THE MYSTERY OF THE GOSPEL

Detective stories intrigue us. The best ones rattle our brain cells. “Who done it” mysteries keep everyone guessing. When you discover it was the butler, the mystery is no longer a mystery, and you say, “Should have seen it coming.”

 

Not so the mystery of the gospel. It remains a mystery even after disclosed. It overwhelms our senses. There is nothing intuitive about the gospel. We don’t say after it is revealed, “Of course, I should have thought of it. How stupid of me.” We marvel at the grace of God that goes way beyond our thinking. It astounds us, humbles us, and causes us to praise God for the glorious work of redemption.

 

If a thousand people wrote a gospel story, no one would have come up with the divine plan. That is the mystery of it. We never come to the place where we can say, “Okay, now I get it.” We will marvel for all eternity, as Paul writes, “that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:7). The universe contains no measuring stick to calculate the greatness and majesty of God made known through Jesus Christ.

 

Paul is often tripping over superlatives, attempting to communicate what God has revealed to him and not finding the words to express it. That is mystery. He gives praise to the one who can do “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or imagine” (3:20). We are given the awesome privilege of taking part in that which is too wonderful to be packaged in words.

 

Isaiah describes in poetic language the infinite power and wisdom of God: “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance? Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord or as his counselor has instructed him?” (40:12, 13). Does God employ advisors, people with advanced degrees, who can help Him with the intricacies of inner and outer space? Paul quotes Isaiah, then adds this short phrase, “But we have the mind of Christ” (I Cor. 2:16).

 

Astonishing. He has just described the intricacies of our world, vaster than imagining and far beyond comprehension. Then he says in effect, “But we can think like God thinks. We have been given the mind of His Son, enabling us to think the unthinkable, know the unknowable, search out the unsearchable, touch the untouchable, and perceive the imperceptible.” That is mystery, and it remains so for all eternity. Ten millions years into eternity, and we will still be singing of the glorious mystery of God’s love made known through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

 

The mystery has not been solved. The secret, having been disclosed, still remains a secret. No one knows the love of God unless drawn by Jesus. No one thinks his way into salvation or says, “Now I get it.” We never fully get it! Revelation goes far beyond reason. Without the Spirit of God we cannot know or understand the things of God. Think about it! On second thought, praise Him for what is way beyond our thinking!

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS

CHRIST IS RISEN! Does He pay a visit to the Sanhedrin? No. He goes to…

 

MARY. Her devotion went beyond helping Him in life—she wanted to anoint Him in death. She lingered after Peter and John left the tomb. So did Jesus. Disillusioned, she doesn’t look up when someone asks why she weeps. When her name is called, she knows. Jesus honors her commitment by visiting her first. In your sorrow, stay focused on Jesus. And He will not disappoint you.

 

THE OTHER WOMEN. The first two groups are women, the less important of their day. The disciples proved it, refusing to believe their report. The women paid homage to the dead—and worshiped the living Lord instead. Know, dear women, that while you may not be on center stage, Jesus honors the depth of your devotion.

 

PETER. The death of Jesus devastated him. Satan had sifted him. High hopes turned under the pressure of a servant girl. The words of Jesus, “You will deny me three times,” gnawed at him. He raced to the tomb, hoping against hope. Maybe on the way home he met the risen Lord, for sure the first day. Jesus ministers to a wounded soldier. There’s a place for failures. Jesus comes not to rebuke but to reinstate. Weeks later, in the face of sure persecution, Peter declared to thousands, “This Jesus…you crucified and killed…but God raised him up…” (Acts 2). Angels said to the women, “Go, tell his disciples and Peter…” Jesus has failures on His mind.

 

THE EMMAEUS DISCIPLES. The seven-mile walk was grueling. They spoke to a stranger, “We had hoped…” They had not yet heard the news. The Scriptures should have guided them, but despair blinds eyes. Guess who’s coming for dinner. They invite the well-formed visitor, who blesses the bread—and is gone. He had joined them to chase away gloom, to touch broken hearts, in Word and sacrament. Imagine now how they cover the 10k. Resurrection runners have light feet—and heartburn.

 

THE DISCIPLES MINUS THOMAS. Evening of a new day. Ten disciples cowering in darkness behind locked doors. He comes. Instead of correction, they receive a commission: “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” They had lost the ‘sent.’ A fresh mandate will thrust them out. Flesh-and-blood Jesus eats a meal in three of His encounters. The Man running the universe is Jesus of Nazareth, Son of David. He commissioned people like us—doubtful, reluctant—and gave them the Spirit!

