Aaron Summers

Posts Tagged ‘relationship’

Blow the Trumpet

In Gospel Living on April 6, 2015 at 8:19 am

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What am I supposed to pray about?  How am I supposed to pray?  What is prayer anyway?

I hear these questions a lot.  You may have also asked these questions.  As I was reading through Numbers, I ran across an interesting part.

“When you arrive in your own land and go to war against your enemies who attack you, sound the alarm with the trumpets. Then the lord your God will remember you and rescue you from your enemies. Blow the trumpets in times of gladness, too, sounding them at your annual festivals and at the beginning of each month. And blow the trumpets over your burnt offerings and peace offerings. The trumpets will remind your God of his covenant with you. I am the lord your God.”

God wants us to realize that this thing we make mountains out of called prayer is relational communication.  He wants us to have chats, talks, discourses, and discussions with Him.  The idea of blow the trumpet here is that God wants to be a part of our everyday life.  Theologically, I know that He KNOWS everything.  Yet, I need to blow the trumpet on several types of occasions.

When Battle Lines are Drawn
During times of battle, the trumpet would be sounded to gather the army and begin war.  It was the sound all would wait for to begin battle.  We need to sound the alarms when needed.  I am thankful that in our denomination we have the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission to help us spread the word about moral and ethical issues we face today.  Yet, we also have our personal spiritual battles with money, family, and choices.  If we are to be as united as Jesus prayed in John 17, we must sound the alarm.  An easy way to do this is in your Sunday School group.  These groups are designed to help meet needs on many levels.  Don’t be afraid to blow the trumpet in prayer.  It is healthy for us to bring to God our battles.  God has not forgotten us, but we often forget God.  Prayer connects us.

When Life is Good
God reminds us here to sound the trumpets during the good times of life.  When the trumpet is blown, the details are not as important as is the public announcement of praise to God.  The private prayer moments of praise are also critical.

When the tax refund is more than expected.
When the kids do well in school.
When the doctor gives a clean bill of health.
When the bills get paid and money is left.
When your teen volunteers information in a conversation.

There are many reasons why we should sound the trumpet in prayer.  Our relationship is more than handouts.  We are to be grateful.

When You Don’t Want To
God includes here those times when you might not want to blow the trumpet.  When we have made poor choices, messed up, or walked away, we might not know how to return.  The prodigal son finally just walked back in humility and the father held a celebration.  Blowing the trumpet during these moments means that you are recognizing your relationship with God even thought you have messed up. You are not flaunting your sin, but flaunting the grace of God as he cleanses you from your stain.   Coming to God in these moments of the burnt or peace offerings is a sign of understanding our humanness and His holiness. 

When There is No Special Occasion
At the beginning of each month, is added in this reminder.  Interesting.  We are to blow our trumpet regularly in order to maintain that line of communication and understanding.  If we make God out to be a 911 call we lose sight of the relational aspect.  Think romance here.  Our marriages get stale because we forget to do the little things when there is no special occasion.  We can get up for birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays but do we get excited about Thursdays?  What about Tuesdays?  No?  Why?  We forget that a relationship is not just about recognizing those special moments, but all the not-so-special ones too.

Trust me.  Your relationship with God will become more rich if these are included in your process of life.  Blow the trumpet.  Wait for God.  Watch your joy increase!

Getting Answers

In Chrisian Life on June 23, 2014 at 9:29 am

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Our son developed a debilitating pain in his stomach.  We went to our pediatrician and was referred to a specialist at Children’s Hospital.  After a brief look, it was determined that his tonsils needed to be removed and the pain would be fixed.  That worked for a while, then the pain came back with what seemed like a vengeance!  We returned to Children’s through the ER because of the pain.  After spending a night and day doing tests we had no answers. After we did every imaginable test and scope we still had no answers.  The doctors basically told us that they recognized the reality of the pain but could not determine its cause.  We were referred to other doctors that could help teach him how to manage the pain more effectively.  The problem was that we still had no answers.  My wife and I were very stressed as we watched our child writhe in pain and scream to God for an answer.  After 6 months we were desperate for answer.  Our prayer changed from wanting to know the cause to just finding some solution.  We did not even care any longer if we ever knew the reason as long as our child could be relieved of this issue!

I wonder if we sometimes feel like that with God.  Life happens and we often do not know the ins and outs or reasons.  We are a culture that demands an answer.  When we do not get an answer, or one that we like, we are ticked off and start searching for second, third, and fourth opinions until we find one that we like.  When it comes to our spiritual life I fear that too many are doing the same thing.  We search for a god who will give us the answers we want rather than the answer that just is.  Getting answers to our prayers can be tedious.  Our patience runs thin and we start scrambling around like the quarterback who escapes the pocket and tries to run for the first down on his own.

