Reaching the Next Generation

In the summer of 2006, while reading Psalm 71, the Lord clearly spoke to me through His Word, especially in verse 18. Here, we read:

Now also when I am old and gray-headed,
O God, do not forsake me,
Until I declare Your strength to this generation,
Your power to everyone who is to come.

We must be intentional in sharing the Gospel with the next generation—our “this” generation. We must be intentional with sharing the Gospel with “everyone who is to come.” We have work to do. I have work to do.

I have been reminded of that task while attending the Louisiana Baptist Convention’s Evangelism Conference this week.

This is a task that demands our priority, our perseverance, and our personal involvement. This is a task that demands that we let go of some of our personal preferences. I want to constantly ask myself “What am I doing to reach the next generation?”

It is not enough to say that your church or your convention has a vision to reach the next generation. Each one of us must personally be involved.

(To hear a message by Steve on Reaching the Next Generation click here.)

Pursue Joy!

Some passages of the Bible are difficult to understand. We have all had that experience of reading a passage and really not understanding the truth of the passage. Other times, we encounter a passage in which one person may have one understanding and another person can read a passage and have a different understanding, maybe even the opposite understanding.

Then, there are passages like Philippians 4:4-9 which are easy to understand but extremely challenging to fulfill. “Rejoice in the Lord always! Be gracious to everyone! Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything! Dwell only on that which is praiseworthy!

Pursue Joy! Can we do that? Joy just comes, doesn’t it? Joy just happens. We can’t really pursue joy, can we?

Even though one could interpret this passage as something of a rapid-fire list of admonitions as Paul begins to conclude his letter, I do think there is a correlation in these admonitions to the overriding theme of this letter—joy!

And remember, pursuing joy goes all the way back to the main point of this letter—live your life worthy of the Gospel.

So, how do we pursue joy? First, Paul outlined a theological foundation for joy.

Theological Foundation for Joy:

  1. Joy is not tied to our circumstances.

This makes our joy unique.

  1. Joy is in relationship to the Lord.

So, the greater we give ourselves to the Lord, the greater our joy.

  1. The Lord is near.

This seems like a random, passing comment, but it is critical to the list of exhortations.

  1. The power of God is actively working in our lives.

This guides our praying in particular.

So, our practice is guided by this theology.

But, what steps are necessary for a life of joy. Follow Paul’s instructions.

Practical Pursuit of Joy:

  • Pursue grace with all people!

Being at peace in relationships will bring joy; being at odds with people steals joy.

  • Pray about all things!

Look at what happens when we pray about all things. We can give up worry. We are thankful. We gain the peace of God which will guard our hearts and minds. Do you want to have joy in life? Get rid of worry! Replace worry with thanksgiving and peace. That will always bring joy.

  • Dwell on Godly thoughts in your private thoughts!

Replace the things that zap joy for the things that bring joy.

Did you catch the common denominator? All. All people. All things. The whole of everything we dwell on.

A few weeks ago when Clemson won the National Championship for College football, their coach, Dabo Swinney reminded me of an old saying about joy. He said, Joy comes from focusing on Jesus, first, others, second, and then yourself.

I searched a little deeper into Swinney and found this about him. He said “Every year I choose a word that God puts on my heart to help me have a specific focus. This year my word is joy. I have been blessed to have many mountaintop experiences in life and each year we strive to reach another but what I have learned is that we are not made for the mountaintops. We are made for the climb, the journey, the grind, the relationships along the way, the struggles. Those mountaintop experiences are great but life is about having joy in the journey. Finding joy and purpose in our day to day activities is what it’s all about. Just having joy in the moment . . . . {and that} comes from having the Holy Spirit inside you.”

So what about you? Will you pursue joy? Pursue Christ first and then let joy follow.

(This post is based on the message “Pursue Joy” which you can watch here.)

Two Things I Really Want to Know

Some years ago I pulled off the road when I heard these words so I could write them down. Pastor and author Chuck Swindoll shared them as the words from a Puritan Prayer. I thought of them again this week as I do often. Here are the two questions.

  1. Does God have a word about the matter?
  2. If God does have a word about the matter, what is it?

That pretty much simplifies living, doesn’t it?

More than what another person thinks and certainly more than what society thinks, we should care most of all what God thinks. Those who follow God should want to know and do what God says about a matter.

Sometimes knowing the will of God is as easy as reading the Bible. Other times, like discovering His will regarding a personal matter, finding His will is more difficult. In either case, we ought to want to know His will.

I heard a pastor say one time, “Most of us want to know God’s will about a matter only to consider doing God’s will.” May that not be the case!

Let us struggle to know and do God’s will.