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Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

SoLaR Chapel: Mr. Harrison Ross

Good morning! I was planning to start off today with a joke about construction but I am still working on it. So I decided instead to tell you guys a joke about unemployment but unfortunately none of them worked. Finally, I decided on, of all things, a math joke. Something about parallel lines having so much in common but that it was a shame they would never meet. Ultimately I decided to opt out of jokes and just get right to the lecture.

This is my second chapel lecture in a row and I hope you guys are enjoying this as much as I am. Today, I am going to talk to you, in part, about one of my most favorite historical figures. Some of you might guess that it will be Otto Von Bismarck or Robert the Bruce. Both would be good choices for the classroom but for this setting I think Gregory the Great would be a better exemplar for our purposes. Gregory, as you recall from last week, was one of the Ancient Church Fathers who set the theological and scholarly foundations of Christianity.

I have chosen Gregory not only because of how influential he was in history, but because of the way he was influential. It occurs to me that the vast majority of movers and shakers in History, the people who make history, and if you recall people are very important, are people who live their lives proactively, rather than reactively. Let me explain exactly what I mean.

What does it mean to be reactive? It means acting in response to a situation rather than creating it or controlling it and God made us to be creators, like him! Being reactive means holding back, waiting, not anticipating but just waiting. Being reactive means living life in an ad hoc fashion; that is to say living life on your heels as you react in an unprepared way for whatever life throws at you. Rest assured, life will throw many things at you. Living life in a reactive fashion means living life unprepared and uncontrollably, it means being an employee of your life, not the owner of your life. A reactive life means you change when you are forced to.

Some examples of living life reactively are:

  1. Scrambling at the last minute to study for a big test
  2. Being angry with coaches or teachers because of an assignment
  3. Begging your Literature teacher, Math teacher, Bible teacher to let you turn in work late

What does it mean to be proactive? It means anticipating what is likely to happen in the future. Being proactive means you take concerted steps to control a particular situation by preparing for the future. Being proactive means you take command of yourself, your surroundings and your life. Being proactive means you do not let fear or irrational feelings control you or your actions, because you are not an employee of your life. A proactive life means you change, for the better, because you have planned to do so by the grace of God.  

Some examples of living life proactively are:

  1. Set a few worthy yet attainable goals
  2. When those goals are met, make more
  3. Get up early
  4. Protein for breakfast
  5. Followed by a 15 minute workout
  6. Read
  7. Go to bed early, get some sleep

What does this have to do with me, Mr. Ross?

For most of your life, indeed even today here and now, you may not feel as if you have not had any real control over what occurs to you. Your parents decide a large part of what you do. You are under their rightful authority. Here, too, at ACA your teachers largely tell you what to do, where to go, what to wear. Again, you are under our rightful authority. As hard as it may be to believe your parents and your teachers desperately want what is best for you and they are being proactive rather than reactive. You may fall into the trap of believing that we don’t understand you. But, perhaps we do understand. We have gone through your phase of life already, therefore we may have a good idea of what to expect for you as well. What is best for you is that you live life proactively, rather than reactively. Let us look at Gregory as an example.

When Gregory took over the Church in Rome in the year 590 things were in shambles. Floods, famine, and war had decimated, not just the city of Rome, but much of Central Italy. His predecessor, Pope Pelagius II, was a good and Godly man, but a reactive man. People, as discussed last week, are gifted by their Creator with talents and abilities. These talents and abilities are to be wielded strongly in service to God and for the benefit of Mankind. Pelagius II assumed, like many at the time, that the end of history was near. His beloved city of Rome was a shadow of its former self. The city that had conquered the know world was now a hellish one. Streets were in disrepair, crops failing, plague strangulating, and armed bandits were rampaging. The dead were stacked up in carts all over the city and civil government was nowhere to be seen. Below the spire of Old St. Peter’s Basilica there was endless misery. Surly, this was the end-times they thought. Gregory assumed, like Pelagius that Christ would return and the Church Militant, the church on Earth, would join the Church Triumphant, the Church in Heaven.

