Aaron Summers

Posts Tagged ‘Jerusalem’

Should Dreams Really Come True?

In Life and Culture on January 1, 2014 at 9:00 am

Some Day My Dreams Will Come True truedailyquotes.blogspot.com

Just when the Robertson-Duck Dynasty debate subsides, The Tournament of Roses Parade raises the subject again.  In a recent news release, the LA Times reports

In a statement released to The Times, the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Assn. said it is “pleased” to have the foundation participate in this year’s event.

“It is the organization’s third entry in three years tied to their mission of delivering medical services and advocacy in fighting AIDS worldwide,” the statement says.

The foundation’s float will be one of the last in Wednesday’s parade.

The wedding — of Danny Leclair, 45, and Aubrey Loots, 42 — will take place about 9:30 a.m. Kenslea said the wedding is the perfect way to honor the parade’s theme of “Dreams Come True,” by showing the dream of lesbians and gay men realized.

The Issue of Tolerance

The onslaught in these culturo-spiritual wars is evident.  The two sides have drawn up battle lines.  Each side cries fouls and screams intolerance.  Might I remind that tolerance does not mean agreement with, or the condoning of, someone’s actions.  I tolerate what I dislike, not what I like.

  • Some people tolerate high levels of pain without crying.
  • Some people tolerate falling from the roof without injury.
  • Some people tolerate certain levels of toxicity without dying.
  • Some people tolerate certain levels of disobedience without punishment.

Tolerance means that I can deal with the Rose Parade allowing a same-sex wedding on a float.  I do not have to agree with it.  I do not have to like it.  I can, in fact, share the Biblical opinion on the matter.  Tolerance is about the ability to survive through something.  I believe same-sex marriages are wrong because the Bible says homosexuality is a perversion of God’s design.

The Issue of Judging

Now that I have said that, many will cry foul and even quote scripture to me like Charlie Sheen did to Phil in his twitter account.  What I find humorous is that not only do those who care not start quoting scripture, but they get after it with King James Version!  In context, which is how it should be done, Jesus is speaking on a variety of issues.  He begins his wrap up with Judge not.  What does this mean?  A LOT of people uses this verse as verbal daggers.  He does say do not judge.  This has as much to do with our attitude toward others as it does with our actions toward one another.  Since out attitude drives our actions we should check both before opening our mouths.

We must not judge rashly, nor pass such a judgment upon our brother as has no ground, but is only the product of our own jealousy and ill nature. We must not make the worst of people, nor infer such invidious things from their words and actions as they will not bear. We must not judge uncharitably, unmercifully, nor with a spirit of revenge, and a desire to do mischief. We must not judge of a man’s state by a single act, nor of what he is in himself by what he is to us, because in our own cause we are apt to be partial. (Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 1643). Peabody: Hendrickson.)

When it comes to the homosexual matter, it is best to stay out of opinion and into Scripture.  God condemns it as unnatural in Leviticus.  Later, Paul condemns it as unnatural in Romans.  In both the Old and New Testament God makes a statement concerning homosexuality – it is wrong.  For me to say it is wrong can sound “judgy” especially if I am saying it in a boycott or rude or harsh way.  For me, or any Christian, to call a man a reprobate, castoff, or unworthy of God’s grace is beyond my scope of ability and is judging them in a way that is God’s alone.  However, I am to love them, counsel them, and share God’s truth with them as permitted by relationship and opportunity.  The Bible said it and I will speak it.

Standing Your Ground

If we have learned anything from the dismissal to return of Father Phil on Duck Dynasty it is that public voice and opinion matters.  We have been given the ability to speak freely.  With freedom comes responsibility, too.  Just because you could say it does not mean you should.  Proverbs tells us that it is better to be thought a fool then to open your mouth and remove all doubt.  Standing up for what you believe is politically correct and biblically accurate just make sure you do it right.  Ephesians tells us to speak the truth in love.  How often do we seem lovely in these debates?  Be firm.  Be fair.  Be accurate.  Be loving.  Stand your ground.

A Dream Come True

Someday all of my dreams will come true, but not in this life.  The dreams of my heart are centered in hope and grounded in faith that one day Jesus will return and God will make all thing new.  For those who have turned their life over to God and walk by faith following Jesus Christ, dreams really will come true.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone.  And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.    He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.”  And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life.  All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.

