Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Lesson from John Fee

By: Adam McClendon
Adam is the Lead Pastor at Springhill Church and the Director of New Line Ministries.

The following journal entry is from the late 1800s.  It was taken from http://www.ket.org/civilwar/families.html and is provided as an example of living out the ramifications of Matthew 10:34-39.  The call to follow Christ is high, but the consequences of not following are higher.


John Fee was a Methodist minister from Kentucky. His father was a prosperous slave-holding farmer. In Fee's diary, he chronicles the conflicts he had with his father over slavery. This entry describes how he tried to free a slave named Julett to save her from being sold and separated from her family:

Intelligence came to me that my brother had advised my father to sell the woman referred to, for the reason that there were more women in the family than were needed.

I said to my wife: "I cannot redeem all slaves, nor even all in my father's family, but the labors of Julett and her husband contributed in part to the purchase of the land I yet own in Indiana, and to sell those lands and redeem her will be in some measure returning to her and her husband what they have toiled for." My wife said: "Do what you think is right." I took my horse, rode twenty-five miles to my father's house and spent the night. In the morning of the next day I sought an opportunity when my father was alone, and having learned that he would sell, asked what he would take for Julett. He fixed his price. I said: "Will you sell her to me if I bring to you the money?" He said yes. I immediately rode to Germantown and borrowed the requisite amount of money by mortgaging my remaining tract of land for the payment. Whilst there I executed a bill of sale, so that without delay my father could sign it, before he even returned from the field at noon. I tendered to him the money and the bill of sale. He signed the bill of sale, and took the money. I immediately went to "Add," the husband of Julett, and told him I had bought Julett and should immediately secure by law her freedom. I said to him: "I would gladly redeem you but I have not the means." He replied: "I am glad you can free her; I can take care of myself better than she can." I went to the house, wrote a perpetual pass for the woman, gave it to her, and said, "You are a free woman; be in bondage to no man." Tears of gratitude ran down her sable cheeks. I then told her that at the first county court day I would take her to the clerk's office, where her height could be taken and she be otherwise described, and a record of her freedom made. This was just before the amendment to the State Constitution that forbade emancipation in the State. At noon my father came in and told my mother of the transaction. My mother was displeased, -- did not want to spare the woman from certain work for which she was fitted. My father came to me and requested that I cancel the contract and give up the bill of sale. I said to him, "Here is my horse, and I have a house and lot in Lewis County; I will give them to you if you so desire; but to sell a human being I may not." He became very angry and went to the freed woman and said to her, "When you leave this house never put your foot on my farm again, for I do not intend to have a free ***** on my farm." The woman, the wife and mother, came to me and said, "Master says if I leave here I shall never come back again; I cannot leave my children; I would rather go back into slavery." I said, "I have done what I regarded as my duty. To now put you back into slavery, I cannot. We must simply abide the consequences." The woman was in deep distress and helpless as a child. Although I had my horse and was ready to ride, I felt I could not leave the helpless one until a way of relief should open. After a time Julett came to me and said, "As long as mistress shall live I can stand it; I would rather stay." I said, "You are a free woman and must make your own decision. If my father will furnish to you a home, and clothe and feed you, and you shall choose as a free woman to stay, all well; but to sell you back into slavery, I cannot." To this proposition to furnish a home to the freed woman my father agreed. There was now a home for the freed woman, and this with her husband and children and grand-children.

That day of agony was over and eventide had come. I spent the night. The next morning just as I was about starting back to my home, my father said to me, "Julett is here on my premises, and I will sell her before sundown if I can." I turned to him and said, "Father, I am now that woman's only guardian. Her husband cannot protect her, -- I only can. I must do as I would be done by; and though it is hard for me to now say to you what I intended to say, yet if you sell that woman, I will prosecute you for so doing, as sure as you are a man." I saw the peril of the defenseless woman. I would gladly have cast from me the cup of a further contest, but I saw that to leave her, though now a free woman, was not the end of obligation. I felt forcibly the applicability of the words, "Cursed be he that doeth the work of the Lord negligently, and cursed be he that keepeth back the sword from blood" Jer. 48:10. I mounted my horse and rode twelve miles  where I could get legal counsel, -- counsel on which I could rely. I found that if I left the woman on my father's premises without any public record of her having been sold, the fact of her being then on his premises would be regarded as "prima facie" evidence that she was his property and that he could sell her. I also found that in as much as he had sold her to me, I could, by law, compel him to do that which was just and right, -- make a record of the fact of sale. I rode back twelve miles, told my father what was his legal obligation, and asked him to conform to it. He said he would not. I then said to him, "It will be a hard trial for me to arraign my father in a civil court, for neglect of justice to a helpless woman, and also for a plain violation of law; but I will do so, as sure as you are a man, if you do not make the required record of sale." After hesitancy and delay he made the record. These were hours of distress to me, to my father, to my mother, and to the ransomed woman; but the only way to ultimate peace, was to hold on rigidly to the right; though in so doing I had, in the Gospel sense, to leave father, mother, brother, sisters, houses, lands, -- all, for Christ's sake. I was conscious that no other motive impelled me.