Tucked away in Numbers 21:1-3 is a small episode that uncovers for us a pathway for getting answers.

Then the people of Israel made this vow to the  lord : “If you will hand these people over to us, we will completely destroy  all their towns.”  The  lord  heard the Israelites’ request and gave them victory over the Canaanites. The Israelites completely destroyed them and their towns, and the place has been called Hormah  ever since.

A Right Request

Israel came to God based on a covenant.  They had been chosen by God to be the light to the world.  He had already provided a spectacular escape plan out of Egypt.  God had already displayed His protection at the Red Sea, His guidance by the pillars of fire and clouds, and His faithfulness at the Jordan River when they refused to cross over.  Now they come before God based on the covenant relationship.  Do you approach God based on your faith in Jesus Christ?  Have you accepted God’s spectacular provision of escape from sin and death?  Have you given your life to God for Him to direct and lead?  Often I find that people cry out to God based on someone else’s relationship and wonder why things don’t happen and they are not getting answers.  The right request is made based on a covenant relationship.

A Right Attitude

Israel is not whining here, though some have been taken prisoner.  They come humbly before God.  They make a request and they are prepared to honor their part of the process.  Attitude makes all the difference.  My kids make requests all the time.  They already know my answer and sometimes quote it, “Depends on your attitude.”  We are for more prepared to help someone when they come to us with the right attitude.  However, if someone comes and begins demanding we are turned off.  When someone comes with an attitude of expectation rather than humble request we are turned off.  I believe God is gracious and kind.  I also believe that God deserves our respect.  Getting answers depends of the right relationship and the right attitude.  Think back on times when you have not sensed a response from God.  What was your attitude?  Think back on those moments when you felt you were not getting answers.  Did you go in search of them yourself and forget God?

A Right Response

Israel made the request properly and God, in His sovereignty, knew they would act accordingly.  God knew they would actually do what they said they would do and answered their prayers.  Did you know that God already knows how you will respond?  Were you aware that God already knows if you will live up to your promise?  We get backed into a corner of our own making (sin) and become willing to make all kinds of promises we will not keep.  Let us not be fooled that just because we make an empty promise that God will have to answer the prayer.  God is always looking out for our best interests.  If getting answers or granting requests will only harm you then He might not.

Most of us have our grocery list of requests for God.  We throw them all up and wait to see what the “benevolent grandfather” will give us.  It is like the child who points and grandma buys.  When we pray, ask, request, desire answers let us come out of a right relationship, with a right attitude, and a right response.

 

3 Critical Decisions to Achieve Strength and Victory

In Chrisian Life on June 19, 2014 at 10:01 am

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In his book, You Lost Me, David Kinnaman presents that our youngest generation uses different phrases to describe themselves than do the prior 3 generations.  The former generations used words like smarter, work ethic, values and morals, honest, and respectful.  Our youngest use these words:  technology use, music and pop culture, smarter, and clothes.

Did you see that?

What I am finding also is that many parents of these, in trying to stay “cool” and “hip”, are ignoring words like work ethic, values, morals, and respect too.  Though it does bother them, their guilt overcomes them and they strive to be BFF’s with their kids.

What does this have to do with God?

In Romans 12:1, Paul writes

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.    Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

No doubt he was aware of what God had instructed in the Old Testament in Numbers 28-29.  While Jesus established a new covenant, He did not want us to disregard the value of worship and the work it takes to maintain a proper relationship.  Because our youngest (and parents), do not understand work, they want a relationship with God in which they do not really have to do anything.  Here are few observations:

  • People look to get than give.  Many people attend church to get something out of it or God.  Attendance is used as leverage to acquire wants from God.  So many find a church home based on what they, and their kids, can get from the church.  If we all took this approach, there would be no workers/helpers to make this happen.  We are to look to give more than get.  Additionally, if someone does not feel they are getting enough out of this relationship with God they will find some other god to worship:  work, family, entertainment, and leisure.  Our minds are so befuddled and our hearts so black that we demand everything but give nothing.
  • People engage by convenience not commitment.  If there is nothing on the schedule, families make it to church.  Forget daily reading in the Bible, who has the time?  We are driven toward so many things and God is put on the back burner in order to complete all the other tasks that feel more pressing.
  • Definition of active member has changed. 20 years ago an active church member was defined as one who attends 3 times a week.  Today, it is one who attends 3 times a month.  For those in church leadership this does come as a surprise.  We have watched this occur and fretted over it!  While a prevailing thought would be that church attendance does not really matter, I think Scripture would disagree.  Certainly, the relationship is greater than the religion. Yet, the religion is an outpouring of the relationship.  Lack of commitment and a desire to receive marks an immaturity and lostness among our people.

