Tag Archives: #insideout

Inside Out – Are you a Parenting-centered couple, or a Couple-centered couple? – 09/06/23

Parents can be tempted to make the children the family’s highest priority. But giving our children the best of our time and attention is not actually what’s best for them, according to Dr. Greg Smalley.  

Smalley is an author and speaker who serves as vice president of Marriage at Focus on the Family. He says that your children benefit when you make your marriage the priority.    

“When our marriage is healthy, everybody wins,” Smalley says. 

Giving the marriage priority status means taking the time to stay up to date on your spouse’s hopes and feelings.  “We have to continually be rediscovering our spouse,” he says. 

It also means making a habit of talking through the times you hurt each other along the way.   “We have to repair when we have arguments and when we have conflict and when we hurt each other,” Smalley says. “We’ve got to be willing to repair.” 

Everyone in a family benefits when spouses commit to the work of deepening their marriage.  “I think if couples are pursuing each other, keeping current and re-discovering each other and then repairing when those conflicts happen, man, those two things alone are going to take us so far as far as staying connected in our marriage,” he says. 

Learn more about Dr. Greg Smalley here and here.

Inside Out – Finding Unity, We are Agents of Grace – 08/23/23

Bridging divides — and loving as Jesus loved — amid this era of conflict, in the church and in the culture:

“Strive actively for peace”

Conflict over presidential politics and pandemic precautions revealed the substantial divisions between Christians that we live with today. “The divisions that we’re seeing in the American church—the conversations—are not different than the ones that are happening in the world. Every institution is going through this,” says pastor and author Daniel Darling. “But as Christians we have an opportunity to model something different. That Jesus said that the world would know that we are His by the way we love each other.”  

Darling writes about which things should divide us — and which things should not — in his new book Agents of Grace.  

“I think part of that is understanding the things that we need to contend for, right?” he asks. “Paul says to Timothy ‘fight the good fight.’ And then there are other things that are important but not ultimate, right? He also tells Timothy, later in 2 Timothy, to avoid stupid and foolish questions.” We should be able to live in unity with believers who differ with us on the less important choices that are part of living as a Christian. If there’s going to be division, it should only be to defend what’s essential to the Gospel.   

“I think we have that upside down a little bit,” Darling says, “and we’ve succumbed to the sort of divisiveness of the spirit of the age.” 

So how do we learn to bridge divides and love as Jesus loved? One way, Darling suggests, is to choose not to assume bad motives on the part of believers we disagree with. Another way is to faithfully hold on to our friends, even when we disagree with them.  “These are hard and tumultuous times, and the more that we hang on to our friendships, the more that we love our brothers and sisters, the more we can do together. I think the Enemy—Satan—really wants to divide Christians and get us distracted so that we can’t fulfill the mission of God,” Darling says. 

That said, Darling sees many reasons to hold onto hope for the Church.  “God is active and alive today. We should ask ourselves, ‘What is God up to? What is God doing? What is He about to do in the world? And how do we join Him?’” 

Learn more about Daniel Darling here and here

Inside Out – How to Find a Congregation – 08/09/23

Inside Out: The Search for a Church that Feels Like Home

We’re called to be part of a church, but looking for one is difficult. Writer and speaker Michelle Morin talks about why it’s hard, what to keep in mind, and why it matters that we’re part of one. 

Searching for a congregation is difficult for many people. “I think it’s hard because it takes us out of our comfort zone,” says writer and speaker Michele Morin. “Something has happened to jostle us and make us take the risk of moving somewhere else where we don’t know the routine, we don’t know how things are done. We want to get our needs met, we want fulfilling worship, we want all these things, and we need to look to God for those things rather than expecting a quote-unquote perfect church to swoop in and make us happy,” she says. 

She feels she has learned from her own church search decades ago. “One thing that I wished we had done is just dialed back the perfect-ometer a little bit. We were looking for the perfect church,” she says.  

For those on that search, she suggests making a short list of non-negotiables before you start visiting. “And then make peace with the fact that you’re going into an imperfect situation,” she says. “The truth is that all we have available to attend worship and sit in pews is imperfect, sinful people. And we’re part of that problem ourselves.”  But it’s that sandpaper of our imperfection that helps reshape us.  And those already at home in a congregation have the chance to make the experience better for those who visit.     “I don’t think we have to be at our own dining room table to exercise hospitality. There’s a pew hospitality that we need to be aware of as believers and to just be the welcome. “Church is like practice for someday when we’re with the Lord and all of our longings are fulfilled. Well, that’s certainly not going to happen on this planet, and so we experience a tiny little taste of that in our home church, and I want to be that welcoming person,” Morin says.  

