Hey…I’m Off to College!

College freshmen…this one is for you. It’s almost time to be dropped off to start your first year of college. I have been watching parents and new freshman go through this ritual for almost twenty-five years.

The scenario looks like this. A car that is completely stuffed comes through the entrance to the college. In the car are mom, dad, and as many brothers and sisters as can possibly fit. Mom and dad look apprehensive. You look a bit nervous but are trying to portray that cool college look. You know the one I mean.

You arrive at the residence hall and begin unpacking. Mom wants to see the dorm room. Dad is making sure everything gets unpacked properly. The brothers and sisters simply follow along. You are looking around to see who is watching and to also make sure you continue to maintain that cool factor through this entire process.

Soon mom wants to get the dorm room organized…new sheets on the bed, towels hung up, and pictures on the wall. Dad is pretty quiet just walking around looking at everything. A part of you feels a little bit embarrassed that your new dorm friends will think your family is a bit weird. You might even want your parents to stop helping so much.

May I give you some advice? Of all days just let your parents dote on you today. Let them get your room set up, let them go to the store for you, let them talk with everyone in your dorm. Your parents need this. Today is hard on them. They are saying good-bye to you. They have spent the last 18 years taking care of you and when they drive away from your dorm today their lives, like yours, have changed forever.

Make it special for them. Let them take a million pictures. Let them pose you for the pictures, let them hug you; let your dad give you his last bit of advice. Let them love you. Let them pray for you. It’s a tough day for them too.

As you think about the excitement of the future your parents will be remembering the day you were born, when you were six and broke your arm, when they taught you to drive, your first date…it will all come rushing in on them.

So today, hug them when you don’t have to. Tell them you love them. Thank them for shaping your life. Thank them for the years of investing in you. Thank them for sending you to college.

…and right before they leave tell them you love them…again.

Hey…I’m Off to College!

College freshmen…this one is for you. It’s almost time to be dropped off to start your first year of college. I have been watching parents and new freshman go through this ritual for almost twenty-five years.

The scenario looks like this. A car that is completely stuffed comes through the entrance to the college. In the car are mom, dad, and as many brothers and sisters as can possibly fit. Mom and dad look apprehensive. You look a bit nervous but are trying to portray that cool college look. You know the one I mean.

You arrive at the residence hall and begin unpacking. Mom wants to see the dorm room. Dad is making sure everything gets unpacked properly. The brothers and sisters simply follow along. You are looking around to see who is watching and to also make sure you continue to maintain that cool factor through this entire process.

Soon mom wants to get the dorm room organized…new sheets on the bed, towels hung up, and pictures on the wall. Dad is pretty quiet just walking around looking at everything. A part of you feels a little bit embarrassed that your new dorm friends will think your family is a bit weird. You might even want your parents to stop helping so much.

May I give you some advice? Of all days just let your parents dote on you today. Let them get your room set up, let them go to the store for you, let them talk with everyone in your dorm. Your parents need this. Today is hard on them. They are saying good-bye to you. They have spent the last 18 years taking care of you and when they drive away from your dorm today their lives, like yours, have changed forever.

Make it special for them. Let them take a million pictures. Let them pose you for the pictures, let them hug you; let your dad give you his last bit of advice. Let them love you. Let them pray for you. It’s a tough day for them too.

As you think about the excitement of the future your parents will be remembering the day you were born, when you were six and broke your arm, when they taught you to drive, your first date…it will all come rushing in on them.

So today, hug them when you don’t have to. Tell them you love them. Thank them for shaping your life. Thank them for the years of investing in you. Thank them for sending you to college.

…and right before they leave tell them you love them…again.

I Lost A Friend This Week

I lost a friend this week. She had been sick for the past year, suffering tremendous bouts of pain throughout the process of dying. The long battle with her health had been evident. You could see the tiredness in her face. Finally, as her husband held her in his arms she died…that fast…that quickly. It was over.

But that is not the end of the story. Something very special happened as my friend departed for her heavenly home. What was it? She smiled. Remember the tiredness I told you about that was visible in her face? It was gone and was replaced by a smile. Now what would make someone smile in the moments before death? Well something sure did. None of us smiles for no reason at all. Here’s why I think my friend smiled. It’s really very simple. She saw Jesus.

I’m reminded of a song written in 1941 by Ester Rushthoi. The song is titled, When We See Christ. Here are the words from the chorus of the song:

It will be worth it all

When we see Jesus!

Life’s trials will seem so small

When we see Christ.

One glimpse of His dear face,

All sorrows will erase.

So bravely run the race

Till we see Christ.

Whatever pain you are experiencing is only temporary. Remember to bravely run your race. Whatever earthly race you are in right now be brave and courageous. Run it with your focus on Christ.

Whatever we are facing right now we can take comfort in this statement from the song. It will be worth it all when we see Jesus.

Have You Seen This Painting?

I have a special wall in my office. The wall houses paintings that TFC students have created for me. It’s a special place because it reminds me of the talent and kindness of our students.

When visitors come into my office they often look at various paintings on the wall and ask me who painted each one. I take time and tell visitors about the students and the story behind the paintings.

I also have another wall of family photographs. Again, visitors who stop by my office look at the photographs and someone usually finds one they especially like and inevitable ask me who took the photograph.

Throughout my travels I encounter folks who simply don’t believe in God. They are atheists. Over and over they tell me there is no evidence of a God. Now, how do paintings and photographs in my office relate to the belief of atheists? Let me tell you.

