Aaron Summers

Archive for 2017|Yearly archive page

Numbers and Noses? Is there another way?

In Church, Leadership on October 5, 2017 at 8:53 am

Evaluations.

We all must do them and have them done to us.  In church life, this tends to be tricky…and messy.  We have borrowed so many terms from the business world that we are fuzzy on the real issues before us.  We use terms such as personnel, finance, human resources, etc.  It is no wonder we have easily shifted into a cultural version of evaluative measures.

Every year, churches come to this point and feel they must do an evaluation on those who receive a salary.  I certainly understand and accept accountability.  We SHOULD be holding one another accountable.  However, the criteria of the accountability are shifting toward cultural norms more than spiritual ones.

  • One pastor I know put so much emphasis on numbers that if their ministry area did not double in attendance in 6 months they were going to be let go. While many of us shriek and shirk back from such audacious criteria, most of us are not far from it.
  • Consider EVERY state convention’s reporting system…numbers and stats. The questions “How many?” and “How much?” are asked more than anything else.
  • Consider every time you run into a ministry friend. “How many are you running?”, is a common question.
  • Some states award those who baptize more than anyone else.

Don’t get me wrong.  I know these things are important.  However, we put too much emphasis on them.  When it comes to evaluating the staff in your church, what do you ask?  I have served 5 churches.  In each of them, this was an arduous process for all involved!  I have been asked about goals and vision.  I have been evaluated on preaching style, length, and topic.  I have been evaluated on communication and leadership.  On one occasion, the question was posed to the evaluating group “What is there about the pastor you don’t like?”  That was an interesting discussion!

Consider this:

  • When I was ordained, the biblical qualifications were considered.
  • Every church I have interviewed with has used the biblical qualifications as one point of the review.
  • I have never been asked about the biblical qualifications during an evaluation.

Why?  Once we have a person on staff we shift into management roles.  We look at job descriptions.  We search human resource materials for options.   We talk about vision, mission, and purpose.  We set numerical goals.  We chastise if we don’t reach them and challenge them to do more if they do.

Is there another way?  I believe there is.  Don Cousins, the author of Experiencing Leadershift, suggests 4 questions as we evaluate.  I will share my thoughts with each.

  1. Is <staff member> faithful?

Just as it was discussed in the interview process.  I believe those in ministry positions ought to be examined for their faithfulness to the biblical qualifications. (See 1 Tim 3, Titus 1:7 and Acts 20:28)  If the search team saw it as important, why don’t we later?  Is the staff member faithful to what God has called them to be?  These qualities cover character, family, spouse, scripture, and morality.  If there is a fidelity problem then address it.  If there is not a fidelity issue then move forward.

  1. Is <staff member> fruitful?

Paul wrote to Galatia expressing that the follower of Jesus will have certain qualities naturally expressed.  These include love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  In your evaluation of the staff member in question, do they have these characteristics?  Do they show love?  Do they have patience?  Are they kind and gentle?  Each of us has strengths and weaknesses in this list.  Take the time to share with them how you have seen the strengths.  Help them to see how to support the weaker areas.  These 9 items build character in us as we follow Christ.

  1. Is <staff member> fulfilled?

Here is the moment the staff member can share their heart with you.  It is my prayer that every staff member would have the peace of mind and feeling of safety to openly share if they are fulfilled in ministry here.  I confess, over the years I have not always felt those moments to be a safe space.  I strongly suggest that as we bring on this next generation of ministry staff we are going to have to give constant feedback in a safe environment.  They demand it.  It doesn’t matter if you like it or not, that is where we are going.  Further, every staff member has the right to be respected enough to be given that safe space.  It is the church’s responsibility to honor those who work hard among you.

  1. Is <staff member> making God famous?

Too many ministers build their own little kingdoms.  It is never more evident than when they leave.  You know what happens?  Their people leave too.  That ministry falls apart.  If a minister is seeking to personal honor, trouble soon follows.  In this moment of evaluation, you can provide feedback as to what you have witnessed. (Please do not act on hearsay.)  A minister of God seeks to reflect God’s glory rather than their own.  Help them to see how they are doing this.  Support them through the difficult times of adjustment if this isn’t happening.

