Tag Archives: Christian Schools

Truth

How many of you wear glasses or contacts?  Why do you wear them? It is because something is lacking in your vision and the glasses, with the lenses in them, corrects the problem.  Without those glasses you see blobs. You don’t see rightly.

We have worked our way through Psalm 1.  I realize that it has taken us until April to get through 6 verses.  I guess you could say, it is about time we made through the whole Psalm.  I like to think of it more like making haste slowly.

What I would like to do with the few chapels that we have remaining is to step back and review the big ideas from Psalm 1.  I would like us to hold Psalm 1 up and put it on like a pair of glasses to look at the world through its lens. To correctly see the world around us. Let’s look through the lens of Psalm 1 and let’s see how it views the culture that we live in today.  For each chapel coming up, I will give one or two statements that summarize truth from Psalm 1. Today is statement #1. Here it is:

You and I live in a world of right and wrong, good and bad, true and false.

We do not live in a world of relativism.  I know that’s a big fancy word so here is what I mean.  Relativism is an idea that what I believe to be true for me and what you believe to be true for you can both be true, even if those ideas do not agree.  It is an idea that nothing is for sure. Nothing is absolutely true. It just depends on what you think is right. It’s relative. For example, if I decide to cross the street anywhere I want, and you decide to cross the street only at the crosswalk, it is fine, we both are OK. No one got ran over. You are right and so am I.  It is relative to each person. How about this example? When a teacher asks for quiet, most people are quiet but some whisper, both are basically doing the right thing. Right? Or saying you have read a book when you have read most of the book, or glancing at someone else’s paper on a test but answering most of the questions on your own, or not saying the bad word, but only thinking it in your head or mouthing it without any sound, or looking at something inappropriate on a device but just real quick, and on and on.  

We see the world around us telling us that there is no absolute truth, no real right, and wrong. You can decide. If a lot of people are doing it, it is fine. The teacher steps out of the room and tells everyone to be quiet, what sometimes happens? A few people start talking and then more and more people join in. If someone else is doing it then it must be Ok. Right? It is relative.

Psalm 1 annihilates relativism.  

You would only have to read Psalm 1 to know that the idea that nothing is absolutely true and it just depends on what you think is right, is absolutely wrong.  Here is why.

First, Psalm 1 tells us there is a God.  We all have come to a Christian school because we all believe that right?  So that is really not that big of a deal, right? Psalm 1 tells us, not so fast.  There is a difference between knowing that there is a God and actually believing that there is a God.  One is knowing the facts in your head and the other is having it in your heart. If this was no big deal then why do the first two commandments talk about it? No other gods but God, commandment 1 and don’t have idols, commandment 2.  Those commandments tell us don’t replace God with anything else. God knows our heart and how we so much want to be like God. Wasn’t that the temptation of Adam and Eve? The sneaky snake said, eat this and you will be like God. We all must admit, we are all tempted in that same way.  We all want to be kings and queens of our lives. We want the control to say, or think or do whatever we want and have it be totally fine. No problems. Guess what that is? Relativism. Truth depends on me and how I want things to be. So relativism isn’t just out there in Hollywood or in news reports or the world outside of these walls.  No, it is a very real struggle that you and I face every day. Here is the point,

there is a God and it’s not you.

  Second, Psalm 1 tells us that God is the one who created everything.  There is a mom that comes to school every Thursday to the kitchen and makes goodies for a program called Fed by Bread.  That’s why it smells so good on Thursday. She is the creator of that bread. She takes the ingredients in just the right amounts and follows precise steps so that she gets delicious bread.  It would not be that way if she grabbed a bunch of flour and threw in sugar and oil and water and dumped in yeast mixed it up and threw it in the oven. Same ingredients but very different results.  The one who creates it defines how it is made and what it can and cannot do. The bread can’t stand up and say, “hey, I wanted to be a steak”. God created us which means he has defined how we are to live and when we follow His design, we can enjoy life.  If we try to be something we are not, for example, try to be God, its like bread trying to be steak, it is absurd and a complete waste. We are to obey our creator and follow Him as He has told us how to live.

