Aaron Summers

ARE YOU READY?

In Chrisian Life, Gospel Living on May 23, 2016 at 2:24 pm

 

Are You Ready 4

Samuel is my wife’s favorite story and for whom (along with her grandpa) our son is named!  Samuel was chosen by God for a purpose long before Hannah conceived.  You, and everyone you teach, have that same story!  Samuel was specifically chosen to be the national prophet at the conclusion of the Judges period.  He would be the bridge between deliverers and monarchs.  He did not know this, but God did.  As look back on this moment in the life of Samuel, let us trust that God has a plan.  He ALWAYS has a plan.

We must be ready to receive God’s Word.  I want to take a moment here and share a few thoughts on how we can be ready to receive God’s Word.  This is where it all begins.  God will try to get your attention through a number of ways.  It wasn’t until the third time that Samuel became ready.  He had gone to Eli before.  Now, Eli helped Him get ready to receive from God.

When my daughter first showed interest in softball it was because her friends were signing up to play.  We were not ready.  We made the decision to play.  We wrote the check and filled out the forms.  We waited for the draft to happen.  She waited anxiously the evening of the draft to find out which team picked her and who was on the team.

Had we received a random call, we would not have thought anything about it.  However, because we had put ourselves into a position of readiness we were ready to receive the call.  For each of us to be ready to receive we must ask ourselves if we have “signed up” to play.  Have we placed our faith in Jesus?  Now, are you waiting anxiously by the phone?  Just like our daughter who was guaranteed a spot on team, your faith guarantees you a plan from God to accomplish something extraordinary.  Are you ready?

We must be prepared to hear what God has to say.  Between the call and the first practice, there was much to do!  We needed to buy a helmet, a glove, and a bat. How silly would it have been to go out to practice without a glove?  She would not prepared to receive the ball that was hit her way.  How silly would it have been to stand at the plate without bat?  She would not have been prepared to do anything except get hurt.

There is preparation we must make in our lives concerning God, too.  Maybe you have thrown up requests to God but hold on to a pre-determined response that is acceptable to you.  A friend of ours just lost their 2-year-old little girl who had a terminal condition.  They struggle now because they believed by faith God would let her walk out of the hospital.  God did, in fact, heal her.  However, it was not in the specific way desired.  If you ask God to heal your family member and He chooses to take them are you prepared?  If you ask God to protect your child/grandchild as they drive away but are in a bad accident are you going to remain faithful?  Are you prepared to hear whatever it is that God sends your way?

The Bible gives us “gear” that we should acquire in order to be prepared for WHATEVER God decides to tell you.  You can find this in Ephesians 6.  Samuel was given some difficult words to express but he was prepared.  Are you?

We must be prepared to deliver God’s message to others.  It’s game time.  Are you ready?  There had been 3 weeks of practices and it was opening day at the softball complex.  It was time to put into practice what had been practiced.  The anthem was sung and the pitcher had warmed up.  With that first pitch everything was now in motion.  While we could coach form the dugout, there was no opportunity to stop play and go “fix” a problem.  They had to perform to the best of their abilities.  We won on that day and the season championship, but we did not win every game.

Once you have understood your purpose is to glorify God and share the gospel it is time to put it in practice.  We can go to class after class and hear many sermons and watch a plethora of videos but there is nothing like ACTUALLY doing it.  It is time to go and be witnesses infused with the power of the Holy Spirit.

God is speaking.  Have you opened the channel?  Are you ready to hear whatever He says?  Are you ready to go and tell the message?

Go. Fight. Win.

When the Sex Runs Out – A Study of Samson

In Gospel Living on May 10, 2016 at 8:24 am

 

samsonlogoThere are many ways to approach the story of Samson:

  • Morality – Lust leads to a downfall
  • Ethical – Ends justify the means (Negative approach) since Samson wound up where he did because of sin.
  • Allegorical – Samson represents Israel – called by God but rebelled and faces punishment/death
  • Type of Christ – Here we see Samson as a foreshadow of Christ, though less than Christ!

However you choose to teach this portion of scripture, may we always look for transformation as more important than just information.  Let us come to this passage and ask ourselves, “How does this cause me to follow Christ closer?”.  May we consider those who sit in our classes and wonder while we study, “How can this lesson move the listener to a deeper walk with Christ?”

If we choose the moral/ethical approach to this lesson it is easy to see the direction: sex and power.  Samson was obsessed with women and it was his fatal flaw (what caused his downfall/death).  While this is an easy moral lesson to teach from this passage, be careful.  We must ask ourselves, as Samson should have, “How much more could he have done had he stayed right with God?”  This is a fair question.  Though he killed more Philistines in his death than during his life, how sad of an ending!  Our moral choices have their consequences.  Thus, if morality is the focus of your lesson we must not allow for the “ends justify the choices” thinking.  Our culture always looks for the excuse and rationalization of moral choices.  However, morality is obvious in this passage.  I can’t help but see it drip from the pages every time I read this story!  I find myself speaking to Samson each time to not fall for Delilah, then to not tell her.  I KNOW the story, but isn’t it obvious what he should have done?

