Aaron Summers

Posts Tagged ‘Relationships’

How Do I Talk About Jesus?

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

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

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

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

How can we turn a conversation toward Jesus?

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Midas Touch

In Leadership on December 4, 2014 at 8:21 am

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Our staff recently watched a 4 part series by John Maxwell about ethics.  In it he captures the essence of the Golden Rule: Do to others as you would have it done to you.  In the last session he talks about the Midas touch.

One day, Dionyssus, the god of wine and revelry, passed through the kingdom of Midas. One of his companions, a satyr named Silenus, got delayed along the way. Silenus got tired and decided to take a nap in the famous rose gardens surrounding the palace of king Midas. There, he was found by the king, who recognized him instantly and invited him to spend a few days at his palace. After that, Midas took him to Dionyssus. The god of celebration, very grateful to Midas for his kindness, promised Midas to satisfy any wish of him. Midas though for a while and then he said: I hope that everything I touch becomes gold. Dionyssus warned the king to think well about his wish, but Midas was positive. Dionyssus could do nothing else and promised the king that from that following day everything he touched would turn into gold. Source: www.greeka.com.

While Midas found this to be a curse, in your organization creating an atmosphere where everyone benefits is vital to high retention rates.  How do we have the Midas touch?

1.  Do your job and then some.  Often we just do the bare minimum to get by and wonder why we do not have glowing reviews as evaluation time. Work more than others think may be necessary, just don’t sacrifice family to do so.

2.  Go the 2nd mile.  Roman law required a person to walk 1 mile to assist someone.  Going the 2nd mile means to volunteer the rest of the way.  Go further than you want in the treatment of others in your office or under your supervision.

3.  Think about others more than yourself.  We often seek out those who can help us, upgrade our position, or promote our product.  How often do we help those who can’t help us?  We assist just because it is the right thing to do.  We help even though there is no immediate return.

4.  Choose right when wrong is easier.  There are those moments when telling a lie is far easier than the truth.  The lie will seemingly get you out of trouble.  Often it is easier to avoid than to address, neglect than nurture, and regulate than relate.  Choose the right.

Having the Midas touch was a curse for the king but is critical for the atmosphere that surrounds you.  Make a connection.  Develop that assistant.  Discuss the issue.  Lead from a loving heart.

3 Tips on Coffee and Relationships

In Chrisian Life on September 18, 2014 at 8:25 am

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Whether it is Costa Rica to Cambodia, or Ecuador to Ethiopia, I have probably drunk it.  Coffee is as natural in the morning as the sun rising.  From Keurig at home to Campfire coffee in Africa, I have enjoyed cup after cup, though, not all coffee is good.  With hundreds of coffee options and thousands of coffee-making options, what makes a good cup of coffee?  Rather, how do I avoid making a bad cup of coffee?  Here are a few tips on making a good cup of coffee.

Water

The water is really critical.  One day I was making coffee and noticed a particular smell.  I wasn’t sure what was happening, but I felt that the feedlots must have spilled into the water system somehow!  I got a glass of tap water and tasted it.  Needless to say it was nasty!  I had just received some fine coffee from a friend and was glad I did not waste it by letting it soak in the water!  I understood later that day that the water supply was from a lake that was “turning over” and caused the water to taste funky for about a week twice a year.  Now I knew about the smell, but now how to get rid of the “floaties” in the water?  I bought a water purifier!

In the same way we don’t want our coffee to be brewed, or pressed, in tainted water, let us be careful not to taint those around us because of our pungent moral smell or floating moods.  Let Christ purify you each morning so that you can enhance the flavor of life around you.

Strength

I have always said that if you can see the bottom of the cup through the coffee then you really just have dirty water!  I recognize that I enjoy stronger coffee than others, but not as much as my Eastern European friends.  While on mission in Hungary I was introduced to “sludge”.  I believe my army buddies would even cringe a little at this strength!  The coffee was so strong that it felt like hot melted creamy peanut butter as you swallowed it.   You have to find the right balance.

Some people you see right through and others you couldn’t hack your way through.  I believe, no matter the personality type, one must find a balance in dealing with people.  If we come off too weak we will we discarded and disregarded.  If we come off too strong we can alienate and become alone.  The strength is important when it comes to dealing with people.

