Bein’ Apathetic’s a Pathetic Way to Be

True conviction from the Holy Spirit is an experience unlike any other.  It strikes a deep, silver tone in your soul that’s impossible to ignore as it resonates in your bones. Paradoxically, it is simultaneously both unsettling and comforting: it’s an undeniable call to redress, but it comes with the peace of certainty.       

I can count the number of times I have experienced this on half a hand, and one of them was just before school started this year. I had gone to church with some friends of mine, and for some reason I was inexplicably angry. Out of sorts. Defiant. A spiritual rebel without a cause. Frankly, I did not want to be there, and I did not want to enjoy myself, dangit. I just didn’t care. I suppose there were just things going on in my heart that I had not dealt with: a collection of frustrations and shortcomings and sin that was finally culminating to a breaking point that evening.

Honestly, I don’t even remember what the sermon proper was about, but the closing challenge is something I know I will remember for years to come. First, the pastor challenged us to spend the week reading through Ephesians, taking a few minutes each morning to read one chapter. Six chapters, six days. We would be astounded, he said, how much our relationship with Christ would grow in just a week if we spent consistent time in scripture. By the time we got to this point in the service, I had become softened enough to come to terms with the fact that I needed to make some serious changes, so I vowed to do it. Next, he encouraged us to identify an area of our lives, a certain weakness or sin that was holding us back from experiencing the things that Christ had planned for us. He directed us to pray about it for a few minutes and ask the Spirit to bring something to our attention, whether it be sexual sin or addiction or bitterness or hatred, etc.

But I’m not doing any of those things, I thought to myself. I must be doing okay. No sooner did I think those prideful words than it washed over me with the sweeping force of a rip tide.  Apathy. Apathy, apathy, apathy. That I wasn’t doing anything was exactly the problem. Settled in my revelation, I prayed that the Spirit would help me to overcome this because I surely did not know how. With amazing alacrity, the answer came to me the next day as I read Ephesians 1.

Those of you who have ever taken an NT class will know that Paul, just like any rational person, usually begins his letters with words of greeting to the receivers of the letter. Toward the end of the first chapter, Paul offers prayer and thanksgiving for the church at Ephesus. He writes, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, my give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”  Those verses really struck me; Paul was very obviously burdened for his fellow believers and their spiritual wellbeing.  That was what I needed to do to conquer my apathy. I needed to pray like I meant it for those I loved.  I needed to be burdened for them rather than just feeling sorry for them for a little while.

This was especially powerful for me because a number of my close friends have been experiencing some truly difficult and trying things, and I knew that a very large part of the apathy that I was so convicted of was encompassed in the fact that I was doing absolutely nothing to help them. I would hear about their troubles and feel kind of sad about it for a little while, but ultimately I would move onto other things in my life, unconcerned. I was not loving even my closest friends.

Elated and humbled with the breakthrough, I highlighted those verses and wrote next to them, “This should be my prayer every day for all of my friends. What better way to encourage them than to pray consistently for them? BREAK THE HABIT OF APATHY. BE BURDENED FOR OTHERS.” I also was convinced that this needs to extend past just my friends. Feeling sympathy for a person or a situation isn’t enough; it does not incite action. I think seeing need or hurt or brokenness and feeling burdened for it is the only way to move ourselves out of stasis. Being truly stirred by compassion and moved to action is the only way to show the love of Christ. Jesus never saw a person in need and proceeded to go on his way feeling sorry for her. He did something about it. In my situation, I knew that the most powerful thing I could do was to pray.

Since then, I have really tried to pray Ephesians 1:17-19 every day for those who are close to me. Of course, I have not been perfect, I can say that it has really changed me for trying. It’s a process.

With all of that said, I encourage you all to pray for one another earnestly and intentionally. How different could our walks with the Lord be if we really supported each other in prayer? How different could this campus, this community, this world be if we simply followed Paul’s example? I would really like to see. And so I pray for you, readers, that God may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation that you may know him better, and that the eyes of your hearts may be enlightened so you  can know the hope and immeasurably great power that is available for us who believe.

