Food for the Soul

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Posted 5/22/17 at 8:58 PM | Audra Jennings

Author Mike H. Mizrahi joins forces with iCan Shine

Redemption Press
The Great Chattanooga Bicycle Race by Mike H. Mizrahi

Proceeds from new book will help organization hold bicycle camps for children with disabilities

Learning to ride a bicycle for the first time is a momentous occasion for anyone, but it can be life-changing for children and young adults with disabilities. Author Mike H. Mizrahi, who recently released his debut novel, The Great Chattanooga Bicycle Race (Redemption Press), has partnered with nonprofit organization iCan Shine to help teach children with disabilities to learn to ride a bike. Mizrahi will donate 50% of the proceeds from the sale of each book to iCan Shine, Inc.

iCan Shine is an international 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit organization that teaches children, teens and young adults with disabilities to ride a conventional two-wheel bicycle. The nonprofit conducts more than 100 five-day iCan Bike programs in 35 US states and four provinces in Canada, serving approximately 3,000 people with disabilities each year.

Mizrahi hopes to provide those with disabilities the chance to discover they’re a natural on the “wheel,” much like The Great Chattanooga Bicycle Race’s 19-year-old Anna Gaines, who is disabled and discovers her love of bicycling after a visit to Brooklyn. Upon returning home, she becomes the first woman to ride the streets of Chattanooga, clad in bloomers, a risqué move at the turn of the 20th century.

“Imagine the smiles on the faces of kids and young adults with disabilities as they experience a newfound freedom on the seat of a two-wheeler,” Mizrahi says. "I’m thrilled to dedicate my new novel to [iCan Shine’s] continuation. The young, female character in my story, set in 1895, finds this same independence on the seat of a bicycle. The tie-in is perfect.”

“Learning to ride a two-wheeler is a rite of passage for most children, but not a guarantee for children with disabilities,” says Lisa Ruby, founder and executive director of iCan Shine, Inc. “Learning to ride increases self-confidence and independence. Biking brings a new family recreational activity as well as potential independent transportation for people with disabilities. Mike Mizrahi’s character Anna is a beautiful testimony to the courage, perseverance and accomplishment of all riders with a disability.”

Learn more about and purchase a copy of The Great Chattanooga Bicycle Race at www.mikehmizrahi.com. You can also find Mike onFacebook (AuthorMikeMizrahi) and Twitter (@MikeHMiz). Learn more about iCan Shine at www.iCanShine.org.

Posted 5/11/17 at 1:40 PM | Audra Jennings

Hold onto hope, even when it doesn’t make sense

Part 1 of an interview with Cynthia Ruchti,

Author of A Fragile Hope

Abingdon Press
A Fragile Hope by Cynthia Ruchti

In A Fragile Hope, Cynthia Ruchti shows how hope grows when seeds are planted—even in the muddy middle of life.

Josiah Chamberlain’s life’s work revolves around repairing other people's marriages. When his own is threatened by his wife's unexplained distance, and then threatened further when she's unexpectedly plunged into an unending fog, Josiah finds his expertise, quick wit and clever quips are no match for a relationship that is clearly broken.

Feeling betrayed, confused, and ill-equipped for a crisis this crippling, he reexamines everything he knows about the fragility of hope and the strength of his faith and love. Love seems to have failed him. Will what’s left of his faith fail him, too? Or will it be the one thing that holds him together and sears through the impenetrable wall that separates them?

Q: Your leading man, Josiah, is a well-known marriage expert yet he failed to notice how his marriage was crumbling around him. How did he miss the warning signs?

Even in the best marriages, couples often misread the signals their partner is giving. It can range from things as simple as “Can we turn up the furnace?” to as complicated as “I’m more miserable than I can explain.” When the husband or wife — or both — become consumed with their own needs or the demands of their jobs or never-ending concerns for their children, they can miss the subtle hints their neglected marriage needs attention. Josiah isn’t alone in failing to practice what he preaches. We’ve probably all been guilty of that, especially when stressed or overwhelmed. In Josiah’s case, an air of arrogance and self-absorption — both born from his past hurts — contribute to his missing the warning signs.

It’s natural to become absorbed with our own problems and concerns, our own responsibilities and even our diligence to respond to the needs of the people around us and miss what’s going on in our homes, with the people we love the most, who mean the most to us. What do we miss in our spouse’s facial expression when we’re glued to our phone screens or computer screens? What sighs are we neglecting? What busyness could be more important than staying connected with our family and with God? Yet it happens all too often. What if all we changed about our relationships is that we paid attention? What might happen? Neglect can kill a marriage as dramatically as betrayal. Josiah might have made that a speaking topic. He wasn’t prepared to see it lived out in his own home.

