Planning for College?

Are you making plans for college? If so, Money Magazine recently shared a number of helpful websites. (And I’ve added a few extras). Instead of paying someone for college information, try doing your own research:

Try Planning

Try Saving
Dave Ramsey

Try Selecting

Try Preparing

Try Financial Aid
Try Scholarships

Try Career Planning
Occupational Outlook Handbook

Brain Scaffolding

We have the ability to learn. If provided with adequate time, the right information, and helpful instruction, we can increase in our understanding. We can improve our ability to read, to do equations, to problem solve, and to work with others. We all have the capacity to learn new things, but the real question is whether or not you have identified your specialty area. Where do you shine when it comes to new information? What comes naturally? What information are you motivated to think about? We can all cultivate our foundational skill set, e.g., working with others, problem solving, written and spoken communication, but what content areas do you enjoy thinking about the most? Finances? Architecture? Relationships? Team Building? Theology? Teaching? Science? Leadership?

Intelligence, your learning strength, can take various forms. Some students are compelled to study science. They enjoy the process of scientific discovery. Some students enjoy studying social relationships. They understand group dynamics, and they know how to energize teams. Think about your past and what types of information you have enjoyed thinking about the most. Once you’ve identified an area that you’re drawn to, do what it takes to master this subject. If you enjoy thinking about child development and you learn best by listening, listen to weekly podcasts that address K-12 education. If you enjoy American History and you learn best by reading, then find the books worth reading about American History.

When you’ve identified an area that you’re motivated to learn about and you do what it takes to master this area, your mind will grow. Adding knowledge to your mind will give you more to build off of when it comes to learning about other content areas and areas that you’re not as motivated to think about. It’s like adding scaffolding to your brain. For instance, you might not be interested in history, but you do enjoy studying about music. Why not use your interest in music to promote your understanding of history –take a course or read a book about Music History. We all have the ability to learn. In fact, we were created with the capacity to grow. Let’s take the cultivation of our minds seriously, without comparing ourselves to others, and do what it takes to develop them so that we can fulfill the unique mission that we have been called to. When you learn, you develop the information scaffolding in your brain, which allows you to make more mental connections in the future. Why not start with the information you’re compelled to think about and move out from there.

Exception to the Rule

Within our culture, we are encouraged to conform to a dark pattern. Take TV, for instance. What are some prevalent rules for teenagers? (By “rules” I mean expected attitudes and behaviors). Teenagers are typically portrayed as overly emotional, overly immature, and incredibly impulsive. In fact, we’re taught to expect that teenagers will mess up, be rude to their parents, lie, cheat, lust, and indulged in self-pity and self-love. That’s just teenagers, right?

It’s not hard to identify the negative pattern that we are encouraged to follow. TV is simply one way to see clearly the sin system at work. We could just as easily study the radio, blogs, magazines, and facebook to find similar messages about teenagers; messages which reflect the culture as-well-as add new disinformation. Sadly, most people do not recognize that our culture is centered on sin, or we get lax, resulting in blind or blatant conformity. Today, instead of conforming to the culture try being transformed by the renewal of your mind. Not sure where to start? Try giving each negative thought to God and ask Him what you should do with it, and, before you know it, you will quickly become the exception to the rule.

The Examined Life

Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Do you agree? I do. I believe ‎that ‎the examined life is absolutely worth living. Why? Because by evaluating ‎ourselves, we can avoid ‎common pitfalls and look for ways to grow. In the thriller film, ‎‎Silence of the Lambs, Clarice Starling, a ‎young FBI trainee, looks Dr. ‎Hannibal Lecter, a brilliant psychiatrist and cannibalistic serial killer, in the ‎eyes and ‎says, “You see a lot, Doctor. But are you strong enough to point that high-powered ‎‎perception at yourself? What about it? Why don’t you – why don’t you look at yourself ‎and write down ‎what you see? Or maybe you’re afraid to.” ‎

Obviously, Dr. Lecter could examine others’ lives, but had no perspective on the ‎importance of ‎keeping his own life in check. Unbridled, his dark thoughts grew into ‎dark actions, then into dark ‎habits, and eventually into his twisted lifestyles. Yes, Dr. ‎Lecter represents the interplay of thoughts ‎and actions carried to the extreme, but don’t ‎we see the same process at work in our own lives? Our ‎thoughts influence our action. ‎Our behaviors are fueled by what we think about. Proverbs 23:7 says it ‎best: “As a man ‎thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Who we are and how we live our lives simply reflects ‎‎what we think about most. ‎