Conclusion

Annual reviews do not have to be dreaded.  They can be fulfilling and encouraging.  This year, take a different approach.  If your staff member is found to be faithful, fruitful, fulfilled, and making God famous then what more would you want?  God will work out everything else.  I would suggest to you that you will prefer this method over what you might be doing now.

 

 

Is Your Church At-Risk?

In Leadership on September 26, 2017 at 1:01 pm

Nominating Committees everywhere are starting to work hard to fill church positions.  I have worked on both the local and state level in trying to uncover and discover and recover people to serve on various boards, agencies, team, committees, and teaching slots.  I have seen the good and bad side of filling positions.  Often, we cherry pick the best people for certain positions and scramble to just fill the page.

Tragic.

Somewhere in the deep recesses, we know there should be more involved but who has the time?  In most cases in church, there are 2 positions for every committee plus trustees, clerks, moderators, and more.  Whatever your policies are, here are a few reminders as you go about the work of ministry.

Saved

Is Joe a believer?  You might think this is a no-brainer, but it isn’t.  I have seen good and God-fearing people bring to the table names of those who have yet to decide for Christ but have the vocational skill in the area of need.  Until a person has placed faith in Jesus and received the forgiveness of sin, they are not prepared to make spiritual decisions in the church.  I realize that which paper towel holders are needed in the bathroom, or what color the toilets need to be, seem to be irrelevant to this moment.  I tell you it is relevant!  There will come a time that, even though they can add and read a P&L sheet, spiritual direction will be necessary.  In those moments, we need faith not just facts!

Settled

No matter where your church stands on membership or fellowship or covenants, the person being suggested needs to be settled in their attendance in your church.  Your church needs to decide what the requirements are going to be.  For example, how can someone really advise and guide personnel who attends 25% of the time?  How can someone really give input to practices and policies if they are not around often enough to speak well on these matters?  How can they lead a group when they are in other churches because of family, invites, events, and such?

Supportive

This has to do with their mouth and their money.  You want people in leadership to be vocally supportive of the staff and the church mission and vision.  Naysayers create problems.  Gossips create integrity issues.  Those who refuse to follow Matthew 18 will create hazards and splits.  Those in leadership have a higher accountability and must be held to it.

Only the treasurer/bookkeeper will know how much someone gives.  In our situation, we have set a low limit of $200/month in giving.  If someone is giving more than that they are considered available to serve.  If someone is not meeting that need, but I am aware of low-income status in their home, I will seek to discover if their giving is regular.

We all need to row in the same direction otherwise we go in circles.

Secure

Background checks are difficult for our older generations to grasp.  Having grown up in radically different social times it is often a church hurdle.  However, we MUST be doing these.  The obvious areas are in youth and

Background checks are difficult for our older generations to grasp.  Having grown up in radically different social times it is often a church hurdle.  However, we MUST be doing these.  The obvious areas are in youth and childhood ministries.  However, I would encourage committee members too.  Another option would be that committee members sign an agreement of confidentiality.  While much of what is done in committee life is open for membership to hear, there are those times when sensitive items need to be discussed.  Our church family is not always prepared to hear all that is discussed.

For example, My wife and I discuss a LOT at the dinner table with our kids.  However, when we moved to Texas 3 years ago they were not at an age to handle that information until they HAD to handle it.  They didn’t know about the interviews and discussions of housing and schools.  Our church members are at all levels of maturity.  We must have the mature lead and, at times, do so confidentially.

