Aaron Summers

Posts Tagged ‘Israelites’

This Means War

In Life and Culture on December 3, 2013 at 9:19 am


I, and many others, have felt this way from time to time.  Maybe it is an old habit you can’t shake.  Maybe it is a sin you can’t stop.  Maybe an addiction/obsession you can’t quit.  Maybe a resolution you broke by Valentine’s Day.  The feeling of defeat is like being unable to take a breath.  There is a truth to be learned: when you want to do good, evil is right there too.  Don’t become paranoid.  However, we must understand that Satan will always be giving you the option, the temptation, to choose evil again.  Especially when you want to choose good, moral, and right things.  Nehemiah left his luxury to attend to the needs of his hometown.  He lamented in the ruins of Jerusalem and was determined by God to rebuild the city.  God wanted this done because the time of exile was almost up and the Israelites needed a place to go.  Nehemiah took the challenge and was obedient to God.  Immediately, there was opposition.

When you want to follow Christ, do not be fooled.  The Devil uses a variety of tactics to keep you from obedience.  In Nehemiah, we find different ways the opposition tried to get Nehemiah to quit.  He did not.  Let’s look at this together.

Ridicule – two men from the region came and began to make fun of what the people were doing.  When you want to choose right, there will be those who make fun of you.  They will say hurtful things in front of other people trying to embarrass you into falling back into old patterns.  Nehemiah prayed.

Threats – these same men threatened them with attack. Threats can be real.  Threats can turn into action.  Mostly, threats are made to attempt to paralyze you.  Nehemiah instructed the people to pray, watch, and work.  It is important that you do not ignore the threats, but also do not stop working your plan toward righteous behavior.

Deceit – a letter was sent to Nehemiah asking him to meet in a particular spot.  Often, we will be faced with people trying to deceive us.  These two wanted to kill Nehemiah.  They figured that without him everything would stop.  If you become so fixated on doing the right thing that you forget the higher purpose to which you were called, you will soon find yourself tired and guilty once again.  Nehemiah did not entertain them.  He stay focused on the job at hand.  You must stay focused on what God has called you to do and developing your relationship with Him.

Lies – There is not to see, but a lot to hear can be a description of many small towns.  The awful part is that when you try to do the right thing those who do not like it will resort to lies.  I have found myself in this spot a time or two, haven’t you?  People will just lie.  Nehemiah denied the allegations and refused to debate the issue with them.  Often we try to exonerate ourselves by debating with the opposition.  Actually, this just fuels their fire because of the attention-seeking disorder many have.  Deny the lie and move on.

Whatever you may be facing, prayer and focus are the answer.  Nehemiah prayed.  He stay focused.  He kept working.  If you are not facing a challenge right now, just wait.  If you are never facing challenges, you might want to evaluate who you are serving.  Your best protection against the enemy is faith in God’s strength and personal integrity.

No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,  neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.  No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:37-39

Would Jesus Have Been In 4-H?

In Chrisian Life, Community, Missional on April 24, 2013 at 8:46 am

Oklahoma 4H

I pledge
my head to clearer thinking,
my heart to greater loyalty,

my hands to larger service,
and my health to better living,
for my club, my community, my country, and my world.

My kids are in 4-H.  Right now they both hold offices in their Jr 4-H chapter.  Every month at the meeting they begin with this pledge.  At the first National 4-H Camp in Washington, DC in 1927, the present 4-H pledge, worded first by Otis Hall, state leader in Kansas, was officially adopted.  The Executive Committee of the Land-Grant College Association had requested Dr. R. A. Pearson, president of Iowa State College, and Dr. A. C. True of the Federal Extension Service to write a pledge, and they had turned in the pledge substantially as written by Hall.  In 1973, the words “and my world” were added.

As I stood there and said the pledge I wondered, “Would Jesus have been in 4-H?”  He probably would have shown sheep or goats and showmanship would have been perfect!  Coming from a carpenter family, his skills in construction would have won something at the fair.  As I recited that pledge I thought of how well each of those parts create an individual that would be honorable.  As Moses was wrapping up his time as leader he spoke to Israel and his words are recorded in the book of Deuteronomy.  One famous line is now known as the Shema from Deuteronomy 6, “4Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. 6 These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. 7 Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

When asked what was most important about the religious law given to Israel, Jesus answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind.”

While the words might be rearranged a little, the same sentiment is seen in the 4H pledge.

I pledge my head to clearer thinking.  The Israelites were told to bind these words to their forehead.  God meant that figuratively to mean that Scripture should be on your mind.  Paul would later write to the Philippians, “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things. (Philippians 4:8)”  Keeping your mind set on Christ generally clears things up!

