2011
Preface By Larry Clark
An Ordinary Day
September 3, 2010 began just like any other day. I got up at the same time. Got dressed and ready for the day, as usual. Brewed my coffee strong like I like it and poured it into the same cup I always use – the one I bought for my dad while I was in Vietnam serving in the Navy. As I was into my second cup, it dawned on me that this was the same date and about the same time that I received a devastating phone call 38 years earlier.
I remember it as clearly as if it was yesterday.
An uncle called. He said my dad was in serious condition, they were rushing him to the hospital and that I should make plans to come home. Tears streamed down my face as I stumbled into my bedroom where my wife, Kat, and young son, (WHO?), were talking in bed. I explained what the call was about. Just as I finished, the phone rang, again. My uncle informed me that my dad was dead. I sat stunned. Now, I knew that I had to make the long drive home and face the fact that my life-long hero was gone.
Overwhelmed with grief, I was unable to stop the flow of tears. As I cried for the loss of my dad, the pain from a disaster I experienced the previous year also flooded my soul. Grief and shame weighed down on me – grief over the loss of a friend and shame because I felt responsible for it. You see, I failed to give grace to a pastor and good friend during a heated disagreement. It literally destroyed our relationship.
I was sure God called me to be a pastor. After the disagreement, however, I questioned whether I really heard from God and doubted that the passions in my heart were from the Lord. Heartbroken from the weight of it all, depression settled in on me. The brief yearning to flee to those things I previously used to medicate my pain called from a distant place from years gone by.
Finishing my coffee, the depression lifted when as thoughts diverted to a random idea regarding my family history. I put my cup down, opened one of the drawers of my desk and pulled out a stack of papers a cousin sent me several years earlier. One document that detailed my family tree caught my attention. I followed back through the Clark family and saw that it originated with my great, great-grandfather, Seth Gold Clark.
My interest piqued. Since it was six hours before I had to be at work, I decided to do some research and see what I could find out about this man. I turned to my computer and did an Internet search on his name. After perusing many of the sites that came up in the results, I clicked on one that referred to a book called, “The Church at home and abroad, Volume 24 By Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.” What I discovered would change everything.
Have you ever had one of those moments that you knew beyond a shadow-of-a-doubt that God divinely directed you to do something? That’s what this was for me. I had been asking God for a divine appointment with someone who would impact my life in a positive way and that it would glorify Him. For me, this was one of those moments and the appointment I’d been asking for. I knew God wanted me to read what was written in that Presbyterian book about the Reverend Seth Gold Clark. The words would renew the dream God placed in my heart and give me hope that all of my experiences in life to that point happened to prepare me “for such a time as this” at this very moment in my life.
The Legacy, the Man
Until I read the passage about my great, great-grandfather, I had no idea of the legacy handed down to me through the generations. Seth Clark's tenacity and ingenuity in ministry and his passion to grow the church and further God's kingdom inspired me. It made me realize that my passion to pastor, though thwarted for the most part by life's circumstances, was from God, handed down to me through generations by the unsung hero, Seth Clark. My role may not be as a pastor to a physical church, but possibly a pastor of sorts through telling Seth Clark's story and sharing how it relates to each of us as members of the Body of Christ. Whether we realize it, as Christians, we are participants and role-models in living out what has been coined as "the greatest story ever told"-- the life of Jesus Christ.
What follows here is it about the life of my great, great-grandfather and the seeds of greatness he planted. This story is one that God revealed at this moment in time to lift you, the reader, up and to move you forward to accomplish your God-given goals and dreams. This story is about a legacy left by a man who, according to his own words, “lived a very busy, checkered life; possibly some good may result.” One hundred and twelve years later that “good” could be the fulfillment of hundreds or even thousands of dreams, which would not have been achieved without God revealing this story to all of us dreamers.