No church is perfect. But we’re called to it, and being part of one gives us a chance to love others the way God loves us.  

Learn more about Michele Morin here and here


Inside Out – Teaching Children the Names of Jesus – 07/26/23

“Teaching the Names of Jesus”

It’s helpful to use simple terms when we teach children about God. It also can be clarifying for adults, says pastor and author Jimmy Dodd.  

“It’s really important to be able to just explain theology on a really, really basic level,” he says.  

Jimmy Dodd and Sally Dodd are coauthors of the new children’s prayer guide The Magnificent Names of Jesus.  “Just to think about the names of Jesus and just actually remember those can have an impact, I think, upon the family, upon the church, upon our community,” Dodd says. That’s because knowing Jesus’ names help us know His character.   

“Jesus is, in lots of ways, He’s like a diamond. And there are just lots of facets,” he says. “As you turn that diamond you see these different facets. Being familiar with those facets can help us, as adults, remember what God has promised—and what He hasn’t promised.  

“I think that sometimes as adults we hold God in contempt for promises that He never made,” he says. “And so let’s hold on to those promises that He has made.” 

Learn more about Jimmy Dodd here


Your world, your challenges, your faith. When the faith within engages the world without, there’s power. It’s living life from the Inside Out.  Martha Manikas-Foster hosts the “Inside Out” feature on Family Life, on the air and online.


Inside Out – Glenn Daman – Encouragement for Rural Churches – 06/14/23

Rural Churches Face Post-Pandemic Challenges … with Resilience and an Encouraged Theology

Although resilient, small rural churches are contending with fallout from the pandemic.  “There were some differing opinions and strongly held, so I think that we need to reconnect and move beyond that,” says author, pastor, and professor Glenn Daman. His 2018 book focusing on rural churches, The Forgotten Church, received Christianity Today‘s Award of Merit for The Church/Pastoral Leadership.

Daman points out that the pandemic also revealed the impact of media content and the internet on how people think–even within rural churches. The internet guides users to perspectives similar to what they’ve already sought out, so people often are not hearing opinions that challenge what they’ve been exposed to. “So, in some ways, the greatest threat to the distorting of truth is ourselves,” he says.

How can church leaders respond to the changed cultural landscape after COVID? “I think we continually have to challenge people to think biblically,” he says. The politician is not the person we’re to turn to for truth. We need to be turning to Scripture and to the foundation of what the Scripture teaches as we form our perspective on our world and on our culture.”

Daman assures us that there’s reason for pastors and leaders to feel encouraged. “The biggest thing we need to remember in all this is God’s the one who builds the church. He didn’t say, ‘You go out and build the Church.’ He says, ‘Upon this rock I will build my Church.’ ‘Some plant, some water, but I will build the Church.’ God is still building His Church. And nothing can stop that,” Daman says. “Our job is to be faithful. Preach His Word. Love the people. And if we do that, we’re being effective regardless of what the outward results are. Because God is at work.”

 Listen to our 18-minute conversation to hear about Glenn Daman’s newest book, The Lighthouse.

For further insights and inspiration on these matters:

  • Learn more about Glenn Daman here
  • RuralMinistry.net has reflections on congregational vitality, resources for training and equipping leadership from the membership, and practical encouragement from Glenn Daman and others on how to sustain faithful ministry in rural churches (and small churches in other locations too).


Inside Out – Toxic Screens – Melanie Hempe – 05/31/23

Your Child’s Addiction to Toxic Screens 

Research supports what many parents already know: toxic screens are hurting their children’s mental health.

Melanie Hempe, a retired RN and founder of the not-for-profit ScreenStrong, works with families to eliminate childhood screen dependency.

Video games, social media, and pornography are the most problematic. “They structurally will change the brain and increase the dopamine in your kid’s brain,” Hempe says, “and this sets your child up for addiction now and in the future.”

They also displace time children need for developing social and life skills. Screens, and especially video games, will detach our kids from their family,” she adds. “So it’s the saddest, most lasting part of the story: the game becomes their family and you lose your kids, and that’s what a lot of families are struggling with today.”

Part of the solution is to limit the temptation. No child needs a smartphone, she asserts. It’s not a rite of passage. A laptop for homework and a talk-and-text phone for communication will cover their needs.

“You are not denying or taking away anything. You are giving them a much bigger life and the freedom to love childhood again. You get your kids back and they love you for loving them so much to choose this counter-cultural path. The bonus is that you are not setting them up for addiction down the road, either.”

Further information on this significant topic:

Inside Out – Feeding the Spiritually Hungry – 05/17/23

Over 70 percent of Americans say they would like to grow spiritually, according to the Barna research group. That includes Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z. 

