Tag Archives: Private Schools in Corpus Christi

Blessed are the merciful

There is a saying that just like going to McDonald’s doesn’t make you a hamburger, is just like going to church doesn’t make you a Christian (I guess we are in the land of Whataburger so maybe I should say just like going to Whataburger doesn’t make you hamburger).  I may add, just like going to a Christian school doesn’t make you a Christian.

As we have been looking at the beatitudes, Jesus is telling us what it means to live in the kingdom of God. Not just anyone can be in the kingdom of God, only a follower of Christ, a Christian, can be in His kingdom. You can not assume that just because you go to a Christian school and attend a church that you are a Christian.  This is important because the beatitudes are not things you do but they are who you are. It is because Jesus has changed your heart. You don’t act poor in spirit, you are poor in spirit. You don’t act like you hunger and thirst for righteousness, in your soul, you hunger and thirst for what is right. This is important to understand as we move on to our next beatitude, blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy. Each beatitude builds on the one before it.  In order to be a person who is full of mercy, you must first be poor in spirit, then you must mourn the sin inside and outside of you, and next from a heart that hunger and thirsts for righteousness, you cannot help but be merciful to your neighbor.

It is like a person who by his bad decisions loses all his money and has to declare bankruptcy. He appears before the judge, thinking this is the end, but instead is told every debt has been paid in full.  That person should then be able to show great love and mercy to others around him. You see mercy comes from mercy. Pastor John Piper says our mercy to each other comes from God’s mercy to us. If you want to be a merciful person, then you must be a broken person.  Poor in spirit. Mournful. Knowing that everything we have comes by the mercy of God.

Let’s talk about mercy by talking about what it is not.  In Matthew 9:10-13 it says,

And as he (Jesus) sat at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

“I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”  That is a quote from the Old Testament prophet Hosea where God accuses the people that their love is like the dew on the grass. It is there for a brief morning hour and then is gone.  The point Hosea is making is that God does not want us to do these religious activities, these duties, these Christian “I have to’s”, no, Jesus wants our hearts. I do these things because I want to.  I participate in chapel because I want to sing his praises. I listen in Bible class because I want to hear God’s word. Not because I have to to get a good grade. I go to church because I want to worship God not because my parents make me.  God desires mercy, not sacrifice. We think we can sacrifice a little time on Sunday morning and God is good with that. We think if we sacrifice to memorize Bible verses, God is pleased with us. We think if we sacrifice some money and buy toys for people in need, God will bless us. God desires mercy, heartfelt, sincere love for your neighbor, not outward sacrifice.  

In the passage I just read, Jesus was talking to the Pharisees and they were eating with tax collectors and sinners. Jesus said He came for those that knew that they were sick in their souls, not the ones that performed religious duty and thought that they were fine before God and needed no help at all.  We are to see ourselves like the poor, the tax collectors, the sinners, and not like the proud Pharisees who thought they knew everything they needed to about the Bible.

Let’s look at another example. (Matthew 23:23–24).

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!”

You strain a gnat and swallow a camel.  This is a strainer. Has anyone ever seen their mom or dad use one of these?  What is it for? It is to catch particles so so you can separate a liquid from those particles.  What is a gnat? It’s those little black flying bugs. What’s a camel? This huge four-legged desert animal with humps on its back. What is the point that Jesus is making? He is saying that the Pharisees were spending all their time and energy in these little, tiny, trivial matters. And missing these gigantic, huge things of life. Can you imagine how hard it would be to try to strain out a little tiny gnat?  The warning is beware of living each day for little things, feeling little feelings, getting bothered by little matters, spending your time with things of little substance. Let’s get even more specific. Is spending a lot of time with video games, let’s say a game you may have heard of called Fortnite, is it spending your time on something of great or little value? What about laying around watching TV? Arguing? Trying to be first in line? Worrying about what others think of you?  Is that straining gnats? Especially when you worry about those things when you have in front of you great works of truth, beauty, and goodness. Do you think learning about great ideas, great men and women of history, learning about God’s word, is that straining gnats or is that learning about weightier matters? Jesus said to spend your time and energy on things that matter like learning about justice and mercy and faithfulness.

Another illustration of the opposite of mercy is found in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25–37). A proud lawyer asks Jesus, who is my neighbor, and Jesus tells a parable about a Jewish man who was traveling down a road and is beaten, stripped of his clothes and left for dead.  A priest walks by on the other side. Then a Levite walks by on the other side, but a Samaritan sees him and the Bible says “when he saw him, he had compassion.” He took care of his wounds, put him on his donkey, took him to an inn, and paid for him to stay in that safe place to get better.

John Piper puts it this way. Here we have a very sharp picture of mercy. Mercy has four parts in this story.

  1. It sees distress, it sees someone in need.

  2. It responds internally, on the inside, with a heart of compassion or pity toward a person in distress.  

  3. It responds externally, on the outside, with a practical effort to relieve the distress.  He acts. He does something.

  4. It acts even when the person in distress is an enemy. Samaritans were hated by the Jews but that is who stopped to help.

