Author Info: Josh is passionate about studying the Bible and having deep conversations with college students at American University and Georgetown University. In his spare time, he can be found with a book, a video game, or outdoors in a hammock, normally fueled by caffeine. You can connect with him via our AU Chi Alpha Staff Page.

The older I get, the more I realize that I like simple things. 

Simple meals. 
Simple dates. 
Simple technology. 

The last one is big. I love technology. I love being on the forefront of the newest thing, and I love when it is simple to use. Recently I had a conversation with a friend about the new trend towards 3D movies and virtual reality. It is intriguing to me that these things are becoming popular, but that there are many people who stay back from them due to the fact that it is more complicated than we are used to. I don’t want to have to put another set of glasses over my own glasses to watch a movie, or play a video game a specific way. Yes, I know that it is supposed to be more “immersive”, but to me, it is just complicating things that were fine to begin with. I’m only 26, but the older I get, the more I like things to just be simple. 

Simplicity. What is it about simplicity that we tend to be scared of? We live in such a complex world. If you don’t believe me, or if you don’t see it in the news, all you have to do is bring home something from IKEA and try assembling it. 

In his book, Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster talks about what seems to be this forgotten discipline of simplicity. He states, “The Christian discipline of simplicity is an inward reality that results in an outward lifestyle.” 

...a lot of times, when we have that much stuff, we begin to let stuff define us instead of letting Christ define us

Moving from a three bedroom house to a studio apartment has taught me a lot about how to live simply. Frankly, there is just a lot of stuff that we do not need. And a lot of times, when we have that much stuff, we begin to let stuff define us instead of letting Christ define us. We are living in a generation that is all about the stuff that we have, and does not find joy in living simply, therefore the identity of this generation is based in what’s new, what’s hot, and what’s not. 

Foster goes on to list ten principles on living simply, and ones that I have found to be very helpful in evaluating the discipline of simplicity in my life. I encourage you to read over these, and implement them in yours. You’d be surprised at how much more refreshing living a simple life can be! (Personally, #5 has had the most impact on me!)

  1. Buy things for their usefulness rather than their status.
  2. Get rid of anything that is producing an addiction in you, anything you can’t do without.
  3. Develop a habit of giving things away.
  4. Refuse to be propagandized by the custodians of modern gadgetry.
  5. Learn to enjoy things without owning them.
  6. Develop a deeper appreciation for creation.
  7. Look with a healthy skepticism at all “buy now, pay later” schemes.
  8. Obey Jesus’ instructions about plain, honest speech. (Matt. 5:37)
  9. Reject anything that breeds oppression of others.
  10. Shun anything that distracts you from seeking first the Kingdom of God.

Published on August 4, 2016 • Short Link:

My view of evangelism was way too narrow and rigid. 

The first thing that comes to mind when I hear evangelism is a stranger on the street coming up to me and asking me if I know Jesus.  That sounds terrifying if you are someone who is very shy, non-confrontational and typically keeps spiritual life personal (a lot like me).

But over the past year, I've come to define evangelism differently. 

Evangelism is inviting others to share in the life you are already living with Jesus. 

It really is that simple - let me share a seemingly awkward experience from my personal life. The floor I lived on in my dorm housed sophomores and exchange students, but many of us didn’t spend a lot of time there. I wanted others to come to Chi Alpha events so they could have a chance to be a part of a community that for me has been incredibly meaningful in my college career.  My question for myself became, how can I be invitational to students I’m not friends with and who don’t spend a lot of time just hanging out in the dorm? Well, opportunity to engage with others presented itself in the most unexpected and somewhat uncomfortable place.  

I found the only time I ever spent a significant amount of time with the girls on my floor was in the bathroom.

Written by Allyson Kulmayer    Twitter  ||  Facebook

Written by Allyson Kulmayer 

Twitter || Facebook

Okay, that sounds crazy, maybe even gross, but it’s true.  Standing at the sink washing your face or brushing your teeth is several minutes I got to introduce myself, ask how their day was and even what their interests are.  It seemed strange at first, but it was an opportunity to be friendly to someone and I have some great conversations! 

Nancy is a student from China who in her one semester at American University, joined XAi (Chi Alpha International), came to small group, worship and church, read the gospel for the first time, and made life-long friendships.  Her third night in the dorm, it all began at the bathroom sink with the following. 

  • “Hi! My name is…
  • Where are you from? …
  • Would you like to come with me to a dinner hosted by Chi Alpha for international students?”

I get it, it might be awkward to talk to someone you don’t know about what you study in small group, but the worst thing they can say is they don’t want to come.  

And if you continue to ask her kindly even after she said she’s too busy every week for six months straight, there will come a day when she’s free and remembers you talked about your Monday night small group and asks you if she can come with you.  

How do I know this? It's happened to me before! 

AuthorBlane Young

College was where my faith in God became an actual relationship. When I think about what led to this transformation, one of the things that stands out the most is that I learned what it meant to pray. I heard prayer described as a dialogue and two-way conversation, rather than a monologue that looks more like a to-do list. I realized quickly that I wanted to hear and experience God in the same way the people around me did.

One of the most radical changes in my prayer life came as a result of a suggestion from my mentor at the time. She suggested that I try journaling my prayers word for word. This single suggestion completely changed the way that I prayed and heard from God. Not only did it give me a new way to think through the things God was teaching me, it also gave me a record of my spiritual growth over a long period of time and a written testimony of God’s faithfulness in answering.