A few months passed and Christ did not return. Gregory shifted from reactive mode to proactive mode. Over the course of the next 14 years Gregory was a tornado of activity. He began by prioritizing the needs of the people. He then determined how to best accomplish the fulfillment of those needs. Finally, he determined that if old solutions did not work, he would need to create new solutions. The first need he identified was that far, far too many Christians were dying well before their time. Famine, disease, and war were thinning the herd at an alarming rate. He divided these into three categories and was then determined to fight them by any means.

The church was often gifted land in far away places. Gregory sold this land and began purchasing contiguous land in and around Rome. Eventually this totaled around 5,000 square miles (slightly larger than Connecticut). This land was then turned over to the poor to grow crops and raise livestock. This, in time, solved the problem of famine.

With the people well fed, or at least better fed, the plague was reduced. Hunger had weakened many, the young and old especially. This solved two of Gregory’s most pressing concerns. The third was the rampant violence across the land. Traditionally, up until this point in church history, pacifism had reigned. The church did not fight back. Unfortunately, this may well have made Christians an easy target. Gregory grew tired of the Church being a target. For the first time, but certainly not the last time, the Church armed itself. This is controversial. This is new for this time. This is History.

Hiring generals and soldiers, Gregory, or as he soon became known, “The Consul of God”, used his forces to police the countryside and drive off the heretical Lombards who often coordinated attacks against Church property and peoples. It must be noted that eventually Gregory was able to negotiate treaties with the Lombards who, for a time, left the Church in peace. When the danger had passed Gregory disbanded his armed forces, but was always prepared to call them back to service should the need arise. “Peace through strength” may well have been a motto Gregory would have endorsed.

What can we learn from Gregory? You may well never find yourself in charge of a church, located near the Tiber River, wherein the members of that church are inundated by plague and famine, but you are in charge of your life. Let us look again at your lot. You do not, often, get to decide where you go but you do get to decide if you will cooperate with rightful authority or if you will be troublesome. You may not, usually, get to decide what clothes you will wear to school but you can decide if you will comply with the rules or if you will be bothersome and contrary. My point is that you typically have more control over your life than you might suspect.

You control the grades you make by how often and how well you study. You control how people treat you by making it clear to those that do not treat you well that you will not tolerate such behavior. You control who your friends are by choosing those that help lift you up and moving away from those who you know are bad influences. You control whether or not you are a good person by doing the things you were made to do…Honor the Lord with all your heart and loving your neighbor as yourself. You control the vast majority of your life and you need to begin exercising that control, because in a short time you will be an adult and people will not be as understanding as your parents and teachers. When you are eventually released into the wild, will you be a person who reacts, backpedals, waits, scrambles to catch up? Or will you be a hard charger who advances, plans, works, succeeds and races ahead? Will you be reactive or proactive?

While preparing for this lecture I found a few verses from scripture that caught my eye. The three of these are from the KJV.

  1. Ecclesiastes 9:10 – Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do , do it with thy might, for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, wither thou goest.

Solomon, the author, is warning us very sternly that time is limited. Or as the song goes…there is not time to kill nor time to throw away.

  1. Romans 14:12 – So then every one of us shall give an account of himself to God.

Paul the Apostle reminds us, quite starkly, that we will be held accountable to what we do with our lives.

  1. Colossians 3:17 – And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

Again the Apostle Paul urges us to be mindful of our duty to use our talents and abilities for Kingdom work.

Taken together, we are told, quite clearly, that your time here on earth is limited. What will you do with your time? Will you react to the world, or will you make the world react to you?