Filtration

In Africa, or on the range, campfire style coffee is often made from mixing coffee and water and then boiling it together.  What happens here is that, unless you have way to filter, it all gets mixed together.  In desperate moments, this coffee will do, but not every day.  Every morning, I would get up and make the coffee.  Every cup would have grinds in the bottom and it would be a little bitter.

When we do not filter ourselves, bitterness results.  Other will look just like the face you make when drinking bitter coffee or when trying to pick grinds out of your teeth, if we do not learn to filter what and how we says things.  Not everything that hits your mind must leave your mouth.  Not everything you hear has to be repeated.  Learn to filter.

You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.    No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.    In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

Can You Relate?

In Chrisian Life on July 31, 2014 at 7:26 am

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I had breakfast with a friend the other day and we were discussing the woes of the economy and how each at our respective churches were having to prioritize ministry and be efficient in our expenditures. During this conversation we began wondering how efficient economically our massive programming really is.

How can we do things better?
How can we make a difference?

I believe that if we would embrace a paradigm shift from regulatory to relational religion we would see a dramatic increase in ministry productivity. How do we make this shift?

The first thing to do is to move past the past. Calvin Whitman, pastor of Applewood Baptist Church in Colorado, in his sermons based on Exodus says that “the past is to be a guidepost…not a hitching post.” I concur. So often we fondly look back at the past and the nostalgia is so thick we cannot find our way back to the present. We hitch our lives, our ministries, our churches to the ways of the past. The past is something we are to remember without replay. We are to recall the past, but live in the present. Our present is vastly different in the information age as we experience a doubling of intelligence every few years with increasing speed.

In order to move past the past and begin our transition from regulatory to relational religion we must understand the principle of reciprocity. This principle, as I define it here, means that we extend the same amount and kind of grace extended to us. Relational religion expresses this type of grace. Regulatory religion tends to hand out guilt and shame by holding on to your past and bringing it up every time there is an opportunity. Regulatory religion operates out of power by setting up levels of sin and disciplining through calling out, shame, shunning, etc. Other ways to express discipline include glares and stares, whispers in hallways, and silent treatment. Who wouldn’t want to go to that church? This is the exact point I am making. Relational religion does not create levels of sin but levels out sin since all sin is equal in God’s eyes. Relational religion does not feel a need to discipline to make ourselves feel better but to disciple to make others fully devoted followers of Christ. Relational religion loves people as they have been loved rather than focusing on the hatred of sin. Operating out of a negative position creates negative results. Regulatory religion is not a healthy approach. Further, regulatory religion exits when things get a little tough.

When the addict relapses do we exit or encourage?
When the marriage is dissolving do we exit because of their lack of faith or do we encourage them through love and devotion?

These type of questions go straight to the heart of our religion. We must not only move past our past, but also move past other people’s past. Love keeps no record of wrongs. Let’s move past the past.

Can you relate?

Life in Transition

In Chrisian Life, Gospel Living, Transition on June 2, 2014 at 2:27 pm

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Change is never easy to deal with in life.  When God decides to bring change in your life it can be quite hectic!  Recently, God called our family to another church.  For the past couple of weeks we have worked tirelessly to prepare the house for sale, finish the school year, go to church camp, cry, whine, and then smile for all who ask.

Let me be clear.  We are excited to be in the middle of God’s plan, but the transition needs a little work!  I say this, not to be all whiny about following God, but to be honest.  As I told one person the other day, 18 years ago was a much easier process because it was only Dulcie and I.  Now that we have two children it makes it more difficult.  In an age where pastors only average 2 years at a church, 8 ½ years is a blessing!  I pray for my kids.  This is the only house, church, community, and school they have ever known.  The family at church we have is all they really know.

Life in transition is tough.  Why?

I think transition gets tough because of a few factors.

1.   Relationships.  Anytime one builds relationships it makes it sweeter as the days go by until such a time as transition.  With technology today those friendships are easier to maintain, but separation is still hard.  Some do not build relationships, but we do.  We are far richer for having done so and I would not change this fact.  Make friends.  Extend your family.  Love.

2.  Involvement.  After a while it is easy to become entrenched in your situation.  For a personality that goes all in all the time it is easier.  Transition gets hard the larger and longer the involvement.  Whether it is church or community, the gospel calls us to be involved.  When the God of that Gospel calls you to move, however, it can become complicated.  Bowing out of leadership, responsibilities, and activities drives home the point of soon-to-be departure.  I thank God for the opportunities given over the past several years.  I do not want to look back too often because those who remain must forge on.  I pray God’s people will forge ahead stronger.  At the same time, I must look ahead too.  Transition is hard because of living in two worlds for a period.

