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9 Things You Must Learn Before You Are 30 (or 12)

Learn these things while you still can.

There’s a reason the age of 30 carries so much baggage. According to popular tradition—by which I mean, what your parents keep telling you—finishing that third decade of existence means becoming an adult. You’re supposed to have it all together. You’ve escaped the ironic-mustache-sporting, TOMS-wearing, hipster twentysomething life and graduated into responsibility. You’ve become financially stable, psychologically sound and socially adept. You’ve become a grown-up.

But like jamming the straw into a package of Capri Sun, the process is never as easy as it looks. The journey to adulthood is a mystical, winding path, and Google Maps is absolutely no help in getting you there. You need advice. You need solid instruction. But kinking up the issue is the fact that, as you age, things are never quite as black-and-white as you remember. Sure, absolutes are still important (adultery: wrong; genocide: bad; kittens: cute), but it’s hard to be such a stickler on the details. Life at and around 30 can be contradictory.

And that’s why some of the advice you’ll receive in the following list may seem a tad conflicted. Make money, but give lots of it away. Make time for other people, but save time for yourself. Don’t become a slob, but don’t be slave to appearances. Don’t get too bungled up in the questions, but don’t forget to keep seeking answers. Enjoy the complexity. Relish the ride.

So here’s your handy guide to nine major things you need to know before you hit 30. And while you can’t exactly get maturity, wisdom and common sense from a list, it’s at least a place to start. Welcome, kids, to Grownupville.

1. Life is SO not about you.

If Day 1 of Rick Warren’s gazillion-selling The Purpose-Driven Life can begin with this statement, then so can this modest list. The best approach to life is one that realizes that you are only the center of your universe, not everyone else’s. Successful adulthood means living a life of generosity, of service and of concern for the people around you. Step outside your own interests. Put others’ needs ahead of your own. Get over yourself. Opening your hands to the world around you is the key to maturity.

2. Credit cards are dangerous

If you’re like most people, you got hooked in college (after all, they were offering a free T-shirt!). Then you graduated with a garbageload of debt. A few years later, you’re still paying it off and gnashing your teeth at the interest rate. You’ve been told time and time again that this is stupid—so I’m not going to yell at you about it—but take the advice you keep hearing and get your credit cards paid off. Stop using them like free money. Until you get to the point where you can pay your bill in full every month, don’t sign that receipt.

3. Stuff will never satisfy

Sure, that new stamp-sized phone-slash-microbrowser-slash-meat-thermometer looks really slick, and all the cool kids have one, and Kanye’s kickin’ it with one in his new video, but let’s face it—will it really make your life that much better? If you’re bored, depressed or unsatisfied without all the gear, you’re also gonna be bored, depressed and unsatisfied with it. Things might perk you up for a day or two, but they don’t give you any sort of permanent boost. They don’t bring you joy. Joy comes from community, faith, love, purpose. And those? Come from God.

4. Save now while you’re young

It looks like Uncle Sam may be getting pretty stingy by the time we’re ready to start pricing Winnebagos and planning for that vacation to Branson. So … are you saving yet for retirement? If not, get to it. Contribute to your company’s 401(k) plan. Set up a regular or Roth IRA. Start saving, and do it now. The financial decisions you make over the next few years will grow to astronomical proportions a couple of decades from now. If time = money, then procrastination = a lot less money.

5. You should probably read more

And I’m not just saying that because I’m a writer. There’s some fun stuff on TV. Video games are a great escape. Movies can be cool. But when it comes to gaining knowledge, enhancing your vocabulary, improving your concentration and stimulating the brain, there’s nothing better than a book. Yes, an actual book. Not a cereal box or a gaming manual. Browsing the Internet or flicking through magazines doesn’t count either.

6. Pay attention to what you eat

Metabolism slows with age. Abdomens, butts, thighs and other formerly desirable body parts start to expand. Your energy level shrinks. Eventually, you’re gasping for breath when you top the stairs. You can’t just eat anything you want anymore, so start paying attention to what you’re shoveling in. Put down that pizza and pick up some yogurt. Toss a salad. Lay off the bacon cheeseburgers. And for Jared’s sake, stop categorizing Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia as an FDA-approved serving of fruit.

