Aaron Summers

Posts Tagged ‘Religion and Spirituality’

Tweetable Prayers

In Life and Culture on December 19, 2013 at 7:00 am

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We have all been there. In fact it is probably happening right now. You are perusing Facebook and Twitter and then it happens. Someone needs prayer. On my own timeline in the last day or so there were many needs for prayer.

  • A child is sick.
  • A mom has cancer.
  • A dad is having surgery.
  • Kids are having tests.
  • There is a need for moisture/no more frozen moisture.
  • A disaster just happened.

The typical response is “praying”. I have typed it just like you. But do we? Are we really? I have not always and neither have you most likely. Do we just put that because of social media peer pressure? What if you don’t put it and someone asks you about it? Do you not care? Do you not understand the need? So we put it out there. However, are we putting out false hope by typing “praying” but not actually engaging God? Certainly some of you do pray. I just wonder if it wouldn’t be better to just type a prayer…a tweetable prayer. What if there were 160 character prayers that could be helpful? Never fear, here you go.

Sickness – “God please bring your healing hand to this situation. Give wisdom and ability to the Drs and nurses. Give us assurance of your Spirit. Amen.”

Cancer – “God bring pain relief. Give a desire to fight and to eat. Give patience to the family and healing in the body. Build our faith in you. Amen.”

Surgery – “As this surgery approaches, steady the hands and strengthen the mind of the Drs. Give your assurance, presence and peace to the family. Amen”

Weather – “You made the stars and sky. You hold the world in Your hands. As it turns Your breath is the wind.  See our need and meet it please. Amen.”

General – “May the Lord bless and protect you. May He smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace. Amen”

Instead of typing “praying”, let us pray!

When Family Hurts, Do These 4 Things

In Faith, Life and Culture on December 11, 2013 at 7:00 am

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I love this time of year, though I give my wife a hard time about decorating!  The holiday season is a time of joy, laughter, and family.  During the 63 days from Halloween to New Year’s Day, families seem to gather more often than any other time.  While that can be a joy it can also be painful.  Maybe your family

  • Fights
  • Is broken
  • Drinks too much
  • Is separated
  • Is divided
  • Condemns
  • Doesn’t understand

How do we handle our own flesh and blood when they do not understand the decisions we make?  How do we deal with the issues that unfold after we make a faith decision in Jesus or a renewed commitment?  Last year you brought the booze now you bring a Bible.  Last year you started a fist fight with your cousin now you are more patient and kind.  Last year you laughed at and told the most awful jokes and now you refrain.  When you are trying to the do the right thing for the first time, family can muddy the waters.

What do you do when family hurts?

The Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, so His brothers said to Him, “Leave here and go to Judea so Your disciples can see Your works that You are doing.  For no one does anything in secret while he’s seeking public recognition. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.”  (For not even His brothers believed in Him.)

As you begin to read this you might think they are being helpful.  But those last words reveal the true nature of their intent: poking fun.  The brothers of Jesus did not believe in Him, His ministry, or His message.  Though Jesus was the oldest, the others didn’t seem to care or give the respect normally expected in that culture.  Read those verses again and let them drip with sarcasm and spite.  Imagine they are laughing as they say it.  Maybe you have felt this sting before.  Maybe you have stung someone across the family table before.  How do you respond?

Jesus told them, “My time has not yet arrived, but your time is always at hand.  The world cannot hate   you, but it does hate Me because I testify about it — that its deeds are evil.  Go up to the festival yourselves. I’m not going up to the festival yet, because My time has not yet fully come.”   After He had said these things, He stayed in Galilee.

Hold your ground.  Jesus stood firm and was not going to be sucked into the fight.  The brothers were picking at Him, but he remained calm and carried on.  When your family does not understand the decisions you are making, be patient.  Hold your molehill, just don’t make it a mountain.

Express yourself.  Often when family hurts we run away.  In the heat of the moment, we speak poorly.  We say things we will regret later.  Jesus expressed Himself but did not let His emotion overwhelm.  He explained, briefly, His position.  Before you get into a family moment think through what you are doing and why you are doing it.  Sometimes family simply doesn’t get what you are doing.  They may not agree, but how you comport yourself makes the difference.

