13 Lessons From 2013

1) Grace is free; discipleship is not. Grace is an undeserved, unmerited, non-refundable, priceless GIFT. It’s that moment when you’ve wronged a friend, and they never mention it again. More importantly, it’s Jesus dying on a cross, so you could have a relationship with His Father when He conquered death three days later. It is your sins being washed white as snow. Guys, snow is the whitest white I’ve ever seen, so God has really washed us clean! Get excited about that. Think back to the first time you found salvation, or encountered the love of God in a Christ-like community. Discipleship – following Jesus – will cost you everything. Therefore, consider for yourself the cost, and ask yourself, is it worth it?

2) The heart is the center, but your private-life and actions taken are truly a reflection of it. This last point may be a tad wordy, so allow me to elaborate slightly. The heart is the center. It is what God cares about most. He would rather have your heart, than have you read your Bible at the same time everyday. He would rather have your heart – your whole heart – than just a week on that mission’s trip to Mexico. Your heart matters. We cannot, for one second, though, think that our actions (as we walk in ‘freedom’ – and don’t get me wrong, we are free) are separate from our hearts. When we choose to skip church, it is because our heart is not all there – we do not want to go. When we choose sin – to give into lustful desires, for example – we are choosing that over obedient worship and protection of our hearts. You never “just do” anything – whether we want to consider it or not, we make purposeful decisions to either live obediently, or to not. You and me are not excused from the consequences of our actions. Our lack of due-diligence WILL catch up to us.

3) Homosexuality is not worse than any other sin, but it is not to be ‘accepted’. Please do not just breeze over this one, or stop reading because this sort of point makes your stomach churn with its controversial nature. Phil Robertson made some coarse remarks regarding homosexuality and the world went ablaze with their own viewpoint on the issue. Here’s the bottom-line. Homosexuality is sin. BUT, so is alcoholism, the love of money, not caring for the widows and orphans, slander, jealousy/envy, premarital sex of any kind, and much more. Remember the Bible story where they want to stone a woman for committing adultery? “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her,” is what Jesus said. (John 8:7) Which of you, my friends, is without sin? Shall we then cast stones at one another? We cannot accept the sin in our own lives, just as we cannot accept/endorse the sin of homosexuality in others. Regardless of what it is, repent of your sins, and find life.

4) Humility, while difficult, is fruitful. Learning to own up to your mistakes and shortcomings is a new kind of freedom. You are who you are, so you learn how to work with what you have, and what you have is not perfect. That’s okay, because you (hopefully) serve a God that is, and that will redeem your heart, soul, mind, and body, one step at a time. You will fail, but with His help, you will also succeed. Setting aside your pride, arrogance, and American “I got this on my own” mentality will lead to a much greater peace than you thought possible.

5) Praying with faith moves mountains. The stubborn nature of your heart is a mountain that can be moved. Your coworkers that refuse to believe in God are mountains that can be moved. That sin-habit you cannot seem to conquer on your own is a mountain that can be moved. Your prayers move mountains, so why are we not praying? More importantly, where is our faith? I’m there with you. This is something I definitely need to work on.

6) Slander is not profitable. It does, however, produce grief. Speaking poorly of others may seem like the thing to do. Trust me, I know. It is super easy to get caught up in the day-to-day gossip with coworkers and friends, and to find yourself pointing out the negative, or frustrating traits of your confidants. It is simply never profitable. There is no good that can come from that. There is only grief, as you may very well hurt another, or find yourself being hurt. Because trust me, if they’re talking ill of others around you, then they’re probably talking poorly of you, too.

7) Hard work is required. I mentioned earlier that prayer is important, and that we should be spending more time doing it, as it moves mountains. That is true. It is also true that we cannot simply sit around and do nothing. It takes diligent effort – to the point of sweating it out sometimes. If you want to lose weight, save more, or get that promotion, you have to work for it. The sooner you’re willing to work, the sooner you can reap the rewards.

8) Apathy spreads rapidly. “I don’t care” and “whatever” come to mind as phrases that are overused by myself and our culture. When we fail to care about one thing, it usually leads to not caring about other things quickly. If I am careless with my prayer life, then it is likely that my time in the Word will decline as well. Look at your own life. What is it that you have decided to “not care” about anymore, or to be apathetic towards. It is almost guaranteed to have spread elsewhere. Rid yourself of this mindset. It’s poisonous. Godly men and women are not apathetic and cowardly, but courageous conquerors.

9) Beautiful women are everywhere; Godly women are diamonds. I’m just speaking from the perspective of a Christian bachelor (for lack of better terminology), but no matter where you are, there will always be beautiful women. Starbucks has them. McDonalds has them. Walmart has them. They’re everywhere, I tell ya – everywhere. A Christ-like woman (that you obviously, also find attractive) is a diamond in the rough. Cherish her, pursue her, and marry her. One per Godly man. And “no funny business” as an old, wise man might say.

10) Your qualifications are not always what qualify you. I’ve yet to be offered a job because of my qualifications, or credentials. The jobs I’ve been offered professionally, and the positions of leaderships I’ve had within collegiate-ministries/churches were not given to me based on my qualifications, but because someone saw that potential I had, and wanted to develop it further. When I was hired at La Quinta, my boss told me the reason she hired me was because of how I interacted with the guests that were waiting in line ahead of me the day I came to pick up an application. It was my willingness to put myself out there that led to the job-offer, not my pursuit of a degree in Communications (or Hospitality Management, if that had been the case).

11) A loving community is something to be cherished and sought after. Ichthus and Rev79 were gems in Manhattan, Kansas. So many loving people with the spirit, and it was something I took for granted before moving home to Olathe, and having to find another spirit-filled, Bible believing church where I could plug myself into. And when I began to become lazy about it (not attend service, or sign up for classes/bible-studies), I found myself miserably lonely, depressed, and my faith drier than a saltine-cracker without soup. Seriously people, we need each other. If you have a friend that is a Christian, but that is isolating themselves from the church – go beat down their doors and drag them in with ya. May sound extreme, but it’s what Jake had to do a few times in college, and I’m grateful for it. And if you’re that person, then stop it. Stop being silly, and go to church. You’re fooling yourself if you think you can do it on your own.

12) We need to read our Bibles more. Guys, it’s God’s WORD. It’s HIS WORD! Seriously, it’s His Word. And we believe in Him, so shouldn’t we want to know Him? I cannot tell you the number of times that someone has outwitted me with Scripture (that was outside of the Christian circle). It’s pretty ridiculous when an outspoken guy like me that has grown up in the church for years, knows less about the Bible than someone outside of the faith. Other books are good, but the Bible is best. Trust me, I love the other books. I read as many of them as you probably do, or more. But we never graduate from the basics. We must constantly remind ourselves of the Gospel, and eat of the wisdom found in His Word. Everything else comes second to that. (P.S. This is something I also need to work on. Notice my use of the pronoun “we”.)

13) Giving is far more rewarding than receiving. You can waste your life away building up your own personal kingdom, or you can give it all away for the sake of the Gospel. The latter option provides you with unspeakable joy, peace, and purpose. The other option leaves you thirsty for more, more, and more – always anxious, and always uncertain. Every time I try to build up riches for myself, I find myself unsatisfied. Every time I give to others, I find myself very content. It goes against everything in us (at first), but when we lead our hearts with our deliberate, purposeful, obedient actions of sacrifice, our hearts begin to enjoy it. It’s almost addicting. You’ll be surprised.

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