Gratitude

“Aw, come on.”  “Do I have to?” “Really?”  It usually helps if these comments are accompanied by loud sighing, eye rolling, by throwing your hands in the air.  Have I described someone you have seen or heard lately? Teachers, have I described someone that you may have encountered once or twice in your teaching career?  Parents, is this someone who may have shown up in your house a few times? Kids, is this something you may have seen an adult do? What am I describing? Complaining!  Unfortunately, it is something that we all do. Adults and kids alike.

Every day we find something to complain about and every day we have reasons to be thankful.  Let’s pause here. Did you hear what I said? We find reasons to complain.  We seek it out. We are looking for them.  And we have reasons to be thankful, but we do not necessarily look for them.  As we come together to celebrate the achievements of the 2nd quarter, let’s talk about these two ideas, complaining and thankfulness.
We are to do everything…”without grumbling or complaining”.  The opposite of complaining is thankfulness. What makes complaining and thankfulness so different?  Why is complaining so wrong that we are commanded not to do it, at all? The Bible says “do not complain.”  It doesn’t say “try” not to or in “most” things don’t complain. No, do everything without complaining.

The reason complaining is wrong is because of how we view ourselves.  It starts with the idea that I am a good and deserving person. I place myself at the center of my kingdom and live entitled, thinking I deserve stuff.  This attitude blossoms from taking what I feel I want to all of a sudden, it becomes something I need. It also expects the people and situations around me to be focusing their energy on meeting my needs.  What do I mean by that?

You see it when a parent says no and the child gives a “humph”.  You see it with a daughter pulling on the arm of her dad begging him to go do something.  A son arguing with his mom. A student turning around to finish a conversation when the teacher has told them to be silent and then when called out, saying “who me”?  A classmate getting angry at someone in their class at recess when a game doesn’t go their way. These children believe what they want is really a need and they expect their parents and teacher and friends to drop everything and take care of it.  
When those people in my life fail to serve my needs, I find reasons to complain.  To be honest, when I am like that, I am not a nice person to be around.

We have been studying the beatitudes this year and one big thing we have been learning is this kingdom is not our kingdom.  It is God’s. He created it. He rules it. And He lords over it. Not us. And even more than that, God did not create the universe for you or me.  He made it for his own glory.

Thankfully, there’s another way to look at yourself.  You realize that you are a sinner. And that apart from God’s grace, you would be nothing.  And this amazing God who has created the world shares blessings with each and every one of us every second of every day.  And I do not deserve any of it. I am blessed to be here at Annapolis. Blessed to be taught by wonderful teachers. I am blessed to have a loving familiy.  Blessed to have the food, clothes, and the home I have. I am blessed with so much. This is the attitude to take.

The big question is, what is your attitude?  Do you think you are a good and deserving person who doesn’t get what you deserve?  Or, as Paul wrote about himself, O what wretched, awful man that I am? But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).If you want a quick test to see if you have a thankful attitude, here it is.  How is your prayer life? Really? Prayer is the way to see how thankful I am?  One of the great church catechisms, the Heidelberg Catechism says prayer is necessary for Christians because it is the chief (#1) part of thiankfulness that God requires of us.  If prayer is the chief, the number 1 part of thankfulness, then it is a great way to check my heart to see if I am truly thankful or if I have a complaining spirit because I think I deserve things I am not getting.  

Today, whether you have been honored for your hard work, or you have work to do this 3rd quarter, let’s live a life of thankfulness and gratitude for the blessings that God has given to us.  Our hymn we are going to sing is called Leaning on the Everlasting Arms. To lean on something is to trust in it. If I leaned on this podium, I am trusting it will hold me up. Should I lean on it?  Not really because it will fail me. The hymn is reminding us that we can lean on the arms of our everlasting God and not lean on our own understanding, because that would lead to grumbling and complaining.  

Transcendence

Anything that is not eternal is eternally out of date.”  C.S. Lewis

Everything in this world is perishing and will expire quickly, so therefore our hope, trust and focus must be in the eternal, transcendent God of all creation.  One of the many attributes of God is his “transcendence.” Transcendence – means to go beyond or above the range of normal experience or (from Latin) of climbing or going beyond.

