The Lost Art of Faithfulness

“Our world is obsessed with success. But how does God define success? Success in God’s eyes is faithfulness to His calling.” —Billy Graham

I contemplated what “success” looked like in life and ministry for years. Was it in numbers? Was it in likes and shares? Was it in how I was labeled? As a leader, I found it extremely difficult to silence these voices in my head. If I’m honest, I found my worth in these things to a fault. Then, I had a sudden job change a few years back, and I spent many nights praying and asking God to show me what He was teaching me through this trial.

I read verses like Hebrews 10:23 (NLT) which says, “Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.” Or verses such as Psalm 145:17 (CSB), which reads, “The Lord is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all his acts.” These verses hit me like a ton of bricks. What did I learn? I cared way more about what people thought about me than what God says about me. As I was driving home late one night, this hit me: Daniel, are you more concerned with being successful or faithful? The way I answered this question revealed where I placed my true hope.

I identify a lot with Billy Graham’s quote on success and faithfulness. I have seen several ministry leaders that would define “success” in staff meetings over the years. It would be a whiteboard session that included pathways to grow people and what a “leader” looks like. And in some of those meetings, I truly felt like the Holy Spirit was in the room as we had these conversations. At other times, I felt it was a business meeting, and the results would look no different from if a secular company held the meeting. I have also learned the importance of having healthy systems in place, and churches will grow in God’s time. The second chapter of Acts affirms this when it says, “…And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47b NLT). Notice the growth came after devotion to the Word, authentic praying and serving, and praising God.

I believe now, more than ever, faithfulness is what the next generation needs to see and experience. Men and women who are called by God and running the race to win (1 Corinthians 9:24). Our goal should be faithfulness, and if God blesses us with success as far as how we define that term, then so be it. But our goal should not be success, or we will fail every time—no matter if the numbers increase. Our goal is faithfulness. I tell teenagers all the time to live life open-handed unto the Lord. Each day we should wake up and pray, “Lord, I’m yours. Whatever you have for me this day, may I be faithful to Your will.”

My encouragement to you is simply to be faithful to the Lord’s will. Not only for your own spiritual health but also for the countless next generation of Jesus followers who look to us for guidance. May they see us hungry for God’s Word, daily praying, and serving the least of these. After all, the verse does not read, “Well done, my good and successful servant.” It reads, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” Faithfulness tends to be a lost art in today’s culture, but what a goal to pursue.

It Matters Right Now: Why Reaching the Next Generation is So Important

I’ll never forget when a seven-year-old asked me, “Pastor Daniel, if God is so big, why can’t I see Him?” The question revealed so much and really speaks to the importance of developing the next generation’s faith. There is curiosity, wonder, and a longing to understand and know within this question. How we help answer these questions, and many more like it, tells kids, students, moms, and dads they have incredible value to the Kingdom of God.

For nearly a decade and a half, I have spent time, energy, and resources championing the next generation of Jesus followers. Today, I’m more convinced than ever these efforts are not only worth it but also so incredibly crucial. We live in a world full of disarray. What used to be simple is now complex. And, what is complex is now challenging and confusing. Yet, there is hope. One thing will always stay true with each passing generation: God is building His Kingdom. And, He is using the next generation of believers to do it. Therefore, those of us called to impact the faith of today and tomorrow’s leaders must stay the course for at least a few reasons.

The next generation is being raised in ever-changing times. The world we live in today is not like the world a decade ago or even a year ago. Ever since the pandemic reared its ugly head, things have rapidly changed. Kids and teenagers are spending even more time on their phones—and it’s primarily unmonitored time. There is a rise in anxiety and depression. “New definitions” for standard terms are crashing in like a tidal wave. What an eighth-grade student used to be exposed to now a fifth-grade student is being exposed to. In these ever-changing times, the Gospel of Jesus Christ stands tall and unchanged. This is why no matter what the world throws at us, parents and ministry leaders alike must be willing and ready to stand on and teach the truths of the Gospel for these tender hearts.

The next generation needs to make an impact. I’ve seen so many times where kids and teenagers have reached their circle of influence with the hope of the Gospel. This is why I used the word champion in my introduction. We must champion these efforts with great resiliency. Today’s impacts will significantly determine what tomorrow looks like. Kids and teenagers’ friends will first come to them with matters about faith and life. Our job as leaders and influencers is to help them develop a Christian worldview that is not shaken like a house built on sand. Why? Because the storms are already here. Yet, a house can withstand the storm when built on the proper foundation. Sure, the house will get a few bumps and cracks, but it will stand. Kids and students readied with Gospel truths can and need to make a significant impact on the Kingdom.

