Why GBS?

Nothing excites me more than having the opportunity to answer the question that heads this article. Having graduated from the college and having served as president since 1995, I have a unique vantage point to answer that question. I feel so good about recommending GBS because:

  1. Track Record. For over 100 years, GBS has sent out a steady stream of deeply committed and highly effective Christian workers into every area of God’s kingdom into every area of the world. A high percentage of this number has become leaders in their field of service and has made an unusually significant impact on the kingdom.
  1. An institutional culture that is servant oriented and ministry minded. From Oswald Chambers in 1909, to our most recent camp evangelist, the comments are consistently the same. “The students here have a warm, friendly, servant spirit.” An emphasis on servant hood is a part of the GBS culture. The same can be said for ministry. I recently heard a disgruntled student remark, “All the kids here have their minds on ministry.” What a glorious criticism!

3. Whether it is in the cleanliness of our campus, the carefulness of our person, or    commitment to studies, GBS has a strong commitment to excellence in all that we do. God asks for our best, deserves our best, and here at GBS we train our students to give Him just that – their very best.

  1. Spiritual Depth. At the very core of the institution, there has been and remains both a call and a commitment to devout holy living. It is a balanced emphasis that stresses private devotion, careful living, lively corporate worship, and a public sharing of one’s faith.

God’s Bible School and College has made a significant difference in thousands of lives of young men and young women. I know that it did for me. I am also confident that it can do that for you.

Leadership

The rise and fall of societies and institutions has depended almost exclusively upon the quality of their leadership. George Barna, who has spent years researching the church in America, claims that the most serious weakness he has found within the church in the last fifteen years is the lack of leadership. Few would disagree that strong, bold, innovative, and godly leadership is in short supply.

During the Civil War, General Robert E. Lee said, “I believe our army would be invincible if it could be properly organized and officered. These men will go anywhere and do anything if properly led. There is the difficulty of proper commanders.” Lee knew that ultimate victory rested on the quality of leaders who led the troops. He wanted men with administrative skills, diligence, imagination, initiative, resourcefulness, and the ability to elicit the best in other men. Like Lee, people everywhere are looking for leaders. So, what does one look for in a leader?

Don’t put too much stock in outward appearance. Externally leaders often appear very different. Hitler, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and General George Patton would all be excellent subjects for a study in contrasts, except for the one thing they had in common—they were all leaders. God has used uncultured farmers, crude fishermen, and simple shepherds, as well as gifted scholars, astute politicians, and military tacticians to lead His causes. While most of us look at the outward appearance, God looks at the core of the person’s character. He looks for certain inner traits that will turn a lad into a leader. As a matter of fact, research shows that internally leaders have certain characteristics in common. Let me list them for you:

Leaders have clear-cut objectives. Leaders know what they want to achieve, why they want to achieve it, and how they are going to achieve it. They know that you will only achieve what you aim for, and so they keep focused on their goals and objectives.

  1. Leaders know themselves. Leaders know their strengths and weaknesses. They lead from their strengths and bring the right people around them to help where they know they have weaknesses.
  2. Leaders are persistent. They have staying power. They will sometimes give a lifetime of dedicated service just to see their objectives fulfilled.
  3. Leaders are learners. They never stop learning and growing. They have an insatiable appetite to expand their knowledge and learn how to lead more effectively.
  4. Leaders have the ability to attract and energize people. Leadership is influence. Leaders have the ability to influence others to accomplish a common goal.
  5. Leaders are risk takers. They don’t fear failure. They are willing to fail if they can learn something from it. They aren’t afraid to take risks with resources, ideas, and change if they believe good can come from it.
  6. Leaders are followers. No true Christian leader is a law unto himself. He asks others to follow him only as he follows Christ. He lives in obedience to the Word and those to whom he is accountable.

Some who are reading this right now are looking for a leader for your church or organization. Look for these core traits. Don’t be too caught up in outward appearance, or you may miss a David, Israel’s greatest king. Don’t be deceived by a hesitant speaker, or you may miss a Moses, Israel’s greatest leader. Don’t be turned off by a “thorn in the flesh,” or you may miss a Paul, the church’s greatest missionary. But look inside. Look for the right kind of heart. That’s where you will find a true leader.

