In this episode, Barnabas and I talk about Facebook bragging. Have you exercised? Brag about it on Facebook. Are you on a new diet? Brag about it on Facebook. Are you doing Crossfit? Facebook.
MAKE THE MADNESS STOP!
In this episode, Barnabas and I talk about Facebook bragging. Have you exercised? Brag about it on Facebook. Are you on a new diet? Brag about it on Facebook. Are you doing Crossfit? Facebook.
MAKE THE MADNESS STOP!
This is a guest post by Alex Chediak, professor at California Baptist University and author of the recently released book, Preparing Your Teens For College.
Why would I write a book on preparing teens for college? Because while the link between higher education and professional success has never been stronger, and college has never been more expensive, too many of our children are starting but never finishing. About 45 percent of those who begin at a four-year college haven’t completed their degree in six years. And about 70 percent of those who start two-year degrees will not finish them within three years. Meanwhile, among those who do graduate, about 70 percent take out loans, with an average amount of about $30,000 per borrower. And then they enter a harsh job market, one in which 25-32 year olds are more likely to be unemployed and make less money than any previous generation going back 50 years.
We have little control over the global economy, but we have tremendous influence in the training of our children. We can help them prepare to make the most of their college years (whether that means a four-year, two-year, or trade school program). Academic and professional success flow from character and maturity. And character and maturity flow from a God-mastered life, from the heart of a person who has bowed their knee to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Preparing Your Teens for College is about getting teens ready to leave the home and enter the adult world with the faith, character and maturity to be successful. It’s about training them not just for college but for the totality of their lives. The book is broken up into six sections: Character, Faith, Relationships, Finances, Academics and the College Decision itself. I talk about training teens to take initiative, accept correction, delay gratification and be firm in their Christian convictions while gracious towards those with other beliefs. I write about the importance of discernment in their choice of friends and the necessity of establishing faith-sustaining relationships. There’s a chapter about purity and intentionality with the opposite sex. I discuss how to help teens manage their money so that they avoid consumer debt and minimize any student loan balance. There are several chapters on teaching teens to study unto the Lord and use their high school years to discover and nurture their academic talents and interests. This helps them make an informed decision on whether to pursue a four-year college, two-year school, or some other kind of post–secondary education.
I’ve known many parents who feel like their teens tune them out. But even though our teens don’t always seem to care, the truth is that adult involvement—from parents, teachers, and pastors—influences them in meaningful ways. You can make a difference, and in this book I’m giving you the tools to do just that. You’ll find everything you need to have crucial conversations with your teens about the college years and beyond. You’ll be able to point out the pitfalls and highlight the opportunities.
Preparing your teens for college begins with you. Start today.
Alex Chediak (@chediak) is a professor of engineering and physics at California Baptist University and the author of Preparing Your Teens for College (Tyndale House Publishers, 2014) and Thriving at College (Tyndale House Publishers, 2011). Learn more about Alex’s work at his website.
The most Amazing thing you’ve ever seen!
Try to watch this video without weeping.
You need to go there; it’s the best restaurant ever!
12 things you need to know to make it through today
7 life hacks you can’t live without
Every day we hear phrases like these and read headlines offering us “essential”, “incredible”, or “unbelievable” something-or-other. Upworthy has made an evil art form out of using such titles as click-bait. If a description of anything doesn’t include a superlative it’s good for nothing. But what happens when we run out of superlatives and absolutes (if we haven’t already)?
If everything is amazing nothing is. By definition, not everything can be the best or worst. If every piece of advice is essential and we can’t live without those life hacks, well we should just give up now; life is hopeless.
A good principle to use in all (yes all; this is proper use of an extreme) your communication is this: words communicate meaning. When we persistently misuse them we skew and undermine that meaning. Meaning matters; without it we don’t know what to believe or who to trust. To abuse terms, to over-value inflate whatever we are describing, is to bankrupt words of meaning and our own reputations of trustworthiness.
