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: http://bit.ly/2anStIA

This post was originally published on www.alanpastian.com. Thanks for allowing us to share, Alan! 

If I were in my 20’s again, there would be some practices and disciplines that I would build into my everyday life as The New Young Christian.  I would execute these disciplines regularly that it would become natural for me decades later.  

HERE ARE 5 DISCIPLINES THE NEW YOUNG CHRISTIAN SHOULD START IN THEIR 20'S:

1.  Journaling. When I became a Christian at 22 years old, I didn't want to forget what God was telling me.  So I bought a notebook and began to write Scriptures down.  From there, I also began to write short prayer phrases down.  From there, it has become a discipline where I don't go anywhere without my prayer journal.  Let me tell you what this was not:  A "Dear Jesus Diary" where I share my heart secrets and talk about what I want in my future spouse.  Nope.  Although that's not wrong by any means, for a dude in his 20's like me at the time, that was not what I was aiming for.  For me, this was and has become, a daily practice where I simply have a blank page in front of me and I ask God to "speak to me."   I write down verses that stand out to me, I write down impressions that I believe God is speaking to my heart, worship song lyrics that "I can't shake" that I believe is the song of God to my season, etc.   Impressions in prayer that seem to come to mind that I keep praying.  God commands us to write what we see and hear and run forward with it (Habakuk 2:2).  I have realized journaling what I see and hear in devotions, sermons, conferences, etc, are "vision reveals" where God pulls back the curtain of his plan to reveal to me who I am, what I'm doing and where I'm going.  I have also developed a part of this habit that I say, "speak Lord" and whatever I perceive God speaking to my heart, I write it down.  This has allowed me to develop a listening ear to hear God's voice regularly and most importantly recognize that voice so when I'm out with others (leading, loving, speaking, encouraging, etc) I recognize God's counsel when it comes (John 10:27).  Because of this habit that I started at 22 I now have a collection of journals that I will give to my son and daughter as part of my spiritual legacy.  My children will have years of journals to see what God spoke to their father not only about me, but our family and about them!  

2.  "Tribing." This is my own word that I use to define and rally those relationships that are meaningful to me, that champion my current season and that dream with me for my future.  Seth Godin, from his book Tribes, says this about these relationships, "A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader and connected to an idea....  A group needs only two things to be a tribe:  a shared interest and a way to communicate."   I break my tribes down into some of the following categories:  Inner Circle (those who I am most real with), Mentors (mature relationships who have permission to speak into my life), Models (who is doing what I am doing ahead of me and doing it well), Timothys (those who I can speak into, encourage and inspire who will outlast me) and The Prayer Circle (those relationships that I can share prayer needs with who I know pray and hear from God), to name a few.  Friendships often start early. And take work. In my 20's, my relationships seem to have deeper meaning and importance to me. I need people who can speak into my life who know me well.  So make sure to surrounded yourself with the right friends.  Let those in your tribe be from all walks of life.  They may or  may not be the people from your 20’s, but be on the lookout for relationships that have potential to inspire you and for you to aspire to be....

3.  Giving. You can never be too early to start giving.  What are those areas of your life that move you to tears, move your heart and go make a difference in your family, community and world?  I have always been drawn to ministries and causes that help those who are orphaned or alone.  Now my family and I have developed and give weekly to our  "Cause Cooperative."  Our family Cause Co-Op funds our personal causes and charities that have an intentionality in developing the heart of the fatherless, orphan and the abandoned.  This includes child sponsorship, monthly cause support and even a generosity fund that we can give from if we encounter someone with a need.  Not only does this allow is to diversify our generosity but the singular cause focus is leaving a memorable legacy for my family that we can look back on that my children will always remember.  I have realized generosity is one of the most rewarding parts of my life.  To own and champion a cause that is close to you and your family's heart will establish a legacy of generosity that starts with you that will outlast you.  Let your Cause Co-Op become a staple in your friendships and family. I highly recommend starting this discipline early before the world and all its demands attempts to take the ability from you.