Parents, Listen Up!!

According to a major consulting firm, there are approximately 370,000 Christian high school seniors in America; but only 16 percent (60,000) of them will attend a Christian/Bible college this fall! Of those who do attend, however, 98 percent will maintain their faith and stay in church. The remaining 84 percent will attend a secular university or junior college near home. It is tragic that 52 percent of these will lose their faith and drop out of church. In light of these facts, why wouldn’t Christian high school seniors—supported firmly by their parents—overwhelmingly want to attend a Christian college?

Another recent study shows that there are approximately 3000 churches that identify with the conservative values of a college like GBS or its peer colleges and institutes. (Remember, too, that there are still others who would not fully identify with GBS but who would still want the values-based education which it offers.) An observation was made in this study that denominations tend to send at least one student for every two churches to its denominational college.

There is some parallel also between church groups and the colleges they identify with. This means that there is a potential student pool for GBS and its peer colleges of approximately 1800 students. Yet enrollment records show that less than 50% of that number actually attends. Why is this true?

Our own survey shows that the key influence in students coming to GBS is their parents, as indeed it should be. However, our recruitment feedback also shows that the one reason college-bound seniors go to secular schools is also because of parents. What are the reasons parents give for this?

The most consistent reason is money. Community colleges are close to home and cheap. Secular universities are also close and reasonably priced for in state students who live at home. Scholarships abound in these state-funded schools for students who are high academic achievers. Moreover, the money which their children will earn after college graduation is also a major factor to parents. “I want my kids to have it better than I did,” they reason, “and, frankly, ministry doesn’t pay enough!” A parent pushing their kids for upward mobility is the number-one reason why Christian young people pursue secular training and jobs.

On the other hand, many parents send their sons and daughters hundreds of miles away from home to our campus because their core values place “learning how to live a life” much higher up the list of priorities than “how to make a living.” They want their children established spiritually and grounded Biblically. They know that this can happen here without sacrificing academic excellence or missing out on a solid classical education. They also know that the ministry opportunities that their children experience here impact them for life. They see the value of student residence life, discipleship groups and mentoring moments in the maturing process. They understand how important it is to have their sons and daughters around other kids who share their values and faith so that they will have appropriate choices for a life partner. GBS also provides a forum for these students to hear the most challenging preachers and missionaries from all around the world in an atmosphere where they can make themselves available for full-time Christian ministry and respond to whatever God’s will is for their life.

All this is true even for many parents who know that their children will only be here for a couple of years and then move on to a college that offers training for a career field we do not and could not offer. Such parents do not see coming to GBS as wasted time. Rather they see it as one of the best investments they can make in the future of their children.

Nothing is more important to parents than their children. Nothing is more important to Christian parents than the spiritual welfare of their children. All of us here at GBS understand that and work incredibly hard to respond to that sacred trust with the highest standards of spiritual and academic excellence. God has honored that hard work and placed our graduates in positions of ministry, influence and responsibility all over the world.

It is natural for every parent to want their children to succeed. But for them to succeed without being in the center of God’s will – will be the most miserable failure of all!

It’s A Wonderful Life

The Greatest Gift, written by Philip Van Doren Stern, is a story about a man who wants to accomplish something in his own life but is so busy helping others that life seems to pass him by. Despondent over what appears to be a very ordinary—if not a wasted—life, he wishes he had never been born. He gets his wish, and through the help of a guardian angel he sees the world as it would have been had he never lived. After viewing life from such a unique perspective, he concludes that life is indeed a wonderful gift. Though Stern never found anyone willing to publish the story, it finally found its way into the hands of filmmaker Frank Capra, who turned it into the all-time Christmas classic It’s a Wonderful Life.

I have not had any life-changing visits from a guardian angel, but I have had my perspective on this life altered in recent months. I am one of those Christians who truly believes the best is yet to come! It has not been tempting for me to spend any time or money collecting the trinkets and toys of this present world. I have not craved houses and lands. I have had a good life, a happy marriage, and wonderful children, who are now grown and established; and so any time God is ready for me to go, I am ready. There are no sad stories, no regrets about leaving, and no struggle to grasp a few more fleeting moments of time here on earth. It’s been a great journey! (For those who are shocked by this, no, I am not depressed; and, yes, I would like to know my grandchildren.) After all, earnest Christians live with a very loose grip on this present world. Right? Right!