The next generation has great potential. The next generation will shape what the coming days, weeks, months, and years look like. Their creativity, imagination, and ideas are off-charts good. We must lean into these skillsets, so the next lawyers, doctors, teachers, coaches, and missionaries see their potential for great Kingdom impact. When potential is developed, it affects that individual and those around them. Sometimes potential is center-stage with a microphone in hand, and sometimes they are in the corner drawing in a notebook waiting for someone to come alongside them to affirm and encourage. When I drive home after church on Wednesday nights, my heart is full. It’s full because I see God moving and potential for impact today and tomorrow in the next generation. It’s what wakes me up and keeps me going.

How are you impacting the next generation of Jesus followers? It matters right now.

Updated Discipleship Resources Page

Your relationship with Jesus is meant to grow. The problem for many is knowing when and where to start in finding resources to help them in their spiritual journey. I have a huge passion for equipping believers to take their next step with Jesus. Therefore, years ago, I began developing resources to help believers study the Bible, have effective quiet times, share their faith, and so forth. Recently, I have updated my Discipleship Resources page. These resources are intended to encourage and equip you in your pursuit of following Jesus. Check out the updated page today!

Nothing I Lack: A Poem of Pursuit

Be still my restless heart and running soul

I hold onto the reins like it’s me that has control

There are days I sink; days I swim

All while the waves crash around the river’s bend

I’m called to walk beside you and not run ahead

With all of life’s mysteries, that is easier said than done

There are days I cling to faith and others I doubt

I need Your Spirit in this drought

Lord, I’m caught in this holy place

With Your sweet aroma and saving grace

Lord, I feel You drawing me near

But what tends to happen next is what I fear

One step forward, two steps back

Lord, remind me in You

There is nothing I lack

The years are short, but the days are long

Fix my eyes on You; be my light and my song

On the days I drift away, God keep chasing me still

All while teaching me Your perfect will

I sense Your presence in the storm

But I’m prone to focus on the winds that misinform

Standing here right now, I’m still not sure

Lord give me a faith that will endure

In You, there is rest for my heart’s plea

In You, I’ll dwell and see

In You, I’m running back

In You, there’s nothing I lack

Lord, I’m caught in this holy place

With Your sweet aroma and saving grace

Lord, I feel You drawing me near

But what tends to happen next is what I fear

One step forward and two steps back

Lord, remind me in You

There is nothing I lack

The Ever-Present God

No matter how you view God, it does not change the way God sees you. Once you realize the power in this statement, it will change the way you see life and how you live your life. I believe Psalm 139 is one of the most incredible verses in all of Scripture. In this passage, David describes how the Creator of the universe knows every detail of our lives. As a result, there is nowhere we can go to escape His presence on this side of eternity. He fleshes these thoughts out by reminding us that God sees us, He runs after us (or pursues our hearts), He uniquely designed us, and He knows our intentions and motives.

God sees you. Psalm 139:1-6

There is nothing God doesn’t see and know about you. So what should be our response? First, this should bring you into awe and freak you out a little bit. Even the thoughts you have thought that no one else knows about, God knows. There is no detail of your life that escapes God. Author and theologian J.I. Packer once said, “Once you become aware that the main business that you are here for is to know God, most of life’s problems fall into place of their own accord.”

God runs after you. Psalm 139:7-12

If someone sees the good, the bad, and everything in between, what might be one’s relationship with that person? A response could be to pursue a relationship with them in the good times and keep a safe distance in the challenging moments. Praise God He does not view things this way. Even after your greatest moments and your most difficult ones, God still runs after you. He pursues your heart. He holds onto you. After reading verses like these, a question that might come to mind is this: If God is all-present, why does He feel distant at times? When God feels distant, it might be more about where your heart is with Him rather than Him walking away from you. God runs after us even when we don’t pursue Him.

For David says of him: I saw the Lord ever before me; because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. —Acts 2:25

How can the Lord pursue you…because He goes ever before you. Because He is beside you. Because through Him, you can stand tall even in the toughest of moments.

God uniquely designed you. Psalm 139:13-18

Of the 7.8 billion people globally, you are individually, uniquely, and wonderfully, made by the God of the universe. The world likes to make you think that you are only worthy if you have worth to give. The Bible teaches something completely different in these verses. Don’t ever let someone tell you have no value or worth. Verse 14 teaches you are not only made, but you are remarkably and wonderfully made. You are loved. After reading verses like these, a question that might come to mind is this: If God is all-powerful and all-loving, why does evil exist? If all my days are written in are planned (verse 16) …then why are some days hard and some days all good? God loves you so much. He gave you the ability to have free will and to make choices.

