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Reaching the Next Generation

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Hezekiah is a fascinating example of a guy who’s not willing to enter into the mess of the younger generation in hopes of developing, training or discipling them. Because of his pride of showing off all of his treasuries and his kingdom and his storehouse, he is told that his sons will be taken captive. Yet his response is, indeed, the word from the Lord is good. At least there will be peace in my time (2 Kings 20:13-19).

What I never noticed before is what happens after that. Hezekiah dies and his son Manasseh takes over. And when you read 2 Kings 21, you see all of the junk that Manasseh led the nation into. It’s an incredible wickedness that had not been seen in Judah to that scale previously. It had in Israel but never in Judah. Because of Hezekiah’s arrogance and selfishness of not wanting to enter into the next generation, he forsook the next generation, and the next generation took the excesses that were common in the culture and multiplied them.

When it comes to reaching the next generation, regardless of which one you’re in, the next one will always be perceived to be not as good as yours. They will always be perceived to be not as committed, not as faithful, not as biblical, etc. And yet the irony is that’s not necessarily the case. As we look at this current generation that’s now coming up, we’re really dealing with a group of people who, as we’re finding, are deeply committed to the things of God and open to the things of God. They’re just not committed to our systems or structures that people have found so much comfort in religiously.

If we’re going to reach the next generation, there has to be a sense where we recognize, yeah, I know the dude’s growing a beard, I know he’s rocking a beanie and it’s 100 degrees outside, he’s got skinny jeans and the whole hipster vibe going, okay, cool. But what’s at the heart? And if we can enter into the diversity a little bit, enter into the distinctions even of style and music and language, and recognize that this next generation is going to carry and steward the gospel moving forward, we can understand their world enough that we can get to the heart of the next generation and begin to disciple them.

We don’t have the option of pulling away and saying, “at least there will be peace in my time,” because what happened in Hezekiah’s day will happen in our day. If we are so uncomfortable or stubborn that we fail to enter in with the next generation, we fail to sit with them and disciple them and hear them and get to the heart of what God is doing in their lives, then the same type of excesses we saw in Hezekiah’s day with his son Manasseh, we’ll see today.

I would challenge any of you who might look down your nose a little bit at the next generation, as if somehow you’re better than them, to recognize that your calling is to serve them and disciple them and mentor them and train them and enter into their world enough that they recognize you care about them. Only then, when you’re telling them about Jesus, will they understand it’s coming from a heart of love and a heart of discipleship and a desire that, regardless of what generation we call our own, there could be a shared sense of the foundation of the gospel and of what Jesus is doing in our lives.

What I Didn’t Understand About Christians Until I Was One

What I Didn’t Understand About Christians Until I Was One

It was the first time I’ve ever cussed at my dad.

I was nominated for the B’nai B’rith award, which to this day I still have no idea what that was, except for a big Jewish award and apparently a very big deal. I’m at the awards thing and I don’t know Jesus from nothing, and when it finishes, my dad says, “We need to go see your grandpa. He’s dying.”

“Why are you telling me now? Why are we here?”

I was so mad at him for making me go to this stupid awards banquet (I didn’t end up winning), and I remember driving, and he’s telling me to slow down and I’m cussing at him. I thought we had somehow missed the death of my grandpa.

My grandpa had a third-grade education from Pond Creek, Oklahoma. He couldn’t read or write, but knew how to work with concrete. He started a company with my uncle; my uncle was the brains and my grandpa the labor. They created a lightweight concrete called Stucco. After working like mad in Southern California, they moved out to a cattle ranch just on the way out to Hume Lake. My grandpa was the typical Depression-era man. He had calloused hands, and he could fix everything with baling wire and a crescent wrench. He never said much, and I never saw him cry, except once.

When I got my scholarship, I asked the recruiting coordinator to come to my grandpa’s home. He was sitting in a wheelchair with a Santa hat on because it was Christmas, and he was probably 105 pounds, just eaten by cancer – bald, emaciated, a skeleton of a man. I signed my scholarship and he cried. I was the first one in my family to ever go to college. And Pop cried.

I remember standing at his deathbed – such a frail man. I’m holding his hand and he’s struggling to breathe. And he says, “I’m going home.”

