Tag Archives: Christian Living

Honor

I want to talk to you today about getting or not getting honored and the temptations that are common to all of us in these areas.  Think about these two questions, first, what do I do when I am disappointed and don’t get an award? Number two, what do I do when I do get what I want or what I have worked for?

Let’s talk about the first question and what is the temptation when you get disappointed.  When your name doesn’t get called. When you have to sit there and watch someone else getting the honor.  What is happening on the inside? What are you saying to yourself? Do you get angry? Do you cross your arms and stick out your lip and pout?  Do feel sorry for yourself? This is very tempting to do. In fact, it is very natural to do that but as we have been studying in the beatitudes, living in the kingdom of God means living in a way that is radically different from what comes naturally.  Here is what the apostle Paul says about what a Christian’s response should be when someone else gets honored,

Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.

When we see someone else get honored, we are not to think about ourselves, instead, we are to rejoice with that person.  Last year we hosted the regional speech meet. I called up the finalists in each category and then would announce the top scores.  It is quite an honor. You get your name announced and you get a medal put around your neck. A big round of applause. It is not uncommon to see students fight back tears of disappointment when their name is not read.  I remember one girl from another school who had worked very hard but did not get a top score. When the girl’s name next to her did get read as a superior score, the first girl immediately turned to her and gave her a hug.  It was such an amazing example of rejoicing with someone who is rejoicing. It is a great example of how to not look inward to me, but outward to my neighbor.

Now let’s talk about the temptation of what happens when we do get honored.  When our name is called and we get that medal we worked for. What is tempting to do?  It is easy to not be thankful. To not show gratitude to God. It is natural to see something good happen and think you made this happen in your own strength or because of how smart you are.  On top of that, especially the older you get, you become more and more aware and concerned about what other people think of you. You want to be on the stage to prove to others that you are something special.

The big problem with this is you start attaching what you think about yourself based on what others say about you or think about you.  Your identity gets wrapped up in the opinions of your friends, your classmates, perhaps even your parents. If they like you and think you are really something, then you feel really good about yourself.  This feeling doesn’t last because you are trying to fill your eternal soul with temporal things that don’t last. God did not create you to find your identity in anything other than Himself. Think of it this way, we are not to look horizontally for what we can only find vertically.  

You fight against the temptation of pride that comes when you get honored, by pointing to God and giving Him all the credit, all the glory.  You should think, “I made honor roll not because I’m smart but because God gave me the ability to work hard. Praise Him!”

In conclusion, being honored should not be your goal.  Doing your best so that God gets the glory should be your goal.  If you didn’t do your best this quarter, this chapel is a motivation to do better and strive to do your best starting right now.  If you did your best and someone else got honored, rejoice with them. If you did your best and you did get honored, praise God for His grace to you.  

The apostle Paul gives us the cure to how to handle these temptations when he wrote in Romans,

I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.

Just like in the Old Testament when the Jewish people would come to the tabernacle and offer a lamb as a burnt sacrifice, we are to offer our lives to God as a living sacrifice so that we can say “Thy will be done.”

In the end, it will not matter how many honor roll certificates you have hanging on the wall, how many A’s and B’s you have or don’t have.  What will matter is if you have done your best in all things to God’s glory so that when you face Jesus, you will hear him tell you “well done, good and faithful servant.”  This quarter, let’s do our work so that Jesus will tell us “well done”. It may or may not mean I call your name up at the next honor roll chapel, but if you are working to do your best, God will be glorified and pleased and that is what matters the most.

Consequences

It seemed like such a small thing at first.  It would be much easier and no one was around to catch them doing it.  Christian and Hopeful had just escaped the horror that was Vanity Fair.  In John Bunyan’s classic book, Pilgrims Progress, he describes Christian’s journey from the city of destruction to the celestial city.  As Christian nears the end of the journey, he and his companion Hopeful, find that the good path runs along a very difficult ground.  They are discouraged until they come to a meadow. This beautiful meadow is called By-path Meadow. Christian thinks the meadow might be easier so he climbs over the wall to have a look.  It appears that path is going the same way as the good path so he convinces Hopeful to climb over the wall and travel this easier way. This new path is much easier and they really start making good time.  They meet another pilgrim named Vain-confidence who tells them proudly he knows the way and they follow him. It becomes very dark and they lose sight of Vain-confidence but continue on until they hear a loud cry and a heavy thud. Creeping forward, they find that Vain-confidence has been killed by falling into a deep pit.  Christian and Hopeful turn back, hardly knowing the way or where they are. It is not only dark but now it begins to rain, with terrible lightning and thunder. The water rises nearly drowning them. Exhausted they lay down and sleep but their troubles are not over. In the morning they are surprised and captured by the owner of the meadow, Giant Despair and taken to his dungeon in Doubting Castle.  As they lay in their prison cell, beaten and crushed in spirit, they live with the regret of choosing to climb over the wall and leaving the good path that they were told to follow.

