Aaron Summers

Posts Tagged ‘Gospel’

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.

 

Why Are You Waiting?

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

timeandtide

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

walk-the-line

 

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!

Don’t Move!

In Gospel Living on October 24, 2016 at 9:14 am

 

4344035767_b86ce883a0_oSo, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.    1 Corinthians 15:58

Clemson defense had been tried and tested through the game but was immovable when it counted.  Louisville tried 4 times and could not score at the end of the game.  That kind of strength we demand from our defense.  That kind of immovability is what we desire from them!

Be strong – pertaining to being firmly established in one’s position or opinions—‘firm, steadfast, unwavering.’ ἀδελφοί μου ἀγαπητοί, ἑδραῖοι γίνεσθε ‘my dear fellow believers, be firmly established’ 1 Cor 15:58; εἴ γε ἐπιμένετε τῇ πίστει τεθεμελιωμένοι καὶ ἑδραῖοι ‘if, indeed, you remain well-founded and established in the faith’ Col 1:23.[1]

Immovable – pertaining to not being readily shaken in one’s opinions or beliefs—‘firm, unshaken, steady.’ ἑδραῖοι γίνεσθε, ἀμετακίνητοι ‘be steady, unshaken’ or ‘… not wavering in belief’ 1 Cor 15:58.[2]

When we think of SOMETHING being immovable we rack our brains, hire engineers, and figure out how to move something.  However, when we consider SOMEONE to be immovable we can get hateful unless they are on our side of the line.

Paul is writing to a church who is strong but movable on certain items.  He calls them, and us, to be immovable when it comes to the truths of the Gospel.  They were in a moment in time when they could be killed for being immovable.  Yet, Paul calls them to that level of faithfulness to God.

We are called to no less.

There are points that matter and those that do not.  Here are a few that DO NOT matter as much.  In other words, those beliefs we argue and divide over that are not primary to the expansion of God’s Kingdom through the expression of the Gospel.

  • Wine or Juice during Communion
  • Your millennial position
  • Your musical preference
  • Your Bible version preference
  • Your dress code
  • How your group chooses to accomplish missions
  • Your political party

The denomination to which I belong and serve God through has, over the years, made mountains out of some molehills.  While I have my positional arguments for some on the previous list, we must be careful in our presentation and movability.

Through 1 Corinthians 15, Paul expresses the important things. Here are points that MATTER MOST:

  • Mankind is sinful by nature and eternally separated from God.
  • Jesus is God and God’s Son.
  • Jesus was born of a virgin.
  • Jesus was sinless.
  • Jesus lived a real life in the flesh.
  • Jesus died an actual painful death.
  • Jesus was dead and buried.
  • Jesus was bodily resurrected by God Himself.
  • By faith in Jesus’ activity, we are forgiven.
  • Our earthly bodies will be transformed into the eternal ones.

Do not misunderstand.  If you hold fast to the important points then you will face difficulty in this life.  You will branded an intolerant elitist.  You will be ridiculed for backward, old-fashioned thinking.  You will be considered an intellectual midget for accepting such items as truth.

We are called to be strong and immovable.  It is not enough to simply be knowledgeable.  We must stand firm too.  We cannot waver.  As God told Joshua when we took over for Moses, do not look to the left or the right.  Be strong and courageous and focus on the things of God.  This sentiment is echoed here and through Paul’s writings.  Be sure you not only know the tenets of scripture but are immovable on the gospel.  We cannot let the arguments of society sway us from what is right and true in the Gospel.

[1] Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, pp. 376–377). New York: United Bible Societies.

[2] Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 375). New York: United Bible Societies.

The Cupcake Gospel

In Evangelism, Faith, Jesus on July 8, 2015 at 2:11 pm

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Once there were 4 beautiful girls Abigail, Emma, Cora, and Gabrielle who lived in a mid-sized kingdom.  They lived in 4 little houses at the end of 4 dead-end streets.  They had good families who were always struggling to make ends meet.  Abigail lived in a pink house but loved all things purple.  Emma lived in a purple house but loved all things green.  Cora lived in a green house but loved all things pink.  Gabrielle lived in a yellow house and loved all things yellow.  On this particular day they each were going to receive a very special gift.