“What?”

“I’m going home.” And then…gone. He went to be with Jesus.

Who says that?

How could he have such peace, such assurance and such perspective to know with complete confidence how to face death?

I had no idea how to process that as a non-believer.

I wanted to take Denise Riddell to the senior prom. I never asked her. Every time there was an opportunity, I whiffed. And one weekend night, she had gone to a party, had a little too much to drink, and was driving home down Copper when Copper was surrounded by orange orchards. She fell asleep, drifted off the road, and gone. Hit a pole.

You have nothing of substance to fall back to. You don’t know who to blame. You don’t know the purpose or reasoning. It’s just a tragedy, and it comes unannounced and unwelcome. And you’re forced to swallow this bitter pill with nothing to give you any perspective.

As a non-believer you trust in fate. You dabble in a little karma. You might look at your horoscope or think twice about a fortune cookie – anything to give you perspective as to why things happen and/or how to make it through. When you go through tragedy as someone who doesn’t know Jesus, you find solace at the bottom of a bottle. You throw back a couple pills and try to numb the pain. But you really don’t have a coping mechanism. You really don’t have perspective. You’re just left to chance, hoping things might work out, hoping there’s some sort of meaning in all of this.

I did not understand then, but now…I get it.

I understand what it means to walk with Jesus. I understand the idea that God does indeed work all things to the good of those who love Him. He has a plan for our lives. And momentary light afflictions are producing in us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comprehension, while we look not at the things that are seen, but at the things that are unseen.

The things that are seen are temporal, but the things that are unseen are eternal. You begin to see that God has sovereignly ordained everything we go through in this life to make us more like Him. Everything – both triumph and tragedy. And we can delight in both because both are necessary to make us who God wants us to be. Both are required to shape us to be more like Him.

 

 

 

 

The One Word I Want to Define My Life

The One Word

I had been coming home a little on edge. I was not necessarily fun to be around, from my wife’s perspective. And I was missing my kids’ soccer practices since I was so busy. So they weren’t happy with me. I was cranking, working hard, giving a lot, and under a ton of stress. I was handling things outside of my comfort zone, so I didn’t feel competent, making decisions that have huge implications on people’s lives, and I didn’t feel with certainty it was the right call. And I had to teach, and honestly, the last thing I wanted to do was teach. I wanted to crawl in a hole and die.

I prepped. And I studied. And I taught. And it felt like flesh. It felt like me. It felt like the message was a giant run-on sentence, one ginormous blah, blah, blah, blah. I finished the message, went home, and of course, I couldn’t sleep, beating myself up: You shouldn’t have said that, you should have said that, you missed that, you misquoted that, you said um 150 times. What the heck is wrong with you?

Some assume it happens over decades. I love Jesus, then not as much the next year, and then not as much the next year, and the next year not as much. But it can happen in a moment. Literally, overnight.

I go to bed and realize I have to get back with the Lord. He hasn’t gone anywhere. The problem is not the Lord; the problem is me. I’m trying to do this in my own strength, I’m trying to wrestle my life to the ground on my own – and it’s too much.

I began to look at my spiritual life. What does my time in the word look like? What does my time in prayer look like? And I realize it’s scarce, if not non-existent. So I spend good time with the Lord, and good time in prayer and good time in my Bible – and the funny thing is, my wife likes me more, and it’s fascinating how my kids want to snuggle with me now, and I actually have the time. When my life gets crazy, I get very selfish. I need this. I need that. When my life is about other people, that’s where I find joy.

I walked into OSH, and I saw this guy with his wife sitting on patio furniture. I was feeling full, so I said, “Oh dude, you have got to have it.”

“Yeah, it’s like three grand,” he said.

“Well, happy wife, happy life.”

“If I buy this, you have to come party with us later.”

“If you need a truck, let me know.” And I walked away.

Five minutes later, this guy walked up and asks, “Were you serious?”

“That’s why I bought a truck, so I could help people. Do you need it?”

“I do.”

I loaded his furniture into my truck – and while he didn’t live right down the street, but way down the street, I left with joy. And that’s what I’m talking about. That’s what I love. If I’m in myself, if I’m in the flesh, if I’m being selfish, I’m not going to offer that guy anything. I don’t have time for that guy.

