Food for the Soul

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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

Posted 4/11/17 at 1:53 PM | Audra Jennings

Your feelings aren’t the boss of you

Part 1 of an interview with Tracie Miles,
Author of Unsinkable Faith: God-Filled Strategies
to Transform the Way You Think, Feel, and Live

Tracie Miles, author of Unsinkable Faith

Thoughts are powerful and at times cause us to feel and act in ways we wouldn’t normally. In fact, they can become so powerful that if left unchecked, they end up controlling us rather than the other way around. When our thoughts and feelings are largely negative in nature, those pessimistic ideas infiltrate our lives — and our faith — making it increasingly difficult to live with joy. In Unsinkable Faith: God-Filled Strategies to Transform the Way You Think, Feel, and Live (David C Cook), Tracie Miles offers practical, life-changing strategies for those who struggle with negativity, leading them to discover how the transforming of their minds can transform their lives.

Q: Your new book, Unsinkable Faith, opens with details about a difficult conversation you had with Jesus. What led up to that conversation, and how did it lay the foundation for this book?

After almost 26 years of marriage, my husband decided he wasn’t happy and chose to leave me and my children. It was as if my whole world fell apart in an instant, and the life I had always known abruptly ended. Anyone who has gone through any type of marital crisis, separation or divorce, long-term relationship breakdown or extremely difficult circumstance knows not only do our thoughts and emotions begin to feel overwhelming and in control, but we can also begin to wonder why God let these circumstances happen to us. Our negative thoughts take over, and we might begin to question our faith and feel abandoned by our heavenly Father. We’re hurt, and hurt wreaks havoc on our hearts and minds.

One day a few weeks after my husband left, I finally broke down and cried like a baby for three solid hours, asking Jesus, “Why?” Why did He not answer my prayers to save my marriage and change my husband’s heart? Why did my children and I have to go through this? I found myself in fervent prayer like never before when I felt like Jesus whispered a question to my heart. “Do you still love me?” It came out of nowhere, and my immediate answer was, “Yes, Lord.” Honestly, my answer caught me off guard, but it was a turning point for me to pick myself up and lean harder into Jesus instead of letting this situation shake my faith. It allowed me to invite Him to help me transform my thoughts from negative into positive to transform and reclaim my life, even if that meant starting over. It wasn’t easy — it didn’t happen overnight — but it did happen.

Q: Our thoughts can cause us to feel as if we’re sinking and can often sink our faith as well. When this happens, how can readers who find themselves feeling as if they’re drowning in their problems and negative thoughts learn to stay afloat?

The real question is how can we develop an unsinkable faith that carries us through life with a hopeful, positive attitude no matter what life throws at us? When our thoughts and attitudes get better, our lives can too, even if our circumstances remain the same. We can’t always control how we feel, but we can always take authority over our own minds and change the way we think. When we do this, it changes the way we view and experience life overall, preventing us from sinking in hopelessness, discouragement and despair. There is always hope for a positive attitude, a stronger faith, a heart full of joy and a happier future when we put our hope in Jesus and choose not to let life cause us, or our attitudes, to sink. Negative attitudes cause us to sink, while positive ones help us keep our heads above water when life is trying to pull us down. A negative mind will never lead you into a positive life.

Q: How does negativity become a stronghold in our hearts, and what are the consequences?

Negativity usually happens gradually, and sometimes we don’t even realize we have become a negative person. It’s like a poison that seeps into our hearts and minds so slowly we fail to realize what is happening until it's too late. In our defense, we are all bombarded with outside negative influences every day, from the media, politics and even friends and family. On top of that, if we are going or have gone through some difficult or painful circumstances, our own negative thoughts influence our mind and well-being. Throughout time, negativity can become a stronghold on our entire perspective about everything in life. When this happens, we fall into a habit of thinking negatively so much it simply becomes who we are. The consequences of living with a negative mindset are we lose the ability to look for the good side of things and always focus on the doom and gloom of any situation, which eventually steals our peace, joy and happiness.