For the believer and the church to be strong healthy and victorious again here are 3 critical decisions to achieve strength and victory from Numbers 28-29.

  • Daily is the goal – make time to relate with God rather than relay wants.  Dialogue with Him through prayer and Bible reading.  Every day the Israelites made a sacrifice.  It took time and cost some as well.  Trusting God with some of your best time is a step of faith He will honor.  Who knows? You might find yourself more productive.
  • Decide to be regular – God gave the principle of regularity.  They had daily, weekly, monthly, and special times to sacrifice/worship God.  When families are only making it in 3 times a month to church coupled with an irregular relationship, the unit breaks down and the individual parts crumble too.  Attend Bible Study and Worship regularly and with a cheerful heart.  Start spending moments each day with God.  Be regular and watch your joy begin to overflow and life to be more satisfying.
  • Determine to be honorable – God gave specific instructions on what and how to give.  The honorable choice was to give the best, the first, and do it with joy.  Whether we are discussing our time, our abilities, or our money are you giving your best, your first, and doing it with joy?

Does God Really Care?

In Grief, Journey, Trust on March 18, 2014 at 10:10 am

God-Care-300x273There are those days when God seems so far away.  The distance appears to be insurmountable and the evidence is clear in our hearts, though our minds disagree, that God might not care.  We shudder to say such words.  We desperately want them to not be true.  We need them to not be true.  Facebook spirituality posts that God cares.  Instagram is filled with nice pastoral pictures and quotes of how much God cares.  The preacher talks of God’s love.

How did we get here?  How did we get to the place of thinking God doesn’t care?  How did the distance between us become so great?

The Obvious

There are two obvious things that can cause a feeling of distance.

No Relationship – How could you be close to someone with whom you have no relationship.  Many people think they know God but do not.  If a random child asks me for something versus my child asking me for something, my responses will likely be different because of the relationship.  I do not always give my child what he wants, but the relationship can make a difference.

Sin – Every wrong choice adds more height to the wall that separates.  The unrelated child that acts poorly really has no chance of getting a positive response from me.  If my child acts poorly, then a response is coming but not always a pleasant one.  Sin causes friction in a relationship.  Just because I discipline my children does not negate the relationship.  On the contrary, I discipline because I care for them and do not want them to continue down a wrong path.

The Subtle

In John 11, we find a display of Jesus that is hard for us to imagine.  If He had the power to save a life, why not do it right away?  Instead, He waited 2 days.  Imagine how the sisters felt.  Their brother has died and Jesus is not even there.  In fact, he had been dead 4 days before He arrives on the scene.  Mary and Martha are both upset.  Why?  The possibilities for them are the same for us.

Manipulating God – We find distance when we try to coerce God into doing something.  We use Bible terms like “God is Healer” or “The Great Physician” to demand of God that he brings a person back to a state of health we want.  We use Bible terms like “Cattle on a 1000 hills” to demand of God he provide in a financial way, even if the problem is our poor money habits.  We might even pull Hebrew on God like “Jehovah Jireh”, which means the one who provides, to try to manipulate God with scripture.

Pre-Conceived Ideas – The classic reason we find distance between us and God and entertain the notion He does not really care is that God did not answer in the way we wanted.  While this is closely related to manipulation, it is different in that we already have the answer we want and are waiting for God to do it that way.  Mary and Martha faced this issue.  They were ticked because Jesus did not arrive when beckoned.  They had a preconceived idea of what would happen.  When that did not go the way they planned, they were frustrated.  Been there?

Short-Sighted PlansJesus knew exactly what was needed, though the sisters and His disciples could not.  The 12 could only see the dangers, while Jesus saw the blessings.  The sisters could only see the death and burial, while Jesus could see the raising of the dead.  God has a perfect plan that is always in play.  When we try to change, adjust, manipulate, or manage a different plan we are going to become frustrated.  The only plan that brings peace is the one that God is putting into place.  When we come to terms with our short-sighted ability and accept God’s plan we will find peace once again.

God Does Care

When we are in crisis it is hard to see the bigger picture, but God already has a plan.  When a tragedy strikes, it is hard to see the good, but God already has a plan.  For those who have a developing relationship with God, things work out in the way they should.  Looking back on life, I find nuggets of gold in emotional spots I never thought possible at the time.  I find stashes of strength and courage because of my past that helps me now, though I did not see it then.  God does care if you take the time to trust and obey His Word and plan.