Q: Given his career, one may argue Josiah should have been equipped to face a crisis. What strengths helped him through the most difficult time of his life, and in what ways could he have been better prepared?

When the crisis is in its infancy, Josiah’s education and experience almost get in the way. He trips over his own advice. Eventually he learns how to wade through his quick-tip counsel and toss everything that doesn’t align with counsel of a much higher level than his own thoughts. His faithfulness to his wife and to his underdeveloped faith — even when it doesn’t make sense to remain faithful — serves him well. What a lesson for all of us! When Josiah begins to lose his tentative grip on hope — hope that Karin will ever come back to him, hope that what they’re facing won’t be as bad as it looks, hope that God will intervene somehow — he falters.

Josiah and his audiences and reading public all considered him an expert at relationships, but so much of it was theory that fell apart in the harsh light of betrayal.

It’s often when we feel the most sure of ourselves that life will smack us in the face with a reminder of our relative weakness. God invited us to lean on Him, assuring us that when we feel the weakest, His strength will rise to cover us. When hope looks paper-thin, God assures us it is not. It’s an anchor for our soul.

Cynthia Ruchti, author of A Fragile Hope

Q: Can you share the progression and growth Josiah made throughout the story? How important were the mentors who came along during the journey?

Without giving away too much of the story, one of the primary ways Josiah grew was in his understanding of love’s truest definition. He thought he knew. Don’t we all? As the story progresses, so does his understanding of what love really means, what it really looks like, how it responds in crisis. He had the advantage of a couple of mentor-like characters who helped clear away the fog in his thinking, who helped anchor him and served as listening ears when he was finally ready to talk. The emotionally healthy among us can point to people whom we consider our mentors, friends or family who play the listening ear role. Josiah rejected the help of some who reached out to him. Eventually the people who did serve that vital role in his life — redirecting his self-absorbed thoughts, reconnecting him with the God of hope, standing by him no matter the circumstances — were people who had come through their own distresses with integrity. They lived lives of grace, which made them great candidates for offering trustworthy advice.

As important as mentors are, we can’t advertise, “I need a mentor!” Usually a mentor/mentee relationship will develop organically. We observe those around us who navigate personal crises with rock-solid faith and unflappable hope. They don’t unravel. Love is a hallmark of all they do. That’s a mentor worth following.

Q: All of your books address hope in some way. How did hope become the center of your writing?

In my early days as a novelist, which has really been less than 10 years ago, I used the tagline “Hope that glows in the dark.” Hope sometimes shows up best against a dark backdrop. However a few years ago, as I considered what it was about hope that made it appealing, needed and accessible, I adopted a new tagline: “I can’t unravel. I’m hemmed in Hope.” I tell stories hemmed in hope, whether through novels, novellas, devotions, nonfiction or speaking events. Hope is in short supply these days for many people, but God has an abundant supply of it for us. When we embrace that truth, we can truly be hemmed in hope.

Q: What is the message you hope readers take away from reading A Fragile Hope?

“Disappointment and betrayal are always more layered than we imagine. Hope is always stronger than it appears, even at its most fragile.”

In addition to hoping readers will finish the book with a satisfied sigh, I pray they’ll also have gained a deeper appreciation for the power of love and the strength of hope. Fragile? It only seems that way.

To keep up with Cynthia Ruchti, visitwww.cynthiaruchti.com. You can also follow her onFacebook (Cynthia Ruchti), Twitter (@cynthiaruchti) and Pinterest (cynthiaruchti).

 

Posted 5/5/17 at 11:25 AM | Audra Jennings

New historical novel releases in time for National Bicycle Month

Faith, patience and courage in adversity help a young woman find her way

Debut novel by Mike H. Mizrahi highlights how the bicycle paved the way for women’s rights

Redemption Press
The Great Chattanooga Bicycle Race by Mike H. Mizrahi

We live in a world where a device on our wrist can detect our every step and vital sign while our phones pop up with notifications telling us where we are, in case we did not already know. Too easily we take for granted the great inventions of the past that drastically changed the world at the time they were introduced. Take the bicycle, for example. In his debut novel, The Great Chattanooga Bicycle Race (Redemption Press/May 1, 2017), author Mike H. Mizrahi tells the story of a woman who creates waves by not only riding a bicycle, but doing so in bloomers. A woman riding a bicycle in pants seems trivial to us now, but at the turn of the 20th century, it was a very big deal and played a part in the advancement of women’s rights. FULL POST

Posted 5/4/17 at 3:07 PM | Audra Jennings

What were you born to do?

Part 2 of an interview with Lisa Lloyd

Author of Chasing Famous

Lisa Lloyd, author of Chasing Famous

What were you born to do? Who were you created to be? What’s the yearning deep within your soul?

