Forrest McArthur is a sophomore at UNA majoring in nursing. He graduated in 2011 from Bob Jones High School and is involved with Habitat for Humanity, 737 at First Baptist Church Florence, and soon with Feeding the Pride food pantry.

So what got you into nursing?

I thought about physical therapy at first, but nursing is more versatile and has more departments you can go to. It’s hands on helping people. If I go overseas on missions having that medical background… I would be more of an asset being a nurse.

What are some of your favorite things about being a student at UNA?

I love the small campus, the option to be more independent. I still rely some on my parents but making my own decisions as well. I love meeting new people and the new opportunities I’m getting.

What is one thing you would change about school or the campus?

It would be cool if all the groups would become more known and make a bigger push to get on campus more often than us having to go to them. I know the Well is coming to the Amphitheatre tonight, but most people don’t have the initiative or incentive to go to a church off campus.

Tell me about your life growing up. Parents, occupation, siblings, etc.

My twin brother, Jared, is at UAH and I also have an older brother named Stephen that graduated and is working for Jacobs. Dad has worked a ton of different jobs, he started off having his own painting business and then real estate and NASA. He is now a computer engineer signed under UAH. Mom’s been a budget analyst for Redstone Arsenal for close to 15 years. Mom was stay at home until we were about 13 or 14 until we got the ability to stay home alone after school.

Was your family active in church or religious when you were younger?

We went to church most Sundays but they never forced us., They didn’t want us to rebel or anything like that. They kept the morals and ethics of Christianity but never brought up the whole Christian thing that they forced us. I really appreciate that. I went through my atheist phase at age 14 or 15 but the way my parents acted… eventually Christianity finally made sense to me. The way I was raised helped.

About a year ago I found Christ. My parents weren’t constricting, I guess. Where they ‘forced’ it on me. It’s human nature wants to rebel.

My dad grew up Church of Christ, nothing against them but he felt it was constricting and legalistic. He didn’t like the hypocrisy he saw so he ceased going. Mom was raised Presbyterian. We finally started going to Crosspoint Church of Christ in Madison and then eventually we just stopped altogether. They now go every Sunday, but I stopped.  At a certain point, my former girlfriend invited me to church where I got closer to God, was saved, and now I’m a member of Asbury Methodist.

Are you still active? Why or why not?

I’m not active at Asbury because I want to get active in Florence. I want to find a church where I can directly plug into. If I’m here I’ll be more likely to plug in and do stuff. There are just so many to try out. But I am loving the youth groups and campus ministries here. If you miss one night, there is always something going on.

What is one thing you would change about organized religion?

How much emphasis we put on debating these certain topics… talking about non essentials. We will think we are doing what God wants and we forget the major thing, that is we need to do it in love. We use religion as a mask of our own failures. We tell others what to do and practice something else at home. I’m guilty of being a hypocrite at times too. Everyone feels they have to be right on certain subjects. When people ask my denomination, I will say I guess Methodist but honestly everyone has their own interpretation of the Bible. I would say people being close minded, like with Bible verses they will shut you down with what they think.

Tell me about your personal belief in God.

I believe God is a lot  bigger than religion can pin down. I hate to say it, because of that image we have in our mind we think of God as some guy sitting on a cloud. He’s everywhere, but He’s also… It’s hard to wrap your mind around that He can listen to so many people at one time. It makes you realize maybe God is not something we can really tie down.

I think Jesus came to earth and showed us what it’s like to have complete dependence and reliance on God. In order to fully love God and  fully have right intentions like in helping others we must accept ourselves first. If we don’t, what comes out of us can be destructive to other people. When He forgives us we must forgive ourselves as well. That’s why they say you are truly free in Christ; you don’t have to feel tied down or restricted.  Organized religion needs more emphasis on the cross. If we always look to Jesus He has the answer to anything. That’s the most beneficial way to live the Christian life. That’s what life abundantly means.

Where do you draw your belief from?

I’ve done a lot of searching… lots of philosophy and other religions during those years when I was searching. My parents instilling those morals in me and everything just ended up leading to Christianity. Christianity ultimately summed up my beliefs. I started looking more to Christianity and would do more research from a scientific mind, looking for the history and evidence for who Jesus is.

Jesus didn’t become real to me until I came to faith in Christ. I really believe you have to have your own close, personal encounter with Jesus. Until you experience what it’s like it you will never know the fullness of it.

What does it take for someone to personally know God? Is it possible?

Personally through Jesus Christ, His Son. What it takes honestly… you need to be honest with yourself. Don’t hide behind self denial, like ‘I’m being a good person’.  A lot of the times you need to accept you cannot do it on your own. I went through a self righteous phase.  I came to a point…it’s good because people wilI eventually tire out. Then I finally understood why I needed a Savior. I can’t live up to God’s standard without Christ. Start trying to commune with God in a way that…I don’t really like repetitious prayers. I am more on a best friend personal level with God. The more you pray, the more you start seeing prayers answered.

What do you consider to be a ‘good’ person?

There’s not really a ‘good person’, we’re all equal. It’s easy to look at murderers and call them bad, but at the end of the day you can realize even with them there is a person there. They have an inner struggle within they can’t cope with. The importance is accepting yourself and forgiving yourself or feeling you are forgiven or you’ll end up lashing out. Everything has a motive inside it. I don’t think there is any such thing as a good person, we’re just people.

That is my next question: Do you consider yourself one? Why or why not?

