Aaron Summers

Archive for the ‘Gospel Living’ Category

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.

Who Am I?

In Gospel Living on March 21, 2017 at 12:48 pm

There seems to be a growing media attention toward those who are gender neutral or gender confused.  While on the treadmill the other day, the TV in front of me had the Ellen Show on and I was intrigued with the captioning I was reading.  The person being interviewed desired to be considered gender neutral.

From a Biblical perspective, there is no neutral.  God created them male and female. However, I feel we don’t fully understand the effects of the Fall.  When sin and evil entered, there was more than just a problem with Adam and Eve.  The whole universe “fell” into an evil situation.  With that said, we are now faced with further consequences of this and each generation progresses.

Today we wake up to a world of desired neutrality where some want us to disregard genetics and focus on how we feel.  We are called to be kind and loving in the name of Jesus, but we do not have to agree on this.  May we share the truth IN LOVE as Paul told the Ephesians.  There is no room for hate in this arena, but the design was to be male or female based on body mechanics.  A desire to be someone or something else is a result of the fallen nature of humanity that only Jesus can remedy.

7 Prayers of a Wise Heart

In Gospel Living on February 16, 2017 at 11:28 am

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  1. Lord, purify my mind, my heart, my voice, and my hands. May you bring innocence to my life once again.  Make me holy and right in your sight.  Cause my mind to wander into your presence.  Create in me a clean heart, O Lord.
  2. Lord, free me from anxiety. In the mess in which I live, help me see your path to peace.  Help me to lay my burdens at your feet and then leave it there.  I cannot always fix what is around me, but I can let you fix my heart during the storms.  Create in me a calm heart, O Lord.
  3. Lord, free me from legalism and the hurt it causes others. Help me to see others as you do.  Help me to know the situation before casting judgment and spewing criticism.  Help me be gentle, not lenient, in my dealings with others.  Create in me a considerate heart, O Lord.
  4. Lord, adjust my mind to be open to you. Help me to be willing to listen to your Word and adjust myself to its demands.  Help me to be submissive to your ways and not my own.  Create in me a compliant heart, O Lord.
  5. Lord, may I produce the good, good fruit of mercy to those in need. Help me to see the need.  Help me to meet the need.  Help me to be kind.  Let my actions show concern, even if I don’t feel they deserve it.  Create in me a compassionate heart, O Lord.
  6. Lord, free my judgements from prejudice. Help me to live out the truth that you created all mankind and we are all equally guilty of sin and in need of a Savior.  Help me to see beyond the outside and sense the heart of a person.  Help me to shed the hypocrisy I have clothed my life with by allowing the culture to drive my belief and behavior.  Create in me a consistent heart, O Lord.
  7. Lord, let my life be an open book for all to read and see your great love and life. May I be sincere in my words and deeds.  Help me to be authentic.  Help me be genuine.  As you call me to love, laugh, and live may it be real.  Remove all the fake from my life.  May it be burned off as dross from silver to reach purity once again.  Create in me a committed heart, O Lord.

But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.

James 3:17-18

I Love My Church

In Church, Gospel Living on January 21, 2017 at 11:11 am

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Here are 5 actions and prayers your church needs to become more like what Jesus has envisaged.

God, place in me the desire to love my church in the way YOU see fit.  Father, help me:

  1. To see her be spiritually fit. What do I need to do to be spiritually fit?
  2. To see her function with excellence. What part do you want me to fulfill?
  3. To see her financially stable. Help me reach my tithe and joyfully give more as you lead me.
  4. To know what Jesus finds in her. Am I where I need to be in relationship to you, O Lord?
  5. To see her be a healthy family. Help me to lead in unity and love for our family.
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. Psalm 139.

Why Are You Waiting?

In Chrisian Life, Gospel Living on January 9, 2017 at 12:14 pm

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My Dad was 17 when he first felt the call of God to preach.  He delayed that call.  He went to the Air Force.  He married, had a son, and served in the church.  At 40 God awakened him to the reality that he was supposed to be doing something else.  23 years he had been doing good but not best.  23 years of ministry that God could have worked mighty deeds in and through but can never be regained.

The children of Israel listened to the surrounding voices instead of God’s.  They lost 20 years of ministry that the temple could have offered not only to them but the surrounding nations and traders that passed through daily.  Though they worshiped at the altar, it fell short of the total expression.

Friend, to which voice are you listening?