Do not take the bait.  Siblings have a way of baiting one another.  They drop phrases and words to try to get you to react.  When you find yourself in these moments resist the urge to retaliate or condemn.  It would have been easy for Jesus to have “gone off” on all his brothers’ mistakes and misfortunes.  He could have told them all about the poor choice of this festival and that they didn’t really care about the meaning.  Do not jump on your family.  You quit drinking, they did not.  You quit your exploits, they have not.  You have chosen Jesus, they have not.

Be with your family.  In the end, Jesus went to the festival.  He spent time with His family, though they did not understand and made fun of Him.  Your family is your first mission field.  Be positive and engage your family.  Avoiding because of a new commitment comes off snotty and reduces your chances of conversation later.

The holiday season is filled with wonder and joy.  As God broke into the world and engaged us as Immanuel, may we also break into our families and engage them with love and mercy.

Don’t Worry Be Happy

In Chrisian Life on December 10, 2013 at 7:00 am

Don't Worry Be Happy

“Don’t worry, be happy” is most notable as Bobby McFerrin’s coming out song in 1988.  What many may not know is that the inspiration for this song came from Meher Baba. The Indian mystic and sage Meher Baba (1894–1969) often used the expression “Don’t worry, be happy” when cabling his followers in the West.[5] However, Meher Baba communicated variations of the sentiment; fuller versions of the quote – such as, “Do your best. Then, don’t worry; be happy in My love. I will help you[6] — which incorporate responsibility (“do your best…”) alongside the detachment (“don’t worry…”), as well as the master/disciple spiritual relationship (“I will help you”). In the 1960s, the truncated version of this expression by Baba was printed up on inspiration cards and posters of the era.

The concept of not worrying is not original to Baba.  When Jesus came on the scene in the 1st Century he addressed the people’s anxiety and plight in a similar manner.  Here we are in John 6:

Jesus fed the people the day before.  He crossed the lake, had a midnight stroll on the water to meet his boys, and arose to find the crowds lurking.  They wanted some more of what Jesus was handing out. However, they played it smooth and asked, “When did you get here?”  The reply Jesus gave cut through all the smack to the heart of the matter.  He addressed their motivations.

The people showed up for breakfast!  They were hungry. Although in first century Israel there was profound poverty and destitution, most of the poor were working poor. The great majority were peasants engaged in subsistence farming, which means that after payment of Roman taxes, there was barely enough for survival, and certainly no surplus for long-term planning, or even enough to meet emergencies. As biblical scholar John Dominic Crossan observes, “Peasants … were structured inferiors.”

What Jesus says next is very interesting in light of their plight.

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs.    But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.”     — John 6:26-27

Did you hear that?  These people are poor and hungry, though they work hard.  Jesus tells them to not worry about just things as food!  This is a moment when we must understand what Jesus is saying and not get all caught up in the moment.  Remember, Jesus uses physical/spiritual talk often.  He is using it here also.  Jesus is not oblivious to their need.  He wants them to rise above and seek God who can provide for their needs.  They wanted a quick fix and hoped this magician/possible Messiah could help.

Jesus is aware of your need.  Jesus wants you to check your motives.  Our life focus trends toward physical and perishable items.  We work so hard for food, clothing, and shelter that we fail to give heed to the higher need for a spiritual relationship with God.  Jesus is not suggesting that your plight is ridiculous.  Jesus wants you to worry less about those things and more about Him.

That’s HARD!

I know it may seem difficult, but that is what He wants.  Following Jesus is more than just quips and quotes, it is a lifestyle of choices to follow the Messiah.  We are called to give focus and energy to that which we cannot touch or feel.  We are called to work toward an eternal payout more than a temporal one.  Let’s do this and show the world the power and majesty of God as He reveals Himself through us because we opened our lives up to the opportunity!

 

Overcomer

In Life and Culture on December 2, 2013 at 11:55 am


So many people I know are struggling!

  • Weight/Body Image
  • Marriage
  • Finances
  • Addictions
  • Obsessions
  • Grief
  • Loss

It is very likely that you, or someone close to you, is struggling with one or more of these  issues.  In my life I have struggled with grief, loss, and sometimes weight control.  In my circle of friends, I have struggled with someone in all of these areas.  It is amazing that such a short list can encompass so many.  How do we become an overcomer?

When we  have lived our lives dependent on someone or something for our identity, image, or self-worth we will struggle.  When we are asked to give it up we can become upset.  The triteness of “just quit” cuts deeply.  In the life of Jesus we find a moment, an interaction, that will help  us define and decide to move forward.  Overcoming addiction, dependency, emotional baggage, and more is possible.

