Aaron Summers

Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

I Doubt It

In Gospel Living on October 26, 2017 at 10:34 am

Doubt.  It can get the best of us at times.  We have all been through it in one way or another.  What are some things about which you have doubted?  For me, I have doubted much in my life.  However, I have also been reassured at every turn.  In his book, The Thomas Factor, Gary Haberman shares 3 types of doubt:

  1. Factual – this is an honest questioning of the truthfulness of subject.
  2. Emotional – this is an honest feeling usually based on circumstances.
  3. Volitional – this is a choice one makes to doubt, or mistrust, a person or subject area.

As I look at this, I recall how I have doubted in each of these categories.  Haven’t you?

  1. I was taught that Columbus discovered America and was a great man. However, my kids are being taught something radically different.  Now I have factual doubt.
  2. After having interviews with different organizations that failed to produce a job, the next interview was hard for me to believe (doubt) would end any different. Based on experience, I doubted.  I didn’t feel it.
  3. I hated President Reagan. I chose to believe nothing good was going to come from his leadership.  I doubted, by choice, in his ability.  Jimmy Carter was a Christian so he had to be the better president!  This rose out of what my Dad being fired while on strike in 1980. I was 10.  However, in review, I have matured and realized many more things.  At the time I had volitional doubt.

I would encourage you to examine how you have doubted over the years.  Once done, we must now move to our faith.  Thomas doubted and we often rake him over the coals.  If we are honest, we have done the same thing!  The question is one of which type of doubt did he, and you, have?  I believe he had a mixture of factual and emotional.  He SAW Jesus die.  He was PAINED over the death.  He needed to SEE Jesus to really believe.  He was not going to take someone else’s word for it.

Is that really so bad?

Jesus didn’t think so either.  He showed up again and addressed Thomas’ concerns.  He addresses yours too!  The challenge is to believe.  We might not see any way for an issue to resolve or a person to come through.  However, that which is impossible to us is not impossible for God.  Ask Mary!

As we investigate the facts.  As we evaluate our emotions.  As we examine our choices.  The response we need it faith.  Thomas expresses this faith and does so publicly.  It is one thing for us to be convinced of something and God confirms it.  We might privately confess this but it seems we are being encouraged to go public.

Why?

Throughout the Gospels we see Jesus encounter people for a variety of needs.  In many cases, he calls them to a public confession/announcement of what has happened.  Most famously is the woman with the issue of blood.  She touched his robe privately.  He asked who touched him publicly.  The apostles did not know what he was doing.  However, Jesus was calling for this woman to a state of courage.  He knew who did it.  The question was not one of ignorance but a call for confession – publicly.  She wanted to believe, but a kernel of doubt remained.  She touched his robe HOPING something would happen.  Did she not just ask, like all the rest, because she doubted?  Quite possibly she had emotional doubt.  Jesus met her in her greatest need and helped her to progress in her doubt to belief.

May we be public in our belief.  So all the world will know Jesus saves!

Letting Comfort Trump Your Calling

In Gospel Living on August 4, 2016 at 10:28 am

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Pastor Brandon and Sarah, with little Rachel, had answered the call to New Hope.  He packed up and brought his family to the new town and church to invest his ministry into the lives of those in this sleepy suburb.  Located right off the 490 just a few miles from downtown, this quaint place offered so much of what he and his wife had been looking for.  After a couple of years, they had their second baby, Thomas, and life was awesome!  Their house was full but enough for the needs.  They had done quite a bit of painting and making the house their own.  The church was experiencing growth and a fresh input of families.  The energy in worship was catching and the community was enjoying the presence of the church and her pastor.  They loved what God had done for them and were quite satisfied with the life given them.

Then God spoke.

It wasn’t so much an audible voice as it was an internal nudge.  Brandon thought it was just the ministry culture urging him to move on and he ignored the feeling.  The nudge became more prominent and Sarah began to feel it too.

What is he supposed to do now?

Why would God be speaking right now?

What in the world could be going on?

He knew they didn’t make loads of money, but they were satisfied.  They love their community.  They loved their church.  They were happy.

They had grown comfortable.

In the book of Ezra we find him leading a group back to Jerusalem.  The nation has been exiled to Babylon for a number of years.  Now, they were being allowed to return to do the work of restoration to the temple, the city, and their covenant relationship with God.  A peculiar verse popped up this morning as I read,

15I assembled the exiles at the Ahava Canal, and we camped there for three days while I went over the lists of the people and the priests who had arrived. I found that not one Levite had volunteered to come along.

Ezra double-checked his list and reviewed those who had accompanied him on the journey. Why had none of the Levites joined them?

A rabbinic legend says that there were Levites in the group but that none were qualified to carry out temple duties, for they had all bitten off the fingers of their right hands so the Babylonians could not force them to play temple music on their harps. Nevertheless, we should not be surprised that no Levites were in the group of returnees. No doubt a certain amount of prosperity in Babylon and the kind of servile work assigned to Levites did not make it easy to recruit them to return to Jerusalem.[1]

Whether the legend was true or not about them biting off their fingers, the comfort and satisfaction of being in Babylon was a real problem.  The Levites, those whom God has chosen to work in the temple, found it more satisfying where they were than where God wanted them.

Pastor Brandon had to deal with this very issue.  He had to reconcile his feelings with God’s future.

How about you?

Is God calling you to something else?  Is God being heard through the noise of convenience and comfort?  It is too easy these days to stay where we are, even if it is not the best situation, because it is what we have grown accustomed to in our lives.  Let us shake off the shackles that hold us back from serving our great God!

[1] Breneman, M. (1993). Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther (electronic ed., Vol. 10, p. 140). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

Follow Me

In Chrisian Life on June 23, 2015 at 8:22 am

5-01 Follow Me

Follow me.

Anytime someone tells me to follow them I have a host of issues:

  • Why?
  • Where are we going?  Where are YOU going?
  • What good does that do?
  • How long will it take?
  • Just tell me so I can do it on my own.
  • I can’t right now.

At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus would walk up to people and simply say, “Follow me.”  They would drop what they were doing and actually follow Him!  The call of Jesus on our lives today is no different.  He is calling us to follow Him.  Too often we find ourselves trying to lead instead of follow.  In his book, Follow Me, Leonard Sweet lays out for us the importance of following Jesus.  As we go and make disciples, we are to help them follow Jesus.

Too often we compartmentalize ourselves.  We have those who lead, those who think they should be leading, those who aspire to lead, and everyone else.  We focus on putting people in charge.  We focus on positions and power.  We want to run the show.  Our sinful tendencies come out easily in this environment.  God said to follow the directions.  Jesus said to follow Him.

When we get caught up in the rhetoric, we can lose sight of the reality.  Like Lot, Christians get laughed at when they finally speak up about an issue because everyone can see they are no different than anyone else.  Christians, today, have a bad habit of not being followers of Jesus.  We are makers of destiny.  We are political power brokers.  We are Pharisaical monarchs who sit in our luxury palaces of churchdom and try to rule from a distance.

We are not followers.

You are to follow Jesus.  Love God with all you’got.  Love your neighbor by following Jesus, showing Jesus, serving up Jesus.  Help others to follow Jesus.

It’s A Process

In Chrisian Life on August 6, 2014 at 7:15 am

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“6-week old baby runs in Boston Marathon”

“2-year old allowed driving test for license”

“Toddler surprise gold-medal winner at national track and field event”

We read these headlines and assume two things: they came from National Enquirer or Star and they are false.

Why do we believe these to be false?  Because we know that kids of that age could not have accomplished those feats yet.  It is not to say they could not accomplish them later in life, but just not right now.  There must be training, skill and acumen to accomplish such feats.

 It is a process!

You would be right.  The same is true in our spiritual life.  There is a process of growth and development.  We expect, as youth and adults, that we can somehow skip steps and stages.  We don’t have to read our Bible to know God’s plan, we think.  We don’t have to go to church to be close to God, we assume.  We don’t have to live pure lives to receive blessing because God loves us just as we are.  We have come to the false conclusion that purity does not matter, both in action and in vocabulary.  We have come to believe that God does not really care.  He does!

Why are our lives so difficult?  Why do we stumble through decisions?  Why are our families breaking apart?  Why does the money not last?  The answer lies right in front of us.  Our lives revolve around the initiation, development, and maintenance of a relationship with God.

 It’s a process!

Just like our physical development of turning over, sitting up, crawling, walking, and then running we cannot soar with the eagles until we have learned how to fly.  Flying school does not happen in the worship service on Sunday mornings.  Flying school happens during continuing education and lifestyle adjustments.  When we initiated the relationship through faith in Jesus Christ our lives were to be transformed.  This involves two items:  initial change and constant rearrangement.  The initial change occurs when you place your faith in the person and action of Jesus Christ.  The rearrangement is choosing to follow God’s plan for your life.  I choose to rearrange my life so worship, communication, education, serving others, and sharing Jesus become the hinges on which the rest of life is hung.

