Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Finish Well

By: Adam McClendon

Jim Peters began the 1954 British Empire and Common Wealth Games marathon at a blistering pace.  He ran the first 25 miles faster than any person ever documented at that point in history.  Then, with less than 400 meters left, he collapsed.  Over the next 15 minutes, in a confused and almost semi-conscious state, he staggered, fell, stood, and staggered for about 200 yards before collapsing and being pulled by the officials.  (Video of his collapse can be seen here [7:30-8:10]).

Stories such as this often reminds us of Hebrews 12:1b-2: “…let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the found and perfecter of our faith….”


Philippians 3:14: “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

The reality is that our end matters a lot more than our beginning.  The goal line means a lot more than the start line. 

So, are we running to win?  Are we running to finish well?  Are we running in anticipation of hearing “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt 25:21b)?

What about our marriages?  So much focus is given on one day at the beginning, but what of the decades to follow?  Let us live in our marriages with the long term in view.

What about our leadership?  So much pomp and circumstance, ceremonies and praise, surrounds new CEOs and managers, but what of the days to follow?  Let us lead to make something that lasts.

What of parenthood?  So much patience and love surrounds the first few weeks, but then life hits full force.  Weeks, months, maybe years later, we have fallen into poor routines where children become a distraction to our latest sitcom addiction, requiring attention, and wanting to play.  Let us model Christ in our parenting keeping their spiritual future in mind.

What of our spiritual life?  So much passion was shown in our lives as new believers and so much disdain for sin, but what of future holiness?  Do we let that fire build in our lives so that the flame of God’s Spirit within us continues to grow greater and hotter, or are we like gas thrown on a fire that has lots of flash and heat initially but quickly vanishes?  Let us live with an increasing awareness of the impending return of our reigning King. 

Let us finish well.  Let us together commit our lives anew every day in anticipation of Christ’s return so that we might be found pure and blameless in the day of Christ Jesus (Titus 2:11-14).

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


By: Adam McClendon

We are conditioned for disappointment from a very young age.  Life just doesn’t always work out the way we want it.  Sometimes it’s because we have a skewed perception of reality, which is particularly true when we are younger, and other times it’s because reasonable expectations are genuinely left unmet.  Add to this general feeling of disappointment the reality of broken dreams and broken promises, and we often, subtly, and slowly develop a calloused undercurrent of mistrust.

Let’s be real.  We have grown up in a culture of mistrust where promises are made with crossed fingers and contracts have an infinitival number of exception clauses.  The marriage vow is now a lawyer away from ending, handshakes have been replaced with documents and signatures, promised inheritances and wills are changed, promotions are given to the “other guy,” and the price quoted is rarely the final price charged.    Politicians certainly haven’t helped: “No new taxes,” “I did not have sexual relations with that woman,” “You can keep your health insurance.”

All this mistrust can easily slip into our spiritual lives and Christmas is a great time to reassess and re-establish our trust: not of man, but of God.  We are in a real danger of allowing the disappointments of life to discolor our understanding of God, versus allowing who God is to rightly enlighten our disappointments.  We must not transfer the emotions based on our circumstances to God; rather, we must allow a right perception of God to shape how we respond to our circumstances. 

The baby in the manger helps with this. 

Jesus’ birth is the fulfillment of a promise given in Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”

This sign the Lord gave was to be a sign that God would be faithful to his promise to deliver his people from their enemy.  He would deliver them through Immanuel, which means “God with us.”  Jesus is the reality that God came to mankind and dwelt among us in order to defeat our ultimate enemies: sin and death. 

So, every time we see a nativity scene and we see that little baby in a manger, every time we see and sing the name “Immanuel,” we are reminded that while we live in a world of disappointment and broken promises, we have a God who is faithful.  He will fulfill his Word.  He will do what is right, even at great personal cost.

Let us together renew our hope this holiday season.  For, we can trust him.


Friday, December 20, 2013

Why I'm Not on Board with the Duck Dynasty Disaster

By: Adam McClendon

Okay, at the expense of upsetting a lot of people, here goes. 

I'm sick of hearing about Duck Dynasty situation.  Phil's comments were crass and poorly chosen, by the way, why in the world is he doing an interview with GQ and a writer who curses throughout the article he writes?  A&E overreacted as does everyone in secular-politically-correct society whenever a comment is made in opposition to homosexuality.  There are "thousands" of better opportunities for Christians to cry out concerning the intolerance of our culture.  Duck Dynasty isn't a battle I'm fighting for.

First, it's a secular tv show on a secular station, not a church.