I pledge my heart to greater loyalty.  Loving God with all your heart means that the passions and desires of your life should be filtered through Scripture more than your friends and followers.  Loyalty does not happen automatically.  it takes time and attention.  Loyalty is a decision.  The wisest of all kings, Solomon, wrote, ‘Never let loyalty and faithfulness leave you.  Tie them around your neck;write them on the tablet of your heart. (Proverbs 3:3)”

I pledge my hands to larger service.  Helping other people can be seen throughout the life of Jesus.  Because of Him, the lame walked, the deaf heard, the mute spoke, the sick were healed, and the hungry fed.

I pledge my health to better living.  The antithesis of this is found when we are breaking the other three pledges.  Even the Psalmist knew there was a certain way of living that brought health and choices that did not.  The Psalmist wrote, “There is no health in my body because of Your indignation;there is no strength in my bones because of my sin. (Psalm 38:3)”  If sin is simply seen as missing the mark, then it is right to think that when our head, heart, and hands are not right then our health will not either.

Would Jesus have been in 4H?  I don’t know.  However, I do think 4H provides opportunities that make better kids.

Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

In Church, Evangelism, Leadership, Missions, SBC, Suffering on December 8, 2011 at 10:08 am

Have you ever noticed how the religious organizations introduce people? I have been in ministry almost 20 years and have noticed a growing trend toward lengthy introductions. It gets worse when it comes to election time for convention leadership, whether state or national. Someone will stand and give a nomination/introduction that is well articulated and respectful. However, we have developed a pattern of what we want and don’t want, haven’t we?

I once asked why, when our state convention is made up of mostly smaller churches, we don’t hear more often from them during preaching times. The answer I received was because that is not who the people want to hear. We want to hear the “Big Boys”. We desire to hear from those who have grown massive churches and can somehow pass along the crumbs to us dogs who are still in the smaller church. We want to listen to creativity and charm. We want, if we are honest, to be them. The same is true, most of the time, for those who receive nominations and elections to positions. I have had the pleasure and honor to serve our state convention though I am certainly not one of the mighty men of the state. I was, and am, grateful for the opportunity. More should serve our convention and help move us along in the Kingdom.

Still, though, as the one who would introduce us to the person approaches papers/cards are pulled out so that all the facts would be on display for us all to hear. Sometimes, for the best and most creative, a powerpoint is produced as well. Their great accomplishments are touted before us: church growth, CP giving, family mindset, etc.

Have you ever heard someone be introduced in the way Paul describes his service to Christ? Notice the question in verse 23 and subsequent answer.

21 I say this to [our] shame: We have been weak.
But in whatever anyone dares [to boast]-I am talking foolishly-I also dare:
22 Are they Hebrews? So am I.
Are they Israelites? So am I.
Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I.
23 Are they servants of Christ?
I’m talking like a madman-I’m a better one:
with far more labors,
many more imprisonments,
far worse beatings, near death many times.
24 Five times I received 39 lashes from Jews.
25 Three times I was beaten with rods [by the Romans].
Once I was stoned [by my enemies].
Three times I was shipwrecked.
I have spent a night and a day
in the open sea.
26 On frequent journeys, [I faced]
dangers from rivers,
dangers from robbers,
dangers from my own people,
dangers from the Gentiles,
dangers in the city,
dangers in the open country,
dangers on the sea,
and dangers among false brothers;

27 labor and hardship,
many sleepless nights, hunger and thirst,
often without food, cold, and lacking clothing.

2 Corinthians 11

If we were to ask how a person was a servant of Christ our answer, sadly, would be different. We would talk about how many people attend. We would talk about how many programs we have started. We would talk about the % giving to Cooperative Program. In this time, we might be so bold as to talk about our Total Missions giving in order to hide the lack of Cooperative Program funds being given. We would hear of the great family and friendships. We would hear, well, we would hear all the things that soothe our passions. We all want church growth, a great family, and friends. We, in the SBC, will shout praises of the man who leads their church on mission and mission giving.

Yet, when Paul speaks of being a servant of Christ, he speaks on different terms. He has been imprisoned, beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, and various dangers. Where are these men? Why do we not have a passion for this type of person? God bless our vocational missionaries in the national and global spectrum who provide us with such resumes and records. However, why do we not hear of this from our pastors, state leaders, and national leadership? We go to various places on vision trips to catch a vision for what we hope to go back and lead people to do. Why? Is the mission set forth by Christ not motivating enough? Are we somehow too seared in our collective conscious that we cannot feel the passion of God to reach the lost? Is Paul too unimpressive for us to follow to the ends of the Earth?