What if you could live into that very purpose? This kind of living requires us to see ourselves as instruments designed to be used for the glory of God. But most of us don’t see ourselves this way. Instead, we resign ourselves to be spectators in the audience, still waiting for our names to be called—to be cast in that next big role. Of course, we all hope to be selected. However, sometimes in our desire to be chosen, we turn our focus to others—hoping they will select us. We end up auditioning for life, always striving to make the cut and gain approval. And in our desire to be chosen, we forget that God’s already cast us in a unique role that only we can play. FULL POST

Posted 5/4/17 at 3:04 PM | Audra Jennings

Living the life you’ve always auditioned for

Part 1 of an interview with Lisa Lloyd

Author of Chasing Famous

New Hope Publishers
Chasing Famous by Lisa Lloyd

Life can be compared to a series of auditions. Regardless of who we are, we are constantly auditioning for a part: to be the most loving spouse, attentive parent or amazing employee. It is human nature to want to be loved, affirmed and accepted. Whether it is conscious or not, all these desires focus inwardly. In Chasing Famous: Living the Life You’ve Always Auditioned For (New Hope Press), Lisa Lloyd helps readers shift the focus outwardly and back on God and His glory.

Q: The phrase “chasing famous” brings to mind some vivid images. How does your book spin the idea of fame?

As an actor, when I think of “famous people,” they are on another level. They are esteemed, rich, and successful—they appear to have everything. I want to be them and chase after what I think is bringing them their success so I can have it too. There’s an L.A. actress who beat me out for a role in a TV movie about a year ago, and now I see her all over the place on national commercials. She’ll pop up on TV, and I’ll think, Oh, goodness, this girl again! In the deep recesses of my heart I wonder, What do I need to do to have her success? Do I need to take a different acting workshop? What if I lived in Los Angeles—would I have access to the things she has? In my jealousy I ask, If I was in a different situation would I be able to have her success?

Whether we are actors or not, we all want some level of fame. We chase after it. We look at other people, compare ourselves and say, “If only I were doing what they were doing . . . If only I had that house, body, or family situation . . . If only I was in their circumstance, then I would have their success and fame.” Sometimes we go after what we want and someone else has, or we live depressed because we will never have it. That’s just idolatry, right? It’s very “me-focused,” and because it’s so self-focused, it will never bring fulfillment because my focus of self is the complete antithesis of focus on God.

God wants to be glorified through me. He wants me to chase the fame of His name, not the fame of mine. He wants to use my past mistakes, talents, and everyday life for His glory. My book helps us know how we can chase the fame of God’s name with everything in us, though everything in us clings to our own self-preservation and chases after our own glory.

Q: As an actress, the pressure to seek fame and fortune must be heavy. Share with us how you came to seek to put God in the spotlight and eventually write your book, Chasing Famous.

I drove to an audition one day, reviewing my lines and wiping my sweaty palms on my pants. I focused on thinking about what I needed to do to book the job. I just sensed the Lord say to my spirit, “Lisa, I need you to be more concerned about making Me famous at this audition than yourself.” It stopped me emotionally because I never really considered the magnitude of glorifying God in my work. I always just kind of threw up a prayer that was very me-focused, “Lord help me book this audition for the paycheck and the sake of getting to work on my craft.” But really, deep down, I wanted the applause when people saw me on TV. My desire as an actress was the glorification of me. To hear the Lord say I needed to focus on the opposite was a radically new thought.

As I drove, I considered making God famous at the audition would look like me walking into the building asking God to shine through me. To be focused on the other actors auditioning—to talk with them and ask them questions about themselves. To stand before the director, not concerned about being chosen, but being a light. To offer the gifts and talents God’s given me as an act of worship. Then the booking of the job was not up to me but to Him.

After that audition, I saw all over Scripture how God has positioned and purposed us as His glory—and image-bearers—to proclaim the fame of His name to all the world. Then I was asked to speak somewhere, and every subject or topic I spoke on came back to the reason of why we do these things (parent, trust God, work toward racial reconciliation, etc.). It’s all because it brings God glory and makes Him famous.

Q: How are our lives similar to one audition after another?

In an audition, I’m hoping to be pretty enough, quirky enough, talented enough, funny enough, and fashionable enough so I can be the one chosen. Many people have to agree on me to book the job—the director, the producers, and the client. In life, I’m constantly walking around hoping people will like me, choose me, approve me, select me. I want to be enough for them. Sometimes this is blatantly obvious; other times it’s very subtle, and we don’t even know we’re trying to be enough. It’s only when we realize we’ve already been selected by God and have to do nothing for Him that we find peace. Now we can live a life of security, knowing our job is not to be selected, but to point people still seeking approval to the One who gives it unconditionally.

Q: Striving to be the best at something, whether it be a loving spouse, supermom, or excellent employee, is nothing new, but how has social media made us even more competitive?