You are not a puppet of God; you are a child of God. A puppet must do, a child gets to do.

God knows your intentions and motives. Psalm 139:19-24

Have you ever thought about why you do the things you do? God knows your heart and the motives behind your ways. Look at verse 21 and then at 23-24. Lord, don’t I hate those who hate you? Lord, search me and see if this is true of me. There will be moments in life where you feel close to God and live in ways that honor Him. There will also be moments where you and God probably don’t look that much alike. Yet, notice David’s prayer in these verses…that God would test him and know him so He can live a life that pleases God.

When is the last time you prayed, “God reveal to me exactly who I am.”

After reading verses like these, how should we respond? What should look different in our everyday lives?

These verses should change the way you worship. It should change your view of God and how you respond to God.

These verses should change the way you live. It should change the way you process decisions and what is most important to you.

These verses should change your relationships. It should change the way you see people and how you relate to them.

No matter how you view God, it does not change the way God sees you.

Living Godly Amid Evil Times

Psalm 37:3-9 (CSB), “(3) Trust in the LORD and do what is good; dwell in the land and live securely. (4} Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires. (5) Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act, (6) making your righteousness shine like the dawn, your justice like the noonday. (7) Be silent before the LORD and wait expectantly for him; do not be agitated by one who prospers in his way, by the person who carries out evil plans. (8) Refrain from anger and give up your rage; do not be agitated—it can only bring harm. (9) For evildoers will be destroyed, but those who put their hope in the LORD will inherit the land.”

These days are full of turbulent times. It may seem as if evil is prevailing, and authentic pursuits of Jesus are hard to find. While evil acts will always exist on this side of eternity, God is still at work changing hearts and lives, and genuine Christ-followers exist and are bringing glory to the Heavenly Father. So, how do you live Godly lives amid evil times? What are some things that can be at the forefront of our minds as we daily wake up seeking to make much of Jesus? I believe David, the shepherd boy, turned King of Israel, gives us some great insight in the 37th chapter of Psalm. I pray asking these three questions will equip you to grow in your faith and take your next steps with Jesus.

1. How can I fully trust and commit to the Lord today?

Psalm 37:3-4, “(3) Trust in the LORD and do what is good; dwell in the land and live securely. (4} Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires.”

God alone is our anchor and hope. Four times in this passage, the phrase “in the Lord.” Often when we have problems trusting because we don’t want to give up control. David reminds us it is only in, to, and before the Lord can we do much. We often lose our way because we have taken our eyes off the very One who guides and sustains. There is no such thing as half-hearted obedience. You are either all in to Christ and His ways, or you are not. When we are fully pursuing Jesus, he will change our heart’s desires. Look at verse four—this is a popular “coffee mug” verse of Scripture that is often taken out of context. When we delight ourselves in the Lord, we will never ask for something that will only benefit us.

When we delight ourselves in the Lord, we will never ask for something that will only benefit us.

2. How can I pursue righteousness (what is good and holy) today?

Psalm 37:5-6, “(5) Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act, (6) making your righteousness shine like the dawn, your justice like the noonday.”

The path to pursuing righteousness: Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. To accomplish a healthy pursuit of Christ, we must realize His way is better than our own, and He works according to His will, not our own. You are pursuing righteousness (what is good and holy) when you get to a place where your filter is the finished work of Jesus Christ. You begin to think and deal with circumstances by asking questions such as: What is the most Christ-like manner I can view this situation or person?

Where are you on the path of pursuing righteousness?

3. When am I going to stop and be still before the Lord today?

Psalm 37:7-9, “(7) Be silent before the LORD and wait expectantly for him; do not be agitated by one who prospers in his way, by the person who carries out evil plans. (8) Refrain from anger and give up your rage; do not be agitated—it can only bring harm. (9) For evildoers will be destroyed, but those who put their hope in the LORD will inherit the land.”

Godly living is probable when we rest in Him. Notice verse seven again. “Be silent before the LORD and wait expectantly for him; do not be agitated by one who prospers in his way, by the person who carries out evil plans.” Waiting is hard. Abiding in Christ tends to be comfortable when our next steps are clear. From our perspective, when we see things are unclear, it is natural to fear and question what God is doing. In these moments, lean into what David is writing in this passage—be still and wait expectantly. God is always at work, even when we don’t see the full picture.

Asking these three questions and then acting on them will put us on the road to fully committing to Jesus and His ways. Often, we wake up, think about our day, and then hit the accelerator and go. It’s vital that we walk closely with Jesus, not run ahead of Him or drag our feet behind Him.

