Spring 2009 Chapel - January 14th

Spring 2009 Chapel Address - 1/14/09

Listen to the recorded version here:

 

Of Resolutions, Mottos & Achieving the Impossible

 

Good morning.

I am so delighted to see you again.  I have prayed for you. For your safety, your time with family. And now you're back, and I'm glad.

We would also do well to remember that several of your classmates completed their course of study, and although they'll participate in Commencement Exercises in May, they have in effect graduated in December.  We pray for them, for guidance and fulfilling work and the faith and patience needed in this time of transition.

We also pause to say "hello."  Each Spring Semester we welcome approximately 50 new students, some transfers, some brand new to college.  We are glad you're here.

 

This morning I'd like to speak

Of Resolutions, Mottos & Achieving the Impossible

Let's pray.

 

1.  New Year's Resolutions

Without a show of hands, how many of you made New Year's Resolutions?

Whether we make it official or not, we hear the buzz, we've seen the ads about starting this, or stopping that.

Losing this, or adding that.

Breaking this habit, starting that habit.

We make resolutions.

Some public, some private,

Some of them are tangible,

Some are more ethereal and idealistic

Some are personal

Some involve others,

            Like the time Cindy Crandall came back from Christmas vacation during my sophomore year of college with the resolution to break up with me.

            Unfortunately at the time, it was a resolution she kept.

But the fact of the matter is, most resolutions are made to be broken.

That's what we do with resolutions, isn't it?

            Break them?

We have the best intentions,

            The new me

            The more fit me

            The more disciplined me

            The kinder me

            The don't get pushed around anymore me

            Fill in the blank here as you see fit, me.

But the reality is, what we intend to do and become

Is often different from what we are and what we do.

2.  Spiritual Resolutions

But this is Community Chapel, not Dr. Phil or Oprah

Or one of the 1001 infomercials pitching a product to take advantage of our desire to shed pounds, add abs, be more toned, mentally alert, sleep more soundly or slice our veggies more perfectly.

Maybe we should think more spiritual thoughts.

OK.

 

Have any of you made spiritual resolutions?

Are you like me, the turning of the calendar, and the changing of the year compels you to reflect and aspire?

 

I make spiritual resolutions.

In fact my sharing with you today is my way of publicly confessing my penchant to aspire and resolve.  To seek to be more, be different, be better.

Yet I must confess,

            Too often my spiritual resolutions have the same results as weight loss or fitness resolutions, well intentioned but short-lived and unfulfilled.

 

I have a song that speaks to me in the area of aspiration, a song for those who hope to be more than they are.

It's written by one of my favorite Christian song writer/performers, Sara Groves.  It's entitled, Like a Skin.  I want you to listen to it with me now:

           

Like a Skin

            by Sara Groves

The butterfly can just look back

   Flap those wings and say "Oh, yeah,

   I never have to be a worm again."

 

The snake gets tired of being him

   He wriggles from that itchy skin

   Leaves it where he's been and moves on

 

I am longing for something tangible

   Some kind of proof that there's been change in me

 

Feels like I've been waking up

   Only to fight with the same old stuff

   Change is slow and it fills me with such doubt

 

   Come on New Man where've you been

   Help me wriggle from this Self I'm in

   And leave it like a skin upon the ground

 

 

Can you relate to that lyric?

To desire the freedom of the butterfly,

Who once crawled and now sails on the air.

Or even the snake who wriggles from what once encased him,

To put on new skin.

 

I think that desire, and the frustrations attached to it, are common to humanity in general and Christians in particular.

 

Do you remember Paul's words in Romans Chapter 7?

He outlines the inner drama, of wanting to do one thing, yet doing another, of not being the master of ourselves, of instead succumbing to our own falleness.

Hear his words:

The Law is spiritual; but I am of the flesh, sold into bondage to sin.

For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.

But if I do the very thing I do not wish to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that it is good.

So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which indwells me.

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.

For the good that I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish.

But if I am doing the very thing I do not wish, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.

I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good.

For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man,

But I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.

Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?

Romans 7: 14-24

 

My Fellow resolution maker.

No, my fellow Christians, can you relate to those words?

Paul is identifying the very nature of fallen humanity in this segment of scripture, yearning to be restored yet unable to act accordingly.

 

So here we are.

And here's the question, asked not only by Paul,

But when we're most intimately honest with ourselves, we ask it too.

 

3.  Is there another way?

A way to achieve what is Humanly Impossible?

 

Here is the good news, on this first chapel of 2009.

            The Clue

The Key, is found in those words right over there [motion to motto on wall]

The NNU Motto, Chosen by our first president, Dr. Wiley in 1919

            Say it with me now, Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God Matt. 6:33

But wait, allow me to make a minor adjustment

            . . .  [add ellipse] 

We need to remember the full scope of this commandment

            To Seek His Righteousness

 

4.  This semester Gene is going to direct us to the Sermon on the Mount, the context of this commandment.  This semester we will also conduct the NNU Presidential Inauguration, you're invited.  In the context of this celebration of NNU I want to call people to consider the full weight and impact of our great motto.

You see, Jesus has invited us on a journey.  He has planned it and instituted it. 

He came to dwell among us to set this journey in motion.  To show us how life is to be lived.  To map out the manner and way that we might come to Him so that we can rise above the frustrated form of living outlined by Paul, and instead live lives of freedom and fulfillment.

            His coming is for this purpose.  We must realize that our life-long commitment, our eternal resolution is to,

            Seek and live as if He were the ruling authority in our lives, He is Lord.

            Seek and live as if He dwelt within and sought to make His character/His nature, our character/our nature.

 

You see, as we seek Him, His Lordship, we discover, each in our own way and time, that He wants to do so much more than merely forgive us of our sins, He wishes to dwell within us, to make His home in us, to abide in us as we learn to abide in Him.  In the process of abiding we learn that to seek Him is to yield to Him, to hunger after Him is to die to self, only to be raised up in such a way that it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.

Hear these beautiful word's from Paul,

The one who chronicled our human frailty and frustration

Now chronicles the rhythm of letting go of old ways and putting on new ways as we learn to live in the presence of Jesus.

 

Hear Colossians 3: 1-17

 

If then you have been raised up with Christ,

   Keep seeking the things above,

   Where Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father.

Set your mind on the things above, not the things that are on the earth.

   For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

When Christ who is our life is revealed,

   You also will be revealed with Him in glory.

Therefore, consider the members of your earthly body dead

   To immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire and greed

   Which amounts to idolatry.

 

For it is on account of these things that the wrath of God will come,

   And in them you once walked when you were living in them.

But now you also, put them all aside,

   Anger, wrath, malice, slander, abusive speech from your mouth.

And do not lie to one another,

since you have laid aside the old self with its evil practices,

And have put on the new self, who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him, a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.

And so, as those chosen of God, holy and beloved,

   Put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;

   Bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint

   Against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.

And beyond all these things, put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which you were called to one body and be thankful.

Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you with all wisdom

   Teaching and admonishing one another

   With Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs,

   Singing with thanksgiving in your hearts.

And whatever you do, in word or in deed,

   Do all in the name of the Lord Jesus,

   Giving thanks through Him to the Father.

 

My dear friends.

   Christmas has past.

   Jesus has come.

The new year is here.

   Jesus has established a new way of living.

   Jesus has revealed the mystery of His gospel to you and me

And calls us to live in Him as He lives in us.

In our seeking, He enables and empowers us to become like Him

 

Don't worry about the other stuff.  I.e., don't base your life on the pursuit of worldly things.

All the other things will be added to us.  The seeking of Him is first.

            Without Him it can't be done.

            With Him it is the key to freedom and the abundant life.

 

Live this semester as seekers, disciples

            Not looking for magic moments, but relational, growing moments.

            Growing in Him, closer to Him, more like Him

Make that resolution with me.

            This isn't just a dusty old motto.

            It's older than that, more real, more fundamental.

            This is Christ calling us to Him.

I want to seek Him with you right now.

 

Sing, Seek Ye First