4.  "IDing." Specifically here I’m referring to understanding your identity by who God designed you to be and living out this identity in the world.  Mark Batterson, mentor and friend to me, has always said to me, "No one can worship God like you or for you."  That means that when you are truly yourself in the Kingdom, that's when the Kingdom of God is being the most complete and most recognizable as Jesus.  There are many versions of me:  the ME others want me to be, the ME I want to be, the ME I don't want to be, etc.  But there is a version of ME that God wants me to be and that's what I'm desiring to become.  This me is not mass-produced like a greeting card in a Target with multiple cards exactly like it, each behind one another at every target in the nation.  No...I'm not a mass-produced creation but a masterpiece creation.  Unique, one-of-a-kind, valuable and ready to be shown off to the world (Ephesians 2:10).  Because I live in Arizona, what it takes to grow a cactus would kill a Marigold.  This is why comparing yourself to others is never healthy.  What you need to make you grow into who God wants you to become is going to be different than what it's going to take others.  Discover your gifts and talents.  Take spiritual gifts tests and see what hits the top of the list and also be aware at what's at the bottom.  Take the Strengthfinders test to highlight what makes you flourish.  And always remember, all of this means nothing unless you start with your identity as a "son of God" or "daughter of God" first.   Start there and see what God will reveal to you about your gifts, talents, calling and place in God's Kingdom.  This discipline of identifying who I am regularly will cause me to be more secure the older I get and the result is a greater confidence to do what God wants me to do.  When you discover who God wants you to be you won't want to be anyone else.

5.  Honoring. This discipline of honoring others is rare.  It seems one of the biggest battles the next generation has to fight against, is the feeling of being entitled.  Now, I think it's easy to make sweeping statements like, 'this generation is entitled' and point the finger at others and not really understand the deep rooted issues.  Entitlement is the belief that I am exempt from responsibility an I am owes special treatment.   I think the best way to battle feeling entitled is to honor others.  Honor says I am going to take responsibility and esteem , give respect and special credit to the other person with distinct worth.  Find those around you who have wisdom,  accomplishment and leadership and recognize what they have done with sincere gratitude.  Most of the time these individuals will be older and have some expression of authority so not only submit to them but pray for them.  Hebrews 13:17 says this about honoring those around you, especially those in spiritual authority,  "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.  In life, there will always be those who will have authority over you and experience beyond you.  Don't be jealous of their position or place but celebrate them.  When you’re young you can be guilty of thinking you know more than you really know.  The older you get, the more you realize how much you don’t know. There is always something to be learned from another person’s experience you don’t have.  The experiences and wisdom from others you collect over the years from honoring others will add value, inspire you and make you wiser.  

Any you would add to my list?


Originally published on June 3, 2016  • Short Link: http://bit.ly/29QRwJs

Author Bio: Currently working full-time in the marketplace, Hannah loves the thriving, fast-paced city that is Washington, DC. A proud alum from the University of Alabama, there's very little she loves more than college football, her husband Blane, and their son Jeremiah. You can find her around the city exploring bookstores, drinking coffee, or taking walks with Jeremiah, and follow her on Twitter at @hannahfyoung. 

The other day Jeremiah and I were taking a bus ride. He loves buses. We got on the bus together- my hands full of baby, stroller, metrocard, diaper bag, etc. People graciously moved out of the way so we could sit in the preferred seating in front. Next to me was a man who looked down on his luck- very possibly homeless. He noticed Jeremiah’s wide-eyed stare and excitement to be on a bus. Side note: bus rides are possibly the most exciting thing in the world if you are 20 months old. 

Online fundraising for Reach the City - 2016

The homeless man asked him, “Is this your first bus ride?” He told me Jeremiah should have something to mark the occasion. From one of his bags he pulled out a well-worn, well-used plastic box and from it, gave Jeremiah several pennies. “No, wait,” he said, “you need more than that.” He then proceeded to give Jeremiah a huge, heaping handful of pennies, nickels, and dimes.

The bus arrived at my stop and I thanked the man profusely for making the experience so special and for his gift to Jeremiah. I left the bus feeling overwhelmed by his generosity. He took the time to truly see the people around him and live generously - regardless of his own circumstances. 

In fact, how you give now determines how you will give later.

