Aaron Summers

Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

Who Am I?

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

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

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

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

I Love My Church

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

i-love-my-church

 

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

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

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

The Tyranny of Power and Pleasure

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

Male jogger silhouette (duotone and vignette added)

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

John left for a couple of days.

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

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

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

I Want a New Drug

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

12043362-mmmain
The 80’s were filled with musicians singing about life and love.  Through breakups and breakdowns that make Taylor Swift seem normal, we came through a wonder-filled time of life.  Huey Lewis made famous the song for which this article is titled.  Here are the lyrics.

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

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

What must be done?

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

A Parent and Pastor

In Gospel Living, Parenting on October 27, 2016 at 8:15 am

parent-notes_featured

THE PARENT

Another parent and I were meeting with our youth intern to discuss students and what we as parents wanted from a youth ministry.  As I considered this, I began to write what I wanted for my 2 kids as they progressed through youth ministry.  The first flashes had to do with making friends, having fun, and being in safe spaces.  I pushed those out of my mind and began to think deeper.

What kind of follower of Christ do I want my kids to be when they leave home and go to college?

Wow.  College.  Weren’t they just born the other day?  He can’t be in HS already??  #only4yearsleft and #only6years left rang through my mind!  How is that he looks me eye to eye, fits in my clothes and has bigger feet?  Oh my gosh!  How is it that boys are staring at my baby girl?  Isn’t she too young for all of that?

Alas, and sadly, all of this is true!  What did I wish for them as teenagers?

  • I want them to love Jesus.
  • I want them to make decisions from a biblical view.
  • I want them to serve others inside and outside of church family.
  • I want them to go on a mission trip.
  • I want them to have a church family of all ages connected together.

This is probably not an exhaustive list but does encompass much of what I hope my kids achieve through the youth ministry.

THE PASTOR

Then it hit me.  These are the same things I want for my church!  As a pastor, I really want those to whom God has charged me to lead to achieve these same items.

  • I want them to love Jesus.
  • I want them to make decisions from a biblical view.
  • I want them to serve others inside and outside of the church family.
  • I want them to go on a mission trip.
  • I want them to have a church family of all ages connected together.

We get overly focused on so many things that really don’t matter.  We are concerned over who is in charge of whom.  We are concerned over protecting our spaces, ministries, and preferences.  We are concerned that someone is going to take over or not do their job.  We are concerned over why others aren’t doing things the right way.

How I want for us to move back to simplicity; move to the important.

As a parent, and a pastor, Jesus, take the wheel.  Please.

What would you add to this list?

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.

Are You a Fact Checker?

In Gospel Living on August 17, 2016 at 8:53 am

Just-the-Facts-Maam

Each morning I receive an email from the New York Times that gives me brief headlines across several categories.  In this election year, and maybe because of the candidates involved, it seems there is a distinct increase “fact-checking” the speeches.  While it is not new, it seems to be done with more frequency these days.

There are several websites that devote resources to just this concept.  Here are 2.

In addition, the major networks and national papers have their own version of fact checking those in major public view.

For those urban myths and Facebook “just so you know” items there is www.snopes.com.

In Christian circles and, mostly, churches we must not throw caution to the wind and run on assumptions and guesses.  We have too much at stake with the Gospel to not be accurate.  In John 7, Jesus is speaking to the crowds.  Some thought he was the One they had been expecting; longing for in their hearts.

Then it happened.  They didn’t fact-check.

An argument arose that Jesus could not be the Messiah because it was “clearly stated” that Jesus would be of the royal line of David and born in Bethlehem.  So the crowd was divided about Him.  Some even wanted Jesus arrested now.

Here’s the problem: THEY DID NOT FACT CHECK.

Jesus’ mother was of the line of David, and so was Joseph.  Though we know Joseph was not the biological father, the crowds did not know this intimate detail.  BOTH parents fulfilled the prophecy.  Further, He was born in Bethlehem, though the family did not remain in that town. Also, it was stated by the religious leaders that no prophet ever comes from Galilee.  That is not true.  Jonah was from Galilee.