3.  Attachments.  Often transition is hard because we selfishly don’t want to leave or we have become too attached to “things of this world”.  I love the church family God has allowed us to have these years.  Unplugging is not impossible, but it feels like it.  We like the familiarity of the route to work, the people at the store, community activities, and more.  We get lazy in the luxury of easy.  Let’s face it.  We all like our routines.  We find solace in them.  We find rest in them.  Yet, all of scripture teaches us to find solace, rest, peace, and hope in God.

God uses a transition to deepen our faith and shore up the reality that we are to depend on Him more than anything else.  Often, I find that the words of Jesus take new perspective, not the least is this comment:

But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”

As a follower of Christ, God constantly acts so that we become fit for the Kingdom.  Life in transition reminds us so much of this fact.  God places you where He needs you and you need to be.  Maybe that is in a community.  Maybe that is in a particular department.  Maybe a neighborhood.  Maybe a church.  Wherever God has planted you, bloom.  Just don’t dig your heels in if He decides to change the pot!

Ending the Winter in Your Family

In Family, Life and Culture on March 26, 2014 at 8:24 am

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With the recent release of Frozen on DVD and the current weather battle for spring to emerge, I have considered how we can thaw out in our family relationships. Like so many others, we bought the DVD of Frozen, though we had not seen it in the theater. We sat down over a school break and watched it. It is an amazing film filled with wonderful animation and catchy songs. While I enjoyed the movie, I was disturbed with the treatment of Elsa, as I am sure I was supposed to be. How often do we, unintentionally and with good reasons, treat our family the way she was treated? The royal parents had a difficult time on their hands to be sure. Elsa was different from others. She often found herself in uncontrollable situations, such as the one that got her imprisoned in her room. In order to end winter in your family her are a few key terms to remember.

Express

During a play time, Elsa unfortunately hurt her sister trying to help her sister. The parents reacted poorly and isolated her from that moment. She was not allowed to be who she was designed to be. There are four basic ways a child will learn to express themselves in school: Academics, Arts, Athletics, and Agriculture. Your child will excel in one of these areas and possibly show interest in others. If we are going to train up our children to be all God made them to be then we need to allow for expression to come naturally. If we isolate them in one area because it is the most comfortable for us then we lose out on the full potential in our relationship with each other.

Embrace

Elsa felt all alone. She had parents. She had a sister. Yet, she felt alone and unloved. Critically, she also felt unlovable. This can happen in our family too. Every person is wired by God in a unique way. Gary Chapman has made a career out of developing 5 Love Languages for every possible situation. Every family member will have a stronger need for one over the others. If you try to love them all the same then you will fail. Each person is different. Siblings have the same genetic code but will need different ways of feeling loved and supported.

Expand

Elsa was put away because the parents did not know how to deal with the reality of their daughter. Instead of taking an interest in what she could do, they locked her up. Expanding our horizons is healthy. Involve them and yourself in a variety of options, even the ones you may not enjoy. During the process, watch to see you finds their niche. Sometimes no one will, but the process of learning together builds the bonds of family.

You might be experiencing an eternal winter in your family right now. Everyone is on edge and grumpy. Maybe there are broken relationships. Honest and sincere love will melt the ice that surrounds the hearts and minds of those who have been hurt. One action is a fairy tale for sure, but consistent acts of love will allow spring to bloom in your family again!

The Rebel Force

In Authority, Chrisian Life, Leadership on May 3, 2013 at 10:55 am

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My wife and I grew up in Christian home but navigated life differently.  She never did anything wrong and I often didn’t do things right.  We often joke that had we known one another in High School we wouldn’t be together today.  What is it about rebellion that seems so sexy?  It seems that rebelling against the traditional has become vogue.  We have redefined rebellion to make it more palatable using phrases like “independence”, “sowing wild oats”, and “boys will be boys”.  Life has rules and the sooner we accept this as fact the sooner we can mature into productive citizenry.

What makes us rebel? The obvious answer is that it is our choice.  It is our responsibility.  We choose to rebel.