Spiritual

God has equipped your church with people. Within them lies the spirit of God.  Do you see the fruit of the Spirit revealed in their actions and speech?  Do you sense they are being led by the Spirit or by other causes?  Sometimes, everything can seem right and the pressure is on to finish the task.  However, we must pause and ensure the Spirit’s guidance and gifting.  Someone who is gifted with mercy or helps will have a difficult time serving in an administrative role.  Also, if the finance/stewardship committee is filled with those who are strong in faith run the risk of presenting a budget too large for the congregation.  There needs to be a balance.

I pray for our nominating committees as they seek to serve the Lord and His church.  May you be wise, righteous, and godly in your choices this Fall.

Getting Out of the Rut

In Gospel Living on July 27, 2017 at 8:01 am

​I began college in the pre-med program.  My first semester I was carrying 18 hours filled with biology, chemistry, calculus, and more.  I     loved it.  A aprt of chemistry was the lab.  We would all file in, partner up, and begin the assignment.  Some days we mixed chemcicals.  Some days we heated up stuff.  One day, we almost blew up the lab. 

Yet, one thing was always true.  No matter the assignment, the outcome was already known!  You see we weren’t forging new frontiers.  We were learners.  The professor had given us an assignment that had been done hundreds of times before.  He knew what the outcome was.  For us, it was something new.  For him, it was routine.
Life is not like a freshman chemistry lab.  We often get into routines and ruts.  Our problem is that we expect different results!
The definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.”
In 2 Samuel, David has just been crowned King of all Israel. He has been King in Hebron for 7 years.  Now he has come to fulfillment of God’s pronouncement years ago.  He sits on the throne of all Israel.  As is the custom, kings go off to war.  He asked the Lord if he should respond to the Philitine aggression.  God said, “Yes”.  Daivd went and defeated them.
Here’s the tricky part!  It happens again in the same chapter, but this time God directs him differently!!  War was routine.  War was the same.  War had its rules, even in an uncivilized time and place.
Most of us like routine because it brings us comfort.  However, if we are staying in touch with God we can be drawn off of the right path by our own ruts.  Don’t dig in too deep!
Here are 3 things to keep in mind about your path and God’s directives:
1.  Be inquisitive.  Throughout his life, we see a repeated action:  David inquired of the Lord.  Before most decisions, David would askGod what should be done.  Are you?  Are you goin on experience?  What if God wants to go differently?  Are you goin with conventional wisdom?  What if God wants to be unconventional?  Are you basing your tomorrow on yesterday?
2.  Be sensitive.  Everything in David would have said to attack from the front rather than flank around to the side and back.  We must be sensitive to the leadership of the Holy Spirit as we are guided through life.
3.  Be decisive.  God gave David a specific instruction.  When he heard the sound of marching then he was to act.  Too often, we might hear a word from God and understand it, but we are too timid.  We are too fearful.  God has given us a spirit of power not fear; a spirit of strength not timidity.  It does not matter if your friends and family do not understand.  If God has spoken, then act!

In what ways has God directed you in a unique way recently?  Did you follow decisively?

Little White Lies Never Hurt, Right?

In Gospel Living on July 25, 2017 at 8:45 am

​Whenever Billy would complain about walking the bustop that was 100 ft fromthe house, Grandpa would tell the story of how bad it was when he was growing up.  He would walk up hill to and from school!  He had to walk in 3 feet of snow…in September! 

We laugh at this because we know it is absurd.  However, I wonder how often we embellish a story to make a point, or to impress, or to get that job we want, or to save our own skin.

At the end of 1 Samuel we read how King Saul died in battle.  He was wounded and he fell on his sword.  When his assistant saw that he was dead, he fell on his sword also.  When we read the opening chapter of 2 Samuel we see soeone coming in to David and suggesting that Saul was not dead, but mortally wounded, and at the King’s request, he finished the job.  In his hand were the crown and armband.  He wanted David to have them.  When I read that, at first, I thought something was wrong because there are 2 stories here of the same event.  Which was true?