Second, Duck Dynasty stars make millions of dollars as public figures and should have the common sense to know better than to speak so crassly in an interview with a paper that regularly crosses the lines of decency to sell magazines!

Thirdly, I personally do not want to be aligned with how Phil argued his point.  It wasn’t well done.

Fourthly, “professing” Christians consistently inappropriately attack people who believe differently than them and are often at times hypocritical in this area.

Fifthly, I don't know all of the Robertson's Biblical views, but would venture that I would take issue with a few important ones.

Anyway, go ahead facebook, twitter, and blogging world, continue to cry out and mark the demise of A&E.  They will just find another debase show to air in Duck's place.  Society will keep on.  Christian boycotts of Disney, Levis, and other major entities rarely work, because at the end of the day, we have short memories and don't take permanent stands as a whole. 

If you want to fight the culture concerning the homosexual issue and intolerance, there are thousands of better examples than this one! 


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

One of Those Weeks

By: Adam McClendon

Arrrgggghhhh.  Ever have one of those weeks where everything feels heavy, where your moods are as unpredictable as a cheap yo-yo, and you feel like a shaken bottle of champagne ready to be uncorked?

We’ve all been there, and lately, it seems that I’ve lived there.

How do we deal with it?  How do we “fix” this problem and get back on track?  After all, Jesus said that his yoke was easy and his burden was light (Matt 11:30).

Well, the answer is much more complicated as a whole than can be addressed here, but some reminders can help steady the boat.  A complication in this process often occurs when we spend so much energy trying to figure out whether these spiritual attacks or tests are coming from God or from the enemy.  The reality is that regardless of the source of the emotional upheaval in our lives, our responses are to be the same.  Here is a recommended approach.

First, we need to examine our lives for any habitual or blatant sins and repent if any are found.  Let’s be clear here.  Living in violation of our conscience results in emotional instability.  We cannot quench the Spirit and ignore our conscience and be left unaffected.  Intentional rebellion eats at our hearts like an aggressive cancer, robs us of joy, and produces incredible emotional volatility.

Second, we need to be faithful in the spiritual disciplines of Bible intake, prayer, and corporate worship.  Often, we don’t spend time in the word, prayer, or go to church, because we do not “feel” like it; however, in these times, that is the very place we regularly need to be.  We need to let God’s word settle in our hearts (Ps 119:11), we need to cry out to God more faithfully in prayer knowing that he is ultimately the object of our affections and the one we need (Heb 4:14-15), and we need faithfully to encourage others in the church and be encouraged by them (Heb 10:24-25).

Third, seek forgiveness and accountability.  Let’s be honest, when we feel this way, we can be obnoxious, inconsiderate, and mean.  We need to confess our sin and ask for forgiveness from our spouses, children, co-workers, or anyone else that we have hurt in this process.  We also need to seek a couple of people to hold us accountable to the fact that our feelings cannot be used as an excuse for outbursts.  We should also seek wisdom from them on better coping methods.

Fourth, we need to keep the “big 3” in check: exercise, diet, and sleep.  Our spiritual and physical lives are inevitably connected.  When we neglect or abuse our bodies, our spiritual life suffers right along with the physical neglect.  Exercise, diet, and sleep all impact our emotional states as well.  Be sure to exercise reasonably (2 or 3 times per week for between 30min and 1hr each), eat reasonably (be sure to eat enough, but not too much and reasonably healthy food), and sleep reasonably (too much sleep will add to depression and frustration, but too little will add to irritability).

Finally, stay the course.  Hey, the reality is that it takes time to cross the desert.  Sometimes, we just find ourselves in a tough season and we just need to set the sail and be faithful through the storm.  The season will pass.  We just need to be faithful and not allow our emotions or circumstances to serve as an excuse for wrecking our lives with sin and our relationships with anger.

Sure, there are a lot more factors involved and a lot of nuanced circumstances that might dictate additional courses of action, but as a whole, if we will keep these 5 things in view, we will find that the dawn will come more quickly than it would have otherwise.

Blessings to you as you seek to steady the boat and sail into the dawn.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Ground of Our Gratitude: Part II

By: Brian G. Najapfour
Brian G. Najapfour is Pastor at Dutton United Reformed Church and author.
For a brief bio on Brian see: http://biblicalspirituality.wordpress.com/brief-bio/.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love [mercy] endures forever (Psalm 118:1)

Do you know that if you and I are here today, it is because of God’s mercy alone? It is not because of who you are. It is not because of your education, or because of the fact that you are a good person. No! Remember the words of Lamentations 3: 22 & 23: “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning. Great is Thy faithfulness.”

