Food for the Soul

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Posted 6/2/17 at 2:04 PM | Audra Jennings

When asking questions doesn’t work

Part 2 of an interview with Randy Newman,

Author of Questioning Evangelism

Kregel Publications
Questioning Evangelism by Randy Newman

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. In Questioning Evangelism: Engaging People’s Hearts the Way Jesus Did (Second Edition) (Kregel Publications), author Randy Newman 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.

Q: The title of your book by itself may have people wondering if you have doubts about the need of telling others about Jesus, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Tell us a little bit about Questioning Evangelism. FULL POST

Posted 6/2/17 at 2:01 PM | Audra Jennings

Engaging people’s hearts the way Jesus did

Part 1 of an interview with Randy Newman,

Author of Questioning Evangelism

Randy Newman, author of Questioning Evangelism

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?

Q: Why is it better to ask questions than to give answers when it comes to evangelism? What are some of the first questions you use to get a conversation started?

What does a question do that an answer doesn’t? (Yes, I know. I just answered your question with a question on purpose.) Doesn’t a question make you think and participate in the answering process? Doesn’t a question sometimes expose hidden or less-than-sincere motives? Don’t questions take away some of the anger? FULL POST

Posted 6/1/17 at 6:17 PM | Audra Jennings

Change is a learning process

New book outlines how congregations can change into missional, fruitful learning communities

Kregel
Learning Change by Jim Herrington and Trisha Taylor

Change is seldom easy for an individual, much less an entire group of people such as a church congregation. In Learning Change: Congregational Transformation Fueled by Personal Renewal (Kregel Ministry/May 27, 2017/ISBN: 978-0-8254-4455-5/ $18.99), authors Jim Herrington and Trisha Taylor share the stories of church leaders who were able to transform their congregations by first making changes in their own lives.

Based on their previous research and work with church organizations, Herrington and Taylor were invited to develop a collaborative process focused on personal and congregational transformation. They created a 30-month pilot project with 16 congregations. Many of the leaders involved in the project felt trapped in unhealthy, even toxic, church situations and were desperate for hope. Learning Change chronicles these transformations lived out in practice, in community, and throughout time in a wide variety of congregational contexts.

“One thing all the participating churches had in common is they needed deep change in the mental models guiding their decisions about how to impact their communities effectively with the Gospel,” Herrington explains. “This included confronting and changing mental models about things dear to us as Christians: discipleship, mission and the role of the church. They all also needed support and encouragement as they worked to change those mental models.”

Each chapter includes stories of real-world applications, questions and suggestions to practice in congregational contexts and resources for further exploration. Breaks are built in throughout the text to invite readers to engage with God. The book is divided into four parts:

  • The keys to real change
  • Four core values necessary to effect change
  • Mental models showing how the ways we think affect the church
  • Additional tools for more effective leadership.

“The world is changing at the pace of a jet in flight, and the church is changing at the pace of a horse and buggy,” Taylor offers. “What doesn’t need to happen is for congregations to double down and work harder at 20th-century strategies and ways of thinking. We hold that congregational transformation is not possible apart from being accompanied by a journey of personal transformation. Personal transformation is found in the lost art of spiritual formation, and we want to help church leaders find it.”

Learning Change is more than a story of how one church changed. This is a resource for church leaders who are faced with the challenge of congregational revitalization and ready to accept an invitation to join in a process of powerful transformation. The method is proven as the pilot project is now a thriving process in two nations, two denominations, six regions and more than 100 congregations.

Learn more about Learning Change at https://ridder.westernsem.edu/learning-change/.


About the Authors

Jim Herrington is an author, former pastor and conference leader. He holds a Masters of Religious Education from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and is in the process of completing his D.Min. in Spiritual Formation from the Houston Graduate School of Theology.

Herington is the founder and team leader at Faithwalking, an organization that teaches, coaches and empowers leaders to equip their communities to live the fully human, fully alive life that Jesus lived. He is also the founding executive director of Mission Houston.