Negative thought patterns will always lead to a negative life pattern. Unfortunately, sometimes the poison even seeps out of our hearts and minds, turns into actions and spills out onto those around us, negatively impacting relationships. It’s a vicious cycle, one we can’t afford to take lightly. True joy and a positive attitude come from choosing to change your thoughts, not from a problem-free life.

David C Cook
Unsinkable Faith by Tracie Miles

Q: Aren’t some people simply “wired” to be more pessimistic or optimistic than others? What encouragement do you offer to those who find it more challenging to think positively?

Every person is unique, but I don’t believe some people are wired to be more pessimistic or optimistic. It is true, however, that upbringing, outside influences and circumstances can impact the way people learn to think and train their minds. Science has proven most people are generally optimists. Nobody wants to go around with a doom-and-gloom attitude, but if we aren’t careful, life and adversities can cause us to have one.

What’s encouraging is it’s been proven through amazing brain research by scientists, such as Dr. Daniel Amen and Dr. Carolina Leaf, that science has finally caught up with scripture. It is possible to transform our brain physically through positive thinking physiologically, but we can also transform our thought patterns by asking God to help us be more aware of negative thoughts when they creep in and turn those thoughts around. Their research has proven this to be true time and time again with their patients. Everyone is capable of changing their thought patterns, and when they do their lives will change too.

Q: You write, “We can’t always control how we feel, but we can always take authority over our own minds and change the way we think.” How do we balance working to change the way we think with allowing the Holy Spirit to transform us?

We all know feelings are powerful and at times cause us to think or even do things we wouldn’t normally do. In fact, sometimes our thoughts are so powerful they are controlling us rather than us controlling them, and that’s never good.

Romans 12:2 (The Message) says, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” This verse is telling us not to let the world or our circumstances conform our thoughts, but to let the Holy Spirit transform us instead. The balance comes in realizing we can’t change our minds without the help of Christ and an intentional decision to do so. Being conformed is what happens to us when external influences impact us internally, but being transformed happens when we choose intentionally to ask the Holy Spirit to shape us and our thoughts instead.

We must first have the desire and willingness to change. Then, we need to ask the Holy Spirit to help us be more aware of each negative thought that cause us to feel pessimistic, fearful, mad, sad and overwhelmed. From there we need to rephrase those thoughts into something positive or, at a minimum, stop listening to the negative thoughts when they arise and reject them completely. As our awareness of our thoughts grows, a transformation begins to happen.

Q: What advice can you offer the person living in so much hurt their vision is too clouded to see Jesus?

Life is hard for everyone, but it is harder for some than others. However, none of us have to let the hardships of life harden our hearts and minds.  Emotional pain is one of the strongest emotions there is, and it can not only cloud our thinking but also our faith. It's often the misconceptions we build in our minds rather than our circumstances that cloud our ability to see Jesus. I would tell them even though they may have a million valid reasons to feel negative or pessimistic, all those negative thoughts will never lead to a positive life.

All of us want to be happy, fulfilled and optimistic about the future. We all have had pain in our past or are facing difficult situations that are hard to be optimistic about, but all things are possible in Christ. Every believer has the power to choose optimism and doing so is life-changing.

Q: What type of person will benefit from reading Unsinkable Faith?

Not one person is alive who doesn’t feel overwhelmed with negative thoughts from time to time, whether due to a painful memory of the past or a current challenge. Every one of us will start feeling bossed around by our feelings, as if we don’t have control of our emotions and actions. However, deep down we desperately want to gain control again, so it’s a topic everyone can benefit from.

More specifically, it may benefit those who:

  • have convinced themselves they’re doomed to be unhappy and have just accepted it because they know their circumstances will never change.
  • grew up in a pessimistic home and think they are fated to carry on that negative legacy.
  • struggle with depression and discouragement and feel true happiness and optimism are entirely out of reach because they’ve tried other methods and medications to help them feel happy, but they just haven’t worked.
  • are generally positive people but are going through a difficult situation, such as myself.

