I remember the first time I cheated in school. It was on a spelling test. The word was use. I wrote out y-o-u-s (which technically is a word where I come from. Like: “Hey, what are yous guys doing over there?”). But that morning, there was something about the way y-o-u-s looked on the paper that caused my eyes to stray over to Phil’s. He had written u-s-e, which didn’t look right either. Where was the y? Use sure sounded like it needed a y. Well y or no y, for whatever reason I decided to trust Phil’s answer over my own. Carefully, I erased y-o-u-s and replaced it with u-s-e. And, my friends, the rest is history.
That day, I learned a valuable lesson – cheating works. If you don’t know the answer, look at someone who looks like they do and copy them. For better and worse that pretty much defines my growing up.
When I went on Young Life staff, there was this guy who looked to me like he had the answers. Believe it or not, his name was Fil, too, except he spelled his with an F instead of a Ph. Fil was older than me. I didn’t know how much older, but he talked really slow and soothing, which isn’t necessarily a sign of old age, but it was something I noticed about him. I knew he was older because, well one, he was in charge of us; and two, he dressed like a forty year old. Anyway, over the course of our three weeks together I pretty much decided that I wanted to be just like him.
As it turned out Fil lived in the next town over from where I was going on staff. Learning that, I decided then and there I was going to make Fil teach me everything he knew. I began to stalk him. Not exactly stalk him. More like I refused to let him out of my sight until he agreed to meet with me. I guess that is stalking. Well whatever it was, it worked.
Seventeen years later we’re still getting together. However, it didn’t take me that long to discover Fil didn’t have all the answers. Instead, he gave me something even better. He introduced me to the Jesus he knows.
Fil’s Jesus is a guy that does whatever it takes to show us how much we are loved. You might think a guy like that would be mushy and sentimental, but what I’ve come to discover is the word badass fits more closely to the Jesus Fil knows. Jim Rayburn, the Founder of Young Life, put it this way: “Christ is the strongest, grandest, most attractive personality ever to grace the earth.”[i] And over the last twenty plus years of getting to know him personally (Jesus not Jim Rayburn), I’m convinced he’s right. I’m also convinced Jesus graced this earth to give us the answers to life’s deepest questions: who am I? why am I here? what’s the point of it all? But not only that, Jesus came in order to make the answers possible. We’ll talk about that later.
For right now, what you need to know is this: there are answers to these questions. Actually, there are questions you need to answer, too. Get this: at the end of your life there will be a final exam. We’re all going to take it. Everyone of us. And guess what: There’s no extra credit. No make up work. And I don’t want to scare you, but the stakes are big. Your eternal fate depends on how you do on this test. That’s right. Heaven or hell hinges on the results.
Why am I telling you this? Because in this this book, we are not only going to talk about what’s on the exam, we are going to tell you the answers! That’s what this book is: everything you need to know to pass life’s final exam. And in the process, you might end up like me, falling in love with the Jesus Fil and I know.
All right, yous guys, get ready because you’re about to be taken to school.
[i] Rayburn, Jim. The Diaries of Jim Rayburn. Morning Star and White Caps Media, 2008. p. xvii. The quote continues: “Christ is the strongest, grandest, most attractive personality ever to grace the earth. But a careless messenger with the wrong method can reduce all this magnificence to the level of boredom…it is a sin to bore anyone with the gospel.” This last part is what has been remembered by most.
** Study Guides will soon be available on the Whitecapsmedia website. For now, contact me for a copy.