7. Stop comparing yourself to others

It’s not about you, but it’s not about keeping up with the Joneses either. Stop comparing yourself to others. It’s a vicious cycle you don’t want to get caught up in. There will always be people your age who are more successful than you, wealthier than you and better-looking than you. And if Jesus was clear about anything, it was that flawless skin, a sweet ride and a highfalutin title on your business card were keys to the kingdom of God. Wait … He didn’t say that? Guess I’ve been watching too much Christian TV.

8. Get used to saying “No”

The older you get, the better simplicity looks. Prioritize. Rather spend time with your family than go to yet another church worship band rehearsal? Then scale back on your responsibilities, and don’t let anyone make you feel guilty about it. Tired of the hours and marathon- length sprint of your job? Don’t hesitate to downshift on your career. You can’t do it all. Choose health, sanity, loved ones and a “life to the full” above anything else—no matter what conventional wisdom says. Quality of life beats stress any day.

9. Maintain close relationships

Ask any old person what’s been more important to them through the years. Career? Residence? Bank account? Nope. It’s the people they love, the ones who traveled through life with them. Strong, well- adjusted adults stay connected to a strong, well-adjusted blend of friends and family members. As the thirtysomething hill gets closer, make sure you’ve got someone to climb it with you. You don’t dare do it alone.

This article originally appeared in RELEVANT. Jason Boyett is a blogger and author, most recently of O Me of Little Faith (Zondervan).

- I would like to add three learning points to this as well.

10) Stay in the Word

We have no idea how much the Word of God’s constant influence in our lives does for us until it is not there.  His word really is a lamp for our feet and a light for our paths!

11) Pray

Talk to God all the time. Talk to him in the car, elevator, at your desk, while riding roller coasters (maybe especially on roller coasters), while in the shower, or any other time you can think of! Talk, talk, talk, to God… and then shut up and let Him talk to you.

12) Think Clearly and Honestly about Romantic Relationships ***Alert, ManCard Forfeiture in Progress***

You should probably go out and watch the movie “He’s Not That Into You.” Not that its a great movie, but its right. People think pie in the sky, 1-in-a-million nonsense about their relationships. And when they do, they are most often disappointed. And during this process they stop doing 10 and 11. Also, when it ends, and ends badly, they blame God when He had absolutely nothing to do with it. You are the one that ignored normal signs, gave up your dreams and standards, for someone that had you taken things a little slower and taken some time to just date and hang out before you jumped into the relationship, and looked at things with clarity, you wouldn’t otherwise dated. Can people connect and marry quickly? OH YES! Absolutely! I have know wonderful people with wonderful marriages where this has happened. But they are the exceptions, and you are probably not exceptional (in this way).

A Review of “Why We’re Not Emergent (by Two Guys Who Should Be)”

Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck, Why We’re Not Emergent (by Two Guys Who Should Be) (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008). 256 pages.

Why We’re Not Emergent (By Two Guys Who Should Be) is the first in what will undoubtedly be a long line of conservative theological responses to the Emergent Church Movement (ECM) by individuals who belong to “Generation Y.”[i] Authors Kevin DeYoung, senior pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan, and Ted Kluck, ESPN writer and Sports Spectrum columnist, produced this work after several painstaking years of research, both focusing on the writings of preeminent ECM celebrities such as Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, Leonard Sweet, Doug Pagitt and others while also visiting a number of churches that follow an ECM pattern.[ii] Written with a turn-by-turn chapter approach, this book attempts to hit what the authors consider to be the major doctrinal and theological issues of ECM. DeYoung focuses the majority of his writing on biblical theology while Kluck pays close attention to theology in praxis.

DeYoung and Kluck focus on the ECM’s approach to Scripture. Unlike the conservative theological perspective, the ECM view Scripture as playing a part in defining truth, but not being the “final rule of faith and practice.” According to the authors, ECM adherents believe that the Scriptures carry a valuable opinion, but may not be of a heavier weight than “the wisdom of the ages” or the opinion of another individual.