We are only pilgrims passing through the temporal headed for the eternal. Right? Right! This life is inferior at best, and the sooner we slip the bonds of mortal existence and are clothed with the eternal, the better. Right? Not quite! Some months ago God began to speak to me about the wonderful gift He has given us in our earthly physical life. It should not be minimized or demeaned because it is not as blissful a state as the life to come, nor should one just endure it until liberated by heaven. Rather, it should be lived with deep gratitude and respect as a wonderful gift from God. It is good, not because I make it so, but because He has made it so.

God created life and declared it good. God gave Adam and Eve each other and the created world around them to enjoy richly. He considers this physical life sacred and reserves the severest penalties for those who destroy it. The first promise attached to a commandment was the promise of a long life. God often promised length of days as a way of honoring His faithful servants in the Old Testament. All of this is still true, despite the fall of man and the curse of sin.

Obviously, God sees the life He gives us as very good! Don’t confuse God’s gift of life that is good with what the world calls the “good life.” The two are polar opposites.  The citizens of this present world chase after the “good life,” grabbing all they can get and holding it as tightly-fisted as possible. They generally succeed in keeping it long enough to make themselves thoroughly miserable before losing it all. Christians, however, have given up the “good life” so that they may enjoy a life that is truly good.

They do not grab for what they can get but rather hold everything they possess in an open palm. They clutch nothing to themselves but God. Thereby they can enjoy all things without those things affecting their joy.

If God views our earthly life as good, then His perspective ought to become our perspective. We should see every moment of our life here as a blessed gift to be richly enjoyed, life as a glorious journey marked by His grace. I don’t need health or wealth or popularity or beauty or anything else to make my life good. All I need is to walk with Him and remain in Him moment by moment. Such a view of life is neither a shallow optimism nor a refusal to acknowledge the deep darkness that life can bring. It isn’t ignoring the curse of sin and its awful physical consequences. But it is refusing to let those things blind us to the ultimate goodness of this life. It is acknowledging that every day is a gift from God—a gift that when received gratefully can transform the most common and ordinary moment into joyful living. It is a statement of faith that says pain, sorrow and trouble do not define my existence, determine my happiness or have the last word!

If God sees life as good, then His perspective should be reflected in the way we live it. God has given me some real-life object lessons to illustrate this point. Oscar Johnson, a dear friend, died recently after battling cancer for several years. Oscar’s life taught me so much about how one should truly enjoy each and every day. Oscar knew for over two years that he was dying. The joy and optimism with which he lived those years was a powerful witness to hundreds of people. During his last hospitalization, I was alone with him and took the opportunity to tell him how much he meant to my family and me and to say goodbye. That opened the door to talk about dying. He said to me, “Brother Avery, I have never walked this way before. I don’t know what you’re supposed to do when you’re dying.” And then with a big smile he said, “So I’m just going to enjoy my family, witness to my doctor, and take a nap.” Oscar was holding life in an open palm. He was rejoicing in every moment he had, and others were incredibly impacted by that joy.

A few weeks ago I attended the funeral of alumnus John Case, Jr. John died suddenly from a rare form of cancer at the age of forty-two. Hundreds came to the viewing and the funeral. His life had impacted so many people for what appears to be one primary reason—he loved life, and it showed! From the twinkle in his eye, to the lilt in his voice, to the humor in his words, John left those around him with the feeling that life is good and that he was enjoying it! A simple phone call from John could be the bright spot in a person’s day. What a great way to live!

It is doubtful that anyone was ever influenced toward the life to come by someone who despised the one he or she was living now. Life is good, and as Christians we should demonstrate that goodness to those with whom we interact.