Oh, let’s praise the Lord for His mercies. When you wake up in the morning, you wake up to welcome these mercies that are always new every morning. When you go to work, you go with God’s mercy. In your work place you work with God’s mercy. You come home with God’s mercy. You raise your children with God’s mercy. You go to work with God’s mercy. You sing with God’s mercy. It is all about God’s mercy! And, take note, according to our text Psalm 118:1, this mercy endures forever. Once it has been bestowed on you, it will remain in you.

There is a well known hymn based on Lamentations 3:23 (quoted above) that says, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” This hymn is by Thomas Obadiah Chisholm (1866-1960):

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father!

There is no shadow of turning with Thee;

Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not

As Thou has been Thou forever wilt be.


Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!

Morning by morning new mercies I see

All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—

Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!


My fellow believers, we see this mercy displayed at Calvary when God sent His precious Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to be our mediator, to die for our sin, to redeem us from the curse of the law. That’s the mercy of God. And, the psalmist says in our text, give thanks to the Lord, not only because He is good, but because His mercy abides forever and ever. So, here we have the ground for our gratitude. Let’s remember the goodness of God and His mercy. And, let’s learn to trace all our blessings back to God, back to the cross, and to give Him thanks. Amen!

Managers or Ministers

By: Dr. Monte Shanks. 
Dr. Shanks is a professor with Liberty Seminary online.

I like baseball.  I played it when I was a boy, and so did both of my sons.  My sons even got to play baseball for their high school.  Nevertheless, there is one thing that is kind of silly about baseball teams.  It’s the fact that the managers and coaches are made to wear the uniforms of the players.  This is not the case in any other professional sport.  You would never see Bill Belichick wearing shoulder pads and cleats.  It just plain nonsense that baseball managers have to wear uniforms.  It’s not likely that Don Mattingly is likely to pick up a glove play 1st base, or pick up a bat in pinch hit for the pitcher.  Don Mattingly manages the players, he doesn’t play the game, so why make him wear a player’s uniform?

Unfortunately, the leadership of many churches function a lot like baseball managers, they don’t “play in the game,” they just “manage” those who do.  This is primarily the case because many elders of churches use up all their energies managing the church’s staff, the church’s grounds, the church’s facilities, the church’s finances, and the church’s policies.  Why is this?

I think it is mainly due to a misinterpretation of 1 Timothy 3:4-5.  In this passage Paul gave to his disciple Timothy the qualifications of a church “overseer,” which most scholars and Christians today understand as the qualifications of a pastor or elder.  In these verses the pivotal verb in both the NIV and NASB is translated as “to manage.”  However, the Greek verb “pro-is-temi” has other possible meanings, one of which is “to lead,” and it is most likely that this interpretation is the better reading for this particular passage.  The fact is that elders are primarily supposed to lead the church’s ministries, not manage the church’s staff and resources.

How do we know this is the case? Because Paul tells us that the evidence that a man will make a good elder is the fact that his children are obedient to his leadership.  A man who can parent his children so that they are functional and obedient is evidence that they can shepherd others as well.  Paul also wrote to Titus that elders must have “believing children” (Titus 1.6).  In other words, the family environment of elders must be of an atmosphere where they were able to lead their children to faith in the Lord.  Paul’s emphasis to both Timothy and Titus was that elders should be ministers to their families before they should be given the responsibility of leading the ministries of the church. 

Unfortunately, too many churches select elders not because they are effective ministers and teachers (1 Tim 3.2; Tit. 1.9), but because they are good businessman and are well liked by most people—therefore, they must be good managers, right?  Giving the leadership of the church over to men simply because they are well liked and appear to be good managers is a recipe for mediocrity, and possibly disaster.  Managers tend to focus on the proper and effective use of resources (i.e., policies concerning things).  Minister’s focus on people and “caring” for their conversion and spiritual vitality, which is what Paul stated was the ultimate purpose and concern for those leading the church—caring for those in the church (1 Tim 3.5).  And shouldn’t that always be the main function of any shepherd, caring for the flock?

Should elders understand the church’s budget, yes.  Should they have influence on the church’s policies, of course.  Should they take the leadership in the hiring of church staff, absolutely.  But far and away the most important function of elders is that they are primarily ministers.  In other words, they display the capacity to effectively exhort, enable, and equip others to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. That is the “stuff” of ministry, and that what the church should be all about. 

You know there is one sure fire way to tell who the manager of a baseball team is—he’s always the one with the cleanest uniform.  Baseball players are never clean because they are the ones playing the game.  Their uniforms show wear and tear of effort, exertion, and teamwork, of striving for a common goal, and so it should be with the lives of those who serve as elders of any church.