I have spoken and written about the issue of common sense before. The paintings, photographs, and no belief in God are all related to simple common sense. Those with no belief in God look at paintings and assume a painter. They look at photographs and assume a photographer. They look at creation and say there is no creator. They assume the world was created by chance. What? Why would you look at all of creation and not assume a creator? Here is where we find the common sense disconnect. We look at simple things (like paintings and photographs) and take a common sense approach. However, on issues of faith, some folks get so busy arguing scientific and theological positions that they become either unable or unwilling to see clearly what is obvious and right before their eyes.

A painter created the paintings on my wall. A photographer created the photographs on my wall. The God of the Bible created our world. To reach any other conclusion is hard to support. Where there is a creation there is a creator.

Don’t forget your common sense when you look at issues of faith and creation. The answer isn’t always complex.

Maybe It’s Not All About Me

This week I was in Minneapolis, MN on business. As I was walking through the city I suddenly found myself in the middle of the gay pride weekend…one of the largest gay pride celebrations in the country. There were thousands of folks celebrating the recent Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage as well as the LGBT lifestyle in general.

The dress for many of the folks at the parade I can only describe as ridiculous. One man passed me wearing only bright colored gold short-shorts and rainbow colored wings. The language I encountered on the street by many of the gay pride participants was course and sexually suggestive. There was little consideration for others and the tone there can be summed up with this sentence. It’s all about me.

When I returned home I had the opportunity to attend the closing service for a group on the campus of TFC called Worldview Academy. Worldview Academy holds week-long camps all over the country and their Georgia camp is held at Toccoa Falls College. The camp consists of twenty-five hours of classroom training in Christian worldview as well as practical exercises to re-enforce the classroom training. This isn’t a “let’s have fun” camp. This is a Christian worldview academic training camp for high school students.

As I watched these students I couldn’t help but contrast what was happening at Worldview Academy to what I had just observed at the gay pride parade. These Worldview Academy students realized life isn’t just about them. Life isn’t about being the center of attention. Life is about following biblical mandates including the biblical mandate of serving others while telling them about biblical truth. These Worldview Academy students weren’t afraid to speak about the power of grace while also speaking biblical truth. Our conversations about biblical worldview need both of these components…grace and truth. One without the other produces an unbalanced perspective.

I was again reminded that here in Toccoa, Stephens County, the State of Georgia and throughout our entire country there are folks committed to living Christ-like lives. Don’t ever think you are alone in your service to God. There are millions of believers committed to living Godly life and telling others about biblical truth and grace. It’s time for all of us to take a committed stand for Christ and biblical truth. The world needs to hear about the power of a Christ filled life from you.

The Charleston Shooting and A View of Godly Character

Since 1907 the motto of Toccoa Falls College has been this: Developing Godly Character With Intellect. Sometimes folks ask me how I know what Godly character looks like. There are a variety of ways to define and examine Godly character but this week we saw a glimpse of exactly what Godly character looks like.

The shooting last week at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church gave all of us a view of evil at work in this world. In stark contrast to Godly character we saw the hurt and pain that is a part of sinful behavior. Today I don’t want to focus on the evil; I want to focus on the Godly character displayed by the members of the Emanuel AME Church.

Something unusual happened during the bond hearing for the suspect in the shooting this week. As the suspect was brought before the judge, family members of the shooting victims were given an opportunity to speak to the suspect.   Most of us have seen situations like this before where the victim’s family says things to the suspect as a way of venting their anger. As a former police officer I’ve seen family members tell suspects they hope they rot in hell, have a slow, painful death, and the list goes on.

However, this week as the victim’s family members addressed the suspect here are some of the things they said:

Ethel Lance, the daughter of one of the victims said:

I will never be able to hold her again (referring to her mother) but I forgive you. You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people but God forgives you, and I forgive you.

Another family member said this to the suspect:

Me and my family forgive you. Repent. Confess. Give your life to the one who matters most…Christ.

This was the tone for each of the family members who spoke to the man accused of gunning down their family members during their weekly bible study. Over and over we saw an attitude of forgiveness.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean there are no consequences to actions. There are. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you don’t grieve and hurt. You will. Forgiveness has been defined as giving up my right to hurt you because you hurt me. I like that definition.

Do you want to know what godly character looks like? Well…you can see it demonstrated by these dear brothers and sisters in Christ. Families at Emanuel AME Church…thank you for modeling godly character for all of us. Thank you for showing the world what being a follower of Christ is all about.

Now What Should I Do?

When I finished college I was certain I had the start of my career all worked out. I had a senior level contact in the company I wanted to work with. The company had invited me in for testing. I was excited and all set to start. But God had other plans. In a miraculous way, God not only closed the door on this job, He slammed it shut. I was devastated. You see, I had a plan but God had another plan.

I often think about the life of Joseph that we read about in the Bible. I suspect his plans didn’t include being thrown into a well, sold into slavery, and placed into prison. Yet, God had another plan for him. God’s plan for Joseph developed a young man with few skills into a man who would lead most of Egypt. Joseph followed the plan of God, a very difficult plan, for thirteen years before God’s plan finally made sense to Joseph.

How about you? Did you think you had it all figured out and now find your plans have fallen apart? Maybe your dreams for your family aren’t working out the way you planned. Perhaps reports from your doctor have you wondering how your future will take shape. Maybe your career plans have fallen apart and you’re wondering what to do next. You see, God always has a plan but sometimes it’s another plan…not the one you developed.

So let me encourage you today to relax when your plans aren’t working. Listen to what God is telling you. Don’t be like those who just run in circles trying to figure out what to do next. These folks are anxious, they can’t sleep, and they call everyone looking for advice.

Instead, follow what God has said in Psalm 46, verse 10. Here is the verse:

Be still, and know that I am God!

Now there is something to think about. When your plans don’t work out, be still. Relax. Release the controls. God has things under His control.

Always remember that when your plans start to unravel, God always has another plan.