1.  Is your life right now what you want it to be?  Jesus asked the man at the pool if he wanted to be made well.  It seems like a ridiculous question.  Yet, if I am not in a position to admit my need for help I will not find it.  Many of us might answer this question with “NO!”, but fail to act on that understanding.  We continue to wallow in the pain.  We continue to satisfy the obsession/addiction with unhealthy options.  This man had been on a mat for 38 years.  His life was not what he wanted, but he did not have a solution until Jesus offered one.  He wanted to be made well, but did not have the ability to do so himself.  Until we come to a point of acceptance in our inability, we cannot find the joy of Jesus’ ability.

2.  Have the courage to look beyond your past.  Jesus told the man to stand and walk.  You tried diets.  You have tried therapy.  You might have even done rehab.  What I am suggesting is not spiritual rhetoric.  The point is that Jesus healed the man the moment he spoke.  This guy had to look past the 38  years and have believe.  The man could have chosen to remain on the mat, logically concluding that nothing happened.  He could have added up all the years and not believed in the word of Jesus.  Overcoming your current obstacle begins with admitting the problem, but cannot move forward until we believe in what Jesus can, and has already, done!

3.  Embrace what you  have.  This man got up and walked away.  Look at this again.  He got up and walked away!  The same guy who had been lying there for 38 years now got up and walked away.  he had not worked for 38 years.  He had not, probably, seen his family for 38 years.  He was stepping back into society physically as an adult, but socially as a child.  When we break through the obstacles before, and within, us there will moments of rediscovery.  You will not have all the confidence.  You will not have it all together.  Embrace what you do have: a deepening love and relationship with Jesus.

4.  Not everyone will understand.  People will find a problem.  Friends will still have painful memories that you are trying to get beyond.  Family might be distant.  You might hear things like, “You can’t possibly think you can stay clean and sober.”, or “You will never have a normal family life again.”  Two boys were walking to school when they noticed they were about to be late, which was severely unacceptable.  One boy suggests they stop and pray that they would not be late.  The other one suggests running as fast as possible and pray along the way.  Prayer and work go together.  Faith and action go together.  Nobody else has lived your life.  Nobody else knows the decision to trust in Jesus that you have made like you do.

Overcoming the obstacles we face in life is never easy.  Those obstacles are filled with pain, pride, grief, and tragedy.  However, Jesus offered this man a new life.  He offers you one as well.  These steps to overcoming are a great beginning point.  For further understanding feel free to comment or contact me.

Driving School Steps 1-5

In Chrisian Life on November 7, 2013 at 10:08 am

Clipart-PinewoodDerbyCar

Every year, the Royal Ambassadors (Boys 1st-6th Grade) in many churches engage in the pinewood derby.  The actual race is only a portion of the whole process of what I call “Driving School”.  It is my belief that if we are going to take a good chunk of class time there should be something of significance given to the boys.  Of course, the hands-on is important.  The ability to draw out the vision, sanding, and painting are good and useful things to know.  The following is something I have developed to give as  devotions to the boys after each part of the process.

1.  Block of Wood (Genesis 1-2) – This block of wood did not magically appear.  It came from a Pine tree that was created by the One True God.  His hands formed and shaped the tree that would produce this block of wood.  You did not magically appear.  You were created by God and incubated in your Mother for 9 months.  There is much promise in both items!

2.  Design (Jeremiah 1:5) – We start out in the Pinewood Derby by remembering what we are trying to accomplish.  Every boy needs to have a purpose for what they are doing.  Without a purpose in mind, boys will find a way to digress into chaos!  Some boys want to win the local, regional, or state races.  Some boys want a particular looking car without regard to winning.  Either way, each boy begins with a purpose in mind when designing the car.  You have a purpose.  God knew all about you before you were born.  He has a purpose, a reason, for which He designed you: Doctors, Engineers, Teachers, Leaders, Athletes, Missionaries, Preachers, and more.  Every boy has a unique design given by God.

3.  Cut (Acts 2:37-41) – In order for the car to become all the child desires, the block must be shaped.  Just because, the design was drawn out on paper does not mean that block of wood will perform as it is right now.  The wood must go through the saw to cut away those parts not needed for the purpose designed.  Our lives cannot fulfill the design of God with all the sin.  Just like the pieces of wood that are cut off and thrown away.  We must have our sin removed too.  When we admit that we cannot do that on our own and trust in what Jesus already did through His life, death, and resurrection, we are turning our life over to God who will cut away all that is unnecessary through our faith and repentance.