May we seek leaders who have been on the front lines for the Kingdom more than in the administration of it. May we go. May we gather. May we glorify God. In the process, take others with you so that we raise up a generation who will take the gospel to the ends of the earth. We have 6000+ people groups needing the gospel. May we lead our people to those people for the cause of Christ and His Kingdom.

The Head of the Snake

In Accusations, Anger, Control, Decisions, Evangelism, Faithfulness, Family, Grief, Joshua, Suffering, Trust on May 4, 2011 at 9:13 pm

In the movie Karate Kid there is a moment in the tournament where the “bad coach” tells his student to sweep the leg and thus put out Daniel-son.  After that happens and Daniel is in big trouble he returns to finish the match.  When he gets into the crane position and kicks the teeth out of the opponent everyone cheers and rushes the mat.  Everyone in the theater cheers also.  Every time I watch the movie I want to pump my fist that the bad guy was beaten.

This past Sunday night, President Obama stated that Osama Bin Laden had been captured and killed.  Shouts of joy and fists pumping were everywhere!  Headlines and by lines alike were gloating.  Do Americans have the right to be happy about this news?  Yes.  I believe we do.  Do we have the right to over reach and demonize a person, a religious position, and a nation?  No I don’t think we do.

17 Don’t gloat when your enemy falls,
and don’t let your heart rejoice when he stumbles,

18 or the LORD will see, be displeased,
and turn His wrath away from him.

Proverbs 24

It boils down to spiritual sportsmanship.  We teach our children all about this concept.  It is a principle we want.  Your team wins and there is slaps, cheers and smiles.  Then you line up and shake hands and tell the other team “Good job!”  This is sportsmanship.  However, if after the slaps, cheers, and smiles the team were to start taunting the other team this would not be good.  If the winning team began to mock and jeer at the losing team we would be ashamed at their behavior.  I hope!

Is there a different standard for Osama Bin Laden?  No.  Scripture tells us not to gloat.  We are to have spiritual sportsmanship.  Just because the head of the snake is captured and killed does not give us the right to mock and jeer at a people created by God who also share DNA going back to Abraham.  Is his wife any less grieving?  Is his family any less hurt?  Are they any less human?  As humans we are created by God.  As humans we are dominated by a sinful state.  As humans we have one path to reach God, faith in Jesus Christ.  It is the same for them as for us.  OBL was a bad, evil person.  Apart from Jesus Christ he has the same destiny as a white middle-class Judeo-Christian American:  Hell.  We must be careful to remember humanity as a whole.  God loves humanity.  God desires to redeem humanity.

11 Tell them: As I live”—the declaration of the Lord GOD —”I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked person should turn from his way and live. (G) Repent, repent of your evil ways! Why will you die, house of Israel?

Ezekiel 33

Lord, may I learn to love and pray for my enemies as Jesus teaches.  May the events of this last weekend bring about the salvation of this family.  May someone have the opportunity to share Your love, grace, and mercy.  May faith in Jehovah become evident around the world.

Amen.

Choosing Your Next Leader

In Leadership, Transition on April 28, 2011 at 9:53 pm

The gathering of resumes and conducting interviews can be a harrowing experience.  Many people have lost all hope and loyalty through such processes.  Too often the behind the scenes politics can become, shall we say, fodder for much gossip and intrigue.  Transition can be rough waters to sail through for a few reasons.

  • Factions begin warring like Greek city-states trying to gain control
  • The group choosing the next leader is not trusted by the whole
  • The next leader is not the former leader
  • Some people will always not like the adjustment.

Samuel had been leading the Israelites on God’s behalf for a number of years.  The people had become unhappy with their current situation and leadership.  They began calling for new leadership and demanded something like those around them had.  Isn’t that how it usually is?  Your organization is going through a difficult time and the leadership is easy to throw under the bus.  You look at organizations in your region and in your market that are successful.  Then the organization begins to envy those leadership styles and successes.  When the resumes arrive and interviews begin objectivity can narrow.  Let’s take a look a unique verse during the ascent of Saul to the throne of Israel.

22 They again inquired of the Lord, “Has the man come here yet?”
The Lord replied, “There he is, hidden among the supplies.”
23 They ran and got him from there. When he stood among the people, he stood a head taller than anyone else.

24 Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see the one the Lord has chosen? There is no one like him among the entire population.”
And all the people shouted, “Long live the king!”