If the people had just fact-checked their lives could have been radically changed!

For the Christian, we must be cautious in our judgments.  Too often we judge based on

  • “I feel” – How we feel about the matter/person
  • “I heard” – What someone has said
  • “They said” – One moment out of context
  • “I don’t like them” – Personality differences

Before raising an argument or making accusations in church, in culture, or in the comfort of your home be sure to check your facts.  We cannot take the chance of messing this up!

Seeing Potential

In Chrisian Life on June 6, 2016 at 7:00 am

Master 4c logo

About 350 years ago a shipload of travelers landed on the northeast coast of America. The first year they established a town site. The next year they elected a town government. The third year the town government planned to build a road five miles westward into the wilderness.

In the fourth year the people tried to impeach their town government because they thought it was a waste of public funds to build a road five miles westward into a wilderness. Who needed to go there anyway?

Here were people who had the vision to see three thousand miles across an ocean and overcome great hardships to get there. But in just a few years they were not able to see even five miles out of town. They had lost their pioneering vision. With a clear vision of what we can become in Christ, no ocean of difficulty is too great. Without it, we rarely move beyond our current boundaries.

If you are doing Lifeway’s VBS, then you are SUBMERGED this Summer!  Here are a few quick thoughts for us as adults who work or who support those who work during VBS.  In each of the 5 stories this year a common thread is sight:  what the people saw vs. what Jesus saw.

People saw…

  • Zacchaeus – thief
  • Woman at the Well – immoral
  • Nicodemus – seeker
  • Blind Man – disabled
  • Children – distractions

Jesus saw what they could be not what they were.

  • Zacchaeus – potential to be saved
  • Woman at the Well – potential to be saved
  • Nicodemus – potential to be saved
  • Blind Man – potential to be saved
  • Children – potential to be saved

Every time people would see their past, Jesus would see their potential.

Jesus SAW them.  Do we SEE them?

How Can I Get My Student to Focus?

In Life and Culture, Parenting on October 14, 2015 at 4:18 pm

people-texting

This is a picture of today’s double date!  Everyone is so glued to their devices that it is hard to get to know people in a real and lasting way.  Sure, we know them by what they post or tweet, but is that who they are?  While it may be who they are, it still lacks communication beyond emoticons and enigmatic posts.

  • Doug was tired of watching his son isolate and basically refuse to communicate with the world around.
  • Serena noticed that it had been weeks since she had a meaningful conversation with her daughter.
  • Matt stood in the store trying to decide what to get for his phone.  He wanted his first smart phone.  Little did Ben, his dad, know what was ahead.

I find it hard to separate myself from the phone.  My wife constantly reminds me to leave it in the other room during supper and family times.  If forget to turn it down I hear that “ding” and wonder what is happening.  How much harder is it for the hormone overloaded!  Self-control, let’s face it, is not the strong suit of the modern teenager.  How can we help them focus?  On what, or whom, are we to help them focus?  Here are 3 focal points.

Grades > Messaging

Before they have “jobs”, school is really their job.  Focusing on grades is critical to moving forward.  However, it is hard to study and focus on homework when the phone is constantly buzzing or beeping.  We must help our students understand the importance of grades.  For me, grades were critical for scholarships.  Without them, I was not going to college.  Grades, for some, are very hard to keep up.  Some people are “A” students.  Some are “B ” students.  Some are neither.  As  parent we must know our child’s limits and help them stretch without breaking them.  If you have a “B” student and you make the hard play for straight “A’s” you might actually have that blow up in your face.  Know your student.  Stretch your student.  Be reasonable.  Grade are more important than the messages they might miss.

Growth > Leveling Up

Trying to raise students to love Jesus and live for Jesus publicly can be treacherous some days.  Putting a device in their hands presents positive and negative opportunities.  They could download The Bible App, but will they read it?  They could download a Memory Verse App, but will they use it.  Undeniably, Candy Crush and Clash of Clans are more inviting.  Do I even need to mention how easy it is to find free porn on the device you’ve purchased for them to help them socialize?  No…I do not.  Before you praise them for, or play with them to, leveling up, let’s consider their need for Jesus and a relationship with God as primary.  I personally use Net Nanny to control the access on their devices.  On the fly I can block or allow apps.  Let’s us consider how they can grow in Christ before growing their clans.

