Aaron Summers

Posts Tagged ‘Sin’

Can We Truly Co-Exist?

In Chrisian Life, Jesus, Missional, SBC on November 2, 2014 at 8:10 am

Why is it that the SBC and LGBT decide to get together the week of Halloween?  Is it because they could not bear to take off their masks?  At any rate, before people start thinking the SBC has “changed their stance”, please read this report.

The SBC still believes that homosexuality is wrong.  However, those who have sparked controversy over the past 30 years have decided to take their heads out of the sand and at least recognize its presence, albeit, a presence that is still one’s choice.  The Bible expresses to love people, but we have not always done that and should repent.  Yet, we are not called to embrace the sinful choice of anyone regardless.  For this reason, a church was recently(last month) removed from the list of cooperating churches.

The issue at hand is this: where is the line between embracing a human and condoning a sin?  This has been our problem for YEARS!  In an effort to hold high the value and authority of scripture we have also bullied and demeaned our fellow-man.  Scripture is clear that homosexuality is wrong citing both in Leviticus and Romans.  It is also clear that God does not force us into a position of sin being the only option.

We are given a choice.  Obviously, for those trapped within any issue there is the feeling that no choice exists.  The nurturing part of life can be so convincing that there does not seem to be a way out, but there is always hope in Jesus Christ!  He provides the way to freedom and promise.  I do not claim to understand the nature/nurture issue with regards to homosexuality except what Scripture teaches.  It, like every other sin, is wrong.  Yet, God can forgive and provide strength and support through a faith-based relationship in Jesus Christ to return to God’s way of design.  We are to love people and lead them to Jesus.

Get to the Heart of the Matter

In Cleansing, Faith, Sin on June 12, 2014 at 10:03 am

the-heart-of-the-matter1

You might have heard it said that it is easier to ask forgiveness than permission.

When we have our heart set on something it is difficult to make a change.  Our culture fixates quickly and, like a dog with a bone, will never give up on attaining what it wants.  At the core of this issue one finds sin.  We give in to our passions and lust.  We let desire overcome our faculties.  In those moments Gordon Gekko echoes in our head that “Greed is good.”  This extends far beyond money.  We have a tendency to sin in a few major categories:  Money, Power, Popularity, Sex.

But Balaam responded to Balak’s messengers, “Even if Balak were to give me his palace filled with silver and gold, I would be powerless to do anything against the will of the lord my God.  But stay here one more night, and I will see if the lord has anything else to say to me.” That night God came to Balaam and told him, “Since these men have come for you, get up and go with them. But do only what I tell you to do.” So the next morning Balaam got up, saddled his donkey, and started off with the Moabite officials.  But God was angry that Balaam was going, so he sent the angel of the lord to stand in the road to block his way.

Balaam already knew what God had said the first time.  He comes back again because Balaam has already made up his mind.  He wanted money and power.  He wanted to be with the cool crowd.  He was willing to do that which God did not want him to do.  A surprising twist happens next.  When God calls him on it, Balaam’s confession only includes the outward act.

I find that we often will confess the actions, but withhold the motivations.  Balaam confesses the sin of going with the men.  He does not confess the sin of greed and lust for power.  When we confess our sins we must be careful to consider the motivation for the sin and confess it too. Only then do you receive a full cleansing surrounding the behavior.  Confession is a time for you to get to the heart of the matter.  Sharing the “whats” is easy. Make sure you include the “whys” as well.  You will find a new joy and peace.

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.

On the Outside Looking In

In Faith, Life and Culture on February 22, 2014 at 9:09 am

Beamer2DashaWindow

Billy left the house early that morning to catch the bus.  It was cold and crisp but not frigid as he made his way down the road.  The sun was peeking over the trees as the bus rumbled into view.  He got on and looked for the seat he wanted.  Thankfully he was one of the first and could choose from several, but he also knew no one would sit with him anyway.  He sat in silence the entire way.

Susan rolled into school and grabbed some breakfast.  She was right on time and stopped in the bathroom before going to class.  She overheard the girls talking about her accent and clothes like they were the absolute worst thing to ever consider.  She cried before going to class.

Laura arrived at her desk a little frazzled.  She had a rough morning getting the kids ready and off this morning not to mention she was having a bad hair day!  Recently divorced, she had taken this job as a new requirement in life.  She was alone.  No one spoke and the groups had already been formed with no one seeming to take on new members.  She kept her head down and did her work….alone.

John was having a bad year.  He had lost his mother.  He had wrecked his car.  He was about to lose his job because of absences due to the first two items.  He drove by the church and the sign happened to catch his eye.  He was not a “church” person, but there was something that tugged at him today.  He parked and walked in.  The halls were busy with people being busy.  He finally found his way to the worship center.  He took a seat and waited.  People rushed by him and never stopped.  At the end of the service he left….alone.