An eye for distress, a heart of pity, an effort to help, in spite of hate and hostility— that’s mercy.

Do we have eyes to see distress?  People hurting, people in need? Or are we so consumed with straining gnats, doing our own little things, that we are missing the huge things in life that God is putting right in front of us?  I guarantee you will not see those things with your eyes glued to a screen.

When you see a problem, when you see someone in need, someone hurting, do you feel that pain in your heart?  Does your heart push you to act? To do something to help? Even if it’s not a friend? When you see a need, and you feel that pain, and you act, that is mercy.  Can you imagine if Annapolis Christian Academy grammar school was full of students, teachers, and principals that were truly merciful? If that happened, we would get a clearer picture of what the kingdom of God is supposed to look like.  May we start to become merciful people, and let’s start right here at ACA.

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.

Blessed are those who mourn

In 1962, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons released a song called “Big Girls Don’t Cry”.  There is a famous quote of the character Tom Hanks was playing in the movie A League of Their Own, “There’s no crying in baseball.”  I’ve heard that some southern moms may have said to their child, “If you don’t stop crying, I’ll give you something to cry about.”

We live in a world where mourning, which is a deep sadness and sorrow, is something to be avoided.  The world says forget your troubles, do everything you can to avoid them, to not face them. There is another famous song, “Don’t worry, be happy.”  The focus of the world today is on being entertained. In the world’s eyes, those who mourn are the opposite of those who are happy and blessed.

Once again we see the Jesus is talking about living in the kingdom of God and it is completely different from the way the world wants to live.  Now Jesus is not saying that those who cry are better than those who don’t. No, he is talking about an attitude of your heart.

Two weeks ago we talked about the happy ones were the ones who were poor in spirit.  The ones who were humble. The ones who allowed the mirror of God’s Word to show them who they really are and how much they need the grace of Jesus.  Once again we have to face the bad stuff first before we can see the really good stuff. We have to be poor in spirit before we can be filled with the Holy Spirit.  We have to be convicted of sin before we experience joy. If you want to be happy and blessed, you must first mourn. Conviction before conversion. Here are two examples in the Bible of men who were blessed because they mourned.

  1. The apostle Paul.  In Romans 7, he cries out

“O wretched or horrible man that I am, who will save me from myself?”

2. Jesus, He was described as a man of sorrows, familiar with grief and sadness.  The Bible tells us that he wept, he cried, but it never specifically tells us he laughed.  The Bible tells us He was angry, hungry, thirsty, and cried but it never says laughed. I am sure He laughed but He was a man on a mission and there was a seriousness about him.  He did not have a superficial smile and act goofy as nothing mattered except having fun.

Jesus knew that being here on earth is not like being on some all-expense paid vacation.  It is not like being on a luxury cruise liner. Waking up and deciding what fun activity are we going to do today.  Should I do the shuffleboard or the water slides? No, He knew we are at war in a foreign land.

We need to learn from Jesus’ example.  Mourning for sin is not something that you guys are going to do later.  When you get older. Your choices right now and how you deal with your sin today has an impact on the person you will be.  Recently there was a man who was confirmed to become the next supreme court judge. One of the more important jobs here in the United States.  He almost didn’t get that job and you know why? As a 53-year-old man, choices he made in high school, 35 years ago, called into question his character and ability to be a supreme court judge.  Sin is still very bad whether you are 5 years old, 10 years old, 18 years old or 53 years old. Whether I am in Kindergarten, 3rd grade or 6th grade, a teacher, a parent or a principal. Sin is sin.  It is not to be kept around like it’s some kind of pet. We are to mourn when we see sin.

You see to mourn is something that follows being poor in spirit.  I see a holy and awesome God, who created me to do good things, to love and work as He wants me to, then I see myself, I see that I am completely helpless and hopeless to do that and I mourn.  How could I treat someone like that? How could I say those mean and nasty words? How could I think those thoughts? Why did I get so angry? Why was I so lazy? Why do I disobey?

Then you drive down the street and see the homeless.  The broken and lost people of this world. The news is full of violence, people hurting others, people starving, people fighting.  You see the pain and misery of sin. You see it in your own life. You see it in the world around us. In some ways, Christians should be the saddest people on earth.  

The world says, eat, drink and be merry.  A Christian’s attitude should be completely different.  You need to think about your attitude when you get in trouble.  When a teacher tells you that you have been disobedient. When a parent tells you, you have consequences.  Do you argue? Do you roll your eyes? Think its a joke? Storm off to your room? These are not the actions of someone who realizes that they have sinned.  