In his spare time, Herrington enjoys running, gardening, travel and a whole lot of reading. Jim and his wife, Betty, live in Houston, TX, and are the parents of five adult children.

Visit Jim Herrington’s online home at www.jimtherrington.com.

Trisha Taylor is a counselor, minister, author and consultant. She is a fellow with the American Association of Pastoral Counselors and has worked with pastors and congregations in Houston and across the country for more than two decades.

In addition to Learning Change, Taylor is also the co-author of The Leader's Journey: Accepting the Call to Personal and Congregational Transformation. She is a co-founder of Faithwalking, a spiritual formation process that equips people to live missionally.

Taylor enjoys good stories wherever she can find them and life-giving friendships. She and her husband, Craig have more than 30 years of experience as a clergy couple and have two adult children. They live in Houston, TX.

Learn more about Trisha Taylor at http://trisha-taylor.com/.

Posted 6/1/17 at 5:53 PM | Audra Jennings

Why are church membership and discipline important?

New release addresses 40 of the most common and thorny questions about church life

Kregel
40 Questions about Church Membership and Church Discipline

Does church membership mean more than simply joining a social group? Does the church have a responsibility to discipline its members — and if so, what does that look like? In 40 Questions about Church Membership and Church Discipline (Kregel Academic), Dr. Jeremy Kimble recognizes and addresses the many puzzling questions about the critical role of the church in the life of believers.

The latest release in Kregel’s 40 questions series edited by Benjamin L. Merkle, each section considers questions of theology, ministry and practicality. This book raises — and clearly answers — the most common and difficult questions church leaders and members have. With succinct chapters, 40 Questions about Church Membership and Church Discipline is a practical resource for any church leader, elder board, seminary student or new member seeking a foundational understanding of how the church should function.

“Church membership is not solely about what you can get out of a church. Instead, membership points us toward commitment and mutual accountability,” explains Kimble. “When we join the membership of a local church, we are agreeing to be overseen in our discipleship and oversee others in their discipleship. As such, the idea of membership goes beyond mere attendance and even ministry involvement. At its heart, church membership is about a group of people committed to one another, who will continually oversee and exhort one another toward ever-increasing godliness.”

Among the 40 questions Kimble examines are:

  • Is there a New Testament precedent for membership?
  • How does membership relate to baptism and communion?
  • Who should become a member?
  • How is discipline related to discipleship?
  • Should a believer associate with someone under church discipline?

Church discipline is an often thorny topic, but Kimble describes discipline as a proper demonstration of the biblical concept of love. He writes that God disciplines those whom he loves (Hebrews 12:6–11), and thus a church who claims to love its members without disciplining them contradicts Scripture and offers a different kind of love than God does. Church discipline can potentially be a painful process, but as a spiritual family we are called to work through such matters faithfully and gently.

“The main message of the book is that church membership and discipline are essential components to the health of a local church, since they are a distinct means of pursuing discipleship, holiness, love and perseverance in the faith,” Kimble offers.

Learn more about 40 Questions about Church Membership and Church Discipline and the other books in the 40 Questionsseries at www.kregel.com.

Dr. Jeremy Kimble

About the Author

Dr. Jeremy Kimble (PhD, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Assistant Professor of Theological Studies at Cedarville University in Cedarville, OH. He is passionate about teaching college students, as well as the local church, the truth of God’s Word.

Dr. Kimble’s hope is that through his courses, students will seek to love God and others, rightly understand the grand narrative of Scripture and apply theological truths to everyday life. He is committed to teaching in the classroom as well as mentoring students in smaller settings. His research interests include ecclesiology, eschatology, biblical theology, worldview and the theology of Jonathan Edwards.

He served in pastoral ministry for eight years and currently serves as an elder at Grace Baptist Church in Cedarville.

Follow Dr. Jeremy Kimble on Twitter (@JeremyKimble).

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).

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