Have you ever been on the outside looking in?  Have you ever felt alienated?  Have you ever felt set aside?  Being on the outside looking in at school, work, or church is often the result of poor choices by the people that surround you.  Social and cultural bias is widespread.  The “wrong” clothes or the “wrong” vehicle or the “wrong” neighborhood or the “wrong” position at work can all cause prejudice.  The result is the feeling of isolation and/or alienation on your part.

What about God?

Our feeling of alienation with God is a result of our choices.  We walk away, whether we intend to or not.  In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve had the perfect setup!  They had the perfect environment, perfect relationship with God, and the perfect marriage.  What happened next blew the whole deal!  Like us, Eve knew the truth but settled for an alteration of the truth.  She knew if she ate the fruit she would die because God said so.  Satan did not really argue this point other than to suggest a different version and timing of death.  She doubted and fell for the deception.  The choice made by Eve and Adam caused a series of quick events to occur.

Emotional Alienation – the shame and guilt overwhelmed them.  They had been naked for who knows how long without any sense of wrong.  Once sin entered the equation, emotions changed.  Shame and guilt can cause us to do much more than we intended.

Spiritual Alienation – we find them hiding from God.  We hide in our family schedule.  We hide in our work.  We hide behind activities.  We hide behind self-righteousness.  We hide at church.  We hide because we do not want to face the truth.

Social Alienation – Once the discussion started the blame game ensued.  Adam confessed to his action but blamed Eve whom God had provided. Eve confessed to her decision but blamed the snake whom God had made.  I am sure there was some discussion at home later that night!

Physical Alienation – The snake would be hated.  Eve would have pain in childbirth.  Adam would work hard for little return.  Sin creates problems for us: ulcers, instabilities, breakdowns, stress, anxiety, and more.

Is there any hope?

When our innocence is lost, Jesus will give you His by faith and grace.  When our relationship with God is strained, Jesus will be our advocate.  When our relationships with each other break down Jesus gives us strength to carry on.  When our lives and bodies fail Jesus gives us new one as we enter glory by faith in Him.  My hope is centered in Jesus Christ.  The future ruler is not capitalism, culturism, or communism.  The future ruler is Christ.  Comfort one another with these words.  What a day that will be when we stand with Him in eternity!

Are you ready?  Or are you on the outside looking in?  Jesus opens the door and invites you to enter in to His home of peace and rest.  Move from looking in to sitting with God today!

Live Forgiven

In Chrisian Life, Faith, Journey on September 4, 2013 at 9:24 am

goldfish jumping out of the water

 

“I just want to be free!”

I heard this every Thursday for 3 years. In one form or another, the clients I counseled wanted their addiction to be kicked out and recovery kicked up a notch. As they approached the time to re-enter society, I would ask them about their plans. I could almost always guess the ones who would succeed and those who would not. It is so easy to get side-tracked. Whether you are in outpatient care or inpatient care life offers us a plethora of distractions. For many, the reason behind their addiction was not what they proposed. The reason for any addiction is following a path that seems right to you.

 There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.  Proverbs 16:25

It is critical that an understanding of terms be reached before continuing. Having a bad habit is just a nice way to say you have an addiction. Your habit may not be illegal, but it can threaten your family, your finances, and ultimately your future. We, especially in the Christian community, like to minimize our sin and maximize others sin. We have bad habit. They have addictions. Let’s be clear, anything that is distracts you from your relationship with God is a sin.

“How do I break free?” This question has arisen many times and you may be asking it as well. Satan grips our mind with fear and our hearts with guilt and shame. In order to break free of your habit/addiction/sin, we must embrace the forgiveness of God as a reality, not rationale. Living forgiven is not a series of convincing statements that we chant every day. Living forgiven is about having faith in the sinlessness of Christ and the statement of the cross and empty tomb. Please do not misunderstand, becoming a follower of Christ does not automatically release the grip of Satan. What this decision of salvation does is provide the power and opportunity for those chains to be broken and for you to walk out of your prison. God provides the power. God provides the pathway. God provides. Yet, you have to get up and walk.

Jesus asked the man at the pool if he wanted to get well. The man began giving excuses of why he could not. Jesus looked at him and said to get up and walk. In that moment, he was completely healed. His legs had strength. His arms had strength. However, until he chose to get up and walk he would lie on that mat. In Christ, you have been healed of your issues. But to walk free is your choice to make. The sad reality is people refuse to believe in the power of Christ and remain in the grips of Satan through fear, shame, and guilt. God has wiped all of that away. When will you walk?

As you prepare to get up and walk here are a few things to help steady your feet.