 Third, since God created everything, it means He decides what is truth.  In fact, He is the truth. As much as we want truth to depend on us, it cannot because we are not the creator.  God tells us what is true. What is right. What is wrong. It does not depend on what people think. Or how popular it is.  There is a right way to use the mind God gave you and a wrong way, right way to respond to a parent and a disobedient way, a right way to use your time and a wasteful way, a good use your energy and a bad use, a right way to use your money and a wrong way.  

When I talk back to my parents, roll my eyes at my teacher, gossip about a classmate, that is wrong.  Even if it makes me feel good. Or no one sees me do it. Or others think its funny. None of that matters.  What is wrong and what is right is defined by God. Not you. Not me. Again, we must all be honest and realize that we don’t like that.  We want right and wrong to depend on what we think. How others react. If we get caught or not.

Relativism is everywhere.  The idea that there is no absolute truth is everywhere.  Including your heart and mine. Let us not forget truth #1 of Psalm 1, You and I live in a world of right and wrong, good and bad, true and false.  We must see the world around us and our hearts through the lens of Psalm 1. Otherwise, we see distortions and can believe them to be the real thing.  In order to know the truth, we must be lead by our great guide who gives us the Bible to be a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path.

Perish

For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

Two weeks ago we talked about how everyone has a destiny.  Destiny means that there are certain events in the future that will happen.  When Darth Vader tries to get Luke Skywalker to turn to the dark side, he says, it is your destiny.  Vader meant this will happen. Thankfully this wasn’t Luke’s destiny because the next movies would have been totally different.  It wouldn’t have been quite as interesting to see them build yet another death star and then have no one to destroy it.

Destiny is the truth that choices and actions will lead you a certain way.  To a certain end. God is a God of order and if you do things a certain way, you will end up in a certain place.  For example, if you stop studying for your tests, stop doing your homework, and instead play minecraft, what will happen to your grade?  It is absurd to think you will make the all A’s honor roll. It is just as absurd to think you can live your life however you want and then expect God to say “well done good and faithful servant”.

In Psalm 1, King David says that if you follow the path of the righteous, which means turning from the path of the ungodly and meditating on God’s word, your destiny is redeemed by Christ and will lead you to heaven.  What is interesting is that seems like a great way to end the first psalm but he doesn’t. He ends with

“but the way of the ungodly shall perish”.

King David says just as sure as we are of the destiny of the righteous leading to heaven, we can be just as sure as the choices, attitudes and actions of the ungodly, will lead to their destruction.  

A famous preacher of the past, Charles Spurgeon said,

“Sinners cannot live in heaven. They would be out of their element. Sooner could a fish live upon a tree than the wicked in Paradise. Heaven would be an intolerable hell to an impenitent man, even if he could be allowed to enter.”  

What Spurgeon is saying is that even if a sinner, by himself, could go to heaven, they would choose not to because they love their wickedness over truth and beauty. This shows how strong our attraction to sin really is. We would want to live in sin than go to heaven.

It is easy to believe that when we look around and see people we obviously can tell hate God but what is extremely difficult to believe is that we all, myself included, have that level of darkness lurking in our hearts.  It took the most extraordinary event in human history, the death of Jesus on the cross, to break the power of sin and the powerful bondage we all were under from it. Only by faith in Christ can we have a destiny of light over a destiny of darkness.  

It seems so obvious that choosing the ungodly path and perishing would be a bad choice.  Why do so many choose it? And if we are honest, why do we sometimes choose it? Only something so powerful and sinister could twist our mind and heart away from the amazing gift of grace secured on the cross, to something that would lead to death.