Social media is the perfect place to hide behind a screen, showing the world only the good stuff of our lives. Seldom do we become vulnerable and share how we struggle. When we are vulnerable, we set ourselves up for people’s pity and let them see a side of us that’s not completely “with it.” We have to answer to this as people comment beneath our posts. Instead we just see (and often post) achievements and successes.

A friend of mine on social media is a model, and it’s easy for me to compare myself to her. I get sidetracked from my true Identity and fail to remember God doesn’t want me to be her—God wants me to be me. When I’m sidetracked by who I’m not, I lose focus of Whose I am.

We can combat this when we dare to be vulnerable on social media. Vulnerability breeds vulnerability, and it can set people free to know they are not alone and Christians do not, in fact, have it all together. We all need Jesus, and we make Him famous when we say so.

Lisa Lloyd, author of Chasing Famous

Q: You write, “God delights in using our shortcomings, and even our former disdain for His name, to His glory.” Can you give us an example of how He’s used your experiences for His glory?

Though I was a Christian as a teenager, I didn’t live like one. I wanted to but wanted the love of people more, especially boys. I lost my virginity at 15, and by the time I was 18, I was pregnant. I was headed to college and was terrified. In the center of my crisis pregnancy, I thought my only viable option was abortion, so that’s what I did.

A month later, a Christian friend of mine reminded me God had plans for my life, but it was up to me if I wanted Him to fulfill them. He couldn’t press forward with all He had for me if I was living as I was. I needed to give up my current way of living to experience God to His fullest. In that moment, I saw my sin and wanted nothing to do with it. I wanted to change. I asked God to forgive me and felt Him say to me there was nothing I would ever do to make Him not love me. He told me I’d need to leave behind the friendships and behaviors that were currently easy for me. If I did, He would make it worth it.

This story is why I am who I am and do what I do. It’s why I’ve written this book and want to live for the glory of His name.

Q: You experienced a dramatic redemption with Christ. What would you say to the person who is too entrenched in pain, frustration, anger, or guilt to see the reality of Christ and the true freedom He offers?

I’ve met many of these people, especially after they hear my story of premarital sex and abortion as a teenager. To these people, I ask them what they’ve seen in God’s character that tells them He will respond any differently to them than He did to me. There is nothing. It is Satan who has us believing God will hold our records of wrongs against us when, in fact, God wants to give us freedom so He can use our past to show others how amazing He is! It takes bravery to trust God in this and give up the shackles we’ve grown accustomed to, but there is a free life waiting for us. The prison door is wide open for us to leave through. It’s up to us to walk.

Q: Has playing so many characters and personalities made it difficult for you to find your own identity and purpose in Christ? What do you do when you discover your focus has shifted back to self?

Not so much playing the characters, but my purpose gets skewed when I try to find my identity and value in my work as opposed to God. At any moment, I could no longer be an actor—I could be in a car accident, for example. If my worth is tied up in my career, I will be lost. My worth must be wrapped up in the fact I’m God’s. This is easy for me to say but much harder to live out.

I have to surround myself with reminders of truth, such as time in the Word, time with my godly husband, or time with a godly friend, to put me back in perspective. If I can remember that being an actor or booking the next job won’t give me the applause of Jesus when I get to heaven, then I can usually get back on track. However, I often need outside sources to remind me of this when I’m consumed by my own thoughts. It’s important I work to have those sources of repetitious truth at the ready.

View the book trailer for Chasing Famous and learn more about Lisa Lloyd at chasingfamousbook.com, on Facebook (LisaJLloyd), and via Twitter (@LisaJLloyd).

 

Posted 5/3/17 at 7:05 PM | Audra Jennings

A Christ-Follower’s Guide for the Journey to college

Part 2 of an interview with Jonathan Morrow,

Author of Welcome to College: A Christ-Follower’s Guide for the Journey

Welcome to College by Jonathan Morrow

Is there a more frightening question for a graduating high school senior than "What will you do with your life?" In college, whether they realize it or not, students will answer that question every day with each decision. All of the new friends and new experiences of higher education will shape their future. It's critical that students know how to handle college before they're in the thick of it.

In Welcome to College: A Christ-Follower’s Guide for the Journey (second edition) (Kregel Publications), Jonathan Morrow tackles the tough questions that arise during these formative years, including:

  • How do you grow spiritually?
  • How do you manage your time to both study well and have fun?
  • Is all truth relative?
  • Are there good reasons to be a Christian?
  • As a Christian, how should you view issues like dating and sex?

Q: What challenges do college students face today that may not have been as prevalent when you wrote the first edition of Welcome to College nine years ago?