The authors also discuss the role of Christ at length For example, Rob Bell’s short video series, Nooma, as well as his book, Velvet Elvis, teach that Peter began to sink when he walked on the water because he lost faith in himself, not in the Master. Donald Miller, in his widely read book, Blue Like Jazz, describes what it might look like to meet Jesus. He refers to the encounter as one in which Jesus would ask Miller “his story” and then help him find the path to travel and identify personal issues on which to work. Both descriptions of the role of Christ describe Jesus as a psychologist rather than as Savior and Lord. DeYoung repeatedly encourages readers (and the ECM for that matter) to remember that Christ is both Lion and Lamb—meek and strong, gentle and fierce, loving and powerful.

Though it is true that Jesus expects believers to follow in His footsteps as His representatives on Earth, it is not through personal power or belief in self that this is accomplished. Only through complete trust and dependence upon the Holy Spirit can believers ever truly do the work of Jesus. The Apostle Paul said it best, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 5:20, NIV). Jesus is not a self-help guru or a psychologist; He is the soon coming King!

The authors conclude with a discourse on the seven churches of Asia Minor, as described in Revelation. This is where I believe the writers most accurately reflect the mind of Generation Y evangelicals. DeYoung presents a superb argument for why the seven churches represent the Church. Orthodox Evangelicals often fall into the Ephesian church model of being greatly pious and wonderfully doctrinal, yet sadly unloving whereas ECM congregations most closely resemble the church of Thyatira and Laodicea—beautifully loving and open to all people, but failing in sound doctrine and tolerant of all things, including sin. The authors contend that the Church Christ desires must be doctrinally committed while expressing love and acceptance toward people and their problems, but not their sin. This accurately depicts the position of most Generation Y evangelicals, who remain widely conservative in theology (Scriptures Inspired, Salvation through Christ alone, etc.), while moving center/left-of-center politically on many issues (poverty, educational equity, climate change, etc.), believing that moral issues stretch beyond the stalwarts of the Religious Right (abortion and homosexual unions).

This work presents a refreshing look at not only the ECM but also the Western, Evangelical Church as a whole. The authors remain both interesting and relevant while dealing with daunting issues of eternal consequence. They present their case consistently and in a fair and even-handed manner by using exact quotes from ECM leaders as the primary focus of their discussions. Although not everyone will agree with DeYoung and Kluck’s conclusions, the authors cannot be accused of completing this work with anything other than a heart of reconciliation and love toward their ECM brothers and sisters. I highly recommend this book to all individuals engaged in church ministry, despite one’s personal persuasion on the Emergent Church Movement.

[i] There is considerable conversation as to the years that constitute the conclusion of Generation X and the start of Generation Y (aka Millennials). Generally, I refer to Generation Y as individuals currently between the ages of 19 and 35.

[ii] It must be said that there is no official ECM pattern. The ECM is a movement of churches that in general reject fundamentalism and orthodoxy and embrace more liberal theology and politics. To be fair, ECM churches believe that the praxis of their communities and worship experiences are more indicative of the way Christ would in fact act. There is no ECM denomination, no statement of fundamental truths, and no corporate missions endeavor.

Review of "Myth of a Christian Nation," by Gregory Boyd

Gregory Boyd, Myth of a Christian Nation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005). $19.99, 207 pages. Reviewed by R. Ryan Beaty, M.Div.

In the wake of continued convolution between the evangelical church of Jesus Christ and the American civil religion over the past decade, many have been left to ponder the location of the line that separates American and Kingdom of God citizenry. For millions of individuals the mixture of politics and gospel proclamation are welcome bedfellows that fit with each other in a way most naturally. For many others however, the cohabitation of these two great forces is as polarized as oil and water. In this book, author Gregory Boyd goes to great lengths in order to demonstrate not only is there a difference between authentic Christianity and the American civil religion, there is an insurmountable expanse between the two, making the notion that the United States or any other nation is a Christian nation both crass and mute.