 

DISCIPLES, INCLUDING THOMAS. One week later, same time, same house, same shut doors. The still-not-too-confident band gets another visit. This time straight for Thomas. At the last meeting two disciples were missing—one dead, the other doubting. He was loyal but a slow starter. Jesus did not commend his unbelief—He converted it. How kind of Jesus to pursue us in our darkness. Faith is more than holding on; it is God holding us, even in our doubts. Thomas died as a faith-filled martyr! (Normal length. Pit stop. Resurrection stretch.)

 

SEVEN IN GALILEE. Here’s the third encounter to the group, five of whom are named. The big fisherman is called to sheep, not to fish. Jesus erases a three-fold denial with a three-fold affirmation. Jesus didn’t need to hear it—Peter did. From fishing to feeding—at “the Last Breakfast.”

 

FIVE HUNDRED. Paul wrote that “he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time…” Marching orders. Either Jesus is dreaming or this group will disciple the nations. Jesus does not see the Church as nervous saints waiting in caves for the Great Escape but as an aggressive mission-minded movement.

 

JAMES. Only Paul tells of this encounter. “His own had received him not,” and James was no exception (John 7:5). A personal appearance turned a resister into a pillar. In his letter he describes himself as “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Strange way to talk about your bro. Martyrdom by stoning testified to his faithfulness to death. Take hope for your family.

 

APOSTLES, ASCENSION DAY. Scope—the world. Calling—witnesses. Promise—Spirit. Then He left. Did they? Read the book of Acts. He gave them His forwarding address, and they proclaimed the Resurrection!

 

The appearances are divided into two regions—Judea (7) and Galilee (3). Of the seven, the first five were on Resurrection Sunday, the sixth a week later. The final appearance outside Jerusalem came 40 days after the resurrection. Three were with individuals, seven to companies of two or more. All were believers except James, called to faith through the appearance. Why not to other unbelievers? Jesus said, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead?” The raising of Lazarus only brought antagonism. Jesus does not force faith. He did not go to those wallowing in skeptic tanks. Herod wanted tricks, the Pharisees demanded signs—to confirm their unbelief. “God raised him up…and made him manifest, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses…” (Acts 10:41), to Peter, not Pilate, to Cleopas, not Caiphas, not to Roman authorities but to humble women, as one man said.

 

PAUL. He did include himself in the list, as one “abnormally born” (literally a “miscarriage”—I Cor. 15:8), revealed not from earth but from the Right Hand. People who knew Saul would have considered him an unlikely suspect for a visit. God’s power trumps unbelief. Take courage for family and friends!

 

  1. Last of all, He appeared to me. I experience His love today, convinced He is alive! I get up in the morning to serve the Living Lord! I hear His voice and follow His commands! I say with Job, “I know that my Redeemer lives!” How about you?

KNOT NOW!

 

Karen and I do not believe in a long dating period and definitely not a long engagement. Matters like finances may preclude that possibility. The longer couples wait, the greater the pressure to step over the line. Happens all the time. With the urge to merge, saying “no” becomes increasingly difficult as couples spend time together preparing for their life. Better to start their life together.

 

Why wait until you graduate? We have seen over and over again that marriage matures people, and statistics bear this out. They are now responsible for another person, thinking not just about themselves. They become better students, more serious about their future and career. Do you really think that single people living in an apartment with three other students or in the dormitory do better than married couples? Have another thought. And what if a baby comes? Two thoughts: more maturity, and God loves godly offspring!

 

Why not make your time together count as a couple by saying those incredible vows, then starting to live them out as you make a home. Married couples discover that they have as much or more time for studies than when single. They are no longer dating and hanging out, which sometimes means wasting time; they are doing life. Get married and make it work. A marriage certificate does not cancel out a college diploma; it can strengthen the possibility.

 

Having ministered with young adults for many years, we’ve heard the stories of dating couples trying to remain pure but finding it hard to hold the line. It’s a winnable war, but why fight it? Get married and enjoy it without shame or guilt. Now those moments build your life together in God rather than having to keep putting the brakes on love that has been aroused. The Bible says, “Don’t arouse love before its time.” But when its time comes, do not frustrate love by an artificial requirement like graduating first. The statistics are not in your favor.