No. I don’t even know where I am half the time. When I start to think I’m doing good with God, I realize I’m prideful and blew it! It’s a constant struggle. If you do everything out of love, you’ll find yourself… considering what other people have to say. When we talk to people we need to listen. Honestly most people know what they are doing isn’t helping their lives. They know it’s going to end up hurting them. They are surprised when I don’t judge them.

From a Christian perspective, what do you think about the claims of Jesus Christ in John 14:6: I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man comes unto the Father but by Me?

That’s always a tough question. I really believe what He says is the truth, there is no other way. You really are quick to point out that if they believe in Jesus they will say no, but a lot of the times we don’t know their heart. They could be cheating on their spouse but going home every night crying out to God. People truly underestimate God’s love. I truly believe Jesus is the only way but a lot bigger than we think.

I don’t think we as humans… we like to act like we have everything figured out. It pushes peoples buttons when they think Christianity is an exclusive club, but they just don’t understand how Christianity ties in perfectly to human nature. We rebel, we know the world isn’t how it’s supposed to be…

When I was an atheist, I really struggled with how Christians could be so arrogant… having a corner on truth. The more others shared with me, it just started making sense.

That’s one thing I ran into was the exclusivity. People say ‘that’s not fair’ but I try to describe it like we are lost on some back country road. I need the shortest, quickest route home. I don’t need fourteen sets of directions from multiple people, just the direct route to our destination. Jesus is not being exclusive and mean to people, He wants to save their lives and keep it simple.

Next question: tell me what first comes to mind when you hear the terms ‘being saved’ or ‘born again’. If the Bible is true, what do you think it takes for a person to come to genuine faith in Jesus Christ?

When I hear ‘being saved’, I believe you know.. Ephesians 2:8-9.. grace through faith alone. I’m a true believer in that.  People try to add works into it. That’s a whole different mindset to works. Are you doing works to earn salvation or because of it? What are you doing it for? If you try and earn, you become self-righteous.

That puts up the controversy… people are quick to say, like in James, if you don’t have works your faith is dead. I think if you have faith it will naturally flow out of you… that you’re just a loving person.  If someone messes up or is struggling, that doesn’t mean they aren’t saved, they just not living a real abundant life. You can be saved, but just not…

Jesus said a tree will known by its fruit. If an apple tree doesn’t bear apples, you start to wonder if it’s really an apple tree. People try to earn their way to God by being ‘good enough’, and those people will miss out when they think they are saved but may not be. It’s not following rules and doing the whole church thing… that’s why we have to check ourselves regularly.

Right. It’s almost so simple we want to  over complicate the gospel.  That’s just human nature.People get hung up on church attendance and mission trips. God says ‘Stop!I’ve done it for you!’

We talked a moment ago about how every person is a sinner, no matter who they are or what they’ve done. Would you read three verses for me and tell me what they say to you?

Romans 5:8: But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  KJV

But God put His love on the line for us by offering His Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to Him. The Message

That’s big, that’s telling us hey, I don’t  ‘need’ you. Even though you’ve done all these things. You’ve sinned and rebelled against Me I have sacrificed everything so you will come back to Me. It’s kind of humbling… He tells us all our deeds are like filthy rags. I’ve done something for you. He’s right. There is nothing I can do and there is a lot of freedom and joy in that. You’ll finally meet His standard when you stop trying to meet it.

It’s kind of like if someone buys you a really nice gift. You’re naturally gonna want to repay them. God gives you the gift, you want to get to know Him.

Ephesians 2:8-9: For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. KJV

Saving is all His idea, and all His work. All we do is trust Him enough to let Him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. The Message

I think its almost the same thing as Romans. Basically saying God has had mercy on you.. That’s believing you are forgiven, that it really is that simple. It’s all God. You have to be God dependent. Just stop trying in your own strength to please God. He can only be pleased through His Son Jesus Christ.

Romans 10:9-10: That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. KJV

Say the welcoming word to God—“Jesus is my Master”—embracing, body and soul, God’s work of doing in us what He did in raising Jesus from the dead. That’s it. You’re not “doing” anything; you’re simply calling out to God, trusting Him to do it for you. That’s salvation. The Message

That just sums everything up. Everything in life points back to God. It has nothing to do with us. It points to what He had done. The verse says it right there. All we can do is believe in His Son and God says that is sufficient enough.

Can you recall a time in your life that you gave your heart to Jesus Christ? What would hinder you from doing so right now?

This one is tricky,… one day when I was singing I church.. it’s hard to describe but I had an overwhelming sense of peace. We have the ability to work ourselves up in emotion, but this was different. I felt like this happiness that I never had in so many years of my life. I felt this urge to move, and during the invitation I went forward.

There was another time I went to a youth group event at Asbury. I was still trying to be self-righteous and everything but I was burnt out feeling like I had disappointed God. As I read His Word, that feeling came over me again. I realized me following rules wasn’t going to cut it.

I’m a firm believer that we can never lose our salvation. Jesus said in John 10:28  that no man pluck us out of His hand. We all have seasons in our life. We go through a self righteous phase, a doubting phase, and even a ‘hit the wall’ phase. With the Holy Spirit already inside of you, He assures us…not that you somehow ‘lost’ it and had to get it back again but He lets you know it’s all good.

Would you be interested in a simple seeker or discipleship life group once a week for 30 minutes?

Yes , I really would.

Lion City wants to meet people where they are.  A lot of Christians just want to shove Bible verses at you and send you away but we learned a long time ago a conversation involves listening more than talking. Click here to find out more about Lion City life groups. If you would like to be interviewed for Faith & Doubt or talk anonymously on matters of faith email lioncitylh@gmail.com.

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