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.

7 People to Pray for Through Crisis

When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He spoke of the Kingdom of God being lived out on Earth as it is in heaven. What a powerful statement. This has the potential to change the way we live and how we view the things of this world. Living out the Kingdom of God here on Earth can change how we love our spouse, how we parent our children, and how we reflect Christ to others.

During these unprecedented times, we don’t have control of many areas of our lives, but we can still pray. Notice the words of Jesus from Matthew 6:9-13 (ESV) and how He taught His disciples to pray:

“Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen.’”

Stories are circulating in the news of how people are struggling amidst COVID-19. Many are losing their jobs, unable to visit family members in nursing homes, and having to rearrange even the most fundamental aspects of their lives. As the body of Christ, we can pray strategically for the people God has placed in our lives. We can pray for God’s will to be done on Earth as it is heaven. Below are seven groups of people you can strategically pray for through this pandemic. If you want, print these suggestions out and post them in a specific place in your house that will serve as a daily prayer reminder. During your time alone with the Lord, look up the passages of Scripture, read them, and highlight them in your Bible or a Bible app.

Seven People to Pray for Through Crisis

  1. Pray for those who struggle with anxiety and depression. (Psalm 46:1; Psalm 34:4)
  2. Pray for those who are curious about God. (John 14:6)
  3. Pray for those who are seeking guidance. (Psalm 32:8)
  4. Pray for those who are lonely. (Psalm 23)
  5. Pray for those who are dealing with sickness and pain. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
  6. Pray for those who struggle with worry. (1 Peter 5:6-7)
  7. Pray for those who feel a sense of hopelessness. (Hebrews 10:23)

Praying the way Jesus taught will naturally change the way we live our lives. Maybe this kind of praying will cause you to evaluate how you interact with other people. We may not know what the person standing next to us is currently dealing within their life. As we pray with a Kingdom-mindset, we can also demonstrate the love of Christ in the following ways:

  1. Serve others. (1 Peter 4:10)
  2. Share your faith. (Matthew 10:19-20)
  3. Practice sincerity. (1 Peter 1:22)

James, the half-brother of Jesus, reminds us that “the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (James 5:16b ESV). Take time in the coming days to pray strategically for the people God has placed in your life.

This article originally posted here.

What Matters the Most

Every Christ follower is called to regularly share their faith—few actually do. According to Barna Research, among practicing Christians, more than half report having two or fewer conversations about faith with a non-Christian during the past year (56%). How can this be?

The reason more than half of Christians do not regularly share their faith varies. Some people fear being asked questions about their faith they may not be able to answer, while others struggle to articulate their own faith journey or fear being rejected.

No matter the reasons, God has called all believers to proclaim the Good News. Yet often, in the busyness of life, many Christians tend to focus on accomplishing a to-do list instead of living life on mission for Christ. Consider the following story of Tim:

The alarm sounds at 5:30 a.m. to wake Tim. He sips his morning coffee and silently prays for his wife and children before leaving for work. Tim is the senior vice president at a local bank, whose customers have grown to love his infectious personality. He answers emails, returns calls, and works with customers on the best solutions to their financial needs—a routine that has been a part of Tim’s life for the past decade. He leaves work a little early to prepare for his son’s little league baseball practice—trading in his suit and tie for his athletic shorts and coach’s notepad. Before you know it, Saturday is here, and it’s another early morning wake-up call as he heads to his Gideon prayer meeting, then once again joins his son’s team for their afternoon game. The Sunday morning rain creates a damp ride to church with his family where he serves on the finance committee and as a deacon. Phone calls, emails, practices, meetings, and church—all these things shape Tim’s routine.

A question rings in his mind as loud as a local train coming through town: What drives me to do the things I do?

After asking himself the question, Tim is quickly reminded of a more strategic approach to his daily life. At Tim’s core, he is on a mission to fulfill a calling to win people to Jesus Christ. A calling that has been on his life since accepting Jesus Christ as His personal Lord and Savior as an eight-year-old boy.

Moving from Checklist to Calling

The activities of life can quickly become viewed as a checklist. A checklist mindset, even if unintentional, is driven by the phrase “I have to do these things.” It is easy to slip into this frame of mind to fulfill the ever-growing roles one has in life. Moving from a checklist mindset to a calling mindset involves processing why you do the things you do.

Tim loves his family and joyfully provides for them. He coaches his son’s team not only to create lasting memories but also because Tim sees it as a mission field. He is a Gideon because he knows God has called him to this Association—to strive side by side with other Christian business and professional men for the faith of the Gospel.

When Tim lives out his calling to its full potential, something beautiful starts to happen. The way he sees people changes. He has a deep appreciation for the words found in Matthew 9:36 (ESV), “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Tim has a passion for the people God has strategically placed in his life. This drives Tim to have conversations—not just ordinary conversations, but Gospel conversations.

As a Gideon committed to the spiritual discipline of being a man who witnesses, Tim makes it a priority to witness. He observes the people he knows well and the seemingly random people who come across his path. Why? Because he cares enough about the people God has placed in his life to talk about what eternity looks like for them. Eternity is forever, and at the end of the day, the only thing that really matters is a person’s relationship with God.

Are You Tim?

Does Tim’s story resonate with you? Sure, the particulars may be different, but the core is the same. People like Tim have huge hearts, but easily slip into a checklist mentality as the busyness of life captures their attention. In this mentality, calling is often lost. Moving from a checklist mindset to a calling mindset leads us to have compassion for people. Compassion for people then drives us to have conversations about eternity. Do you care enough about the people God has placed in your life to discuss their eternity? What really matters the most?