 

The Biblical culture was attuned to this outlook. Men and women married earlier, when their bodies were telling them it was time to marry. Society today is putting the timer on pause for a college degree, a new career, or a missions opportunity overseas, and it can create disasters along the pathway. Couples meant to meet at the altar sometimes don’t as promiscuity derails them and turns passion into bitterness. We’ve seen it. Plus, the biological clock keeps ticking away.

 

“He that finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.” Finding means looking. And finding means marrying, and sooner is better than later. And at the altar you receive the favor of God, like the Scripture says. God must really love marriage!

 

Karen and I were counseling a college couple heading for marriage. They told us they were looking at a June wedding. I knew what Karen was thinking. I looked over at her and she nodded. I asked, “Why are you waiting until June? How about March?” I didn’t want to override any parental wishes, but we saw no reason to stay in the waiting room. Parents agreed, and they stepped up the program—with much delight! Our culture sadly has given couples too many reasons for waiting, and the average age keeps moving back, which also means that some never do. Sad! Let’s send it in the other direction. Amen?

SHALL WE DANCE?

 

Maybe on Saturday, not on Sunday. We have mocked the holy rollers. Does dancing fit worship? Consider these truths:

 

  1. Dancing can be godly. The Bible gives examples when it is not (think golden calf or Salome before Herod). But if the Bible exhorts worshipers to dance, it can be godly. Then it’s also like God (check out Zeph. 3:17 and the prodigal’s homecoming dance). Hey, Jesus told the story.

 

We try to get spiritual—and God gets physical. Think baptism, the Lord’s Supper, laying on of hands. Dancing can be a great way to get physical. It both elicits and releases joy. It’s a physical way to get spiritual—quick! But first we’ll need to overcome awkwardness. Jews have us beat. Their culture sets them up for dancing—guys as much as gals.

 

  1. Dancing is a Biblical expression of worship. Let’s learn from the Hebrews. The command to love God includes our strength. The exhortation is clear: “Let them praise his name with dancing…” (Psalm 149:3). The next verse tells why: “For the Lord takes pleasure in his people” (4). We celebrate because He celebrates. Psalm 150 calls for everything that has breath to praise the Lord, with dancing. King David used his body, to God’s delight and Michal’s disdain.

 

Our Sunday exercise is standing and sitting. Christians have a reputation in the world as anything but fun-loving. Not the Son of Man. Mainline churches emphasize reverence more than celebration. Not Israel. When they crossed the Red Sea, Miriam led the dance. When David returned from war, women rejoiced with singing and dancing.

  1. When joy leaves, so does dancing. Spiritual revival was accompanied by its return. “You have turned my mourning into dancing” (Psalm 30:11). Silence is not the most effective way for expressing joy. People in sorrow tend to be more passive: “The joy of our hearts has ceased; our dancing has been turned to mourning” (Lamentations 5:15). C. S. Lewis wrote, “Expressing an emotion prolongs the emotion.” It is time to let the joy out—with voices and bodies. There is “a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:4). Sunday’s a great time.

 

  1. Dancing illustrates grace. Jeremiah spoke of a new day, when God would demonstrate His love. In that day “you shall adorn yourself with timbrels, and shall go forth in the dance of the merrymakers” (Jeremiah 31:4b). The new day would be marked with dancing—and it came with Jesus and the year of Jubilee (Luke 4:21). The Bridegroom came—let’s dance! He’s coming again. Get ready for the Party!

 

  1. Dancing should be restored to worship. David danced “with all his might.” Michal said he was dancing before women, but “it was before the Lord…” (2 Sam. 6:21). Most Biblical references to dancing are religious rather than cultural. For Hebrews, dancing was a form of celebrative worship. Today dancing is more social than religious. Can we restore it to our life of worship? Would that please God?

 

Worship is ultimately a heart matter. A paralytic can praise the Lord with the same intensity as a person with two good legs. Nevertheless, the Scriptures speak to us by exhortation and example. Is God calling us to a greater demonstration of love and joy in worship? Do you think that dancing could help? Could we give it a try? Get ready for fun!

 

ENOCH WALKED WITH GOD

 

“When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. And after he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived 365 years. Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away” (Genesis 5:21-24).

 

Only one other person in the Bible carries a similar testimony: “Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God” (6:9). Powerful testimonies in a day when few did.