We have been reviewing Psalm 1 by putting it on like a pair of glasses to see correctly the culture in which we live.  I have been doing this by giving you statements that summarize the main points of Psalm 1.

#1 you and I live in a moral world-right and wrong, good and bad, true and false.  Life is not relative to what I think is right and wrong. God’s Word tells us that there is absolute truth because God Himself is truth.

#2 you and I are under the influence of everything and everyone around us.  What we spend our time doing and what we allow ourselves to listen to will have a growing and progressive influence on our lives.  

#3 is You and I live in a world where our choices and behaviors come from a worldview.  A worldview is an idea of God and how He works in the world. If I choose my comfort over doing what God has called me to do, I live like a scoffer, a mocker of God.  Or if I choose to follow after God’s Word, then I will find my rest and satisfaction in Christ.

Statement #4 comes from verse 3-4,

He shall be like a tree

   Planted by the rivers of water,

   That brings forth its fruit in its season,

   Whose leaf also shall not wither;

And whatever he does shall prosper.

The ungodly are not so,

But are like the chaff which the wind drives away.

Here is statement #4: You and I live in a world where choices and behavior lead to real consequences in the real world.

It seemed like a small thing at first, but Christian the pilgrim’s disobedience and stepping over the God-given boundaries by climbing the wall, led to bondage and despair.  His journey would have ended in the Giant’s doubting castle if he did not remember the key of promise that he had with him the whole time. They seemed like just a few steps apart.  The path through by-path meadow and the good path but in the end, they ended up miles away from where God wanted them to be.

The apostle Paul in Galatians 6:7 says it this way,

whatever you plant, you harvest.  

Paul is using a seed to plant example.

Every spring farmers with their huge tractors would have 20-30 row planters with these seed hoppers systematically dropping seed into the ground.  You know what would happen every time they planted corn seed. Corn would grow. Not beans, not milo or wheat. Corn. Why? Because corn grows from corn seed. Beans grow from bean seed. Wheat grows from wheat seed. You don’t plant corn and get grapefruit.  This is a very simple lesson of nature but the same thing is true of your choices and actions. They will bear fruit according to its kind.

Here is the danger that we are all tempted with.  We do something wrong but don’t get caught we think we can get away with certain behaviors.  When we do that, we act as if God does not exist and His law found in the Bible doesn’t apply to us.  The teacher tells you to be quiet in the halls and you talk but don’t get caught. You are told to honor others and you push someone in recess and call someone a mean name in PE but the teacher doesn’t see it.  You need some money so you steal it from your parents but they don’t notice. They tell you to clean your room but you keep playing and they don’t say anything. You look at something on the computer or phone you know you should not, but don’t get caught. When you and I do these things, we are living as if God does not exist and what He said in the 10 commandments does not apply to us.  We think our behaviors do not matter, and if we are sneaky enough, we will not have consequences for our actions. Psalm 1 says not so fast.

You see you can’t violate and disobey again and again God’s law and then expect God’s blessing. You can’t treat people however you want and expect a loving relationship and close friends.  You can’t keep disobeying your parents and expect freedom and privileges. You can’t keep dishonoring others and expect people to trust you. You can’t climb over the walls of God’s boundaries looking for shortcuts and easier paths and not eventually get caught by the Giant Despair and thrown into a prison of doubting God’s promises.  It is the seed plant relationship. Corn seed grows corn plants. It is choices and consequences.

Even though I know this truth, I don’t always act as if my words and behaviors bear consequences.  Psalm 1 has a strong picture of when someone acts as if their behavior and choices do not have consequences.  Psalm 1 says they like chaff. Chaff is the light pieces of a head of grain, that come off when you break it apart and when you throw it in the air the wind blows it away.  How would you like to look at your life and think everything I have done so far in my life amounts to chaff? You see you can’t deny God’s existence, refuse to follow God’s law, and not be like the chaff.  It is a scary thought to think my life would end up like chaff.