Anyone who wants to be a more happy, optimistic person — regardless of the root cause of their negativity — can benefit from learning how to reshape their thoughts, transform their minds and begin steering their life in a more positive direction.

Learn more about Tracie Miles and Unsinkable Faith at www.traciemiles.com,on Facebook (p31traciemiles) and via Twitter (@traciewmiles).

Posted 4/11/17 at 1:41 PM | Audra Jennings

Hearts anchored in God don’t sink

Part 2 of an interview with Tracie Miles,
Author of Unsinkable Faith: God-Filled Strategies
to Transform the Way You Think, Feel, and Live

David C Cook
Unsinkable Faith by Tracie Miles

Some days you’re floating through life and everything seems fine. Other days, you’re barely holding on in the midst of a storm and negative thoughts threaten to sink your attitude, steal your peace, and rob you of joy. But just because life is hard doesn’t mean your heart and mind have to become hardened.

Tracie Miles knows it’s possible to overcome a pessimistic mindset and rise above your circumstances to find the positive—by changing the way you think, feel, and live. In Unsinkable Faith (David C Cook), her stories and insights will help point readers to God’s truths so they can rise back to the surface.

Q: How is choosing joy, no matter what, different from a “Fake it ‘til you make it” mindset?

There are days when we are just not going to feel happy. Nobody can be happy every second of every day; it’s just not realistic. I do believe, however, you can choose joy every day. It will take some effort, but it is possible. We can’t just pretend our problems don’t exist or deny our feelings when we’re hurt or upset, essentially putting on a fake smile. But when we ask God to help us purposely focus on having a glass-half-full mentality, we start feeling more uplifted. It’s truly amazing what can happen when we invite God to change our hearts and minds and, in turn, our lives. Happiness and joy truly are a choice. We don’t have to live a joyless life unless we choose to do so. Circumstances don’t determine our joy; our faith and outlook do.

Q: Through what process does what we think become who we are?

Scripture talks about this. Proverbs 23:7 says, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” This simply means whatever we think about internally will have an impact on who we are, who we become and how we live our lives. Our internal thoughts drive everything we say and usually dictate our outward actions. What we think about becomes who we are.

I think many of us are under the impression it doesn’t matter what we think because nobody can hear those thoughts unless we say them aloud. However, our thoughts are literally what control our lives. Choosing to be the captain of our thoughts and transforming our minds to be generally optimistic becomes the determining factor not only on what kind of person we are, but how other people see us.

Q: While our thoughts dictate our feelings, which in turn dictate our actions, how do we cross over and begin living by faith rather than feelings?

The transformation must begin with prayer and surrendering ourselves to God. Of course, using the God-tools we talked about earlier will equip us for the journey. Living by faith instead of feelings is difficult, so that’s why it’s important to make our faith a priority.

Q: How do our thinking patterns actually change the physical function and structure of our brains?

Dr. Caroline Leaf, a cognitive neuroscientist with a PhD in communication pathology, wrote a popular book titled Switch On Your Brain. In it she reveals that because we are constantly reacting to circumstances and events, our brains become shaped by the process of thoughts and reactions. If we think positively, the physiological aspects of our brains change in healthy ways that help us move toward a positive quality of life. Yet if we think negatively, our brains are changed in unhealthy ways, causing us to feel and act negatively and steering us toward a more negative quality of life.

Leaf also found people who regularly meditate on Scripture and have developed a disciplined and focused thought-life have increased intelligence, wisdom and a feeling of peace. I love how this research supports what we are told in Scripture repeatedly: We can transform and renew our minds if we choose to (Romans 12:2). For all who struggle with negativity, pessimism and even depression, this is good news! Although in many cases there are physiological reasons for depression (and therefore medication is beneficial and necessary), sometimes depression can be minimized when positive thinking becomes the norm instead of the exception.

Tracie Miles, author of Unsinkable Faith

Q: What are some of the “God-tools” available to help us fight for control of our thoughts and emotions?

Second Corinthians 10:4 (The Message) says, “We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ.” These God-tools are within our grasp to fight the spiritual war taking place in our minds. These tools are God’s Word, prayer, the prayers of others on our behalf, holy strength we can tap into, the ability to persevere, peace even when life isn’t peaceful and worship. All of these things equip us to push back against warped philosophies and the lies in our minds that do not line up with God’s Word.

Satan’s tactics don’t stand a chance against God’s power, but until we intentionally decide to use those tools to fight for control over our own thoughts and emotions, he will continue to have the upper hand in this battlefield of the mind.

Q: A strong theme throughout Unsinkable Faith is surrendering our fears and negative thoughts to the Lord. Is this something we can just do once, or is it an ongoing process?

If only it were that easy! In every difficult circumstance I face, I usually catch myself thinking something negative again. That’s simply human nature and the power of emotion. However, as God walked me through the journey of mind transformation, especially in the writing this book, I began to form a habit of noticing negative thoughts when they occurred and immediately trying to reject those thoughts, replacing them with something positive and more true.

For the whole year after my separation, I had to go back to God time and time again to ask for His help in controlling my thoughts. I would do good for a while, but then another problem or emotional situation would rage in, and my thoughts would plummet into negativity yet again. Thankfully, God is gracious to forgive us when we stumble, and He knows we are just human beings trying to survive in this badly broken world where it’s often challenging to think positively. The transforming of our minds is a process where we’ll never fully “arrive,” but when we commit to change and practice changing how we think day in and day out, we soon notice our lives are changing for the better. We become happier and more at peace than ever before. It’s a journey, but every step of the journey is worth it.

Q: You offer practical ideas at the end of each chapter, including journaling topics, actions steps and Bible verses for meditation. How vital are these steps to making lasting changes in how we think?

We can read infinite amounts of information about how to do new things or learn to improve on something, but if we don’t apply those tips to our lives and put them into practice, we’ll never achieve success. Just like anything new we set out to learn or master, we have to apply what we learn to everyday life practically. That’s why I included many practical tips, opportunities for personal reflections and ways to apply the book to their own life, complete with biblical backup. Each chapter also includes a powerful challenge to the readers to help them really jumpstart their new lives.

Q: What other resources are available to go along with Unsinkable Faith?

I have a wonderful study guide that accompanies the book and includes all of the challenges, reflections and chapter activities from the book, but also includes bonus challenges so readers can take their quest for optimism even further. The guide offers more room for writing and journaling thoughts and prayers. There’s a really fun activity for each chapter with background information about the famous people who wrote the quotes used in the book. They were all wonderful role models for positive thinkers who overcame adversity and allowed God to transform their minds and their lives. These bonus activities help the reader delve deep into their own thought patterns and feel encouraged that they too can change.

I also have a free 5 Day Optimist Challenge readers can sign up for on my blog, www.traciemiles.com. The challenge will get them started on the right foot in their own personal journeys toward living lives of optimism. There are lots of other resources available on my blog as well.

Learn more about Tracie Miles and Unsinkable Faith at www.traciemiles.com,on Facebook (p31traciemiles) and via Twitter (@traciewmiles).

Posted 4/6/17 at 2:02 PM | Audra Jennings

Hope, even at its most fragile, is always stronger than it appears

Ruchti pens story encouraging readers to hold onto hope, even when it doesn’t make sense

Abingdon Press
A Fragile Hope by Cynthia Ruchti

We easily become so absorbed in our own responsibilities, problems and concerns that we miss what is going on in the lives of those around us, even those we love the most. That’s where Josiah Chamberlain finds himself in award-winning author Cynthia Ruchti’s latest release, A Fragile Hope (Abingdon Press). When his life starts falling apart around him, will the fragile hope he has left be enough to help through the most difficult time of his life?

As a best-selling author, speaker, and relationship expert, Josiah’s life’s work revolves around repairing other people’s marriages. While he is focused on his latest deadline, Josiah fails to notice as his wife, Karin, grows distant. Their relationship is challenged further when Karin is involved in a serious car accident and is unable to communicate. When his own marriage is threatened, 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, Josiah 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?