25 Samuel proclaimed to the people the rights of kingship. He wrote them on a scroll, which he placed in the presence of the Lord. Then Samuel sent all the people away, each to his home.
26 Saul also went to his home in Gibeah, and brave men whose hearts God had touched went with him.

27 But some wicked men said, “How can this guy save us?” They despised him and did not bring him a gift, but Saul said nothing.

I Samuel 10

The last verse is common among people.  Why does this happen?  Here are 4 common mistakes groups encounter during leadership transition and election.

  1. Taking a false high and holy road.  The men in this scripture despised Saul.  They could have taken the high and holy road thinking that Israel should serve God and not a king.  However, the Bible calls them wicked.  A cursory reading could conclude this about them.  Groups, especially religious ones, can find small factions of people who want to spiritualize everything.  Caution must be taken to not walk too slowly or too swiftly.  This mistake usually is extreme in nature.  Groups move too slowly when they creep along in prayer waiting for God to drop a resume out of the sky.  In this group waiting, not work, rules the day.
  2. There are those times when a member of the group desires to be the next leader.  This can frustrate members of the small, and larger, group.  One organization recently worked through 3 chairman because of various reasons, not the least of which is that one desired the position himself.  This group in Samuel might have desired the position themselves and were angry and not being chosen.  This mistake happens when someone begins to pressure the group toward one decision, thus removing innocence and objectivity.
  3. Once a leader is chosen there is not always unanimity.  Many organizations proclaim unanimity only because members don’t vote, or lie to save potential embarrassment.  In my experience those who actually appear to vote are not the ones about which to be concerned.  Those who do not vote, but are active, are the ones that bring potential trouble.  In reality, those who are backing someone else, and are overruled, must be mature and accept the decision.  The common mistake is that this does not always happen.  The dismantling of many organizations have occurred as a result of hard feelings or immaturity to accept the ruling.
  4. Some people are just grumpy.  Disenchantment and disillusionment have settled in their lives.  A once vibrant individual has been on the wrong side of change once too many times.  Now they are just grumpy.  There is no trust in new leadership.  A dominant feeling is that the organization, and the world at large, is leaving them behind.  One way to combat this problem is bring everyone into the discussion.

Whatever the reason, the Bible called them wicked.  The next time your organization is choosing new leadership be positive, supportive, and follow-through.

Showing Appreciation

In Appreciation, Volunteers on April 11, 2011 at 9:37 pm

Appreciation is underrated. You might think it is over-rated, but I would beg to differ.  If you are the one who has moved your family and worked hard, appreciation is welcomed.  In an age of produce or your gone, the turnover is so quick we do not have much time to show appreciation.  We woo hard, but marry weak.  We love the newness of staff and employees. We love the search, the interviews, and the hire.  We love welcoming someone new into our presence.  However, many organizations struggle with the appreciation of the effort, time, and sacrifice someone makes in service to the organization. We are happy to see a new unit, group, or division begin.  Are we as excited 1 year, 5 years, 10 years later?  We wonder why people leave for other places and organizations. We are amazed that people are not as enthused to volunteer like they have in the past.

Could it be that we leave them feeling abandoned on the lonely island of service and volunteerism?  Could it be that our lack of appreciation coupled with the view of the goodness of other places cause them to leave?  Could it be that a show of appreciation is undervalued and underrated?  10 words and a hand clap is not enough.  A slap of the back is not enough.  We must show appreciation.

49 When they had finished distributing the land into its territories, the Israelites gave Joshua son of Nun an inheritance among them.

Joshua 19

The Israelites were grateful for the leadership of Joshua.  They gave of themselves to show Joshua how they felt.  How can we show appreciation today?  Here are a few ways to show appreciation for your people in your organization for National Volunteer Week usually celebrated in April or May.