This is what King David has been fervently warning us about in this first Psalm.  What is this dark and sinister thing that lures our hearts and minds? It is this, you will want to load everything you can into this world so that you only live for yourself.  You will want to get as much as you can out of this world that while you are alive on this earth, you won’t care about living for the next world.  For heaven. You are asking this world to be something it cannot be and that is paradise. God created it good but it is not heaven. God created all the things of this world good, and to be enjoyed.  That big juicy steak. A sunrise on an ocean horizon. Those big white soft snowflakes that fall. The love of a mother. The loyalty of a friend. The satisfaction of success. All these things and more God gave us.  But we confuse all the stuff of this world with our identity. We think that this stuff makes us who we are. Instead, all this stuff is pointing upward. It’s pointing to an amazing creator, to a God who so loved us that he sent His only son to rescue us.

We try to make for ourselves a heaven on earth where we are the rulers of our little kingdom.  We try to become little kings and queens. We want to make the rules. To choose when we want to work hard.  Who and when we have to obey. What we spend our time doing. If we want to be on our phone, then no one should tell us to put it away.  If we want to go home and play video games instead of doing chores, studying for tests or homework, how dare our parents tell us otherwise.  This “me first” way of living is not just a bad idea. It’s not just a bad choice. No, it is much deeper and much more serious. It is a serious heart issue.  

King David writes that when you choose your own path, where you reject God as the king and creator, and that path is the road to destruction and if you continue on that path, you will perish.  We all must look at our lives and decide what is truly important to us. Do I joyfully obey or do I roll my eyes and sigh? When I am asked to help out around the class or at home, do I do it right away or only when forced to?  These are little signs that tell you where you are heading. The direction of your heart. What kingdom you are living for. Your little kingdom, population 1 or God’s huge, amazing, big kingdom that includes the entire history of the world past, present and future?  A kingdom that loves God and loves their neighbor.

Easter is not about bunnies, baby chickens, candy and eggs.  It is about how God sent his son to rescue you from your little kingdom and how he will take you to His huge kingdom that leads to paradise.

Psalm 1 ends with a scary warning that we all must listen to.  The danger is to think I became a christian so I don’t have to worry about perishing any more but the warning is that every day you are moving in a direction, either the way of the righteous or the way of the ungodly.  Christ died, was buried and rose again to give you the grace you need every day to choose the way of the righteous. 

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!”

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.

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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.

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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.

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Delight

Let me ask you this question, what sets apart someone who is in favor with God and on the way to enjoy the blessings of heaven and someone who is turning away from God and on the path of destruction? The answer is, what makes you happy. I mean deep down, what you really want to satisfy your heart desire.

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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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Blessed (Part 1)

The book of Psalms is a beautiful but extremely honest look at life. The very first word in this book is “blessed” and Psalm 1 sets up the whole book by talking about how you can live a blessed life.  The word “blessed” itself means either set apart as holy, like when I say Jesus our “blessed” savior, but it can also mean extremely happy like I am so blessed today.  The question that I want to ask today is, what do you think makes you happy, I mean really happy?  Last week was on Matthew 6:33 and keeping first things first and second things second and my own struggle with this.  God created us to want to be happy but we have to live life His way.  He made us to enjoy life not only now but forever.  The problem is that sin deceives and tricks us into believing that things in this world will bring about the great happiness that we all want.      

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Addition By Subtraction

I wasn’t born in Nebraska. My dad was in the Air Force so we moved around a lot when I was young but we finally settled in Nebraska and I consider it home.  I started attending a public school until my dad made the decision to quit his job and become a Christian school teacher.  I joined the school a year later as a student.  The school was not like Annapolis but I appreciated being taught in a Christian environment.  I participated in junior high band and enjoyed choir.  I acted in One Act and in one of the school plays, Anne of Green Gables.  I was in the pivotal role as “farmhand #2”.  I also played sports.  The sport I excelled in the most was volleyball.  My dad was the assistant girls’ volleyball coach and he was my ride home so, out of boredom, I began playing volleyball.  After high school, I went to a Christian college where I played college volleyball and got a teaching degree.  My first teaching job after graduation was back in Nebraska, where I spent the last 20 years in education.

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