Special Note: The following commencement address was given May 22, 2015 at Cumberland Christian Academy in Marietta, Georgia
Seniors, tonight belongs to you probably to a greater extent than any other night you have experienced. The only road from here leads forward. You step through one of the gates of life. On the other side of this gate you are no longer responsible to your teachers, to your principal, to your Head of School and to a large extent to your parents. You’re only responsible to your Heavenly Father who loves you more than you can ever imagine.
What can a commencement speaker say at this your last lecture, especially to a generation that has transformed American Schools and probably are unware of the change. You were the first generation to arrive at school knowing more than teachers in the area of technology. You were digital and they were analogue. You are students who programmed the VCR for your parents. The only area in which you have been deprived is you never had the opportunity to dust the erasers. In fact I am not sure you know what erasers are.
You and your generation will continue to transform the landscape. Not on purpose or by design but by the mere fact of who you are. Let me illustrate. When was the last time you used a land line telephone? You have no use for it and it will disappear. Following close behind will be the daily newspaper. The news is at your fingertips. Why buy a paper? Your life style will make a dinosaur out of the Post Office. You will not write letters and packages will be sent by UPS and Federal Express. These are only three things that will change as you enter the market place of ideas. You have a life expectancy of 92 years of age and you are on the threshold of the greatest era of creativity or the greatest destruction.
This brings me to my first point I want you to embrace. Things are not more important than people. In the digital world it will be easy to become totally engrossed with things and technology. Beware….your social etiquette should always place people ahead of things. Take the ear plugs out, put you I-phone/I- pad away when in the presence of other people. Live in the present. That’s why it’s called the present, it is a present given to you.
Let me share a story with you.
High over the Pacific, December 7, 1941, Commander Mijtsuo Fuchida, watched as day break painted the clear sky a color of red. Fuchida sped through the slowly brightening sky at 5,000 feet following the music softly playing at Oahu radio station KGMB which unwittingly guiding fifty bomb and torpedo laden planes toward the sleeping U.S. Fleet. At a destination somewhere off Lahilahi Point, Fuchida arrived at zero hour. He gave the attack signal to the fleet of planes. Fuchida swung around the Island and he sang out on his radio, TORA, TORA, TORA”….which were the code words that told the entire Japanese Navy they had caught the Americans asleep. .
Why do I tell you that story? When they said we have caught the Americans asleep they were not talking about sleep in bed but rather unprepared, not expecting anything. The last thing I would want to happen to you is to be caught asleep by a culture that is after your mind. The greatest conflict in the world today is not in Afganistan or Iraq or any other country. The greatest war is occurring in the United States and it is the battle for your mind and your heart. Let me illustrate.
I am fascinated by the interviews of people on the street when asked questions. In one recent episode the reporter had emphasis on Biblical information and asked “can you name one of the Ten Commandments?” and the reply was “Freedom of Speech” A second question to another person was, “finish this statement, let he who is without sin….” Her response was “have a good time” . A third question was asked of a young man, “who according to the Bible was eaten by a whale?.” The confident answer was, “Pinocchio”. All of these answers were given with sincerity. These are the people who will be in your life, in the workplace and in the college classroom. You are entering a culture where looters are call “nontraditional shoppers”. Killers are called “morally challenged”. Many of you will be entering a college life where you can get any test in advance anytime. You are entering college where “hook-ups” is a recreational game. You will be entering college where co-ed dormitories will be the norm not the exception.
You must guard yourself and like the day the bombers hit Pearl Harbor not be caught asleep. The question you should ask yourself is “but how do I avoid being caught up in such a strong culture and remain ‘true’ to myself”?
It is a sad commentary when the research indicates young people like you enter college and at the end of the first year they are no different than the student who did not attend a Christian School. While you may be saying “free, free at last, thank God I am free at last.” I want to share with you how you can be truly free.
Each of you have an inner sense inside of you called the conscience. When you violate the conscience you enter into the first stage of bondage. How many of you have heard adults say…….” When I left home I drifted…………”
Very shortly you will be called upon to debate controversial issues, and participate in activities that go contrary to your conscience. You will be told things that are bad are good, and things that are good will be bad. You must not forget there exists a core of non-controversial ethical issues that were settled long time ago. If you violate these issues you will begin the process of silencing your conscience. The scripture calls it searing the conscience. When this happens you begin the process of deprogramming the conscience. To you, the students who have lead the way in the digital world and can lead the way to a better tomorrow, listen to me carefully. Keep in mind the conscience is that part of you that responds to the universal moral law that God places inside you and me. It is used by the Holy Spirit and you do not want to violate its principles.
How is this possible?
If I could present one piece of advice for your future, this would be it—two priceless words. These two words can guide you throughout life. The answer to any question you are facing can be filtered through these two words. These two words are not “pay attention,” although this is important. These two words are not “get ready,” although these are very important. So pay attention and get ready for the two most important words you may ever hear. The two words that can never steer you wrong are, Follow God…. when life seems upside down………..Follow God, when things are good………Follow God. When seeking direction……….Follow God. Let’s practice how this is going to work: In behavioral psychology this process is called intellectual rehearsal. What you do is rehearse what you will do before it actually occurs. An example of intellectual rehearsal would be when the guys come by your dorm room and asked you to go to Joe’s Bar and Grill and do some chug-a-lugging, you will have pre-rehearsed in your mind what you will say. If this handsome young man comes to your dorm room and wants to know if he can come inside and watch television with you, you will have rehearsed your answer before the situation arises. In the absence of this mental exercise you leave yourself vulnerable to the culture.
When Jesus called His first disciples He said, “follow me.” The first instruction He gives his followers is “follow me. “ They are Jesus’ first and continual instructions for each of us as well.
Seniors, you can now answer any question you are facing by applying two priceless words: Follow God.
Seniors I challenge you to set your sight beyond what you can see. There is true majesty in the concept of an unseen power, which can neither be measured nor weighed. There is harmony and inner peace to be found in following a moral compass that points in the same direction regardless of fashion or trend.
As the future unfolds stay Humble. Remember, the world does not revolve around you. Approach every situation with an attitude of love. Secondly, stay Hungry. In all aspects of life seek to do your very best. Finally, stay Holy. It is never wrong to do what is right.
“MAKE MUCH OF GOD AND HE WILL MAKE MUCH OF YOU”.