Sister to Sister Archives: You Just Can’t Appreciate Jesus Like I Do

Digital Rendering of a Woman with Headset

Things just aren’t like they used to be in reference to morality in our country today. Homosexual advocates have a champion of their cause sitting in the Oval Office. The icons of our teen girls are a sad lot of extremely immodest, fornicating, pro-choice, feminist and/or vulgar-mouthed screen stars. Television sit-coms would have us believe that there’s a homosexual man or woman living in every third household in America and that conversation is incomplete and flavorless without cursing and taking God’s name in vain. We kill 1.2 million of our innocents every year and we often pay for the murders with tax dollars. Our schools are battlefields in this culture war and, as a result, our kids are often safe from neither physical harm nor molestation of their values systems. There are many schools today which have outlawed student-led prayer through Christ and/or prayer around the flagpole, but which grant excuses from classes at certain times of the day so that Muslim children can pray toward Mecca. More and more, children need the solidity and emotional safety of parents who can always be depended on for real answers to social issues, for values that are unchanging, and for the provision of a real home; a haven where they can count on being protected physically and emotionally, but most of all spiritually.

And our own “Christian” teens are living in this moral vacuum. More and more of our children raised in “Christian” homes are coming of age and leaving home without the moral underpinnings that they need to make wise choices. Many have already made serious mistakes before high school or even middle school graduation. Our kids are experimenting with pornography, alcohol, and sex of various kinds during high school. They have often been indiscriminate in their television and movie viewing. They have allowed their minds to become subtly controlled by the materialism of television and the movies while becoming anesthetized to blatant sin. They’ve slowly come to laugh at what should make them, as Christians cry. They’ve incrementally given their real allegiance to the world while giving only a token Sunday/Wednesday nod to the things of God.

And then, with a little hope, thankfully, many find their way to the Christian university. At Freed Hardeman University, where my son and daughter have both attended, there are some amazing faculty members whose lives are wholly given to the Lord. There is a Bible faculty, on that campus which, in my opinion, is second to none in the world. And, many times, thank God, those students, who arrived as freshmen in a very weak spiritual condition, find themselves growing closer to God, wanting to know the freedom from guilt, and finding joy in heartfelt service to God. Sometimes these kids have the will to truly change during these college years and many of them will be faithful for the rest of their lives. Praise God.

But there is a sad phenomenon that sometimes occurs in this college scenario. Sometimes, those students who walked away from God during high school and became dangerously involved in alcohol abuse, sexual sin or pornography, etc., somehow feel that they have the spiritual edge over those kids who made the better choices in high school. You may be wondering, “Now where could she be going with this?” Let me explain.

More and more I am hearing college devo leaders say things like “If your life has never been totally messed up with sexual sin, then you can’t fully appreciate Christianity like I can.” Or, “I am not going to stand here and tell you that I have led a sexually pure life. You wouldn’t believe me if I did, since there probably aren’t two out of every ten people in this room who could say that. I’m going to tell you I’ve done about everything you’ve done, maybe as much as several of you put together and He still reached down for me.” Or, “I wouldn’t trade places with any of you out there who always walked the straight and narrow because I love the Jesus who came to the wide path and rescued me.” Or, “There may be those of you who think you made all the right choices through high school. You may have. But, if you did, I doubt you really know a lot about reaching the sinner with His forgiveness.”

What’s wrong with this sort of message in a devotional talk? Well, I can think of some definite dangers. First, let’s take this sort of teaching to its natural conclusion. If I can eventually put the greatest appreciation of the Savior in my kids by encouraging them to participate in sin, then shouldn’t I just provide the alcohol for their high school parties? Shouldn’t I encourage fornication and experimentation with homosexuality, porn, vulgarity and lewdness? Shouldn’t I get the raunchiest forms of satellite TV and download the most explicit computer images for them to view? Second, there are many lifelong consequences that come with various forms of sin (even forgiven sin). You can think of lots of these off the top of your head. With fornication comes the fear of STDs and/or the effect that this behavior has on your later marriage.

