Happy Thanksgiving Every Day

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Thankfulness is one of those things that shouldn’t just be one day a year! Don’t get me wrong, I love that we pick one day a year to gather the people we love the most to tell each other what we are thankful for, but imagine what life would be like if we shared what we are thankful for each day.

If your thanksgiving is anything like the ones I participate in, hearing what everyone is thankful for is so encouraging to me. I spend Thanksgiving Lunch with one of my mentors, and at the end of everyone sharing what they’re thankful for, she looks at each person at the table and explains why she is thankful for that person. This is radically encouraging to me, yet it’s so simple. Again, imagine what it would be like if we celebrated thanksgiving each day.

Scripture reminds us to be thankful each day in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 where Paul tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Did you catch that? It’s the will of God for us to give thanks. I don’t know about you, but I want to walk in the will of the Lord. But let’s be honest, there are times where it is challenging to find something we are thankful for. Some of you, maybe even today are struggling to find something you’re thankful for. Paul reminds believers since we’ve “received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” Paul tells us that we have something to be thankful for–receiving Christ. Even if every circumstance has been challenging this year, remember that you have received Christ. Christ willingly gave up his luxurious life to come dwell in this broken. Thankfully (did you catch that), He didn’t come to be OF the world, but to SAVE the world from their sins, my sins, YOUR sins. If you believe this in your heart and declare Him as Savior and Lord, then you have a reason to be thankful! In fact, your thankfulness is abounding. There is no limit to all that you could possibly be thankful for.

Now here’s the thing, when we gather together and share all that we are thankful for, we actually are remembering all that God has graciously blessed us with; even if that’s a roof over your head and food in your belly. But we also remember what God has done. See remembrance and thankfulness go hand and hand. When we remember what God has done, we become thankful. In those moments, we are reminded of our human limitations and how much we need an infinite God who is limitless! Which is why Jesus is capable of living the perfect life, to die the death you and I deserve, and graciously gives us life.

That is something to remember and be thankful for!

This idea of remembering and being thankful is not a new concept. When the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, Moses told them to remember how God saved them from their old life in slavery; which led to a heart posture of thankfulness and turned into worship. Another example of this is when Jesus came, He told us to remember His sacrifice through the Lord’s supper; but then even while He called the disciples to remember, He told them to give thanks!

My challenge to you today as you’re eating your turkey, or spending time on your phones shopping; to remember, to be thankful, and then to worship.

We have an abundance to be thankful for, so let’s celebrate everyday and not just today! Let’s have a Happy Thanksgiving every day!!

Why? For Your Good and His Glory

Why?

The question we all want answered.

We start asking the question pretty much when we learn to talk and it grows into adulthood. We want to know: why the grass is green, why I can’t walk on the street, why I have to help set the table, why do I need to be quiet, why I have to clean, why I have to do homework, why It hurts, why bad things happen, why, why, why, why, why?

I think we can all agree that when we’ve been asked these questions, our responses can vary. There are those moments when we stop and actually give a genuine, thoughtful response; yet, other times we rush and give a short answer.

I think if someone asked me why the grass is green, I would say something like “I don’t know” but I definitely accept that it’s green. I just don’t put a lot of thought into knowing the answer simply because I’m not super worried about why the grass is green. It’s always green. Now, I may look it up eventually in order to answer that question, but it’s not something I care about, so I can accept that the grass is green. The answer to that why doesn’t change anything about my present, I just accept it.

But then there are those “growth” why questions: why I can’t walk on the street, why I have to help set the table, why do I need to be quiet, why I have to clean, why I have to do homework, etc. I know I asked these questions growing up, and there would be times where my parents would say, “because I said so,” and other times they would provide a reason. If it was about walking on the street, it was for my protection. If it was being quiet (this was usually in church), I was disturbing other people. If it was cleaning, I was told I was a member of the house and needed to do my share, and it was also preparing me for my future. If it was homework, it was to learn. In each instance, there was a definite reason as to why each circumstance took place. Each thing I begrudgingly did (walking on the sidewalk, being quiet, cleaning, or homework) was for my good and for my growth. These things were not to harm me or to make me miserable, but to shape me and prepare me for the next stage of life.

Then there are those questions from a state of pain: why does it hurt or why did this terrible thing happen? We want answers so there’s an explanation for the pain whether physical, emotional, or spiritual.

