My name is Diane Carter. I’m a teacher here in the upper schools as a science and Bible teacher and have been for most of the years since the doors opened over 20 years ago. I’m also a parent here–my four children having passed through the halls of Annapolis with my last one sitting here today, a junior. I’m also a grandparent with a grandson here in kindergarten. I’ve been asked to address you this morning to share my heart as to why I have such a deep and long participation as a teacher in Classical and Christian education. I also hope to communicate with you why my husband and I have made such a long-term investment in Annapolis as our choice to help us educate our own children and why our children are now choosing Annapolis for the grandchildren.
According to the Texas Education Agency’s latest published data for average SAT scores in South Texas, Annapolis students rank number one in the region, outscoring every public high school by triple digits including top ranked London by 141 points! Here’s the data:
We will be studying the beatitudes this school year and how Jesus calls his children to live and work in God’s kingdom. Today we are going to talk about the thing that allows you to be a part of God’s kingdom and that is faith. You can’t just show up at the door, ring the doorbell and say, I’m here, let me in. In order to be a part of God’s kingdom, which is something so much greater than you or I, there has to be a radical transformation and commitment of the heart, and that is called faith. But not only does faith get you through the door to God’s kingdom, you are also called to daily live by faith.
I want you to think about something. There is a difference between amazement and faith. You can be amazed at something but that doesn’t mean you put your faith into it. I remember seeing someone bungee jump for the first time. You know that great idea of strapping yourself to elastic bungees and jumping off high places, to bounce around dangling there, for fun. The first time I saw someone do that was at a fair. Extreme sports was just beginning and I had literally never seen anything like it. It was a huge crane where people would climb up this small ladder to the top platform. They would get strapped in and then step off plunging to the ground only to be jerked back up. Down and up. I was in utter amazement. I just stood there. Now there was no way that I was going to put my faith into that crane, into those bungees or into those workers hands.
In the gospel of Mark chapter 6 is a story of Jesus and His disciples. Jesus sends the crowd away, he makes his disciples get into a boat to sail across the lake and then Jesus goes up a mountain to pray. In the evening, a storm comes up. The disciples in the boat have been fighting this storm for about 8 hours. Can you imagine 8 hours of rowing in a wind-tossed sea? They are literally going nowhere. Jesus comes down from the mountain and walks on this stormy water. Let me stop right there. Jesus walks on water. There is now no doubt of who He is, this shows He is the Lord of all, Creator, and King because no one in the universe can do that except God. And how are we not blown away and stop and fall on our knees in worship? But we read that story and think, oh, that’s cool.
We have all been blessed to hear God’s Word read to us. In school. Most schools it is very different. In fact, October 4th is Bring your Bible to School day because most kids your age don’t bring their Bible to school because they are afraid to. They have been told not to. We should be in prayer for our fellow Christians who do not have the same access to God’s Word. You and I have been richly blessed to be in a school that has chapel. Bible class. Prayer. But my fear is that we begin to start looking at our Bible as if it’s just another textbook and just another literature story. Reading the Bible is a relationship with the God of the Bible. We are not meant to just read the Bible, but it is a way to meet the God of the Bible. A pastor Paul David Tripp says it this way,
“Your job is not to just master the Word but be mastered by the God of the Word.”
The passage in Mark reads,
“And when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed it was a ghost, and cried out; for they all saw Him and were troubled. But immediately He talked with them and said to them, ‘Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.’ Then He went up into the boat to them, and the wind ceased. And they were greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure and marveled. For they had not understood about the loaves, because their heart was hardened.”
If all Jesus wanted to do was to stop the storm, he could have just said “be still” while he was on the mountain. Instead, He takes a walk. In the storm. On the water. Why? He is not after the storm. It has nothing to do with blue skies and calm seas for sailing. He is after them. The disciples. Their hearts.
