Don’t Go There

It is interesting to me that Psalm 1 starts off negatively. David writes, “blessed is the man who walks not”. You would think that a book that says a lot about praise and worship would start with a “Hallelujah” but if you remember, the first word is blessed. There are amazing blessings in Christ but the first blessing is something you should not do.  If you don’t do this, you will be blessed. What is it? Listen to verse 1 again

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.

Do you hear the verbs? Walks, stands, sits. Do you hear how it goes from bad to worse? Ungodly, sinner to scornful. There is an order, a progression. You start walking, then you stand, then you sit. Think of meeting someone in the hallway. You say, hi, how are you. If you start walking together, it is still quite casual.  But here is the key. What is happening? You are moving somewhere. There is a direction you are going. What happens next? You stand together. You are now more involved. Notice the change from walking with the ungodly to now standing with the sinner. You are associating together. Then what happens? You sit together. The relationship is deep. There is a unity of mind and heart.  You are sharing your life with this person.

So Where is that ungodly one? Who is this sinner? What is the scornful? Who is David talking about?

It is easy to read this and think, it’s not me. I am not a scorner. It’s not talking about my friends, they aren’t ungodly. This is talking about bad people. People who hate God. Not me.

Listen to another passage that talks about the same thing and see if you can hear who David is talking about. In James 1: 13-15 it says,

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is fully grown, brings forth death.

Do you hear the same direction? Each one is tempted, lured, enticed, then sin and then death. It goes from bad to worse.

David wrote Psalm 1:1 as a warning. The Psalmist describes what he sees today in a person’s choices and actions and then peers into the future and describes what kind of character that person will become. The greatest danger to you is you. The greatest danger to me is me. The one who will lead you astray is your own desire, enticing you away like a fish being drawn to a shiny lure, that appears to promise pleasure and satisfaction, all that a fish could want, but ends with a hook, being reeled away to its death.

One of the greatest lies of Satan is that what you choose to do, to say, and to think doesn’t matter. There will be no consequences. As long as you don’t do anything really bad, you are fine. I can step over this boundary, break this rule and nothing will happen to me. We think it doesn’t matter what TV shows I watch. The music I listen to. What video games I play. What I watch on my computer, tablet or phone. Who my friends are. How I speak to my parents. If I look at someone’s paper to get an answer. The list goes on and on. The thought is that it doesn’t affect me one way or the other.

This is very important. Every choice you make, every thought you think, every word you say, and everything you do, matters.  Don’t believe me? Let’s see what the Bible says.

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Colossians 3:17

1 Corinthians 10:31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God. (Not for me, myself and I).

II Corinthians 10:5 tells us to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.

These are just a few familiar examples. The Bible clearly teaches this truth throughout its pages. We are not on vacation here on earth, we are at war and we are on the battlefield. This battle is not waged somewhere out there, oh no, it is waged in your heart and in mine. It is a battle between doing what God tells us to do, with a happy heart, to his glory or doing what I want to do, when I want to do it.

It starts very small. Your life is not shaped by big, grand moments, but in the hundreds of little choices you and I make every day. The direction of your life is not shaped in a church youth group retreat or in a chapel but in what you choose to do every day after school with your free time. How you spend your time in class. What you say to someone at recess. The friends that you want to hang out with. Your attitude when your parents ask you to do a chore. The things that you let your eyes see and your brain to dwell on.

There is a children’s song that goes be careful little eyes what you see, be careful little hands what you do. The chorus is a warning that the father up above is looking down below. True, God does see all but we all need to understand that what we watch with our eyes, what we do with our hands, what we think about with our brain, what we say with our tongue, all move us in a direction and even more, they train our heart to love those things more and more. The ungodly that wants us to walk with him. The sinner that wants us to stand outside of God’s boundaries and the mocker who wants us to sit in rebellion against God. The longer you spend time with them, the more in love you will fall with their ways. They are not out there. They are not on the news. They are the desires that live in your heart. They are inside you and they are inside me. And what you think, do, say and see, all feeds the desires of your heart, and those desires set the direction of your life.

King David tells us, be blessed, don’t go there. So what is David’s solution for the blessing of not walking that way? It is in verse

But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates…just during chapel… only during bible class… just at church. No, And in His law he meditates day and night.

David knows everything that you think, say or do is setting the direction of your life so that is why he says you must have a heart the delights in the Bible and think about God’s word all the time.

In the hymn we are about to sing, the writer of this hymn understood this too. Listen to verse 2.

O to grace how great a debtor

Daily I’m constrained to be

Let that grace now, like a fetter 

Bind my wandering heart to Thee

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it

Prone to leave the God I love

Here’s my heart, O take and seal it

Seal it for Thy courts above

Little by little. Step by step. You are going somewhere. Hear the warning of Psalm 1:1. The blessing is to not go the way of the ungodly, the sinners and the scornful. Instead, may our hearts want more and more to obey God with a happy heart. May our hearts be chained to God, never to escape his wonderful blessings. May we delight only in God at His word, and move closer and closer to him, and walk away from the path of destruction where the ungodly, the sinner and the scornful move to their doom.

