Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Sufficient Shepherd

By: Adam McClendon

Psalm 23:1–3a: The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. 

God shepherds all of his people.  If you are his, you are under his care, and you do not get lost in the fold.  He sees you, individually and personally.  Whether you feel you are the best or the worst among us, for all who have trusted in Christ, he is your faithful and sufficient Shepherd. 

Just look at the individuality of this Psalm.  This Psalm doesn’t just address God’s community of people (i.e. his flock), but each individual sheep.  He cares and provides uniquely for each of them.

In this particular part of the Psalm, notice that you do not lack and you shall not want, not because you have all that is necessary for physical life, or all that enhances pleasure, but because you have him.  He is satisfying.  He is sufficient.  And for the submissive sheep, he brings you to places of blessing.  He brings you to pastures of plenty and brings rest to your soul.

C. H. Spurgeon wrote, “I may not possess all that I wish for, but ‘I shall not want.’  Others, far wealthier and wiser than I, may want, but ‘I shall not.’ …  I have all things and abound; not because I have a good store of money in the bank, not because I have skill and wit with which to win my bread, but because ‘The Lord is my Shepherd.’  The wicked always want, but the righteous never; a sinner’s heart is far from satisfaction, but a gracious spirit dwells in the palace of content” (The Treasury of David, 354).

For David, and for us, contentment is a matter of perspective.  See, David’s contentment was in being numbered among God’s flock, not in the number of his own possessions. 

God provides more fully, more completely, and more sufficiently than anything or anyone else.  He provides all that we need, because he is our greatest need.

God provides that which is necessary in you accomplishing his plan. 

When you follow God as the good Shepherd adhering to his leadership, his provision for the purpose of your lives will never lack, but will always be sufficient.

Psalm 23:1–3a: The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. 


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Standards and Expectations

By Joanna K. Harris
Joanna Harris is an author and blogger with a tremendous passion for God.  You can contact Joanna here.  For more on Joanna and her ministry, check out her website here.  There you can also find links to her other blogs.

I think sometimes we need to raise our standards and lower our expectations.

Let me explain.

Modern culture continually sends messages telling people to lower their standards and raise their expectations.

Example: "Just live together before you get married. Then you can find out if you're compatible and if the other person will make you happy."

Lowering of moral standards – devaluing purity and commitment. Raising of personal expectations – someone else is responsible for your happiness.

I believe that during my lifetime there's been a dangerous shift in both standards and expectations.

My parents' generation grew up with high standards and reasonable expectations for themselves, others, and life in general. They valued character and integrity. They didn't expect life to always be easy. They were prepared for hard work, sacrifice, and delayed gratification.

In today's world, most people have few, if any standards, and many unrealistic expectations.

I think it's time we get intentional about reversing this trend. It’s time to start practicing raised standards and lowered expectations.

Here are some practical areas I've thought about where we can apply this:

- Raise our standards of what we put into our bodies (leave unhealthy things and junk food behind), and lower our expectations that what we consume is supposed to make us feel good.

- Raise our standards of how we treat other people, and lower our expectations that we'll never have conflict or challenging relationships.

- Raise our standards of personal integrity, and lower our expectations that everything in life will come easily for us.

- Raise our standards of how we invest our time, and lower our expectations that we can do everything we want.

- Raise our standards of financial stewardship, and lower our expectations of what we think we need.

Ouch. Did any of those prick you a little as you read them? What other areas can you think of where this principle is needed?

I'm really excited about this concept. Yet, the thought of trying to apply it to my specific situation is a little daunting. And it probably should be.

I think too many of us, perhaps unconsciously, have adopted a mindset of "easier is better" or "if it feels good, do it." But Christ has called us to a completely different worldview and lifestyle. He calls us to the highest standard: His life living through us, and His choice of humble and self-less expectations. 

This life is not about me – my comfort, ease, happiness, or personal fulfillment. This life is about God's glory.

If we lower our standards and pursue unrealistic, selfish expectations, we’ll only end up unhappy, unfulfilled and wondering where our life went.

But the good news is that as we rely on God’s power and grace to live with His higher standards and Spirit-led expectations, God Himself fills us with His comfort, His joy and happiness, and sweet satisfaction in seeing His plans for us fulfilled. What could be better?

So what is God saying to you? Where is He calling you to raise your standards and lower your expectations?

I want to heed His call. Is it easy? No. But by God’s grace and Christ’s life in me, it is possible. And I believe it will be well worth it.

