Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sunnier Side of Doubt?

If you have been a Christian for more than a week, you have probably encountered many moments of doubt and uncertainty about your faith. We all do, and somehow, by the power of the Spirit, we learn to grow through these trying times. For many, however, doubt can become a major stumbling block to deeper faith. We begin to question whether or not God exists, or if Jesus really was who he said he was. Sometimes our questions turn personal, and we doubt ourselves, particularly our ability to follow Christ.

Renowned Oxford University professor, Alister McGrath, has provided a valuable guide to helping Christians through difficult times of doubt. His book Doubting: Growing Through the Uncertainties of Faith (InterVarsity Press) puts doubt into perspective and offers practical advice for struggling Christians. McGrath suggests, “Doubt is an invitation to grow in faith and understanding, rather than something we need to panic about or get preoccupied with. We must all learn to grasp and value what Alfred Lord Tennyson calls the ‘sunnier side of doubt.’”

The book begins with a cultural and Biblical understanding of doubt, and progresses to specific issues such as: doubt and the vain search of certainty; the personal aspects of doubt; doubts about the Gospel; doubts about God; and doubts about Jesus Christ. It concludes with guidelines for handling doubt in the Christian life.

Full of wisdom, insight and illuminating illustrations, McGrath has provided an important guide to helping students, as well as ourselves, through the difficult times of doubt and uncertainty.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Jason Boyett Interview: O Me of Little Faith

Jason Boyett is a writer, speaker, marketing professional, and the author of Pocket Guide to the Afterlife, Pocket Guide to the Bible, and several other books. He has appeared on the History Channel and National Geographic Channel and written for a variety of publications.

In O Me of Little Faith: True Confessions of a Spiritual Weakling, Boyett brings you a transparent and personal account of his own of struggles with doubts and unbelief in living out his faith. With humor and frankness, he uses personal anecdotes and a fresh look at Scripture to explore the realities of pursuing Christ through a field of doubt.

CPYU: We have never met. Is that a picture of you on the cover?

No. The little guy on the cover is a kid named Drew who lives in Michigan. That photo was taken a couple of years ago for an ad campaign promoting the Grand Rapids Marathon. He was six years old at the time. When the Zondervan art department came across the photo, everyone knew instantly that they'd found the cover of my book. Drew is in 2nd grade now, and he thinks it's pretty cool to be the face of O Me of Little Faith.

CPYU: What motivated you to write O Me of Little Faith?

I have been dealing with spiritual doubt for most of my adult life, but until a couple of years ago that struggle had been completely private. I kept it hidden inside because I didn't feel like my uncertainty was something I could admit in my church or among my family and friends. I pretended to have it all together. But then I got tired of pretending. As I became more honest about these questions, I discovered that a lot of other people have the same kinds of questions and doubt -- but we lack a safe place to talk about them. My hope with the book wasn't to "fix" a person's doubt or give them the answers to their questions, but rather to tell my story, explain how I've maintained my faith despite persistent doubts, and let them know they're not alone. Doubt can be lonely. I wanted to reach across the loneliness -- mine and theirs -- and offer the kind of encouragement that comes from shared experience.

CPYU: There have been a few books written recently about how doubt relates to faith. Why do you think reconciling doubt and faith is such a popular theme right now?

We're living in a fascinating time in human history. People have more options than ever in regard to spiritual expression. Due to the Internet and entertainment industry, the world has gotten smaller -- we're exposed to far more religious traditions than previous generations. Advances in medicine and science continue to provide explanations for things that used to be mysteries. We're seeing major failures of the Church, from the Roman Catholic abuse scandals to public sex scandals among evangelical leaders and religious politicians. All of these things add up to a lot of uncertainty. If you're paying attention at all, you're going to be confronted with some big questions -- and some of those questions don't have easy answers. Doubt is what remains when the answers aren't always satisfying. I think, in this global religious climate, believers are going to have to learn how to handle these doubts when they show up. You can't avoid uncertainty altogether, but can you still follow Christ despite it? Can the presence of doubt actually deepen your faith rather than damage it? I believe the answer to those questions is YES, and that's partly why I wrote the book. In our culture, doubt is inevitable. But doubt doesn't have to paralyze you. It works alongside your faith, and ultimately can make it stronger.

CPYU: Many of our readers are youth pastors and parents of teens. What advice would you give them about nurturing faith in young people, especially as it relates to doubt?