We work through processes in every arena of life.  Let us make good use of the spiritual processes in place and grow together so that we love God and others more.

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence.  And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge,  and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness,  and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.

Overcomer

In Life and Culture on December 2, 2013 at 11:55 am


So many people I know are struggling!

  • Weight/Body Image
  • Marriage
  • Finances
  • Addictions
  • Obsessions
  • Grief
  • Loss

It is very likely that you, or someone close to you, is struggling with one or more of these  issues.  In my life I have struggled with grief, loss, and sometimes weight control.  In my circle of friends, I have struggled with someone in all of these areas.  It is amazing that such a short list can encompass so many.  How do we become an overcomer?

When we  have lived our lives dependent on someone or something for our identity, image, or self-worth we will struggle.  When we are asked to give it up we can become upset.  The triteness of “just quit” cuts deeply.  In the life of Jesus we find a moment, an interaction, that will help  us define and decide to move forward.  Overcoming addiction, dependency, emotional baggage, and more is possible.

1.  Is your life right now what you want it to be?  Jesus asked the man at the pool if he wanted to be made well.  It seems like a ridiculous question.  Yet, if I am not in a position to admit my need for help I will not find it.  Many of us might answer this question with “NO!”, but fail to act on that understanding.  We continue to wallow in the pain.  We continue to satisfy the obsession/addiction with unhealthy options.  This man had been on a mat for 38 years.  His life was not what he wanted, but he did not have a solution until Jesus offered one.  He wanted to be made well, but did not have the ability to do so himself.  Until we come to a point of acceptance in our inability, we cannot find the joy of Jesus’ ability.

2.  Have the courage to look beyond your past.  Jesus told the man to stand and walk.  You tried diets.  You have tried therapy.  You might have even done rehab.  What I am suggesting is not spiritual rhetoric.  The point is that Jesus healed the man the moment he spoke.  This guy had to look past the 38  years and have believe.  The man could have chosen to remain on the mat, logically concluding that nothing happened.  He could have added up all the years and not believed in the word of Jesus.  Overcoming your current obstacle begins with admitting the problem, but cannot move forward until we believe in what Jesus can, and has already, done!

3.  Embrace what you  have.  This man got up and walked away.  Look at this again.  He got up and walked away!  The same guy who had been lying there for 38 years now got up and walked away.  he had not worked for 38 years.  He had not, probably, seen his family for 38 years.  He was stepping back into society physically as an adult, but socially as a child.  When we break through the obstacles before, and within, us there will moments of rediscovery.  You will not have all the confidence.  You will not have it all together.  Embrace what you do have: a deepening love and relationship with Jesus.

4.  Not everyone will understand.  People will find a problem.  Friends will still have painful memories that you are trying to get beyond.  Family might be distant.  You might hear things like, “You can’t possibly think you can stay clean and sober.”, or “You will never have a normal family life again.”  Two boys were walking to school when they noticed they were about to be late, which was severely unacceptable.  One boy suggests they stop and pray that they would not be late.  The other one suggests running as fast as possible and pray along the way.  Prayer and work go together.  Faith and action go together.  Nobody else has lived your life.  Nobody else knows the decision to trust in Jesus that you have made like you do.

Overcoming the obstacles we face in life is never easy.  Those obstacles are filled with pain, pride, grief, and tragedy.  However, Jesus offered this man a new life.  He offers you one as well.  These steps to overcoming are a great beginning point.  For further understanding feel free to comment or contact me.

Keeping the Faith

In Faith, Life and Culture on November 26, 2013 at 10:40 am

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From Billy Joel to Bon Jovi to the Box Office we have been encouraged to keep the faith.  Billy Joel reminisces about an earlier time.  The video sets him on trial to determine whether he is keeping true to his music, youthful morality, and the message he is sending.  He summarizes his argument in the song stating that, indeed, he had “bad boy” tendencies and had no reason to stop.  Bon Jovi, in this 1992 release, marks a different tone for him and from the Billy Joel argument.  Bon Jovi seems to be seeking a change in his life, though there is no real power in it.  He seems to want to keep the faith, whatever that is defined as, in that which he had been taught as a child.  He is frustrated with societal trends but offers no solution.  In the movie, Keeping the Faith, the writer deals with religion and romance.  He juxtaposes the two and works it out through the 128 minutes.

What does the Bible say about keeping the faith?

There is an interesting dialogue that occurs in John 4.  In this passage, Jesus is thirsty and wants some water.  Unknown to her, the woman at the well is thirsty too.  Through this conversation and the ensuing ones, we see how faith develops and strengthens.  Here are the stages of faith from this episode in Jesus’ ministry.