Synonyms are incomparable, matchless, peerless, unrivaled, beyond compare/comparison, unparalleled, unequaled, without equal, second to none, unsurpassed, unsurpassable and so on…you all get the point.

Philosophers and other thinkers in the modern world have attempted to change “transcendence” or merely water it down.  Their definitions typically involve the ability with our own minds to “transcend” or go beyond. This places the term back into the physical, which is perishing and does not benefit the eternally significant things that we as Christians should be concerned with.  Our goal is to reclaim this Godly attribute for his glory.

Some of you may know of an athlete that has transcended the record book or gone above and beyond in his or her sport.  Michael Jordan would literally jump from beyond the free-throw line and slam dunk the basketball, for example! This was absolutely unheard of in the early 90’s.  Or you may often speak of a particular moment in your life that stands out far above all others. 

How does this term transcendent apply to God, however? In the Godly sense, transcendence is the idea that God is both above and independent from his creation.  There is no other created thing that matches his power. Think about it, if God created everything then how would anything he created be equal to him and his power.  It can’t! Also, nothing else can interfere with his power. He created all things including space, time, energy, and matter. Therefore, he is able to control whatever he pleases.  

We are all searching for knowledge and have a desire for it, however our limited minds are unable to grasp the eternal things that really matter outside of a living, breathing relationship with Jesus Christ who is God.  A theologian named A.W. Tozer calls this “The Knowledge of the Holy,” which to him was attained by a better understanding of the attributes of God (immutability, immanence, omnipresence, transcendence, and so on) which lead us to a better understanding of God and who he is.

We can focus on things that are transcendent, both beyond and not limited by space and time, namely the attributes of God including his “being above” the things of this world or his transcendence.  Catechisms, Scripture memorization, and so on focus on things that which are eternal thus keeping us from being distracted by the temporal (social media, video games, etc.) which do not have value of eternal significance and actually detract from our relationship with God.  Having an eternal perspective is a real challenge, however. It takes discipline and mental focus to channel your efforts on the transcendent things, such as gaining knowledge of God by reading the Bible, reciting catechisms, and redeeming the truth out of a world that is counter-cultural, but once you do it you will be more hungry for it and develop healthy routines of studying God’s word and devoting time each and everyday to better understanding him and who he is.

God is transcendent but he is also immanent in that he is above the physical world and everything in it and he is with us, in us, through us with the power of His Holy Spirit.

. . . one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.  Ephesians 4:6

Let’s now discuss briefly some thoughts on how we want to help you all “go beyond” and “rise above” the basic functions of life.  Classical Christian education has most recently been called “Ancient Future Education” by Davies Owens at the Ambrose School and in his Basecamp series (basecamplive.com).  Ancient and Future really don’t go together and are contrasting terms similarly to “transcendent” and “immanent”, however we often use this description due to the fact that we are using ancient, time-tested methods, such as catechisms, in order to inculcate every aspect of your lives which will prepare you for an uncertain future.  We don’t want you all being Christians in the morning and someone else in the evening. James calls this “double mindedness.” The solution to this double mindedness, which James warns us about is a term called Paidia that Paul speaks of in (Ephesians 6:4). This is what Paul is referring to and what he means by paidia when he says to “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”  Additionally, ancient future education is focused on “going beyond” the normal limitations of life with a focus on Godly attributes. In our world that God created, just because it’s old doesn’t mean is bad and just because it’s new doesn’t necessarily mean its good. Our goal is to reclaim or take back those ancient ways that were good in order to help us evaluate those things that are new in order to use them for the kingdom of God.  The fact that those who believe in their hearts that Jesus Christ is the son of God and have confessed with their mouths that he is Lord should have a focus on things of eternal significance.