Ruchti hopes readers find a few unmistakable lessons in love tucked quietly within the pages of the story, including:

  • The strength and fragility of love.
  • The need for constant nurturing in relationships.
  • The power and gift of communication.
  • Against our natural inclination and instincts, at its heart, love is sacrifice.

The truest example of love and deeper inspiration for A Fragile Hope came from I Corinthians 11:23-24, “The Lord Jesus on the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is (represents) My body, which is [offered as a sacrifice] for you,’” (Amplified Bible). Ruchti admits this doesn’t seem like the typical scripture to inspire a contemporary novel, but readers will find why this scripture played a key role as they delve into the story. “I was deeply moved by the idea that Jesus showed us the depth of His love most significantly ‘on the night He was betrayed.’ What would that look like in a husband/wife relationship, or any other relationship, for that matter? Can love shine brightest on the night it’s betrayed?”

Of course, Ruchti hopes readers will finish the book with a satisfied sigh but adds, “I pray they’ll also have gained a deeper appreciation for the power of love and the strength of hope. Disappointment and betrayal are always more layered than we imagine. Hope is always stronger than it appears, even at its most fragile.”

Learn more about A Fragile Hope and Cynthia Ruchti atwww.cynthiaruchti.com. Readers can also follow her onFacebook (Cynthia Ruchti), Twitter (@cynthiaruchti) and Pinterest (cynthiaruchti).

Advance Praise

“Exquisite storyteller Cynthia Ruchti has accomplished the seemingly impossible feat of beautifully portraying the inner struggles of a man on the edge of decisions that will forever change reality for all those he loves. I simply could not put down A Fragile Hope,because, after all, everyone is seeking hope in the end. Must read!”

~ Lucinda Secrest McDowell, author of Dwelling Places

“Master storyteller Cynthia Ruchti demonstrates a unique ability to weave tenderness with life-changing truth in her novel A Fragile Hope. It offers more than a good read. It offers answers for those seeking the path to forgiveness and longing for hope in the midst of seeming impossibilities.”

~ Grace Fox, international speaker and author of Moving from Fear to Freedom

Cynthia Ruchti, author of A Fragile Hope

About the author

Cynthia Ruchti tells stories hemmed in hope through her novels, novellas, nonfiction books, articles and devotionals, drawing from 33 years of on-air radio ministry. Ruchti has written more than 20 award-winning novels, novellas, nonfiction books and devotionals. Her books have received numerous awards and nominations, including the RT Reviewers’ Choice, ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year nominations, two Selah Awards, Christian Retailing’s BEST, was an ACFW Carol Award finalist and a Christy finalist, among other honors. Her latest release is the novel A Fragile Hope.

One of Ruchti’s greatest joys is helping other writers grow in their craft. To that end, she has served as worship and devotions staff and faculty for the Write-to-Publish conference and teaches at other writers’ conferences across the country and internationally as opportunities arise. She also serves as the professional relations liaison for American Christian Fiction Writers.

Ruchti speaks frequently for women’s groups and serves on her church’s worship team. She and her husband live in the heart of Wisconsin, not far from their three children and five grandchildren.

To keep up with Cynthia Ruchti, visitwww.cynthiaruchti.com. She also invites readers to follow her onFacebook (Cynthia Ruchti), Twitter (@cynthiaruchti) and Pinterest (cynthiaruchti).

Posted 4/4/17 at 5:03 PM | Audra Jennings

Putting God back in the spotlight

New Hope Publishers
Chasing Famous by Lisa Lloyd

Lisa Lloyd helps readers live the life they’ve always auditioned for.