Scared – The woman has been raised with a certain fear and loathing of Jews.  Being a woman of a certain mind, she also has a problem with men and the way she is treated.  Jesus begins with a simple request that is culturally acceptable and conversationally allowed.  Her response shows that faith and fear are intertwined for a time in everyone’s life.  The moment that you choose to let faith be stronger than fear is the same moment you can move forward.

Skeptical – Jesus talks of water but has no bucket.  She begins to question His sanity, though He is questioning her spirituality!  So often, people move from scared to skeptical.  Fear lingers.  Faith and reason have often been set in opposition.  For some, many questions must be answered before they are ready to move forward.  A recent report reveals that for those raised in church, 85% make a faith decision before 18 if raised in church.  For those not raised in church, obviously they come to Christ must older and in fewer numbers.  Tragedy and transition mark the best times for people and faith.  May we be as patient as Jesus was in this moment.

Saving – Through this conversation, the woman accepts that Jesus is the Messiah.  What does this mean?  It means that she realized and readily accepted that He was to be the ruler of the world and her own life.  She turned away from leading her own life and turned to Jesus.  She left her old lifestyle and forged a faithful new one under the leadership of Jesus.  Have you done this in your life?

Sharing – The woman runs back to town in excitement to tell everyone she knew about the great news she had just received and believed.  Many people believe because of her testimony.  What if she had not shared?  What if she had simply enjoyed the personal moment and kept it private?  What if she has compartmentalized her life and never let others know?  She could not help but share.  The joy and relief she felt was so overwhelming she HAD to tell someone else.  Do you feel this way?  Why or why not?

Secured – The people of the community listen and believe for themselves based on the testimony of the woman.  They believed in Jesus, not the woman, and were excited also.  However, they wanted something the woman had…time with Jesus.  They made their way out and met Jesus.  As a result, they were more secured in their faith.  The woman moved to this point earlier.  Now the others would say they believe more firmly. There is nothing like meeting Jesus!

You might resonate with one or more of these progressive points.  Maybe you are near the top of the list and still wondering.  You are reading this because you know me, or because you found it on a search engine and something led you to stop.  Others of you might have a saving faith but are not sharing it or feel secured.  So many people I know are shaky because they have believed but have ridden the coattails of parents or grandparents.  It is possible that the shaky ones are riding the faith carpet of their teacher or pastor.  Let me encourage you to read the Gospel of John and meet Jesus!  Get secure and keep the faith!

Credo Christia

In Life and Culture on November 5, 2013 at 11:29 am

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The Soldier’s Creed was updated in 2003 to read as follows:

I am an American Soldier.
I am a Warrior and a member of a team.
I serve the people of the United States, and live the Army Values.

I will always place the mission first.
I will never accept defeat.
I will never quit.
I will never leave a fallen comrade.

I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills.
I always maintain my arms, my equipment and myself.
I am an expert and I am a professional.
I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy, the enemies of the United States of America in close combat.
I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life.
I am an American Soldier.

 

When considering the journey we have with Jesus as a follower of Him, there are notable and significant similarities between the Soldier’s Creed and our life in Christ.  Consider this adjustment for Christianity:

I am a follower of Christ.

I am a soldier for Christ and a member of a local church.
I serve God and others and live the Biblical Ethic.

I place God in the center of my life.
I will not accept defeat.
I will never quit.
I will not leave others behind.

I am a disciple, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my Christian gifts, ministries, and administrations.
I maintain my Bible reading, spiritual armor, and personal habits.
I am an expert and professional in what God has called me to do.
I am ready to go on mission, to share God’s love, and to tear down the walls of Satan.
I am a guardian of the Gospel and the Godly way of life.

I am a follower of Jesus.

Tears of Joy

In Chrisian Life on October 16, 2013 at 10:10 am

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4Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negev! 5 Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! 6He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.

Psalm 126:4-6

Our gospel work for God can be brutal at times. This verse reassures. Why might we weep?

1. We weep because of rejection. People might reject the gospel and the resulting reality is eternal death if their mind is not changed.

2. We weep because of relentless opposition. The work itself can take its toll on your body, your family, your marriage, and your job. Yet, when you turned your life over to God, the King, He is now in charge. We weep because the opposition is strong and we are placed in a defiant moment of culture and history.

3. We weep because of replacement. Jesus told the churches that their lamp could be removed or replaced. Many have speculated whether this meant the pastor or the church body. It could be either one or both depending on the severity of the issue. We weep because that process is not easy. We weep because friends and roots have been made.