Future education is the educational aspect designed to prepare you for your future or things that are to come.  You students are equipped with the “Tools of Learning” so that you can focus your efforts on evaluating and pulling out the useful aspects of truth in all things present and to come and reclaim them for the glory of God.  We all must evaluate everything on the basis of it’s truth, goodness, and beauty. This will help us make informed decisions that will allow you to lead the way toward a fruitful life of leadership and truly grow the kingdom of God.  

With our focus on “going beyond” we see the need to not settle for the ways of the world, but rather to transcend them or reclaim them for the glory of God in order to advance his kingdom.  We must look at what we do and decide on what the particular thing makes possible and what it makes impossible.  This tool can be used for the past, present, and in the future. Evaluating the things you do and whether or not they make things possible or impossible helps you to determine which items help us “go beyond” things that are short-lived and won’t last forever.  Let’s use the example of family meal time. Latest research shows that lives are saved at the kitchen table. No I don’t mean that for family meal time you go to war and seek victory although some of your family gatherings may seem this way. Families are able to stay connected, discuss and win spiritual victories, and conquer ideas of the flesh all while sitting at the kitchen table eating dinner together.  We see that families that invest in meal time focus more on the eternal, transcendent things in life which produce young people who are more prone to success, so sitting down together at dinner time provides a perfect opportunity for this to happen. Fast food, therefore, can make this impossible thus not providing this valuable time as a family to learn and grow in Christ-likeness. Now I’m the first to jump all over an opportunity to eat Chick-fil-a and honestly when I have some Chick-fil-a I don’t plan on talking to anyone and anyone that tries to talk to me will experience my ability to selectively ignore the entire conversation.  But even Chick-fil-a can be had around a dinner table with a discussion on the issues of life and how to transcend them by becoming more like Christ by focusing on the attributes of God.

We must evaluate our current practices based on what we want the end result to be.  Do we want to develop traits that transcend this earthly existence and grow us closer and more like our heavenly father or more like the world that is perishing?  Also, how will these practices or won’t they change the world for the better? Will they leave a legacy for future generations? Perhaps harmony is the issue and we have our priorities misordered, but regardless of the reason we must all, as Christians, have a desire to be more like Christ.

There are many other opportunities for us to transcend our current culture and even to focus on the attributes of God including His transcendence, but we must redeem or reclaim the time in our lives in order to make this possible.  Ask yourselves these questions in order to do this: How much time do I spend playing video games vs. having conversation with my parents? How much time to I spend doing things that only benefit me in the present and won’t help me or others in the future?  

So, students remember that this education you are receiving is not just for life but for all eternity so take full advantage of every opportunity to learn and grow because as you do you are becoming more like Christ.  Parents know that this education your children are receiving is so much more than subjects, it’s preparation for all eternity by training your children in the transcendent value of Godliness.

Remember that God is transcendent, that is, he is far above and independent of His creation but He is also immanent — very much involved in that creation. He is over all, through all and in all. What a mighty God we serve and what a blessed opportunity that we have as committed members of Annapolis Christian Academy and the local church community to being brought up in the paideia of God with a focus on things that are transcendent and eternal as opposed to short lived and temporal.   

 

Sources:

Andy Crouch (2010). “Culture Making”, IVP Books

A.W. Tozer (1978). “Knowledge of the Holy”, HarperOne Publishing

basecamplive.com (https://basecamplive.com/old-bad-new-good-way-around-chris-perrin/)

C. S. Lewis (2014). “God in the Dock”, p.12, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing

 

 

Glory and Greatness

Big Idea

Our innate drive to achieve glory and greatness are good and are met in Christ.  

Definitions

Glory – the state of being considered praiseworthy by other people.

Greatness – to be thought of as having reached the pinnacle of one’s capacity.

