30 for 30: 30 Years, 30 Thoughts

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In order to commemorate the three decade milestone, here are 30 lessons I’ve learned during the last 30 years:

  1. Always put God first, others second, and yourself third.
  2. Don’t take people (especially your parents) or things for granted. The older you get, the more you realize just how much you’ve been blessed.
  3. Excellence and perfection are two very different things—excellence is attainable, perfection is not.
  4. Listening is often more valuable than talking.
  5. Manage your money wisely: learn when to spend extra for quality, when to be thrifty, and, most importantly, when to be generous.
  6. Read meaningful books. The stories and knowledge found in them will profit you for a lifetime.
  7. Stick to your convictions, even if they aren’t popular. A clean conscience is more desirable than the crowd’s applause.
  8. Own your mistakes and failures. Learning from them will benefit you in the long run.
  9. Call your Mom. She loves it.
  10. Ground your identity in Christ alone—anything or anyone else is a fickle and superficial substitute.
  11. Learn to say “no”. Your time is valuable, so do your best to use it for things that matter.
  12. Never stop learning. You may have finished school, but that shouldn’t be the end of your education.
  13. There’s no such thing as too much Chick-fil-A.
  14. Make time for rest, recreation, reflection, and solitude.
  15. Have an idea of what you’d like to accomplish, achieve, or experience in the next 5-10 years. This will give direction to the decisions you make today.
  16. Being a member of a healthy local church is a true joy.
  17. Bitterness can consume you if you let it; forgiveness is a much better option.
  18. If possible, go see the world. Exploring new places and experiencing different cultures will make your life richer.
  19. Your Dad is a fountain of wisdom—soak it up.
  20. There are seasons in the Christian life when it’s best to read through the entire Bible in a year and other seasons when it’s best to dive deeper into a section and dwell on the richness found within it.
  21. Asking a good question usually takes much more skill than making a good statement.
  22. Your integrity and reputation are the most important assets you have—make every effort to remain above reproach.
  23. Go outside: a little bit of fresh air and natural beauty goes a long way towards relaxing, clearing your mind, and stimulating new ideas.
  24. Having a brother who is also a stalwart friend is a true blessing.
  25. Inter-generational discipleship is a beautiful thing: hearing the triumphs and trials of others gives you a different perspective on your triumphs and trials.
  26. Look up from your phone and take in your surroundings. I guarantee people-watching is much more entertaining.
  27. Innovation is often messy—don’t let that stop you from taking the initiative to try something new.
  28. Spend time with kids. They don’t care about your profession, possessions, or popularity: what matters to them is that you show up and show that you care.
  29. Learn when to do something yourself and when to hire a professional.
  30. Puns are the most refined form of humor.

What are some lessons you’ve learned so far during your life’s journey?

-Lawson
Learn It. Love It. Live It.

I Am Barabbas

Las cadenas se cortan por el eslabón mas débil / Chains break by the weakest link

I am Barabbas.

Who’s Barabbas? He’s an often overlooked, relatively minor, character in the events leading up to the death of Jesus on Good Friday. Many of us, myself included, tend to breeze past Barabbas as we read the Passion Week narrative. However, as I was listening to a sermon by Mark Dever a few days ago, he made a passing comment about Barabbas (38:45) that struck me: Barabbas is a preview of what we find in the gospel.

Like Barabbas, I was guilty of insurrection, rebelling against the lordship and sovereignty of a holy God.

Like Barabbas, I was imprisoned as a result of my sin and unable to free myself from its chains.

Like Barabbas, I was as good as dead as I awaited the just punishment for my rebellion.

This is a picture of the hopeless situation that Barabbas (and I) was in. But then, one day, a man named Jesus showed up and turned things around:  Read more of this post

We Cannot Be Silent [Book Review]

The rapid pace of cultural change in recent years has caught many Christians off guard. Marriage has been redefined, erotic liberty is taking precedence over religious liberty, and the “moral majority” is becoming the “maligned minority.” Some Christians have reacted with anger and animosity, causing deep pain and hurt. Others have retreated from culture as much as possible, shielding themselves from those they disagree with. Still others have relinquished the clear teaching of Scripture in order to appease the culture.

None of these responses are helpful or biblical. In his new book We Cannot Be Silent: Speaking Truth to a Culture Redefining Sex, Marriage, and the Very Meaning of Right and Wrong, Dr. Albert Mohler seeks to provide Christians with the worldview framework to respond biblically, boldly, and compassionately to a culture swept up in a sexual revolution.  Read more of this post

Six Questions to Ask When Choosing a Job

Job search

Let’s be honest…choosing a job can be a nerve-racking experience. Whether you are a high school student getting a summer job, a college student looking for an internship, a recent college graduate searching for your first position, or an experienced professional taking the next step in your career, a lot hangs in the balance when pursuing a new job opportunity. As someone who recently when through this process myself, I can relate to the difficulty of narrowing down your options and ultimately choosing which direction to go. Rather than letting your emotions take control and paralyze you in indecision, it is best to go take a rational approach to help filter offers and make a decision. In their book “The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Job,” Greg Gilbert and Sebastian Traeger offer six questions that can help you find, filter, and select a job. They break the questions down into two categories: the “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves.” Here are their questions:  Read more of this post

Jesus Continued [Book Review]

Have you ever wondered why Jesus said it would be better for His followers if He left and sent the Holy Spirit (John 16:7)? When I first read that verse, I was taken aback.