–Revelation 21:1-7

 

O Little Town Of Bethlehem You Are Worth More Than You Know

In Christmas on December 24, 2013 at 7:39 pm

O little town of Bethlehem

As we gather together on this Christmas Eve and into Christmas Day, I am reminded of the journey the young couple took back to their home town.  So often families travel back to their hometowns and college kids, fresh from the urban life, return home to the place they only dreamed of leaving.  So many times, bad memories or rough situations await us during this time of year that attempts to steal our joy.  How did Bethlehem feel?  That insignificant dusty little suburb of Jerusalem held little relevance.

How many of us feel like that today?  But you, like Bethlehem, are just the right spot for God to do miracles!

Bethlehem may be small at this moment in Scripture, but she has a rich history.  That history was just what God wanted.

  • Through Rachel BIRTH & DEATH are associated with Bethlehem.
  • Through Ruth REDEMPTION is associated with Bethlehem.
  • Through David the ANOINTING OF A KING is associated with Bethlehem.
  • Through Micah the MESSIAH is associated with Bethlehem.

Now God’s greatest gift, the Messiah, was going to be brought into the world IN Bethlehem!  Everyone else might overlook her, but God did not.  You may feel people overlook you.  You may feel you have no value.  You might believe you are of little use.  However, God is preparing you for a larger work that you could ever imagine.  You have more value than you know.  You are completely relevant and important to God’s plan right now.  During a time when suicides are the highest, let us remind people that Bethlehem was considered useless except in the mind of God.  Your family issues are not to be discounted.  Your educational, spiritual, and cultural realities are all a part of the way God wants to place you into His grand plan.

Bethlehem would usher in a new age that would change the world.  What if your life right now is just the moment God chooses to change the world.  Are you ready?  Will you accept your lot in life?  If God can use a dusty dirty town that housed the low life shepherds to house his baby, then he certainly can use your life.  Keep your chin up, your mind alert, and your heart soft.  Watch what God can do!

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

Don’t Get Picked Off

In Life and Culture on October 28, 2013 at 8:06 am

The last thing the first base coach probably reminded Wong was to not get picked off.  Wong will, now, be forever remembered as the first to ever get picked off at first base in a World Series game.  Down by 2, the Cards had Beltran at the plate.  There was not reason Wong should have ever been in a situation to get picked off in the first place.  His run was not what mattered.  Certainly he needed to score, but he was not going to steal and he was never to be picked off.

What can we learn from this moment in history?

Knowledge and action are not the same thing.  Wong had the knowledge, I suppose, of the game situation.  He knew he needed to score but that would not be enough.  He knew that this was a critical moment.  He knew that under no circumstance was he to get picked off.  He knew that he needed to stay in play to provide the possibility for extra innings.  Wong knew all of these things, but he still got picked off.  Knowledge that does not lead to action is wasted.  Paul writes to the churches in Colossae expressing this same sentiment.

We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God.

Gain knowledge.  Go to Bible studies.  Go to seminars.  Learn.  Just remember that all this learning is to be put into practice.  Paul prayed they would grow in knowledge for the purpose of walking worthy and bearing fruit.

Check your position.  In the video, I noticed Wong took one step too many and the dirt was loose.  When he went to jump back he was too far and his foot slipped a little.  He had put himself in a position that cost him and the team a significant advantage in this series.  The difference of being up 3-1 and tied 2-2 is huge when game 5 is in St. Louis.  It could have been over.  Now it will be finished in Boston where the fans will want retribution for the difficult, but accurate, call in game 3.  One wrong move can cause a wave of difficulty.

In the spring when kings march out to war, David sent Joab with his officers and all Israel. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah, but David remained in Jerusalem.

The rest of the story is how King David committed adultery, plotted and murdered the husband, and watched his family fall apart.  He put himself in the wrong position and it cost him his reputation.  Despite all the good David did, everyone knows this story!  Wong will never be forgotten, but for all the wrong reasons!  Check your position.

Put your knowledge to good use.  Don’t get caught in the wrong place.  Making a mistake because you are trying to “make a play” is one thing, but that is not the case here.  A poor choice was made.  Don’t make this same error.  One step less and things might be different.  The series could still be tied, but the news would be different.  You don’t want to make the headlines at school or work or in the public in this fashion.

Don’t get picked off!