Ways Culture Distorts Our Minds (Part II)

“Jesus Doesn’t Mind if I’m Ignorant”

If you’ve never had to deal with fellow Christians who aren’t willing to recognize that their beliefs about God or anything else might be inaccurate, you probably haven’t experienced much of the Christian world. Many people like this exist, and though we are at no liberty to think of them with distaste or treat them with disrespect, we all feel deep down that there’s something wrong with this. Why is it that people who cling to the simple and naïve mindsets they were raised with, refusing to respect that this world is actually complicated and hard to understand, seem to be unfaithful to God in a serious way? Well, I don’t really know if I can give a specific answer. But I do know that since our consciences disapprove of it, it’s probably something that we need to take care avoid.

Yet even though we all know deep down that it is wrong to ignore the truth, Christian culture has absolutely imbibed the idea that the pursuit of Academic studies is somehow unimportant and irrelevant (even bad)  for our “journey with God”, or “what really matters” after the point at which it can no longer help us with our ministries. Why is this? Well, there are several reasons for it, and I’m going to attempt to very briefly explain:

Around 120 years ago, Western society’s intellectual world was populated by theories to explain the world around us without God. Scholars who subjected the Bible to historical studies had begun to form theories as to the Bible’s origins which were opposed to the widespread Christian view of the Bible, questioning the reliability of the Old and New Testaments, and evolutionary explanations were given for humans and all biological life. In response, many Christians who, despite this apparent contrary evidence to their faith, were convinced they knew the true God, emphasized the fundamentals of the faith, rejecting conclusions of the intellectuals in Universities and popular culture (wouldn’t you expect the world to be opposed to God anyway?) Unfortunately, this caused Christian culture to become very opposed to scholarship and Academia, thus inundating the Church with anti-intellectualism and ignorance of scholarly work concerning the nature of the world (in the name of Jesus). A little later, a philosophy called “Post Modernism” worked its way into culture as all Western Society became skeptical of whether truth existed or mattered anyways, causing many misled Christians to de-emphasize the idea of God as an actually existent (whether we believe it or not) being, instead emphasizing a heartfelt relationship with Jesus as the only thing the Christian faith requires of a man or woman.  All of these influences have sculpted our Christian culture into one which is skeptical of academia and intellectual pursuits, and the unfortunate thing is that we all have the impression that Jesus doesn’t mind.

So are Academic studies important? Or is it alright to be ignorant? Does Jesus want us to be “fools for Christ”, or ought we to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves?” My conviction is that Academic studies and critical thinking are essential to a healthy Christian faith, and I’ll explain several reasons why.  First, let me define Academic studies, for those who were wondering: By this I mean the practice of thinking objectively about the world and forming accurate viewpoints concerning all manner of subjects such as human nature, God, theological topics, scientific theories, political philosophy, ethics and etc., based on the best available evidence and reasoning.

There are three main reasons why Jesus probably doesn’t want us to be ignorant: First, beliefs fundamentally shape the way we experience ourselves, others, God and the world. Second, Christians are commanded to be wise. Third, truth is a worthy and obligatory end in itself.

Firstly, beliefs fundamentally shape the way we experience everything. The only way we know the world outside us is through what we see, feel, hear, taste, and smell, and what we believe. If what we believe is wrong, then we experience the world in a false way, and our beliefs mislead us. If what we believe about God is false, we don’t accurately know the true God and his works. This is incredibly important to realize, for one’s life is completely transformed by changing beliefs. Academic studies consist of forming accurate beliefs about the world, and thus are necessary in order to understand everything in existence. Some argue that such studies and thinking are unnecessary, because the Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth. As nice as that would be, this line of thought misses the fact that if taken to its logical conclusion, it would render even the Bible unnecessary in light of the Holy Spirit’s ultimate sufficiency in delivering all truth into our minds. Thus, Academic studies are absolutely essential in coming to an understanding of the world the way it really is.

Second, Christians are commanded to be wise. In Matthew 10:16, Jesus says, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” Proverbs 18:15 says, “The mind of the prudent acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” Christians are called to be mature and wise—taking an objective view of the world rather than being controlled by how we feel about it. But how can we take an objective view of things if we’ve never taken any steps to find out if what we believe is true? How can we serve God in loving wisdom and knowledge if we don’t think critically about the things we believe, say, and do, on a day-to-day basis?

Third, truth is a worthy and obligatory end in itself. Without truth, we are nothing but social creatures with no concept of reality apart from what is popular in culture, what we desire, and what feels “right”. But as humans we are given an incredibly powerful intellect for the purpose of understanding and believing the truth, the denial and ignorance of which amounts to the denial of our creation after the image of God– who embodies all truth within himself. The denial of truth-seeking is the denial of the most central part of who we are as humans.