It’s vital that we walk closely with Jesus, not run ahead of Him or drag our feet behind Him.

The Story of Christmas

We all connect through story. When you hear the word story, you may think of your own journey or life. You may think about your favorite movie, book, or screenplay. You may think of a story you have helped create in one way or another. When I was a kid, my favorite Disney movie was Peter Pan—the story of a boy who never wanted to grow up. Yes, I had a sword dagger and ran around the house pretending to be him. Yes, I wondered what it would be like to fly. Yes, I had the action figure. When my family and I went to Disney, I had to find Peter Pan and meet him. This story resonated with me, and I wore the VHS out. Even if you are in a room filled with non-creatives, it’s incredible how story brings us together.

As believers, we are connected through the story. What is the story? The story of Jesus Christ and how He rescues and redeems that which was once lost. An incredible progression of verses is found in the first chapter of John’s Gospel.

John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

John 1:9, “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.”

John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

So, what separates the Gospel from any other story in history?

The Storyteller entered the story to save His people. Luke 2:30-32 reads, “For my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” Simeon looked at the Messiah as a baby and identified Jesus as salvation. Here we see the Storyteller in flesh and blood right before our very eyes—what a moment. Jesus would later say, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to Father accept through Me.” (John 14:6)

Through the lens of the Gospel, all other stories find meaning. Acts 17:28 reminds us, “For “‘In him we live and move and have our being;’ as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’” In Acts 17, Paul is ministering in Athens and is deeply troubled by the entire city’s worship of false gods. He seeks to share the Truth by actually quoting pagan Greek writers that would resonate with his audience. Paul’s point: Our stories have meaning and purpose because He is purpose and meaning.

The Gospel is the only story that matters for all eternity. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 says, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” Notice Paul’s words “of first importance.” What is the main thing Paul wants believers to understand? Christ died. He was buried. He was raised. All in accordance with the Scriptures. When we realize one story matters for all of eternity—that is the story our lives should reflect and tell.

C.S. Lewis once said, “The central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation. They say that God became Man. Every other miracle prepares for this, or exhibits this, or results from this.This Christmas season, I pray you would reflect upon the life-giving miracle that is Jesus Christ. Rest in His presence and peace as you celebrate with family and friends. Merry Christmas.

Luke 2:7, “And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”

The Road to Wisdom and Growth

“And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” —Colossians 1:9-10 ESV

The New Testament book of Colossians gives us great insight into what wisdom and true growth look like in a believer’s life. Amid false and deceptive teaching creeping into the church, Paul reminds Christians of the nature, supremacy, and character of Jesus. Christ (Colossians 1:15-23 is a great example). The teachings in Colossians are vital when considering the times and the issues at hand.

So, what can the road to wisdom and growth look like?

Pray = Seek

“We have not ceased to pray for you”

Before we seek to accomplish anything, we must first seek God. If we attempt to plan, pursue, or produce outside of the will of God, we are giving God our plans and asking Him to work in the way we see fit. The Godly approach is this: To seek God and then, after earnestly seeking the will of our Heavenly Father, ask He will make His will known to us in His perfect timing.

Plan = Spiritual

“Filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding”

Paul’s prayer for the believers in Colossae is one of Godly next steps. What we find in Scripture goes past human knowledge and understanding and into spiritual wisdom and understanding. Francis Chan once said, “Something is wrong when our (believers) lives make sense to unbelievers.” Are your plans filled with the learning of His will? Does this lead you to have a heart for others?

Pursue = Steps

“To walk in a manner worthy of the Lord”

May we walk with Jesus and not run ahead of Him. May we walk in a manner worthy of the image we bear. C.S. Lewis once said, “It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present in us; it is the very sign of His presence.” There is no more worthy pursuit than that of Jesus Christ. When we authentically pursue Jesus, the people we encounter will notice and may ask questions. What is your spiritual journey communicating with others?

Produce = Strengthen

“Bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God”

Men of faith produce lasting fruit. As we have lasting fruit, we will also increase in the knowledge of God. A.W. Tozer once said, “Faith is the gaze of a soul upon a saving God.” Right now, the world is in desperate need of good, pure, and holy fruit. What kind of fruit is your life producing for the watching world? We are never more like Jesus than when we produce fruit and sacrificially give.  

PRAY. PLAN. PURSUE. PRODUCE.

May we pray to be filled with His knowledge and wisdom so we can strategically plan and pursue for His glory and, as a result, produce lasting fruit.