What are the factors involved in rebellion?  The main factor involved in rebellion is selfishness.  We are so wrapped up in ourselves that we cannot see any other person.  Selfishness warps our thinking.  We only think of ourselves.  I chose to behave in certain ways because I only concerned myself with myself.  I wanted alcohol.  I didn’t care about the people in the car.  I wanted to jump the railroad tracks with a train coming.  I didn’t care about how it affected anyone else.  I wanted.  Our rebellion is based on a selfishness that permeates every fiber of our being.

Why do some rebel and others do not?  I was recently reminded of a quote from Josh McDowell:

Rules without relationship equals rebellion

Does that resonate with you?  I have found it easier to follow the rules when I have an understanding of them and the onus behind them.

For example, I can make a rule and enforce it out of positional authority.  John Maxwell defines this as “People follow you because they have to.”  By the rights and privileges of the position I could simply respond with “Because I say so.”  Some will comply while others will not.  However, relying too heavily on positional authority will lead to rebellion.  Your position might be parent, or shift leader, or management, or CEO.  In whatever capacity that you have positional power be careful how you use it.  The rules dispensed from position are valid but should be used sparingly.   If position is abused you wind up with mutiny, labor union strikes, walkouts, divorce, runaways, and more.

Rules without relationship equals rebellion.

Maxwell suggests a step higher with permissive authority.  While positional authority focus on the rights, permissive focuses on relationships.  This type of authority has people obey because they want to obey.  Working with kids I discovered that is a relationship is built then enforcement of rules becomes easier.  ALL will attempt to test the boundaries, but with a relationship in place they desire to follow the rules because they internally need the established relationship.  Those whom you manage will be far more loyal if they believe you have their best interests in mind rather than your own promotion.  Your family and friends will be more loyal if they believe you listen and love them for who they are and not what they can do for you.

Stemming the tide of rebellion involves developing a relationship.  Paul wrote to the Ephesians,

15 Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk—not as unwise people but as wise— 16 making the most of the time, because the days are evil.

Is Hope Dead?

In Decisions, Family, Grief, Trust on April 17, 2013 at 8:50 am

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Is hope a simple-minded myth?

In just a 24 hour period I experienced an earthquake, read the news about the Boston bombings, talked with someone whose parent is dying and discovered another marriage crumbling.  How do we cope?  How do we handle the stress?  To whom do we turn?  Too often we turn to the couch of a physician, the doctor’s office for pills, the bed of another, or the bottle to ease the pain.  Why wouldn’t we?  Someone planted bombs in a marathon to maim and destroy the lives of hundreds, if not thousands.  The one who has nurtured you your whole life lies in a bed waiting, and possibly planning, on dying.  The marriage that outwardly seems to be so wonderful is rotting from within.  It is no wonder that we pop pills and drink ourselves to that uncaring oblivion.  We must find a way to ease this pain we feel.  We are determined to replace pain with pleasure, hurt with happiness.

Why hope?  It seems to do no good.

I would expect many to feel this way who have never tasted the goodness of God or have been hurt by those who represent God.  Trust and hope are tied together in a neat little package that some wish were separated.  How can I hope for something where there is no trust?  How can I hope the bombings and killings will stop without trust in the government’s ability to handle or control this situation?  How can I hope for healing when I cannot trust that God will do what I want?  How can there be hope in a marriage where trust left years ago?  Hope is fleeting.  Hope is failing.  Hope is futile and for the simple-minded.  We realists live above this unnecessary emotion right?  Logic wins in that world, but love loses.

We hope because it raises our vision from today to tomorrow.  We hope because the pain of the past is replaced with a promise of a preferred future.  We hope because down deep we still know that God is bigger than us.  God has our best interests in mind even though our feelings claim fault.  We hope because that is all we have.  Hope brings warmth.  Hope brings vision.  Hope raises the spirit.  Though all else seems to fail, believe there is hope.

Believe.  Hope.  Pray.  Live.

1 Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from inside the fish: 2 I called to the Lord in my distress,and He answered me. (Jonah 2)

 

Forgive-Them-Nots

In Forgiveness on November 8, 2012 at 11:34 pm

 


Do you remember doing this?  If you’re a girl, you probably do. I don’t know of a single guy to ever do this, but I am sure someone did!  If you recall, pull each petal and chant either “He loves me” or “He loves me not” like some New Orleans French Quarter Fortune Teller.  The fate of the relationship rested on the last petal.  Does he love me or not?  I have often wanted to do this with forgiveness.  I have wanted to go pick a daisy and begin pulling its petals out saying either “Forgive them” or “Forgive them …. NOT!”  (That was so an 80’s reference!)  This concept of forgiveness has received a bad wrap over the years.  We have such quirky thoughts when it comes to forgiveness that we have become paralyzed with fear that if we forgive we have somehow publicly condoned whatever it was the person did to us.