Like Thomas in John 20, many of us would much rather have a physical human being that we can touch and see than an unseen Spirit that, like the wind, “blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes” (John 3:8). Often as Christians, we feel disconnected from God. We look at God speaking to His people in the Old Testament, Jesus teaching the disciples in the Gospels, and the Holy Spirit moving mightily in Acts, but we have a hard time connecting that with our lives today. This difficulty that even seasoned Christians have relating to God the Holy Spirit has led to Him being referred to as “the forgotten God” (to borrow Francis Chan’s term).

In his book Jesus Continued…: Why the Spirit Inside You is Better Than Jesus Beside You, J.D. Greear wants to help Christians personally relate to God through the Holy Spirit.

Greear opens by asking, “Do you ever feel like God is someone you know about more than someone you know-like He’s more of a doctrine than a person?” Read more of this post

Why Do You Worship?

Worship BG - Not To Us

This blog post was adapted from a sermon that I gave at the Harvard Avenue Student Ministry youth group on Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Key Text: 1 Corinthians 11:17-34

WHAT IS WORSHIP?

You and I are worshiping every second of every day. We are continually pouring ourselves out for people, causes, things, or experiences. Worship never stops.

So what is worship? It is much more than just singing songs or playing an instrument (though that is certainly part of it). Christian worship is a biblically faithful response to a biblically faithful understanding of God. It is both internal and external. The internal spirit of worship comes from experiencing and treasuring the beauty and worth of God as presented in the Bible. This results in an external response that shows what we have experienced and treasure. Worship begins in the heart as a matter of spirit and truth, and then flows out of the heart to impact every part of our daily life.

The opposite of selfless Christian worship is selfish worship, or idolatry. Idolatry is an unbiblical, unfaithful understanding of God and/or an unbiblical, unfaithful response to Him. Just like true worship, idolatry begins internally long before it manifests itself externally. And like true worship, it eventually flows from our heart to impact every area of our life.

John Calvin famously said, “The human heart is an idol factory.” Because of the sinful tendencies of our heart, we can twist things that are meant to bring glory to God and make them into idols. In other words, sin is not just doing bad things, but also making good things into ultimate things. This turns selfless worship into selfish worship. This is the very issue that Paul is addressing in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34Read more of this post

The Gospel at Work [Book Review]

The average person will spend over 90,000 hours of their life working. 90,000 hours! To put that in perspective, it would basically be like clocking in today and working non-stop for just over 10 years before clocking back out.

Not only does our vocation consume a significant amount of our time, it is also part of our identity. One of the first questions I always get asked when I meet someone new is: “What do you do for a living?” For better or worse, we are associated with the work that we do.

Many people tend to compartmentalize their lives. There’s a Work compartment, Family compartment, Friends compartment, Hobby compartment, and so on. We do our best to keep the different areas from overlapping.

However, for Christians, there is one compartment that should pour over into all the others–or rather be the foundation for everything else: our faith in Jesus Christ. In 1 Corinthians 10:31, Paul writes, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” According to this, everything we do throughout a given day should be based on the gospel and done to bring glory to God and not ourselves.

With that in mind, Christians must ask themselves: “How does my faith impact the way I do my job?” To help answer this question, Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert wrote The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to our Jobs. In this great little book, Traeger and Gilbert address the two main problems that everyone faces when it comes to work and then show how the gospel transforms our purpose and motivation for every aspect of our vocation. They close the book with practical application as it relates to choosing a job, managing people, sharing the gospel, and defining success.  Read more of this post

Follow Me: The Command to Disciple

This is the third of three lessons in the “Follow Me” discipleship series from the 2014 Harvard Avenue College/Career Ministry Spring Retreat.

In this series, we’ve explored what it means to be a disciple of Christ. We looked at Jesus calling His first disciples and saw that the call of discipleship is initiated by God towards rebels dead in sin unto adoption as sons. This involves both belief and repentance. Next, we saw that the cost of discipleship requires loving family less than Jesus, bearing our cross, and relinquishing everything. Even though this cost seems high, what we get in return is infinitely more valuable: the righteousness of Christ.

We’re going to wrap up our “Follow Me” study by looking at one of the first and last things Jesus gave to His disciples while on the earth: the command to make disciples. True disciples of Jesus Christ are supernaturally compelled to make more disciples.