We need to pull down doubt from the scary pedestal our culture has placed it on. Doubters of all ages hide their uncertainty because we're afraid of what it looks like -- that you'll hear our honest questions and come to the conclusion that we're falling away, or about to abandon our faith. Help us realize that we're human, so it's perfectly OK to have questions about the divine, or the Bible, or the history of our faith tradition. Help us understand that doubt doesn't have to cancel out faith, but instead is essential to faith because faith requires uncertainty...or else it's not faith. (Faith without doubt isn't faith -- it's knowledge.) But most importantly, live out Jude 22 with us. "Be merciful to those who doubt." We need grace, understanding, companionship, and the freedom to ask hard questions in a safe place. Give us opportunities to serve and take action as we strive to follow Jesus, even if the following sometimes gets ahead of the belief. But don't react to our questions with judgment and fear. That kind of response is what makes us bury our doubts in the first place.



: David Dark on The Sacredness of Questioning Everything

Monday, April 19, 2010

2010 Graduation Bundle - Great Gift for Seniors!

The CPYU Graduation Bundle includes two resources, The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness and ConGRADulations! Class of 2010

A great gift for graduating high school seniors.

Bulk discount rates available!
1-4 copies --> $25/each
5-9 copies --> $22/each
10+ copies --> $20/each
Coauthored by CPYU's own Derek Melleby this book issues a clarion call to students to integrate their faith and learning. Written for a narrative generation, this guide extracts illustrations from the Book of Daniel, The Lord of the Rings, the experiences of real students, and more.

ConGRADulations! Class of 2010
ConGRADulations! is a Music CD, a Media DVD, a Resource Website and a 48 Page Graphic Gift Book. Your seniors will be encouraged as the songs and videos prepare them for the biggest transition of their young lives. Includes video and written advice from Francis Chan and Dave Ramsey. Brought to you by interlinc.

CPYU's Resource Center
offers other great graduation gift ideas.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Crossroads of Faith and Culture

A central motivation for the writing of Michael Goheen and Craig Bartholomew’s latest book Living at the Crossroads: An Introduction to Christian Worldview (Baker Academic) is that a faithful Christian worldview must derive from Scripture. They argue, “If our worldview should, by our neglect, lose its roots in Scripture, it becomes vulnerable to being taken over by some story other than that of the biblical drama.”

Goheen and Bartholomew’s first book, The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story (Baker Academic, 2004), provided an overview of the biblical story, explaining its major themes and applying them to all areas of life. Living at the Crossroads is its natural sequel, focusing on the story of Western culture and explaining where the two stories meet and conflict.

After a helpful introduction that defines the term worldview, explains how worldviews work and articulates the centrality of Jesus within a Christian worldview, the authors offer an overview of the story of Western civilization and its worldview. “Since every human culture since Eden has been shaped at least in part by a vision of life that is incompatible with the Christian faith, it is important that we understand well our own Western cultural setting and the beliefs that have shaped it.” Whereas the hero of the Christian story is Jesus, the hero of the western story is humanity: “Man becomes the measure of all things.” After the historical overview, the authors focus on the shape of contemporary culture with a helpful discussion of postmodernism, consumerism, globalization and the resurgence of Islam.

Even though there are many books written on developing a Christian worldview, this one should not be overlooked. How we live out that truth is always difficult and we need books like this one to help us be more faithful in our callings.

Visit the authors' website to learn more about this book and find many helpful resources.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Steve Miller Interview: Enjoy Your Money!

Students (and parents) face many challenges transitioning from high school to college. CPYU’s College Transition Initiative seeks to address those challenges and help students make a successful transition. Finances are on a lot of people’s minds at CTI seminars. How do you pay for college? What do we do with debt? How can young people learn to manage their money?

We are always looking for helpful resources to pass along to parents and students and Steve Miller’s new book, Enjoy Your Money! How to Make It Save It and Give It Away is worth checking out. Steve is an educator, investor, entrepreneur, and speaker who is known for drawing practical wisdom from serious research and communicating it in accessible, unforgettable ways. What follows is an interview with Steve about his important and engaging book:

CPYU: What motivated you to write this book?

SM: My first wife died of cancer in her 30’s, leaving me with four boys to raise. Later, I married Cherie, who was raising three boys on her own. So we’re trying to help these seven boys, ages 16 to 28, to be successful in life. I like to research and write on issues that I’m personally struggling with. If we fail to transition them to successful independence, we’re sunk! How’s that for motivation?

CPYU: What are some of the biggest issues college students (and parents) face when it comes to finances?