This experience reminds me that we are never too poor to give. In fact, how you give now determines how you will give later. Are you waiting to get out of debt, to get a better job, to stop living paycheck-to-paycheck before you start giving?

If so, I challenge you to read the story of the Widow’s Mite (Mark 12:41-44, Luke 21:1-4). It’s pretty clear she had no savings, no back-up plan, and no streams of revenue, yet she was willing to give all she had. Prayerfully ask God where, when, and how much you should give. He knows your financial situation. He also knows people who need blessing. 

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Luke 12:34

Take a minute. Examine your heart. How can you live generously today?



Published on July 26, 2016 • Short Link: http://bit.ly/29XUWFg

Author Info: A Buffalo native, Natalie Kate "Kate Hill" Hill (of the Modern Nomads) is best known for her unique vocals and indie style. Yet it's her heart for seeing students lives transformed by the power and love of Jesus that makes her a quality leader. She serves on the staff team at American University Chi Alpha. You can connect with her via our AU Chi Alpha Staff Page.

There’s this thing in the church I grew up called Bible Quiz.  It’s probably exactly what you’re thinking, on steroids.  It’s a competition between teams from all different churches where you’re asked questions about the Bible, all ranging in point value.  Some require answers with direct quotes and scripture references (known as “quotation questions”), you can interrupt the question and complete the question and the answer (to beat the other team to it), and the competition is complete with buzzers and strategies on how to hold your hands for the quickest “beep.”  I don’t mean to brag or anything (actually I do),  but my team won first place in the Junior Bible Quiz state competition in sixth grade.  All of that to say, I knew a lot of things about the Bible.

I learned a lot and knew the answers and memorized the facts.  I take great pride in how quickly I can recite the books of the Bible and the 12 tribes of Judah in order.  And growing up in church, people always talked about devotional life, but in my head, I thought I already knew everything I needed to know.  I knew what was in the Bible backwards and forwards, literally.

Online fundraising for Reach the City - 2016

It took me many years to realize how misguided I was.

I think there will always be a season in our lives when we learn that knowing about the Bible and knowing Jesus are not the same thing.  I learned it my sophomore year of college in a season of depression where reciting the 12 sons of Jacob didn’t change the pain or the loneliness.  I knew what the Bible said but I didn’t have a daily relationship with Jesus.  I wasn’t letting the words of scripture come to life and speak hope into my bones.  It took hurting to understand that Jesus wanted to be with me every day, reminding me of who He was to me and how much He valued me.  And that took a daily devotional life, reminding myself of who God was and how the Jesus of the Bible is the Jesus of today.

At a certain point, we can’t be satisfied with where we’ve been.

We can know all the facts, but God wants to bring us to a deeper place with Him.  When I got to college, there was knowledge but not depth.  At a certain point, we can’t be satisfied with where we’ve been.  When we spend daily time with God and in His word, we start to delight in His commandments (Psalm 119).  We start to find hope in our brokenness (Lamentations 3).  We start to understand just how much Christ values us (Luke 12).  We can stay where we’ve been or we can want more.  And we can have a fuller, deeper, more rewarding relationship with our savior.

I keep talking about devotional life because I know what it was like to not have it, and I know what it’s like to have it.  And I could get by just fine for a while.  I could explain my religion with a list of facts, and my faith looked a lot like a to-do list with things to check off and things to know.  I think that’s how the majority of self-professed Christians view it too.  

But there’s more to be found.

There’s a God who longs to give us a hope and a peace and to show us grace.  His laws are there for our good, because He loves us.  He wants to show us this every day.  And He just longs to be in relationship with us.  But like any true relationship, it takes work.  It takes showing up each day with all our baggage and saying, “Let’s be together.”



Published on July 25, 2016 • Short Link: http://bit.ly/29YZaNG

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We’ve all said this before: I’m going to read the Bible cover to cover, starting with Genesis, every day, starting…now!  You sit down with your bible, a cup of coffee the size of your head, pens, pencils, highlighters, notebooks, all ready to go.  A month later, you haven’t made it past Genesis…chapter 2.