I know that the Bible is truth and does nto contradict itself.  So I began to consider how there could be 2 stories.  It dawned on me that this man must be an opportunist.  He saw what happened and wanted to secure for himself a better position in the new regime!  So he fibbed a little.  He started with the fact that they were dead.  But when pressed by David on HOW he knew this, he lied.  He assumed David wanted Saul dead.  We know this isn’t true because of the times he refused to kill him even when it would have been easy.  This man thought he could tell a white lie, present the crown and armband, and be ushered into the highest of positions under the new king.

Or so he thought.  

The problem with lying is that you have to tell more to cover the others.  Creating a web of lies that mask the original is tedious and exhausting.  When given the chance, tell the truth and trust God to handle it.  Telling the samllest lie will corrupt your integrity and cause a shortfall publicly.  It is not worth it, ever.  Those white lies that got you the job will come back later.  Those white lies in the beginning of the romance will hurt later.  Those white lies are dangerous.

What about those that we tell to salvage someone’s feelings?  The dreaded question of how a dress looks to a husband can be difficult.  I think we should salvage feelings and not be harsh with people.  If you cannot avoid it, then at least be gentle and kind.  The Bible says to speak truth in love.  We had better figure out how to that or we are sunk!

How have telling white lies harmed you over the years?

5 Steps to Fighting Giants

In Gospel Living on July 20, 2017 at 7:04 am

david_v_goliath

His name was Anthony and we were in the fifth grade.  He had already hit his stride in the growth spurt and was already a little older than the rest of us.  Looking back, I know what was happening, but was completely unaware at the time.  All I knew was that he picked on everyone.  He would slap them.  He would hit them.  He would talk smack.  On one particular day, he focused his attention on the smallest boy in the class.  Incensed, I stepped in and let the victim roll out.  I caught him at an awkward moment and jumped on top.  Somehow we ended up under a table.  I raised my hand and hit the table.  This caused just enough pause that the teacher came in.  Needless to say, the office was the next stop. Anthony didn’t mess with us anymore that year.  The giant had been taken down.

David walked up on the army of Israel when Goliath stepped up and shouted.  This was not just a shout against the armies of Israel, but were shouts against the integrity, power, and majesty of God.  He was calling into question the nature of God and the covenant!  David couldn’t stand it and stepped in to do something.  As you might guess, this is the sling and 5 stones story.  David fought the giant and won.

What major issues are you facing right now?  They loom large, weigh heavy, and cause stress, anxiety, or despair.  Maybe it’s a boss who taunts you.  Maybe it’s a spouse, child, or family member that has disappointed or betrayed you.  Maybe you’re dealing with health issues with your parents, or a child is sick.  Financial limitations stress us out and break marriages.

How do we deal with these problems?  Like the Israelites, we feel hopeless to do anything.  We feel that God’s promises are only true for others.  David, though, believed in the covenant.  He trusted in God’s Word.  He made a choice to fight the giant.  Here are 5 steps to victory:

  1. Consider the situation. David got to a point, quickly, that something must be done.  Until you are truly fed up and ready to act you will lose.  You will be trembling in the trenches like David’s brothers.  But, when you get to the point that you are tired of hearing God’s promises taunted, then you will be ready for victory.  The first thing you must do is consider the situation worthy of the fight.  If it is not worth changing then you need to stop letting it control you.  If it is worth changing keep reading.
  2. Have the courage to step out. David wondered, “Why not me? Why not now?”  Are you there?  Once we decide the problem is worth the fight courage is the next step.  Stop waiting for someone, anyone, to handle YOUR problems.  God has allowed them into your space.  Will you trust?  Will you jump off the ledge of fear and grab onto the courage God’s Spirit has planted within you?  Why not you?  Why can’t you be the change you want to see happen?
  3. Count the cost. David felt that the mocking of God was so critically bad that he was willing to die if need be.  He evaluated the situation.  He stepped up to Saul and pronounced he would handle the problem – HIM.  He was the youngest.  He was the smallest.  BUT, he was willing to die for what he believed.  Are you ready to lose if you must?  What if you lose your job?  Do you trust God?  What if you lose your kids or your spouse?  Do you trust God?  What if you DO lose your life which is very possible in parts of our world today?  Do you trust God?  Count this cost.  If you are not willing to pay the price, stop reading now.  If you are ready, keep reading.
  4. Confidence to speak up in prayer. David engaged in this fight in the name of the Lord, for God’s glory.  Read that again.  He was doing this for God’s glory not his own.  He did receive quite a bit, but only because that was not his aim.  If you want the glory just stop.  You may win but it will be very hollow.  Possibly, you will only trade one issue for another.  Self-made confidence is far weaker than spirit-filled confidence.  David had experience and education, but his real strength was in the relationship he had with God.  Go in that confidence.
  5. Cast your stone for victory. David only used one of the five stones he picked up. I don’t know why he picked five, but he did.  What I notice is that it only took one.  God will use your gifts and talents matched with our courage and pure confidence in God to give you victory.  David achieved this victory immediately.  Those in Hebrews 11 did not all see what they fought for come to conquest, but it did.