 1. Avoid your triggers. What is it that makes you consider engaging your habit? Is it certain places? Is it certain smells? Is it certain people? Is it certain situations? In order to walk in forgiveness, these must be avoided. For those who believe they can handle it, you can’t. Avoid the triggers. Change your job. Change your routine. Change your sleep schedule. Change begins with you engaging the power of God provided through Jesus Christ.

2. Make new friends. I have heard it said that you are the average of your 5 closest friends. With that being said, develop new friendships that drive you closer to Christ. Releasing an old set of friends affords you the opportunity for personal growth and more probable success in this endeavor.

3. Realize your limitations. Believing you can handle your habits/sins/addictions is the first step to failure. If you could have handled it on your own you wouldn’t be in this mess now. Coming before God and agreeing on your dependency to Him is vital. Our strength is limited but God’s is limitless. We fail but God never does. We sin but God never has. Why not embrace God? Pride arrives and then a fall.

Living forgiven is not about being flippant about your past. It is about embracing the offer of God in Christ and engaging the power of the Holy Spirit. The probability of sin remains high as long as we are in this life but it does not have to be the habit you had yesterday. Live free. Live forgiven.

Entangled

In Chrisian Life, Decisions, Direction on July 2, 2013 at 10:00 am

There I sat with my glass of tea in hand, sunglasses on and music blaring in my ear buds with what seemed to be a dead mower.  I had been on the mower for a while trying to catch up.  The rain had been wonderful to receive but the downside is that the grass grows faster than I have time.  I had already done the front and side yards and was moving to the back.   I knew mowing the backyard was risky because of all the child elements involved to but it had to be done.  I was rocking along when the mower just stopped.  I moved it to a low spot where I could get a visual on the mower deck.  At first glance I couldn’t see anything.  However, when I looked closer I could see that a piece of rope had been caught by the blades and wrapped itself up around the shaft.  You would think that the blades would just cut the rope and this would have never happened.  There seems to be some strange effect when rope is introduced.  Instead of just cutting through it, the mower got entangled.  Until the rope was cut off and unwrapped there would be no more progress.  I was stuck.

Have you ever felt stuck?  You have been rocking along in life when you get all tangled up.  Maybe it is a relationship, or sex, or pills, or gossip, or something else.  Each of us have a “rope” that when we try to mow over it causes us to get stopped.  What do we do?

1.  Check the yard before you mow.  I run into trouble when I skip this step.  If I would take the time to make sure where I was going to mow was clear of all problems then I would not be having to crawl under and work on the mower.  Everyone of us have our triggers.  Begin to see what triggers you.  Do your best to avoid those triggers.  Clear them out through accountable relationships, better choices, and sometimes simple avoidance.

2.  Look ahead not right in front.  Sometimes I get to singing along with the music and use the steering wheel as a makeshift drum set.  When that happens I forget to keep looking ahead and can run over stuff like a rope, or hose, or wire, etc.  I see this happening in our lives constantly.  We get so involved in the moment that we forget to keep our eyes ahead and run into trouble.

3.  Unwrap the rope.  When you do get tangled up prepare to spend time getting unstuck.  Because the blades spin at such a high-speed the rope gets wrapped extremely tight.  It will take a while to get it cut loose and taken off so that the blade spins properly again.  The same is true in your life.  We all get stuck at times.  For some it is a physical habit while others have an attitude or speech issue.  There are still others who deal with items such as sex and pills to cope with life.  Whatever is tangling you up needs to be removed as quickly as possible or progress can not be achieved.

I could still ride the mower all over the yard and act like something is happening but it would be a lie.  When we are entangled the only option is to stop and fix the problem.  During that process I keep telling myself, “If I want to actually accomplish anything I must prepare ahead by clearing out the yard and staying focused. ”  We would be wise to do the same each day.

6 For we know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that sin’s dominion over the body may be abolished, so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin, 7 since a person who has died is freed from sin’s claims. 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him, 9 because we know that Christ, having been raised from the dead, will not die again. Death no longer rules over Him. 10 For in light of the fact that He died, He died to sin once for all; but in light of the fact that He lives, He lives to God. 11 So, you too consider yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Romans 6:6-11

Ash Wednesday

In Cleansing, holiness, Jesus on February 13, 2013 at 7:00 am

Ashcross

…For you are dust, and you will return to dust.”  Genesis 3:19

The annual service on Ash Wednesday usually concludes with one receiving an ash cross on the forehead or hand, depending on the faith tradition you follow.  Ash Wednesday is not in the Bible, but the use of ashes is common.  In Biblical times people would sit in ashes as a sign of humility, sorrow, and repentance of sin.  The act of doing this did not remove their sin, but it was an outward symbol of the contrition of their heart and desire to receive God’s mercy.  While you see this in a national sense, such as Nineveh, you also see it personally in the life of Job.  In His rebuke of a few towns, Jesus mentions that others towns in history would have responded with sackcloth and ashes instead of disrespect.