Blessed (Part 2)

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

Today I am going to write about the first word in Psalm 1, the word “blessed”. The writer of Psalms says, “blessed is the man”.  I don’t know about you, just like a child that plays with the wrapping paper and the box, I do not embrace and seek the amazing gifts that God gives.  I get caught up with secondary things, the trappings of this world.  Let’s briefly talk about some of those amazing blessings that God freely gives.

What does it mean to be blessed?

First, it is a blessing in that He is our redeemer.  The Apostle Paul writes “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”.  We were in complete hatred and rebellion towards God and He chose to send His own Son to take the penalty of sin that I deserved.  It gets better.  If by faith I receive Him into my heart, He adopts me into His family, which means I was a slave and prisoner and now I am royalty.  He declares me righteous, as if I had never sinned, even though I was once his sworn enemy.

Not only that, He didn’t just save me and adopt me and leave it at that, no, He loves me. As a perfect father, a perfect dad.  His love is amazing. It has no beginning or end.

We talk about hurricanes in categories of severity, with a category 4 and 5 being the biggest.  God’s love is category infinite.  

He shows His love by giving us His law and the Bible to show us how to love Him back. He is like a sea captain confidently steering the ship, who knows the way, understands the ship, the waves and the sea, He stands with us and guides us and shows us where we should go. This is why learning God’s word and hiding it in our hearts by memorizing it is so important. It is our map, our chart or compass.

We do not believe, as a religion called the Deists believe, that God created everything up front and then let it go.  Like a cosmic clock that He winds up and then steps back to see what happens. No, He is here.  He is in every breath, every second of our life. He is in control of all things and because of His great love for us, He uses all things for our good and His glory.  That is called grace.  And that is an amazing blessing that He gives His children every second of every day. It motivates us to live life with the courage to do what is right and to love our neighbors without expecting something in return.

If all these blessings were not enough, He prepares a place for us to go when we die.  It is heaven.  In fact, it is way better than being here on earth.  Jonathan Edwards, a famous preacher of the past said, 

“A Godly’s death is better than his birth”.

Amazing and glorious things await us in heaven where our hearts will be filled with such awe and wonder and joy that we will join in with a loud and thunderous choir that will sing praises to God.  A thousand years after we arrive in heaven, we will still be raising our voices and never get tired of singing his praises. Amazing.

I have only scratched the surface of all the blessings that God offers the one who seeks after Him with their whole heart.  As David begins the book of Psalms, he wants us to desire nothing less than the full banquet table of God’s blessings. As I wrote in the last blog, because of God’s amazing blessings through His Son Jesus,

if we lost everything in this world but still had Jesus, you would have everything. And you would be blessed beyond belief.

We finish today by thinking of the hymn Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.  Robert Robinson wrote this hymn in 1757. He was only 22 years old. He talks about God’s blessings being like a fountain.  Not like a drinking fountain but like a geyser, a never ending flow of water gushing out, that is the fount of God’s blessing.  That is what David is talking about when he wrote: “blessed is the man”. It is like he is saying “oh the blessings!” Blessings on blessings on blessings. 

Your Only Comfort

If you were to ask people around here two weeks ago, what would you be doing on Labor Day? What would the answer be? Hanging out by the beach perhaps. Mow the grass. Grilling out. Lounging around. What if you would have asked people in Houston, Rockport or Port Aransas or any of those surrounding areas two weeks ago, and ask them what would they be doing on Labor Day? Then asked them today, what they actually did this last weekend, you would have had totally different answers.  I think this shows how we all get really comfortable with our lives, and the day to day routine of going to school, coming home, and relaxing on the weekends.  We are pretty happy with how things are going.  Then all of a sudden, everything we know is threatened.

Psalm 1 starts off this beautiful book of the Bible with the word “blessed”. It is interesting because I have heard that word “blessed” used a lot around here lately. It is amazing how a Category 4 hurricane quickly redefines what it means to be blessed.  Things like a hurricane, an unexpected death, sudden illness, all quickly remind us that we rely on ourselves so much and that things are really out of our control. The first question in the Heidelberg Catechism question is, “what is your only comfort in life and in death?”  Your comfort. The only one. Here is the answer:

That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own,

but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ,

who with His precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, 

and redeemed me from all the power of the devil; 

and so preserves me that without the will of my Father in heaven

not a hair can fall from my head; 

indeed, that all things must work together for my salvation.

This is our comfort.  I do not belong to myself. I belong to Christ. He has redeemed me from all the power of the devil and He preserves me.  He protects me. He works all things together for my salvation.

