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    Carry a Big Stick

    … and other college search commandments.

    Todd Hertz

    lost in college search, tips on college searchLet me clear up a big theological misconception: Moses did not attend a Christian college. I know, that surprised me too. But I've done extensive research (about four minutes on Google) and found that it's a pretty well-established fact that Moses never even applied to a college.

    I discovered all of this because I wanted to do an article on how to choose a college like Moses did. This is a guy who God led on a journey of faith, so I figured he'd be a good model as you're starting out on a major faith journey of your own, college. I thought maybe Moses had left behind some tablets of 10 tips to finding the right school. But no such luck. Still, looking at Moses' journey of faith can give us some good ideas about how God can work in our faith journeys—including the college search.

    The first tip, of course, is to always carry a big stick that can turn into a snake. That one is easy. Here are three more tips:

    Look and Listen

    God had big plans for Moses. So how did he let Moses in on them? With flaming shrubbery. This may not seem very practical for your college search. After all, God doesn't seem to speak to his followers by burning stuff anymore (good thing, too: moms frown upon having their landscaping torched). But when you read Exodus 3:1-10, three insights jump out about God:

    1) God longs to communicate with his people. God has a plan for us (Jeremiah 29:11) and will guide us (Psalm 139:9-10). In Moses' case, God did that in a very direct way by coming down as A Hunk, A Hunk of Burning Shrub. God may not always be so direct—or fiery—but he is there, speaking and guiding.

    2) You never know when or how God will speak. It may be a gentle nudge. It may be a quiet feeling of confidence or comfort when you visit a school. It may be in thunder. It may be in a whisper. Or it may be through the words of a loved one (Moses learned this lesson in Exodus 18). God might even get your attention by making your donkey talk (Numbers 22). Ignore that last sentence if you don't own a donkey.

    3) Because God speaks in mysterious ways, we have to be ready to hear. Take Moses' reaction to that talking, burning bush. How would you react to that? I'd start looking around for Ashton Kutcher and his Punk'd crew. But not Moses. He goes to the bush to see what's up.

    According to Exodus 3:4, this is what happened next: "When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush. 'Moses! Moses!' And Moses said, 'Here I am'" (NIV).

    God may be trying to talk to you. Are you seeing the burning bush? Are you taking a closer look? Are you answering back with "Here I am"?

    Trust God

    The other day, I was leaving the supermarket (after buying stuff for S'mores in case I run into a burning bush) when my gas light popped on. I thought, I'll fill up on the way home. Minutes later, I pulled into my driveway. Somewhere in the 2 miles from the store to my house, I completely spaced out about getting gas.

    I said to myself, "Self, how can you be so forgetful?"

    But honestly, I have a lot of things to remember—like baseball stats and the lyrics to my hit parody song, "A Hunk, A Hunk of Burning Shrub." With all that going on in my head, I suppose some brain flatulence is normal. But there is one odd thing that we humans forget all the time: We forget what God can do. We forget how powerful he is. We forget what he's done. God saves us, guides us and provides, and then just days later we're like, "God has abandoned me. He can't help me with this problem!"

    If Moses was choosing a college, he'd have to remember that God is bigger than seemingly huge setbacks like speech impediments, high tuition, GPA requirements and rejection letters.

    Can you imagine if your mom came home tonight and said, "I'm gonna let you stay here tonight and feed you." And you said, "What? You can't handle that. You wouldn't do that for me. Do I know you?" That'd be crazy, because you'd just stayed at home with your mom the night before—but yet you'd already forgotten about her love and provision.

    Moses had one of these moments. In Exodus 3:5-6, he realizes that this huge fiery display is the Lord. The Creator of the world is speaking to him. He's standing before the God. A God so powerful that the ground around the bush is now sacred. A God so powerful that Moses averts his eyes because he's afraid.

    But then, by verse 11, Moses decides that God surely can't use him because he doesn't speak well. Did Moses forget God's power in just five verses? Apparently he was so wrapped up in self-doubt and fear (and maybe baseball stats) that he thought, No way God can overcome my weakness! But you know what? The God who created the universe out of nothing could overcome Moses' weaknesses. And he did.

    If Moses was choosing a college, he'd have to remember that God is bigger than seemingly huge setbacks like speech impediments, high tuition, GPA requirements and rejection letters. And above all, he'd have to trust God to make good on his promises. He always does: "All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28, NKJV).

    Don't Freak Out

    Ironically, remembering God's amazing power during the college search can sometimes create two false assumptions:

    1) Some people might assume that God is so powerful and mighty that he really can't care all that much about a trivial issue like what college you go to. There are too many wars, too much starvation and too many mute donkeys out there for him to care where you take English Composition 101, right?

    2) Others could assume that if God is so powerful and mighty, there's a lot of pressure to do exactly what he wants. If you make the wrong choice, you're toast. After all, he did reveal himself in a burning bush …

    helpful Biblical tips for your college search, Moses, Christian college,Moses' story helps us see the truth.

    First, God does care about the small details. Remember: This is a God who knows every hair on your head—even that one in the back that never quite stays down. In the path he laid out for Moses, God had every detail covered. Plagues? Check. Bread from the sky? Check. Plus: He gave Moses that cool snake-stick and sent Aaron along to be his PR rep (well, that's how I look at it).

    Second, don't put so much pressure on every little thing. The fact that God has a plan for you doesn't mean your life is like a big puzzle that you have to figure out just right or else God will smite you. Yeah, God is leading you along the path he has for you, but don't fear making a "wrong choice." Those words "wrong choice" are in quotes because with God, there may not actually be a wrong choice in what school you pick. He can redeem "anything." (OK, "anything" was in quotes just for fun. "Sorry.")

    As humans, we are going to make mistakes. Even Moses had issues; he tried to talk God out of his plans. But you know what? God redeemed Moses' mistakes. God still used him.

    Don't stress out about making the right decision. After all, real success—regardless of what school you choose—is about honoring God with your life. Colossians 3:23-24 says, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord … It is the Lord Christ you are serving" (NIV).

    With that said, maybe the best piece of advice Moses would give about finding the right school is to just live our lives to please the Lord. And maybe the second best piece of advice would be to find a cafeteria that doesn't get its bread off the ground every morning.