God demands his glory.  We are put in situations where that can happen if we have the courage and confidence to fight for the conquest.  As was once shouted, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!”

GO.

FIGHT.

WIN.

 

Experience Victory Today!

In Gospel Living on July 18, 2017 at 8:50 am

The headlines are filled with the issue in the Senate concerning the failure of the majority leaders to pass just about anything they put up for a vote.  Today is no different with the defeat of replacing the current health system in America.  Now they will go back and try something else, such as just repeal it.  Then they will try to figure out how to care for a nation in need of health care and its reform.

Regardless of where you stand on this issue, we CAN identify with defeat.  We have faced it personally and from a distance.  Maybe you have failed a class, failed a marriage, failed at holding a job.  Maybe you have failed at living for Jesus due to habits that will not seem to go away.  Maybe you watched as others failed, or your sports team failed.

We need a victory!  How can we experience victory?

There is an interesting moment in the Old Testament.  The Ark of God had been returned to Israel after the Philistines decided it wasn’t worth serving God to keep it!  The ark has been in Kiriath-jearim for 20 years.  The people apparently did not realize this in the rest of the nation.  They felt God had abandoned them when it was the people who had walked away from God.  Samuel, the prophet/priest/judge for the people brought to them a prescription.

  • Get rid of idols
  • Dedicate yourselves to God

The people agreed to this and gathered at Mizpah to settle the issue.  Look at what they did while they were there:

  • Poured out water as a symbol of clearing their lives of the wrongs in a sacrificial way.
  • Fasted.
  • Confessed.
  • Burnt Offering.

When the Philistines came up to destroy them, God provided victory!

What is coming at you today, this week, or month?  What seems to be attacking you?

If you are experiencing defeat in an area today, consider reviewing this passage in practicing the principles we find there.

What idols do you have in your life?  Is it time to clear the stage of your heart?

As you dedicate yourself to God alone we will follow the pattern we find in scripture:

  • Give praise to God by showing dependence.
  • Fast.
  • Confess.
  • Sacrifice through worship.
  • Set up a memory to refer to how God moved in your life – celebrate it!

God allows us to go through difficult times, often because we made dumb choices!  But there is hope.  As we allow scripture to intersect our lives we can live out the freedom promised by the Gospel!

The More You Know

In Leadership on July 10, 2017 at 8:24 am

The “More You Know” series of PSA’s were produced for NBC beginning in 1989.  Tom Brokaw did the first one.  Celebrities soon followed.  I grew up with Schoolhouse Rocks on ABC in between my cartoons on Saturday mornings.  The purpose was to educate while also grabbing your attention.  The series on NBC was designed around educational awareness.

The truth is that the more you know, the more responsibility you have.