As we celebrate God’s unspeakable gift in Christ this Christmas season, it would be good also to celebrate another of His wonderful gifts—the gift of life. Important celebrations require planning and thought. Last year on Christmas morning, before my family and I opened our gifts, we read the Christmas story, prayed together, and then I read some prepared remarks about how good God had been to our family and how grateful I was for each of them. I then mentioned some specific things about each one that I deeply appreciated. After I finished, each family member did the same. At times we were so overcome with emotion we couldn’t speak. When it was over, we embraced each other and realized anew how wonderful life really is! If you’re alone, read a prepared letter to God and thank Him for the life He has given you. You will not be alone for long! Whatever your circumstance, don’t miss an opportunity this year to celebrate all of life. Because it really is wonderful!

Closing the Gap Between Knowing and Being

I have always been fascinated by what people say when they pray. The prayers of a great saint are not only edifying but revealing. They tell you something about the one praying as well as offer insight into the needs of those he prays for. Reading the prayers of the apostle Paul explains what I mean (read Ephesians 1:15-23, 3:14-21; Philippians 1:9-11; Colossians 1:9-11). The Apostle’s prayers consistently reflect two great requests: enlightenment and enablement. Paul’s earnest desire for his spiritual children is that they might have a growing knowledge of God’s will and power to live out that will.

Paul understood the importance of knowledge. He often began his prayer by asking that believers might be filled with spiritual wisdom, understanding, and an ever-growing knowledge of God. This knowledge would come from scripture, the teachings of the apostles and prophets, experientially through a daily walk with Jesus, and through the enlightening work of the Holy Spirit. Paul’s concern that his children grow in knowledge was not simply concern for intellectual attainment but for moral and behavioral transformation. Paul wants us to know so that we can be.

Paul’s companion request was for power, not power to work signs and wonders but the enabling power of the Holy Spirit to live beautiful, holy lives that manifest the fruit of the Spirit. Knowledge alone can’t take the wobble out of our walk. For knowledge to effect change it must be activated. One may be a Greek scholar and a master theologian and at the same time be a failure at living out a holy life. One needs power to translate what one knows into what one is and does.

The natural question that should follow is, “How is this power activated in one’s life?” Understanding the source of this power is an important first step. It is not self-generated. It does not have its source in human invention or determination. Paul tells the Ephesians that it is “His power”; that we are “strengthened with might through His Spirit”; and “according to the power that works in us” (meaning the power of the Holy Spirit). To the Philippians he says that we have these fruits of righteousness “by Jesus Christ.” To the Colossians it is “according to His glorious power” and “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” To the Galatians he says, “Walk in the Spirit, and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh…but the fruit of the Spirit is….” Paul makes it clear that the power to live godly lives comes only through divine enablement.

The question still remains, “How is the Holy Spirit’s power unleashed in my life?” Again, there is something we must understand. The power of the Holy Spirit is not a thing that we possess. It is not like a high-octane fuel additive that supercharges our spiritual engine. The Holy Spirit is a person who lives within us in intimate relationship. He is there because we have willingly surrendered our lives to His control. And whatever He controls He empowers. And when He empowers, we are able to manifest the character of the God we serve. The key to this inner strength is total surrender. As we walk in the light and mature in Christ, we will be enlightened to new areas that need His enablement.   These new areas must be surrendered too, so that the Holy Spirit can give us victory and power in them. If we aren’t careful we will be tempted to handle these in our strength, and the end result will be failure.

Oswald Chambers said it succinctly when he declared that “to be our utmost for His Highest is not a matter of willing, wrestling, debating or reasoning, but of surrender.” If you want to close the gap between what you know you should be and what you are — you must close the gap between what is under your control and what is under His.

 

Christ Came Down At Christmas

At the close of the First World War, Prince Edward of Britain visited a hospital that was caring for thirty-six of Britain’s greatest war heroes. The Prince was taken first to a ward of twenty-four men. Before leaving, he asked, “Are there not others?” The nurse responded in the affirmative, but she had questioned whether or not the Prince wanted to see those who were more seriously wounded. Demanding to see them all, he was taken to another room of eleven men. The Prince was stunned at the awful condition of these noble defenders to the Crown. He was moves to tears as he offered each and deepest appreciation for his noble service.