For Boyd the differences between what is kingdom of the world and Kingdom of God are stark. Where as it is undoubted that God uses the nations of the world at times for His purposes along with establishing the leaders of the worldly kingdoms (Romans 13:1, 3-4), the world also remains very much under the control of Satan and his demonic influences in nations (Luke 4:5-7, 1 John 5:19). Also, though all humanity holds membership in one or more kingdoms of the world, Christians are to as the scriptures say and live “in but not of the world” (John 17). The kingdoms of the world function through the exertion of “power-over” policies, that is elevation through the subduing of others. Worldly kingdoms and people put others down, carry out acts of destruction, and are selective in their morality as it suits their individual and national interests. This is illustrated time and again through out the history of the world and

Boyd enthusiastically supports a position of “power-under” influence, being the posture of leadership taken by Jesus and repeated by the followers of Christ in the early centuries. Illustrating the overwhelming difference, Boyd repeatedly refers to the world as ruling through the sword while Christ rules with a towel. Boyd asserts that service to others; the idea of the greatest servant being the greatest of all – a concept completely foreign to the kingdoms of the world – is in fact the only way that followers of Jesus Christ should seek to advance in life. With this as the guiding principle for Christian life, it makes it impossible for the believer to participate in most of the world’s devices. It is only through “power-under” servant leadership that the Kingdom of God is ultimately advanced.

It is important to note that the author recognizes that much good can at times come through the “power-over” approach. The problem is that that “power-over” tactics, while dealing with the manifestation of issues, can never touch the heart of the problem. Will any homosexual person be led to the LORD and experience subsequent life change by outlawing gay marriage? Will young people be better equipped to control lust by mandating an abstinence only sexual education course? Undoubtedly some, and maybe a lot of good, will come from “power-over” tactics, but Christ did not come so that the kingdoms of the world would be better. If that were the case, there would have been no need for Him to die. At any time He could have ordered the legions of angels at His command to overthrow the earthly governments. Instead he came to demonstrate that life change occurs through service, subjection, and submissions to each other.

Boyd believes that most Americans that also identify themselves as Christians are disillusioned by the foundational myth that America was at one time a Christian nation, and that it is our responsibility to, as the popular bumper sticker slogan declares, “Take America Back for God!” He wonders (as do I), when this time in American history was? Was it 50 years ago, when Jim Crow laws dominated the south? Was it 100 years ago when women were not given the same rights as men? Was it 150 years ago when blacks were still enslaved? Was it 200 years ago as Native Americans were being systematically annihilated? When was this time in American history when the great commandment to “love God and love your neighbor,” which sums up the Christian life, lived out?

In Boyd’s final chapter, he provides the much-needed practical application for the theory of the book in the form of five tough questions concerning Christians and violence. Three thoughts come to mind as I review it. First of all, where Boyd was quick to address Christians and military service, the naturally logical progression of this line of thinking moves to Christians as police officers. This topic was never discussed and I believe the book is poorer for it. Secondly, his conversation on non-violence leading to passivity was excellent. It was an honest approach to his own life: where he is, wants to be, and a thorough explanation of how though Christ taught non-violence, never did he teach passivity. More conversation needs to be had on the topic of laying down ones own life, but overall it was a complete discourse. Finally, Boyd discusses the idea that the oppressed are better off after the oppressor has been disposed. For both the author and I, this is a difficult discussion, but one with modern applicable examples – Gandhi and M.L. King – that shed light on the right way to function.

This book was straightforward and easy to read, capturing my attention from the very onset and never letting go. It was consistently poignant, thought provoking, and at times enraging, while remaining encouraging and hope inspiring. For Pentecostals and Charismatic it is especially enjoyable as Boyd’s Pentecostal background comes through in his writing, establishing an identification that was disarming. The themes of this book will undoubtedly be challenging to most American Christians as it attempts to deconstruct much if not all we have been taught about our history and roll in society from an early age. It teaches us a way that is painful and uncomfortable, a way of the gospel, transformed lives, and submission to others. This work will call all readers to some level of repentance and point them, whether they choose to walk it or not, towards a better way of the cross.