Abigail almost stepped on hers as she was sweeping the dust out of the house through the front door.  She just happened to look down and notice the purple box just sitting on the stoop.  Not knowing what it could be, but knowing it must be for her because it was a purple box at a pink house, she quickly opened the box.  Inside was a gorgeous gift and a note…

Emma woke up frustrated.  She had a bad night and she and her mom were fighting.  She just didn’t think anything made sense and was very overt about how she felt.  EVERYONE in the house knew Emma was in a bad mood.  In fact, most think she was born that way!  She had been doing her chores and griped about them all morning.  She was stomping out of the house when she noticed a green box on the porch.  Knowing it was for her she tore open the box.  In it was a gift and a note…

Cora was returning from the market when she spotted hers.  She had visions of shops and shoes, and lip balm, and anything other trinket she could buy.  She ran up to the box and unwrapped it quickly.  Well, let’s just say she tore it to shreds getting into the box out of excitement!  She lifted the gift out of the box and saw a note…

Gabrielle got up from the flower bed and dusted herself off.  She got a little water from the bucket and washed her hands.  It was time to go inside for lunch.  As she rounded the corner to up the porch steps she saw the box.  A yellow box on a yellow porch of a yellow house might be thought of as invisible.  But this box was the brightest yellow she had ever seen!  She ran to the box and opened it up.  Inside was the most gorgeous gift she had ever seen with a note…

The note had this written on it:

Please accept this special-order, one-of-a-kind, cupcake from the King and Queen.  We think you’re awesome!  We wanted you to know how much we care for you.

Abigail knew exactly what she would do with this gift.  She cleaned off a shelf and dusted it.  Then she placed the cupcake right in the middle of all the trinkets and trophies.  She thought it was so beautiful.  How could she do anything else?  She wanted to admire it in the morning and evening.  She loved the King and loved this gift too.

After reading the note, Emma smashed the cupcake back in the box and threw it in the trash.  She didn’t want anything from the King.  She had heard her parents talking about the unfair decisions and what seemed like poor communications.  Her mom had been sick.  They sent messages to the king but there was no response.  She did not think the King really cared, though we all know he did.

Cora’s head was filled with thoughts of trading this exquisite looking cupcake for so many other things.  She wondered how many shoes she could get, or clothes she could get, or money…She immediately went back to the market.  She was told of a certain shop outside of the kingdom that specialized in such trades.  She planned on going the next day.

Gabrielle sat down and read the note.  Tears welled up in her eyes because she felt the love of the King and wanted to remember this very special day.  She painted a picture to remember this day and then sat down to eat the cupcake.  The cake was so moist and the icing just right with sweetness and fluffiness.  She ate the whole thing, which some would have thought was too much for a little girl.  She was completely satisfied.  No stomach aches after that amount of sweet.  No thirst.  She could still taste it and she was filled with joy and peace.

What each did not know what that there was a big war coming.  The king and queen wanted to protect everyone they could but each person had to decide for themselves.  These 4 little girls were each given a special cupcake.  If it was eaten they could be protected and would be able to remain with the King and Queen in safety.

When the war broke out, Abigail was separated from her gift and from the King.  She lived in misery forever.  Emma had been so mad that she did not eat hers either.  When the enemy broke through the wall near her home she was taken prisoner and never heard from again.  Cora found herself outside the gates making trades.  She had just finished getting several new pairs of shoes that would surely bring her a boy!  Before she made it back she was trapped and separated from the King.  Gabrielle, who had eaten the cupcake was protected by the King and found safety and shelter with them.  She lives in the joy and peace of the castle!

Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the lord laid on him the sins of us all.  – Isaiah 53:4-6

What will you do with this precious gift of the gospel of Jesus Christ? Will you set it on the shelf and decide later?  Will you throw it away? Will you trade it away for something else?  Or, will you choose to place faith in Jesus?

What to Do When Faith and Culture Collide?