The catechism goes on to ask so if this is true in your life, what is the chief thing, the #1 thing you and I should be doing?  The answer may surprise you.  The #1 thing we should do if Christ is our only comfort in life and death, is pray. Prayer is the #1 way we show we are grateful and thankful to God. It keeps our mind and heart looking towards heaven and away from the trappings of this world around us. It reminds us what true blessing is. Prayer should be a daily, ceaseless part of all of our lives. A person who truly knows they are blessed is one who time and again falls on their knees in prayer because they understand how desperate they need God and are eternally grateful for what He freely gives each and every day.  As desperately as we cried out to God during Harvey, we are to cry out to Him each day and do it from a heart of thankfulness because if you know Jesus, you are blessed. If you lost everything in the world but still had Jesus, you have everything.

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

Christ is the divine mind behind the creation as well as its redeemer.

With this in mind, we can see how learning to appreciate our role in creation’s cultivation helps us see our failure to live up to our calling as bearers of the divine image and our need for redemption through Christ.

Mr. Geoff Smith

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.      

In one of the most famous sermons ever preached, Jesus spoke the sermon on the mount, to his disciples.  It was the passage that we read as part of our declaration of faith.  He uses the word “blessed” nine times in the first part of Matthew 5.  

In order to know true happiness, true blessedness, we need Jesus to answer the question of what will truly make us happy.  

His answer to that question comes as a complete shock and surprise.  

When Jesus gave the sermon on the mount, He spoke directly against the popular thoughts on how to live a happy life, and He also talked about what it would take to experience heaven on earth.  So He was talking about how each person can enjoy a blessed life, but also how a bunch of people who are together in a community, like a family or a school, can enjoy a blessed life together.  Just like we will in heaven.  

Jesus’ audience was mainly Jewish people who as a nation loved to be praised by others and felt so good about how righteous they were because of all the religious things they did.  He told them, blessed are the poor in spirit.  He spoke to a nation that loved the pleasures of this world and Jesus told them blessed are those who mourn for sin.  Jesus spoke to a nation that was very proud of their history, yet full of revenge.  He told them blessed are the meek and the humble.  Jesus spoke to people who wanted a lot of earthly treasure and worked hard to acquire it but Jesus said blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.  Those listening to Jesus had a cruel and persecuting spirit against those that disagreed with them or were different than they were.  It was the Jews who begged their authorities to crucify another human being.  It was to those people that Jesus said blessed are the peacemakers.  

It is easy to look at those people and think of how horrible they are.  But are we any better?  The recent events in the United States show us again that we are just as proud, full of revenge, and cruel as they were.  We have one group of people being violent and another group being self-righteous and arrogant.  

What is even worse, all of that ugliness that we see out there, it lives in us.  

We have been mean to classmates, boastful of our accomplishments, and cruel to our brothers and sisters.  So when Jesus said blessed are the poor in spirit, the meek, the peacemakers, and those that hunger and thirst for righteousness, it was and still is, a radical message to a complete change of our heart and our actions.

Seeking first his kingdom is the road to blessing.  It first starts with each of us turning from what we want to do and instead seeking happiness in Christ and obeying Him with a happy heart, but my additional challenge is for all of us in this community of the grammar school, is to be a seeking God’s kingdom here.  It means me as a principal, all the teachers, and students, that as a school, we would seek after true happiness by loving God and loving others.  When we all do that, we will have a blessed school year.

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.

I was getting better and better jobs but looking back I could see that I was starting to lose sight of what was truly important and a change was needed.  Most people that I talked to about coming to Annapolis did not understand why I would do this.  I had a big house, a good paying job, and I was being successful in my job.  

I used the word “successful”, but what does that mean?  Well, typically, in order to be successful, you must decide what is most important, what is first, set that as a goal, and when you reach that goal, you are successful.  

God made things in a way that there are some things that must be first, and that there are things that must be second, in order to truly glorify God and enjoy Him.  

We live in a world that fights against this and constantly wants to put second things first.  Even more, in our hearts, we crave the second things of life.  What are these second things?  In Matthew 6, Christ says there are two, first, treasures found here on earth and second, anything that we worry about to fulfill our wants, our needs, and our desires.   They could be friendships, good grades, being a good athlete, lots of cool toys, video games, food, getting into a good college, nice clothes, big houses, and money.  These things are not bad in and of themselves, but when they rise to #1 in your life, that is a problem.  Christ puts it this way in the verse that was read earlier, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness (first things) and all these things will be added to you (second things).”  Later in that passage, Jesus said to not store up treasures on earth— 

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”

As I looked at myself in the mirror, I had to be honest about what I was treasuring.  It led me to quit my job, sell my house and move my family to Corpus Christi.  It was about seeking a greater treasure, the treasure of God’s kingdom.  Ultimately all this boils down to these questions, what is the first thing in your life?  What do you treasure?  What do you think will make you truly happy?  If you are willing to look at yourself and be truly honest, whatever your heart is chasing after, that will determine the direction of your life.  My challenge to you is this, do not seek after earth bound treasure, but seek first God’s kingdom and you will find that your heart will be happy and at peace with whatever comes second.