Again upon leaving the room the Prince remarked that if he had counted right, there was still one more. The nurse remonstrated rather strongly about seeing the last one since that veteran was in isolation and his condition was so critical. The Prince demanded a visit. The nurse protested that the situation of the man might truly be unbearable to the royal visitor. Edward would not be dissuaded and was soon standing by the bedside of the dying hero. He was not prepared, however, for what he saw. The brave soldier had taken the worst of a fiery explosion. Much of his body had been either blown or burned away. His face was disfigured beyond recognition. The stench of death lay heavy in the room. The Prince shuddered as a wave of horror swept over his soul from what he saw.

However, after a moment to regain himself, the Prince leaned over the bed, and calling the soldiers name, told him who he was. The old warrior’s eyes twitched; and the stub of an arm on the right side of his body jumped in an effort to salute. Prince Edward stooped down in the tenderest tones poured out the deepest thanks on behalf of his country. Then stooping lower, he kissed the disfigured brow of the dying soldier. This was a condescending moment for the noble Prince of the English throne.

There is a greater One, however, who has stooped far lower to plant the kiss of redemption upon the execrable and wretched brow of lost humanity. Oh what incomparable condescension! The King of Glory came down. He wrapped himself in the fading garment of our humanity and pitched his fleshy tent in silence on straw in a stable under a star. Why did he come? He came to save! How would he save? By identifying completely with our humanity, yet remaining the sinless Son of God.

You see, God had created man but he had never been a man. He had watched men toil, but he had never blistered his own hands with a carpenter’s tool. He had never felt the onslaught of the tempter, or had his soul been pierced with the sorrows of life. He had seen men sink into the hopeless depths of the grave, but He had never felt the cold grip of death or spread His omnipotent shoulders on the bottom of a sepulcher. But He would yield Himself to be judged and unjustly condemned at Pilate’s bar, so that we might be acquitted at the tribunal of heaven. He took our place and was crucified as a despicable wretch, so that rebellious sinners might be reconciled to God and sent forth as kings and priests. He suffered the sting of death, yet He broke the bars of the grave so that we might cry, “O death where is thy sting? Oh grave where is thy victory?”

Why did Christ come down? He came down that His mysterious Incarnation might reunite us to God; that His Atonement would purchase our justification; that his death would become the spring of our eternal life; that His resurrection would be the pledge of our glory; and His ascension the triumph of our souls!

Hallelujah! Christ came down at Christmas!

The Security of Footsteps In Prayer

The president’s home here at GBS is a one-hundred-year-old house with a basement, two floors for living and a third-floor attic. Needing a place for my “prayer closet,” I tidied up a corner room in the attic that has three small windows overlooking the campus. I was elated with my little chamber because it was the one place in the house that I could go that gave me both complete solitude and the confidence that no one could hear anything as I discoursed with the Master. I did know that my prayer room was directly above my son’s bedroom. I didn’t know that with every step I took (I walk when I pray) a corresponding squeak could be heard by my son below.

A few days ago I was up in my room praying at an unusual time. Josh happened to be in his bedroom studying. When I came down, he asked in a concerned voice if something was wrong or if I was preaching that night.

With my curiosity aroused, I simply responded, “Why do you ask, son?”

“Well,” he said, “I just heard the floor squeaking in the prayer room.”

Apologetically I said, “I hope I didn’t disturb you!”

He responded with words that I will take with me to my grave. “Oh, no, Dad! It makes us feel safe when we hear you up there.”

My own childhood was marked by a praying mother. My memories of growing up on a small farm are filled with the sounds and scenes of Mother praying. Many were the times that I would follow the sound of her voice to a fallen log at the end of the woods, or to a cattle trough behind the old barn, only to find her in deep communion with God. That upturned face, bathed with tears, is etched on my mind’s eye forever. That familiar voice, interceding for her family, still rings in my ears as if I were a boy again hiding in the shadows of that old barn. Death has stilled her voice, but the legacy of her prayer life lives on.

Parents, are you praying? There is no experience of conversion or any work of grace, which will provide immunity against the lack of prayer. When prayer fades out, power fades out. If intercession ceases, spiritual security in the home is lost. We are as spiritual as we are prayerful – no more, no less.

Our children need to hear the steps of Mom and Dad in prayer or on the way to prayer. I heard them, and I want my boys to hear them, so that someday they will give their children “the security of footsteps in prayer.”