Key Passages

“The glory [beauty/splendor] of the young is their strength, the splendor of the aged is the grey head.”  Proverbs 20:29

“To eat honey unto excess is not good, but to search out difficult things [weighty matters] is glorious.”  Proverbs 25:27

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  Philippians 2:5–11 (ESV)

“You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Mark 10:42–45 (ESV)

Main Points

The primary revelation of Christian faith is the person of Christ. So our concepts should generally be shaped by our understanding of Jesus.  So while we can know from the Old Testament and general observation that human beings tend to seek glory and greatness, it’s crucial that we enlarge our understanding of these with the example and message of Christ.   

Christ redefines the greatness of humanity, not by one’s position or birth, but by one’s measure of service to others.  

Have you made yourself the sort of person who puts service to others ahead of yourself?  In order to do great acts of service for others one must be ready to do them.
How do we prepare ourselves to be good servants?  Here are a few thoughts:

  • Practice serving others in small things.  Start out small by helping someone on their homework, reading to a sibling, cleaning your teachers classroom after class, etc.
  • Find God-glorifying things that take you to the limit of your capabilities and do them!

To perfect yourself in the Christian sense you must examine yourself (physically, socially, spiritually, and intellectually) and challenge yourself (physically, socially, spiritually, and intellectually).

Mindset Shift:  Instead of thinking that school is something you wear on your back each day like a backpack loaded with books, think of school as something you aim to pick up and carry as far as you possibly can without stopping.  

In summary, what makes you truly great is the service that you do for others, which truly establishes your greatness in the kingdom of God.

STEM and a Liberal Arts Education

STEM“. Those four letters are rampant in education these days. It has become one of the most talked about components of modern-day schooling similar to  what “gluten free” and “non GMO” have become to the food industry. It’s everywhere! Just like trends in the food industry, there are trends in education as well, and some trends can be good.  To better understand our role in the current trend we have to ask the question, what is STEM? According to www.weareteachers.com, “STEM stands for sciencetechnologyengineering, and mathSTEM curriculum blends those subjects in order to teach “21st-century skills,” or tools students need to have if they wish to succeed in the workplace of the “future.” The idea is that in order to be prepared for jobs and compete with students from different parts of the world, students here in the US need to be able to solve problems, find and use evidence, collaborate on projects, and think critically.” Since a Liberal Arts, and especially a Classical Christian, education already focuses on developing those skills in our students, STEM in a Liberal Arts environment is a very powerful thing.
Recently there have been numerous articles and studies done to back up this idea that classically trained students will perform better in the areas of STEM because the requirement of those skills are part of student’s daily expectations in the classroom. In 2017 the article Liberal Arts is the Foundation for Professional Success in the 21st Century appeared in Huffington Post.  An excerpt from the article states:  “Tomorrow’s job markets demand creative, collaborative workers to reinvigorate and reshape our social and educational structures as well as our business models. To do so, graduates need open minds and rich, diverse educational experiences from which to draw. The fundamental values of a liberal arts education, with their emphasis on a general education and creating well-rounded graduates, expand students’ abilities to think through various challenges, contradictions, and tensions by design.”  The same article notes that the “2016 Job Outlook survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that hiring personnel increasingly value and prioritize the skills developed in liberal arts institutions and others, including the World Economic Forum, have made similar claims, citing a need for skills like: complex problem-solving, creativity, coordinating with others, cognitive flexibility, boundless curiosity, and deep generalism.”
“Knowing how to think empowers you far beyond those who know only what to think.”
How do our students perform when it comes to STEM programs? Very well! Classical Christian education at its core focuses on asking children to rise to a higher standard. The fundamental skills in a liberal arts environment are learning to think critically and to solve problems by accessing and analyzing information. This challenges them to think creatively and adapt to various circumstances and tasks. The training and education they receive can be rigorous but the preparation they receive is unlike any other main stream education. For this reason, ACA students possess the skills they need to keep up with educational trends.  Students that are well read and are taught to effectively communicate through writing and speaking, are naturally good thinkers.  They are able to teach and equip themselves and are prepared for the growing trends in an ever changing market.  Most importantly, ACA students are grounded in a biblical worldview that, when coupled with the ability to “think”, provides the ultimate framework for success in all of life. The bottom line is students who have been educated in a liberal arts environment are receiving the tools they need to be successful leaders in science, technology, engineering, math, and anything else they may decide to pursue!