From the Autobiography of John Fee
(C) This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 
It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching, and personal use 
as long as this statement of availability is included in the text. 
Call number F459.B4 F2 1891 (Davis Library, UNC-CH)

The above journal entry was reposted from: http://www.ket.org/civilwar/families.html accessed April 4, 2014.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

His Way over Our Way by His Power

By: Adam McClendon
Adam is the Lead Pastor at Springhill Baptist Church and Director of NLM.

For the sermon connected with this blog, click here.

I love opportunities to talk to others about their spiritual lives.  Often in the course of the conversation, comments such as these are made:
* I want to be a godly spouse, but…
* I want to be a good worker, but…
* I want to stop being lazy, but…
* I want to stop being so selfish, but…

Immediately after that “but,” people go on to explain why they feel helpless and powerless to change and live differently. 

Fortunately, the Bible presents a different picture of the Christian life.  Believers do not have to live in a perpetual behavior rut.  God has empowered his children to live in accordance with his will, but a choice has to be made.

Galatians 5:16 reads, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”

God has empowered his children with his Spirit so that they can now live victoriously in this life; however, a choice has to be made, a choice to submit to the will of the Spirit and chose to live his way over our way by his power.

That’s the key.  We have to choose to live:

His Way      X      His Power
Our Way

Some of us are walking around trying to simply survive feeling inevitably trapped in our cycle of sin when God has provided victory.  Some are ignorant of the power that is theirs.  Some think the spiritual life is some great mystery when a lot of it comes down to a choice of submitting the will to the Spirit’s leading.

Let’s be honest.  We generally know what God wants us to do in particular situations, but choose not to.

* I knew I shouldn’t, but…
* I knew I shouldn’t cheat on that exam, but…
* I knew I shouldn’t get that pay per view when I was traveling, but…
* I knew I shouldn’t talk about them behind their back, but…
* I knew I shouldn’t have lost my temper in traffic, but…

But…nothing!  The reality is that when we live the way described above, we are communicating that we value these things over God, that we know best, that we desire the outcome more than living connected to him and for his glory.

Truth is:
* Don’t cheat on the exam.  Don’t make up the cheat sheet.  Move to another desk where you can’t see someone’s paper.  Ask the teacher for accountability.
* Rip the cable out of the hotel wall, ask the clerk to remove the tv, block all the channels with a random code you can’t remember.
* Don’t talk about people and hang out with others that will entice you to sin.
* Don’t procrastinate.  Get up early so that you are not caught in heavy traffic and tempted to get angry.  Find another route to work.

Christians do not have to live according to their old patterns any longer.  We can live victorious.  By the presence of his Spirit, we can now live:

His Way over Our Way by His Power!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

American Idol and the Pastorate

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

I have to admit that on occasion I have watched American Idol.  I usually avoid the show simply because I find its title and concept rather revolting.  The problem is, however, that many of the contestants are extremely talented—they are entertaining to say the least.  Nonetheless, I find the show “revolting” because it feeds upon the superficiality of America’s pop culture.  But even though the show is incredibly superficial, there have been seasons in which the person with the most natural or God given talent has won, instead of the most “attractive” contestant, or the one with the most flair.  Generally speaking, however, it is the exception rather than the rule that the most deserving person wins.

Regrettably, a similar thing is happening to the American pastorate.  Pastors in America seem more concerned with their image rather than conforming to the example given by Jesus or his immediate followers.  Furthermore, churches unwittingly encourage their pastors to act more like celebrities instead of spiritual shepherds.  The bottom line for today’s American congregations is do they like “listening” to their pastors, as opposed to hearing the word of God taught. Similarly, pastors are more worried about how they are perceived, and whether they are being seen with the right people rather than personally investing in and training a new generation for service to the Lord and his gospel. 

How do I know this to be true?  It’s pretty simple, just look at the average pastor’s job description.  They usually involve a set amount of hours in sermon prep, and then in hospital visits, and then in business meetings, and then in staff meetings, and then in etc., etc. (you get the picture); all of which must have written reports generated.  I would venture to say that in about 80% of the job descriptions for head pastors in the average American church there is no reference to “discipleship,” and in the minority in which it is referenced, it is bundled among dozens of other activities that comprise a sort of “to do list,” that is if time permits.  All of which can be only vaguely measured, and for which no pastor can realistically be held accountable—given the many demands of the “more important” responsibilities.  To put it plainly, discipleship is ancillary rather than essential.