We must be brought low to see the heights of love.  What is the second half of the beatitude? Blessed are those who mourn, for they what?  They will be comforted. Why is that? Here is the comfort. We see sin, we mourn it in our lives and in the world around us, we repent, which means we turn from it and we turn to Christ.  We see the blood of Christ that covers our sin and failure. We see that Christ will return to eradicate sin in this world and make all things right and new. There will be a day when sin will be no more.  What a comfort that is to a believer. Paul says it this way,

O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

What do you look to for comfort?  Money? Having a family that buys you stuff?  Having free time to do what you want? Living in a country that has a strong military to protect you?  President Trump? Being at Annapolis? Being a good person? Getting good grades, going to the right college, getting a good job?  Do you look for comfort in these things? In the things around you? The things of this world?

Jesus says there is no lasting comfort in those things.  Your comfort and mine come in when we mourn for the sin that still clings to our hearts and mourn for the sin that is trying to destroy the Kingdom that God created.  These thoughts are not to make us miserable or depressed. But they are to help us see how bad sin really is, how much we need to repent, and how badly we need a savior.  When we turn to Christ, we will find comfort and true happiness.

So the next time your teacher corrects you.  When you parent tells you no. You should mourn in your heart, knowing how far from where God wants you to be you are right now and immediately confess that sin, repent, turn from it, and seek the comfort of Christ.  Can you imagine if everyone in the grammar school, every student, every teacher, every principal did that, what would happen to this school? If we all mourned for the sin in each of our hearts and mourned for the sin we saw in the people around us?  I will tell you what Jesus says will happen. We will be blessings to each other and we will be blessed. If you have the blessing of Christ, you will be happy. This school would be the happiest place on earth. It would be happier than Disney world.

Poor In Spirit

As an elementary principal in Nebraska, the first school that I worked at was a public school in the middle of the state.  Although many of the families that attended the school were farmers or worked in the agricultural business, several families lived in that community because they could not afford to live in any of the bigger cities in the area.  Big by Nebraska standards, not Texas standards, because, everything is bigger in Texas, right? In a short amount of time, I realized that there were families in the school that did not have enough food to eat. We offered a free breakfast and lunch program and I had students picking up their trays and literally licking the tray clean.  Students were coming to school day after day with the same clothes on. They couldn’t do homework because they didn’t even have colors or a pencil. The staff and I quickly mobilized and started a backpack program so that students could have food over the weekend, and had school supplies donated, among other programs to help students. I knew that people struggled with poverty in big cities but I was surprised that there were poor people out in the rural areas as well.  In some ways, they had it more difficult because they were further away from potential resources. One family had built onto a garage just using sheet metal and was living there with no heater, trying to make it through a harsh winter. Some of you have had the opportunity to do mission work overseas. And as difficult as these people in Nebraska had it, it is even worse for families in some countries. They have even less than the poorest person in America. They live in small shacks.  No bathrooms to speak of. They search for their food among the trash. Terrible living conditions. They have no money. They are truly poor.

I am guessing that you and I have never really experienced true poverty.  Having nothing. Not knowing if you are going to eat again. Having a hopeless future.  It is hard to imagine living in those conditions when we all have so much. Because we have so much stuff, we have a hard time understanding what it means to be poor let alone what it means to be poor in spirit.  Jesus is intentionally using words to paint a picture to help us understand what He is saying.  He is not saying that those who have little to no money are better than those who have a lot of money.  No, what He is saying is poverty of spirit is ultimately yours and my attitude towards ourselves. What we think of ourselves.  Just like the poorest people you can think of, that is a picture of your heart and how much you need the help of Jesus. Perhaps you will find no greater difference between God’s kingdom and the kingdom of self than in this beatitude.  Let me explain. It is very common to hear people say you just need to believe in yourself. Have confidence in you. Think positively about yourself. Rely on our own instincts. Look inside yourself. What kids movie or TV show doesn’t drip with these themes?  It is the idea that you have everything you need inside you, you just need to find it. You are rich and wealthy of heart. This just isn’t true.

You and I are confronted by a completely different reality that we find in the Bible.  The great hymn writer Charles Wesley speaks of this reality in the hymn Jesus, Lover of My Soul.  He wrote in one of the verses,

Just and holy is Thy name

I am all unrighteousness

Vile and full of sin I am

Thou art full of truth and grace     

The good news of the Bible is that it breaks us down before it raises us up.  This beatitude is about bringing us low to better understand who we really are.  Let me give you two examples of what I am talking about. First being poor in the spirit is like standing at the foot of an extremely rugged mountain.  Who has been to the Rocky Mountains? Who has been to Denali National Park in Alaska? This is where the tallest mountain in North America is. It is extremely isolated and rugged and dangerous.  If you have ever stood at the base of a mountain like that, with the cold and snow blowing on the sheer granite and icy side of the mountain. There is no way you are going to climb that. When Jesus talks about being poor in spirit, about seeing your soul in complete spiritual poverty, unrighteous, vile and full of sin, knowing that the call to kingdom living is to be like Jesus, full of obedience, love, joy, kindness, and self-control, you should first think, there is no way I can do that.  There is no way I can live as Jesus wants me to live in His kingdom. It is a mountain that I cannot even attempt to climb. I need help. Jesus said if you have that attitude towards yourself, if you are truly humble, you are blessed. Versus the one who thinks, you know, I think I can scale this, and jump over that 90-foot drop, pull myself up over that cliff. Hang by one hand and reach up to that ice covered rock. I think I can do this.