 

Something happened with the birth of Enoch’s son that taught him about his relationship with God, and Scripture describes it as a walk. This pictures a deliberate, consistent, ongoing companionship. It was so remarkable that God chose not to interrupt the walk even by death. Scripture teaches that “it is appointed unto men once to die.” Enoch and Elijah are the only exceptions. Something in the heart of God for Enoch called him straight from life to eternal life. Remarkable.

 

Those who come to faith early in life and live a long time may be privileged to know God personally for seventy years or more. “Enoch walked with God 300 years.” Hard to top that.

 

Lamech, the seventh son in the line of Cain, was an evil man. Enoch, the seventh in the line of Abel, was so godly that he never experienced death, demonstrating the power of a righteous legacy. Cain’s line was tainted from the beginning by the cruel murder of his brother, which he then sought to hide and excuse. Abel’s line was blessed by his holiness. The sins, as well as the blessings, of the fathers are visited upon the children to the third and fourth generation—and even beyond! Obedience accumulates. What a mandate for parents to walk in righteousness and resist sin.

 

One more testimony about this great man: “By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death; and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was attested as having pleased God” (Heb. 11:5). How would you like your tombstone to read, “He pleased God? How would a person live to have such a testimony? How does one find that kind of favor with the Almighty?

 

Next question: What does that say about God, that people can live in such a way as to give God pleasure? God is not a distant deity with an iron-clad will that is dispensed with cold calculation on human robots. He is a Father who loves spending time with His children, and that time impacts Him, not just us. Some try to spend every waking moment in His Presence. Enoch chose to—for three centuries. Radical! The Creator of a million galaxies took pleasure in it. And He whisked Enoch home at the end of his earthly life!

 

The Book of Enoch, which is non-canonical (meaning didn’t make it into the Bible), is still quoted by Jude. What revelation this great, great, great, great grandson of Adam had about the return of Jesus. It also reveals his passion for godliness. I want to be like Enoch!

IS GOD PLEASED WITH YOU?

 

God loves all His children. Some give Him more pleasure than others. Ask any parent. Obedience brings more joy than disobedience. Jesus said, “I always do what is pleasing to him” (John 8:29). Perhaps that is why the Father spoke from heaven, “You are my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11).

 

Enoch had a reputation for pleasing God (Hebrews 11:5). Way to go, Enoch. So did Daniel. He was called “greatly beloved” three times in the Scripture (Daniel 9:23, 10:10, 10:18). Mary found special favor with God and was given an assignment many mothers in Israel coveted.

 

Do you know what pleases God? Would you like to be one of those that God brags about to the angels like He did with Daniel? I would. Then we probably ought to do as Paul says, “try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:10).

 

WHAT DOESN’T PLEASE GOD?

Unbelief doesn’t please God. “Without faith it is impossible to please him” (Hebrews 11:6a). Jesus marveled at two things, great faith and the lack of it. Unbelief is an insult to the Almighty. It says that He is small rather than great, unkind rather than merciful, unfaithful rather than loyal to His word.

 

Anything we do in the flesh rather than in the Spirit cannot please God (Romans 8:8). I am incapable of walking in righteousness without God, but my flesh sure wants to give it a try. Whenever I cooperate with my selfish flesh, I am making an end run around the cross. Jesus may as well not have died. “Yet it was the will of the Lord to bruise him” (Isaiah 53:10). When I cling to the cross, trusting more than trying, going with the mercy system rather than the merit system, I make the Father happy. And Jesus sees the “fruit of the travail of his soul and (is) satisfied” (11).

 

WHAT PLEASES GOD?

After telling the people of Judah what didn’t please God, the prophet called them to walk in humility (Micah 6:8). God gave Solomon the right to ask for anything he wanted. When he asked for wisdom rather than riches or a long life, “it pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this” (I Kings 3:10). Good choices please parents—and Father God. “The words of the pure are pleasing to him” (Proverbs 15:26).

“The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him” (Psalm 147:11).

 

WHAT ARE THE RESULTS OF PLEASING GOD?

  • We escape the lure of the flesh (Ecclesiastes 7:26). Young men, pay attention. If you choose to please God rather than giving in to the pull of the flesh, you will avoid the shipwreck that takes many out of the game. Think Samson and Demas.
  • We pass our tests (I Thessalonians 2:4), and they become testimonies.
  • We receive answers to prayer, “because we obey his commands and do what pleases him” (I John 3:22). What a way to live!