The two biggest issues drastically emerging throughout the last few years are (1) the tyranny of tolerance and (2) challenges to the biblical understanding of God design for sexuality and marriage. There is growing confusion among young Christians about homosexuality and the Bible. With the success of the LGBT agenda in getting same-sex marriage legalized in 2015 by the Supreme Court, this conversation has only become more prominent. In this update, I spent time helping explore and engage these important questions.

Related is the fact people have misunderstood the meaning of tolerance to require agreement with everyone’s sincerely held beliefs rather than extending to others the right to be wrong. Tolerance is not agreement. It’s treating someone who believes very differently than I do with dignity and respect as one made in God’s image. Today, people are afraid to disagree about spiritual and moral questions because they don’t want to be viewed as a bigot or judgmental. We need courage to talk lovingly but boldly about the truth. To love someone is to seek his or her highest good — that includes having some gentle, but perhaps uncomfortable conversations about important questions.

Q: What is one of the most important first things a new student can do when he or she arrives at college?

They need to find their people (Proverbs 13:20 and 2 Timothy 2:22). They need wise relationships in the form of both mentors and peers. Here is a question every student needs to answer: Who will I let influence and shape my future? Who will I let steer the direction my life? This is especially important when it comes to dating relationships. Get plugged in, especially in the first six weeks while everyone is “new.”

I know the importance of this firsthand. Within a couple of weeks, my roommate, Dave, and I had met a great group of Christian friends. We all ended up walking through college together. Within another couple of weeks, I had pledged and “de-pledged” a fraternity. God had other plans in that area that would unfold in my junior year.

Q: One of the chapters is on tolerance. Is OK to have friends who believe differently than we do?

We live in a challenging culture when it comes to truth, but this also gives us exciting opportunities to live out the Gospel in front of people. The fact is we need to embody the truth and speak the truth. Loving people well can’t be separated from truth because reality is involved. With that said, we need to push back against the tyranny of tolerance in our classrooms, workplaces and culture. How do we do this? Without getting defensive, we need to reframe the conversation. Tolerance used to mean giving other people the right to be wrong and disagreeing with them. Now tolerance has come to mean I must accept what everyone around me does, says or thinks. But that’s false and, quite frankly, unlivable. Someone’s views will always get imposed upon.

Moreover, Jesus was loving and tolerant but did not compromise on truth. Sometimes he simply asked a question, and sometimes he pushed back hard against hypocrisy. We need wisdom and discernment on how to do this well given the situations we find ourselves in, and He’s our example. We all need to be courageous and ready to stand for truth as thoughtfully and graciously as we can when (not if) those times come.

Q: How has social media affected culture as a whole? As individuals, what should students be particularly mindful of in their online interactions?

The irony is we are a culture that longs for connection and intimacy, but we hide behind our devices because they give us the illusion of control. We are afraid of being known. The social media revolution has brought both challenges and opportunities to our culture. Three of the challenges students need to be aware of are:

  1. Students now have digital footprints that will follow them all of their lives. Unwise decisions posted online could affect future jobs, relationships and families.
  2. We are a distracted culture. Social media keeps us superficially engaged and overwhelmed by data, opinions and information. We have largely lost the capacity to sit still, be quiet and reflect without having to check and see what we have missed. The fear of missing out (FOMO) is real.
  3. Students will have to fight hard to resist trying to find their identity from social approval in the form of follows, likes, shares and comments. This is an exhausting and dangerous way to live. Our identity is rooted in God, not social approval. When we forget that, we pursue a lot of foolish dead ends that will ultimately hurt us.
Jonathan Morrow, author of Welcome to College

Q: You write, “Most Christians have bought into the lie that religious beliefs are to be kept private and should not impact who you are — and what you say — in public. It’s easy to fall into this way of thinking, but I want to help you avoid this trap because it will weaken your faith.” In a time where society is increasingly hostile toward Christianity, what advice can you share for being courageous and firm in our beliefs?

First and foremost, do you know why you believe what you believe? Do you own your faith? Is Christianity really true? Not were you raised in a Christian home, or what do your mom or dad believe, but what do you believe? Remember, just because you believe something doesn’t make it true. Sincerity is not enough. If Christianity is true, then it is true for all of life. Following Jesus is a way of life not just a Sunday-morning activity.

Young Christians are growing up in culture that is deeply confused about what is right and what is true. It’s hard for them to break free from the riptide of relativism, but if you lose truth, then you lose Christianity. Period. Students need to know how to understand, explain and defend objective truth. Without training, they will simply fall into the default settings of those around them. When the pressure is turned up and the tyranny of tolerance presses in, Christians tend to wilt if they do not have the confidence that only comes from knowing why they believe what they believe.