How often could we say that about our own moral choices?  If only Samson could have had someone to drag him away, hold him back, or reason with him.  Your class can be that for one another.  Instead of looking away and thinking it none of your business, don’t let your church family go the way of Samson.  Step in and speak up!

The allegorical approach is a favorite of older generations today.  Like Aesop’s fables, we want to find a symbol or representative for everything in the story.  While this might seem useful and creative, it really isn’t.  Too often, the allegorical approach leads back to a morality lesson rather than a gospel lesson.  Or, this approach leads to the heightening of personal opinion rather than letting Scripture speak for itself.  When this is used, we get caught up in the story and discussing what everything means.  We gain information without transformation.  At the end of the allegory we might find good things to draw from it for our lives, but do we find the Gospel?

The typology approach reveals the grander scheme at work in this short story.  The other options isolate the story.  We cannot forget that this is part of a larger story of redemption.  We must view our lessons on 3 levels:  God’s story, Israel’s story, Our story.  Begin with the current situation, reveal how it fits into God’s overall story and then how that fits into our personal narrative.

With Samson, here is how I would break it down:

Israel’s story:  Use the information from your leader guide to teach what us going on in Israel at this time.  I would spend about 10 minutes here.  This is the 4th lesson in Judges, so the people are aware of the cycle, or should be.  It might help to draw it on the board before class to simply refer to it.  This will save you time rather than drawing it out during your teaching time.  Things unique to Samson are the Nazarite vow, the Philistines, the depravity of the deliverer.

God’s story:  Throughout Judges, we see God at work to redeem Israel.  Why?  Because it was HIS choice to use Israel to be a light to the nations.  Their rebellion is causing that light to be hidden and, at times, blown out.  God wants to reach the world and will use humanity to do it.  This story is just one more revelation of God’s intention, God’s character to the covenant, God’s patient intervention, and man’s rebellion.  But, there will come One who will forever change the landscape of the situation.  Samson is a foreshadow of Christ.  Think of the similarities:  Angel announces the birth, betrayed with silver and a kiss, the one delivered many.  How do we not see Jesus here?  Samson failed, but Jesus will be victorious.  I would spend about 10 minutes here as well.

Our Story:  Here we get to what many call the application part.  My preaching professor called this the “Now what?” portion of a sermon or lesson.  If we do not give our people a “Now what?” moment we are not helping transformation.  Here are a few points of discussion and meditation for us.

Like Samson, we have a divine purpose.  Do you know yours?  It is really much simpler than we imagine.  Our purpose is to glorify God and share the gospel.  HOW we do that is as unique as the members of your class!  Those who work will do it through their vocation.  Those who stay at home will do it through teaching their children and those connections they have at school and friends.  Those who are retired will do it through social functions, hobbies, and extended family.  Those who are early in their college or career can do this through social groups and media.  The point is that we all have the SAME purpose.  It is how we accomplish it that is different, yet all works together in concert.

Like Samson, we make poor choices.  We need someone to help us see the better way.  We need help.  The members of your class need to see that on our own we will choose the wrong.  Together we fulfill scripture that 2 are better than 1 and 3 strands are not easily broken.  We must push against the notion, like Samson, of isolating.

Like Samson, God stands ready to forgive and help you move forward.  Here we see the opportunity to return to our purpose.  Too many believe that they are forever ousted from service because of a past they cannot get over but God wants to forgive and release them from.  We must help them see the true nature of God as scripture reveals Him.

Like Samson, we have a choice.  Will we choose to remain in bondage or pray for strength, peace, and ability to pursue our purpose?

The Dilemma of Divorce

In Leadership on May 2, 2016 at 3:44 pm

torn piece of paper with divorce text and paper couple figures

As Baptists we have, over the years, taken a firm stance on divorce.  We have, in effect, treated it like the unforgivable sin.  We have run from men who have divorced when it comes to them serving as a Deacon.  The traditional position has been absolutely negative to them serving.  The passage cited is 1 Timothy 3:12.   Some versions read “husband of one wife” while others read “faithful to his wife”.  Thus, we have had a conflict of praxis concerning deacons and their service if a divorce is in the past.

Whenever we have one verse on which we place an entire position we find ourselves on narrow footing.  In order to give it proper review there are a few things to consider:

  1. Original Language – the Greek text is the original in this case at it strictly reads, “one woman man”. From this alone we cannot determine exactly what was meant without regarding the next 2 parts or infusing personal opinion.
  2. Original Context – The culture and morality of the day lent itself to polygamy and multiplicity. The Christians of that time struggled with false teaching and wayward living as they tried to mature.  Paul encouraged Timothy to remind those he led that leadership needs to show stability.  They were to be focused on the one to whom they were married.
  3. The Whole of Scripture – The very character and Word of God comes into question if we are not careful. By saying that a divorced man cannot serve we hold a certain grudge.  We hang a scarlet letter on him and say “not forgiven”.  How can we do what God does not?  He forgives.  He casts sin to unreachable places.  He moves forward.  The character of God in light of scripture informs us that God forgives and so should we.  Further, God’s choosing of men with questionable backgrounds is many.  One does not look far to see Him forgiving and using flawed people with difficult pasts.

In light of these 3 basic positions, divorce, with remorse, does not preclude a man from service.  There are those in your church right now with such history.  May we not hold against them what God has already relieved.

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