We are reassured here that though we sow and toil in tears we will harvest in joy. Don’t stop because it is hard. Press on until the job is done.

Hokey Pokey Christianity

In Chrisian Life on October 10, 2013 at 7:55 am

Hokey Pokey

“You put your hands in. You put your hands out.
You put your hands in and you shake them all about!”

Informally, I have studied people in church life for 25 years.  It still amazes me how people act when they come to faith in Jesus.  It also amazes me what we teach people when they come to faith in Jesus.  It is not secret that the church has her own culture, language, and habits.  In essence, the Church is its own people group.  Was this what Jesus had in mind?

When Jesus walked through the Jerusalem IRS office he stopped to talk to a man named Matthew.  In visiting with him, the man got up and walked away with him.  We notice later that Matthew hosts a party where he brings Jesus and his pagan friends into the same space.

What?

We tend to teach new converts to walk AWAY FROM our old lives.  We are to clear away all that old stuff to make way for all the new.  The problem is Jesus did not do this.  We teach new converts, informally, that the only friends they are supposed to have are in the church.  They are to put both hands in.

Once we have alienated them their lost friends, who need Jesus, we retrain them to go do evangelism.  We give them a script and tell them to repeat that to their lost friends until they run screaming into the night or into the arms of Jesus!  They are to put both hands out.

However, they are not to spend too much time with those friends because they might develop “outside” relationships again and “fall away” from the church.  They are to put both hands in and shake them all about.

The problem is Jesus did not do this!  Matthew, at this party, had one hand out to his friends and one hand out to Jesus.  This is the picture we see Jesus encouraging.  If we put both hands in, or out, we turn our backs on the other.  When we reach with one hand each way we are more closely aligned with the life and style of Jesus.

Here’s the church, here’s the steeple…

In Church, Commitment on October 7, 2013 at 9:05 am

Do you remember that little rhyme?

It seems we have lost a few fingers these days!  All across America there is a decline in church attendance.  Conferences, seminars, podcasts, books, and more have been developed to help us overcome this problem.  We offer various styles and times.  We offer suits or sandals.  We offer serenity and sanctity.  However, the decline is still occurring.  Sure there are pockets of places where a church is growing wildly but a closer look would likely reveal that the local churches around are wildly declining too.  In total, there is still decline.

Jesus told the following story.

“A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. 17And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ 19And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ 20And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ 22And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. 24For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’”       — Luke 14:16-24

When you take a look at the reasons for people not coming to this event, they are oddly familiar.

1.  Each had good intentions but did not go.  The invitation went out in plenty of time.  Each of these mentioned  stated they would be there since the Master assumed their attendance.  These responders accepted the invitation and had every intention of going, but they did not.  Good intentions do not produce good results without better involvement.  Do you realize that you have a standing invitation to church every week?  Do you realize that by your faith in Christ you have already accepted the invitation to be a part of His church that gathers in a local building to praise and glorify God?  Do you get to Friday and Saturday with every good intention of getting to church but….just….don’t?

2.  Each had, seemingly, legitimate reasons.  When the servant arrived to tell them it is time each person had a reason for not going.  One had business/work that had to be done.  How often do we let work get in the way of gathering with God’s people where he planted you?  One had personal issues to deal with.  We often acquire possessions that wind up possessing us.  That boat, toy, or other item seems to scream for attention.  There will be other times.  The church will always be there.  Let’s go!  One had family reasons.  It amazes me how much a toddler can disrupt two grown, intelligent human beings!  When family comes to town, the time rolls around and we turn down the invitation.  The extended family didn’t want to go….  Do you think they will rob you blind if you’re gone?  Leave them in bed and get to church.

3.  None seemed to understand the lasting effects.  When children grow up and flake out of church and Christianity, parents by the dozen don’t understand.  I often hear, “I raised them in church.”  Did you?  Getting around to church once a month or so does not constitute raising them in church.  Dropping them off while you go shopping, napping, or getting high, does not count as raising them in church.  One chose what was more pressing.  One chose what was more convenient.  One chose what was more interesting.  Church attendance is not sacramental but it is certainly developmental.  The discipline of attendance is part of the cost of discipleship.  In addition, serving in the local church develops your spiritual life.  Each of these had something else to do and chose to do that other thing.  What other thing is Satan tempting you to do instead?

The best things in life are never free.  Studying the Bible with other believers is not always convenient or comfortable but it is necessary.  Worship with other believers is not always easy or your style , but it is necessary.  Jesus is building His church.  He’s been wondering where you have been.

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