God is Not A Magic 8-Ball

Magic 8 ball

Life is chock-full of choices. Every day we make thousands of little decisions—what to eat, what to wear, how to spend our time or money.  And this doesn’t even include the huge questions we may be contemplating:

  • Where should I go and what should I do after college?
  • Should I go to graduate school or to try to get a job?
  • Where should I go to graduate school? How do I decide which one to pick?
  • Which friendships should I invest in?

These questions can be so overwhelming that it would be nice if someone else could decide for us, right? Or, if God would just send us a text message or e-mail with His answer. Like a magic 8-ball, it would be so much easier if we could ask our big question, and God would tell us, “Signs point to yes” or “My sources say no” or “Reply hazy, ask again later.” But this not how God works. Writer and college career counselor, Bethany Jenkins, suggests that when we treat God like he’s a magic 8-ball, it’s as if we desire His omniscience more than the counsel He wants to give us. She writes,

“When trying to make decisions, our problem is that we’re rarely satisfied with God’s wisdom. We want his omniscience…. We want to know every step, every turn, every possibility, and every outcome.”

We want to know as much as God knows about our situation and decision, and when we don’t (because we can’t!), we become discontent and anxious.

Thankfully, there’s a higher path that leads to freedom. Find out more here!

This post originally appeared on the Senior EXIT blog, January 26, 2016, and it points to The Gospel Coalition post of the same title by Bethany Jenkins on on September 23, 2015. 

Stop Overspiritualizing Calling

Am I called? This question can plague us or send us into analysis paralysis. In this article, Bethany Jenkins helps us stop overthinking, challenges us to start well and work hard (no matter what job we do), and reminds us that we are all called to be children of God.

If you’re agonizing over your next step or what you want to be when you grow up, here’s some wisdom:”God’s far more concerned with how we work—with faith, hope, and love—than with what career we have.” Read more here…

5 Steps to Financial Freedom

If you read the recent post on Money Matters, here are some follow-up thoughts for next steps. Penn State Alumus, Adam Gante (‘16), shares some of his personal journey when it comes to managing money, including five steps he’s walked to find financial freedom.


As a college student, I didn’t think about personal finances a whole lot. I lived frugally with seven roommates, frequented free coffee shops downtown, and attended the events that advertised free food. Upon graduating from Penn State, I was fortunate enough to land a job, and I began to make ‘real’ money. This was something I had never experienced before. As I reflect over my first year out of college, here are some steps I needed to take and would recommend to anyone entering into the young professional life:

Step 1: Think about your relationship with money.

Everyone has a relationship with money (including you). Maybe just the thought of money makes you cringe. Maybe you are in the pursuit of money and believe it can buy happiness. Maybe you view money as a tool that enables you to align your priorities with your pocketbook. Maybe you’re not sure what your relationship status with money looks like right now. I fell into the category of not really thinking about how I relate to money until I started making a paycheck. It was at this point when I had to decide how my beliefs and values would impact my relationship with money.

Step 2: Relate to money in a place of stewardship (if you aren’t already).

Money is a heavily-covered topic in the Bible because it can be a cause of greed, pride, and/or fear. The good news is that Christ wants better for us. The things of this earth are temporary, and we are called to be good stewards of our possessions. Stewardship means to act responsibly and wisely with the things God has given us. God allows us to use His moneytherefore, finances are to be managed properly so they bear fruit and grow. I began to experience a sense of freedom in my finances once I started to pray about my finances and sought wisdom in this area of life.

Step 3: Give away money.

Giving away money towards a meaningful cause is the next step to experiencing financial freedom. When we give a portion of what we earn (tithes and offerings) to the local church or other charitable causes, we show that we truly are blessed to be a blessing. We partner with the church to accomplish the good works of Jesus Christ. How cool is that?! Our tithes and offerings enable our hearts to enter a place of surrender. As we loosen our grip on money, we are saying “Lord, use this offering to further your Kingdom as your will be done.” What a great exercise of faith! It truly has been a life-giving experience to partner with the local church and missionaries to help further the Kingdom.

Step 4: Assign each dollar a purpose.

In step four, we align priorities with our pocketbook by assigning every dollar to a budget category. This involves accounting for all of our expenses (tithes, saving, rent, student loans, car payment, food, clothing, and so on) and then taking a step back to see if we are spending money in areas we enjoy and find life-giving. It is wise to be proactive with your budget. Think about the things that are most important to you and decide how much funds you should be spending in each area. Simply put, a budget is a summary of likely income and expenses. It helps you determine whether you can go out to eat or should head home for a PB&J sandwich. Creating a budget allows you to know how much money you can spend in different areas while still living within your means.

Here are recommendations when creating a budget:

  • Pay yourself first (save!)
  • Live below your means (you’ll thank yourself later)
  • Spend less on things that are not important to you (align your priorities with your spending habits)

Step 5: Become friends with compound interest.

Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it … he who doesn’t … pays it.” – Albert Einstein

Compound interest is when your money is making more money. It means your interest earns you more interest, which is a beautiful thing! Time is one of the most important factors when it comes to compound interest. Fortunately, if you are in college than you most likely have a lot of time. How can compound interest work for you? You can begin by opening a savings account, starting an individual retirement account (IRA), or by contributing to your company’s 401k retirement plan. Do your future self a favor by becoming friends with compound interest.

Financial Freedom Can Be Yours

Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full”. – John 10:10

Do not let money be a thief in your life; begin to view yourself as a steward of the money God has graciously provided you, partner financially with your local church, give a purpose to each dollar, and become friends with compound interest. You can get on the road to financial freedom by following these five steps. I’m so grateful for the way these steps have helped me alter my approach to finances, and I hope they can change yours!

3 Ways Graduation and Other “Disruptions” Lead to Growth

Guest post by Sam Van Eman

Disruption typically comes in two forms—as an out-of-the-blue surprise, and as a right-there-on-the-calendar event. When I was one month into seventh grade, my uncle drove through the night to load up our bare essentials and take our family to a safe place away from dad. That came as a surprise. Even though I knew things weren’t good for mom, packing a station wagon and driving a thousand miles instead of riding the bus across town to homeroom is not something you expect to happen.

On the other hand, when I left my job as a public school teacher to join a non-profit and earn my salary through fundraising, the “disruption” came as a right-there-on-the-calendar event. I had signed up for it on purpose.

Both were a bit scary. Both took me to new places as a disciple of Christ. Both were valuable contributions to my understanding of growth.

While surprise ‘disruptions’ may stretch us beyond what we think we can bear, even planned challenges often require a great deal of moxie. Doing something hard on purpose amounts to a willful disruption of life as we know it. The first-century apostle James wrote, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers [and sisters], whenever you face trials of many kinds….” (1:2). James was referring to surprises and uninvited hardship, the first kind of disruption. But Jesus also seems to appreciate those rare people who look discomfort in the face and say, “May I have two scoops of that, please?”

Why would anyone sign up for a challenge when we have enough coming at us already? I’ll suggest three reasons:

First, because we know it’s good for us. When the poor woman gave her coins despite living in poverty, she demonstrated trust that God would provide (Luke 21:1-4). She had moxie.

Second, because we don’t actually know what’s going to happen. We often underestimate the implications until we’ve already signed up. It’s like getting into the roller coaster line: reality doesn’t hit until the bar clicks down on your lap. Believe it or not, this is good—otherwise, we’d agree to far fewer challenges. Graduation is similar. We all knew graduation was part of the college experience but in our minds it was a cross between a vague finish line and a formal event with gowns and diplomas. As it turned out, graduation proved to be more than pomp and circumstance, more than a guest speech in the convocation hall, even more than a finish line. That day was the event—the thing we signed up for years earlier, but unexpectedly it became the beginning of a chapter unlike any we had experienced before.

Think about it: in one closing moment, we said goodbye to ready-made meals and advisors suggesting the best schedule forward. We said goodbye to minimal responsibility, one-on-one attention from faculty, and endless opportunities for extra-curriculars and entertainment. We also said goodbye to people who made us better and helped us follow Jesus.

Suddenly, the bar clicked down on our laps.

This thing that looked doable was really the introduction to something hard, which means it is a bit unfair to separate the two types of disruptions. Sometimes the calendar event becomes the surprise. The voluntary experience turns into an unexpected challenge, like it did for my friend who agreed to run a marathon for the blind. It was a planned event, but he did not know how it would change the way he sees the world after guiding a runner by hand for 26 miles.

Graduation and marathons and unplugging from a secure salary are more than—and better than—what they appear to be. And that is the third reason we’re inclined to sign up: the possibility for gain.

Despite the temptation to quickly pay off loans, buy a house, and situate ourselves into a cozy neighborhood, we are drawn toward adventure. Insecurity and fear say otherwise, but it’s true: we love the thrill of what’s beyond the bend. The fishermen literally dropped their professional nets to see where Jesus would take them.

None of these events is a finish-line event. Each one is simply another of many starting points that leads to new places. What may have been an on-purpose sign-up becomes a smack upside the head by a new reality. And that reality asks whether we will follow Jesus or keep things comfortable as we head deeper into our twenties. The sooner we recover from one challenge, the better we will be able to handle the next.

Because we cannot afford to stay at our current maturity level, we pray, “Jesus, what do you have in store, and will you give me courage to sign up for it?”


Sam Van Eman is a resource specialist for the CCO’s (Coalition for Christian Outreach) Experiential Designs team, where he co-creates transformational experiences for college students, professionals, and organizations. He is the author of On Earth as It Is in Advertising? Moving from Commercial Hype to Gospel Hope. His new book, Disruptive Discipleship: The Power of Breaking Routine to Kickstart Your Faith, is a practical, story-driven reminder that we can’t afford to stay at our current maturity level, and that, with courage, we can create space for God to grow us in faith, hope, and love. Order your copy below…

Order here: