Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Vanities of Vanities:

By: Adam McClendon

The writer of Ecclesiastes wastes no time in depicting a depressing scenario.  He writes, “Vanities of Vanities!  All is Vanity” (1:2b).  Wow, this just rips all the optimism out of your soul doesn’t it?  Sure, and it should.  That’s the point of Ecclesiastes to an extent.  It’s is a book designed to defeat you.  Yes, that’s right, it is a book designed to defeat you. 

Listen to what the Preacher says just a few verses later, “I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind” (1:14).  This motif is repeated like a depressing drama over and over again until the very end of the book where the author finally proclaims, “The end of the matter; all has been heard.  Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.  For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil” (12:13-14). 

What’s his point?  How are we to understand this?  Simply put, Ecclesiastes is written to show that life lived from a humanistic perspective results in frustration and futility.  If this world is all there is, then you will be disappointed.  If you live in pursuit of the things of this world in an attempt to satisfying the longing of your soul, then you will die empty. 

Ecclesiastes provides a stark and well needed reminder that the things of this world were never intended to ultimately satisfy.  While their pleasures provide momentary satisfaction, in the end, we will be left wanting more.  Ecclesiastes reminds us that the things of this world are designed to point us to God and seek him.  In the end, after pursuing all that there is to pursue, this wise preacher proclaims that the end of the matter, after all has been experienced, is that we should live in reverential obedience since each of us will give an account for that which we have “done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Cor 5:10).

While I can’t speak for you, I’ve found that in a pop-culture that preaches cheap grace, life’s about me, and if it feels right it must be right I need to be plugged into an ancient voice that grounds me in something, someone, greater than this world and greater than myself.  I need to be reminded that life is not about me, that I’m held to a higher standard than this world, and that only God can truly satisfy.  For life apart from him is as futile as trying to catch the wind in a cup.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Letter to My Children

By: Adam McClendon

Three years ago as my three daughters were preparing for kindergarten, 1st grade, and 4th grade, I wrote them this letter because I wanted to engage my children, even at this young age, with some key character principles that will help them eventually be the people God wants them to be.  Prayerful, it will be helpful to you as you seek to strategically invest in this next generation.

August 12, 2010:

Well, girls, it’s time to start school.  Wow, you are growing up fast.

As you start school, I want to provide you with some rules that I pray you will follow.

1.    Be kind to everyone and treat them with respect

In school, you will be tempted to be mean to people.  There will be times when people will have toys that you want, or they will get more attention from the teacher, or they will do something better than you, or you just simple won’t like them.  You will be tempted to be mean to them.  Don’t!  Remember how kind and patient God has been to us and be kind to them.

2.    Do your best at everything you do.

In school, sometimes we have to do things that we don’t like.  We have to study and read.  We have to think.  But remember that your teacher is having you do these things for a reason and with everything that we do, we are to do it for the Lord.  Colossians 3:17 says that we should do everything to honor Jesus as if we were doing it for him.

3.    Don’t worry about fairness

In school as in life, things are not always fair.  There will be times when someone cuts in front of you, or takes your spot, or get credit for something you did.  That will happen.  Don’t let it bother you and don’t worry about fairness.  You just do your best and let God take care of the rest.  You are a beautiful, smart girl with a great smile and personality.  Don’t let your circumstances frustrate you.

4.    Be yourself

Remember that you are an incredible kid.  God has blessed you with wonderful looks, a wonderful mind, wonderful talents, and a wonderful family.  Some of the kids that you will hang out with will be jealous of you.  Some will want to be like you and look up to you.  However, you will not know that and you will be tempted to look at the people you think are special and want to be like them.  Don’t try to be like them.  Be yourself.  Be the person God made you to be.  I promise, in the end, you will have more true friends than you can imagine, and people will want to follow you.

5.    Choose your close friends carefully

Yes, I want you to be friendly to everyone, but choose your close friends carefully.  Friends will have a great influence in your life.  They will tend to become more like you and you will tend to become more like them.  You don’t want a friend that will tempt you to do the things that you know are wrong.  You don’t want a friend that will threaten to quit being your friend if you don’t do what they want you to do.  You want a friend that will accept you for who you are.

6.    Live for Jesus

I pray that you will be a light for Jesus, that you will live for him, and tell others about him.  Hope is only found in Jesus.  Remember that.  Also, remember that we have an enemy in Satan and he wants to destroy you.  He will use your friends to tempt you to do wrong.  People will make fun of you and try to pressure you into doing wrong.  Don’t let them.  Stand your ground.  I promise in the long run, they will respect you and want to be like you. 

I love you girls.  Thanks for being my daughters.  It is a privilege to be your dad.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Simplify Your Spiritual Life

By: Dr. Don Whitney
Don is the Associate Professor of Biblical Spirituality and Senior Associate Dean at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary as well as the Director of The Center for Biblical Spirituality.  Read more about Don here.  The following is an excerpt he provided from his book Simplify Your Spiritual Life (Colorado Springs, CO.: NavPress, 2003).

Does your spiritual life sometimes seem more like a burden than a blessing? Does your spirituality seem to exhaust you as often as it refreshes you? Have your spiritual practices become "just another thing to do" in an already overcrowded, stress-filled schedule? If so, then you need to simplify your spiritual life.

We should expect part of true spirituality to exhaust us, for it exists not merely for our own edification, but to serve the glory and purposes of God. Jesus' spiritual labors occasionally so fatigued Him that He could fall asleep in an open boat in the middle of a lake during a life-threatening storm (Luke 8:22-25). Likewise, the Apostle Paul knew the depletion of inner resources that results from the willingness to "spend and be spent" for the sake of the souls of others (2 Corinthians 12:15). All aspects of externalized spirituality—serving people's needs, doing good works, taking the Gospel to the spiritually lost, working in church ministries—all these expend the reserves of both body and soul.

There's a problem, though, when the inflow of spiritual renewal doesn't replenish the outflow of spiritual ministry. For the spiritual life should also be the source of inner recreation and restoration since it is the way we most directly experience the Lord Himself in daily life. Through our spiritual disciplines (rightly motivated and practiced) come many of the most refreshing blessings of knowing Christ.

An example of how the spiritual disciplines can be an ongoing means of reinvigorating the soul occurs in Psalm 1:2-3. Frequent meditation on (and not just reading) God's Word so continually refreshes the meditator that, "He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper."

However, as everything else in our lives becomes more complex, so can our spirituality. As one writer observed, "The pattern of overinvolvement, clutter, and busyness that is a part of our lives at home and at work will follow us into our spiritual lives unless we are vigilant." With increasing prosperity and technology come increasing opportunities and options—even in our spiritual practices—that weren't available a short time ago. For instance, instead of simply sitting in a comfortable chair by a sunny window with our Bible, journal, and pen, now we can

·         Receive devotional readings sent daily by automatic email.

·         Read the Bible in several of the many translations we possess, including those on our computer.

·         Make journal entries on the computer by keyboard or voice-recognition software, inserting interesting graphics along with the text.

·         Envelop our devotional experience with worship-enhancing audio and/or video.

But it all needs to be done faster than ever before because of the strangling demands on our time.

The growing frustrations of hurry and complexity affect the practice not only of our personal spiritual disciplines, but of our congregational spiritual disciplines (the ones we practice with other Christians) as well. There's less time for church involvement than previously, and yet there are more church activities to choose from. We're so far behind in so many things that sometimes we wonder if what we receive from church is worth the overwhelming effort just to get there.

In some ways we're doing more than ever spiritually, but enjoying and profiting from it less. Many areas of our lives are productive and prosperous, yet we've never felt so spiritually withered. Our calendars are full, but our souls are empty.

The time has come to evaluate whether what we are doing in our spiritual lives is taking us where we want to go. There is hope.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Walking in Victory: GPS

By: Adam McClendon

Sexual addiction, and specifically the struggle with pornography, is a substantial struggle against which many believers are wrestling.  Covenant Eyes released a report detailing statistics related to this problem earlier this year: general information about the report can be found here, full report can be downloaded here. 

Many men and women have committed to walk in victory in this area and have taken extreme measures to seek to do so.  This post is specifically for them; although, these truths can be applied broadly to those seeking to live in freedom from any habitual sin.

So, here are three brief and broad applicational truths that should be kept in mind before one finds themselves in the thick of the battle where the fog of war sets in.  The key to staying on the right course is GPS. 

1.    Grace is greater than my sin (Rom 5:20-21).

Regardless of how far you have fallen, regardless of how many times you have fallen, rest in God’s grace and in his power get up.  Romans 5:20-21 reminds you that where sin increased, grace abounded all the more (it super-abounded)!  Militarily, this idea means that grace outflanks sin.  Regardless of the breadth of the front line of sin, grace super-abounds, outflanks, and covers transgressions.  That reality makes a world of difference! 

2.    Purity can be maintained (1 Pet 1:13-16).

God has not only made believers holy in Christ, but enables, equips, and expects believers to walk in that holiness.  You can live righteously.  You don’t have to give in.  You are free in Christ to serve him in righteousness.  You are no longer a slave to sin.  1 Peter 1:13-16 reminds you to prepare your mind for the battle fixing on the full experience of grace to come when Jesus returns.  Then, Peter challenges you to walk in obedience and to be holy now, while you still live in this world.  God expects you to walk in holiness.  God enables you and equips you in the power of his Spirit to walk in holiness.  You can do it!

3.    Submission is the key (Gal 5:16).

“Walk in the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh” (Gal 5:16).  You will have sinful, selfish desires so long as you live in this fallen world.  Believers are to capture these thoughts (2 Cor 10:5), acknowledge that they are not in keeping with the will of God, and then choose to submit to the Spirit.  To “walk in the Spirit” is to live in submission to the direction of the Spirit of God: to allow him to determine what you will and will not do regardless of how you feel.  The moment you begin to think on and feel the desires of the flesh, choose to submit to the Spirit and then take appropriate actions to ensure you follow through.  This might involve making a call to an accountability partner or spouse, leaving a location, changing a channel, turning off the computer, going to bed at the same time as everyone else, or giving your spouse your mobile phone while you go on a run.  Whatever actions are required, true submission, true surrender is a matter of the will that results in action.  Submission is a major key to finishing each day well! 


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Taken for Granted

By: Adam McClendon

Last night as I was preparing for bed, I had the wonderful idea to get up and go running this morning.  Why?  I don’t know.  Anyway, I was resting peacefully in my bed when this horrible sound jolted me awake and shot adrenaline through my veins: as any good mobile phone alarm clock should.  After scrambling to find the phone, bumping the nightstand, and squinting to hit snooze, I was awake.  So, I roll over for 9 more minutes of peace just to experience that all over again. 
So, I finally get out of bed.  I’m tired.  Honestly, I’m really tired and want to go back to bed, but muster up the strength to go out and punish myself on the road of life, also known as Perry Crossing Road by the Indiana Department of Transportation.
Outside, I stretch and notice that once again the kids didn’t close the garage door after playing yesterday.  Arrrgggh.  So, I’m off to a great morning to jog and talk to the Lord.  As I began to jog and pray, I became pretty convicted of all that I take for granted.

My garage door was open all night, as it has been several times in the last few years, and nothing was missing, no one was attacked, nothing happened.  I was reminded of going on a mission trip in India a few years ago where houses are surrounded by concrete walls topped with broken glass and jagged metal, and friends in Africa whose home had been pillaged.  So, here is a brief list of some of the things that I took for granted as I prepared to sleep last night and woke up aggravated and tired before the day began.

·         Reasonable security, safety, and freedom
·         Loving family, healthy kids, and faithful wife
·         A home with electricity, air, comfortable bed, soft towels, and hot water
·         Ability to go jogging
·         Being born in an environment where I would be continually exposed to the gospel
·         A reliable car
·         Clean running water, food, etc.

The list could go on and on.  I do not acknowledge and appreciate these things.  I take them for granted.  I’m no different than the Israelites who in the Old Testament constantly missed the provisions of God and focused on that which they did not have.  That’s me.  I take what I’ve been given for granted and focus on what I don’t have.  As a result, I find myself complaining a lot versus walking in an attitude of thankfulness (Eph 5:20).

Merciful Father, please forgive me for taking your gifts for granted.  In your kindness, you have allowed me so many luxuries that I treat as entitlements.  I’m sorry.  Adjust my eyes that I might see your gifts and kindness more clearly, and transform my heart that I might be consistently thankful for them.  Shift my eyes off of that which I don’t have and on to your faithful provision of my needs.  Then, in those moments that my heart longs for that which I don’t have, may you remind me of all that I do and remind me that those things may be kept from me so that I might remain more dependent upon you and faithful to you.  Would you remind me that you want me to be holy and satisfied with you and not temporarily appeased by the attachments of this world.  Oh God, create in me a thankful heart.