Here is what is interesting. Why are those disciples in a boat out in the middle of the stormy seas? Were they running away? Did they do something wrong? No, in verse 45 it says Jesus made His disciples get in the boat. Jesus put them in there. Jesus knew exactly what was going to happen. And put them in that boat, in that storm, because he was after something far greater than a little peace and quiet while he prayed. He was after their hearts.
Why are you all here at Annapolis this year? Are you here because your parents made you come here? Perhaps but at a much deeper level, you are here because Jesus put you here. I am here because Jesus called me here. The staff is here because Christ has called them here. He put us all in this boat together. Hope you brought a paddle. And perhaps a life jacket if you can’t swim yet.
More than just you and I being here. God is here. He is present in our songs. He is present in the Bible that we read. The verses we memorize. But here is the danger. You can be amazed by hearing what you hear in Bible class-the cool stories like Jesus walking on water, you can be amazed at singing songs of worship, amazed by learning new things, amazed by good friends, you can be amazed by all of these things here at Annapolis, but not be living by faith.
Faith is a commitment of your heart to a new truth that changes the way you live your life. Faith is more than your mind being blown. It is believing that the Jesus that I read about in my Bible, is king over all, including my life. And I will do what He tells me because I love Him so much. It will change my life. Every day, my life will be changed more and more to be more obedient to what the Bible says. It will be seen in how I obey my teachers. How diligently I do my school work. And how I honor others.
There is a profound difference between amazement and faith. The passage in Mark says the disciples did not understand about the loaves, because their heart was hardened. What? How was that possible? Jesus has just fed the 5,000 and then walked on water and calmed the sea. And their hearts were hardened? A hard heart means it won’t change. It is like a rock. I can’t mold it. It is resistant to change. A soft heart can be molded and changed. Here is the big question. Why did the disciples have a hard heart? They had a hard heart because they did not want change because they were satisfied with who they were.
Your biggest challenge this year, and mine, is not that we are dissatisfied with who we are but that we are all too satisfied. We don’t hunger for the change of the lessons that we are being taught again and again and again. We read God’s Word and think nothing of it. We hear our teachers tell us about God’s truth and we don’t think about what they are saying. We are corrected by our parents about the same things again and again. We disobey and face consequences but we do not want to change. If this is you, and if I am honest, this is me sometimes, the warning from this passage in Mark is beware of a hard heart. One that chooses not to change. One that is content with a little faith. The challenge is do not be satisfied. Allow God’s Word to soften your heart because in His word you find a loving Savior who wants nothing less than a heart that is full of faith and courageously advances the kingdom of God starting right here at Annapolis.
This school year there should be a hunger and thirst for righteousness. When we get to go to Bible class again, do we think, I can’t wait! What, are you giving me another verse to memorize, yes! When teachers point out the truths of God in science and books, do we think I cannot get enough of this? Are we in awe of the beauty of God in art and music? In awe of how fearfully and wonderfully our bodies are made when we are in PE? Is our faith in a God who is in control of all things strengthened when we see the order and harmony in math? Every day and in every subject, God’s Word and God’s truth is there so that your faith and my faith can grow.
We will not find that radical transformation of our heart that Jesus is calling us all to unless we deeply love the Bible, the wonderful words of life.
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.
It seemed like such a small thing at first. It would be much easier and no one was around to catch them doing it. Christian and Hopeful had just escaped the horror that was Vanity Fair. In John Bunyan’s classic book, Pilgrims Progress, he describes Christian’s journey from the city of destruction to the celestial city. As Christian nears the end of the journey, he and his companion Hopeful, find that the good path runs along a very difficult ground. They are discouraged until they come to a meadow. This beautiful meadow is called By-path Meadow. Christian thinks the meadow might be easier so he climbs over the wall to have a look. It appears that path is going the same way as the good path so he convinces Hopeful to climb over the wall and travel this easier way. This new path is much easier and they really start making good time. They meet another pilgrim named Vain-confidence who tells them proudly he knows the way and they follow him. It becomes very dark and they lose sight of Vain-confidence but continue on until they hear a loud cry and a heavy thud. Creeping forward, they find that Vain-confidence has been killed by falling into a deep pit. Christian and Hopeful turn back, hardly knowing the way or where they are. It is not only dark but now it begins to rain, with terrible lightning and thunder. The water rises nearly drowning them. Exhausted they lay down and sleep but their troubles are not over. In the morning they are surprised and captured by the owner of the meadow, Giant Despair and taken to his dungeon in Doubting Castle. As they lay in their prison cell, beaten and crushed in spirit, they live with the regret of choosing to climb over the wall and leaving the good path that they were told to follow.
We have been reviewing Psalm 1 by putting it on like a pair of glasses to see correctly the culture in which we live. I have been doing this by giving you statements that summarize the main points of Psalm 1.
#1 you and I live in a moral world-right and wrong, good and bad, true and false. Life is not relative to what I think is right and wrong. God’s Word tells us that there is absolute truth because God Himself is truth.
#2 you and I are under the influence of everything and everyone around us. What we spend our time doing and what we allow ourselves to listen to will have a growing and progressive influence on our lives.
#3 is You and I live in a world where our choices and behaviors come from a worldview. A worldview is an idea of God and how He works in the world. If I choose my comfort over doing what God has called me to do, I live like a scoffer, a mocker of God. Or if I choose to follow after God’s Word, then I will find my rest and satisfaction in Christ.
Statement #4 comes from verse 3-4,
He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.
The ungodly are not so,
But are like the chaff which the wind drives away.
Here is statement #4: You and I live in a world where choices and behavior lead to real consequences in the real world.
It seemed like a small thing at first, but Christian the pilgrim’s disobedience and stepping over the God-given boundaries by climbing the wall, led to bondage and despair. His journey would have ended in the Giant’s doubting castle if he did not remember the key of promise that he had with him the whole time. They seemed like just a few steps apart. The path through by-path meadow and the good path but in the end, they ended up miles away from where God wanted them to be.
The apostle Paul in Galatians 6:7 says it this way,
whatever you plant, you harvest.
Paul is using a seed to plant example.
Every spring farmers with their huge tractors would have 20-30 row planters with these seed hoppers systematically dropping seed into the ground. You know what would happen every time they planted corn seed. Corn would grow. Not beans, not milo or wheat. Corn. Why? Because corn grows from corn seed. Beans grow from bean seed. Wheat grows from wheat seed. You don’t plant corn and get grapefruit. This is a very simple lesson of nature but the same thing is true of your choices and actions. They will bear fruit according to its kind.
Here is the danger that we are all tempted with. We do something wrong but don’t get caught we think we can get away with certain behaviors. When we do that, we act as if God does not exist and His law found in the Bible doesn’t apply to us. The teacher tells you to be quiet in the halls and you talk but don’t get caught. You are told to honor others and you push someone in recess and call someone a mean name in PE but the teacher doesn’t see it. You need some money so you steal it from your parents but they don’t notice. They tell you to clean your room but you keep playing and they don’t say anything. You look at something on the computer or phone you know you should not, but don’t get caught. When you and I do these things, we are living as if God does not exist and what He said in the 10 commandments does not apply to us. We think our behaviors do not matter, and if we are sneaky enough, we will not have consequences for our actions. Psalm 1 says not so fast.
You see you can’t violate and disobey again and again God’s law and then expect God’s blessing. You can’t treat people however you want and expect a loving relationship and close friends. You can’t keep disobeying your parents and expect freedom and privileges. You can’t keep dishonoring others and expect people to trust you. You can’t climb over the walls of God’s boundaries looking for shortcuts and easier paths and not eventually get caught by the Giant Despair and thrown into a prison of doubting God’s promises. It is the seed plant relationship. Corn seed grows corn plants. It is choices and consequences.
Even though I know this truth, I don’t always act as if my words and behaviors bear consequences. Psalm 1 has a strong picture of when someone acts as if their behavior and choices do not have consequences. Psalm 1 says they like chaff. Chaff is the light pieces of a head of grain, that come off when you break it apart and when you throw it in the air the wind blows it away. How would you like to look at your life and think everything I have done so far in my life amounts to chaff? You see you can’t deny God’s existence, refuse to follow God’s law, and not be like the chaff. It is a scary thought to think my life would end up like chaff.
The call in Psalm 1 is to be like a big, flourishing tree that sinks its roots into the nutrients of God’s Word. Draws its life and energy from knowing and growing in love with the Bible. Believing that if God said don’t do this, I will not do it because I love Him. I will follow God’s law of loving Him and loving my neighbor. I will serve others. I will obey. I will honor others above myself. My behaviors match a heart that runs after God and is rooted deeply in His Word. A heart that cries:
I need Thee. O I need Thee. Every hour, I need Thee.
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.
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.
For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish.
Two weeks ago we talked about how everyone has a destiny. Destiny means that there are certain events in the future that will happen. When Darth Vader tries to get Luke Skywalker to turn to the dark side, he says, it is your destiny. Vader meant this will happen. Thankfully this wasn’t Luke’s destiny because the next movies would have been totally different. It wouldn’t have been quite as interesting to see them build yet another death star and then have no one to destroy it.
Destiny is the truth that choices and actions will lead you a certain way. To a certain end. God is a God of order and if you do things a certain way, you will end up in a certain place. For example, if you stop studying for your tests, stop doing your homework, and instead play minecraft, what will happen to your grade? It is absurd to think you will make the all A’s honor roll. It is just as absurd to think you can live your life however you want and then expect God to say “well done good and faithful servant”.
In Psalm 1, King David says that if you follow the path of the righteous, which means turning from the path of the ungodly and meditating on God’s word, your destiny is redeemed by Christ and will lead you to heaven. What is interesting is that seems like a great way to end the first psalm but he doesn’t. He ends with
“but the way of the ungodly shall perish”.
King David says just as sure as we are of the destiny of the righteous leading to heaven, we can be just as sure as the choices, attitudes and actions of the ungodly, will lead to their destruction.
A famous preacher of the past, Charles Spurgeon said,
“Sinners cannot live in heaven. They would be out of their element. Sooner could a fish live upon a tree than the wicked in Paradise. Heaven would be an intolerable hell to an impenitent man, even if he could be allowed to enter.”
What Spurgeon is saying is that even if a sinner, by himself, could go to heaven, they would choose not to because they love their wickedness over truth and beauty. This shows how strong our attraction to sin really is. We would want to live in sin than go to heaven.
It is easy to believe that when we look around and see people we obviously can tell hate God but what is extremely difficult to believe is that we all, myself included, have that level of darkness lurking in our hearts. It took the most extraordinary event in human history, the death of Jesus on the cross, to break the power of sin and the powerful bondage we all were under from it. Only by faith in Christ can we have a destiny of light over a destiny of darkness.
It seems so obvious that choosing the ungodly path and perishing would be a bad choice. Why do so many choose it? And if we are honest, why do we sometimes choose it? Only something so powerful and sinister could twist our mind and heart away from the amazing gift of grace secured on the cross, to something that would lead to death.
This is what King David has been fervently warning us about in this first Psalm. What is this dark and sinister thing that lures our hearts and minds? It is this, you will want to load everything you can into this world so that you only live for yourself. You will want to get as much as you can out of this world that while you are alive on this earth, you won’t care about living for the next world. For heaven. You are asking this world to be something it cannot be and that is paradise. God created it good but it is not heaven. God created all the things of this world good, and to be enjoyed. That big juicy steak. A sunrise on an ocean horizon. Those big white soft snowflakes that fall. The love of a mother. The loyalty of a friend. The satisfaction of success. All these things and more God gave us. But we confuse all the stuff of this world with our identity. We think that this stuff makes us who we are. Instead, all this stuff is pointing upward. It’s pointing to an amazing creator, to a God who so loved us that he sent His only son to rescue us.
We try to make for ourselves a heaven on earth where we are the rulers of our little kingdom. We try to become little kings and queens. We want to make the rules. To choose when we want to work hard. Who and when we have to obey. What we spend our time doing. If we want to be on our phone, then no one should tell us to put it away. If we want to go home and play video games instead of doing chores, studying for tests or homework, how dare our parents tell us otherwise. This “me first” way of living is not just a bad idea. It’s not just a bad choice. No, it is much deeper and much more serious. It is a serious heart issue.
King David writes that when you choose your own path, where you reject God as the king and creator, and that path is the road to destruction and if you continue on that path, you will perish. We all must look at our lives and decide what is truly important to us. Do I joyfully obey or do I roll my eyes and sigh? When I am asked to help out around the class or at home, do I do it right away or only when forced to? These are little signs that tell you where you are heading. The direction of your heart. What kingdom you are living for. Your little kingdom, population 1 or God’s huge, amazing, big kingdom that includes the entire history of the world past, present and future? A kingdom that loves God and loves their neighbor.
Easter is not about bunnies, baby chickens, candy and eggs. It is about how God sent his son to rescue you from your little kingdom and how he will take you to His huge kingdom that leads to paradise.
Psalm 1 ends with a scary warning that we all must listen to. The danger is to think I became a christian so I don’t have to worry about perishing any more but the warning is that every day you are moving in a direction, either the way of the righteous or the way of the ungodly. Christ died, was buried and rose again to give you the grace you need every day to choose the way of the righteous.
Have you ever wondered why we love a selfie? It has become such an obsession that phone camera designers added the ability to turn a camera around by a push of a button. Instead of pointing the camera outward, you can flip it around and point it at yourself. Why do we love pictures of ourselves? It’s not like we don’t know what we look like?
The answer to that lies in the very beginning of the Bible when it describes the origin of the universe and cosmos. You could say the four most important words in the Bible are, in the beginning…you?….No, in the beginning…God.
You see God has a rightful place as king of his kingdom because He created it. And as king, he is glorious. His glory is about God’s greatness, beauty, and perfection of all that He is. All that He created was for His glory. We were created for His glory. When he put us together, he wired us for glory. We were made to live for the glory of God. It is in our DNA. In a perfect world, we would be happy to give God the glory for everything but we know this isn’t a perfect world. Our sin twists that desire for glory and instead of living for the glory of God, we look to ourselves and want to live for our own glory. It’s like a glory selfie.
As we honor those that have achieved good grades over the course of the 3rd quarter, I want to make sure that why we want good grades is more than getting a free dress day and some free food. It’s more than wanting to be recognized for being a good student. All of those motivations are shadow glories and will disappear when you chase after them. No, my challenge to all of you and myself included is to pursue excellence, work hard, and attention to detail, for the glory of God. The 4th quarter has already started and it is a time to finish strong. Not so that you can be recognized but because you realize that God has given you a mind, a body and a soul to be used to its fullest and without God you would be nothing.
Why does God deserve all the glory? It’s not like what you see on TV when an athlete makes the game-winning shot and wants to start the interview giving a shout out to Jesus but then spends the rest of the interview talking about himself. We don’t do our thing and then make sure we send God a thank you note. We need to humbly realize that you and I would be nothing without God. Every brain cell, every muscle, every gift, talent, and ability comes from God. Can you read well? Does math come easy? Do you get good grades in Latin? Art? Music? PE? Give Him the glory for all you do because He should get it. He deserves it. You find success in those subjects because God gives you that success. You don’t have anything that God did not give you.
On the flip side, when you have the ability to use your mind and body or when you are called to show virtues of hard work, perseverance, and carefulness, and choose not to. You are stealing the glory away from God. If you are not working towards your full potential each and every day, growing in the grace that God gives you, for His glory, then you are moving in the opposite direction and seeking your own glory. You think you are too important to do what a teacher asks you. You are going to do your own thing, your own way. You are not going to change your attitude because you think you are too righteous and don’t need to be corrected.
You see when glory is not given to God, it is an incredibly dangerous thing. We think more highly of ourselves because we think we deserve the glory. My challenge to us all for this 4th quarter is to humbly admit there are times and places in each of our lives we live for our own glory. Then in a broken and contrite, humble heart, live our lives for the glory of God. What that will look like at school is doing our best and giving our best each and every day. Being humble in correction. Working to be obedient with a happy heart.
The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:31
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
We don’t have the strength to do that on our own. Our focus needs to be outward and upward. Not turned around on us. No more glory selfies.
Thomas Aquinas defines pride as an “inordinate desire for preeminence.” What this means is that an individual assesses themselves as beyond the need for improvement or desires to be more honored than appropriate for the good which they possess. Examples of this include a student wishing to be over-complimented for good grades, a teacher wishing to be honored as though he were a king or a despot, or somebody who thinks they have nothing to learn. The opposite of pride is humility, which is an appropriate level of self-esteem based on true knowledge of oneself and the world. Jesus makes clear that such humility is a pre-requisite for entry into his kingdom:
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:1-4)
- First, remember that we are dust (Genesis 2:7). Anything could kill us. Any change in nature could affect us. Our hunger changes our attitude, our sleep changes our emotions, our exercises changes our thoughts, and our memories change our actions. We’re truly of the earth. To remember this helps us to see how much we need God.
- Second, we should remember that all our highest aspects come from God (also Genesis 2:7). Our consciousness, aspirations, capacity to choose right or wrong, and change our environment for better or worse come from God. To remember this shows us how much good, by God’s grace, and help the human being is capable of, while still reminding us of how much we need God’s help to not devolve into chaos and evil.
- Finally, we have the example of Christ, who humbled himself, taking the form of a man (Phil 2:5-11). Not only does Christ’s death atone for our sins, which we desperately need, but it also functions as the example of humility. Christ did not consider himself above service to others, even if they were sinful or undeserving.
“For the Lord knows the way of the righteous.”
Let’s be honest, it is very hard to live a righteous life. To truly obey God and his commands day in and day out. It is hard to obey right away all the way with a happy heart. To not complain and grumble. To say no to other people doing the wrong thing. There are so many people and things out there that are so attractive but wrong. People who look like they are having so much fun. Laughing and having a great time. They look like they have a lot of money and success. They are on TV. They have friends. Sometimes saying no to temptation and bad things is, well, boring. Lonely.
Here is what King David wrote, the Lord knows the way of the righteous. When God says He knows someone, He knows it like a potter or woodworker knows the item that they made. Each detail they have created and gone over with such attention. God created us and knows our every thought, word, and deed. Now at first, to be honest, that scares me. I know I have thought, said and done things over and over on a daily basis that are sinful. But here is the amazing truth of this passage. If we are God’s children, which means we have been given the faith to admit our rebellion against God and believe that our only comfort and hope in this world and the next is Jesus. If that’s true, Jesus takes off our filthy, dirty rags of rebellion and hatred towards God, and places the royal robe of His righteousness over us and when God now looks at us, it is as if we never sinned. All He sees is the perfect righteousness of Christ. Amazing.
But sometimes God seems so far away. In the day to day moments here at school and at home, the temptations come out of nowhere. They pop up in your face. It seems like when you do the right thing, you lose friends. It is confusing to know what is the right thing to do sometimes.