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So what’s the big idea?  The goal in a Christian community is perfection!

 

Christian perfection  can be defined as maturity of character that recognizes God’s standard for human excellence, seeks to understand that standard, and pursues that standard, while recognizing where one falls short.

Not that I have already obtained this [the full likeness of Christ and participation in his being] nor have I yet been perfected, but I hasten to grab hold of it, because Christ Jesus has grasped hold of me.  Dear family, I do not consider that I have a hold on it.  But one thing I do:  forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Let those of us who are perfect think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.  Nevertheless, let us keep up with the position to which we have obtained [don’t backslide in your mindset or character].  Become my co-emulators [of Christ], brothers, and contemplate those who walk by the example you have in us.

The Nature of Christian Perfection
  1.  It is defined most clearly in the life of Christ (Php 2:5-11).
  2. Other expressions of Christian perfection can be seen in the lives of God’s people (Scripture, history, living examples, etc.).
  3. It is a designation of an unattained ideal (Php 3:12).
  4. It is a way of speaking about those who pursue the ideal while admitting they have not obtained it (Php 3:15).
  5. It is the goal for citizens of God’s kingdom, not the standard for entry (Php 3:9).

What should the pursuit of Christian perfection look like?   Well, it’s “the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  When you fail, acknowledge the failure and move on, ‘the righteous may fall seven times, but he gets back up…’ (Prov 24:16).   Also, see Luke 5:1-11.  You are more use to the Lord and other repenting rather than groveling.

We must acknowledge that this race is a team sport and see how you may help your neighbor.  Hint:  You help your neighbor by methods other than condemnation (Matthew 7:1-4, Philippians 3:15, etc.)

Application to School:  Educational Excellence

The school has a vision of education.  We offer to help you glorify God and enjoy him forever, impact lives, to dare to be wise, to serve the city by upholding truth, goodness, and beauty, and to celebrate diversity of godly practices among the Christian communities of the world.

We must model this correctly!

What would being this kind of person look like to you?  What does it look like in your favorite people?

When you fail to meet the standard, confess that it is so and move forward.

Encourage your classmates to pursue Christian perfection or educational excellence without condemning or a superior attitude.

 

Rev. William “Geoff” Smith Provides Us With Answers

Thomas Aquinas defines pride as an “inordinate desire for preeminence.” What this means is that an individual assesses themselves as beyond the need for improvement or desires to be more honored than appropriate for the good which they possess. Examples of this include a student wishing to be over-complimented for good grades, a teacher wishing to be honored as though he were a king or a despot, or somebody who thinks they have nothing to learn. The opposite of pride is humility, which is an appropriate level of self-esteem based on true knowledge of oneself and the world. Jesus makes clear that such humility is a pre-requisite for entry into his kingdom:

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:1-4)

What is curious about this passage is that children are known and were known for the propensity to ask lots of questions. For instance, Jesus, as a boy, was known for the quality of questions he asked the Pharisees. So when Jesus says to become like a child, he means, “You must start over as a new person to enter the kingdom of heaven, you must be born again and learn from me!” The disciple asked a question in the passage above, but not the sort asked by a child. Children ask to learn. The disciples asked to be affirmed. How do we know? Earlier in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus explains that whoever practices and teaches his commands will be great in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:17-20). So the disciples want Jesus to keep score and prove which one is the best. Jesus re-frames the question entirely to indicate that they all must take a novice’s point of view to make spiritual progress. If we must humble ourselves, how do we do it? I have three tips from the Bible:
  1. First, remember that we are dust (Genesis 2:7). Anything could kill us. Any change in nature could affect us. Our hunger changes our attitude, our sleep changes our emotions, our exercises changes our thoughts, and our memories change our actions. We’re truly of the earth. To remember this helps us to see how much we need God.
  2. Second, we should remember that all our highest aspects come from God (also Genesis 2:7). Our consciousness, aspirations, capacity to choose right or wrong, and change our environment for better or worse come from God. To remember this shows us how much good, by God’s grace, and help the human being is capable of, while still reminding us of how much we need God’s help to not devolve into chaos and evil.
  3. Finally, we have the example of Christ, who humbled himself, taking the form of a man (Phil 2:5-11). Not only does Christ’s death atone for our sins, which we desperately need, but it also functions as the example of humility. Christ did not consider himself above service to others, even if they were sinful or undeserving.