3 Things Everyone Needs to Know on Valentine’s Day

In Life and Culture, love on February 14, 2014 at 10:50 am

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Outside of the principal’s office each year on this day 2 8-foot tables were set up.  As the flower and gift shops opened for business they started hauling in all manner of vases and baskets.  By lunch, these tables were overflowing.  All the people would come and get their items and then they would fill up again after lunch for those who had forgotten earlier or had acquired a date over lunch.

Saying “I like you” can get expensive.  See, there was very little love involved in shelling out massive amounts of money.  In fact, I find it rather amusing that guys are so uninvolved in the lives of those they say they love that they simply order and deliver.  I read a Facebook post of a friend of mine who was really happy with her gift because there was thought involved.  Instead of just buying “the usual”, the guy purchased items he knew she really wanted.  Here are 3 things everyone needs to know on Valentine’s Day.

Love is more than an order over the phone.  Anyone can phone in an order.  I admit, I have done this before and regretted it!  Love is about a relationship.  If I just phone in an order which involves generic items that speaks to my guilt more than my love.  Guilt due to waiting too late and now the punt plan takes over.  You send in a basket to your child because you want them to feel special.  I would propose that a well-loved child’s esteem is built each day and not on one gigantic day.

Love is about a relationship.  I would suggest that most teenage boys have no clue about this aspect.  If your purpose in life on this day is about your girl getting the biggest, best, or most expensive item then you are measuring against the wrong standard.  Your gift being bigger than your buddy’s gift is not the standard.  The depth of what you know about your love and matching that with just the right gift is the standard.  Does she giggle with glee because you have shown her that you have listened?  Does your child need a large gift to make her feel special or have you built her up with confidence of your love and support daily through relationship?

Love is not always about money.  Face it.  Guys think that if they spend enough money the love with grow.  More flowers and bigger baskets become egregious if they have to outdo last year.  I recently discovered a letter I wrote 20 years ago to my wife.  She still keeps it tucked away in a safe place.  The cost of ink and paper is irrelevant.  This has been kept because of the intangibles.  Throwing money at a relationship does not fix the problem or make her feel more loved.  Giving of your heart is what counts.

Some might say that I am not a romantic and must be a love “hater”.  This is not true.  The truth is that romance takes effort and, at times, we guys can get lazy.  When you take the time to listen, observe, and then respond life, love, and laughter will once again fill your heart and home.

Listen carefully.
Watch closely.
Respond confidently.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Check the Ball

In Chrisian Life, Journey on August 19, 2013 at 9:26 am

basketball-4847I don’t usually run the offense. When I play regularly I will hit the wing and take an outside shot. If I haven’t played in a while then I will post up and either block or pass to a better shooter. In half-court games you will notice after every shot a pause. The offense gets set. The defense gets set. Then the ball is handed to a defensive player and checked. For those not familiar with basketball, I do not mean it is examined. What I mean is that once everyone on the floor is in position and ready then the ball is given back to the offense for the play to begin. Fair play dictates that every person be ready before starting. God needs no time to get ready, but we do. We need to check the spiritual ball with God.

 And He (Jesus) said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

Notice the word daily. In half-court “rules”, after every made basket the teams check the ball. Even in full-court, after a stoppage of play we will check the ball. Our 40-something bodies need a breather sometimes anyway and that is a good excuse! However, we check the ball because it allows everyone to be ready. Jesus wants us to check the spiritual ball daily.

Following Jesus is more than being a fan of Jesus. To follow is to actively pursue Jesus. Too often, we misunderstand this concept and lead people to follow rules, follow a religion, or follow a person.  Like many  of you, I grew up in an environment of “Do’s” and “Dont’s”.  But to be a disciple of Jesus means to follow Jesus. Jesus wants us to check in daily with him. This simply means that we are to make sure we are in sync before moving.

While the ball is being checked in, there is little movement. Once checked, there is a rush of activity. In the pause we match up and make certain we are in our spot. The offense will pause to not give away where they are going to go next. Jesus encourages a pause, too. Deny yourself. Pause and check the ball. Stop moving. Stop running. Stop and breath in the presence of God (Psalm 46:10) and check the ball. Make sure everyone knows what is going to happen.

  • The next time you find yourself stressed out, check the ball.
  • The next time you face a tough decision, check the ball.
  • The next pause in your day, check the ball.
  • When you lie down and when you wake up, check the ball.
  • As you drive down the road or run down the hall for the next meeting, check the ball.

Make sure you are on the same page with God.  Check the ball.

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