There was the youngest brother of a large family. His older brothers hated him. They hated him so much that when he went out to the field where they were to check on them, they wanted to kill him. Instead, they settled for throwing him into a deep well. Eventually, they sold him as a slave. Can you believe it, their own brother! Now a slave in Egypt, Joseph, works hard, is diligent, attends to details, and does the right thing day in and day out. He gets noticed and promoted because God blesses Him. As He does his work as unto the Lord, he is all of sudden faced with the wife of his master who is lustfully tempting him to indulge in momentary pleasure. Here is Joseph’s response,
How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?
His righteous stand eventually leads him to be falsely accused and thrown into prison for years. Again, He is diligent. Works hard. Does not complain. He gets promoted and is blessed by God. He interprets Pharaoh’s’ dream and becomes a ruler of the greatest country of that time. A great famine comes over the land. There is no food. Only Egypt has food, thanks to Joseph’s planning. Guess who shows up in Egypt? Joseph’s brothers. The ones who wanted to kill him and sold him into slavery. When Joseph finally reveals himself to them, this is amazing, he says,
“Please come near to me.” (He doesn’t cast them away looking for revenge) Then he said: “I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. But now, do not, therefore, be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. God sent me before you to preserve a future generation for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you who sent me here, but God.”
Here is the point. Joseph refused to trade momentary pleasure, anger, revenge or feeling sorry for himself for the righteousness that God requires. You see you cannot have it both ways. You are either moving your life in the direction of things that last only a moment and serve our own wants, needs, and desires or you are doing things that make the desire of your heart want to know God and His word more. There is no in between. Every moment of your life and mine is moving us somewhere and in some direction. All those moments are marching towards a destiny. You don’t think this moment matters? You don’t think that resisting a temptation really doesn’t matter? It does. It matters for your destiny. Joseph knew that he could not compromise. He put His trust in the Lord. God was with him the whole time. In the dark well, through the desert, in the prison, and on the throne. God was with him and knew him and strengthened him to live a righteous life despite any temptations.
Don’t miss this point. Your life is made up of millions of moments that are all marching towards your destiny. If you trust God with your heart, he knows you. He has made you righteous so that your destiny is with Him forever. You can stand up to friends who are making bad choices. You can say no to temptation. You can stand alone because you really are never alone. You can do your work as unto the Lord. All of this pleases the one who has done everything you need to live a life that glorifies God. Hold on to the righteousness of Christ and do not compromise it. When it’s hard, scary, confusing or lonely. He is the great Jehovah who will guide you, every step of the way towards a destiny that glorifies God.
The Bible says that a man who controls his temper is better than a man who can overthrow a city. Jesus himself says that anger can start a process in which an individual and the communities of which he is a part can devolve into the fires of hell. Paul says that unchecked anger gives a foothold to Satan. If anger is so dangerous and so difficult to overcome, what can we do about this powerful passion that dwells within us?
The Bible and the Christian tradition through the ages offer several solutions. We’ll start with tradition and end with Scripture. Thomas Aquinas makes the point that
one must distinguish between just and unjust anger.
Just anger is anger which desires to correct sin (whether personal or in others). Unjust anger is anger which wishes to harm others or get even. Knowing these distinctions can be very helpful, as we can ask, if we’re angry, “Do I wish to harm another or to correct sin? If I wish to harm, I should shut my mouth and not act right now. If I wish to correct a sin, I should measure my words to do exactly that and nothing more.” Another strategy, which Jesus recommends, is to take extreme ownership over your community, team, or family and if you are about to worship then remember that if you have wronged another, go reconcile immediately.
In other words, the Christian is a part of a kingdom whose citizens all take 100% ownership of their actions and therefore try to right whatever wrongs they have done.
A final strategy is one offered by Paul the Apostle. In Philippians 4:8-9, he recommends thinking of the best in others so that we might experience the peace of God in the midst of interpersonal conflict.
Coming up this week at SoLaR Chapel…”Pride!”