The call in Psalm 1 is to be like a big, flourishing tree that sinks its roots into the nutrients of God’s Word.  Draws its life and energy from knowing and growing in love with the Bible. Believing that if God said don’t do this, I will not do it because I love Him.  I will follow God’s law of loving Him and loving my neighbor. I will serve others. I will obey. I will honor others above myself. My behaviors match a heart that runs after God and is rooted deeply in His Word.  A heart that cries:

I need Thee. O I need Thee. Every hour, I need Thee.

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!”

Hope

One of the most important parts of any plant is its roots. The roots are where a plant finds its stability. As the roots grow deeper and wider, the plant is able to grow taller and be able to withstand the wind because it has such a solid base. A plants roots also draw in the nutrients and energy that the plant needs to grow. The better and more nutritious the soil, the better the nutrients that the roots can draw up to the plant itself.

Continue reading

New Life in Christ

The Bible is a Truth to be obeyed or given adherence to.  So, what happens when we don’t obey?  It usually doesn’t end well!  Obeying creates safety for us that God provides because of his great love for us.

Continue reading

Like A Tree

I grew up on the farm that my great-grandfather farmed.  The white barn on the property is over hundred years old and is still a working barn.  I remember as a boy walking into the tack room and seeing pictures of his teams of draft horses placed among the actual yokes and harnesses that those horses were hitched up to plow and pull the farm equipment to take care of his 80-acre farm.

Continue reading

Calling

I grew up on a farm and one of the things I hated the most was during the summer was when my mom would make a list of chores for me to finish before I could do anything else.  The thing that I wanted to do more than anything else was to go fishing but I knew I had to do chores first.  Of all the chores that my mom could write down, the worst ones were cleaning.  This wasn’t vacuuming or dusting, no it was cleaning up after animals.  You see we had a fair number of chickens and horses and they would spend their nights in the coop or stall and they would make their mess inside.  Someone, usually me, had to keep these buildings clean.  It was a hot, dirty, smelly job.  In the 1500’s, people would look at someone who did those kinds of jobs and think, only people who work in the church are really doing the work of God. Today I am going to talk briefly about an idea that Martin Luther brought forward during the reformation that was completely revolutionary for its time.  It was the idea of calling.  He insisted that the farmer shoveling manure and the maid milking her cow could please God as much as the minister preaching or praying.

Continue reading

Meditate

Who do you think talks to you the most?  Your teacher?  Your parents?  Your annoying brother or sister who won’t be quiet?  I think the answer may surprise you.  The person who talks to you the most is you.  No one talks to yourself more than you do.  It is helpful if you keep the conversation in your head and not talk to yourself out loud because people may think you’re a bit weird. God created you and me to try to make sense out of life.  We are constantly trying to figure out what in the world is going on and we do that by talking to ourselves.

Continue reading

Soli Deo Gloria

The year was 1695.  It was midnight.  There were no street lights or electricity.  It was pitch black in the house.  A ten-year-old boy is tiptoeing down the stairs with only a candle to light his way.  He shields the light with his hand to keep the light from spilling all over and waking up the adults.  He slowly opens the door to the study, knowing if he pushes too fast, the hinges will squeak and his adventure will be found out.  He has a burning passion for music but he has been told that the music used for the church is too valuable to be used by children.  He squeezes his arm through an opening in the lattice and he rolls up a piece of organ music and pulls it out.  He spends the rest of the night copying the music on another piece of paper, all by candlelight.  He cannot wait to play this music the next day.  

Continue reading

An Alternate Function for Technology

As “there are no small things”[1] we are told to “work heartily, as for the Lord” (Col. 3:23), something as simple as making your bed[2] can do wonders for your happiness and health, and carefulness is a virtue, according to Aristotle, then paying attention to details and concentrating on bettering seemingly unimportant small skills is important for the overall well-being, success, and fulfillment of a student.  Thus, the insistence when a teacher makes you put your heading in the correct corner with each piece of information, or makes you use graph paper for math, or makes you re-do an answer that she cannot read—are all examples of an effort to help a student realize the importance of being careful with details.

Continue reading