  • Have a party and give awards or prizes to volunteers.
  • Plan a group activity or outing, such as a picnic in the park, or a movie night.
  • Invite volunteers to share stories about volunteering with your organization, and feature those stories in your newsletter or on your Web site.
  • Have staff members talk about a great experience they’ve had with volunteers, and share this experience with everyone.
  • You probably have some of your own ideas percolating now too: great!
  • Have a “Just For You Day” and offer to serve them through car washes, lunches, and more.
  • Appreciation Dinner
  • Write a hand-written note and say “You make working here fun.” Include a really good joke.
  • Look him in the eye and say, “I don’t know what I’d do without you around here.”
  • Thank the employee publicly.
  • Say, “Nobody has your unique set of talents and skills. I’m glad we get to use them.”
  • Send a hand-written note to the employee’s spouse or partner singing praises of the employee, and thanking the partner for their support.
  • Say “Bob, you’re really good at what you do.”
  • Say “I’m glad you’re on our team.”
  • Say “Your customers love you.”
  • Thank an employee privately.
  • Do something out of the ordinary.
  • Give the employee more responsibility.
  • Take the employee out to lunch with you and your boss.
  • Buy a pair of tickets for the employee and her spouse to a movie or concert.
  • After a huge accomplishment: Have a limo pick up the employee at home and bring him to work.
  • Buy her a book you know she’ll love.
  • Send her to lunch with three of her friends who don’t work for your company. Pick up the tab.
  • Take his car to get it washed, or have a mobile car wash visit your parking lot.
  • Send the employee home with a thick, fresh Porterhouse steak.
  • Buy a subscription to a magazine the employee would love.
  • Prepare lunch at the employee’s desk for the employee.
  • Get the autograph of the employee’s kid’s favorite sports hero and give it to the employee to give to his child.
  • Buy a coffee for the employee every morning for a month. Bring it into work with you.
  • Have some plants sent to the employee’s home.
  • Take the employee and his kid fishing.

Thank you to Skip Anderson for much of this list!

Those who work for, or with, you are valuable assets that need to be appreciated.  Do so liberally and often.

Carpe Diem

In Control, Leviticus, Trust on February 19, 2011 at 9:15 am

Dead Poets Society

Image via Wikipedia

Several years ago Dead Poets Society engaged many viewers.  Though not a new statement, “Carpe Diem” became popular again.  Every one of us went around using that on posters, in speeches, to the lunch ladies….  Seize the day!  Take advantage of every moment.  Why should we waste precious time trying to fix or change that which cannot: the past?  Why should we worry over things that are yet to be that we have not control over: the future?  Let us seize the day.

1 Then the Lord said to Moses, 2 “Give the following instructions to the people of Israel. I am the Lord your God. 3 So do not act like the people in Egypt, where you used to live, or like the people of Canaan, where I am taking you. You must not imitate their way of life. 4 You must obey all my regulations and be careful to obey my decrees, for I am the Lord your God. 5 If you obey my decrees and my regulations, you will find life through them. I am the Lord.

Leviticus 18:1-5

Countless people lose sleep and years of life trying to get back to an earlier time of life when things were seemingly more serene and special.  You know them as “the good old days”.  We all have them.  For some it is the post-war abundance and joy.  For others it was the free love and Woodstock.  For me, the 80’s encompassed what is the good old days.  I think it has something to do with our teenage years.  Those years when all is wrong and yet everything is right;  when every bump is a mountain to climb and every mountain is the hill worth dying on the for principle of the matter.  We look back.  We yearn for the innocence when we did not understand bills and babies, and insurance and insufficient funds.  We wish to embrace the days of puppy love and passionate kisses.

Unfortunately, those days are gone.  The Lord expresses to us through this scripture that we are not to look back to Egypt and fall back into unhealthy patterns.  In addition, we are not to look forward to the Canaanites and engage in defiance and rebellion.  How man of us obsess over the weather?  The Weather Channel for tv, web, and app has created an obsession for me I never knew.  During a cold snap recently, I found myself looking at the weather often.  Who did I think I was?  Can I change the weather?  If I look one more time will it suddenly give me a portal into the cosmic weather station and allow adjustments?  Of course not.  However, that would be COOL! We cannot change anything about tomorrow.

We do have the ability and responsibility for today.  Carpe Diem.  Take hold of God today while you can.  We cannot change yesterday and God still loves you.  You cannot determine tomorrow so let God handle it.  Your effect comes right now.  Choose God.  Trust and obey for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus!

Carpe Diem!

I Love My Church

In Church, Exodus, love on February 10, 2011 at 12:07 pm

Do you love your church? In this context, I do mean the building. While I know that the church is the people, God is not overlooking the building in which we worship, serve, learn, and teach. The Israelites were not far from Egypt when God expresses that there should be a facility built in which the people can sacrifice and serve God.

He gave specific instructions. Don’t you think that it is important to God? If so, let us make sure the church building is outfitted with what is needed not what is cheap. Many churches have taken a lot of heat over the exquisite nature of the furnishings and finishes. While I don’t think a church need be the Waldorf. I think this passage of scripture teaches us to put our best together for the Lord.

I love my church. Do you? Get involved and make sure it is presentable to the Creator and Sustainer.

8 “Have the people of Israel build me a holy sanctuary so I can live among them. 9 You must build this Tabernacle and its furnishings exactly according to the pattern I will show you.   Exodus 25:8-9

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