You’ve all heard the story of the boy who cried wolf. Over and over he raised a false alarm about a wolf killing the sheep he was watching. Finally, all his fellow villagers were so fed up they refused to listen any more. One day a wolf did come. The boy cried “wolf, wolf!” but to no avail. His words meant nothing and his trustworthiness was nil. So it is without serial abuse of superlatives and extremes.
Gold is valuable because it’s rare. Wood is cheap because it’s common. We’ve turned words which should have the value of gold into a pile of wooden nickels. No longer can we trust them and use them as something of worth. What happens when something is essential or incredible? We have no way of describing it adequately because our words, the currency of communication, have lost all value.
I want my recommendations and descriptions to matter. When I say a book is “well-worth reading”” I it to mean just that; not the best, not a “must read”, but a book of value for the reader. When I say a piece of advice is “useful” I want people to see it that way without having to lie and say it’s essential. If I am able to use these positive descriptions well then all of a sudden those occasions when a book is “the best I’ve read recently” and a piece of wisdom is “crucial” have real meaning.
We are reaching (or have reached) a point where discerning people immediately disregard overstatement because it is so common. If you want your words to matter don’t cry wolf. Don’t add to the pile of wooden nickels. Make your good good and your bad bad so that your great can be great and your awful truly awful.
photo credit: falcon1961 via photopin cc
Amish people bring out the worst in me. Wait, that didn’t come out quite right. I don’t have any particular beef with Amish folks. They seem like nice, quiet folks, who live off the land and have a penchant for giving their sons prophetic names, like Ezekiel. What I should say is that books written about the Amish bring out the worst in me. Well, that’s not quite right either. I’m all for anthropological studies of the Amish people. I’m all for books about the history of the Amish. Heck, I’ll even take books like A Day In The Life of An Amish Boy.
The books that bring out the worst in me are Christian Amish romance novels.
Now, you, the astute and ever observant reader, may ask: Have I actually read any Christian Amish romance novels? No. If any of my friends saw me reading an Amish romance novel, they would mercilessly mock me and, in order to escape the merciless mocking, I would probably be forced to become Amish, which would be really hard for me because I like electricity and indoor toilets. But that’s beside the point. My opposition to Amish romance novels is deep-seated and existential. The fact that these novels exist is sufficient cause for me to oppose them. The fact that the “inspirational” book section of Wal-Mart is composed almost entirely of Amish romance novels, Joel Osteen books, and Guideposts devotionals is another reason I’m opposed to Amish romance novels.
However, despite the fact that I am not Amish, have never had an Amish friend, and have never read an Amish romance novel, I’m convinced I could write one. And given that Christian Amish romance novels are like high-grade meth for Christian women, perhaps I should consider penning a genre of the Amish variety. I could become the Christian version of Nicholas Sparks. Don’t believe I could do it? Then let me show off my skills.
Ezekiel was waiting behind the horse barn for her, just like he promised. The pale moon cast a faint glow across the rolling landscape. The wheat, which was almost ready to be harvested, rustled gently in the nighttime breeze, as if whispering a sweet lullaby. Samantha’s heart was anything but quiet. It hammered in her chest, like a blacksmith striking a red-hot horseshoe. Speaking of red-hot, Samantha was full of red-hot, yet godly love for Ezekiel.
“I knew you would come,” whispered Ezekiel when he saw her. Ezekiel was tall and broad, with thick, muscular arms that were strong enough to tame a wild stallion and gentle enough to tame Samantha’s wild heart. His eyes were blue and thoughtful, and his hair was brown and lustrous (not to be confused with lustful). His hair, though cut in the absolutely bizarre way that Amish men cut their hair, was still beautiful, like that of newborn colt. Samantha wanted to touch it, but didn’t because Ezekiel was wearing a straw hat…
YOU CAN READ THE REST OF MY BRILLIANT NOVEL IN MY NEW BOOK, THE INMATES ARE RUNNING THE ASYLUM: THOUGHTS ON FOLLOWING JESUS, AMISH ROMANCE, THE DANIEL PLAN, THE TEBOW EFFECT, AND THE ODDS OF FINDING YOUR SOUL MATE.