Jesus knew the condition of the human heart better than anyone. He said, “For out of ‎the heart ‎comes evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false ‎testimony, slander.” And ‎Ephesians 2:3 says, “All of us also lived among them at one ‎time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful ‎nature and following its desires and thoughts. ‎Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.” At ‎one time we lived like this, ‎following the pull of our darkened hearts, but we don’t have to now. If God ‎has created ‎within you a new spiritual heart, then you don’t have to follow the pattern of your old, ‎‎sinful nature and the thoughts it produced. Instead, you’re free to pursue good ‎thoughts, good habits, ‎and a pure lifestyle. So what about it? Are you where you need ‎to be with your life? With your ‎thoughts? Or are you letting darkness and negativity win ‎out? ‎

Not sure where to start?‎
In a culture that is obsessed with evaluating others, isn’t it time that you and I took at ‎look at our own ‎lives? The best place to start for an examination of our thoughts is with ‎Scripture. Hebrews 4:12 sates, ‎‎“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than ‎any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to ‎dividing souls from spirits, joints, and ‎marrow; its judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” By ‎allowing the thoughts of ‎God to penetrate your heart, He can purify what you think about. He can give ‎you new ‎thoughts, and, as a result, new behaviors, and a new lifestyle. Examine your thoughts ‎today. Make every thought obedient to God; then watch as he renews your thinking, ‎refreshes ‎your emotions, and revolutionizes your lifestyle.‎


Ask yourself this question: What will hold my semester together?

Sure you may start off with balance in mind, but will it last? ‎Will your first things remain first? Will you keep your priorities in order?

On Monday, I played a game ‎with a group of freshmen. We stood in a circle so that we could toss a tennis ball back and forth to ‎learn each others’ names. The idea was that each person would catch the ball once and then throw it to another person. The goal was to learn the name of the person you threw it to. After completing the first round, ‎we decided to go again (throwing it to the same person as before). After we finished, we did it again but this time even faster. By now, we had learned the other person’s name ‎fairly well. For the sake of efficiency, we decided to go one last time. So I started us off by tossing the ‎tennis ball to my new friend, but before he could throw it to the new person he had met, I threw ‎another ball. And then another ball. And another. And another. Before you knew, it we had 14 ‎different balls, of all sizes, chaotically flying threw the room.

The principle we learned? Life has the ‎tendency to go from order to disorder (basic principle of physics). The lessons learned? You’ve got to ‎have a plan. You’ve got to stay focused. You’ve got to be a team player. You’ve got to communicate ‎well. You’ve got to know your chief priority. You’ve got to have a nucleus.

As you start this semester, ‎what will keep you focused when the complexity rises? What will help you live above your ‎circumstances and stress? What will hold your relationships together? In the Old Testament, when ‎Daniel started his new program, he was determined not to defile himself. His integrity was the ‎nucleus that held his life together. Proverbs 11:3 says, “The integrity of the upright guides them, but ‎the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.” If you will choose to walk by the Spirit and in the ‎integrity of Scripture this semester, watch as God guides you on the path He has chosen for your life. A ‎path of simple trust and intense determination to live out your potential. ‎

What I Learned from Harvard

This summer we went to Boston to attend a conference and did a little sight-seeing while there of ‎the area. With more than 80 colleges in the Boston area, including MIT and Northeastern ‎University, Boston has the feel of a college town. We liked the way the history and architecture of ‎our country’s past fit as the backdrop to young people studying at coffee shops and carrying their ‎musical instruments to class. It was Ivy-League Harvard though that I really had my heart set on ‎seeing.‎

As we joined the campus walking tour through Harvard Yard, it felt somewhat surreal to be ‎standing on the same ground where such great men and women before us had stood. United States ‎presidents, Nobel laureates, and Pulitzer Prize winners. Inventors, scientists, and entrepreneurs. ‎Authors, musicians, and philanthropists. George Washington even housed his troops during the ‎Revolutionary War in the freshman dorms that line the quad! ‎