Second, being someone who is poor in spirit is like a man who looks at his face in the mirror.  The brother of Jesus, James, wrote in James 1, 

For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.  But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.

Being poor in spirit is a humility that when the word of God is spoken and I see something I need to change, I do it.  That word of God may come in the form of reading your Bible, hearing a pastor preaching a sermon, it could be a teacher correcting you, a parent, a coach, even a student here at school.  God uses all these different means as mirrors. Too often we become our own defense lawyers and say “I object. How dare you accuse me of doing anything wrong.” Those people are a mirror, it is showing us that we have dirt and filth all over our face and hair and we’ve got a date with some water, soap and a washcloth.  Too often we see that and think, nah, I’m good.

There is another hymn by another great hymn writer, Isaac Watts. He writes about how Jesus reigns as king over everything but you and I are so quick to try to build our own kingdom where we are kings and queens of our lives.  The reason we do that is that we are not poor in spirit. We think way too highly of ourselves. We think we can climb that treacherous mountain ourselves, we see the ugliness of ourselves in the mirror and think we are fine, even when people are trying to point it out.  Isaac Watts uses another word picture of who we are without the grace of Christ and that is a prisoner. Listen to how a prisoner who is poor in spirit reacts when rescued by the grace of Jesus:

Blessings abound wherever He reigns

The pris’ner leaps to lose his chains

The weary find eternal rest

And all the sons of want are blessed

Your king rules over all of creation and wants desperately to be king of your heart, to rescue you from yourself and the prison of pride that you trap yourself in so that He can bless you.

Just like those children that have no money, looking for scraps of food just to survive, in complete poverty and hopelessness.  We must view ourselves in that humble state. Needing a great king to reign, to rescue and to rule over our heart. The truth is, there is no one in the kingdom of God that is not poor in spirit.  You and I need Jesus as much today as did when we first heard the good news. And in a thousand years in the future, we will still need Him as much as we did on the day we first believed. You see by being in poor in spirit here on earth, Christ, the king says, you will inherit the kingdom of heaven.  That is amazing and it is worth the sacrifice. 

War and Peace

After the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the United States entered into an almost 4-year war overseas called World War II.  Many young men enlisted or were drafted to fight this war. However, even those left behind in the states made deep sacrifices for the troops.  The government asked families to only use small amounts of certain food items and supplies so that there would be enough for the troops overseas.  Things like meat, butter, sugar, and gasoline, among other things were rationed. The country had just come out of the great depression and now they were being asked to sacrifice again for their country.  I was told stories of people keeping their aluminum foil and reusing it. My grandfather would go fishing in the stream nearby for catfish, hoping to catch some supper. Other countries were doing the same.  For example in England, there was a luxury ocean liner called the Queen Mary.  It carried passengers from New York to England (this was before citizens were traveling on airplanes).  It was transformed into a military troop transport. These luxurious rooms, think of a fancy hotel room, that used to have only three to a room at most now slept twelve soldiers.  The beautiful dining room was now a mess hall. It holds the record for the most troops in one passage, 15,740 on one run in July of 1943. There were changes because of the war. Life didn’t just go on as usual.

Today, we couldn’t imagine keeping used aluminum foil or washing out plastic baggies to use again, or only filling up a half a tank of gas because we want to make sure everyone had enough or making broth and soup so as to not waste the scraps of meat and bone.  We throw things away without even thinking about it. We plop down at our tables expecting a full, several course meal. If we lose something, it is no big deal, we will ask our parents for another one. Why are things so different now than the times I described in the 1940’s?  The difference is our grandparents and great-grandparents had a wartime mentality and today, we have a peacetime mentality. A mentality is a way of thinking, how we view the world around us. The United States got a little taste of that change on September 11th, 2001 but many of you here don’t even have that tragedy as a first-hand experience.  Most of us don’t really have to worry about the sacrifices of war. We have a peacetime mentality.

This week is our warrior week and I want to talk about the dangers of warriors who should be fighting a war, but instead, they are lounging around thinking they are at peace.  No, I’m not talking about a physical war, although we as citizens need to be aware of the realities of the world and the men and women of the military who are helping to keep us safe, no I am talking about a spiritual war.  Here are some things that show if you have a wartime mentality.