It’s like the story told of an Indian being baptized into Christ. It didn’t take long though for this Indian to fall away. The preacher went to see this Indian and he asked why he had not been faithful in his living. The Indian replied, “It’s like I have two dogs in me and they are constantly fighting each other. One dog is good and one dog is bad and the bad always wins.”

The preacher asked, “Why do you think the bad dog always wins?”

Thinking for while, He answered “I guess I feed him more”

We must feed the voice of God for us to experience victory.

In the last moments before Jesus went back to Heaven, he told the listeners they would be equipped to bear witness to the whole world about the good news.  As they stood staring into the sky, the angels asked, “What are you waiting for?”

God is messaging you.  What are you going to do?

 

When God Brings Change

In Gospel Living on December 5, 2016 at 3:14 pm

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Daniel opens in a radical way.  We read that God has permitted the pagan king to sack Jerusalem (the City of God) and remove temple artifacts and tools for use in his own temple worship.  This is most undesirable and despicable from a Hebrew’s perspective at that time.  The whole covenant with Jehovah was centered, in their mind, around the land and the temple.  God is permitting both to be pillaged and plundered.  It was not God who quit on the deal, but Judah.  If you read Isaiah 1:11-20 you will discover three reasons why God allowed this MASSIVE CHANGE to occur.

  1. Disobedience through idolatry.
  2. Disregard for the spirit of the law.
  3. Disrespect through passionless worship and routine sacrifice.

We have all experienced change.  Some have experienced massive change.  In my lifetime, I have seen massive technology, developed space programs, fall of communism, incredible health breakthroughs, and more.  I cannot imagine what it was like for my grandparents!  While change affords us many things, there is no doubt that it can be uncomfortable, uncompromising, and even uncivilized!  Daniel and his friends were drug off from home, saw the total destruction of their way of life and watched as those hideous Babylonians entered the sacred temple.

We, like they, have experienced a changing culture.  However, before we rail against “culture” we must understand what it is.

Culture is “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.”

We all make up our culture.  For the follower of Christ, it is less about screaming at the culture and more about transforming the culture in which we have taken part in shaping. For some, you can identify with Daniel and all of the newness he experienced:

  1. New Location
  2. New Language
  3. New Literature
  4. New Law
  5. New Tolerances Demanded
  6. New Allegiance Desired

I don’t have to go into detail here.  I am sure you get what is happening.  Many of us are being criticized for not accepting a similar newness in our life.  While we look at our world with a disdain, let us remember that it is becoming what we are allowing it to become.  Christianity has become slack.  We rested on the laurels of the last century; refusing to adjust.

What do we do?

Niebuhr wrote that we have several options when it comes to Christ and the culture.

  1. Embrace it (Christ in Culture) – somehow we are to just find the positive in everything and attribute it to Christ.  The problem with this method is that there are intolerable actions taking place when compared to scripture.  We cannot just flow through with emotion.  There is a foundational element called the Word of God.  It is our prime directive.
  2. Separate from it (Christ above Culture) – here we would see Christians retreating from all things worldly.  This group feels the world is so bad that Christians cannot get dirty in it.  Many here will feel they are above the “culture” rather than remembering they are a part of “culture’s” development by their very presence.
  3. Transform it (Christ the Transformer of Culture) – this view sees Christians proclaiming the Gospel in such a way that it begins to shape the conscience of our neighborhoods.  Therefore, it is presented pout of love for people rather than hate for actions.  We must bow to Jesus as he pursues people in His way and His timing.  We will practice the Gospel so that it becomes second-nature in all areas of our life.

 

I believe we see Daniel embracing his new reality and attempting to transform the culture around him rather than just complaining.  May we do the same.  May we go and transform who and what we can!

The Tyranny of Power and Pleasure

In Gospel Living on November 16, 2016 at 10:43 am

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John had 2 sons.  He brought them in and gave them the chores for the day.  Seth agreed to do it but thought his dad was pretty dumb.  There was a better way to do things, if only he had the authority.  Ethan looked at the list and was so mad because he had already made plans with his friends that day.  He left shouting about how bad of a life he had at home.

John left for a couple of days.