…we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of His calling, and that by His power He may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. -2 Thessalonians 1:11

Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. -Hebrews 3:1, 12:1-2


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Mercy Tree

By: Adam McClendon

Life rarely works out the way that we anticipated it would.  It almost seems at times that something is working against us.  It seems life itself fights our progress, others throw up obstacles, and difficult circumstances feel more than coincidental as if Murphy’s humorous observation was actually a law of the universe.  Then, in the midst of the chaos of life, a sobering reality sets in: not only does life seem to be fighting against me, but I seem to be contributing to the chaos and dysfunction through my personal sin.  As a result, we find that life is ultimately unfulfilling because we were made for a relationship with God, a relationship that is now damaged and hindered because of sin.

But, thank God that’s not the end of the story.  God, in his mercy, did not leave us to the dysfunction of this dissatisfying life.  God is a redeeming God, and for all who have the ears to hear and the eyes to see, he leverages the dysfunction and chaos of this life to point us to him in order that we might find true fulfillment and true satisfaction in a relationship with him as provided through his mercy tree, the cross.  God extends his mercy and provides purpose to our lives through the cross.

The cross is God’s glorious declaration of mercy.  It is his declaration of triumph over death and dysfunction.  It is his redemption for all who will believe, canceling our sin debt and restoring us in relationship to God.

Colossians 2:13–14: When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.

So, while life may or may not have worked out the way that we wanted, this fractured, twisted, overgrown path we have been walking has brought us to this place in our lives where we could see more clearly the reality of God’s redemptive work through the cross.  Through the cross, Jesus bore judgment in our place.  Through the cross, Jesus became our Passover lamb.  Through the cross, Jesus became our reconciler; whereby, we can have peace with God.

Colossians 1:19–20: For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Despite our past lot in life, we can experience the fulfilling life God planned for us throughout all eternity through Jesus’ sacrificial death.  For those who haven’t experienced the wonder of being restored to God through the cross of Christ, come and trust in Jesus today.  For those who have, rejoice in the joy of being reconciled to God and the thought of the kingdom that awaits.


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Reflections on My Ministry at Graceland

By: Adam McClendon

This coming Sunday, June 8, is my last Sunday as a pastor at Graceland Baptist Church.  My family and I first attended Graceland in the fall of 2006 and became involved very quickly.  Leaving to go serve at another church (Springhill Baptist Church) has been an incredibly difficult decision.  As I reflect on this time of transition and the past 8 years at Graceland, here are 10 things that I’ve learned (or been reminded of):

1. Falling in love with the people makes the transition horrible, but the memories special.  Saying goodbye to people I love is so hard, yet I’m so grateful to have experienced these deep friendships that have developed.

2. Working to understand where people are before seeking to take them where they need to be is important.  I spent a lot of time studying the history of Graceland and as a result, it made me more understanding, patient, and provided a platform from which I could speak into many of their lives more effectively. 

3. Serving is not an option and brings some of the greatest joy and alleviates some of the greatest pains of ministry.  Serving has a way of taking eyes off of self and to-do lists and placing them on people.  Serving tends to ground my feet in the reality of ministry, allows relationship with other members to flourish, often relieves stress, sets an example, brings immediate gratification, and is an act of obedience. 

4. Listening to fans or critics will leave a person inflated or defeated.  The truth is usually somewhere in the middle.  I tried to find some reasonable leaders who were among the silent majority and got honest feedback from them. 

5. Saying no is okay, most people will understand.  No one can be all things to all people, and everyone has limited time and talents.  Most people get that and were understanding when I said no.

6. Balancing family and ministry is a moving target that must be hit.  Demands at home are always changing, but so are demands at church.  It is necessary at times to make church a priority over family, just as it is necessary at times to make family a priority over church.  I found that I frequently had to have conversations with my wife and others in ministry to regularly evaluate how I was doing.

7. Practicing what is preached is critical to credibility.  It’s easy to preach a sermon.  It’s hard to live one.  I often struggle to practice some of the things that I preach.  It’s hard, but necessary.  People are watching and when they saw me practice what I preached despite how hard it was, it brought credibility and usually an openness on their part to try a little harder.

8. Being invited to listen to people’s most intimate thoughts and struggles is a privilege not to be taken lightly.  I’m burdened and blessed to have been able to walk through some terribly dark times with some of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met.  Thank you for sharing the personal and dark corners of your world with me as you sought to live more surrendered to Jesus, the light of the world. 

9. Being in ministry isn’t glamorous, but it is an amazing privilege and full of ups and downs.  A great pressure exists to try and become a rock-star pastor.  Ministry isn’t about personal glory or the glory of your “church”; rather, it is a privilege to serve people and Christ in this way for the glory of His name.  Sometimes, it’s a blast.  Other times, it’s miserable.  But, it’s always worth it! 

10. I really do love these people and will greatly miss this place, but am equally excited about the new adventure that awaits.

Goodbye Graceland and thank you for the privilege of serving as a pastor here.  Thank you for your love and support.  Please come visit our family in Missouri anytime.