The first thing that needs to happen is we need to realize that we are at war.  There are two kingdoms fighting against each other. We have an enemy who is described as a roaring lion, who devours his prey.  Satan is our great enemy. When Christ came to earth as a baby, He didn’t come to give us a holiday so we could great presents, no, He came for war.  He came down to fight. Satan didn’t just say, ok, I’m sorry, you win. No, he fought back and although Christ defeated him through the power of the cross and His resurrection, Satan is still at war.  The question is if you are a Christian, are you? Are you at war with sin, the flesh, and the devil? It’s like a soldier in World War II landing on a Normandy beach and thinking he is here for a French vacation.  No, grab a weapon and go take that bunker. Christian, you are here on this earth to fight for the kingdom of God. And the first battlefield is your heart as you must wage war on your own selfishness and pride.

Next, we are to subdue things.  Genesis 1:26, 28,

“God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness’ … God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule …’”

Another way to think of it is we are gardeners who cultivate and prune so that the potential of those things around us can display their beauty to the glory of God.  Your classmates that God has given you, are you doing things that allow them to grow and flourish or do you hack away and cut them down? Those books you read, those subjects that you study, do you allow those ideas to grow or do you leave them alone to wither up and die?  A soldier wants to learn and grow to be well rounded so he or she will be ready for any situation, and a good soldier never leaves a man behind.

Third, denying yourself shows that Christ is your supreme treasure.

Luke 9:23-25 says

“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?”

Why is it you have no problem staying up late playing Minecraft or Fortnite but grumble and argue when your parents tell you it’s time to get up so you can go to church?  Those moments, if you pay attention, tell you where your treasure is. Soldiers at war make sacrifices. They sacrifice time, energy, and even themselves for the greater good.  We are Christian soldiers and we are asked to deny ourselves, take up our cross every day, and follow Christ. That is the wartime mentality.

Last, fighting the fight brings you true joy

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Matthew 13:44).  

When I was playing volleyball, one thing my coach knew would really get me fired up is when he thought I wasn’t practicing well, he would move me to the other side of the net which was the junior varsity side.  Now, these players were working hard but they did not have the skill or experience that the starters had. Now I had a choice. I could stay on the JV side of the net and things would have been a lot easier since I was a more experienced player but would I have joy in what I was doing?  No, the enjoyment came when I gave great effort and made plays that allowed me to earn my spot back on the starters side of the net. When I had the self-satisfaction that I was doing all I could do to get better and I was making plays to help the team that I experienced joy. How much more for a christian who is engaged in the battle for the kingdom of God versus one who is sitting on the sideline just watching it?  The joy goes to the one who is in the fight.

We are at war.  We are called to subdue, to grow our hearts and minds to reach our potential as humans.  We are called to deny ourselves and make sacrifices to keep our focus on what should be our #1 treasure, and that is Jesus.  Last, being in the battle, being a man or woman of action, brings joy. Sitting around and waiting, letting the game go by, brings regret and misery.

So, as Ms. Watson would say, let’s warrior up.  Let’s remember that we are not at peace, we are at war, so

“put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.”

Introduction to the beatitudes

And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him.  Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,

For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,

For they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,

For they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

For they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,

For they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,

For they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

For they shall be called sons of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,

For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

This portion of scripture is a part of a wonderful sermon that Jesus preached called the sermon on the mount (mount is a shortened way to say mountain).  This part of the sermon is called the beatitudes. Beatitude means blessing. When Jesus used the word “blessed”, He literally meant “happy”. Happy are the poor in spirit, happy are those who mourn, happy are the meek, and so on.  What Jesus was talking about was this is what living in the kingdom of God is all about.

We have been talking in chapel about what the kingdom of God is, it is where God reigns as king.  We have talked about what it is not, it is not where you and I try to reign as king or queen over our life.  It is a kingdom that is made up of Christians, not non-christians. Starting in two weeks, we will start looking at the specific beatitudes, of how each and every Christian is called to live in the kingdom of God.  Today we are going to introduce the beatitudes and look at them as a whole.

First, the beatitudes talk about being happy.  The word that Jesus uses, “blessed,” means “happy”.  Everyone wants to be happy. God has created us to seek after things that will make us happy.  He did that so that we would seek Him because it is only when we truly delight in God, are we happy.  Psalm 1 said a blessed person’s delight is in the law of the Lord. In meditating on God’s Word. Day and night.  The problem is that we chase after things that we think will make us happy but produce misery. What happens when you eat too much candy?  What happens when you stay up too late watching movies or playing video games? What happens when you play instead of doing your homework? What you and I think will make us happy only gives us a few minutes of pleasure but it ends in misery.  Why is that? It is because we are chasing after earthly things to make us happy instead of seeking after God and obeying Him. What we will find is that Jesus tells us in the beatitudes how to be happy. And it is shocking. Be poor in spirit? be mournful? be meek? hunger and thirst for righteousness? be merciful? be pure in heart? be peacemakers?  These are the characteristics of happy people? Jesus says yes!