With abortion comes the hauntings of guilt and the cry of the dead baby that you may hear for the rest of your life. With alcohol comes the possibility of alcoholism. With porn use comes the addiction you may have to fight till you die. The high school student who had the foresight, fortitude and faith to leave these sins alone should never be tauntingly stereotyped as the pharisaical, righteous one as I often hear in college circles. Third, It took a lot of courage and conviction to avoid the typical high school sins. It was not an accident that this purity of life was maintained. In fact, it was the same Christ who offered you His forgiveness that reigned in the heart of your friend there, as she worked so hard to never let King Jesus down. Did he ever need his forgiveness? Oh absolutely. Can she appreciate that forgiveness? Definitely. But he or she doesn’t have to walk away from the light to know the power of darkness. Fourth, we have to be really careful not to make a lifestyle of sin appealing to young people. Many—no, most young people who become enamored with the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life during the very young teen years, do not emerge on the side of the Savior as adults. We are losing huge percentages of our kids as they experiment with the sins of the devil in high school. Parents and mentors who are really focused on eternity will do all that’s within their power to enable their kids to get in the safety of His will and to stay there every single day as they face the huge challenges of life in high school. Just one time, be on the receiving end of that phone call from a grief stricken parent informing you that a teen has been prematurely snatched from this life while under the influence of alcohol and you will desperately want your child to be among the number of pharisaical righteous ones on that college campus one day.

I understand that the one forgiven of much will love much (Luke 7:47). I know, from the life of Paul that the chief of sinners can be the most devoted to the cause (I Tim. 1:15). But there is a real sense in which each of is chief of sinners. There is a sense in which we all have obtained the ultimate forgiveness. We cannot afford to make the depth of depravity to which one has slipped the barometer of perceived spirituality. Let’s stop viewing those who remained faithful to God through what was arguably the most difficult years of life as some sort of self-righteous, sub-Christians. Let’s look to their examples and perhaps even to wisdom they gained for encouragement. I know many of these heroes. Among them are Joseph, Daniel, Samuel, Esther, Mary, the mother of the Lord and Timothy. And I know many of them who are now in college, as well. I can look at the short inexhaustive list above and know that God has a special place in his heart for those who stood relatively alone for truth and right in the high school years.

Sister to Sister: To My Favorite Up-and-Coming Freshmen

11128756_918729561504765_8571427497927844563_n11203551_10207101069869834_614411671581224642_oThis weekend, two of my favorite nieces, Mattianne Sparks and Song Nicholas will graduate from high school. They have had the best of teachers throughout their primary, middle and high school years: their parents. They are both headed for Freed Hardeman University and both have already received scholarships and have applied for and are hoping to receive additional scholarship funds. They are Christians—faithful followers of our Lord—and they are exemplary in their demeanor. Mattianne’s also a great catcher (and hitter) on her softball team. She has influenced non-Christians to attend services with her when traveling with the team. (She’s unwilling to travel and play at the expense of attending worship faithfully.)  She is also a teacher of two-year-olds in a local Christian pre-school.  Song’s an asset to her volleyball team, loves to play the mandolin and has been bold in her stand for modest dress and godly entertainment choices, even in situations where that “truth in love”  stand was not popular.  They’re both going to love college and be successful in whatever paths they take, because they understand the meaning of true success (“living your life and going to heaven”).  They don’t need my advice, but they know I’m bossy, so here are a few unsolicited tips for my two favorite FHU 2015 freshmen:

  1. Be nice to everybody, especially those who seem to have few friends and a hard time “fitting in”. Say “hello” to everybody you meet as you walk around campus. Don’t look down at your phone as you walk to class. Look in the eyes of people you meet and say “hi”. You will miss so much if you’re looking down. You may even miss a relationship that could bring you much joy.
  2. Go to Gano (the cafeteria) alone sometimes. It’s fun and a temptation to always go with a big group of girls. But you’ll meet more people and, maybe even meet the man of your dreams, if you go alone sometimes (unless, that is, you have already met him). It’s okay to look a little lonely every now and then. You’ll be surprised at some of the new people and conversations that will come your way. Oh, and take different path from your dorm to Brown-Kopel or the Gardner Center every now and then. There’s lots of different ways to go, so mix it up. Remember, the adventure is in the “mix-up”.
  3. Sit in the front of your classes, when you get to choose. It’s harder to get distracted and your teacher will engage you more and remember you better. It helps the GPA.
  4. Take a light load the first semester. Lots of changes and challenges are coming your way. It’s better to wade into college life than to dive into the deep end.
  5. Wait till after the first semester to pick a major. You will have more information and find out a lot about yourself between August and January. You can get a lot of those general education classes that are required for all majors out of the way. Take care to not miss the great Bible teachers while you are there. I know several that you’ll be very blessed by choosing.
  6. Try hard to NOT stay up till two or three or four a.m. every night. All your friends will be doing it, but, you can really get into a routine of sleeping in class when you get into that habit. Bad for the GPA.
  7. Remember the sacrifices of your parents and donors who are making your schooling possible. There’s a debt you owe—a responsibility to give your best effort.
  8. Show gratitude. Always write thank-you notes to those people who show you kindness. Write a thank you note to each professor at the end of each term. It’s very Biblical, it’s very thoughtful and it will also help you to develop good relationships with people with whom you will do well to be friends. Write a thank you note to every foundation or organization each time you are awarded a scholarship, no matter how small. And write letters home to thank your mom and dad every now and then. Write Piedaddy a short letter every semester or so, too…and your other grandparents. They are all so proud of you.
  9. Make the most of chapel. You will have this amazing chance to worship God for a short time every day with hundreds of young Christians. How many college students get to do that?! Worship him every day in spirit and truth. There will be some around you who are uninterested. Don’t let them embarrass or discourage you. Give Him your best. He gave you Calvary!
  10. Don’t let anyone take away your allegiance to simple New Testament Christianity—your determination to be a part of the one true church, to worship the way the church of the New Testament worshiped and to cling to truth. So many students come from homes and congregations in which truth has been “watered down” in relativism and denominationalism has been accepted. Beware of those who may be critical of the restoration plea and critical of those who believe we can know and obey truth. Choose and place your membership in a church where truth is taught plainly and sound elders are committed to feeding the flock. Then ask those elders what you can do to stay involved. Teach a class, be a part of a visitation team. Learn to love elderly people in that church. And, whenever you see Dr. Gardner, engage him in conversation. He will bless your college experience.