You Are a Leader
Merriam-Webster offers two main definitions for pastor. The one I believe that relates to most of us is as follows:
* a spiritual overseer; a layperson having spiritual charge over a person or group
You may not pastor a church, lead a home group or hold a tangible leadership role in the church or in secular society. You do, however, provide a living testimony of the Kingdom of God. As Christians, we are God's testimony of Jesus Christ and His Saving Grace. How is this "testimony" revealed in and through us? One of our mandates and goals as Christians is to "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation" (Mark 16:15).
We are to "lead" people to Christ through our words and through example. You are a leader. You became one when you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal savior. So how do YOU lead people to Christ, you may ask? Seth Clark did it through example in living out his everyday life and through his ministry by furthering the Kingdom through church plants -- many that continue to flourish today.
You, too, can leave a legacy. If you have not done so already, give your life to Jesus. Commit time to pray, attend and get involved in a local church, and read your Bible to enable you to assimilate the Word of God into your life. Your behavior will change over time, and people will stand up and take notice. If you are not comfortable in sharing the Gospel with others, start with preaching to your dog or cat. Confidence is something that comes with experience. As you share the Gospel, even if it's only to the neighborhood squirrels and birds, you will gain confidence that will eventually translate into sharing the Good News with people.
One way I was able to gain confidence in sharing the Gospel was to explain how I used to be, how I am now and what I believe God wants me to be. I ask questions to get people to open up about their lives. Most often it is not a pretty picture, but I always encourage them that I believe God is more concerned in shaping our future, rather than having us relive our past. I tell them that He does not like sin but that He knows His creation does not change instantly. I share with them that He will provide people in our lives to walk with us and help us on our journey of faith.
Go Into All the World …
I believe Seth Clark was that type of man. He went into "all the world" in which God directed him to go. His world encompassed the boundaries of Western Missouri, from Holden in the north to Lamar in the south. Later, his mission was Eastern Kansas ranging from Highland in the north to Baxter Springs in the south and as far west as Liberal. He was restricted by time and geography due to his limited mode of transportation – at first a good strong horse and then a team of horses pulling a wagon. Today, our boundaries are limitless due to the advent of technology and the Internet.
You could be the next Seth Clark of your household, neighborhood or nation, or even the world. Will you accept the challenge to allow God to use you as a living testimony of God's goodness and grace?
If so, read on …
What I want to do with this book and with this post is to get people who read it to think about what God might be up to in their life and the lives of those around them. I believe that God has called people who are followers of Jesus out of the world for a specific mission. This mission could be to change the course of one's family history or it could be to fulfill a calling. No matter what mission you have it all fits into what is called the "Body of Christ." Let's look at what Paul says about this in Romans 12.
I'm speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it's important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.
In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we're talking about is Christ's body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn't amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ's body, let's just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren't.
If you preach, just preach God's Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don't take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don't get bossy; if you're put in charge, don't manipulate; if you're called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don't let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.I believe whatever our mission is involves the gift or gifts the Holy Spirit us when He took up residence in us.
1 Corinthians 12: 1-11
What I want to talk about now is the various ways God's Spirit gets worked into our lives. This is complex and often mis-understood, but I want you to be informed and knowledgeable. Remember how you were when you didn't know God, led from one phony god to another, never knowing what you were doing, just doing it because everybody else did it? It's different in this life. God wants us to use our intelligence, to seek to understand as well as we can. For instance, by using your heads, you know perfectly well that the Spirit of God would never prompt anyone to say "Jesus be damned!" Nor would anyone be inclined to say "Jesus is Master!" without the insight of the Holy Spirit.
God's various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God's Spirit. God's various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God's Spirit. God's various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful:
healing the sick
distinguishing between spirits
interpretation of tongues.
How does this part of the book speak to you? Think about it. What gift has the Holy Spirit given you and what mission does that involve. You might not be being called to be a "Billy Graham", a missionary to some foreign land, a street preacher, or a great Sunday school teacher but God is calling you to be the very best YOU that you can be. That involves using the gift in the way that best stretches your comfort zone.
I invite your comments and please keep in mind what you share could be what makes this post meaningful to others who read it.