Quite honestly, I don’t have the answers. I rarely know the answers to my own “why” questions, but WHAT IF the painful why questions are just a different growth question? We’ve learned the answers to walking on the sidewalk, cleaning, and doing homework; but could it be that the new level of WHY is really just a new level of growth that we have yet to see come to be answered? Here’s the thing, I cannot tell you WHY anything happens, but I do know that God teaches us a very clear truth:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28

Did you catch that?

God is working it all together for your good. You may not know your why answer, but think about the good that God has promised. Whatever circumstance you’re in the midst of, I can promise you because it’s a promise from God that he’s working it for your good.

Let’s take a moment and be real:

It hurts.

We can’t see the immediate answers to our questions which hurts. Often times the reasons we are asking why are based out of loss, grief, pain, suffering, or unexplained waiting.

I think the question becomes: what do we do when we hurt from unanswered questions?

RUN TO THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN GIVE YOU ANSWERS.

I think so often we run to things we think will provide answers like our friends and family, social media, news, ourselves, and so on. But don’t run to those because at some point they will let you down.

The only thing that promises to work for your good is God.

Run to him.

What happens if he doesn’t answer right away?

You’re in good company.

Job lost his whole family and begged God and pleaded with God for answers and it had absolutely nothing to do with Job, but rather the spiritual realm that Job couldn’t see. God blessed Job more than Job could imagine because of his faithfulness. God worked the loss for Job’s good and for God’s glory.

Abraham and Sarah waited 25 years before having Isaac. They took their unanswered questions into their own hands, but even with that choice, God grew their faithfulness. God demonstrated that He was faithful to fulfill His word. God worked it all for their good and His glory.

Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery. After many other things, he goes to jail for something he didn’t do. Yet God saw the whole thing. God didn’t give immediate answers to Josephs’s questions, but later Jospeh interprets a dream and is able to save Egypt from famine. It was through the famine that God brought Joseph’s family back together. God worked it out for everyone’s good and His glory.

These are just from Scripture…. but look at this….

Rachel Clark (yes this is me) didn’t get the job she wanted in Bowling Green. The plans she had set for herself and thought God wanted for her didn’t happen. Instead she moved home, got a job and started volunteering in the church. She met some pretty amazing girls and discipled one for a long time. That girl came to know Jesus and is now going on the mission field. Likewise, Rachel is still waiting for God to fulfill His word, but in the meantime she’s gotten to travel to Ecuador and be apart of the global church, intern at a church, and almost earn a masters degree in English that she still doesn’t know why she’s getting it. But through it all, God is working it for her good and His glory.

Run to God. Find your rest in Him. It’s only through Him can you continue on when it’s harder than you could have imagined!

Why is this happening? I don’t know, but remember God is working it to be for your good and for His glory!!

God is For You

I’ve said this before, but I want you to know there is way more to my social media than what is actually displayed. I want to be transparent in that because I think it’s so easy for us to look at each other’s feeds and start comparing and coveting, wanting what everyone else has, not really content with what God has placed before us. And since we are being honest here, I need you to know that I struggle with this myself. I see my friends living the life I dreamed I would be living; and instead, I’m not anywhere close. I struggle just like you. I–in no way, shape, or form–have this all figured out. I am literally living the daily battle with you.

I wanted to start here because I want us on the same page. I don’t want you to think you’re going through this life alone. I don’t want you to think you’re the only one struggling. I don’t want you to think you’re unloved. I really just want you to be able to stand your ground in Christ.

So why here?

Quite honestly, I’ve been living in the midst of the battle. Nothing crazy has happened. I’ve just been waiting on the Lord for quite sometime, and waiting well is hard work. See there are two categories of waiters: those who wait well and those who DO NOT wait well. I’m sure you can guess which category I fall into, but I’m most certainly in the DO NOT category.

I can’t really tell you the reason behind this, but while I wait on the Lord for life to happen according to His time table and not my own, I get impatient. I want what I want, when I want it. Read that again. And again. It sounds like a preschooler doesn’t it? If you answered no, thank you for being so kind to me, but the answer is YES! It does sound like a preschooler, or maybe even an ungrateful kid. But y’all, this is me! I pray these prayers all the time asking God when the waiting will be over because I am discontent in my present.

That’s my battle (at least right now)–DISCONTENTMENT.