“You cannot fulfill God’s purposes for your life while focusing on your own plans.” —Rick Warren

Moments and Memories

The date was January 10, 2007. I remember it like yesterday. My dad drove me and my older brother, Jeff, 30 minutes from our home in Antioch, Tennessee, to Memorial Gymnasium on West End in Nashville as the Vanderbilt Commodores faced their rival, the Tennessee Volunteers. We took our seats in section 2L among a sea of fans—most Commodore fans were wearing white t-shirts to cheer on the hometown team. The recently ranked number one Tennessee Volunteers went up by one point with 3.7 seconds left in the game. Vanderbilt had one more chance to win the competition as they were bringing it inbounds from half-court. Vanderbilt drove to the basket and missed a layup, but it was quickly followed with a putback to win the game at the buzzer! The crowd went crazy! I remember when I looked at my dad and both our hands raised in the air in excitement. Fans were hugging fans they didn’t even know. This was an incredible moment in Vanderbilt Commodore men’s basketball history, and a memory I will never forget with my dad and older brother.

When we least expect it, a moment can quickly turn into a lifelong memory. These days my wife and I are raising our two children—a six-year-old daughter and a three-year-old son. The older our kids get, the more we realize the importance of creating experiences like the one I described with my dad and older brother. We understand we don’t know how much time we have with our kids, and the here and now matters a great deal. The purpose is not to wake up and think, “How can we create special memories today?” This can unintentionally become as exhausting as chasing a two-year-old to the bathtub. Yet, we wake up and entertain the normal while inviting the possibility of these moments becoming lasting memories.

Here are three encouragements for parents that desire to instill a culture of fun-filled lasting moments and memories.

Embrace the time you have. It’s no surprise to any parent—the time with our children goes by entirely too fast. Our daughter was born in 2014. A few weeks ago, we celebrated her kindergarten graduation. I was just holding her as a baby yesterday, or so it seems. I pray every day we hold these precious moments we have together. When families embrace the time they have together, they are strategic with planning, open-handed in relationships, and forgiveness is freely given. Parents be active and available—your kids will remember this more than anything else.

Memories can be cost-efficient. I love the memories of going to ballgames with my dad and brothers. I also love the memories of simply going out to the backyard and playing catch. Moments and memories don’t have to be expensive or always entail a weekend experience to a new and exciting place. This cost money, and financial times could be hard right now. One of our kids’ recent favorites is sand art. My wife recently found a $5.00 sand art kit at a dollar store and our kids have loved doing this activity. They can’t wait to see what shapes are included in the package, mix up the colors, and then gift their new sand art collection to friends and family.

Celebrate the ordinary experiences. We had been to hundreds of games before January 10, 2007. Going to a game wasn’t new; it was normal. Yet, the normal turned into a life-long memory. My son loves to get his toy guitar out and play it when I get out my guitar. He always asks me for a pick “like yours, Daddy.” He carries on while I attempt to play a song he recognizes. It will be no surprise that we find picks all over our house or in the dryer after we wash my pants. My daughter loves to read books with Mommy. They find a book and dive in as my daughters’ excitements grows the more she reads her books with “no adult helping her.” Then, to end a busy summer’s day, they ask if they can have popcorn while they fall asleep on the couch watching a movie. Capitalize on these times—you never know how many of them you will have.

Not all moments will, in return, be lasting memories. However, if you lack in the memories category, it might just be because you have neglected some possible moments. Clothes will always need to be washed, the dishwasher may still be full from the night before, and that work email’s last line may still be in your head and not on your computer screen. Don’t allow the busyness of life to distract you from the God-given children right in front of your eyes.

God is: A Prayer Poem

God, mere words cannot describe you, even if we try. At times, you are as loud as thunder in the sky, and other times as soft as the owl’s nightly goodbye. Your love is more profound than the sea, yet intimate enough to set us free. You speak, and creation soars, you make the lion roar, you lead a deer to streams of water; satisfied, wanting nothing more.

Your sun wakes the morning dew, and the evening’s sky shows your handiwork through and through. We hear you in a baby’s cry, see you in a mother’s eye, and embrace you in the sweet by and by. In the moments, you seem distant and far away, remind us to listen and obey even as we lose our way.

Your greatest act of love was on the cross for display. The message you conveyed brought a centurion to his knees, while others blinded by their sin could not see the Savior bled and died for thee. On the third day, you rose from the grave, paved the way, so after our dying breath, we can hear you say, “Welcome home, this is your place of eternal stay.”

God, in the moments that we have left, may we serve you well, go and tell others of the God who was, and is, and is to come—for now, and forevermore it’s your Risen name we adore. Amen.