4.  Sand and Weight (1 Peter 1:13-16) – Once the major shape is cut out, you will notice the design taking form.  However, it is not ready for racing yet.  The boys are excited to see their cars and are ready to throw wheels on and send them down the track.  Too often, we believe the same in our own lives.  There is more work to do before racing!  There are rough edges and ripples in the wood that need to be sanded smooth.  When a race can be lost by .001 seconds, the aerodynamics and weight are important.  These are details hard for young ones to understand.  The men who help them remind them of the importance of weight distribution and smoothness.  Our lives need a sense of sanding and distribution also.  We have rough edges the Spirit wishes to smooth down.  We are out of balance at times and need to have someone mature help us distribute our time, abilities, and money properly.

5.  Prime (Ephesians 4:30) – The raw wood, if left this way, can take on the impurities of the air that surrounds it.  In addition, if someone spills a liquid too close the wood will suck it up and cause problems with the car.  Major remodeling would need to take place.  The primer is a required base layer to seal the wood and prepare it for painting.  Your life, once you have place faith in Jesus, has been primed and sealed by the Holy Spirit.  Once you have placed faith in Jesus you don’t have to keep going back.  If you don’t prime a car then the paint does not stick well.  Without the Holy Spirit, by faith in Jesus, the religion will not stick because there is no relationship with God.

Check back tomorrow for Steps 6-10.  Have a great day!!

 

Credo Christia

In Life and Culture on November 5, 2013 at 11:29 am

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The Soldier’s Creed was updated in 2003 to read as follows:

I am an American Soldier.
I am a Warrior and a member of a team.
I serve the people of the United States, and live the Army Values.

I will always place the mission first.
I will never accept defeat.
I will never quit.
I will never leave a fallen comrade.

I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills.
I always maintain my arms, my equipment and myself.
I am an expert and I am a professional.
I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy, the enemies of the United States of America in close combat.
I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life.
I am an American Soldier.

 

When considering the journey we have with Jesus as a follower of Him, there are notable and significant similarities between the Soldier’s Creed and our life in Christ.  Consider this adjustment for Christianity:

I am a follower of Christ.

I am a soldier for Christ and a member of a local church.
I serve God and others and live the Biblical Ethic.

I place God in the center of my life.
I will not accept defeat.
I will never quit.
I will not leave others behind.

I am a disciple, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my Christian gifts, ministries, and administrations.
I maintain my Bible reading, spiritual armor, and personal habits.
I am an expert and professional in what God has called me to do.
I am ready to go on mission, to share God’s love, and to tear down the walls of Satan.
I am a guardian of the Gospel and the Godly way of life.

I am a follower of Jesus.

Tears of Joy

In Chrisian Life on October 16, 2013 at 10:10 am

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4Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negev! 5 Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! 6He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.

Psalm 126:4-6

Our gospel work for God can be brutal at times. This verse reassures. Why might we weep?

1. We weep because of rejection. People might reject the gospel and the resulting reality is eternal death if their mind is not changed.

2. We weep because of relentless opposition. The work itself can take its toll on your body, your family, your marriage, and your job. Yet, when you turned your life over to God, the King, He is now in charge. We weep because the opposition is strong and we are placed in a defiant moment of culture and history.

3. We weep because of replacement. Jesus told the churches that their lamp could be removed or replaced. Many have speculated whether this meant the pastor or the church body. It could be either one or both depending on the severity of the issue. We weep because that process is not easy. We weep because friends and roots have been made.

We are reassured here that though we sow and toil in tears we will harvest in joy. Don’t stop because it is hard. Press on until the job is done.

Hi-Fidelity

In Chrisian Life on October 15, 2013 at 9:10 am

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High Fidelity: used by audio manufacturers as a marketing term to describe records and equipment which were intended to provide faithful sound reproduction.  I remember having one of these in the house as a kid.  I remember lying on the floor with the headphones singing “King Tut” at the top of my lungs!  This “Hi Fi” stereo system was supposed to play the LP’s as good as live.  High Fidelity sound was all the rage, much like the switch to digital is now.  Compared to the radio the music was crisp, clear, and wonderful.  You could listen to high quality music right in your own home.

Fidelity is something out of vogue these days.  In our disposable culture, we never keep things very long.  In this passage, Jesus models for us several different ways for us to be faithful.