Discontentment gives Satan a wedge to start speaking lies into life, the heart, and the mind. And with full disclosure, when I start letting those lies be the thing I hear, I turn into an even bigger mess. It’s. A. Vicious. Cycle.

The only way out of this cycle is laying the lies at the feet of Jesus.

This is so hard for me to do. You would think that believing the truth is easy because there’s evidence in my life that says God is for me and He is with me; He will not let me down. But it is so easy for me to believe the lies. Culture is very loud and can easily drown out God’s truth. My own selfishness is loud and can drown God out. Expectations others have (said or unsaid) can also be that thing that speaks so loudly.

Yet, God’s voice is still, consistent, and calm.

So right now in a place of discontentment, I find myself needing more time to be still with God. That’s hard right now because life is busy. I’m teaching full time, taking 6 hours of grad school, discipling some girls from church, trying to update my house, and at some point hang out with some friends.

How do you balance it all?

Since we are being real, you need to know that I’m not really good at this. Some months are better than others, and right now it’s not been a great one. Because things have been hectic, being still and just spending time with God has been more like a checklist thing, and even in my checklist mindset the goodness of God is so good. He literally will take my unmotivated heart and soften it to really hear, and other days my exhaustion is so loud that I make myself deaf to the tenderness of God’s words. Regardless, God still speaks to me even when my motivation is out of discipline instead of desire.

Now, the longer I make my quiet time just something to check off, the greater discontentment swells in my heart. Renewing that rest with the Lord requires me laying my control of circumstances I’m waiting to change down. It’s saying, “Lord, I admit I can’t do this. I need you to help me!” When that happens, when I actually let go, the discontent stops swelling inside of me, opening me up to hear from the Lord with ears ready to hear.

But it takes confession.

This confession usually happens after I’ve spent sometime worshipping. For me, worshipping is the way my heart stops focusing on me and draws my focus up to God. It redirects my path of sight not on the things before me, but rather the things above. And you know the last time I consciously made a choice to worship instead of watching tv was while cleaning. Usually I would have turned the tv on as background noise, but instead I put the worship playlist on. It was in the midst of cleaning and worshipping that I was able to realign my heart to God.

In case you were wondering, this was super recent–as in a week ago. I was just in a funk.

But it took this worship/cleaning session to remember that God is for me. I need to stop looking around and look up (In case you haven’t heard about it, check out Lauren Daigle’s new album “Look Up Child” it’s literally all about getting your eyes up).

When you get your eyes off the circumstances around you and focus on the God who saved you, you will (I will) remember that God is for you.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? – Romans 8:31

Don’t let those lies speak into you. Instead rest on the one who is FOR YOU!

Worship Him not because of your circumstances, but because He is your Father, Savior, Redeemer, Creator, and the Name Above All Names.

Battle Cry

We’re almost three months into the year, and life has felt like one battle right after another. These battles weren’t physical, but genuinely spiritual battles within my mind. I reminded myself of Ephesians 6:12. And even with this great reminder, I still found myself struggling. I would stress about the future; worry about grad school, schedules, or time management; hosting the If:Gathering for the first time; teaching; and just like typical me, I still doubted God.

Let me make one thing very clear: I am still a sinner, but by grace through faith, God calls me a saint.

What am I to do while living in a broken world that still thinks, worries, and stresses over the very things that are broken (including myself) in the world?

CRY.

Yes. Cry.

Picture a three or four-year old who is crying while having a cold with a runny nose. You know the kind with the snot just dripping down. That’s the kind of ugly cry I’m talking about.

Now, I wouldn’t go out and do this in public; but during my quiet, still moments with Jesus–you better believe–He saw every tear.

I was exposed.

The raw, uncut, not Instagram worthy Rachel.

In the midst of my battle this year, God has been writing on my heart a prayer for my friends. I pray it over those who struggle to see God’s loving light along their journey. I pray it over my friends who feel stuck, like God isn’t there. But then God showed me, I need this prayer. It’s found in Psalm 40:1-3. Check it out:

I waited patiently for the Lord; He inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog; and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in Him.

Did you catch the part that says, “He inclined to me and heard my cry“? God hears us when we cry out to Him. For a cryer like me, this comforts my heart in so many ways.

But what am I actually crying about?