In Life and Culture on June 29, 2015 at 6:30 am

BDp20Collision

When we choose to follow Jesus, really follow Him, we put ourselves on a collision course with the culture.  Christian faith and current culture are like oil and water.  They don’t blend well.  When things like #SCOTUS happen or when #POTUS gets executive orders the Christian community gets real fired up.  My friend Andy Harrison stated (tongue in cheek, of course) the following usually happens:

  1. Culture proves itself Godless via political or societal event.
  2. Frustrated Christians begin the airing of grievances.
  3. Calculated Christians drop by Bible Gateway and cut and paste something from Deuteronomy or anything written by Paul that sounds angry.
  4. The Christian Correction Crew start posting, telling all other Christians to shut up, love people and go plant a tree.
  5. Intellectual Christians post a quote by an unknown philosopher that has deep meaning for people who like “How He Loves.”
  6. Sensible Christians hit the power button and go to dinner with their families.

How are we supposed to handle the collision of faith and culture?  How should those who are followers of Christ respond?

27Later, as Jesus left the town, he saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. 28So Levi got up, left everything, and followed him.

29Later, Levi held a banquet in his home with Jesus as the guest of honor. Many of Levi’s fellow tax collectors and other guests also ate with them. 30But the Pharisees and their teachers of religious law complained bitterly to Jesus’ disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with such scum?”

31Jesus answered them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. 32I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.”

When your faith and culture collide remember this,

It is not a time to run away from culture but to run to the culture.  Matthew (Levi) chose to follow Jesus and later held a party for friends to meet Jesus.  How novel!  Instead of retreating into a religious subculture, Matthew made sure that the culture he knew would at least meet Jesus.  In 1608, the Puritans separated to Holland because they couldn’t deal with the issues.  In 1620, they made their way to America.  400 years later we face the same problem.  Will we run away or run to those who need Jesus?

Church leader, it is not time to debate doctrinal statements but weep over the deadness spiritually.  When we choose to follow Jesus and call others to do be sure that it is not a time to learn religious lingo but to love the lost with the Gospel.  Matthew desired to bring everyone together.  He recognized that while he needed to learn more about Jesus his friends needed Jesus too.

It is not a time to burn bridges but to build them.  When we begin to spew hatred and angst we are not reflecting Jesus.  Matthew did not cut ties with his friends.  He leveraged those relationships and influence for the power of the Gospel.  We follow Jesus, not a religion.  Too often when people come into a church fold they lose touch and sight of the lostness of their friends.  They no longer have time for them and are ostracized by church leaders if they do.  How will the lost hear if we cut ties and run?  How will they hear unless someone tells them?  How precious are those who take the gospel to those around them.

It is not a time to judge others by the law (church and tradition) but to love others with the Gospel.  The Pharisees pronounced judgement on these people as “scum”.  I have heard no less of a treatment of political leadership, justices, and humanity that disagrees.  We are called to make disciples of the world.  We get nowhere by anger, hate, and judgement.  The gospel changes people.  Jesus died so that you might be free and help others find that freedom.  Let us not chain them up.

Everything we do is a part of being a witness: job, home, social media, the way u dress, messing around, romance, your speech, it all matters.  We do not get to pick and choose when we are a witness.  We don’t clock in.  You are a witness.

Will you follow Jesus?

How Do I Talk About Jesus?

In Chrisian Life, Evangelism on June 11, 2015 at 9:13 am

Is it too simple?  Have we missed it in its simplicity? The Great Commission is clear.  We are to go and make disciples.  The method by which we do that is fuzzy.  Over the past 2 decades there have been a plethora of models for sharing the Gospel.  Yet, the statistics of my denomination have not adjusted much toward more involvement.  In this information crazed age, we are more educated on how to do it than we are actually engaging in evangelism.

For those who know but have not yet engaged, here are a few pointers to guide you.  EVERY person either goes to Heaven or Hell after death.  There are no exceptions.  EVERY person you know, or come into contact with, is heading toward one or the other.  The only way you going to discover which way is to talk to them.

Yes.  We have to say something.  Our lives are not going to draw people to Jesus without saying something.  Who among us lives so perfectly that people want to know Jesus by watching us.  It is more likely that by watching us people will be willing to listen to us talk about Jesus, as long as our lives are reflecting the presence of the Holy Spirit. 

How can we turn a conversation toward Jesus?

Pray. Ask the Spirit to move ahead of you in the lives of people around you.  Ask that you have discernment to know when to press and when to release.

Pay Attention.  People are more likely to be interested in spiritual matters around life events.  Moments such as births, deaths, birthdays, anniversaries, celebrations, and even sorrows can open up the doors for a conversation.