I wonder if Peter had a daisy in his hand when he asked Jesus this?  I bet he did!

There is something inside of us that screams “Injustice!” when it comes to forgiveness.  Our anger, bitterness, and hurt cannot fathom forgiveness as an option.  Yet, Jesus tells us to put down our daisies and listen to this story.

What do we do about forgiveness?  Let’s begin with what forgiveness is not:

1.  Forgiveness is not saying the action was acceptable.  Often we believe that forgiveness means we are condoning an action or behavior.  Forgiveness does not mean we accept something wrong as right.

2.  Forgiveness does not erase all the pain.  Our pain is so deep at times that forgiveness seems unattainable.  How is forgiveness going to help me?  Forgiveness is not to be misunderstood as forgetfulness.  While forgiveness begins a healing process, it does not erase immediately.

3.  Forgiveness is not removing guilt.  If someone has harmed you, they are guilty of that wrong.  To forgive does not remove them of the guilt or potential consequences of their behavior.

Now let’s look at what forgiveness really is:

1.  Forgiveness is a choice.  It is not an emotion.  It is not a feeling.  Forgiveness is a choice of our  mind and will.

2. Forgiveness is a response to what Jesus has done for us.

3.  Forgiveness is being more concerned with the future than the past.  Forgiveness releases you from being controlled by an event or person.  As long as you harbor ill-will or anger it only hurts you.  How does holding on to that emotion hurt the person?  They go on living.  You go on dying.  Forgiveness releases the grip of death and allows you to be free to live.

I forgive not because it is easy.  I forgive because I have been forgiven.  God forgave me of my sin at the cross of Jesus.  I was released of my guilt at the moment of my faith.  I have been set free.  How incredulous would it be of me to hoard forgiveness?  That which cost God so much to give me must be paid forward to those who have harmed me. Forgiveness is hard.  It is exhausting.  It is releasing.  Forgiveness is holy.

I forgive because I was forgiven first.  I love because I was loved first.

The “F” Word

In Anger, Cleansing, Commitment, Exodus on February 13, 2011 at 3:16 pm

Sometimes it just can’t be helped.  Usually it doesn’t just slip out.  However, in the heat of the moment it is the only real option.  The “F” word sometimes NEEDS to be used.  Of course, I don’t think it should be just thrown around.  It should be used tastefully and with purpose.  I am trying to teach my children how to use the word in the right moments.  You can’t just drop that bomb in any conversation.  It takes a certain diplomacy to use it just right.  I hear it all the time, but I am not sure we all are working on the same definition.  In fact, I think many people misunderstand the purpose and meaning of the “F” word.

7 I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations.t
I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin.
But I do not excuse the guilty.
I lay the sins of the parents upon their children and grandchildren;
the entire family is affected—
even children in the third and fourth generations.”

Exodus 34:7

Forgiveness is critical to a society that functions properly.  However, so many people refuse to forgive because of a misunderstanding of its meaning and purpose.  Here is what forgiveness is not:
1. It is not a release from responsibility.  Just because you forgive does not mean that person is no longer liable for the actions or words which damaged you or the relationship.
2. It is not an immediate end to the pain.  Forgiveness does not rid ourselves of the pain we might feel.  Forgiveness cannot bring back the child lost in the accident.  Forgiveness cannot remove the haunting memories of the battles, bruises, and scars.
3.  It is not giving in.  The perceived power I feel that I have over someone is just that…perceived.  I am not giving in to the person, or group.  What is happening is that I am actually taking back a personal power.

Forgiveness is…
1. Being interested in moving forward more than staying in the past.
2. Giving back to God the right to dispense justice.
3. A process, not a one-time event.

We must learn how to forgive.  It is an art, not always a science.  I choose to forgive. I choose to give back to God the right to dispense justice as He sees fit.  I choose to let go of the event and move forward.

I forgive you is powerful.  Be powerful today.

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