I wrestled with this question for awhile, and I found out that I’m crying because of brokenness. I’m crying about the brokenness I battle with every day as well as my friends, and on into the world. I’m crying out to God asking Him the deep, dark personal question: WHY? Why am I surrounded by such brokenness? I would even go on to describe all the brokenness I could see.

For three (probably longer) months, my crying was focused on the things I saw around me. It was focused on the stress I felt or the worries I had. I was only looking around me. I rarely ventured up to see Jesus and who He is.

I was stuck–stuck in this pit of self-destruction.

I would love to tell you that God answered my question, but that didn’t happen the way I thought. Instead He told me WHO. After three months of writing these three verses onto my heart, my question WHY was answered with a different question–WHO.

Who is God?

So instead of crying out to God, telling Him all about what was (is) in my pit of destruction or crying out why, I cried to God telling Him who He is to me.

Catch this–instead of crying asking why my pit of destruction looked this way, I cried about who God is to me.

My focus shifted.

It was no longer on me and my pit; it was on God.

I cried out the very verses I had been praying, telling God:

You are the one who draws me up from the pit.
You are the one who sets me upon a rock.
You are the one who makes my steps secure.
You are the one who puts a song of praise in my mouth.
God, YOU.
You are all I need.
You do it all because YOU love ME!

And then I worshiped. That was the only response I had.

When I stopped looking at my pit, and looked up, I saw God.

I was in awe of what HE does for me.

So yes, I struggle each time a new battle with sin comes (doubt, stress, worry, trying to be good enough, you name it). And these battles create these giant pits of destruction–ones that are so large that I need God to get me out of the pit.

But I have a battle cry: WORSHIP.

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Instead of crying out to God telling Him just how ugly, dirty, and messy the pit is, I’m going to look up at Jesus. My battle cry is worship because I’m not looking at the pit, I look at God. When I worship, I see God doing exactly what Psalm 40 says:

God draws me up from the pit of destruction.
God takes me out of the miry bog.
God puts me on a rock.
God makes each step secure.
God puts a new song in mouth–to where I literally sing praises to God.

God does!

We’ve been given a battle cry.

In the pit….

In the ugly, dirty, and messy….

In the doubts, fears, and worries…

What is your battle cry–why or who?

This. Is. War.

“in all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him, who loved us.”

Romans 8:37

I was scared (quite possibly terrified) about what the new year would bring simply because 2017 was a sweet year. Sure there were struggles, but overall, God did some really big things in my life (Ecuador) that I would have never imagined, and I wasn’t ready to be done with that. For me personally, 2017 was peaceful. There weren’t big changes, nothing really blew up; sure I still battled my own personal idols and sinfulness, but overall there was peace–it didn’t feel like a battle. It was a season of rest. A season where I got to see God as gentle, loving, and caring. So when I was finally Brutally Honest with God about my fear for 2018, He spoke Romans 8:37. Right then, it provided peace. And it still does today–just in a different way.

Over the last month, I have read this verse so many times because I find myself creeping back into a place of doubting “Did God really say…”, a place of “I can do it all” mentality, a place of “is this really worth it”, or even a place of caring more about what people think instead of what God says about me.

And I bring these thoughts before the Lord and He reminds me of Romans 8:37.

And He reminds me of the word conqueror.

And then it hit me.

Conqueror is a battle word.

God reminded me of one simple truth:

This. Is. War.

Paul says it like this in Ephesians 6:12, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

This war that we are fighting is not against the flesh. This is spiritual war against a very real darkness–Satan and all his little followers.

When 2018 came, those places I was telling you about are the darkness. Doubting God, thinking I can handle everything, questioning whether or not it’s all worth it, or even caring about what others say–those are lies from Satan. Jesus declared that Satan “is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). This battle is real. This war is real.

I would talk to God about this during my quiet time. I would pray asking God to take away the darkness. I asked the Lord to fight for me–again, I don’t feel strong enough to do anything. And those four thoughts continued running through my head and they were (and can be still) so loud. Because the darkness was so overwhelmingly loud, I found myself starting to believe these lies.

At church, we are going through Matthew, and of course, just like God, He timed everything just perfectly. The darkness was particularly loud this day, and we just so happened to be reading Matthew 4 where Jesus was tempted.

See Jesus was at the starting place of His ministry. Within three years, He would conquer death, save people, heal the sick, provide the way for sinners, and so much more. Jesus was just beginning. And yet the darkness came. The darkness tried to stop Jesus from what He came to do.