Seth interpreted this list as one way of doing things.  He added all his thoughts and came up with a different plan.  He erased some items.  He rewrote other items.  He worked hard at coming up with a plan to get around John’s plan.  Seth forgot his position.  Seth forged ahead in his own direction.  He ran up on hard decisions he was unprepared to handle.  He had worked so hard only to find that nothing was going right.  He screamed and hollered at those in and around the house.  He stomped and snorted.  He demanded the heads of the cat and dog because they were not acting right.  He wanted his sister sent off to a boarding school because she was not living up to standards.  In the end, he thought he had done the chores but had not.  He turned everything into a legal affair.

Ethan left in a huff.  He went off with his friends to the party that had been planned.  He knew John would not approve, but who cares?  He wanted to do this and it was his life; his right.  He threw back a few and lit up the blunt he was given since this was a 420 friendly party.  It was such poor quality that he got sick soon after.  He threw up.  Everything was spinning.  He gut was wrenching.  He broke out in a cold sweat.  He ran into problems he was unprepared to handle.  It was then he realized the direction he was going wasn’t good.  In fact, the chores didn’t look so bad after all.  He laid on the cool tile a little while longer and then went home.  He snuck in the back door.  Dad wasn’t home yet.  He got his chores done.

John arrived home the next day.  Which son do you think he praised?

I Want a New Drug

In Gospel Living on November 3, 2016 at 8:16 am

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The 80’s were filled with musicians singing about life and love.  Through breakups and breakdowns that make Taylor Swift seem normal, we came through a wonder-filled time of life.  Huey Lewis made famous the song for which this article is titled.  Here are the lyrics.

He wants something that can make him feel like he does when he is with his girlfriend.  He wants to feel that magic.  He wants to feel his heart racing in romance and love.  Has your relationship with God ever been a pulse-pounding, exciting, can’t-wait-to-be-together relationship?  We don’t think about God that way do we?  We don’t consider loving God in an exciting way.  We view our love for God in much more reasonable ways.  Have we ever considered that our  lack of power spiritually and the spiritual atrophy in our churches could be a result of a lack of passionate love for and with God?

In Psalm 85, I sense that the writer WANTS a fresh inflow of the life, love, and power of God.  The term I will use today is “revival”.  I DO NOT mean a series of 3 days, 7 days, or 14 days of meetings where a speaker and musician come to guide us through.  What I am discussing today is our individual and personal responsibility toward experiencing a renewal and restoration of our lives, our churches, our cities, and our country.  America can only be great again by the power of God.  A choice for hope is a choice for Jesus.

What must be done?

  1. We must confess our need for revival.
  2. We need to accept the historical reality of revival.  In the first 3 verses of the Psalm, the writer lays out 6 items of historical reality.  A study of these words reflects wonderful insights into the heart and character of God.  God poured refers to taking pleasure in bringing a blessing to His people.  God restored refers to bringing His people back to the original position with Him.  God forgave refers to His lifting and carrying away of the guilt.  God covered refers to the act of removing something from view by placing between the two (That’s Jesus!!).  Holding back refers to gathering back and letting something die, while keeping back refers to turning away from.  The writer wants us to see that, in the past, God has removed the heat of his anger and turned away from it so that we could enjoy a season of refreshing and renewal.
  3. We must recognize who brings revival.  When we look to man, we get what man can do. When we look to money, we get what money can do.  When we look to an organization, we get what organization can do. When we look to denominations, we get what denominations can do.  When we look to God, we get what God can do.
  4. We must pray for revival.
  5. We must tear our hearts for revival.
  6. We must remove the obstacles to revival. This indicates fellowship, walking with God, agreement with God (Amos 3:3) –- being right with God. The greatest barrier to revival is sin. Are you right with God? Is there sin in your life? Are you living in disobedience to the Lord? Face up to this!  Many years ago D. L. Moody heard Henry Varley say, “The world has yet to see what God will do with one man who is fully surrendered to Him.” Moody said, “By God’s grace, I’ll be that man!” Will you be another? Will you begin now to pray the same prayer for your church, that the world may see what God can do?
  7. We will then enjoy the fruit of revival.  The rest of this Psalm expresses the wonderful fruit from revival.  Just read it for yourself!
8I listen carefully to what God the lord is saying,
for he speaks peace to his faithful people.
But let them not return to their foolish ways.
9Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him,
so our land will be filled with his glory.
 
10Unfailing love and truth have met together.
Righteousness and peace have kissed!
11Truth springs up from the earth,
and righteousness smiles down from heaven.
12Yes, the lord pours down his blessings.
Our land will yield its bountiful harvest.
13Righteousness goes as a herald before him,
preparing the way for his steps.
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