Consumerism and the Church

In Church, Leadership on October 21, 2013 at 10:40 am

Humanity-Consumerism-Creativity

In 1981, my Dad took his first church in a small, real small, community in Kentucky.  We moved from our moderate middle-class home to a small church owned house that backed up to a creek fed by the Kentucky River.  I was in sixth grade and rather upset by the entire situation.  Over the next six years I attended 5 different schools.  Each move was precipitated by a disagreement between the church and Dad.  The people decided they no longer wanted him to be their leader and let him know it publicly.

Why does this happen?  Did the search team not believe God called him to the church?  Did Dad not fully believe God called him to the church?  If both believed God called them to each other, how could one side decide this on their own?

Wal-Mart began in the 1960’s with one store in Rogers, Arkansas.  By the 1980’s it had grown to national status.  With the rise of the “super center” that housed everything you could ever want under one roof, Generation X and, subsequently, Y grew up going to Wal-Mart.  I do not fault this company for growing in the way they did.  However, many small town businesses would argue that point.  The age of consumerism rose to new heights!  The baby boom and prosperity of the 50’s had nothing on this new group.  They had money to burn and the marketing developed to a younger crowd as children began to wield their consumer power within the home.

During this time, churches began to suffer from the culture making its way into the church.  The idea that one can go and receive everything under one roof for a cheaper price than competitors marked a significant change in why someone attended church.  Instead of going to serve God and others, the shift became attending to be served.  A new generation wanted to be served with everything and pay less, or nothing, for such benefits.  This trend would cause havoc for years to come.

Jesus told the people a parable on his way to Jerusalem.  The Parable of the Ten Minas recounts a nobleman who left for a time and promised his return.  He hands out equal money to 10 individuals and instructs them to do business with the money provided.  The interesting part of this parable is what happens next.  The citizens held a meeting and decided they did not want the nobleman to reign over them any longer.  What happens next is what I believe happens in a lot of churches today.

1.  Some ignore the report and go about their business.  In this parable, one of the 10 kept right on working.  It was as if he didn’t entertain this consumer notion of being able to change leadership on a whim.  He invested.  His money grew.  He was rewarded by the nobleman when he returned.  This man represents those who refuse to give in to the consumers who want something different every other minute.  For those who are resolute in their support and investment in the Kingdom of God and His people in leadership will be rewarded by God in the end.

2.  Some become confused. One of the guys only returned a little on the investment.  The same economy and same geography returned less on the investment.  We could dive into his work ethic or personality.  However, Jesus provides us with the reason.  The citizens for change tainted his attitude and ability.  The consumer mentality in churches can adversely affect the effectiveness of those in the church.  Dissension breeds difficulty.  For those who want to follow God’s will and also maintain friendships and fellowship find themselves in awkward positions.  Their joy lessens.  Their work reduces.  Their spiritual life is choked.  They are confused and it will show itself in the body of Christ.

3.  Some become disenchanted.  Maybe the single worst issue behind the consumerism and the disposable concepts brought into play is that it often renders people useless.  The text suggests that 80% of those given a task did nothing with it.  They walked around in fear.  They articulated this in their response to the nobleman.  Actually, blaming him was a symptom of the division rendered by the citizens.  When those who want bigger, better, brighter begin to prattle on it infects everyone and everything around them.  Good people quit.  Active people draw back.  In the end, the church and the community suffer.

The dissenters received their reward just as those who returned in the investment.  God notices it all and will reward accordingly and appropriately when He returns.  May we look to the Holy Spirit for guidance and the gumption to stick with His plan more than our pleasure.  God has given you a Mina.  What will you do?

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.

I Triple Dog Dare You

In Chrisian Life, Church, Decisions on May 16, 2013 at 1:00 pm

That is really one of the greatest scenes!  Flick answers the call to the triple-dog-dare!  I have been on both ends of that kind of dare before, haven’t you?  As we get older it seems that we forget about such things.  We move away from the double and triple-dog-dares, but the challenges are still present.  We are dared everyday with respect to many items.  In adult talk, and especially church adult talk, we like to use the term “temptation”.  I am not sure why we use this term except that we find it in scripture.  However, to consider Jesus being double-dog-dared to eat bread is more dramatic!

What are we dared to do?