HONEY I SHRUNK THE DEVIL, PART II

…from I Peter 5:8,9. Once we have recognized him and how he works, we are prepared to…

 

  1. Resist. We refuse to accept his devilish ideas. Peter wasn’t doing much resisting in the garden or later by the fire. Those who recognize can resist. Paul suggests that resistance takes the form of wrestling. Spiritual and emotional energy is expended. We resist, firm in our faith. In the midst of conflict, Christ “trusted in God that He would deliver Him.” We do the same.

 

We battle Satan, not saints. Most fights could be dismissed if we recognized this. Satan loves to see us in petty skirmishes. Our main problem is not the pastor, the president, the parent, the neighbor. Satan uses people like these but is far more sinister, more destructive. Not to recognize him is to be duped. Jesus told a self-confident Simon, “Get behind me, Satan.”

 

Derek Prince, a gifted Bible teacher, once wrote, “I discovered that evil is not something, but someone.” Evil is a person, and he IS out to get us, with a powerful army at his disposal. People who think we’re on a picnic rather than in a war will get eaten for lunch.

 

Resistance is effective where we have already submitted to God, so we don’t think we are doing hand-to-hand combat with the devil. We are contending with his methods, not his muscle. The battleground is the mind field. We carry every thought captive, careful not to faint in our minds or grow passive. Winning fourteen rounds and losing the fifteenth could cause us the fight. That is why James precedes the call to resist with, “Submit to God.” Notice how Peter exhorts us to humility before resisting the devil (I Peter 5:5,6). Submission is essential for spiritual power, because authority does not come from shouting louder than our opponent.

 

Three applications: I once heard of a lady who got sicker every time she was prayed over for healing. Sounds like she was subject to attack because of weakness in her armor. The best way to take authority in that situation would be to put on the armor, piece by piece, faith by faith.

 

I attended two different prayer meetings where people were taking authority by saying, “I bind you, devil.” While this may be effective if a person understands positional truth, a formula with no authority makes Satan laugh.

 

Occasionally I hear of Christians who are being overrun by disasters. Sometimes these people are yielding to the onslaught, because they know that we are all called to endure hardship. While we are expected to suffer for righteousness’ sake, we should not let Satan harass us. Passivity invites the devil. The baptismal covenant can be a strong deterrent: “I renounce the devil, and all his works, and all his ways.” People who figure that life is simply being played out and that what is going to happen will happen are likely to be attacked by Satan. Here is the way I would encourage friends to pray: “Father, I yield every area of my life to You. If Satan is the cause of these misfortunes, I resist Him. I put on the armor you provide for me, the character of Your Son, so that I can overcome the devil’s deception, intimidation, temptation and accusation. In the name and the authority of Jesus Christ. Amen.”

 

There’s no demilitarized zone in this war; we’re either for or against. Fence-sitters fall off. But those who stand in the authority they have as blood-bought saints under grace and filled with God’s Spirit will shrink the devil, just as Jesus did.

 

HONEY I SHRUNK THE DEVIL!

 

Satan is convinced by authority, not words or formulas. Seven brothers found that out (Acts 19).

 

Enter Jesus. He declared war on the devil and plundered his goods. He defeated the devil first by using the authority given by His Father to cast out demons. Second, He lived a sinless life, giving Satan no room to attack. Third, He died on the cross, totally devastating the powers of darkness. As He faced His death, He said, “Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the ruler of this world be cast out” (John 12:31, Col. 2:14,15).

 

How do we shrink the devil? Same way. We have authority to cast out demons. We put on the armor, the righteousness of Christ. When deficient, we are subject to attack. If we believe lies, we are not wearing the belt of truth. “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the devil’s schemes.”

 

Satan doesn’t fight with raw power but with deception, intimidation, accusation, and temptation. We are told: “Resist him, firm in your faith” (I Peter 5:9). James writes, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7b). Send him running!

 

Third, our most effective strategy is dying to self. Christ died—we die. He had His cross; we have ours. Defeated at the cross, Satan is again disarmed when we die to ourselves. This strategy keeps us from focusing too much on the devil. Jesus spoke about Satan in two parables (the sower and the wheat and tares), and He referred to him on other occasions. The law of proportion suggests that He assaulted Satan most by doing what he came to do—die. He didn’t focus on the devil—we don’t either.