Our tour guide was a sophomore there at Harvard, so she was well-versed when it came to ‎pointing out the historical facts and sharing funny anecdotes. She told us about the normal class ‎load, what freshmen are required to take, and how advising is set up. She explained the Harvard ‎‎”house system” that organizes upperclassmen into communal living quarters. We filed past the ‎library and took pictures by the John Harvard statue. She pointed out the law school and the ‎science building, talked about the medical school. We essentially learned the way Harvard works.‎

But perhaps the most important lesson I learned from Harvard was this: it was just a school. It ‎seems nearly every kid and every other movie idolizes someday attending Harvard or Yale or some ‎other Ivy-League school. Of course it would be a great opportunity and the education you’d ‎receive would be phenomenal. But what I learned was that the education you or I receive at a ‎state school or a community college can be just as good of an education. Thanks to the world of ‎technology, we all have access to the research and writings of top scholars and intellectuals. We ‎can read and learn from the experts. At the same time, Ivy-league graduates disperse to teach at ‎these same state schools and community colleges. At the state university I attended in Arkansas, I ‎had professors who were graduates from Harvard, Columbia, and Brown. I realized that the ‎education you come away with from college is equal to the effort you put into it. God places you ‎in whatever institution of higher learning that He wants you in, and He calls you to live a life of ‎excellence wherever you are. What do you think?‎

Communicate and Connect: Part 2

According to John Maxwell, learning to not only communicate, but connect with people will help ‎you be more effective in all areas of your life. In his book Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, ‎Maxwell says that connecting is the ability to identify with people and relate to them in a way that ‎increases your influence with them. Not just effectively communicating to get your point across, ‎but genuinely connecting with someone to both know and be known. Listen to what he says here: ‎‎”Whenever you can help other people to understand that you genuinely care about them, you open ‎the door to connection, communication, and interaction. You begin to create a relationship. And ‎from that moment on, you have the potential to create something beneficial for both you and ‎them, because good relationships usually lead to good things: ideas, growth, partnerships, and ‎more. People live better when they care about one another.”‎

Here are five principles of connecting he uses to explain its importance:‎
Connecting increases your influence in every situation (whether it’s one-on-one, in a ‎group, or with an audience, everyone desires genuine and honest connection)‎
Connecting is all about others (connecting begins when the other person feels valued)‎
Connecting goes beyond words (people connect visually, intellectually, emotionally, and ‎verbally – pay attention to all four)‎
Connecting always requires energy (connecting requires effort – take initiative, prepare ‎to clarify, practice patience, give selflessly, and recharge your stamina)‎
Connecting is more skill than natural talent (relationships – who you know, insight – ‎what you know, success – what you have done, ability – what you can do, sacrifice – how ‎you have lived)‎

Intrigued? I wrote last time about the importance of communication and developing the skill of ‎connecting. Whether you’re meeting a new friend for coffee or giving a speech in class, you will be ‎attempting to communicate and connect with others. What can you do to improve?‎
> Connectors connect on common ground (be available, listen, ask questions, think of ‎others, be open, care about others, be humble, be adaptable)‎
> Connectors do the difficult work of keeping it simple‎

Communicate and Connect: Part 1

You’ve purchased your new notebooks and pens, laptops and jump drives, books and study guides. ‎You feel ready to start a new semester. You’ve prepared your schedule and your supplies, but how ‎have you prepared yourself? ‎

In his new book Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, leadership expert John Maxwell says that the ‎ability to communicate and connect with others is a major determining factor in reaching your ‎potential. To be successful, you must work with others. And to do that at your absolute best, you ‎must learn to connect. Take a minute to think about all the new people you will come in contact ‎with this semester. New students in class, new professors, new roommates, new coworkers, new ‎lab partners, new tutors, new advisors…you get the picture. What an opportunity to share and to ‎serve!‎

And to improve your skills. According to the Harvard Business Review, “The number one criteria for ‎advancement and promotion for professionals is an ability to communicate effectively.” A pretty ‎powerful skill, but one few are effective at. Need an example? Presidential historian Robert Dallek ‎says that successful Presidents exhibit five qualities that enable them to achieve things that others ‎don’t: vision, pragmatism, consensus building, charisma, and trustworthiness. Listen to what ‎leadership and communication consultant John Baldoni has to say about that: “Four of these ‎factors depend heavily upon the ability to communicate on multiple levels. Presidents, like all ‎leaders, need to be able to describe where they are going (vision), persuade people to come along ‎with them (consensus), connect on a personal level (charisma), and demonstrate credibility, i.e., do ‎what they say they will do (trust). Even pragmatism depends on communication…So in a very real ‎sense, leadership effectiveness, both for presidents and for anyone else in a position of authority, ‎depends to a high degree upon good communication skills.”‎

