“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 6:1
I have the great privilege of being a student at Bethlehem College & Seminary, in addition to my work as a staff member. My fellow second-year seminarians and I are currently working our way slowly through Matthew’s “Sermon on the Mount” in Greek with Dr. Chris Bruno. This first discourse in Matthew’s gospel is so rich in application as I survey things from my Director of Admissions desk.
My colleague, Rick Segal, recently announced an incredible opportunity for a $300,000 matching gift. Jesus has pretty clear instructions on how to approach something like this:
“When you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:3–4
I pray that many of you will take up this opportunity, and I pray that you’ll do it in secret, and not for your own praise. Christian hedonists are after an eternal ROI, after all.
God has blessed us in a number of ways this year. Our numbers are up across the board compared to last year: more inquiries, more applications, more accepted students. Our Fall 2018 undergraduate cohort is starting to fill up. (Which, *ahem*, if you know of someone who might grab one of these remaining spots, please refer them here, or point them to an application here.) What’s the difference? Darcy and I are working as hard as always, and while I do hope that I’m making fewer mistakes in my second year, I can’t point to one tangible reason for this increase. I’m convinced the answer is prayer:
“When you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Matthew 6:7-8
Prayer and hard work aren’t contradictory. Pastor John (following the apostle Paul) has taught us to “act the miracle,” after all. Fundamentally, though, I point to the humble prayers of saints like you that:
“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:10
When prayers like that are asked on Bethlehem’s behalf, our heavenly Father loves to answer.
Finally, a word regarding our recent seminary applicants. The Seminary Admissions Committee recently made our selection of the Fall 2018 cohort, and those men are deciding right now whether to move their families to Minnesota to pursue 4 years of intense training, so as to better serve the church. Many of them are wrestling with questions of housing, employment, finances, schools for their children, and more. I would remind them of what our good Shepherd says:
“Do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:31–33
My daily prayer for these men is that God would increase their faith during this season of decision, and prove himself faithful to them yet again.
So please, give generously; send students our way; rejoice with us at God’s blessing; but above all keep us in your prayers, and watch expectantly with us for what our Father will do this upcoming year.
Director of Admissions