Listen Carefully.  There are several ways we listen, and most of the time it i not with our heart.  We listen for what interests us more than actually hearing what is being said.  We listen in order to react rather then respond.  If we listen to people with our heart and engage in the conversation is shows love,
Jesus love.  Care about them more than your own need to jump in and solve the problem.  Listen and hear and feel.

Ask Good Questions.  One helpful book is Randy Newman’s Questioning Evangelism.  In this book he gives ways of asking questions in difficult moments and conversations.  I encourage you to read this book.

Be Patient.  Moving people toward a faith decision does not happen immediately.  Sure, there are those moments when it is easy.  However, more often than not it takes time in skeptical and spiritually innocuous world for people to see the need and respond.

With these thoughts in mind, go and make disciples of all the world!

3 Actions That Save Your Family

In Uncategorized on May 14, 2015 at 7:39 am

family

The family is the pivot point of culture.  When the family is strong our culture is strong.  When the family breaks down so does our culture.  From the moment God breathed the words, “It is not good for man to be alone”, the family has been at the center of a strong culture.  Families have always been under attack and today is no different.  In the just the first 12 chapters of the FIRST book of the Bible we see

  • Murder
  • Estrangement
  • Deception
  • Abandonment
  • Affairs
  • Idolatry

The family faces those and many more struggles today.  What’s a family to do?  How can we save our family?  3 actions can can put you on the offensive.

Pin-point your prayers as a family

These prayers have clarity, direction, and focus.  These prayers honor God and are the kind we need to be praying.  Pinpoint prayers are deeply rooted in God’s Word. They have authority because they flow right out of what God has already told us he is willing to do. There’s no guesswork in pinpoint praying. As a parent, you just take the world’s greatest prayer script (the Bible) and use it as your guide for what and how you pray for your kids.  There’s nothing vague about pinpoint prayers. They’re typically short, direct, and to the point. Consider Jesus’s petitions in the Lord’s Prayer. His requests for God’s name to be glorified and for God’s provision, protection, and forgiveness are all very specific and focused. There’s nothing broad or uncertain about them. Pinpoint praying requires you to think through what you want God to do, build the case for it biblically, and then say it in the most precise and deliberate way possible to God. No flowery language, no King James English, and no long or theologically loaded phrases are required with pinpoint prayers. Part of their power lies in their directness.  Pinpoint prayers don’t mess around. They don’t dance around an issue, hoping that God will get the hint and come through with a miracle without us really having to ask for one. Pinpoint prayers walk right up to God’s throne and plead for his best, for his kingdom, and for his favor in our lives and the lives of our children. This is not weak-willed praying. Can you think of any area where boldness, courage, and faith are more appropriate than in prayers for your family?

Prioritize your needs as a family

Our calendars can be our dictator.  We run from event to event and are exhausted by the end of the week.  One reason families are not making it to church is exhaustion.  There is a sense of need for being together, having a slower morning, or just sleeping!  Of course, that is not to mention the event schedule that happens later!  In an tempt to provide for our families, especially the kids, opportunities we never had, we are going to extremes.  Focus on what is truly important more than the urgent screams of your calendar.  Items like shelter, nutrition and protection rank at the top and are hardly worth mentioning.  Did you know that the amount of sleep of child needs actually increases as they hit adolescence?  Your JH or HS child actually needs close to the same amount of sleep that a toddler needs.  Unfortunately, during these years we are too busy to worry about sleep!  Yet one thing looms but goes unnoticed.  The spiritual development of the family is crucial to tackling the issues of our day.  If we are not grounded in solid Bible study, spiritual challenge, and accountability families run an extreme risk of breakage during the trying times.

Present the Gospel through your family

We have been called to be salt and light.  This works as a family also!  You may have distinct concern for your kids to know God and trust in Jesus.  Did you know that there is more to do?  Salvation comes by faith alone.  But our mission to reach others too.  We have been crafted by God for good works.  Living out your mission as a person and as a family unit makes the difference.  God, who is already at work, invites your family to join in this work to reach the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  God’s love and grace propels us to such destiny.

 

May we leverage our lives and families for God’s glory through prayer, priorities, and presentation.  Live on mission where you are right now.  Intersect the culture with the Gospel!