The Seven Deadly Sins Series with Rev. William “Geoff” Smith

The Bible says that a man who controls his temper is better than a man who can overthrow a city. Jesus himself says that anger can start a process in which an individual and the communities of which he is a part can devolve into the fires of hell. Paul says that unchecked anger gives a foothold to Satan. If anger is so dangerous and so difficult to overcome, what can we do about this powerful passion that dwells within us?

The Bible and the Christian tradition through the ages offer several solutions. We’ll start with tradition and end with Scripture. Thomas Aquinas makes the point that

one must distinguish between just and unjust anger.

Just anger is anger which desires to correct sin (whether personal or in others). Unjust anger is anger which wishes to harm others or get even. Knowing these distinctions can be very helpful, as we can ask, if we’re angry, “Do I wish to harm another or to correct sin? If I wish to harm, I should shut my mouth and not act right now. If I wish to correct a sin, I should measure my words to do exactly that and nothing more.” Another strategy, which Jesus recommends, is to take extreme ownership over your community, team, or family and if you are about to worship then remember that if you have wronged another, go reconcile immediately.

In other words, the Christian is a part of a kingdom whose citizens all take 100% ownership of their actions and therefore try to right whatever wrongs they have done.

A final strategy is one offered by Paul the Apostle. In Philippians 4:8-9, he recommends thinking of the best in others so that we might experience the peace of God in the midst of interpersonal conflict.

Coming up this week at SoLaR Chapel…”Pride!”

Blessed (Part 2)

I am going to let you all in on a parenting secret.  The night before Christmas or a big birthday is not always all joy and happiness. It can be extremely stressful.  In fact, the weeks leading up to a big celebration are very tense.  For example, trying to get the perfect Christmas gift has meant fighting large crowds and driving all over the place to go to the right store that has the right gift.  Or it has meant spending hours and hours on the internet searching for something that you end up overpaying for shipping and handling to make sure it gets here on time.  When that big day arrives, we as parents are all thinking, it will be worth it to see the smile on our child’s face and as they throw themselves at our feet and wrap their arms around our knees and gush forth in humble gratitude.  However, especially when a child is young, they open the gift and…meh.  We rush down there and show them how it works and all the noises and buttons.  The child begins to play with it and we run around the room giving ourselves high fives.  But when we look over again, they are eating the wrapping paper and playing with the box it came in while the toy is lying by itself on the floor.  

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In Genesis, we see that man is made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Part of what this means can be found in the way God creates. He first creates a formless mass of chaos (Genesis 1:2) and then progressively organizes the world after a fashion that makes it amenable to human beings and their experience of God’s presence. This is capitulated in the story of Eden (Genesis 2:7-15), where God creates a space for man to meet with God that is the ideal composition between chaos and order. If we see God’s creative work as a symbol of what it means to be a human being in God’s image, we can see that man is the being that negotiates between chaos and order on the earth. We do this by finding ways to cultivate nature in a way that brings something new out of it that was not there before without eliminating its potential entirely. A good example might be a garden in which there are no insects. Without bugs, the garden will produce no fruit. It is too orderly. But in a field without cultivation there may or may not be food fit for humans depending upon weather and animal activity. In connection with John 1:1-18 and Colossians 1:15-20, we can see that

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