Don’t forget your first love. Recognize from where you have fallen, repent, and do the deeds that you did at first (see Revelation 2:4-5). 

The challenge is to check our hearts day by day, moment by moment, and process what it means to stay connected to Him.

If there is stress, frustration, fruitlessness, then you are not abiding. You are not being filled by Him and His strength.

If there’s a word that I would like to define my life, it’s abide. Because when I abide in Him and He abides in me – and literally, abide means to sink deeply into, to remain in – when I remain in Him, and He remains in me, and when I sink deeply into Him, and He sinks deeply into me, I bear much fruit. But apart from Him, I can do nothing. Not that I can’t do some things or I’m not as effective. No. You can’t do jack without Him (see John 15:5).

Bullet Points:

  • Slow down
  • Pray
  • Go for a walk
  • Enjoy the breeze
  • Read your Bible – not for the mind, for the heart
  • And make sure what you’re doing, you’re doing out of an abiding, connective relationship with Him

Are You a Peter or a Paul?

When I first came to know Christ I was obsessed with the Apostle Paul. Reading through the book of Acts and his conversion experience in chapter 9 reminded me of my own story. I can vividly remember telling my friend, Joe Broussard, that I was “just like Paul.” Little did I know how arrogant it was for me to claim any such resemblance. He was quick to point out, actually, that I was more like Peter. And little did I know how insulting that was.

Peter was a man of tremendous passion. He was ready, fire, aim in most situations. He was often the first to speak and the first to be rebuked. His impulsive nature got him in a ton of trouble.

I think that’s why Joe was right. As I look back at my faith journey, it has been much more like Peter than Paul. Peter was a roughneck. He was a calloused-handed fisherman who boasted of his great faith and commitment, yet found himself denying Christ after His arrest (Matthew 26). My testimony was full of these moments of regret. Walking with God was a very tumultuous experience for me in the early days. Old habits were hard to break and I often found myself crying out to God through tears. Again.

This statue is on the campus of Dallas Theological Seminary. During my time there I would often sit and reflect upon Peter and his tendency to speak so boldly and cower so quickly. I was taken by the veins on Peter’s arms and the look on his face. The frail Jesus wipes the dirty feet of the burly fisherman. I was also reminded that the real beauty in Peter’s story is not how he started but how he finished.

Tucked in the recesses of John 21 is a section of Scripture that focuses on the restoration of Peter. It takes place on the shores of the Sea of Galilee near the hot spring of Tabgha. It was on this very shore that Jesus took the crumbled Peter and restored him once more.

Peter had imploded under the pressure of the arrest of Jesus and had denied Him three times. It was on these very shores that Jesus asked him three times, “Do you love me?” Complete restoration.

Peter had a rocky start, but his brokenness made him a man of God refined in the fire! Peter takes the gospel and becomes the figurehead of the church. From Acts 2-10, he is the star of the text. The difference is that he’s not drawing attention to himself, but rather walking in the brokenness of his past. His humility and the understanding of that suffering had forever changed him.

My Reminder:

I keep this rock (below) in my office as a reminder of the breaking and restoration of my hero. Though I have grown a bit, I’m not immune to repeating the sins of my past. I picked this rock out of the stream you see above. It serves as a strong reminder that God uses broken, impetuous, tenacious men for His own glory – but only after breaking them deeply. I am grateful for the pain of my past and thankful for the work God has done in my life through many tears.

I wanted to write this post to give some of you hope. You may find yourself repeating the same mistakes you’ve made over and over again. Be encouraged. God is a faithful God who will continue to move you to repentance. But also beware. The consequences of sin are out of your hands. Until God breaks you deeply, you will never be used mightily for Him.

So lean into the Lord. Do not resist His hand of refinement. He is shaping you. It is painful, but it is worth it. Once we are through the furnace, we are brought out of the other side with a greater understanding of the love of God.

My friends, never forget where you came from. Our past shapes who we are today and motivates us to never live like that again!

Here’s to the restoration of Peter – and the hope of continued restoration of the broken.