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/April 3, 2017/ISBN: 978-1-62591-517-7/$14.99), Lisa Lloyd helps readers shift the focus outwardly and back on God and His glory. FULL POST

Posted 4/3/17 at 3:01 PM | Audra Jennings

Transform the way you think, feel and live

Tracie Miles helps readers develop an unsinkable faith through all circumstances

David C Cook
Unsinkable Faith by Tracie Miles

Thoughts are powerful and at times cause us to feel and act in ways we wouldn’t normally. In fact, they can become so powerful that if left unchecked, they end up controlling us rather than the other way around. When our thoughts and feelings are largely negative in nature, those pessimistic ideas infiltrate our lives — and our faith — making it increasingly difficult to live with joy. In Unsinkable Faith: God-Filled Strategies to Transform the Way You Think, Feel, and Live (David C Cook), Tracie Miles offers practical, life-changing strategies for those who struggle with negativity, leading them to discover how the transforming of their minds can transform their lives.

For some individuals, remaining optimistic about life and feeling positive about themselves are a constant battle. It may even become a battle that seems hopeless, particularly when life is hard and circumstances are difficult. For others, negativity is something that sneaks up from time to time, catching them off-guard. In either case, once dark thoughts permeate the mind, it becomes challenging to see the light. Even with the knowledge that negativity doesn’t come from God, it’s difficult to escape wondering, Is it possible to develop an unsinkable faith that carries us through life with a hopeful, positive attitude, no matter what?

In the midst of a painful divorce, Miles was faced with a barrage of negative self-talk. As she cried out to God through her pain, she sensed Him drawing her nearer. “It was a turning point for me to lean harder into Jesus instead of letting this situation shake my faith,” Miles remembers. “I invited Him to help me transform my thoughts from negative into positive so I could transform and reclaim my life.”

Each chapter of Unsinkable Faith explores personal stories from Miles and others, showing how they were able to rise above their circumstances by transforming and renewing their minds. These inspiring stories illustrate when a person’s thoughts and attitudes improve, their lives do too — even if the circumstances remain the same.

Unsinkable Faith is filled with Biblical wisdom and insight as well as recent scientific findings in support of what Scripture has said all along: It is possible to transform our lives by transforming of our minds. Romans 12:2 says, “Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out” (The Message).

Each chapter comes to a close with “Strategies for Transforming Your Thinking,” which includes a section for mind-transforming personal reflections that will help the reader begin to identify their thinking habits and practically implement tools for positive thinking into their own lives. Also included are mind-renewing scriptures and a powerful Chapter Challenge to empower the reader to change from the inside out. Unsinkable Faith will inspire readers to embrace God’s truth as they discover His tools for a more positive and optimistic outlook. Rather than sinking mentally, emotionally and spiritually, God’s truths and a positive mindset make it possible to live a life of joy, peace and happiness.

Advance Praise

“When life has beaten you down, Unsinkable Faith will pick you back up and strengthen your heart for the journey God has called you to.”

~ Lysa TerKeurst, New York Times bestselling author and president of Proverbs 31 Ministries

“In Unsinkable Faith, Tracie vulnerably shares through her own story how we can break through the stronghold of negativity in our lives by fighting for control of our thoughts and emotions to live a more positive, victorious life!”

~ Michelle L. Bengtson, PhD, neuropsychologist and author of Hope Prevails

Tracie Miles, author of Unsinkable Faith

About the Author

Tracie Miles is passionate about inspiring women to deepen their relationship with Christ, discover their God-given purpose and always live a life of joy, peace and happiness despite their circumstances. She is a speaker and writer with Proverbs 31 Ministries and enjoys sharing at women’s events around the country. Her contributions to the Proverbs 31 Encouragement for Today daily devotions reach more than one million women with God’s Word.

Miles is the author of two best-selling books, Stressed-Less Living: Finding God’s Peace in Your Chaotic World and Your Life Still Counts: How God Uses Your Past to Create a Beautiful Future. She is also a contributing writer to Zondervan’s NIV Women’s Devotional Bible and the Proverbs 31 Encouragement for Today daily devotional book. Miles’ latest release is Unsinkable Faith: God-Filled Strategies to Transform the Way You Think, Feel, and Live.

Miles lives in Charlotte, NC and is a devoted mother to three incredible young adults.

Keep up with Tracie Miles by visiting www.traciemiles.com,following her on Facebook (p31traciemiles) or via Twitter (@traciewmiles).