Essential areas they need to be ready to engage in: How do I know God really exists? Is truth relative? Who was Jesus, and did He rise from the dead? Can you trust the Bible in the 21st century? How do I have helpful spiritual conversations? How can Jesus be the only way to God? If God is good, then why is there so much evil?

Q: What three pieces of wisdom do you offer students just starting out on their college experience?

  1. You are not alone. Everyone has felt what you are feeling.
  2. With freedom comes responsibility.
  3. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Q: What is one of the most important lessons you learned during your time in college? What’s something you wished you had done differently?

It’s easy to lose your way or accommodate whatever everyone else is doing. Living for Jesus will take courage. You must overcome the temptation to please or be accepted by everyone all the time. Do you know who you are? Are you secure in your identity? Do you know what you believe and why? During college I was in a fraternity and saw many other guys who grew up in Christian homes check out from their faith or reject it completely. They were simply not ready for the challenges to accommodate their faith. There were many nights at my fraternity house when they were so drunk they would come up to me and apologetically say, “This isn’t me. I’m not normally like this.” There may be no more important decision during the college years than who you choose to surround yourself with. I have seen so many students go down paths they never intended to because they surrounded themselves with friends who were not committed to following Jesus. Be intentional with your time — your college years will go quick. Don’t waste the opportunity for influence God has given you!

By God’s grace (and some really great friends), I emerged on the other side of college without any major regrets. But one of the things I wished I had done differently is handled my finances more responsibly by sticking to a budget and not getting in as much debt. Unfortunately, I fell into some bad spending habits during the college years it took a while to recover from.

Find more resources to go along with Welcome to College at www.WelcometoCollege.tv or visit www.jonathanmorrow.org. Jonathan Morrow is also on Facebook (ThinkChristianlyOrg) and Twitter (@Jonathan_Morrow).

FULL POST

Posted 5/3/17 at 7:03 PM | Audra Jennings

How spiritually prepared are teens for college?

Part 1 of an interview with Jonathan Morrow,

Author of Welcome to College: A Christ-Follower’s Guide for the Journey

Jonathan Morrow, author of Welcome to College

College can be the most exciting, as well as the most frightening, time of a young person’s life. On one hand are all the freedoms a recent high school graduate craves, but on the other are all the freedoms that come with responsibility. It’s a challenging time, especially for Christians coming face-to-face with worldviews different from their own. In Welcome to College: A Christ-Follower’s Guide for the Journey (second edition) (Kregel Publications), Jonathan Morrow helps students tackle this new stage of life and emerge on the other side prepared for what God has planned for them.

Q: What are possibly the most frightening questions a graduating high school senior can be asked?

What are you going to do with your life? What’s your major going to be? Will you be able to get a job when you graduate?

Students feel a lot of pressure to be, well, perfect. There’s a lot of anxiety to have it all together and everything figured out. Students feel pressure both from themselves and their parents (because most parents are spending a lot of money on college). They confess to feeling overwhelmed

by all the choices they have to make and the weight of the choices. The simple fact of the matter is they are often insecure and afraid of failing — especially at college. Then, if they are Christians, they have the added layer of trying to figure out what God would want them to do with their lives. All of this can be scary and overwhelming.

Q: We’ve all heard statistics about how many students walk away from their Christian faith during their college years. Are the numbers truly as bad as we have heard?

To be clear — any student walking away from their faith is too much. I’ve seen statistics as high as 75% and as low as 40%, depending on the survey and how the question was asked. But let’s split the difference and say one out of two walk away. At the outset, parents and students need to know college is not faith-friendly. Intellectual, spiritual, moral and relational challenges are coming. According to a study done by Harvard and George Mason University, one out of four college professors is a professing atheist or agnostic (a percentage much greater than the general population, which is 5-7%).

As I’ve worked with high school and college students throughout the years, here are the three most common responses to the challenges they face:

First, students relativize their faith. I guess this is just true for me, this is what I believe and how I was raised. Faith kind of gets quiet in their lives as they get older.

Second, they drift or pretend. On the outside everything’s fine. On the inside though, it’s, “I’m not sure I really believe this anymore. What do I do with that because this place isn’t a safe place to ask questions or have doubts?”

Or third, they will simply walk away. “You know what? I don’t believe this anymore. It’s not worth it. I don’t think this is really true.” They are weary of pretending.

What’s tragic about this is it doesn’t have to be that way. God has called students to do much more than only surviving. He has called them to engage our culture with the life-changing message of Jesus. This is one of the big reasons I wrote Welcome to College: to help prepare students for what we know is waiting on them in the college years. I want them to own their faith so they are ready to live it out.

Q: How important are the high school and college years in setting the trajectory for a life of following Jesus?

It’s critically important. If you get off-course in high school or college, it can have life-altering consequences.

