Aaron Summers

Can You Relate?

In Chrisian Life on July 31, 2014 at 7:26 am

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I had breakfast with a friend the other day and we were discussing the woes of the economy and how each at our respective churches were having to prioritize ministry and be efficient in our expenditures. During this conversation we began wondering how efficient economically our massive programming really is.

How can we do things better?
How can we make a difference?

I believe that if we would embrace a paradigm shift from regulatory to relational religion we would see a dramatic increase in ministry productivity. How do we make this shift?

The first thing to do is to move past the past. Calvin Whitman, pastor of Applewood Baptist Church in Colorado, in his sermons based on Exodus says that “the past is to be a guidepost…not a hitching post.” I concur. So often we fondly look back at the past and the nostalgia is so thick we cannot find our way back to the present. We hitch our lives, our ministries, our churches to the ways of the past. The past is something we are to remember without replay. We are to recall the past, but live in the present. Our present is vastly different in the information age as we experience a doubling of intelligence every few years with increasing speed.

In order to move past the past and begin our transition from regulatory to relational religion we must understand the principle of reciprocity. This principle, as I define it here, means that we extend the same amount and kind of grace extended to us. Relational religion expresses this type of grace. Regulatory religion tends to hand out guilt and shame by holding on to your past and bringing it up every time there is an opportunity. Regulatory religion operates out of power by setting up levels of sin and disciplining through calling out, shame, shunning, etc. Other ways to express discipline include glares and stares, whispers in hallways, and silent treatment. Who wouldn’t want to go to that church? This is the exact point I am making. Relational religion does not create levels of sin but levels out sin since all sin is equal in God’s eyes. Relational religion does not feel a need to discipline to make ourselves feel better but to disciple to make others fully devoted followers of Christ. Relational religion loves people as they have been loved rather than focusing on the hatred of sin. Operating out of a negative position creates negative results. Regulatory religion is not a healthy approach. Further, regulatory religion exits when things get a little tough.

When the addict relapses do we exit or encourage?
When the marriage is dissolving do we exit because of their lack of faith or do we encourage them through love and devotion?

These type of questions go straight to the heart of our religion. We must not only move past our past, but also move past other people’s past. Love keeps no record of wrongs. Let’s move past the past.

Can you relate?

For the Love of God

In Evangelism on July 30, 2014 at 7:00 am

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LOVE GOD

Frederick Lehman wrote a song entitled “The Love of God” in 1917.  Borrowing from a Jewish poem and adding his own thoughts he wrote 3 verses and a chorus.  For years, choirs and congregations have sung this as a praise to God Himself.  I have included a portion of the song below:

 

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

 

O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints’ and angels’ song.

 

The Love of God is rich and pure.  The love of God is measureless and strong.  Probably the most well-known verse in all of scripture and Christendom is John 3:16.  “For God so LOVED the world that He Gave His One and Only Son that whoever would believe in Him would not die but have eternal life.”  I have preached using this verse as a text several times.  Each time I come to it I am reminded of how much God loves me.

LOVE PEOPLE

 

During the night Jesus was approached by a teacher of the law called a Pharisee.  His coming at night is significant because it represented the secrecy he wanted while having this discussion.  Jesus did not condemn him but engaged him in conversation.  Nicodemus acknowledged his belief that Jesus had come from God because no one could do the miracles without God’s power.  He struggled with the claims Jesus had made about Himself and the need in our lives for faith and trust that establishes a relationship with God more than a religion about God.  Jesus does not dismiss him.  The love of God through Jesus is evident in that He engaged in a conversation and let the Spirit of God direct as was best.  Too often I believe that we too quickly assume a person’s stance without actually listening to them.  We must listen to what is being said, clarify what we heard and then ask good questions.  It was during the conversation with Nicodemus that our most beloved verse is given.  Nicodemus was asking questions.  He sought for answers.  Jesus models for us the act of listening, engaging, and answering the questions of those who come to us.  Jesus calmly answered the questions and led Nicodemus to see a spiritual need.

DO SOMETHING

 

How do we do this?  How do we help someone see a need and turn their life over to God?  What do we do?  Here are a few tips:

  1. Initiate a conversation about anything of common interest.
  2. Relate with the person and develop trust.
  3. Communicate the love of God through actions and words.
  4. Listen to them and ask good questions.
  5. Elevate to Jesus and ask about making a faith decision.

Why is God so Hard to Accept?

In Faith on July 29, 2014 at 8:54 am

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Do you believe in things you cannot see?  Consider the following:

  • Aliens
  • Ghosts
  • Astrology
  • Loch Ness or Big Foot
  • Karma
  • Intuition
  • Fate

In our information hungry age, it amazes me that people will render God untenable in which to believe, but any of these mentioned above are readily accepted.  What makes God so hard to accept?

UNSEEN

No one can see Karma either but a host of people accept that as truth. I have not seen Aliens, ghost, or Big Foot and do not believe they exist.  I have not seen God either.  What makes the difference?  Some could say that I believe because I was nurtured into it.  Had I been raised by those who chase after UFO’s and ghosts would I believe in them instead?  I cannot see the wind but I have felt the effects of wind.  I have not seen God but have experienced the effects.  I know what life was like before and after I chose to place faith in Jesus.

JUDGEMENT

People wish to argue that a God who will judge them is not for them. However, their belief in Karma surprises me.  Karma, and Fate, are on the spot judges.  If you do wrong the universe will do wrong back to you.  If you do right, then the universe will do right back to you.  Aren’t you being judged?  What if your action was an unfortunate one and Karma gives back unfairly?  Will you stop believing in it then?  Every alien movie I have seen moves to the same concept: they destroy humanity.  They judge us unworthy and wish to remove us.  Why, then is it too difficult to accept the judgment of God?

UNFAIR

How can a good God allow evil? How can there be only one way to God, which is through faith in Jesus Christ?  I could ask, what if Karma is unfair?  What happens when the aliens and ghosts wish to take over and it becomes believe or die?  Aren’t those unfair also?  Yet, many still believe.  The notion that God is unfair is widely heard.  However, I would argue that the evil is our own doing.  We choose poorly.  We choose the stupid.  We choose the bad.  We follow the evil and love the dark.  God has provided a way out of your situation.  He will not force you.  I suppose that people can accept the alien slavery because they are forcing us into something.  God has freely provided a path to life.  He also gives you the freedom to choose that path….or not.

UNPROVEN

The favorite of many is that I cannot prove God so I cannot believe in God.  However, dimly lit sightings and questionable video techniques are enough for people.  Acceptance that there experience with Karma and Fate are enough falls flat when you consider the history and testimony of millions who talk about God.

When it is all said and done we want to master of our own universe.  We like Karma and Fate because we feel empowered and in control.  We want to fight authority, shrug off guilt, and live accordingly.  We want to believe there is nothing beyond this life so that we can live it up and push away the shame of irresponsibility.  The problem is…God still exists.

Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”  John 20:29

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