This is what sharing your faith is all about—strategically engaging in Gospel conversations with people God has placed in your life. Rather than a task to complete, personal witnessing is a calling and purpose to fulfill. When your burden to reach the lost deepens, your passion for reaching the lost will become greater.

How do you prepare to share your faith? It starts by evaluating what drives you to do the things you do, then reprioritizing your life to accomplish what matters the most. Pray for a burden to see the lost come to Christ, especially in your sphere of influence. A strategy driven by a passion for living out the Great Commission will result in seeing more opportunities to introduce people to Jesus Christ.

 

Sermons to Stories

There is great beauty in storytelling. Carol Pipes, director of corporate communications at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, Tennessee, recently said in a podcast interview, “Stories are the best vehicle for communicating important messages. Tell stories wherever you can. Testimony is the currency of transformation.”

Ever since I began as a full-time copywriter almost a year ago, I have gone from mainly writing sermons and small curriculum (which I still enjoy writing) to writing stories and telling people’s stories. In this process, I have learned so much about communication and how to effectively capture an audience’s attention. This is the very reason movies and plays are so inviting. For some, a well-written book does the same. If done well, these outlets grab your attention and leave you wanting more; they make you feel a part of the experience. In short, stories are told, and meaning is held.

While sermons and stories may have different desired outcomes, I understand they are more closely connected than I had ever realized. If I were to preach a sermon tomorrow, my delivery would be quite different than if you heard me two years ago. I would do my research, theological framework, and then find the best way to communicate truth. I would move away from an outdated formal style of preaching and engage with the audience. To do this, I would find a biblical narrative and real-life examples to connect you to the heart of what God wants his people to know. Favorite singer/songwriter Andrew Peterson once said, “If you want a child to know the truth, tell them the truth. If you want a child to love the truth, them a story.”

Why does a story enthrall people? Because there is both beauty and depth. Good storytelling allows for the creative mind to flow, character development to unfold, and captivation to take place. Jesus was an authoritative, master storyteller. So much so that His audience, who was still trying to make their minds up on who He was, remained astounded by His gift (Matthew 7:28-29).

Stories allow for your mind to run endlessly and to draw conclusions based on what you have just read, seen, or heard. As one pastor friend of mine puts it, “Words create worlds.” When captivated by a great story we typically are moved to action. These actions have the potential to better our communities, churches, and cities, for the glory of God and the advancement of His Kingdom.

Advice to the Next Generation

I’ve spent more than a decade of my life investing in the next generation. While I’m no longer in full-time student ministry, investing in the next generation and the generations to come makes my heart beat a little bit faster. We must invest in the next generation because they need to make a Kingdom impact now. I still love being around students and their families, hearing their stories, and sharing wisdom when appropriate. If I were standing in front of a group of middle and high school students, saved or lost, the following is what I would tell them.

Walk in Truth. Your life is guided by the truths you deem to be exact—it drives why you do what you do. However, would it be comforting knowing that circumstances or the changing times don’t have to dictate the way you live? Live in the comfort that you don’t create truth; Truth was established a long time ago. Furthermore, you are part of a greater mission and Kingdom that can guide your steps. It is impossible to walk in this Truth if you don’t know the Creator of Truth. Make it your life’s ambition to know Truth, embrace Truth, grow in Truth. Not walking in the Truth will allow the Enemy to steal your joy. Also, the world’s idea of success will drive you. You will end up longing for more of something that will never satisfy. Walking in Truth will often not be the favored route; yet, it will always be the best one.

“This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Jeremiah 6:16a, NIV)

The heart is deceitful. Our natural bent is towards our sinful nature. When we wake up in the morning, our daily battle between spirit and flesh begins. Following our heart leads us down a road that begins and ends with ourselves. The danger therein is our heart—as tender as it may seem—will lead us no further than our wisdom or feelings can take us. What if our heart is wrong…what then? We don’t know what is best for us. Our natural bent is what led to the world we now occupy. What captivates our heart will define the man or woman we will become. Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9, NIV)

Be careful who you surround yourself with in life. We were created for relationships. From the beginning of humanity, we see a man surrounded by the perfection with all that had been created, yet something was missing—a companion, the woman. Whether we consider ourselves introverts or extroverts, we were all built for community. What community do we allow to influence our lives? We will become who we are around. Include people in your circle of influence who ask you hard questions, love you no matter what, and always have your best interest in mind. Have people in your life who tell you what you need to hear, even if it is not what you want to hear. Allow others to build into you; and you, in return, build into others. Ultimately, make sure you have people in your life who cause you to pursue the One who knows you best—the One who created you.

“Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” (Proverbs 1:20, NIV)

Don’t settle for good; go for the best. We live in a society that settles for just good enough. This idea of “barely getting by” leads to living a life of complacency and never going the extra mile. When we settle for good enough, we rarely give our best. And when we don’t give our best, can we look at the person in the mirror and be pleased? The result is we aren’t living in the fullness of which we were created to live. Giving our best means, we show up before we are supposed to and stay later than we are supposed to, all for the betterment of the higher objective and mission. We should give our best to the One who gave His best for us. Why settle for good enough when best is achievable?

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” (1 Corinthians 9:24, NIV)

Serve, expecting nothing in return. Our attitude and actions toward others reveal our hearts. If we serve to be recognized, we aren’t helping. Instead, we are looking for self-gratification through the lens of good works. Serve others even if they can never serve you back. Love your neighbor as yourself, not just because it is the right thing to do but because it is the best thing to do. Serve the least of these and serve the greatest of these. You won’t change the world through teaching and talking; you will change the world through loving and showing. After you show love, then your words will be heard. Serve because giving is way more rewarding than receiving. Serve because the One who fashioned you in your mother’s womb came to serve you.

“Not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Philippians 2:4, NIV)