“I told him that I am gong to judge his family forever because of the iniquity he knows about: his sons are cursing God, and he has not stopped them.” 1 Samuel 3:13 

Eli is the prophet in charge at this time.  He knows his sons are doing wrong.  God certainly knows as well.  The problem is that Eli is doing nothing about the situation.  He has grown older and his sons are doing most of the work at this time.  However, that does remove the responsibility that Eli has.  He is supposed to rein them in and enforce the boundaries God established.  He is not doing this and God is going to render judgment on him and his family.

Knowledge is power.  At least, that is what I learned from Schoolhouse Rock! on Saturday mornings.  However, with that power comes great responsibility.

Whether you are in charge of a project, a people, or just one person, here are a few reminders:

  1.  You likely have an awareness of issues.  As I manage the group I do, there are many things I am aware of that others are not.  So do you.  From your perch, you can see the inner workings of people and the group dynamics of your organization.  Eli knew what his sons were doing.  Either because EVERYONE told him or he saw it himself.  Regardless, he knew.  He was aware.
  2. Your awareness is a call to action.  Years ago, a couple was struggling in their relationship.  I asked the husband to step out of his volunteer role for a brief time so they could focus on their marriage.  In the moment, he was very frustrated with me.  Later, he understood.  Eli chose not to do anything.  God judged him for it.  If you know, then act.
  3. Your action will cause a reaction.  Over the years, I have noticed that Newton’s law operates within the scope of human personality too.  Jim was in a position for which he was not qualified.  I asked him to step down until such a time as he was better suited for the task at hand.  He did, but others just could not understand.  The Bible is clear, but our minds are not.

For those in leadership, we must hold fast to what we have in Scripture.  We use our education and experience to navigate, but our north star must be the scriptures.

Your guidance, O Lord, is true and straight.  May we not look to the left or right but keep our eyes on Jesus, our minds on scripture, and hearts filled with love.  Amen.

REJECTED!

In Gospel Living on May 18, 2017 at 8:29 pm

High School graduates all over the world are receiving letters of acceptance or rejection for college.  Every day they sift through the mail in hopes of finding that one letter that says “ACCEPTED”.  No one likes to hear “We reviewed your application, but…”  While rejection is a part of life, it doesn’t make it easier to hear.  Today we look at a moment in Jesus’ life where He faced rejection from those who knew Him through His life.  As you live your life following Jesus, not everyone will accept what you believe.  However, we must walk tall and stay strong!

 

Jesus claimed to be the Spirit-Filled Messiah promised by Isaiah. (Luke 4:14-22)

From the viewpoint of the Pharisees Jesus was making a claim they felt He was unworthy to make:  He was the Messiah!  The reference is from Isaiah and was understood to point to the Messiah.  When Jesus said that the scripture had been fulfilled in their sight, the Pharisees could not believe it!  This was the carpenter’s son from Nazareth.  Philip had asked what good could come from Nazareth.  Yet, here stands this man making a claim of Messiah.

From the perspective of the people, they were excited!  Living under Roman physical oppression and Pharisaic religious oppression, the people were ready to be set free.  They were ready to find relief as Jesus was describing.  But that would soon end because Jesus continued to speak truth, which they did not like so much!

Jesus faced rejection from His people, just like the prophets. (Luke 4:23-27)

There are really only 2 dominate views in this world:  God/Bible and anything else.  For some that will read that statement, you experienced a twinge of agitation.  I believe that even those who AGREE with it face that fractional moment of hesitation because everything around us is expressing a different view.  While some will, like us, say that theirs is the only way, most today give room for all faiths and beliefs to find their way to Heaven.  The bumper stickers of “COEXIST” are far more accepted than those that state Jesus is the only way!

As long as Jesus was talking about economic, political, and even spiritual freedom the people were favorable.  When he narrowed the view that HE was the fulfillment they were furious.  As long as we talk about generic good deeds and thoughts we can all get along.  However, when we begin to speak scripture and narrow the view to the point that Jesus is not just the way, but the ONLY way we will not be favored any longer.  It is critical that followers of Jesus understand and accept this as normal.  Too often Christians have not taken root in the soil of scripture deep enough to withstand drought and heat.  They wither and die off because they are not prepared for such harsh conditions.  It is the church’s responsibility to nourish and prepare them.