Second, the beatitudes are for all Christians, not just super Christians or pastors and priests.  Back in the medieval times where there were kings and castles, knights and ladies, there were also common people, farmers, and peasants.  One of the things that people thought back then was that only priests, monks, and pastors were the real Christians. This way of thinking is still around today.  We hear that Christians are supposed to be meek, merciful, pure in heart and we think only super Christians can do that. Only the Captain America of Christians can have those qualities.  Not true. In fact, the beatitudes is something that Jesus doesn’t suggest, but requires us to strive for as part of the kingdom of God. Even more than that, we are not called to have some of the beatitudes but to be striving to grow in all of them.  We can’t just be peacemakers but not care about being poor in spirit.  In God’s kingdom, there is no such thing as proud peacemakers. We can’t hunger and thirst for righteousness and not be merciful.  A truly righteous person is not going to withhold mercy and kindness to others. All these work together. You cannot separate them out.  It is something that if you are a christian, you are called to strive after all of them.

Third, living out the beatitudes is not natural.  It is not something that comes naturally. The beatitudes are not about being a nice person.  It is not about working hard to be a good person. To be a person everyone likes. It is about the actions and attitudes that can only come from a heart that has been saved by grace.  That has been changed through the power of the holy spirit.

Last, the beatitudes are about being like Christ and the more we are like Christ, the less we are like the world around us.  This is a very difficult idea to swallow. It is very tempting to want to try to fit in to what is going on around us. To talk like everyone else.  Watch what everyone else watches. Listen to music that is popular. Do what everyone else does. But we also want to have our christianity too. The lines between what marks a christian and what marks a non-christian are blurred.  It is so hard to tell because christians have tried to fit into the world around them. I fear that even here at Annapolis, there are times we want what to do what every other school does just because everyone else is doing it.

Growing up, my family always had horses.  We had several acres of land that we fenced off for pasture.  We noticed that the wooden fence around our corral was not looking right.  It was leaning forward. One day I saw why. We had a horse that was this beautiful tall, strong horse and she was pressing her chest against the fence to reach out and eat the grass on the other side.  The fence was there for her protection because the grass on the other side was really rich and green and she was eating too much of it and was getting sick and starting to founder (if you don’t know what that is talk to Avery Hensley or Ms. Williams).  How often are we like that horse, we press our faces so close to the fence that is meant to protect us from temptations and sin that we have an imprint on them. God says thou shall not but we get as close as we can to it instead of being like Joseph when offered a chance for momentary pleasure in Potiphar’s house he ran away.  

Here is a way to test your heart.  What do you admire? Who do you look up to?  There should be a distinct difference between what a christians admires and what a non-christian admires.  The athletes that we look up to. The singers who we have posters of. The TV and movie actors and actresses that we can’t wait to watch.  The cartoon and video game characters that we pretend to be. Are these people poor in spirit or are they full of themselves? Boastful? Do they hunger and thirst for righteousness?  Or do they want power and money?

I enjoyed watching football growing up and there was a time I admired one of the best defensive backs in professional football, Deion Sanders, who played for the Cowboys for a time.  He was very good and when he would run in for a touchdown, he would showboat by high stepping into the end zone. He would look back and taunt the other team. He was one of the first players to have an elaborate end zone dance.  His nickname was “primetime” and he thought he was the show. I eventually got sick of watching him make it all about himself, plus he was from Florida State. In contrast, this last football season, Carson Wentz was the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback.  He was having a career year until he was hit in the knee and suffered a season ending injury. His back-up Nick Foles, stepped in. Both Carson and Nick are christians and they had been helping each other get better, one as the starter and the other as a back-up.  Nick was cheering on Carson as the starter and now the injured Carson was in the role as the cheerleader. As many of you know, Nick Foles lead the Eagles to the Super Bowl and eventually outlasted the Patriots for a Super Bowl victory. Both quarterbacks were quick to praise each other, their teammates and to give glory to God.  Men in the NFL living out a true christian faith look and sound so different than most of the other men in the NFL. The same is true for you and me. Our hearts desire should be more and more like Jesus and the more we become like Him, the more unlike we will be to those who are following their own path.

What are you looking to to make you happy?  Who or what do you admire? Who do you want to be like?  Are you OK with being more like Jesus and less like the world?  These are not easy questions to answer. It is a daily struggle.  The beatitudes will help teach us how we are to live for the kingdom of God.  Which direction are you moving closer to? Are you moving closer to that fence that says “keep out” or are you growing in your obedience to God and His word.  The hard part is that it may cost you friends. You may not ever see that movie that everyone is talking about. You may not be able to play that video game that all the kids are going crazy over.  If by walking away from those things, you are moving closer in your relationship with Christ, it is worth it. It is worth it every single time. No matter what anyone says. It is only by staying on Jehovah, staying means remaining firm, solid, in one place, that will you find the peace and rest your heart is longing for.  Another way of saying that is you will be blessed and happy.