Here I am in the midst of my own ministry, expecting God to do big things this year. I want to see Him do more things in the students I disciple, I want to see 30 people saved, I want to have more gospel conversations, I want to look more like Jesus this year than I did last year. And right in the midst of my ministry, in the midst of my walk with Jesus, the darkness arrived.

Just like Jesus, I had a choice–will I believe the lies of Satan or believe the truth of God?

If Jesus had believed the lies of Satan, then His ministry would have been gone. People would be dying and going to Hell–which is exactly what Satan wants. Satan does not want people to experience freedom; Satan wants people to remain in bondage. But if Satan stopped Jesus, then Jesus’ ministry would have been stopped.

Jesus didn’t succumb to Satan’s lies. Instead Jesus fought back the darkness with the Truth of God’s Word. Jesus’ ministry continued and Jesus did make the way to life for every person.

So what about me? What about you?

In the midst of our ministry, if we choose to believe the lies of Satan, then our personal ministries will be gone. We will stop sharing the gospel, we won’t see people’s lives changed from death to life, and we won’t see the kingdom of God expand.

Isn’t this why Satan tries so hard to destroy us?

Satan knows if he can convince us to doubt God’s character (the very loving, gentle, and caring God that I just met in 2017), then we will doubt our purpose and we will stop fighting back the darkness. Satan has one mission: “to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). And chances are, Satan is not going to come after the people who are already being destroyed, but those of us who are actively fighting against the destruction. He’s going to come against those proclaiming the way to freedom.

Just since the start of January, I’ve had some really great conversations with some really great friends who are actively fighting back the darkness in their spaces. Each space looks different–some are youth leaders, pastors, baristas, teachers, college students, and so on–and Satan is doing everything he can to convince these Jesus loving people to stop fighting the darkness. Satan is speaking the very lies he speaks to me, to them as well.

And there are days, where my friends and I sit around the table and we ask each other “What’s the point? Darkness keeps winning. When is it going to change? When will we see Jesus as victorious?” In the midst of these questions, we look each other in the eye and remind each other of the Truth of the Gospel. We remember the hope we have in Christ. We remember Romans 8:37 when we are called conquerors.

In this season, it may feel like I’m being destroyed. It may feel like everything I have is being stolen. It may feel like I’m at times being killed. But the truth is found in God’s Word–not in what I feel.

My prayer for my friends and the prayer I have for even myself is found in Psalm 40:1-3:

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.”

Right now, some of my friends and I are in this waiting period. We feel as if we have been defeated and we are in this pit of destruction. And we are anxiously awaiting the day for God to set us upon the rock and make our steps secure.

But the truth is, Satan is trying to convince my friends and I that we are never going to be rescued from the pit. And if we actually believe that we won’t be rescued, then many will never see and many will never put their trust in the Lord.

Isn’t that why Satan is trying to get us to believe his lies?

We are in war.

We are fighting a battle of life and death–not of flesh and blood. And the army of God is out fighting against the darkness. And when the darkness presses in, we have to gather and remind each other of the truth of God’s Word.

God’s promise are true! The last half of John 10:10 brings life–it doesn’t bring death. Jesus says, “I came that they [that’s you and me] may have life and have it abundantly.” While Satan is trying to kill us, Jesus brings a message of life.

Let’s stand together. Let’s fight together.

Yes, the darkness is real. Yes, the darkness will come.

But NO.

The darkness does not have to define us.

We are conquerors through Christ.

Jesus even equips us to stand firm against the darkness. If we look back to Ephesians 6, God gives us our battle clothes:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.

So we gather together so we can stand firm together. We remind each other of the gospel. We encourage each other in faith so Satan cannot throw flaming arrows our way. We worship together. We pray together. We do life together.

We are not alone in this war.

Satan is going to do everything he can to convince us otherwise, but let’s be ready to stand firm together. Let’s remember the truth of God’s Word instead of hearing the lies of the darkness.

Let’s stand firm on the truth we know. Let’s disciple each other, sharpening each other in the faith. Let’s fight for those who do not know Jesus yet. Let’s boldly proclaim the good news so many will come to know Jesus. Let’s be conquerors. Let’s hold fast to Jesus because only He can make our steps secure; only He can pick us up from the pit of destruction.

This. Is. War.

But I am a conqueror through Him and I will stand firm.