There is a story about a landscaper that noticed one of the bushes was not growing they way it should in comparison to the others.  One day the workers came to him about it and he did something they could not believe.  He went and beat that bush with a stick.  He absolutely got after it. Winded he sat down while the workers came and inquired.  Some bushes need a difficult moment to wake up and begin to dig down for the water and life.

So it is with us, too.  We pray for the peace.  We pray for the positive.  We pray for the absence of conflict.  However, you will never grow in those conditions.  The difficult times develop you.

Jesus continued His ministry despite His people’s rejection. (Luke 4:28-30)

Sometimes those who know us best are the hardest to believe in our transformation.  They know our history.  They may have shared in our history of which we are not proud.  For them, a simple statement of change will not be enough.  We must be patient and show ourselves true to the cause.

We cannot get down just because those closest to us don’t want to hear.  We cannot quit just because those closest to us bring up our past problems and failures.  Don’t revel in them, but live in the forgiveness of God!  We can shock them when we simply accept what responsibility is ours to own.  Through the difficulty, God can shine.

What Bait Are You Using?

In Evangelism, Gospel Living on May 1, 2017 at 2:39 pm

I remember the Summer of 1982 because that’s when I first learned how to fish.  I had saved up money and purchased a Cardinal reel and an Ugly Stick rod.  We lived in Northern Kentucky at the time and I would go down to the river nearly every day and fish.  One day I went down to the river-fed creek and followed it back into the woods.  I thought I had seen a large fish and was on the hunt.  I began to cast and was not having much luck.  My dad had told me that fishing took a lot of patience…a LOT.  So I just kept casting and coming up empty.

About the time I was ready to give up a man showed up and asked what I was doing.  At first, I was nervous because I didn’t have a license but thought I didn’t have to at my age.  He wasn’t there to check my license.  Instead, he asked where I had learned to fish.  I knew, then, that I was doing something wrong.

YOU HAVE TO HAVE THE RIGHT BAIT.  He came up alongside me with his rods, reels, nets, and tackle box.  I thought I was in the presence of greatness!  He wanted to see what bait I had at the end of the line.  I showed him.  I was using my newest bait and it was beautiful….to me.  The problem was, he explained, was that what was beautiful to me wasn;t to that large mouth bass I was looking for.  In fact, if I wanted to catch crappie it would be great.  But, if I wanted to catch bass I had to use different bait.  He pulled a lure out and showed it to me.  He exchanged my lure for his on my line.  This was the right bait for the particular fish I wanted to catch.

YOU HAVE TO HAVE THE RIGHT TECHNIQUE.  He encouraged me to cast out again.  So I cast the best I could and began to reel in when he stopped me.  He showed me a smoother way to cast.  He also told me that I was reeling in too fast.  Even though fish swim fast, the bait needs to move at a natural speed. I was reeling in so fast that it was useless.  So I cast out again and began to reel in slower.

Then it happened.

There was a bite on the other end.  I pulled back hard and fast.  The man behind me began to laugh as the lure soared over my head and landed on a branch above my head.

YOU HAVE TO HAVE THE RIGHT TEMPO.  I was pulling too fast.  If the fish was just nibbling I scared him and me both.  If the fish was actually gulping the bait I likely ripped the hook through his mouth.  Again, not effective.  The man told me that I want to set the hook instead of yanking it back so hard.  I need to just pop my wrist a little and then wait.  During the reeling in process, I needed to take it slow.  It was a dance.  I would reel in and let out.  All the while, the fish was getting closer to me.

Jesus told Peter to follow Him and he would make him a fisher of men.  He is making us fishers of men too.  We must learn what I did years ago.  We need the right bait to catch a particular fish.  Bass, crappie, cat all like different things.  I needed to bait my hook with what would attract them.  How we present truth does depend on our audience.  The way I speak to a 6-year-old is different from a 16-year-old and is different still for a 46-year-old.  In the same way, our bait will be different based on to whom you speak. Casting and reeling take practice.  So does sharing the Gospel.