I recently wrote a post about a question I never ask myself: Am I Happy? Well here’s another question I never ask myself: Am I Successful?
Success is elusive, unpredictable and difficult to measure. We can have seasons of blessing followed by seasons of affliction. A business can boom one day then crumble the next. Some churches explode with phenomenal growth while others plod along, happy to see one visitor a month, if that. We can be “successful” and a “failure” at the same time, e.g. we may be making a huge salary at work, yet struggling in our marriage.
Sometimes we do all we know to do to “succeed” with little or no results. Parents can share the gospel with their children, love, train and discipline them, and try to cultivate a relationship with them, yet sometimes those children reject their parents and all they tried to implant in them. Sometimes we can pray about something for years and see little outward results. Does this mean we have been unsuccessful?
At a recent meeting with some of our small group leaders, one man and his wife who have led a group for over 20 years talked about the various seasons they’ve experienced. There were stretches when hardly anyone showed up. Yet in the last few years they’ve had one of our largest groups.
We’ve been through ups and downs over the years as a church too. There was a period early on when many people were leaving, mostly because of unemployment in the area. It got so bad, one leader suggested we “turn out the lights” and encourage our members to find other churches.
Success is relative. If a church of 20 compares itself to a church of 2000 it could seem like a failure. But success isn’t determined by numbers. The church of 2000 may be shallow doctrinally or relationally whereas the church of 20 may doctrinally strong with great relationships and abundant fruit.
Jonathan Edwards preached his famous sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” with incredible results during the Great Awakening in New England from 1730-1755. But eight years after the Great Awakening, Edwards’ congregation split over a controversy regarding communion and 90% of the members voted to remove the 47 year old pastor. For the next 8 years, the only work he could find was serving as a missionary to a small tribe of Indians in Western Massachusetts. When he was 55 he received a call from Princeton Theological Seminary to be its president. But just a few months after the move he contracted smallpox and died. He essentially served the last 8 years of his life in obscurity, but he faithfully cared for his small congregation and wrote many of his great theological treatises during this time.
Paul spent the last days of his life chained in a miserable Roman dungeon. In 2 Timothy 1:15 Paul told his friend, “You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes.” Later in the letter he told Timothy he’d been deserted by Demas who was in love with this world. He said that Alexander the coppersmith had done him much harm and that at his first defense not a single person came to stand by him but “all deserted me.” Yet Paul didn’t ask himself whether he was successful or not. Instead he said to Timothy:
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. (2 TI 4:7-8)
Paul didn’t evaluate his life in terms of success, but faithfulness.
So I don’t ask myself if I’m successful or not. And even when I think about my faithfulness, I must do it in light of the gospel, for if I review all my failures as a father, husband and pastor, I can get depressed. I must regularly focus on the truth that God doesn’t accept and love me based on my success or even on my faithfulness, but on Jesus’ life of faithful obedience and the blood he shed for me.
When we are faithful then all glory goes to God, for he has done that in us. So don’t worry about whether you are successful or not. Ask God for grace to to fight the good fight, run the race and keep the faith. And thank Jesus for his faithfulness and steadfast love to you.
Barnabas and I have gotten some great feedback on these videos, mainly along the lines of, “Would you please just shut up already!”
And so we will. Instead of tackling multiple subjects per Happy Rant, we’ve decided to tackle on subject per episode, and to keep those episodes to 10-15 minutes long.
In this episode we talk about Christian fish, Christian bumper stickers, and why both of these things cause us to experience road rage. Leave a comment and tell us what you think!
The day has officially arrived! My latest book, The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Thoughts on Following Jesus, Amish Romance, the Daniel Plan, the Tebow Effect, and the Odds of Finding Your Soulmate, is officially available! And for this week, it is only 99 cents!