 

We’ve got two extremes: those who never feel we talk about him enough, and those who don’t think we need to talk about him. Peter gives us proper balance. In his naïve days, he was told that Satan was going after him. He shrugged it off with an unrehearsed vow of allegiance. Then Satan and a servant girl worked him over. Had not the Master seen the adversary’s advance and counterattacked with prayer, Peter would never have recovered.

 

Seasoned by service, he wrote of the enemy’s tactics. But it comes in the middle of the fifth chapter in two verses after a Christ-centered letter on how to die in the midst of difficulties. He writes, “Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of your brotherhood throughout the world” (I Peter 5:8,9). His two-point strategy for dealing with Satan:

 

  1. Recognize. Sobriety enables us to see things as they really are. Watchfulness means that our eyes stay open. Peter gives three names to the enemy, first “adversary.” Our enemy is not the person who ignores us at church or those secular humanists. “We wrestle not against flesh and blood.” One reason for weakness is that we wrestle more often with flesh and blood than with Satan.

 

The second designation is “devil”, meaning “slanderer.” How freely he mocked the Almighty when talking with Eve: “Has God really said?” When God spoke favorably about Job in Satan’s presence, he responded, “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan likewise slings missiles of accusation at God’s children. The unguarded will be assaulted.

 

The third term is “lion.” The devil does not sit in a cave; he stalks. When God addressed Satan on Job’s behalf, He asked where he had been. The devil answered, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it” (Job 1:7). As he roams, he roars. God usually speaks in a still, small voice. Satan, defiant, agitates and stirs up. He tries to intimidate with his noisy growl. Fearful saints cower, while intelligence forces realize that his growl gives him away. (End of Part One. Part Two in three days).

 

THE DEBT DISEASE

 

We live across the creek from Northwestern University. Huge gift, great neighbors. Son-in-law, Drew Shepp, worked there for seven years. Daughter Erikka met Drew at Concordia University. Our young adult ministry has included many students from Bethel and Northwestern. I love hearing stories of how Christian schools turned around rebels.

 

Still I struggle. One Tuesday night I had students stand who had debts over $30,000. Too many. Nobody warned them that they would be strapped for years with an unwieldy debt and a salary too small to deal with it. I’ve heard the discussion regarding good and bad debt. I’d call that bad! What’s the answer? Pay cash or don’t go.

 

What? And sacrifice Christian values? I went to a Christian school my first year, then spent three years at UCLA. I grew there, where I was challenged by a Christian organization to live my faith, and I left with no debt. I’ve heard the statistic about 70% of evangelical youth losing their faith in secular colleges. That’s more about the flavor of the home than the school. No question: a Christian school can spark vibrant faith. It can also lull non-aggressive types to sleep. Check out the dormitory on Sunday morning!

 

I met with a Financial Aid Director and told him I viewed the problem from the other side. I asked him to please exercise caution when handing out loans to naïve students with no idea what it would feel like to be married, with a child, paying for an apartment, groceries, and a $30,000 debt. (That’s common!) He understood. The difficulty—Christian schools struggle with the bottom line. They need students.

 

The other side—graduates need a life. I tell young men: “Get a job, get a house, get a wife, get a kid—in that order! That potential is hampered by massive loans. Scripture warns against unwise spending: “Owe no man anything except to love one another” (Rom. 13:8). “Do not be among those who give pledges, among those who become guarantors for debts. If you have nothing with which to pay, why should he take your bed from under you?” (Prov. 22:26,27). “He who puts up security for another will surely suffer, but whoever refuses to strike hands in pledge is safe” (Prov. 11:15). Jesus urges us to consider if we have resources enough to complete a project (Luke 14:28).

 

Parents: degrees from Christian colleges do not guarantee that your graduate will be a Christian, will get a good job, or a good spouse, or find success. Some parents are shocked after a four-year college degree is followed by a job at Wendy’s.

 

Dads and Moms do better at what many parents pay a college to do—give wisdom about a career, guide through transitional young adult years, teach about emotional and mental health, give solid Christian values, and instruct how to not arouse love before its time. Upgrade your time with and commitment to your young adult—before they are young adults. Be vulnerable about your struggles. Ask specific questions about whom they’re spending late nights with. (College kids stay up late). If they ask, “Don’t you trust me?” answer, “Of course not. That is why I am asking!”

 

Trust your shepherding more than the sheepskin! Then you won’t be surprised, because character is translated into career, no matter what school they attend. And if it’s a Christian school—fantastic!