Casting and reeling take practice.  So does sharing the Gospel.  We have to work at the process to find the smooth approach.  We want the bait to slip, rather than splashes, in the water.  One is inviting and the other is not.

Be patient.  People will come and go.  Others will nibble.  Others will bite.  In every instance, be patient.

I went home that day with an 8-lb bass.  I have caught many fish since then, but none that big!  Keep fishing my friends.

 

God’s Not Dead and Not to Blame

In Gospel Living on March 30, 2017 at 10:12 am

Newton discovered 3 laws of motion.  Whether you remember those or not, you use them every day.

  1. A body at rest tends to stay at rest until a force acts upon it.  A body in motion tends to stay in motion until a force acts on it.
  2. Force = Mass * Acceleration
  3. For every action, there is an equal and opposite action.

In each of these resides the idea of consequence.  If I want the result of an object to be in motion, then I apply a force to it.  The same if I want something to stop.  Every action has an opposing action.  If I push on a shoebox it “pushes back” in the sense of grip and friction and gravity.  When my force supersedes the force of those forces then the box moves.

We live through these every day.  In fact, you are who you are because of the combined set of choices and events in your life.  You are where you are because of the combined set of choices and events in your life.

We can look through scripture and see this cause/effect:

  1.  Adam and Eve made a choice and had to face the consequence of being banned from Eden.
  2. Cain made a choice to murder and faced the consequence of exile.
  3. Israel made the choice to not cross the Jordan and everyone over 20 died while wondering in the wilderness.
  4. Moses struck the rock instead of speaking to it and did not cross to the promised land.

Then the lord said, “I will pardon them as you have requested. But as surely as I live, and as surely as the earth is filled with the lord’s glory, not one of these people will ever enter that land.

— Numbers 14:20-22

Many people believe that when God forgives he should also remove the consequences in their lives.  Look closely at the words of God in the passage above.  He pardoned them, which means the associated guilt is removed.  However, the consequence would remain..

Just because you have placed your faith in Jesus for the first time does not mean that all consequences will be removed from your life.  Many times, God allows them to remain for us to remember.  Jesus told the man who had lain on a mat for 38 years to take his mat with him.  Your cancer, your bankruptcy, your nightmare of a marriage and family are all products of choices you have made.  Those might lessen in time, but things could also get worse before getting better.

What am I suggesting?

There are 3 laws of spiritual motion we must remember.

  1. Law of Covenant.  Once you are in the family of God, you will remain there.  It doesn’t mean God will like every choice you make.  In fact, you will be disciplined in rebellious decisions.  Yet, you will still be in the family.  If you sincerely and honestly placed your faith in the action of Jesus’ death and resurrection as payment for your life then you are in the family and nothing takes you out of the family.
  2. Law of Consequence.  God does not always remove the results of our choices.  The alcoholic still might have liver failure.  The smoker might still get lung cancer.  The years of fighting might still result in a divorce.  Don’t blame God for your problems that you created through choices.  Our issues are our fault, not God’s.  The randomness you feel is simply a chance to trust.  When it doesn’t make sense will you trust Him?
  3. Law of Causality.  The rule here is that the allowance of God does not equal the action of God.  God might allow things to happen, but not be the cause of them.  For example, the argument is that if God really was love then there would be no hate int he world.  If God was really all-powerful He would stop the evil.  If God was really compassionate, then children would not have diseases.  The reality is that humanity is the cause of these terrible, awful, no-good things!  We brought evil into our world and perpetuate it with our choices.  God has given us free agency to make decisions.

With each choice, consider your decision carefully.  God gives wisdom to those who ask.  He provides direction to those who seek His help.  He also lets us fail if that is what we choose.

Choose wisely, my friend.

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