Posted 3/27/17 at 7:10 PM | Audra Jennings

Welcome to College helps students navigate the journey into adulthood

Setting the trajectory for a

life of following Jesus

Welcome to College helps students

navigate the journey into adulthood

Welcome to College by Jonathan Morrow

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/March 28, 2017/ISBN: 9780825444883/ $21.99), Jonathan Morrow helps students tackle this new stage of life and emerge on the other side prepared for what God has planned for them.

“Is there a more frightening question for a graduating high school senior than ‘What will you do with your life?’” Morrow asks. “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 college will shape their future. As Christians, they will have the added layer of trying to figure out what God would want them to do with their lives. It can be overwhelming. It's critical that students know how to handle college before they're in the thick of it.”

College is a critical time for young adults to find and develop a faith of their own. Various surveys reveal between 40-75% of young people abandon their faith during their college years. While even one student walking away from their faith is too much, parents and students need to know and understand that college is not a faith-friendly environment. However, God has called students to more than surviving; he has called them to engage our culture with the life-changing message of Jesus.

Keeping this truth in mind, Morrow tackles the tough questions that arise during these formative years, including:

  • · How do I grow spiritually?
  • · Is all truth relative?
  • · How do I manage my time both to study well and have fun?
  • · How can I discover what I am supposed to do with my life?
  • · As a Christian, how should I view issues such as drinking, dating and sex?

The first edition of Welcome to College, released a decade ago,was extremely popular and still very applicable to today. In this new edition, each chapter has been updated, and Morrow added chapters addressing the tyranny of tolerance and Christianity, homosexuality, and the Bible. He also delves into how social media has changed our culture and how students’ digital footprints will follow them all of their lives. Grounded in both his own extensive experience and biblical truth, Morrow's book is full of quick, easy-to-read chapters and practical advice.

“College is full of opportunities and challenges,” Morrow muses. “I want students to own their faith and not just survive college, but to thrive there and have the kind of influence God created them for!”

Advance Praise

“I know of no better book you can put into the hands of a Christian student headed to college.”

~ John Stonestreet, president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview (from the book’s foreword)

Welcome to College has been my go-to book for helping students prepare to succeed spiritually, relationally and academically in college. There is no other book that has such depth and balance. And I am thrilled to see that Jonathan has written a timely and helpful update, incorporating many of the biggest issues students face today. This book is a must-read for all Christian students who hope to have a vibrant faith in college.”

~ Sean McDowell, best-selling author, speaker and professor at Biola University

“If I could give just one apologetics book to a Christian going off to college, it is this one. Jonathan Morrow goes well beyond providing evidence for Christianity (as most such books do) — he provides succinct and sound answers to the kinds of moral and emotional issues that often trip up Christian college students. Highly recommended!”

~ Frank Turek, broadcaster and author of I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist and Correct, Not Politically Correct


About the Author

Jonathan Morrow, author of Welcome to College

Jonathan Morrow feels like he was able to do college right, with no major regrets. Although he admits to not having all the answers, his mission is to help other students do the same. Morrow is currently the director of cultural engagement and immersion at Impact 360 Institute where he trains high school and college students in Christian worldview, apologetics, and leadership. He also serves as an adjunct professor of apologetics at Biola University.

Morrow is the author of Welcome to College,Questioning the Bible and Think Christianly. He also co-authored Is God Just a Human Invention? with Sean McDowell and has contributed chapters to Foundations of Spiritual Formation and A New Kind of Apologist. Morrow has contributed articles to several publications and his books have been featured on a number of national radio programs.

He graduated with an MDiv and an MA in philosophy of religion and ethics as well as a DMin in Worldview and Culture from the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University. Morrow and his wife are the parents of three and currently live in Georgia.

Learn more about Welcome to College at www.welcometocollege.tv.

Connect with Jonathan Morrow at www.jonathanmorrow.org, via Facebook (ThinkChristianlyOrg) and on Twitter (@Jonathan_Morrow).


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