“When over seven in ten people say they want to grow spiritually, they are not necessarily saying, ‘Hey, I want to meet Jesus,’ ‘Hey I want to become a Christian,’” says Savannah Kimberlin, an Associate Vice President for Church Engagement at Barna. 

The people who are open spiritually, she says, are looking for purpose or inner peace and are willing to consider a spiritual answer. Reaching them with the answer in Jesus will look different from how Christians spread the news of Jesus in previous decades.  

“They care very deeply about knowing and seeing and being taught that Christianity is not only true, but that it is also good,” she says. Christians are the most attractive to spiritually hungry people when their beliefs show through in the way they live even more than in the words they say. 

“If we want to step into these kinds of relationships where we are being salt and light, and where we are facilitating spiritual conversations, we have to make sure that our actions speak louder than our words,” Kimberlin says. 

The Barna Group has been researching faith in America for over three decades. Learn more about Barna here, and Barna’s Rising Spiritual Openness in America research here.  

Inside Out – Teaching Children about Marriage – 05/03/23

Marriage is a signpost pointing to God’s unconditional love.

Marriage is so much more than compatible people with romantic feelings for each other, and we want children to know this. “Marriage is based on a promise. And it’s based on a promise because it’s trying to be a mirror to the love God has shown us in Jesus, which is covenantal love,” he says. “It’s promise-making love.” 

To help parents and caregivers teach this, pastor and author Sam Allberry has written the picture book God’s Signpost: How Marriage Points Us to God’s Love. The story revolves around siblings Ethan and Lila, who learn about marriage as they celebrate their grandparents’ 50th anniversary. 

“What we want a child to know about God’s love is that it is unconditional,” Allberry says in our Family Life conversation. “God loves us because of what He’s like. He doesn’t love us because of what we’re like. And so we can’t perform our way into it, and we can’t sin our way out of it. He loves us because it’s His nature to love.” 

Which is a good thing, Allberry assures us, as even solid marriages don’t always point to God’s love. “Ultimately, our faith is not on whether we get this right, but on whether God Himself is able to love us in this way,” Allberry says. “And He so beautifully is.”


Learn about Sam Allberry’s book God’s Signpost: How Marriage Points Us to God’s Love here.


Inside Out – Girls & Social Media – 04/19/23

Girls and Social Media 

With more girls than ever reporting that they feel sad or hopeless, The Gospel Coalition’s Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra talks with Martha Manikas-Foster about social media’s impact on girls. They also talk about the precautions adults might put in place before approaching social media as a mission field.


More girls than ever feel sad or hopeless. Social media may be the reason why.

“In 2009, we know about a third of American high school girls had persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness,” reports Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra, senior writer and faith-and-work editor for The Gospel Coalition. “But by last year, so this is about 10 years later, it was up to 57 percent. Which is the highest recorded level of teenage sadness ever.”

Zylstra observes that the increase in sadness tracks with the rise of smartphones and social media. Smartphones make it possible to check on your internet friends more often than when you had to wait until you opened your laptop to get connected.

How we spend our time makes its mark on us, and girls are averaging five hours a day on social media. During those hours girls are comparing themselves with others–often people they don’t know in person—and they repeatedly feel that they fall short.

Disembodied online relationships impact us differently from in-person friendships, Zylstra says, in part because when you walk alongside a friend, you see them on both their good days and bad days. Online you see only the best snapshots of a person’s day. “And if you have 500 friends,” Zylstra says, “every day somebody’s having a good day somewhere. But you’re constantly feeling like, ‘My day never measures up.’”

Listen in on our 18-minute conversation about the impact this is having. You’ll also hear Zylstra’s suggestions for how adults who feel called to on-line ministry might wisely approach social media as a mission field.

Listen to the podcast that inspired this conversation here and read some of her other writings here

Inside Out – Avoiding Scams – 04/05/23

Scams come at us from every direction—postal mail, email, text, and telephone—and they’re getting harder to identify. 

 “It all comes down to you never know who you’re talking to on the other end of the phone or other end of the computer,” says New York State Trooper Officer Mark O’Donnell

 By knowing the characteristics of most scams and thinking things through, we’re more likely to keep our money and personal information out of the hands of con artists. 

“It can be confusing,” O’Donnell says, “and again, these people are professionals, and that’s what they do. They prey on people, and they try to get them confused and scared and nervous for them to open up their bank accounts.”

Learn what to look for in this Inside Out conversation, and then pass the word along, especially to members of older generations. “Talk to your parents. It’s like talking to your kids about stuff in school when they’re growing up. You’ve got to talk to your parents about this and your grandparents. It’s kind of a full circle of life,” says O’Donnell, the Barracks E Public Information Officer.