Satisfied

It was not good enough that he would be a king of Narnia.  He wanted to be the king.  It was not good enough to enjoy the bounty of the forest around him and eat of the generosity of the forest animals, Edmund, a character from CS Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Edmund wanted the White Witches’ Turkish delight.  His choices to fall to the temptation of power and selfishness, led him to betray his brothers and sisters and led to many good animals being turned into stone. And instead of ruling as king of his castle, he became a prisoner in the castle and was left alone, afraid and full of guilt over what he had done.  It was only through the grace showed to him by Aslan was he forgiven and restored back to his family and his throne.

It is hard to believe but it is almost the end of the year.  We have been working through Psalm 1 as the lense that we can put on to see clearly what is happening in the world around us.  Let’s take one more look through the glasses of Psalm 1. Here is the last lesson from Psalm 1.

You and I live in a world that is marching towards destiny

Our world has a beginning and an end, there is an eternity.  Judgment is coming. We will give an account for every word, whether it is good or worthless.  There is a holy, righteous God who is the judge. You see if there is no eternity then the game is get as much pleasure and comfort in the here and now, because that would be all we have, but there is an eternity.  The world around us says that is not true, the Bible is wrong. There is no God who judges. There is nothing after you die. Live for the moment. The world says everything is OK. If you think I am making this up, here is an example.  How many of you saw the movie Zootopia? It is about a cute little bunny that leaves the country to become a cop in a big city. One of the characters in the movie is a pop singer who sings the theme song of the movie. Do you remember what the name of the song is? “Try Everything”. Try, everything? Really? Everything? I won’t know if its good or bad until I try it and decide for myself.  That is a worldview that says, there is no eternity, you are in charge and you can decide what is right for you. Just need to try it and see. Psalm 1 slams the door on that worldview and says

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

We obey God’s word because that is the way of the righteous and we want to stand in the day of judgment.  We hear all around us a different message that tells us to try everything, do what you want right now, you are in control, and there are no consequences that really matter.  Wrong, wrong, wrong.  

The world offers a “try everything” worldview as its Turkish delight, where you can be king or queen of your kingdom but Psalm 1 says if you follow that path your life will amount to chaff, which the wind will blow away.  You will want more but will never be satisfied. You can’t play enough video games, or eat enough food, or have enough toys, or have enough friends, or watch enough TV or have a long enough summer to fill that void in your heart.  There is only one place where your heart can find delight, find peace and be satisfied.

We were not made to figure out life on our own.  To go around looking for things to satisfy the longings of our heart.  We have been given Psalm 1 because it has the recipe on how to be satisfied.  Has the counsel of this world influenced you? Are you drawn to things on your device, TV, movies that are not honoring to God?  Do you look to relationships-parents, teachers, friends, classmates, for your identity? Is your comfort more important than obeying right away with a happy heart?  Do you honor yourself instead of loving your neighbor? All of this will leave you empty. The call from Psalm 1 is to delight in God’s word and to sink your roots deep in the wisdom of the Bible.

You are not on this earth to serve yourself and do what you think is right.  Here it is,

you were given life and breath to give glory to God.

That should move and motivate you. God knows what is best for you. You were created to depend on Him and His word, not yourself and your own understanding.  He is the only one who can satisfy your heart. As we close the book on Psalm 1, we should stand back and be in awe of the stunning wisdom of the bible. How a Psalm written over 1,000 years ago still applies to every one of us, every day, every minute and every fiber of your life and mine.  My challenge to you starting now and into this summer is to spend the time delighting in God’s Word and then follow it, obey it, and I assure you, God will be glorified in your life and you will be satisfied.

Worldview

I grew up on a farm.  My mom loved horses so I grew up riding them and taking care of them.  We spent so much time with our horses that I could go out to the pasture and jump onto my horse bareback with no bridle and just by using pressure from my legs and hands could ride him around.  At least until he got tired of it and just stopped and ate grass. I don’t recommend doing that on just any horse, you may get more of a ride than you bargained for.

One time we rented out our pasture and barn to another horse.  This horse was not raised like ours. We thought it was OK to put our horses together though.  We thought our 4 horses would influence this 1 horse, but right away there was trouble. Fighting, biting, kicking.  You could go to the pasture and call our horses and they would usually come down to you, now they would run away. We didn’t need much of a latch with our horses but now we had to get a heavy lock as this new horse was constantly trying to push on fences and gates to get out.  The last straw was during a severe storm, our horses would always come into the barn but the new horse freaked out and started running around the pasture wildly. Our horses did the same and he charged the fence and ran right through it, severely injuring himself. In a severe thunderstorm with rain pouring down and wind blowing, we had to catch the horses, calm them down and bring them to the shelter of the barn.  My mom called up her friend and there was a horse trailer there to take that horse away. We had had enough.

Last week was the start our of review of Psalm 1.  We are allowing Psalm 1 to be our lens to look at our lives and the culture around us.  Last week was our first statement.  You and I live in world of right and wrong, good and bad, true and false. We do not live in a world of relativism where you and I get to decide what is right or wrong.  No, God decides and we must humbly submit to our creator.