Song and Matti, I know that I am not telling you anything that you don’t already know. I know you already have plans to be the best you can be, because you already love Him with all your heart, soul, strength and mind. He’s been making your decisions for you for a long time. So just keep doing what you’ve been doing all along: seeking first the kingdom and giving Him the glory.  I daresay you will have classmates who are helped along to heaven for having known you.

Your uncle Glenn and I love you both very, very much!

What’s Right With FHU

It seems that in the past few decades, there’s been much to criticize among the universities in our brotherhood that identify themselves as Christian universities. Some have become so much like secular universities in standards of dress and decorum that they are largely unidentifiable as being “Christian.”  Some, in their Bible departments, weakened or rejected any teaching acknowledging the New Testament pattern for the church; its organization and its worship. Some have introduced musical instruments into chapel services and others have allowed women to lead prayers in mixed public assemblies. Some have placed an inordinate emphasis on sports to the neglect of academics or the preservation of moral standards. Recently it was brought to my attention that, among our universities nationwide the number of enrollees who are non-Christians far exceeds the number of Christians.

Not that my opinion generally holds a lot of sway, but I have discouraged friends who’ve asked my advice about sending their children to various ones of these institutions.  But I always encourage enrolling in Freed Hardeman University. I hope that I always can. While I understand that I do not know all that there is to know about the policies of any of these schools, I have had extensive opportunities to be on this campus and to interact with many people in administrative and faculty positions. I also am aware that there certainly is no perfect university experience available to our children. While this is true, I am amazed at the good things that are still happening at FHU. Perhaps you will think that my summation is overly simplistic. Keep in mind, that while I am very impressed with the academic preparation that students in all disciplines offered receive at FHU, that is not the focus of this post. I am speaking to the spiritual preparation that kids receive while attending FHU. I still believe that God’s blessings of Providence on our careers and advancements are the greatest factors in our successes. Remember that true success, in the end, is living our lives and going to heaven. I believe the years between the ages of 18 and 22 and the directions taken therein are very crucial in this pursuit of success. What’s right, for your kids, about Freed Hardeman?

  1. Freed Hardeman University has a sound and faithful Bible faculty. I personally know almost all, if not all, of the faculty members in the department. As a praying mom at home, while my kids were making their way toward undergrad degrees, I was thankful every day for the solid, Biblical teaching they were ingesting every single semester in their required Bible classes. Every student in every discipline is required to take a Bible course each semester while attending FHU. Inasmuch as I can see, their instructors are not only men  (and one woman for the ladies) of the Book, but they are great examples of practical Christianity and are bearing the fruits of the Spirit in their lives.
  2. Freed Hardeman University has a compassionate faculty. I have been amazed time and again when my kids would encounter a challenging assignment, a difficult ethical decision, or even physical illness, at the amazing way that faculty members have opened their living rooms for times of discussion and prayer with them. They have been given keys to homes of faculty members and they’ve also been contacted by people in the administration who’ve extended hospitality to them and given them emergency numbers to call. Faculty members have called them to see how they were making it in times of personal crisis or physical illness. Having had a child in another brotherhood university and one in a state university, at various times, I have come to know what a great and rare blessing this compassion can be.
  3. Freed Hardeman University’s student body is composed largely of students from Christian backgrounds; kids who have tender hearts toward the Will of God. Now, are there kids at Freed Hardeman who could care less about spirituality? Oh, yes. Are there those who are from church backgrounds in which there has been little sound Bible teaching? Definitely. Are there those who will violate moral codes at FHU and engage in premarital sex, drink alcoholic beverages, dress immodestly and cheat on assignments? Yes. Are there groups of kids who are not respectful in the way they speak about and treat others? Well, yes. Are there congregations in the area around FHU in which your children can be influenced by unsound teachings? Yes. But I can still promise you this: If your children attend FHU with the desire to find friends who will help them grow spiritually, they can easily locate them. If your children want to be leaders and influence other tender hearts to stand for right, they will have ample opportunities to do this. If your kids want to sing praises with fervor to God in chapel and devotional assemblies, they will not be alone and they will not be taunted for spiritual zeal. If your children aspire to be preachers, elders, or leaders in the Kingdom, their aspirations will not be squelched, but will be encouraged and developed. There are faithful congregations (notice the plurality) very close to campus where your kids can get involved, teach classes, lead singing and be on visitation teams. See, the Freed Hardeman experience cannot do what you should have been doing for the first eighteen years of your children’s lives. But if you have sought the Kingdom first in those years, it can reinforce the goodness that you have put into your children.  I recently heard from President Wiley, the statistic about FHU’s ratio of members of the church of Christ to non-members. It remains true that some 90% of students attending FHU come from Christian backgrounds.  President Wiley wants to preserve that ratio. It stands to reason that the percentage of strong and faithful students that will surround and influence yours in the dorm, the social club and in classes will be higher than in the average “Christian” school, much less the average state university. 
  4. Freed Hardeman University has some wonderful women and men who are helping your children adapt and thrive in their residence halls. These residence hall supervisors are, in my experience, rarely recipients of the praise and appreciation they deserve. But I want to offer my kudos in this post because I believe their contributions to our children’s positive Freed Hardeman experiences is far bigger than the students recognize during their passage through the four years they spend there. I have found that these people are going way above and beyond the call of duty in “taking care” of our kids. “Dorm moms and pops” as they are called have gone to the store and gotten medicine for my kids when they were sick. They have cooked meals for them. They have prayed with them. They have allowed them to stay in their own quarters when they needed short-term housing. They have counseled them with wisdom and objectivity. They have spent late hours with them and given them gifts. They have contacted me to check on them when they were in sticky situations or physically ill. I just realized that this sounds as if I have very needy adult children. =) Perhaps so. But I’m convinced that these people of God are indiscriminate in their care for individual students in their halls. My children continue to be close to these dorm mentors even after their graduations from FHU. Hannah has had supper with one of her former residence hall supervisors twice this summer. Another dorm mom frequently shares holidays with our family. Do you think this is typical at other universities? I do not know, but I think there are some great and carefully chosen employees in these positions at FHU.
  5. Freed Hardeman University has a great leader at the helm. We have not known our brother, Joe Wiley, for very long. I think it has been about two-and-a-half or three years since he became president of Freed Hardeman University. That’s when we first met him. I’m thankful for the wisdom of Mark Castleberry, who chairs the current board of directors, and all of the members of the search committee for the choice of Dr. Joe Wiley as president of Freed Hardeman University. It’s really a blessing that Glenn and I have been privileged to have some long and deep conversations with him. He is an humble man who wants to live for the Lord. While he is adept and experienced at administrating, carefully directing issues of fiscal importance, relationships that promote growth, and academic accreditation, he makes it clear that his faith is the umbrella under which all decisions are made. He is unwilling to compromise moral codes to please majorities of students. He is unwilling to allow teachers to remain on the Bible faculty if they are espousing teachings that compromise the singularity of the body of Christ or the pattern of the New Testament church. Dr Wiley makes plain statements about his personal determination to maintain a high percentage of Christian students, placing spirituality and its accompanying high moral standards as the clear priority over added sports programs.
Everything is not always right about FHU. That’s the way it is in human arenas. (That’s certainly the way it is in my very small and personal arena.) But for parents whose children are approaching high school graduation in the near future, and who are university shopping, may I advise you to take a look at Freed Hardeman? There’s a lot that’s right about it.