Meet the New 2017-2018 Teachers

Each year, God blesses Annapolis with new and wonderful teaching staff who are committed Christian examples, passionate about learning, and love children.  For 2017-2018 we are proud to introduce you to the newest members of the teaching faculty of Annapolis Christian Academy ….

Continue reading

My Wish for You – A Farewell from Mrs. Pat Kinner

 

As we end the school year with our final chapel today, I want to take the time to share from my heart what my prayers and wishes will be for each of you as I retire this summer.  I am stepping down after being involved in various roles at the school for over 20 years—the last 6 as principal.  It seems only fitting that I take this last opportunity to speak to you in my final chapel talk today and address you as a student body and as individuals who I have come to know and love.

To prepare for this chapel, I looked back over our chapel themes and various talks I have given over the years. I hope that you will remember along with me some of the big ideas I have spoken about over the years.

One of the first series I spoke about in chapel several years ago comes from Eph. 4:32 which says—

And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.

In chapel that year we sang songs like “ They’ll know we are Christians by our Love.” We talked about how we couldn’t just come up with kindness on our own—but that if we truly know Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior—we will be able to show His kindness to others.  We talked about how that kindness would show up on the playground, in PE, and in the way we talk to others.  All of the classes memorized this Bible verse that year, and Mrs. Williams’ class made me a framed copy of that verse that hangs in my office today. As I say farewell to you, my wish for you is that long after I am gone, you will “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”

The next year in chapel, we spent the whole year talking about Micah 6:8 which says—

He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you, But to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?

We looked at examples in the Bible of those who do justly (which means doing the right and fair thing) and what it means to love mercy by showing kindness and mercy to others.  Again, we talked about how we treat others by words and actions, both at home and at school.  And we talked about what it means to walk humbly with our God.  We talked about simple actions that demonstrate humility like not having to always have our way, not having to be first in line all the time, and not having to win every game in PE.  We talked about how you don’t have to wait until you are an adult to follow Micah 6:8.  I shared some amazing stories about children who saw people with needs and how they helped others.  And so, as I say farewell to you, my wish for you is that you will ask the Lord to help you to be able to  “do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

The following year, we studied the fruit of the Spirit.  My wish for you as I say goodbye is that you would ask God to develop in you the fruit of His Spirit—that you would experience love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.

Last year in chapel, we studied from the book of Proverbs and its emphasis on the fact that we are called to seek wisdom—so that we might be wise men and women, wise boys and girls.  Do you remember our verse from Proverbs last year? It said—

Wisdom is the principal thing, therefore get wisdom, and in all your getting, get understanding.

We talked about searching for truth and wisdom and how we can find it in several places: by reading God’s word, by listening to our parents and teachers, by following good examples, and by being open to instruction and correction.  The book of Proverbs tell us that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” We identified the characteristics of wise people: how they avoid evil, they work hard, they are humble, they control their anger, and they speak carefully.  My wish for you, as I say farewell is that you understand that the purpose in attending a school like Annapolis is not just learning a bunch of facts so you can get good grades.  My wish for you is that you grow to understand that God desires that you become wise.

Annapolis offers many fine programs. The school is known for its strong academic program, and many of you have worked hard this year and done well in.  Many of you have been on the honor roll—some of you for the whole year.  Your parents and teachers and I are proud of you—but please remember that academic achievement is not the most important thing.

Many of you have enjoyed our athletic programs by competing in sports—and we have all cheered on our teams. We have been proud of all of our teams and celebrated their victories—even state championships this year for the older teams. But athletic awards are not the most important achievement.

Some of you have excelled in music and theatre and art.  Maybe you were selected to sing in a solo or you earned a part in our theatre production. Or, perhaps you were especially pleased with some of your art work as it was displayed in our art shows.  Those are all wonderful accomplishments, but they are not the most important thing.

Academics, athletics, the arts—these are all right and fitting as part of a classical and Christian school.   As I close, please know that my true wish for you as you continue at Annapolis Christian Academy and even beyond as you grow into adulthood is that you learn to know God more and more each year. I am not talking about learning about God—in your studies of the Bible in school, in your Bible memory program, and as you attend chapel at school—but that you will really know God. That is my ultimate wish for you.

Please know that I as I retire, I will continue to pray for you.  My prayers will be that you are growing in your knowledge of God—that you are seeking wisdom, that the fruit of the spirit is growing in the gardens of your hearts, that you are learning to do justly, love mercy, and developing humility.  And finally, I will be praying that you are being kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another.