Here is statement #2 you and I are under the influence of everything and everyone around us.  We live in a world of ideas that affects our character, our mind, and our heart. It is like if I asked everyone to talk at the same time.  If you were standing here, how would it sound? All these voices would be bombarding you. You could not escape it. That is what is happening to you and I every day.  All these ideas, all these voices, coming at us from all sides. Music, TV, apps, games, magazines, books, friends, teachers, even the principal.

Everyone has an idea about God and how He works in this world.  These ideas about God and how He works is called a worldview.

Let’s think about how this works.  First, everyone has a worldview, everyone has an idea about God and how He works in this world, so that means that every TV show you watch was written by someone with a worldview, everything you see on the computer has a worldview, every app on your phone or tablet, every song you hear, every book you read, every person you talk to, everything and everyone has an idea about God.  Everything and everyone has a worldview. Even if you don’t believe in God, that is still an idea about God. It’s a worldview.

Have you ever thought about the worldview of the people who create things that you and I spend our time doing?  For example, have you ever wondered what the creator of Minecraft’s worldview is?

The TV and movies that we watch show a worldview.  I often see programs that show children who talk back to their parents with no consequence, they make it look clever to have sarcastic put-downs of one another, to be critical of one another, and finding ways to avoid work.  Wearing all the right clothes, having a boyfriend or girlfriend, being popular and successful becomes what these shows promote as the most important thing to go after. All these come from a worldview.

 We spend time on social media apps where it gives you a platform to make everything about you and how people respond to you.  You begin to measure your self-worth on who likes you and how many likes you get. You begin to seek satisfaction in others and judge God’s goodness to you by how many online friends you have and how quickly they respond to you.  Let me tell you, that is a very dangerous place to live. You are seeking from the creation only what the creator can give. What I mean is if you are looking for things in people, things that they cannot truly give you, when you should be seeking those things from God.  He can satisfy you with the love and acceptance that we all are looking for. You will not find that on Instagram or Snapchat.

Even your friends have a worldview.  Every friend you have speaks and acts from their worldview.  What they believe or don’t believe about God will directly impact how they live their life.  Psalm 1 says:

Blessed is the man

Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,

   Nor stands in the path of sinners,

   Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;

We must be aware of the counsel of the people and things around you.  Their influence on our lives. Each of them calls to you, this is the way to think, you must desire this, this is what you should do.

Just like our horses were influenced by that 1 horse, we are under the influence of the things and people around us.  It is like having all these people whispering into your ear giving you counsel on what you should do, what you should wear, what you should say, what you should think, who should be your friends.  Do this, do that.

Psalm 1 alerts us to the subtle but progressive and growing influence of that counsel.  The more time you spend with them, the more comfortable you become with them. It later becomes the place where your mind is living.  You first walk, then stand, then sit. It is a gradual but growing influence on your life. Psalm 1 warns us about what we allow to influence ourselves.  What you choose to spend time doing, will put you under its influence.

Statement #3 is you and I live in a world where our choices and behaviors come from a worldview.  What this means is that everyone has a worldview, and that view of the world will result in what they choose to say, to think and to do.  What ideas you believe will be directly linked to how you think and how you act.

Here is what Psalm 1 says about that.  Verse 1 talks about the scornful. Another name for this person is a scoffer or mocker.  This person is not passive, they are not neutral. They hold a worldview (whether they are aware of it or not) that has captured their heart.  They hear about God, but they laugh at that idea. It is so far from anything they think is true. The heart of a true believer is not passive either.  They find delight in truth. They desire to know that truth, to be a student in it, to be mastered by it.

The scornful, the mocker has a worldview.  The true believer has a worldview. You are committed to a worldview and so am I.  Does your worldview look more like the mockers or is it like a true believer?

If you think there is no god, like a mocker, and you want to live a life of your own desire and your own comfort, then there will be a set of behaviors that follow.  If you delight in God’s will and His way, those desires will lead you to live in a way that pleases God. You can say you know God, but if your choices and actions are following your own heart, honoring yourself and not others, then you are really living more like the scornful.  Your life is showing you what your true worldview is.

Just like how my families horses were influenced by just one horse, we all must be careful about what we are listening to, looking at, and spending time with.  These are planting ideas and thoughts and desires that will shape our lives. Our worldview should be shaped by God’s word and we should be wanting to allow the Bible to change our heart to desire Him more and more.  To honor others above yourself. We cannot do this on our own no matter how hard we try. We need Christ to change our hearts.

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.

Eternity

Today we are going to talk about something that we don’t talk about a lot.  We certainly don’t talk about it enough and that is eternity.  Forever.  We use these words often in our daily living but we have reduced this amazing truth down to mean things it really doesn’t.  We may think chapel feels like an eternity.  A school weeks lasts forever.  Trust me.  Those things aren’t even close to forever.    

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