Let us learn, then, to think well and accurately, in order to represent God as people of the truth. How do you do it? Read a book, and think really hard. Take a few subjects that you don’t know much about and just start reading. Seek to actually understand what you perceive to be true in the author’s writing and integrate it into your worldview. It can be quite fun at times, if you take it seriously. Good luck.

 

TFC Trustees Pay Annual Visit to Campus

When the cafeteria food begins looking more gourmet, you notice everyone stepping up their routines and looking top notch and think, “Who are they trying to impress? “   Then you catch glimpse of all the men in the fancy suits and ties, the women in dresses…  You, fellow TFC family, are looking at the trustees of TFC!  You know, those faithful stewards who work alongside Dr. Bob Myers to make our college experience phenomenal!  I had the pleasure of a small glimpse into the interaction of this group of servants, whom many people seem to just pass by without a second thought or glance.  I also had the privilege of speaking with a few of them, and getting to know them on a more personal level.  Four basic questions were posed; 1. Who are you? /What does it mean to be a trustee? 2. Why have you chosen to invest in TFC? 3. How long have you been involved? and 4. What are your goals/intentions as a trustee?  Hearing the stories these following three men told, it is hard to separate the questions and write specific answers, so with those in mind, here is what Dr. Smith, Charles Moseley, and Floyd Wheeler had to say:

Smith stated, “Being a trustee means leading alongside the president and his vice president for the purpose of accomplishing the vision and purposes of TFC.  I am an alumni, the product of this school.  My character was formed here.  My faith was shaped here.  I want to give back!  Also, my son attends here, and I want to invest so that he can experience what I experienced. I have been on the board for approximately three years now.”

Moseley said, “My wife wanted to finish her college degree so,” through a roundabout way, “we came to TFC and she went to school.”  On a side note, Moseley states, “She’s almost 60!”  Carrying on, “Being around the school, you get to be around the things you love.  Our purpose is to help any way we can.”  He adds in, “I spent a lot of time on TV and radio, and I am proud of my wife, but I believe in TFC, the professors, and staff; they are all aiming at one purpose:  to build a better education facility to tell people about Jesus (because I don’t think we have as much time as some people do)!”

Wheeler said, “Being a trustee gives me the opportunity to be more involved with the lives of students and purpose of school, our purpose, and to look at administrative working of the college to see how that can better mirror the Scriptures upon which we’re based; a Christian college whose core is the Word of God.  Being on the board helps to look at who we are, what we do, and to keep the college moving in that direction.  I feel in love with the students at TFC.  I began to engage with them about becoming short term missionaries and doing interns around the country- being a trustee keeps me involved with students.  I have recruited for six years and am in my second term, so roughly eight or nine years it’s been that I’ve been involved now.”

These are only a few of the many stories that these wise men and women have to offer, and they are among the most genuine, compassionate people I have ever met.  I would encourage every member of TFC to interact with these sweet folks as you see them sporadically around campus.  Make them feel welcomed- they are as much a part of our family as any of us.  Get to know them and hear their stories- they’d love to do the same with you.

TFC Celebrates Homecoming

Mid-October is my favorite time of year. The air is cool and crisp (I can break out my sweaters,) the leaves begin to change, and alumni from many years past, and all over the world flock back to Toccoa Falls College to celebrate this place that was once their home. I’m always thankful to encounter alumni and get the chance to talk with them about their experience here, and I think it is hugely important that we as a campus hear their stories and learn from them. And every year, woven through all of the sentimentality of coming back, we love to have a good time.

The first of the major events that took place during homecoming weekend was the infamous basketball game between the current players and alumni. Lois Delaney Gymnatorium is packed with everyone from professors and their children to current and former students, to the parents of athletes, all coming to see the kick off (so to speak) of basketball season (to see the stats about the game, feel free to read Blaide Shafer’s article on homecoming sports).