Here are clarifying questions I like to ask students, “What story do you want to tell about the college years? Someday you will walk across the graduation stage and be filled with either satisfaction or regret. Which one do you want? Eventually you will summarize your college years in a few sentences. Why not go ahead and shape your future now?”

This final question will give students clarity. They also need to decide if they are serious about following Jesus or if they are going to drift into “playing Christian.” If they are serious about following Jesus, then they can set the destination they are pursuing early on, which will make all the difference.

Q: When should a parent or youth worker first present your book to his or her student?

I’ve been encouraged to hear how people are using Welcome to College. Some youth groups have purchased books to give away as graduation gifts. Parents have told me how they have read it along with their sons or daughters during their junior or senior year of high school. Together they have used the discussion questions in the back to start conversations.

In general, as soon as you can start the conversations, the better. Late middle school and early high school are great times to begin engaging your children on these topics.

Welcome to College by Jonathan Morrow

Q: How can parents better prepare their children for the college experience, especially the new freedoms and responsibilities that come from being away from home?

Start now! Let them fail around you before they have true freedom for the first time away from you. Give them a long on-ramp of freedom and responsibility. Why? Because you don’t want the first time they experience freedom to be when they hit college campus and you aren’t around to help them choose wisely.

Imagine your son or daughter had never seen a Krispy Kreme donut, then when they got to college there was a dozen warm, gooey donuts in front of them. What are they going to do? Go crazy and eat them all. Give them some freedom now so they can fail around you, and you can help coach them as they fix it themselves. Don’t swoop in and fix it for them. Curfew is a good test case to begin exploring. Also, stay connected relationally. Don’t only focus on the details, finances, schedules and logistics; focus on the heart and excitement of this life transition.

Q: What advice do you have for parents who have teenagers on how to talk to them about the importance of truth and resist moral relativism?

First thing I would do is gently share that just because your son or daughter goes to church or a Christian school doesn’t mean he or she is not a closet relativist. He or she could be hearing great lessons and sermons each week, but if he or she has not been taught what truth is and the difference between objective and subjective truth, then he or she is more often than not simply and sub-consciously putting all that teaching into the “true for me” box in his or her worldview. Next, we need to give students space for questions and doubts. They need to wrestle with things to own it. We don’t just want them to give us the right answers, so press in to why. Lastly, love them unconditionally and be relationally present and engaged. That is the foundation for good conversations. Your faith shapes their faith.

Q: Tell us about how Welcome to College is set up and designed to be used. What are some of the topics you introduce and discuss?

I didn’t grow up in a Christian home. I began following Jesus as a high school junior at 17, so my “life” learning curve during the college years was pretty significant. I also had just about every anti-Christian professor along the way challenge my faith. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to believe in fairy tales; I began to explore if there were solid answers to the tough questions I was running into. After I graduated and got married, I told my wife that if God ever let me write a book, I wanted to write about everything I wish I would have known during the college years.

Typical graduation gift books have gold edges and little quotes, but my experience is that will evaporate in three minutes when the challenges of college life come. I wanted to write a book covering everything from evidence for God and the Bible, science and evolution to what to do with doubts, how to have healthy conflict with a roommate, how to discover God’s will and even how to have wise dating relationships, but in short four- or five-page chapters. A young person can read it straight through or turn to the issues he or she is struggling with. It can even be read in a small group of freshmen using the questions in the back. I heard from students at Clemson who were using it that way.

Find more resources to go along with Welcome to College at www.WelcometoCollege.tv or visit www.jonathanmorrow.org. Jonathan Morrow is also on Facebook (ThinkChristianlyOrg) and Twitter (@Jonathan_Morrow).

 

Posted 5/2/17 at 9:37 AM |

Q&A with Annette Hubbell Author of “A Spoonful of Grace”

Q: What inspired you to write your new book?
A: At a casual lunch with some friends, our host led us in a grace prayer before the meal. That was it! Saying grace has always been part of my life, but this time something was different. It was an astonishing thought, too, because writing a book was the furthest thing from my mind, and I surely was not a faith scholar.

The grace I said growing up was different from the one my friend said. Well, I thought, there must be others I’d never heard before. What if I were to collect them—from all over the world—and create a book? I could even enhance each prayer with a Bible verse. In effect, I would simply become a compiler. I sent out inquiries, asking everyone to share, eagerly awaiting the replies. What a diversity of prayers there would be—from the world over! What I received back surprised me. It seems that there are, in fact, only a handful of “standard” graces; most are impromptu, made up according to how the day unfolds. Even more surprising were the responses of those who didn’t regularly say grace but wished they did—and would if they had some structure. FULL POST

Posted 4/27/17 at 12:28 PM | Audra Jennings

Why are questions better than answers?