Written by Kristin Caldwell 

Written by Kristin Caldwell 

Through this kind of prayer journaling, my perspective on God and whatever situation I was in at the time began changing dramatically. There would be certain things that I told myself that would only make sense until I wrote them down. I also had thoughts run through my head that were too smart and made too much sense for me to have come up with them on my own. Through these kinds of prayers, God began to show me so much about Himself and His heart for the world. He also showed me a ton about my own heart in comparison with His.

My junior year of college I co-led a small group where halfway through the year our weekly meetings solely consisted of prayer for each other. Each member was struggling or wrestling with something big, so every week we would go around the circle and pray for each person individually and offer encouragement. So many chains were broken over those few months, and I am so excited to see where God has brought each of these amazing women of God since then.

When I think about everything I’ve learned over the past year, prayer has again been one of the most significant things God has stretched me in.

I believe that prayer changes things. Above all else, it changes us.

It forces our eyes off ourselves and onto God because it means that we are not in control and we don't have to be. Prayer gives us God’s perspective, which is so much bigger than ours ever will be. I think true prayer is surrendering our trust to God, having faith that He knows what He is doing. With this surrender, He challenges us to be used by Him and transform the world around us.

AuthorBlane Young

I’m naturally inclined to make decisions based on my feelings, so I’m familiar with the struggle of not feeling God and not knowing what to do about it. It’s something that has pushed me to grow in my faith and understanding of who God is and how He works in my life.

Written by Becca Pugh

Written by Becca Pugh

I became discouraged in my walk with Jesus a couple of years ago because I wasn’t feeling Him with me when I sat down for a devotional time. I didn’t feel like He was speaking to me or moving in my life. Because I relied so heavily on my feelings to tell me what’s true, I became somewhat disillusioned with the idea of a personal relationship with God. How could I know that God is real and with me if I don’t feel Him there? How could I keep investing in a relationship that I didn’t feel great one hundred percent of the time? 

When we follow Jesus, it’s not going to feel good all the time. In fact, suffering is a part of our calling as followers. What Jesus does promise is He will be with us. He will be with us through it all and provide sufficient grace to follow Him. Because Jesus suffered everything that we as humans suffer, we can trust that He empathizes with us and is with us in our pain.  The hard part for us is knowing what to do when we don’t feel butterflies and warm fuzzy feelings all the time. 

When I don’t feel God, it’s easy for me to fall into doubt and fear. Does God really love me? Has He really called me to live out this lifestyle? Is He real? What I’ve been learning is that these feelings or thoughts of doubt don’t have lead me away from God. I have a choice in how I respond to these doubts and questions, and if my desire is to draw closer to God in all things, even when I don’t feel it or feel Him, then I can choose to bring these doubts to God.

I heard Pastor Heather Zempel of National Community Church recently say that going to God when we have doubts demonstrates great faith; it’s when we choose to run away from God in our doubts that we enter into unbelief. That was pretty significant to realize. It’s OK to have doubts and not feel God all the time. That doesn’t mean He’s not real, that my faith isn’t real or that He’s not with me. It just means that I have to choose to talk to God about it, who I already know is completely good and whose love for me is perfect. When I don’t feel God, I have to choose to believe in what God’s word says anyway, because what I’m feeling isn’t always an accurate gauge of truth. Blane Young, on staff with me at Chi Alpha at American University, frequently quotes Jon Bloom, saying that emotions are a gauge of what we’re experiencing but are not a guide.

It’s hard when I don’t feel God, because it can cause me to doubt His role in my life or even His existence at times. When I don’t feel Him, I need to press into what I know is true and what is written as true. Even if I don’t feel like those things are true, I have to choose to believe with my mind that they are the reality of this world and my life. 

Encouraging Bible Passages

Jesus speaking to His disciples: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

– Matthew 28:20

God speaking to Israel: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

– Isaiah 41:10 

AuthorBlane Young

The first time a student asked me for advice I was terrified. Sitting at that park bench in the hot Florida sun I began to sweat more than usual. I'd been approved as a Campus Missionary in Training just a few weeks before, but in that moment my words failed and my title seemed irrelevant. Of course I'd talked through problems with friends before, but never with someone who sought me out as a minister. To this day I can't remember what I told them to do, but their life didn't enter a downward spiral so I suppose it couldn't have been that bad. 

Written by Jon Rice

Written by Jon Rice

Now after 11 years of full time college ministry the advice they seek seems less daunting and more familiar. I also found some of the advice transcends the question and gets repeated in multiple contexts. Of all the things I've said to students, the thing I find myself repeating more often than not is simply that they are not alone. It's been articulated hundreds of different ways, but it means the same thing every time; you aren't alone in what you face. It's the greatest fear we have and the one thing Jesus guaranteed the disciples and all of us just before he slipped through the clouds.

Whether facing the darkest night of our soul or the best day of our life, we don't want to be alone. The knowledge that Jesus is with us in our extremes and still walks with us through our daily routine has a liberating effect. It helps remind us that it's not all up to us, we don't have to have all the answers or be perfect, and someone's with us who knows better than we do how we feel. It's comforting to think back to that moment on the bench and realize even then, in the midst of my fear, I was never alone. 

AuthorBlane Young