  • to trust my wits over God’s
  • to keep the tithe to pay medical bills
  • to spend more time with family and less time with God
  • to believe just once will be OK
  • to rationalize my behavior as being right even though it makes me sick when I do
  • to trust humanity more than God
  • to seek satisfaction outside of marriage
  • to quit
  • to gamble
  • to earn Heaven

We are all dared on so many levels every day.  These kinds of dares come from evil and will take us down the path of destruction.  Like Flick, we feel trapped at times.  We are not sure how to respond.  The pressure of those around us and our pride within us have joined forces.  Not sure of how to escape, we act.

***

Summer is just around the corner and that means for many Vacation Bible School.  For me, we are going to Colossal Coaster World where we will be dared to do many things.  These dares come from God and will lead us down a path of strength and stability.  Here are 5 things we will be dared to do but we can start anytime.

1.  Dare to Change – Acts 9:1-18

In Acts 9:1-18 we encounter a life changing moment for 2 people. Saul was breathing threats and incarcerating people for believing in Jesus and practicing “The Way”. Ananias was minding his own business trying not to be thrown into prison. In one day both lives would be altered. God came to each of them in a way required to get their attention. God sometimes uses the fantastic to get our attention. Saul was blinded by a light and spoken to by God. He was dared to make changes. Ananias lived in fear. He was dared to make changes. Saul’s entire education was be flipped on its head. Ananias’ fear would be challenged to become focused courage. God changes us in ways we cannot completely fathom. What is God daring you to change in your life?

2.  Dare to Speak Up –  Acts 9:20-30

Saul was transformed from breathing threats to sharing the Gospel. Not everyone understood or believed in him. He was trying to do the right thing but his reputation preceded him. He could have given up and shut up but instead he faced his fears head on and kept sharing the message of the Messiah everyday. Escaping for his life he went to Jerusalem. The believers there were skeptical at best also. Barnabas dared to speak up on behalf of Saul. He told the story and encouraged the people to give God’s grace a chance with Saul.

3.  Dare to Believe – Acts 16:16-34

As we approach this passage of scripture belief is the key component. Paul believed that change was an available option for slave girl and later for themselves. Paul believed that God could change the slave girl and free her from divination. No matter how far she had gone into that world, Paul believed God could free her. When he and Silas were in prison, the sang praises because they knew God could free them. Even though they were shackled in prison, they had belief. The jailor believed that God could save him by faith in Jesus Christ. They believed in spite of the challenges of politics and personal difficulties.  What are you being dared to believe?

4.  Dare to Stand Strong – Acts 21:27-23:11

The apostle Paul was seized under false charges and his life was in danger. The courts heard the accusations but determined that there was nothing to them. The crowds began to cry out for Paul to be killed. In that moment, Paul asked if he could speak. What was he going to say? With the great spin doctors of our modern politics we might imagine many ways Paul could spin his situation. What Paul did next was daring. He began to share his testimony and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Many in the crowds and Sanhedrin despised what he had to say but God encouraged him with these words:

Have courage! For you have testified about Me in Jerusalem,

so you must also testify about me in Rome.

In no small way, God told him he was being salvaged from the judicial wreckage in Jerusalem, but also being sent to Rome. Because he stood strong for the truth, God was sparing his very life. What truth needs you to stand strong?

5.  Dare to  Trust – Acts 27

When you call on Jesus Christ, all of Heaven rises to meet that need because we do not have a pile of rocks but a risen Savior we can trust. We can trust Him with out financial problems, our relationship nightmares, and our physical ailments. We can trust Him with our spouses and with our kids. We can trust Him when things change and when they do not. We can trust Him during the songs we know and the ones we don’t. We can trust Him when things wrong and when they work. We trust God and in doing so we reveal to those around us the peace of God that accompanies trust.  I dare you to trust God in every way for every thing!

I triple-dog-dare you!

Are You a People Person?

In Church, Family, Jesus, Journey on December 28, 2012 at 11:15 am

Multi-Gen

It’s all about the people.

Numbers are cold.  Programs suck energy. Traditions stifle creativity.  People are creations of God while the rest are creations of people.  On which do you think God prefers us to focus?

Looking at the life and times of Jesus we see that we was about people.

His birth intersected with people.  Mary’s life would never be the same.  As a young virgin, she became pregnant and remained a virgin until after the birth.  She would not be the same after an angelic visit and a Holy Spirit visit.  Joseph had an angelic visit also reminding him that the traditions of the people must take a backseat to the desires of God in this moment.  The shepherds and the magi would be affected as well by the birth of God as a human.  Not all people enjoyed this news of the birth of Jesus.  The Bible reports that Herod and all Jerusalem were troubled.  Even as a baby, Jesus was working with and through (literally) people.