SM: Our sons are very different from one another – different strengths, different weaknesses, different personalities. Because of these differences, they all relate to money differently. Some tend to save, but lack generosity. Others tend to be generous, but lack the discipline to save a penny for tomorrow. Living among diverse kids helps me to realize that there are many issues and that cookie-cutter formulas for financial success don’t help everyone.

Knowing that people differ so much led me to write the book as a story of four diverse students who meet in “In School Suspension.” They find that they have something in common – their parents are hopeless with their money and it hurts their families. The students, desperate to do better, do lunch with an eccentric teacher once a week to discuss personal finance. Rather than tell them what to do, the wise teacher tells stories of successful people and lets the students draw out principles and have wide-open discussions about how to apply them. The discussions help to bring out the different ways that different people might apply the same principles.

So back to your question about the “biggest issues.” Sure, I could mention the obvious issues people face, like overspending, misuse of credit cards, enslavement to materialism and personal debt. But I’d suggest that the main problem is that although young people today have access to knowledge, but lack wisdom. They desperately need to understand basic principles of finance and to think through how they apply to their individual situation.

Example: high school graduates know something about History and Math and English, but they know nothing about - and have absolutely no vision for - their incredible potential to build up wealth during their teen years, while their parents provide free food, clothing and housing. And concerning the potential of investing for the future (I call it “the power of early”), I’ve yet to meet a high school senior who knows something as simple as the “Laws of 10’s and 7’s” (Money invested at 10% interest doubles every 7 years. Money invested at 7% interest doubles every 10 years.) It’s one of the easiest methods to grasp the power of multiplying your money and to motivate people to start saving early.

Every young person ought to know how Warren Buffett saved up today’s equivalent (taking inflation into account) of $47,000 by high school graduation, doing jobs that anybody could do: paper routes, finding and selling golf balls, caddying, etc. Students don’t know the details of how Benjamin Franklin rose from having nothing to retiring in his early 40’s, so that he could devote full time to his experiments, community improvements, and founding a pretty cool country. (e.g., Franklin developed his skills, worked hard, learned insatiably, and lived frugally.)

CPYU: What mistakes do college students and parents often make when it comes to finances?

SM: First, they forget to serve. Today, as I write, I’m assisting with my 104-year-old granny. What could be more important? It’s a delight! Students could help a fellow student who needs a tutor. Volunteer at church. Many excellent Psychological studies tell us that people who make others happy find happiness themselves. Not only that, but serving at home, at church, at school and in the community gives you valuable relationships that you’ll need later in life. I hear it in seminar after seminar and read it in book after book: it’s all about relationships. People connect you with jobs. People recommend you for jobs. Good people skills make you successful at work. By serving, you build those relationships.

Second, they listen to bad advice. As Mark Twain once said, “It’s not so much what people don’t know that hurts them, it’s what they do know that ain’t so.” During the tech stock bubble, many advisors just knew that tech stocks would keep going up. They were wrong. During the housing bubble, many advisors just knew that the prices of houses would keep going up (after all, they aren’t making any more land!). Wrong again. Solomon warned us that “the fool believes everything he hears.” Consult an abundance of wise counselors about money decisions.

CPYU: What is one small thing that college students could do with their finances that would really make a big difference?

SM: One financial counselor said that what distinguished him from many others is that “I never stopped learning.” As Solomon advised, “The discerning heart seeks knowledge….” Read a little each week about personal finance and careers. Get to know your guidance counselor at school. Come up with lists of questions to ask your parents about finances and work and life. Read a chapter a week in a solid, financial book. Read a bit from Proverbs each day (I still do). Listen to mp3’s by sharp, well-respected success gurus while you’re running or doing the treadmill (I read on a stationary bike.) Do it for a year and you’ll look back with amazement at how dumb you were a year ago. Never stop learning!

CPYU: What makes your book unique compared to other books on the same subject?

SM: Although it’s well researched and documented (which I don’t see in a lot of money books), I wrote it as an entertaining story. That’s why one film producer called it “the money book for people who hate money books.” It’s multi-cultural, multi-generational, and encourages giving as well as getting. It’s also good for regular folks who may not make a lot of money. I’ve worked in churches, not-for-profits, and missions for most of my career, so I know what it’s like to struggle to get ahead, especially when life throws you a curve ball or two.

CPYU: How can people purchase your book?

SM: It’s always available on Amazon. If it’s not in your local bookstore, they can generally order it. Here’s more information.