Commanded and Accompanied

READ Matthew 4:19; 28:18-20

Notice in these two passages that Jesus doesn’t suggest that His followers make disciples. He doesn’t highly recommend it. He didn’t teach them the latest evangelism technique or instruct them on how to be a role model. No, Jesus gave them a clear command: “Go and make”. From the very beginning, Jesus intended for every disciples to make more disciples.

It is also important to note that He doesn’t give them this command and leave them to figure it out on their own. On our own, we are destined to fail. That’s what’s great about being a follower of Christ: He doesn’t leave us alone! The commands that Jesus gives His disciples can only be accomplished by the work that He does in them. In Matthew 4, He promises to make them fishers of men while in Matthew 28, Jesus tells His followers that He may be leaving them physically, but He will always be with them in the presence of the Holy Spirit. This Holy Spirit continues to mold and shape us into the image of the ultimate Disciplemaker.

The Motivation for Disciple-making

What then is our motivation to make disciples? Should we do it because we feel guilty if we don’t? Should we do it to check off that box on our Heaven Admission Form? Not at all! Look at the Apostles: they were supernaturally compelled to tell others about Jesus. As a result, not even death could stop them from obeying this command.  Read more of this post

He is Risen: 5 Reasons the Resurrection Matters

 

West Country Safari

This Sunday is the highlight of the Christian year: Easter. Even though Christmas gets most of the attention, Easter is just as, if not more, important. It is the day we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior from the dead, a feat that no other person has ever accomplished on their own. In fact, the resurrection of Jesus three days after His crucifixion is the event that our entire faith and hope hinges on. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul refers to it as a matter of “first importance” and says that “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and our faith is in vain.”

Here are five reasons that the resurrection matters:

  1. Ensures our faith is legit
    The entirety of the Christian faith is dependent on the resurrection of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:12-26). We believe in a living, reigning Savior who is now the exalted head of the church, who is to be trusted, worshiped, and adored, and who will some day return in power and glory to gather His Bride the Church and reign as King over the earth.
  2. Ensures our regeneration
    In His resurrection, Jesus secured for us a new life like His: a human body and spirit perfectly suited for fellowship and obedience to God forever  (1 Peter 1:2-5). We have been “made alive together with Christ and raised up with Him” (Ephesians 2:5-6). The reality of the resurrection gives us the power needed for Christian ministry and obedience to God (Philippians 3:10). This resurrection power also allows us to gain more and more victory over the sin that remains in our lives (Romans 6:14; 1 Corinthians 15:17). In baptism, we see this pictured (Romans 6:4,11).
  3. Ensures our justification
    By raising Jesus from the dead, God declared His approval of Christ’s work of redemption on the cross (Romans 4:25). God was essentially saying there was no penalty left to pay for sin, no more wrath to bear, and no more guilt or punishment. All had been completely paid for by the substitionary, atoning death of Jesus. In saving us, by virtue of our union with Christ, God’s declaration of approval of Jesus is also His declaration of approval of us.
  4. Ensures our future resurrection
    Jesus is the “first fruits” of the new humanity, with bodies that have been made perfect and are no longer subject to weakness, aging, or death (1 Corinthians 15:20, 23, 42-44, 53). In fact, Jesus refers to Himself as the “resurrection and the life” in John 11:25-26. The New Testament connects Jesus’ resurrection with our final bodily resurrection several times (1 Corinthians 6:14, 15:12-58; 2 Corinthians 4:14)
  5. Ensures our eternal reward
    Because of the resurrection, everything we do on earth has eternal significance, both for us and for others. Though we may face struggles and trials here on earth, we are promised a heavenly reward where our suffering for Christ will be repaid (Colossians 3:1-4).

This Easter, remember the vital importance of what we are celebrating: Christ, as an innocent substitute, died the death that we should have died for our sins and then, to show His acceptance of this sacrifice, God the Father raised Jesus from the grave three days later, accomplishing the final victory over sin and death and making the reconciliation between God and humanity possible. What an amazing day!

-Lawson
Learn It. Love It. Live It.

[image credit: Wurz on Flickr]

Follow Me: The Cost of Discipleship

This is the second of three lessons in the “Follow Me” discipleship series from the 2014 Harvard Avenue College/Career Ministry Spring Retreat.

How would you respond if someone asked you: “How do I become a Christian”?

There are two ways to reply when asked this question: 1) Tell someone how easy it is: just acknowledge a few truths about God and then pray a prayer and you’re set! 2) Tell the person that the call to discipleship is a call to die so that they can live.

So, which of these is correct? What does it mean to truly, biblically follow Christ? Does it look different in a third world country as opposed to America? What does it mean to know Jesus and identify your life with His? In other words, what does it mean to be a Christian?

The first lesson outlined the two elements of the call to discipleship (repentance and belief) and then defined the call to discipleship as initiated by God towards rebels dead in sin unto adoption as sons. This lesson will focus on answering the question “What does it mean to follow Christ?”

Three Costs of Discipleship
In Luke 14:25-33, Jesus addresses three costs associated with being a disciple:  Read more of this post

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