Following the game was the homecoming ceremony during which the queen is crowned. Quiet whispers flood through the auditorium as the girls make their grand entrance. One professor’s daughter whispered with delight that “the princesses were coming!” Each girl was very admirable and perhaps worthy of the title of queen, but the crown went to senior representative Julia Lindsey. Former homecoming queen Miranda Cooper proudly gushed “Congratulations to Julia the queen! All of the ladies looked absolutely stunning and their hearts are just as beautiful. I just love all of them!” After the ceremony, the crowd migrated toward Earl Field, where a big white tent housed an ice cream social, hosted by many of our beloved faculty and staff members.

Saturday morning began with the homecoming parade, which featured an array of well crafted floats. Most all the clubs and associations were represented, from the pre-med majors to the artists. President Bob Myers and his family rode in the parade in style, making the slow drive around the campus in a white convertible. Another fantastic moment was the appearance of the homecoming queen and king from fifty years ago.

Saturday afternoon consisted of the duck race, another momentous occasion during the weekend. The Talon’s own Cheyenne Capin’s duck came in first place. Also going on in the afternoon was the grand opening of the museum located across the way from Gate Cottage. What an awesome place, so full of stories from those who have paved the way for us. If you get the chance to visit the museum, please do.

In addition to this, there were many sporting events covered by staff writer Blaide Shafer.

One of the most important parts of this life journey we’re on is to acknowledge where we have been and those that have gone before us. As many have said, it is undeniable that God has his hand on TFC, and that his presence here is evident. Our history is rich with blessings, and I am honored to be part of it. As a senior, my prayer for the underclassmen is that they would recognize what a gift it is to be here, and the impact that their presence here not only has on the college now, but will eventually have on the world. As our founder, Dr. Forrest once said, “the sun never sets on the graduates of Toccoa Falls College.”

The Downfall of the Prideful Immune System

For the last few weeks, I’ve been fighting the “TFC Sickness”. Although the term “TFC Sickness” sounds like a specific illness, it is actually a very general term that refers to the outbreak of several diseases and viruses that comes along with the change from warmer weather to Fall. It tends to get passed around campus pretty quickly, rendering professors confused by a large number of empty seats in their classes. If you don’t know what that is, I’m not sure how you could possibly miss it.

My confrontation with the TFC Sickness began simply with noticing that a friend on my hall was coughing and laying in bed most of the day. After a few days, his roommate became sick also. Being the great friend that I am, I made fun of them not being able to function, under the false assumption that my own immune system was an indestructible germ-barrier of which no illness could overtake. I was wrong.

A few days later, several friends and I went on a camping trip. I came ill-prepared for how cold it would be, bringing only a hoodie and a hammock to sleep in. At 4:00 AM, I woke up from my restful slumber to 40 degree weather, and I knew immediately that if I did not act quickly, I would die (or just be pretty cold the rest of the night). I was able to find an extra sleeping bag, but it was too late. The damage had been done, and the next day I began to exhibit the signs of the TFC Sickness.

After a few days, it had fully developed into a miserable cold, with a sinus infection to go along with it. My body forced me to stay in bed and sleep through several of my classes. Despite feeling terrible, I refused to go to a doctor. My pride kept me from doing anything to make myself better. I simply assumed that my “indestructible” immune system would handle it and that I’d be better in no time.

A week later, I could get out of bed and go to class, but it would be a mistake to think that this meant that I actually paid attention to any lectures or discussions. I was still holding out for the TFC Sickness to go away on its own.

I soon decided that I needed to make a trip back home because I had left almost all of my cold-weather related clothing five hours away in south Georgia. When I got home, my mother welcomed me with every possible medicine that might facilitate my recovery. I started taking the medicine and within just two days I felt much better.

Now, I’m in the stage where just a little bit of the TFC Sickness lingers on, still attempting to recapture the immune system it once so proudly controlled. I can’t help but think that if I had swallowed my pride (and ignored my slight fear of doctors), I could have been better much earlier. If I had just gone to see a medical professional, or if I had just went to Walmart to pick up some medicine at the beginning of the TFC Sickness, I would not be scrambling to get the notes I missed and my time would have been spent more productively.

The moral is this: If you or someone you know is sick, make sure that you/they get the help medical you/they need. Let your professors know that you’re sick; they tend to be decently nice and will work with you if you have assignments or tests in their classes. If you haven’t been sick yet, take preventative measures such as washing your hands and avoiding those who may transfer this plague to you. Take vitamins, make sure to get enough sleep, and get some exercise. The TFC Sickness will show you no mercy. Don’t let pride in your immune system become your downfall.