Here’s what some people are saying:
I wanted to stand up and cheer! Oh wait, sorry, I was thinking of Kevin DeYoung’s book. This one made me a bit sick to my stomach. – J.I. Packer
Farewell, Stephen Altrogge – John Piper
This guy is clearly the exception to my ‘friends are friends forever’ rule. – Michael W. Smith
If you like this book, you can keep this book. – Barack Obama
Okay, all joking aside, I am very, very excited for the release of this book. It’s definitely different from my previous books. This book is a collection of essays which gives you a glimpse into the strange and wonderful world of my brain. Basically, this book allows me to be Willy Wonka and you to be Charlie (or perhaps Augustus Glut). In this book I take a close look at a number of topics, including:
Here’s what some really kind reviewers have said:
Stephen has that particular ability to make you think hard and laugh hard in the span of a few words, and these essays are no exception. He softens the impact of his messages with his blend of humorous pop-culture references and real, honest cleverness. While it is a quick read, it is also a fantastic one. – Jeff Miller
In this book I found myself sharing many of the same thoughts recently and unable to put them to paper so I was glad to see Altrogge hit on several of them in this short book. Singles should get the book just for the Soul Mate essay alone. Parents would do well to get the short book just for the parenting essay. – Zach Probst
Stephen Altrogge does it again. Full of humor, wit, biblical truths, and a good does of reality, Altrogge cuts through much of the “cotton candy” that gets attached to Christianity, and brings us back to a few of the basics. An enjoyable and thought provoking read. – Kelsey
Stephen Altrogge is a funny guy. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I’m over 50, a stay at home wife & mom to four almost all grown kids. So, while I loved the humor and the spiritual applications, reading it aloud while my 18 year old son was my chauffeur for the morning errands (perks , HE was also smiling and enjoying it (and he’s not a nerd!). Later, reading it with my 21 and 16 year old daughters, they also really enjoyed the humor. So, you will laugh, but you will also be challenged by the directness and reality of this author. He’s really not trying to impress anyone, so it seems, except for His Lord and Savior Jesus. Seems he really honors God’s Word quite a bit, too. Great book, I highly recommend it for all. – Donna Wenger
And would you be so kind as to share the goodness on Facebook and Twitter? Simply copy and past the below status:
Tomorrow, my latest book, The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Thoughts On Following Jesus, Amish Romance, the Daniel Plan, the Tebow Effect, and the Odds Of Finding Your Soul Mate officially releases.
As most of you probably know, I’ve had the privilege of publishing two books through traditional publishers (man, talk about a pretentious sentence!). I’m really grateful for all the people I’ve met and all the neat opportunities that have come through working with traditional publishers.
However, in recent years I’ve made the conscious decision to move away from traditional publishing and into indie publishing. Most people think this is a relatively stupid idea. Or, they associate indie publishing with terrible authors who can’t get published by traditional publishing companies. But there really is a method to my madness. There are some very specific and concrete reasons I prefer indie publishing to traditional publishing.
The truth is, for me, indie publishing is way more fun than traditional publishing. The reality is, publishing companies need to make money on the books they publish. I don’t fault them for that. After all, no money means no company. The downside to this is that publishing companies can’t afford to take risks on books. They need to know that they’re going to at least make back the money they spent publishing books. Again, nothing wrong with that.
However, what this practically means is that publishing companies tend to be primarily concerned with platform. If an author has a big platform, he can get published (see Jefferson Bethke, etc.). Or, if an author writes a controversial book guaranteed to raise the hackles of large numbers of people, he or she can also get published (see Rachel Held Evans, Rob Bell, et all.).
I have all sort of books I want to publish that don’t quite fit into the mainstream of Christian literature. The Inmates Are Running the Asylum is more in the vein of David Sedaris and Dave Barry than John Piper. I want to publish a collection of short stories. I want to publish a novel that doesn’t conclude with everyone getting saved and the marriage being rescued and the football team winning the championship. Indie publishing lets me follow my imagination wherever it may lead.