Randy Newman encourages Christians to engage non-Christians by asking questions

Kregel Publications
Questioning Evangelism by Randy Newman

When it comes to evangelism, do you feel pressured to know all the answers? What if you didn’t have to worry about having all the right answers but instead knew the right questions to ask in return? In Questioning Evangelism: Engaging People’s Hearts the Way Jesus Did (Second Edition) (Kregel Publications), author Randy Newman asks readers to look at evangelism in a different way. After all, Jesus asked questions; why don’t we?

A Senior Fellow at The C. S. Lewis Institute, Newman has been using a questioning style of evangelism for years. In this provocative book, he provides practical insights to help Christians engage others in meaningful spiritual conversations. Asking questions, Newman suggests, doesn’t tell unbelievers what to think but instead challenges how we think about people, their questions and our message. He asserts that sometimes the best answer is a question. It’s the way Jesus often talked with people as He led them into discussions about the issues that mattered most.

The author admits he started using the questioning method of outreach out of frustration. “Just answering questions wasn’t working. I needed to try engaging with people instead of just preaching at them. I saw enough success to keep going, develop the technique and experiment with new questions,” he explains. “It also prompted me to study how Jesus answered questions with questions.”

A perennial best-seller, Questioning Evangelism has been updated in its second edition and includes a chapter in which Newman reflects on the success of the book and what the book’s popularity has taught him. Also included is a new foreword by Lee Strobel, author of The Case for Christ. However, the biggest change involves revisions to a chapter addressing a major hot topic that arises in opposition to Christianity in today’s world. “Fourteen years ago when I wrote a chapter on how we witness to homosexuals, readers may have found it odd. Back then, few people brought up the issue of homosexuality in the context of an evangelistic conversation,” muses Newman. “Today, however, people raise the question often, and it’s absolutely essential to address it.”

Questioning Evangelism offers sample conversations and suggested follow-up questions on a variety of topics that arise in evangelistic conversations, including:

  • Why are Christians so intolerant (or homophobic)?
  • Why does a good God allow evil and suffering such as terrorist attacks and AIDS?
  • Why should we believe an ancient book written by dead Jewish males?
  • If Jesus is so great, why are some of His followers such jerks?

While the book can be read for individual study, the book contains a study guide for small-group discussion and application. Newman hopes readers will discuss the book together, then share their successes and failures with one another as encouragement and to become more effective in future conversations.


Advance Praise

“Let Randy Newman teach you how to be a more effective ambassador for Jesus in the twenty-first century by doing more listening than talking, by validating the other person as being made in the image of God, and by respecting their spiritual journey.”

~ Lee Strobel, author of The Case for Christ and Professor of Christian Thought Houston Baptist University

“Distilled out of 20 years of personal evangelism, this book reflects both a deep grasp of biblical theology and a penetrating compassion for people — and finds a way forward in wise, probing questions. How very much like the Master Himself!”

~ D. A. Carson, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School


Randy Newman, author of Questioning Evangelism

About the Author

Randy Newman is the Senior Fellow for Evangelism and Apologetics at The C. S. Lewis Institute in the Washington, DC area. He is also an adjunct faculty at Talbot School of Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary and Patrick Henry College.

After serving for more than 30 years with Campus Crusade for Christ, he established Connection Points, a ministry to help Christians engage people’s hearts the way Jesus did. He has written four books and numerous articles about evangelism and other ways our lives intertwine with God’s creation. He is a frequent conference speaker and specializes in helping people of different backgrounds dialogue about issues of faith.

He and his wife, Pam, live in Annandale, VA and have three grown sons, one delightful daughter-in-law and a stunningly adorable granddaughter.

Learn more about Questioning Evangelism at www.connectionpoints.us. Randy Newman is also on Twitter (@RandyDNewman).


Posted 4/25/17 at 1:59 PM | Audra Jennings

DiAnn Mills shares insight from research for FBI series

4 Agencies You Didn't Know Worked with the FBI

by DiAnn Mills

In the research stage of the FBI Task Force series, I needed to understand what Federal agencies and law enforcement associations worked with the FBI. The various agencies have unique expertise, and when united, crimes are solved and people protected. If a crime is not under the jurisdiction of the FBI, they must be invited to assist.

Four agencies that work with the FBI caught me by surprise.

  1. Local health departments
  2. US Marshals
  3. CIA
  4. Tribal law enforcement

“The FBI’s Office of Partner Engagement (OPE) builds bridges, creates new partnerships, and strengthens and supports relationships between the FBI and other federal agencies, as well as with state, local, tribal, and campus law enforcement; national and international law enforcement associations; and others within the broad public safety, law enforcement, and homeland security communities. The OPE serves as the FBI’s primary liaison for the law enforcement community, representing the perspectives of chiefs, sheriffs, and law enforcement associations within the FBI.” FULL POST

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