As Christians, remember that God has called us to be the spiritual leaders in this world. We are the ‎salt and the light. Others look to us, whether they or we realize it or not, to set the tone and ‎shoulder the responsibility of setting the bar. Remember too that this applies to all areas of your ‎life. Not just in your girls’ bible study or your guys’ prayer breakfast. When you’re giving your ‎presentations in class, sharing notes in study group, or socializing with your friends, you’re ‎demonstrating both your communication skills and you’re leadership skills. President Gerald Ford ‎once remarked, “If I went back to college again, I’d concentrate on two areas: learning to write ‎and [learning] to speak before an audience. Nothing in life is more important than the ability to ‎communicate effectively.” Take some time to reflect and evaluate this week. How are your ‎communication skills? How is your spiritual leadership? To learn more about how to improve both, ‎stay tuned to learn what steps John Maxwell recommends: “To lead others, you must be able to ‎communicate well, and connecting is key.”‎

Maxwell, John. Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: What the Most Effective People Do Differently. ‎Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2010. ‎

Get Plugged In

With summer winding down, it’s time to start thinking about the upcoming semester. Are you ready for a fresh start? A new opportunity? Getting involved during college is essential to making the most of your time on campus. With all the changes and new experiences, you need a group of ‎people that you can connect with and learn from. If you’re getting ready to start college this fall or if you’re already here and just want to find somewhere to get plugged in, ‎consider looking into some campus ministries. Though there are many choices, we’re passing along a ‎few to get you started in your search. Even if your campus doesn’t have a branch of the particular ministry ‎you’d like to join, don’t get discouraged. Consider starting a branch on your campus yourself; most ‎campuses offer easy ways to create new Student Organizations, and most campus ministries offer ideas on ‎their websites about how to partner with them and get started on your campus. Many of these campus ‎ministries also offer internship opportunities as well as yearly conferences and weekly Bible studies on ‎campus. A campus ministry is a great way to connect, grow, and lead, but remember that the group is ‎relatively homogenous (a bunch of college students). If you’ll go a step further by staying involved with a ‎local church, you’ll stay balanced and have the chance to learn from people of wisdom and experience as well. ‎You’ll also find that most churches will go out of their way to help you and to help you use your spiritual gifts and ‎talents if you’re willing to get involved.

Chi Alpha Campus Ministries (XA) was begun on the campus of Southwest Missouri State University in ‎Springfield, Missouri. It’s an outreach of the Assemblies of God and is located on over 200 campuses ‎throughout the United States and the world. Chi Alpha hosts various informal gatherings on campus with ‎music and studies as well as ministries to connect with international students, mission opportunities, and ‎community outreach. They also host an annual SALT conference over Christmas break and an annual ‎Reach the U training session for mission teams of new staff and student leaders.‎‎

Student Mobilization (STUMO) in a nonprofit ministry begun by Steve and Carol Shadrach to reach ‎and mobilize college students to action. STUMO is supported by a number of different denominations, ‎but it is not affiliated with any one particular church or denomination. STUMO targets campuses in the ‎South Central United States to engage students at the spiritual level. They hold an annual Kaleo Summer ‎Project, a 9-week discipleship experience, and a Christmas Conference to love and challenge students to ‎become laborers for Christ.‎‎

International Students, Inc. (ISI) is a ministry devoted to sharing Christ’s love with international ‎students and equipping them for effective service in cooperation with local churches and others. ISI offers ‎volunteer opportunities for college students (and families and individuals) to become Friendship Partners ‎with international students, including them in typical American experiences. They also network prayer ‎intercessors to pray for international student ministries. ‎‎

BCMLife is a network of Baptist collegiate ministries from across North America, and Baptist ‎Collegiate Ministry (BCM) is the Southern Baptist program of campus-based collegiate ministry. Some ‎states use different names: Baptist Student Union (BSU), Baptist Student Ministries (BSM), and Christian ‎Challenge. BCM is currently on 389 campuses. BCM hosts group studies and gathering places on campus, ‎provide resources for students, and offer mission opportunities from local to international.‎‎‎

Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru) was first founded on the UCLA campus by Dr. Bill Bright. Today it is ‎a network of movements on 1,029 campuses in the United States and in the world. Cru works to increase ‎evangelistic exposure on campuses, equip students to share their faith and disciple others on campus and ‎in their communities, and plant new ministries to reach lost students. Cru is known for its campus ‎gatherings, winter conferences, spring break outreaches, summer training projects, and resources, such as ‎Dr. Bright’s The Four Spiritual Laws, their many websites (, and their “Freshman ‎Survival Kits.” Cru also has specific ministries for international students, Greek students, ethnic students, ‎and student athletes. ‎‎

Campus Outreach (CO) is a ministry that began on the Samford campus in Birmingham, Alabama; ‎today it is active on 65 campuses worldwide. Staff work in partnership with local churches but maintain a ‎non-denominational profile on campus. Campus Outreach is committed to living out the Great ‎Commission by building relationships on campus and discipling students to mature in their relationship ‎with Christ. Campus Outreach also hosts campus meetings and offers retreats, an annual Christmas ‎conference, and summer beach projects to teach students how to study the Bible and share the Gospel.‎

Great Commission Ministries (GCM) was founded to mobilize staff to plant churches on college ‎campuses in the U.S. It has now expanded to include urban, mission, and international churches as well. ‎GCM is currently on 44 campuses and in 23 countries, creating church communities, promoting grass ‎roots evangelism, and seeking to incorporate students into the starting of a church-based campus ministry. ‎GCM holds IGNITE conferences around the country as well as a summer Leadership Training program.‎‎

Intervarsity Christian Fellowship (IV) is an evangelical campus mission serving on more than 550 ‎college and university campuses worldwide. IV has a rich tradition of campus witness, thoughtful ‎discipleship, and a concern for world missions. Capping off its missions emphasis, IV hosts the Urbana ‎missions conference every third year which focuses on critical global issues and missions opportunities. IV ‎is also well known for its publications (Intervarsity Press). ‎‎

Navigators (Navs) is an interdenominational nonprofit that is dedicated to helping people navigate their ‎lives spiritually. Navigators is known for its spiritual depth, Scripture study and memorization, and one-on-‎one student interaction and small groups on campus. Their publication branch (Navpress) produces Bible ‎study materials, and they hold yearly conferences and retreats to build lifelong laborers for Christ.‎‎

Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) is the collegiate ministry arm of the Presbyterian Church of ‎America, found on 90 campuses nationwide. Their staff is seminary trained to effectively teach the great ‎doctrines of the Bible to students, and they work to build a community on the college campus that reaches ‎students of divergent beliefs and doubts to equip them to serve Christ. RUF also offers large group ‎meetings on campus, small group bible studies, one-on-one meetings, and fall, winter, and summer ‎conference, many of which include mission trips.‎‎
Blog re-posted from

God Will Fulfill His Plan

God will fulfill his excellent plan for your life. Job said to God, “I know that you can do all ‎things and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2, ESV). ‎Think of His plan for your life as a river. A river has a continual source that keeps it moving ‎forward. If something gets in the way, the river just winds around or over or under it. God’s ‎excellent plan for your life is unstoppable.

God has a good plan, and He compels us by love to ‎choose His plan and His path. Josh McDowell says when we Consider the Choice, Compare ‎it to God, and Commit to His Way, then we can Count on His protection and provision. When ‎we do this, we go from making good decisions to great decisions to excellent decisions. So that ‎He can fulfill His excellent plan for our lives, He prompts us to make excellent choices. If our ‎choices are the building blocks of our lives, then making excellent choices will cause us to live ‎lives of excellence.

Listen to how Oswald Chambers puts it, “If I obey Jesus Christ, the ‎redemption of God will flow through me to the lives of others, because behind the deed of ‎obedience is the reality of Almighty God. As soon as I obey Him, I fulfill my spiritual destiny.” ‎‎(My Utmost for His Highest, November 2nd). Frustrated with where you are in life? ‎Disappointed? Anxious? Then remember that God has an excellent plan for your life, and that, ‎without a doubt, He will fulfill his plan for you. Keep in mind it was Paul, a man with a past and ‎the chief of sinners, who said, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will ‎bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6, ESV). And keep in mind that ‎God has the final say on everything, good and bad in our lives: “And we know that for those ‎who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his ‎purpose” (Romans 8:28, ESV).‎

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