Without going into specific numbers, I can say that indie publishing has been really, really good to me. My last release, Untamable God: Encountering the One Who Is Bigger, Better, and More Dangerous Than You Could Possibly Imagine, has sold very well. The reason for this is simple: I have fantastic friends who have really helped me promote the book. I don’t have a marketing team. I don’t have a video team to help me create controversial book trailers (ala, “Farewell Rob Bell”). I just have a lot of great friends who have helped spread the word about my books.
Going the indie route has also allowed me to be really generous with my books. I’ve easily given away over 20,000 copies of my book Create: Stop Making Excuses and Start Making Stuff. That simply wouldn’t happen if I had gone the traditional route.
So am I done with traditional publishing? Not necessarily. But I’m having so much fun right now going the indie route, I’ll at least pause before I consider signing with a traditional publisher.
WHAT DO YOU THINK? SHOULD I GO INDIE? SHOULD I STAY WITH A MAINSTREAM PUBLISHER? ALL THOUGHTS WELCOME!
A few years ago John Stossel hosted an ABC special called “The Mystery of Happiness: Who Has It & How to Get It.”
Stossel pointed out that three hundred years ago, life was really and hard most people had to endure poverty and disease in a struggle to achieve eternal happiness in Heaven. Stossel also mentioned that when Thomas Jefferson included the right to the pursuit of happiness in our Constitution that was a radical idea that changed American life.
What stood out to me from what I remember about the program was that when Stossel asked people in poorer nations if they were happy he often got the answer, “I don’t even think about that question.” Yet in the United States, where one of our inalienable rights is the pursuit of happiness, many people are continually evaluating whether they are happy or not and relentlessly pursuing that elusive bluebird of happiness.
I don’t ask myself if I’m happy. I don’t believe the Bible encourages us to be continually evaluating ourselves as to whether or not we are “happy.” Now before you jump all over me and send me a score of Bible verses about happiness, I believe that Jesus gives us deep biblical joy. But rather than asking myself am I happy, rather I ask myself questions like these: Am I rejoicing? Am I content in Christ? Am I trusting Jesus? Do I have hope in him? These would be the questions I would ask myself rather than “Am I happy.”
I regularly ask Jesus to fill me with his joy. And he does. But at the same time Paul also said that he was “sorrowful yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10).
I don’t have happy feelings all the time. But I am so glad that Jesus saved me and washed my sins away with his blood and I try to regularly thank him that he will never leave me nor forsake me and that someday I will see his face. I regularly rejoice that his mercies are new every morning and his steadfast love never ceases.
Sometimes people translate the word “Blessed” as” Happy.” I see them as two different things. To be blessed is to be favored by God. To be the object of his grace. But to be blessed does not necessarily mean I will have happy feelings. In the beatitudes, Jesus said blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, those reviled and persecuted for Christ’s sake. None of these things make you feel particularly happy.
Should we pursue happiness? If you mean pursue Jesus Christ who will satisfy our deepest desires, then yes. If we pursue happiness apart from Jesus, then we will certainly come up empty-handed. If we seek Jesus and his will we will be fulfilled even if we are not technically “happy.”
I often think about Christians who are suffering horrifically for their faith in North Korean prison camps. If we were to ask them if they are happy I would imagine they would not describe themselves as “happy.” I can’t imagine they would ask themselves that question. But I believe they would say that despite the agonies they endure for the glory of Jesus, that ultimately they are blessed and someday will experience the weight of glory their sufferings are preparing.
Am I happy when I suffer or things don’t go my way? Not necessarily, but I can be joyful. I can rejoice and do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Don’t pursue happiness. Don’t ask yourself if you are happy. Pursue Christ. Ask him for joy and let him take care of the happiness part.