Gathering > Isolating

No matter what you might be told, there is nothing like gathering personally with friends.  Social interaction cannot happen on the devices.  Communication cannot really be made honestly isolated.  I believe we are one generation away from major neck problems!  The next HUGE profession will be neurology and spinal issues.  While I do say that tongue-in-cheek, the picture above is seen everywhere.  People sit and tables together but say nothing.  Families are in the same house but text from room to room.  Families eat together but the glow of the screen beckons us to stay a while longer.  We must encourage our students to engage in “analog” relationships.

Final Thoughts

Both of mine have phone and tablets.  Before you go and rip the device from your students sweaty palms, take a breath.  Leverage your authority and power through the ownership of the device itself.  Help them see the need for grades, growth, and gathering through the limitation of device time.  Reduce access to apps.  Remove the device overnight.  If needed, remove the device from their possession altogether.  Don’t forget, as parents, we are supposed to model and train them to be followers of Christ more than our Candy Crush score.  Be gentle. Be firm.  Love them through these days!

4 Fatiguing Facts of Doing It “My Way”

In Chrisian Life on July 15, 2015 at 3:57 pm

MyWay

Frank Sinatra is infamous for a number of reasons, not the least of which being the song “My Way”.  This song boasts of living life and making decisions without regard to norms, morals, accepted or directed rules.  He wants everyone to know that he did it all his way and for his own fame.

Subway wants you to have your sandwich “Your Way”.

Progressive Insurance purports to put you in the driver’s seat with your insurance choices.

Our world is seduced into isolated, personal, decisions as the most important part of life.  We want our choices, done our way, with the price only I want to pay.

David was the new King and above all he wanted the Ark back in country.  He rallied the people and hyped them up on the idea.  The whole group agreed that it was the right thing to do.  All of Israel was summoned and the ark was placed on a cart and away they went.  One of the oxen stumbled and Uzzah steadied the ark and God struck him dead!

Wait.  What?

David was mad and he was now afraid of God.  The Ark was left in a nearby village for three months.  The home where it rested was blessed greatly!

What do we learn from this?  As leaders in industry, small groups, churches, or families we realize 4 fatiguing facts about doing it our way.

  1. God has a better plan than the group idea. David did not stop and read how it should be done.  It thought he was exempt.  We, too, think we are exempt at times.  We want the shortcut.  We want easy grace.  We want easy-believism.  We want high return for low investment.  Read God’s plan.  When David did it made all the difference.
  2. Someone will pay a high price. Uzzah died.  Your choice may not kill someone, but something, or someone, will get hurt.  Often I find people making decisions because it feels right, but they have not thought it all the way through.  Parents who want it all for their kids but cannot make time for spiritual growth and church body life will find their kids out of step with God.  These same folks cannot understand because “they raised their kids in church”, which usually means when there was nothing else to do and if they got up in time.
  3. Emotions will run out of control. We like to blame God.  David did.  He was mad at God for Uzzah’s death.  Who’s fault was it really?  David was at fault but it was simpler to blame someone else.  Today we would have sued the cart builder, the one who raised the ox, or the one who was to maintain the road.  Anything to get the blame and guilt and shame away.   Some will even increase the personal drama publicly to draw attention away from the real problem.  Now everyone is focused on the drama queen more than the issue in question.
  4. Someone gets your blessing. When it is all said and done, you miss a blessing.  David could have been blessed greater if he had just followed directions and give the right orders.  Now he had to sit and stew while watching Obed-edom get the blessing.  While you stew someone else rejoices.  It could have been you.

 

Some will call it independence.  Others call it being the “Lone Ranger”.  God just calls it silly.  We need Him and He knows it.  Why do we insist on doing it our way, fixing it our way, solving it our way, or leading our way.  God is greater.  It is time we recognize this fact and put interdependence into action.

 

%d bloggers like this: