Spring 2013 Chapel - January 16th

Spring Semester 2013 Opening Chapel
January 16, 2013
"Singing Our Song"

On behalf of the Board of Trustees, Faculty and University Staff I want you to welcome you to the 2013 Spring Semester on the campus of Northwest Nazarene University! We are so pleased that you are here. Please join me in welcoming all those who are new to our campus. We pray God's presence and guidance upon you in the weeks ahead.

How many of have had a song in your life that "belonged" to you? Your team in high school had a song? Perhaps your gang of friends had a song from a trip you took? Or ladies, how many of you shared a song with your first boyfriend? Raise your hand? Gentlemen, I know you're in denial, but raise your hand if you ever made a mix tape of songs for someone you liked?

We use songs, they speak to us, they speak for us. They capture memory and emotion and meaning.

Do you have a song for your life? Some tune, some lyric that captures things you dream of, aspire to? (Eye of the Tiger, I Will Always Love You; or perhaps a song of faith,Great Is Thy Faithfulness, It Is Well)

How many of you know the old game show, Name That Tune? The contestant who could correctly guess the song with the fewest notes was the winner. I'd like to play an altered version of that right now. I'm going to start with two notes, then three notes, then four, when you know the tune join me.

La La
La La La
La La La La
[the tune to Be Thou My Vision sung by all]

What's the name of that tune? "Be Thou My Vision."

Let me ask you a another question, here on the edge of this semester, "Do you have a vision for your life?" It doesn't have to be a song; perhaps it's more of a plan, a map, a direction, a purpose, or a cause. The question remains; whether you are a freshman or a fifth year senior, "Do you have a vision for your life?"

This morning I want to take a moment and examine the lyrics we associate with that tune, and then relate those lyrics to my question of you.

Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art--
Thou my best thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Here's something you need to know. In addition to you thinking about your life, its direction and outcome, NNU has an opinion about the plan, the purpose of your life. We think life is ordered in a particular way; consequently, we have notes for your song and lyrics for your vision. The writer to the Hebrews looked back across the history of the lives of the people of faith and said this about how life should be lived:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12: 1, 2

Did you catch it? Looking to Jesus, run the race. Remember the opening lyric? Be Thou My Vision. Jesus is the Thou. Jesus is our vision. Life is not a random assortment of chromosomes, chance events, and the luck of birth order and place. Life is ordered and designed by God to be lived in pursuit of, in relationship with Jesus. The Jesus vision should guide your life, my life, and the life of this university. The Jesus vision is not something we choose and use to construct and contrive, our own designer-god, who makes our every wish come true. That's why the lyric that says "naught be all else to me, save that Thou art," means we must resist the temptation to use God as a means to our selfish ends; rather, the ways of God in Jesus Christ manifest in scripture, tradition and reason must be the relationship and the blueprint for how we experience the lives He calls us to live.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, Thine own may I be.
Thou in me dwelling and I one with Thee.

To make Jesus the guiding vision of your life is to enter into a journey where His ways become your ways. His character becomes your character. His thoughts your thoughts. The prayer, "Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word," expresses a desire to grow in the knowledge and wisdom of God. Let me ask a vision question of us, "Do we know God's ways? Have they become our ways?"

Jesus said:

If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in His love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. John 15: 10-15

Singing this prayer, living this life, is more, however, than mere head knowledge about Jesus. It is an intimate knowing. The phrase, "Thou in me dwelling and I one with Thee" describes the most intimate of relationships. As a believer, Jesus is in me and I am one with Jesus. That is either a preposterous proposition or God's vision for His children. Remember, Jesus prayed this would be our reality when He prayed to the Father on our behalf:

I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will
believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in
me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you
have sent me.
John 17: 20, 21

This intimate relationship that Jesus desires and enables for us is something we must pursue. It is not a passive relationship. We must seek Him as He seeks us. The pursuit of this intimate relationship "Thou in me dwelling and I one with Thee" makes a difference in the life we live. A first hand vision of Jesus bears fruit. Over time, His wisdom, His word, His intimate nearness yields the fruit of a life of Christian virtue and character, we become partakers, pursuers of the holy life.

The Jesus vision of life puts things in their proper place. Sing the third stanza with me:

Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise,
Thou mine inheritance, now and always;
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

When Jesus talks about treasure, He talks about the things that matter most, that have supreme value. Pop quiz: Do the following words sound familiar? More importantly, when you hear these words are they attractive or repulsive?

The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which someone found
and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys the field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on
finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
Matthew 13: 44, 45

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume
and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in
heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in
and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Matthew 6: 19-21

He is my treasure. He is my inheritance. The lyrical prayer says it well, "Thou and Thou only, first in my heart." If Jesus is truly my vision, He must be first in my heart. Have I ordered my life in such a way that the passing goals of this world don't outweigh my desire for Jesus? Do I seek Him more than things? Is Jesus first in your heart? If the answer is not "yes," then He is not yet fully your vision for your life.

Sing the conclusion of the prayer with me:

High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach heaven's joys, Bright Heaven's Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

These are summative words for the prayer and for life. What will the sum and substance of my life be? When I reach the end of my life will my heart beat like the heart of Jesus? Will I look back, though my physical body is frail, and be able to see in myself the radiant nearness of Jesus, my life-long vision.

What does it mean to pray, that no matter "whatever befalls" me in the pathways of life Jesus has become "heart of my own heart?" The Apostle Paul said it this way:

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ
who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of
God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Galatians 2: 19b, 20

The Jesus Vision becomes the David vision, the Sandy vision, the Robbie vision, the Kaylee vision, fill in the blank with your name. How does it sound? Does it feel right? Is it a commitment you have made or are willing to make?

Let me ask the question again. Do you have a vision for your life?

Vision is important. Vision charts the course of life. How we order or lives, what we choose to pursue or neglect, to tame or let rule, vision-shaped decisions shape us, shape our character. Vision orders priorities and sets principles. Vision reflects the essence of what we hold most dear and most important.

Do you have a vision for your life?

Is it a vision of your own making? Or is it His?

We have chosen "Be Thou My Vision" as our University Hymn because it makes a statement about who we are and what we intend to be as a university and as the individuals who collectively comprise the university.

When all is said and done, there are two basic choices; two basic roads to choose:
The vision of a life with God.
The vision of a life without God.

We may try and wiggle and waffle, pretend we're "agnostic," a marginal believer. Jesus calls people like that "thorny soil." We don't want to be a place of thorny soil, we want to be fertile soil.

In your quiet moments, when it's just you, no white noise, no outside chatter, what do you envision for your life?

Jesus stands before you, a vision of how life is to be lived, and He invites you, He compels you, "follow me."

Are you willing to submit, to alter, to surrender your plans to Him?

When you leave chapel this morning you will be handed a copy of the lyrics of our University Hymn, "Be Thou My Vision." Take it with you, and when you are alone, read it. Pray it. Notice the prayer's lyrics.

Ask yourself, are these my words? Do you think, do you believe, do you want the actions, the purpose, the direction of your life to reflect life in the Kingdom of God?

If you are willing to submit and surrender your ways for God's ways, your way for Jesus' way, over time, something astounding will happen.

You will discover that what Jesus has in store for your life was and is more substantial, more fulfilling, more transforming, more significant, more difference-making than anything you could conceive without Him.

I hope these words become a life-long song for each of us.

I pray that you may have a blessed semester seeking Him, visioning Him, in all you think, say and do.