Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Sermon; Graduation (High School’ 2017)

Scriptures for this Sunday: Ephesians 2:4-10; Philippians 1:3-11
You can read these Scriptures here:
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Hymns for this Sunday (Celebrating our Graduates / Holy Communion):

  • UMH 383 This Is The Day of New Beginnings

  • UMH 399 Take My Life and Let it Be

  • UMH 451 Be Thou My Vision

We will celebrate the Sacrament of the Holy Communion

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To all of our graduates: Congratulations!

You have worked hard to get here. You have completed a set of academic requirements and you have taken tests to demonstrate your knowledge and skills. Your graduation celebrates a destination point in your life’s journey.

This graduation is a short season in your life that celebrates your hard work, your perseverance and your achievements. Savor this time; may it inspire and empower you for what comes next.

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There are moments in life when we stand at the crossroads between the ending of what has been and the beginning of what is yet to come. {Illustration: Connect to Pentecost} You are at such a juncture in your lives, and it is one of many that you will face on your life’s journey. What you will become in the future depends to a large degree on what you do next. Your graduation is a process of something new being brought into existence. That “something new” is you and what you will become.

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Your graduation is a new beginning in your exciting but not trouble-free journey. Have faith in God, have faith in yourselves, have faith in your abilities; don’t be afraid to think and you will be OK.

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Never stop learning, because life should be a never-ending quest for self-improvement. Our society is realizing that we cannot run and manage ourselves on data and computers alone. We need to develop skills that transform data into information, which in turn help us to act and react to changes in the world. More than ever, our society today needs people who know how to be compassionate and how to relate. More than ever, our society needs people with skills that are not only cognitive and technical but also emotional and relational. Be diligent in developing your emotional and relational skills. A sign of education is the ability to consider different points of view without espousing them as your own.

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In Philippians 1:9-11 Paul writes, And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”

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You are inheriting a complex world. Lots of things that your grandparents’ generation took for granted, your parents’ generation was unsure of because the rate of change in our society is rapid and it is increasing every day. It is nothing new; the world has always been changing. What is new, however, is the rate of that change. To give you an example, just fifty years ago someone was considered to be illiterate if he or she could not read and write.

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In our society today, the ability to read and write is assumed. In our society today, the illiterate are not those who cannot read or write, the illiterate are now those who do not know how to learn, unlearn and relearn new skills, who do not know how to reinvent themselves with changing circumstances.

Your generation will have to deal with tens of millions of jobs replaced by automation like self-driving cars and trucks, self-piloting transport ships, fully automated eateries and stores. That is just the tip of the iceberg, we cannot even imagine what the big changes will be. What you will call “work” in 10 or 15 years will be very different from what your grandparents or my generation called “work.” You need to be able to adapt.

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In the Gospel of John chapter 3 we learn about Nicodemus. Nicodemus came to Jesus under the cover of darkness and what he was concerned about was that Jesus’ teachings were turning his world upside down. Jesus’ teachings challenged what Nicodemus believed to be right, true and beautiful. Jesus taught that we need to allow the Holy Spirit into our lives (“you must be born again, you must be born of water and the Spirit” (John 3:6-7), whereas all that Nicodemus knew up to that point was how to perform rituals. In the end we know that Nicodemus was able to learn what Jesus was teaching him. Nicodemus was with Joseph of Arimathea when they claimed Jesus’ body (John 19:39). Nicodemus was able to change his life based on the new understanding. Be proactive and open to letting God into your lives. Allow yourself to be born-again as your circumstances change.

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{Illustration}

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That brings me to the next point. So far your experience has taught you that knowledge is having the “right” answer to the question in front of you; that is how you passed all your tests and exams. Today I want to suggest to you that knowledge is a platform, a taking off point to develop your intelligence. Intelligence is about facing a problem and asking the right questions, questions that will help you to find a solution. Be diligent about developing that kind of intelligence.

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So far your experience has taught you that education comes from books and college degrees. Today I want to suggest to you that books and college degrees are only pathways to open your minds and encourage you to learn. Your formal education gave you a glimpse of tools available to you to help you learn and to think. Embrace new experiences, learn from different ideas whether you agree with them or not, travel often, expose yourselves to new ideas, learn from all people and be open to positive influences from our exciting world. Strive to enrich your mind, expand your thinking and elevate your language. These are some of the ways that God guides you.

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You were raised and educated in the era of instant messaging, instant coffee and instant stars from reality TV. All that “instant” stuff makes it difficult for many of us to be patient and to remember the benefits of long-term thinking. One of the things that you will need to develop in your lives is the ability to think strategically, to focus on what is important, and concentrate your energy on accomplishing your goals.

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In Ephesians 2:10 Paul writes, “… we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works …”

In conclusion I want to share a couple of final points that I picked up in the course of my life’s journey.

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  • Earlier I encouraged you to build knowledge and to develop your intelligences. I stand by that. I also want to suggest that perseverance and resilience is far more important than knowledge or intelligences in accomplishing your long term goals. It is also important to know when to say “when.” Some goals may prove to be irrelevant or not achievable.

  • There is no substitute for hard work, but we should not only work hard, we should work smart! Doing the same thing repeatedly and hoping for different results is the definition of insanity. Don’t be insane.

  • Meaning is rarely found within ourselves. Success is rarely complete or satisfying when we do things just for ourselves or for our family. I want to encourage you to think about this and do something for others, be part of something that is inherently bigger than yourself. Do not allow others to turn your idealism into cynicism — every one of us can and should strive to change the world for the better!

  • I am not saying that money is unimportant or irrelevant. But I also want you to know that money, power and fame are NOT a true measure of success. The most influential person in Western culture is Jesus. Jesus was not an earthly king, or industrial tycoon or a movie celebrity; while living his earthly life among us, Jesus was a carpenter. Yet, His life affected all of ours.

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Every generation has its defining stories. To give a few examples:

  • Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon less than 50 years ago (1969).

  • The American Civil Rights struggle (roughly 1955 – 1968) officially ended racial segregation and inequality in our country.

  • The Hoover Dam was built during the Great Depression between 1931 and 1936.

  • Suffragists won the right for women to vote when the 19th Amendment was ratified on August 19, 1920.

These accomplishments represent years of struggle, debate, and a sense of purpose for all those involved. These achievements defined their respective generations and became a part of our national DNA. They gave our country a sense of accomplishment and pride and proved that we can do great things.

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Now it is your turn to do great things. No one knew how to land a man on a moon, or how to achieve equality, or to build a dam as large as the Hoover Dam when they started. Ideas do not come out fully defined and formed. You hone your ideas by being diligent and by making the necessary adjustments along the way. You just have to start.

I know that I have dumped a lot of information on you today and I realize that it is hard for you to process everything that we talked about today. That is why I printed copies of this message for each of you; I hope that each of you will take it and read it every few years. I pray that it will help you to evaluate where you are on your life’s journey.

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I hope and pray that you find the courage to live your lives in such a way that you are a blessing to your neighbors and to the future generations.

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