1.  Jesus is faithful to His cousin.  There is something to be said that we should stick up for family.  Jesus didn’t have to do this.  He wasn’t required to be baptized because there was nothing for Him to repent for in His life.  He brought His family into His world as His formal ministry was inaugurated.  How often do we give our best to everyone else except our family?  Our family gets the short end.  Jesus went the other way.  do you?

2.  Jesus is faithful to His commander.  God the Father opened up Heaven and interjects at this point how pleased with Jesus He is.  At that moment Jesus is led to the wilderness.  No report of questions, whining, griping, or negotiations is revealed.  Jesus was faithful to God.  Whatever the Father wanted, Jesus was faithful to do.  I tend to question and negotiate.  God wants faithfulness even when there are no specifics.

3.  Jesus is faithful during conflict.  Running away is an oft chosen option.  We run away from home and move out.  We run away from responsibility and quit school or get an abortion.  We run away from conflict and get a divorce or sleep with someone who “cares”.  When things get rough we walk away.  Where is the faithfulness?  Where is the staying power?  Jesus was being tempted by Satan himself; no demons here.  He was getting pounded but stayed the course.  He did not run.  He did not hide.  He did not quit.  He was faithful.  Am I?  Are you?

4.  Jesus is faithful to His calling.  In the face of John’s incarceration, Jesus began doing that which God wanted Him to do.  He was not going to let a personal hiccup keep Him from doing what He was supposed to do.  It would have been easy to postpone.  It would have been easy to think next year.  Jesus was faithful to His calling.  God calls every person to make disciples of other people.  God gives you a job so that you can do that with your work associates.  He gives you interests and hobbies so that you can connect with those people to make disciples of them too.  He brings children into your life for you to get to know teachers, students, and other families to make disciples of them.  Are you faithful to your calling?

Jesus is hi-fi.  Are you?

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.

Cash or Credit?

In Chrisian Life on September 30, 2013 at 6:28 am

cash-or-credit

Will that be cash or credit?

How many times have you been asked that question?  At its core, you are being asked whether you can afford what you are buying now or not.  Are you paying cash and settling the bill today?  Are you putting it on credit, in the hope of being able to pay the bill later?  Don’t get me wrong, I use plastic too.  However, there are many other decisions in life that are important enough that we should “pay cash” for them.  Listen to what Jesus said,

Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not  sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?    And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.      — Luke 14:31-32

What king goes to war without first having counted the cost?  Why engage the enemy if you do not know you could win?  Sports teams have a schedule and do not have choices.  But kings?  They could negotiate.  They could opt out.  They could fight and become the laughing-stock of the continent.

Jesus expressed this parable to help us realize that when we choose to do something…anything…we should take careful steps.  Let’s walk through 3 careful steps together

Ability.  Before you engage the enemy or take on that project, get a sense of your ability to finish.  I have been awful over the years to get psyched to start a home project, go buy all the materials, and then not get to it for months.  Then the lumber has bowed and warped to the point I have to buy new when i finally get to the actual doing of the project.  Maybe you want to accomplish a project but just do not have the physical ability to do so.  Overestimating your ability causes frustration and fatigue and likely ends in failure.  Be accurate.  Evaluate your ability to finish something before you start.

Call.  Before a king goes to war he must have a sense that God is calling him to do so.  Whether it is a new job, getting married, college, or having a baby, we must have a sense of God’s call on our lives.  Just because I want to do something does not make it mine to do.  Even though I have the ability, do I have a call?  David wanted to build the temple.  He had the ability.  He would have seen it through.  But God said it was not for him to do.  Humbling ourselves before God and accepting what His plan is for our lives is a critical part of maturity.

Finance.  Before a king goes to war he needs to be able to finance that war.  I believe that if God calls you to something He will finance it also.  However, this is not just about having enough money.  When God enables you and calls you to a person, project, or purpose He will likely challenge you in your  finances.  We all spend money on things we do not need.  The issue is not guilt.  The question is whether or not God is leading you to rearrange your expenses in order to make room for the next spiritual adventure.

Education, marriage, parenting, house-hunting, or building that addition on the back of your house all need to be taken seriously.  Just because the clock is ticking or you get an itch to do something  does not mean to jump in without thinking it through.  How many times, myself included, have you said in the middle or afterward, “I didn’t think that would happen.”?  These 3 careful steps will help to insure that you are on God’s path and not your own.

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