Why do we want programs?  Why must we focus on projects?  It’s all about the people.

His youth intersected with people.  We find Jesus sitting with the Pharisees as a teenager.  He is talking and discussing things with them?  Jesus wanted to spend time with another generation.  He engaged them.  He conversed with them.  He did not set up a new temple outreach program.  He did not begin a new temple worship.  He spent time with people.

People.

In the early days of ministry, Jesus walked by a commercial fishing establishment.  He called out to the men.  Look at Mark 1.

16 As He was passing along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, Simon’s brother. They were casting a net into the sea, since they were fishermen.17 “Follow Me,” Jesus told them, “and I will make you fish for people!” 18 Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. 19 Going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in their boat mending their nets. 20 Immediately He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed Him.

“I will make you fish for people.”  What did Jesus mean?

1.  He wants a unified focus on people.  I am not a hater of programs because they can systematically help us reach people.  My problem is that we set up a good program and then simply work to keep up the mechanics and disregard the meaning.

2.  He wants us to come into people’s lives and make a difference.  We all have friends.  We all have family.  So did Jesus.  He left heaven to come to and for you.  Let us make room for some new people in our lives.  They are not projects.  They are just new people who can make a difference in your life and you in theirs.

3.  He wants us to mix it up generationally.  Spend time with people outside your age-group.  Take the time to visit other Bible study classes and groups within the church.  Go to the coffee shop early and hang out with the guys.  Sit with someone 30-50 years different from your age (not family) in church or the bus or at a community gathering.  We gather in our holy huddles and build our walls of misinformation and miscommunication.

4.  He wants you to bring people to God.  People are not projects.  People need Jesus.  Find a common interest and establish a relationship with someone.  Maybe they know Jesus.  Maybe they do not.  Build a bridge and go over it.

Are you a people person?  Jesus was.

 

 

The EPIC Plan

In Direction, Evangelism, Jesus, Leadership, Missional, Missions on October 15, 2012 at 11:10 am

We all want days like this, right?  How do we achieve them?  As a follower of Jesus Christ, you have been given an EPIC plan from the King!  Let me briefly share it with you.

Let’s begin with 2 words of encouragement because I know what you’re saying.  It is the same thing I used to say.  You don’t believe you can.  You don’t think you’re qualified.  Some of you believe success is for someone else.  I disagree.  I believe that God desires to so much more in you, to you, and through you then you could ever think or imagine.  I believe God has your best interest in mind, all the time.

Encouragement #1 – Power
Jesus said that all power in Heaven and Earth had been given to Him.  All of the resources of God are at His disposal.  Jesus is telling you that these resources are available to you to carry out the plan.

Encouragement #2 – Presence
Jesus says that He will be with you always.  He will walk you through the process.  He will hold your hand.  He will cheer and cry with you.  He will, forever, be with you.

When you look at these verses  in Matthew 28 you see how He has created bookends around the plan of power and presence.

18Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  19Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

What is this plan?  It is EPIC!!

Engage the world around you.  When Jesus said “Go”, He meant what He said.  We are to go into the world.  Our world today is not as receptive to the street corner screamers and Bible bashing believers of days gone by.  Actually, I am not sure how productive they ever were but they were popular at one time.  Today’s culture is spiritually savvy.  They have been inoculated with just enough Jesus to be dangerous.  Through evangelism efforts, VBS, event ministries, and more people have become aware of the Gospel.  We must engage them in a relationship.  Striking a balance between the time needed to develop this relationship and the urgency of knowing Jesus could return at any time is a difficult one to accomplish.  However we must attempt to speak into the lives of people through a relationship.

Proclaim the message of Christ.  A relationship is the beginning of an opportunity to share the gospel with them.  Over time, there will be a certain amount of trust that will allow you to turn a conversation in the necessary direction.  We are to go into the world.  Some critics would have you believe that we are only responsible for those in our immediate areas.  According to the earlier verse and this one we are to go everywhere!

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  Acts 1:8

We are to engage and proclaim locally, nationally, and internationally as God allows and provides.

Instruct the commands.  The third part of this plan is to teach new believers the ways of Jesus.  Conversion is not the endgame.  Making disciples is the endgame.  David Platt and Francis Chan have pulled together a great resource for accomplishing this task at Multiply Movement.  Making converts is exhausting because you never get any help!  If you make disciples then you are building in a growing number of people exponentially.