The question is, however, is this what Jesus modeled?  If one simply weighs the amount of time that Jesus spent in investing, teaching, and training his disciples compared to all of his other endeavors, then it is clear that discipleship was the most important component of his entire earthly ministry. Let me say that again: discipleship was the most important component of Jesus’ entire earthly ministry.  And the same can be observed in Paul’s ministry as well.  The point is obvious.  The only thing of consequence that Jesus did by himself was to die for the sins of the world—which was something his disciples were unable to do for themselves, let alone for anyone else.  The fact is that Jesus’ ministry began with discipleship (Mk 1.17-20) and ended with His command to His disciples to go and do likewise (Matt 28.18-20). 

But is the American church looking for disciple makers?  Apparently not, instead they are looking for “American Christian Idols” (who by the way no longer need to be men). They want individuals who are young, good looking, have it together, and most importantly—they must “sound” good.  People must like listening to them.  So much for hearing from God about the offense of sin and the way of the cross.  So, if you are wondering what kind of pastor your church has, start observing how much time he spends discipling others for the purpose of serving the Lord through evangelism and ministry.  If you don’t see it happening with regularity, or if you don’t even hear about it, then your pastor is fulfilling an “image,” rather than the mission of Jesus’ church.


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Reflections on Rom 12:9-12 by Someone with a Long Way to Go

By: Adam McClendon

Romans 12:9-21 contains incredibly concise and convicting teachings regarding the Christian life.  Paul set the context of this section by first explaining that believers are called to surrender their lives as living sacrifices to God; whereby, he then serves others through us (12:1).  In that process, believers are to resist being like the world and submit to being like Christ, in part, through the renewal of the mind, discerning what is right, and then living rightly (12:2).

The truth is that the way we think impacts the way that we live.  Paul goes on to show that everyone in the body is uniquely gifted, so be careful not to judge, criticize, or be prideful of your role in the body.  Your job is to encourage others and be faithful with the gifts God has given you through the empowerment of his Spirit (12:3-8).

Then the apostle concisely presented some key characteristics that should be evident in a life conformed to Jesus (12:9-21).

Here’s the thing.  As I read this section (12:9-21), I am profoundly struck by how far my thinking and advice often strays from biblical Christianity.  I find that I am often more influenced by American culture than the word of God.  For example:
* “Hone one another above yourselves” (12:10).  The ESV says, “Outdo one another in showing honor.”  Why then do I criticize and complain so much?  Why do I focus on how others are treating me versus how I am treating others?

* “Be patient in affliction” (12:12b).  As soon as tribulation hits, I’m begging God to remove it versus praying for strength to be faithful through it.  Nothing is wrong with asking for it to be removed, but why is my first response always bent towards relief and comfort?

* “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse” (12:14).  What?  Pray prayers of blessing on the Iranian government that persecutes pastors?  Pray for extreme Islamic terrorists?  Pray for the ACLU who continues to limit Christianity?  Yes.  How can I pray for blessing?  I can pray that God helps them to experience the joys of a life crucified with Christ and new birth by the Spirit of Almighty God.  I can pray God helps them to see the love of the saints and experience God’s mercy in the midst of their hatred in such a way that brings them to repentance. 

* “Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly” (12:16b).  Why?  The lowly can’t help me achieve prominence.  The lowly do not have as many resources and talents to contribute to the kingdom.  After all, wouldn’t I maximize my time by investing in those who can bring the most to the table?  Not in God’s economy.  God has a heart for the lowly, the poor, the broken, the one with poor speech and poor hygiene, the one who is humble and gracious.  God loves the lowly, do I?

* “Never avenge yourselves” (12:19b).  I struggle with this with my own family, much less others.  After all, in America, I can’t let others take advantage of me.  You are supposed to take them to court, beat them up, do whatever it takes.  Isn’t this passage teaching a gross neglect of action?  Isn’t it teaching extreme passivity?  No, it is not.  It is teaching me to go further and die to self even more by showing mercy and blessing to those who seek me harm: “if your enemy is hungry, feed him”.  I don’t know what to say to this?  I know that I have allowed my culture to influence my heart so much that obedience to this command is incredibly difficult.

In the end, what I know is that I have a long way to go.  I am called to die to self daily (Luke 9:23) in allegiance to my King.  My problem, in part, lies in the fact that I have spent more time allowing culture to inform my way of life than I have allowing the Bible to do so.