Sitting in Ashes May Save Your Life

In Gospel Living, Life and Culture on February 18, 2015 at 7:11 am

ashwednesday

The annual service on Ash Wednesday usually concludes with one receiving an ash cross on the forehead or hand, depending on the faith tradition you follow.  Ash Wednesday is not in the Bible, but the use of ashes is common.  In Biblical times people would sit in ashes as a sign of humility, sorrow, and repentance of sin.  The act of doing this did not remove their sin, but it was an outward symbol of the contrition of their heart and desire to receive God’s mercy.  While you see this in a national sense, such as Nineveh, you also see it personally in the life of Job.  In His rebuke of a few towns, Jesus mentions that others towns in history would have responded with sackcloth and ashes instead of disrespect.

Ash Wednesday is 40 days, not counting Sundays, before Easter.  The number 40 has a long history in scripture.

40 days of the flood
40 days spying the Promised Land
40 years in wilderness for lack of faith
40 days of temptation for Jesus

What do we do on Ash Wednesday?  Isn’t this just some Catholic thing?  I have been asked that on several occasions.  Actually many denominations that follow a litany will have an Ash Wednesday service.  So why would anyone else?  Let’s look at the process of this type of service and how it can benefit our lives.  During the service you would hear from scripture, such as Psalm 106 to remind us of our sin and need to confess and be purified by God.  This particular Psalm recounts the mighty acts of God and the forgetfulness of humanity about those mighty acts.  After recounting Israel’s history, the Psalm closes like this:

47 Save us, Yahweh our God,
and gather us from the nations,
so that we may give thanks to Your holy name
and rejoice in Your praise.

48 May Yahweh, the God of Israel, be praised
from everlasting to everlasting.
Let all the people say, “Amen!”
Hallelujah!

Psalm 106

Now, what if we were to recount our personal history of how God provided and protected?  What if we were to annually remember the mightiness of God and the forgetfulness of ourselves?  In those moments, we would confess to God how we have sinned, repent of that sin, and turn back to God.  As a reminder, we would be encouraged to “give up” something until Easter as a sign of sincerity.  This sign would also serve as a reminder to us of our decision to repent and walk with God.  Obviously we are not to proclaim publicly what our decision would be.  Jesus clearly teaches on this as Matthew 6 records for us.

Ash Wednesday can be very helpful in our relationship with God because it encourages a spiritual catharsis.  Whatever we continue to harbor in our lives raises the spiritual toxin level.  Empty yourself before God and allow His Spirit to fill you.

Freedom’s Not Free

In Life and Culture on November 11, 2014 at 10:09 am

I heard this song years ago and it is true.  The freedom’s we enjoy seem free to us, but actually have a heavy price.  On this day annually, we celebrate and remember those who have fought and died for the freedom’s we cherish.  I have family and friends that have served, with some still serving.  Several years ago, I preached a sermon series concerning the brotherhood of Christians in this spiritual war.  We interviewed several veterans for clips and found them to be so touching!  These men and women have seen and experienced things they cannot talk about even today.  The atrocities of war have so indelibly marked their soul that one even felt the hope of salvation was possibly breached because of fulfilling the duties of the commander!

Thank you to those who have served.  Whether in war or peace, you have provided for our protection and freedom.  You have allowed us to enjoy life beyond our imagination.

Thank you to those who now serve.  You hold high the banner of freedom over us and may we never take that for granted.

Let’s remember a few tips every time Old Glory is raised and the anthem is played:

  1. Stand up. I don’t care if you just got situated with your drink and nachos.   I really don’t.  Please rise and honor that which has stood for freedom…YOUR freedom.
  2. Take off your hat. I realize we live in a casual culture, but your hat hair will not adversely affect the playing of the national anthem or honoring the symbol of the flag.
  3. Put your hand over your heart. To me, this is a sign of respect and allegiance.  I would never put country above God, but let us recognize that we have something special and should give ourselves to it as good citizens of Heaven and this World.
  4. Either sing or be quiet. Let’s stop having conversations during this time. It is 2 minutes, it can wait.  Unless you are training up your child, either sing or be silent.  Those who have died or been forever maimed as a result of service are due the respect of our silence.
  5. Hold accountable those who refuse to do so but demand millions of dollars from us whether they are in professional sports or the White House.
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