Ash Wednesday is 40 days, not counting Sundays, before Easter.  The number 40 has a long history in scripture.

40 days of the flood
40 days spying the Promised Land
40 years in wilderness for lack of faith
40 days of temptation for Jesus

What do we do on Ash Wednesday?  Isn’t this just some Catholic thing?  I have been asked that on a number of occasions.  Actually many denominations that follow a litany will have an Ash Wednesday service.  So why would anyone else?  Let’s look at the process of this type of service and how it can benefit our lives.  During the service you would hear from scripture, such as Psalm 106 to remind us of our sin and need to confess and be purified by God.  This particular Psalm recounts the mighty acts of God and the forgetfulness of humanity about those mighty acts.  After recounting Israel’s history, the Psalm closes like this:

47 Save us, Yahweh our God,
and gather us from the nations,
so that we may give thanks to Your holy name
and rejoice in Your praise.

48 May Yahweh, the God of Israel, be praised
from everlasting to everlasting.
Let all the people say, “Amen!”
Hallelujah!

Psalm 106

Now, what if we were to recount our personal history of how God provided and protected?  What if we were to annually remember the mightiness of God and the forgetfulness of ourselves?  In those moments, we would confess to God how we have sinned, repent of that sin, and turn back to God.  As a reminder, we would be encouraged to “give up” something until Easter as a sign of sincerity.  This sign would also serve as a reminder to us of our decision to repent and walk with God.  Obviously we are not to proclaim publicly what our decision would be.  Jesus clearly teaches on this as Matthew 6 records for us.

Ash Wednesday can be very helpful in our relationship with God because it encourages a spiritual catharsis.  Whatever we continue to harbor in our lives raises the spiritual toxin level.  Empty yourself before God and allow His Spirit to fill you.

Unfaithfully

In Commitment, Faithfulness, holiness, Numbers on February 27, 2011 at 10:47 pm

One of the most played songs at dances, proms, and other lover-central gatherings is the song “Faithfully” by Journey.  The song describes the issues surrounding a marriage and family with the husband on tour as a musician.  He reminds her that he will be forever hers faithfully.  This power ballad has been sung and danced to for years since it flew up the charts in 1983.  I confess that this is one of those songs that gets turned up and sung with in our vehicles event today, which drives the kids nuts!  Faithfulness is such a hot topic these days.  It seems that being faithful is so difficult and is often exchanged for one-night stands, open marriages, and key clubs.  A recently released movie, “Hall Pass”  focuses completely on giving a husband a 7 day pass from his marriage to do what he wants and providing the allowance of unfaithfulness.

As we read through Numbers, Moses is given an interesting statement by the Lord to relay to the people.

5 The Lord spoke to Moses: 6 “Tell the Israelites: When a man or woman commits any sin against another, that person acts unfaithfully toward the Lord and is guilty.

Numbers 5

Read that again.  Whenever I sin against another person, I am sinning against the Lord.  This would explain what David meant when he said,

2 Wash away my guilt
and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I am conscious of my rebellion,
and my sin is always before me.
4 Against You-You alone-I have sinned
and done this evil in Your sight.
So You are right when You pass sentence;
You are blameless when You judge.

Psalm 51

Let’s not disregard the impact our sin has on each other.  However, each and every sin is a moment of unfaithfulness to God.  In other words, spiritual adultery is what is being implied.  God establishes a relationship with the Israelites more than a religion for the Israelites.  God, from the very beginning has wanted a relationship with humanity.  It began with Adam, then Eve, in the Garden.  God reconnected through Noah, Abraham, and Moses.  God wanted the nation to know that every act of sin was an act of unfaithfulness toward YHWH.

How often do we consider this?

Our common belief is that whatever we do is only done in the physical realm.  If I lie, then I lie to a person.  If I seek revenge, then I do so to a person.  If I have sexual relations outside of marriage, then I do so as a pleasure and with a person.  If I cheat, steal, murder, or the like, then I do so to a person.  If I disrespect my parents, then it is just between me and them.  But this scripture teaches is that God is involved in everything.  That lie was to God.  That stolen item was from God.  That reputation killer rumor was done to God.  That one-night stand was done against God.  That open marriage involves God.  Those sites you view late at night are done against God too.

Whether you seek forgiveness because of a changed heart or because your sponsor told you to do so, you  must also include God.  It is not enough, universally, for you to receive forgiveness and acceptance from those whom you have harmed.  If we do not seek restitution with God we fall short.  We can mask our need with agnosticism and atheism, but the hole is still in our hearts.  A hole that can only be filled with God Himself.

So God chooses to connect with humanity one more time.  Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is this connection. His life was lived in purity.  His death was done as our penalty.  His resurrection for our peace.  By faith we believe and by grace we receive the greatest gift – forgiveness.  Our hope is found in nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

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