Written by Allyson Sarring   Facebook  ||  Twitter

Written by Allyson Sarring

Facebook || Twitter

I've tried reading the Bible cover to cover many times, but have failed.  I would forget a day, be lazy, or just was having a difficult time understanding the scriptures.  It’s pretty easy to get frustrated and discouraged.  I used to think Bible reading plans were for the weak or made things more complicated, but now I am so thankful for them!

With all the technology these days, we can get anything with snap (or should I say swipe) of a finger!  We can read the Bible on our computers, tablets, phones, etc.  If you’re tech savvy, you probably have the YouVersion Bible app downloaded on some device.  It’s fantastic and super easy to use!  The Bible app is great, but the key to its success is that you actually have to use it!  It’s nice to have it downloaded, but if you are just reading the Verse of the Day and nothing else, you are missing out on this awesome resource that is full of…..Bible. Reading. Plans.  Yes, I said it!  This app has hundreds of plans to keep you fed and focused on God.  Especially with the nice daily reminders it sends you. 

I've done some research and found tons of reading plans that you should consider doing.  I actually will be working though some of them myself!

Click on each plan to begin your reading plan on your computer! Download the app on your smartphone or tablet to take each plan on the go!  

 

1.       Ownit365

This plan takes you through the entire Bible in a year, with two readings per day, six days a week.  OWN is an acronym that outlines the reading plan.  Every day you will have a reading from the Old Testament, in conjunction with one from the Wisdom Books or New Testament.  This plan focuses on balance, letting you work though the Bible, while at the same time including daily, easier to understand passages that you can apply to your life.  In addition to YouVersion, downloading the OWNit365 app will give you access to their videos, reading plan guides, discussion questions, etc.

This plan was provided by OWNit365.com.

 

2.       Discipleship Journal 5x5x5 Reading Plan

Not ready to tackle the whole Bible in a year?  No problem.  This plan allows you to just work through the New Testament: 5 minutes a day, 5 days a week.  Giving you 5 ways to dig deeper.  You will read through one chapter each day.

This plan was provided by NavPress.

 

3.       Before the Cross: The Life of Jesus

If you are looking for an efficient way to get through the Gospels and gain a complete understanding of the life of Jesus, this plan is it!  This is an 80 day reading plan that walks you through the four gospels in order, outlining his life from His birth to His death and resurrection.

This plan was provided by Before the Cross.

 

4.       Major People, Major Themes, Major Beliefs, Major Events

These are four separate reading plans that will take you through the major people, themes, beliefs, and events of the Bible in only 65 days.  They are beneficial when used separately or when all four reading plans are done at once.  It’s also a great way to focus on one aspect of the Bible at a time. 

These plans were provided by LCBC Church.

 

5.       The Overflow Devo

YouVersion has awesome seven day devotionals written by some of Christian music’s biggest artists, such as Lecrae, Newsboys, Tenth Avenue North, for KING & COUNTRY, and Hawk Nelson.  Each week, you can work through a devotional written by each artist that features music from their albums.  Their songs aid understanding each week’s topic.

These plans were provided by The OverFlow.

 

6.       The Essential 100

This plan helps you get an overview of the Bible without getting overwhelmed.  In 100 days, you will have read 50 Old Testament and 50 New Testament passages.  The goal of this plan is to help you develop a daily habit of getting into the word, while at the same time, giving you an overall view of the Bible.

This plan was provided by Scripture Union.

 

7.       Project 345

This plan takes a unique approach to reading the entire New Testament in one year.  Five days a week you will read a chapter a day, using the weekends to catch up if need be.  The name Project 345 was inspired by the average time is takes to read one chapter in the New Testament (3 minutes 45 seconds).  If you are looking for this approach plus a little extra, check out Project 345 Plus  which adds a Psalm or Proverb each day, along with passages from the Old Testament. 

This plan was provided by The Ark Church.

 

8.       Bible in 90 Days

If you are feeling ambitious, this plan will help you get through the Bible in just three months!  Perfect one to do in the summer!  Maybe even this summer?  Every day’s readings average to about 12 pages each day.  This plan takes more commitment, but is very worthwhile. 

This plan was provided by Bible Gateway.


These are just a few of hundreds of thought out readings plans that YouVersion provides.  Go grab some coffee and a quiet place, and get going!  Happy Reading.