Continue until completion.  Until Jesus returns or every human being as accepted the call of discipleship, there is no stopping point.  We continue to engage, proclaim, and instruct.

Be EPIC!  You know you want to!!

 

Does It Float?

In behavior, Church, Leadership, Missional, Politics on August 15, 2012 at 9:17 am

I have watched David Letterman for years.  Some of you were Carson fans while others are Leno or Conan viewers.  Though not as much as I used to, I watch Letterman.  As he continues to jump the shark to keep viewers as he ages and races toward irrelevance, one of his latest items on the comedic agenda is “Does It Float?”  During this time an item or two will be brought out and voted as to whether it will float in the tank of water or not.  Paul gets it right some of the time.  Letterman brings out zany items for us all to see whether it will float or not.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could do the same with doctrine and tradition?  Jesus deals with this in Matthew 15.

1 Then Pharisees and scribes came from Jerusalem to Jesus and asked,

2 “Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they don’t wash their hands when they eat!”
3 He answered them, “And why do you break God‘s commandment because of your tradition?

4 For God said:
Honor your father and your mother; and,
The one who speaks evil of father or mother
must be put to death.
5 But you say, ‘Whoever tells his father or mother, “Whatever benefit you might have received from me is a gift [committed to the temple]”- 6 he does not have to honor his father.’ In this way, you have revoked God’s word because of your tradition.

7 Hypocrites! Isaiah prophesied correctly about you when he said:

8 These people honor Me with their lips,
but their heart is far from Me.

9 They worship Me in vain,
teaching as doctrines the commands of men.”

In this context, Jesus is referring to the Pharisees who were taking religious order to new heights with the rules and regulations.  Over 650 for the Sabbath Day alone not to mention the other 9 commands!  He makes a bold statement to them in these verses, specifically in verse 9.  He states that they are teaching people to adhere to the rules and ideas of Man as if they were of God.  How often do we do this in our lives and churches?

I remember one night at church, the pastor was teaching the lesson and opened up for questions.  I admit, I was slightly rebellious and the pastor was my Dad.  However, I did begin with legitimacy when I asked “Why?”  I don’t remember what he was even teaching on at this point, but I wanted to know why we should believe or behave in the ways being taught.  A vague answer was given and I responded with another desire for further explanation.  In short, I did not receive a satisfactory answer other than “It’s right because I say it is.”  I am not disrespecting my Dad here but raising a point of concern I believe is rampant in the church today as much as it was in the temple of the 1st Century.  We command people to do certain things because “We say so!”

A child approached her mother one evening and asked why she was cutting the ends of the ham before putting it in the pot.  To the girl this seemed silly because the pot was certainly large enough to hold the entire thing.  Her Mom replied, “I don’t know, go ask your grandmother.  I do because she did.”  The girl gets off the stool and finds grandma in another room.  She quietly sits down next to her and begins to ask about the ham and cutting off the ends.  Her grandmother thought for a minute and replied,  “That’s just the way my Mother taught me to do it.”  After further discussion and investigation it was determined that the reason 4 generations of people were cutting off the ends of the ham was because 100 years ago the pot was too small!  The little girl was confused.  Why cut off the ham when the pot was large enough today?  Her Mom was treating as doctrine a tradition of Man, if you will.

How often we do this in church life today!

Take a look at the things you do and consider why you do them.  Some things don’t matter, like the ham.  However, other things do matter.

Why does a quiet time have to be in the morning?
Why do people have to walk the aisle before getting baptized?
Why are deacon elections popularity contests?
Are elders really of the devil?  That word in Timothy is tricky, right?
Why is music worship but preaching is not?
Why are programs and methods raised to doctrinal levels?

I have witnessed people making such strong claims to these, and other, issues one would think the bodily resurrection of Jesus was being debated.  Much of the things we argue about are preference more than doctrine.  Let us be careful not to treat as doctrine the simple preferences and stylistic choices of man.

How nice it might be if we could just throw so many of these things in a spiritual pool and what does not float is understood to just be preference, secondary, or tertiary to the real heart of the Gospel and the Church.  Let us hold firm to the primary and loosen our grip on the rest.  In this way, I believe our collective blood pressure will drop into a healthy range lengthening our productivity and widening our effectiveness.  Before you drop your spiritual bomb on someone’s day take a minute and consider if it would float.

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