Reaching the Next Generation | Reaching People
Monday— The woman became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She saw that he was a special baby… Exodus 2:2
“He’s so smart!” Moms exclaim when Junior picks up a cheerio. “She’s gonna be a leader,” Dads brag when Cutie-pie slaps another child for taking her doll. Most parents think their babies are special, so there must have been something unique about baby Moses that let his mother know she wasn’t the only one who saw it. Most likely, God had already pressed into her heart that this child would grow up to do great things for Him. So she took risks to protect him. She raised him with the understanding that he had been chosen by God. And she acted on a knowledge that was not yet evident. That’s what faith is.
A child raised in faith is less likely to pursue harmful ways of finding his identity. Children with no clear identity are always trying to find it. Raising a child in faith does not mean we declare nonsense over him (“You’ll be king of the earth one day!”) It means we answer the pressing question “Who am I?” in a way that builds a healthy foundation. Moses’ mother saw in him what God saw and that helped shape who he became. Before we can reach a child’s mind, we must reach his heart by valuing him. Reaching students with faith means we don’t define them by what they do, but by who we know they can be.
Final Thought: Reaching the next generation requires us to see what the world doesn’t see
Prayer: Father, I confess I often define people by what they do, not who they are. I see behaviors, race, social class, and compare with what I think they should be. Please forgive me and teach me to see people like you do. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Tuesday— Let no one despise your youth, but set an example… in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity. 1 Timothy 4:12
A universal truth about most people under 21 is that they think no one listens to them. They have a LOT to say on just about every subject, but much of it is uninformed and emotion-driven. So, many adults don’t listen to them about anything. “Aw, he’s just a kid. What could he know?” And that may be true about the stock market, politics, or managing a household. But when we, as the older, won’t listen to the younger, they in turn won’t listen to us. One of the greatest gifts we can give someone is to listen. It communicates value. It says, “You’re important, so I care about your ideas.” We may not agree, but we can listen.
However, Paul instructs his young protégé, Timothy, about the flip side of that. Paul told him how to earn the right to be heard, and it wasn’t by throwing a fit or demanding respect. He could earn it by living in such a way that he set an example. When a young person shows maturity in speech and conduct, his opinion about speech and conduct is worth hearing. When she demonstrates selfless love and faith, she has earned the right to speak about love and faith. And when young adults live pure lives in spite of the perversion and immorality around them, they can speak about purity and earn the respect of their elders.
Final Thought: Reaching the next generation requires us to listen and then help them live what they claim to believe.
Prayer: Father, do I demand to be heard without earning the right to speak? Who cares about my opinions if my life doesn’t validate my claims? Help me follow Paul’s counsel to be an example in everything important to you. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Wednesday— The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground. Joshua 3:17
Picture that scene. It was wet, cold, and probably unpleasant for the priests holding a corner of the Ark. Water piled up on either side while a new generation walked across on dry ground. They got to witness what their parents had told them about: God parting the Sea. Now it was their turn. But the priests didn’t usher everyone across or point in the direction of the Promised land. The priests went first. That’s the way God wants parents and leaders to bring students into His kingdom. We go first. We filter the iPhones, turn of the TV, and say “No” to the raunchy friends. As a consequence, we endure the pouting looks, the angry tirades, the “You don’t understand me!” With our hearts firmly planted in God’s word, we lead the way. The younger generation will only understand the importance of God’s words when they see us going first.
But in a generation where “Do what I say, not what I do” dominates culture, we have a problem. It’s much easier to TELL someone what to do than to demonstrate it. But when morality and spirituality are at stake, we have to wade into the deep first and show that what is on the other side is worth it. Why should a teen girl abstain from sex when Mom is living with her boyfriend? Why should a guy say no to drugs when Dad drinks and smokes pot in the garage every night? Luke 6:40 says, “The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.” Students are always learning, analyzing, deciding which heroes to imitate. Unless we, the keepers of the Ark, go first, we give students nothing to follow.
Final Thought: Reaching the next generation requires us to set an example by going first where we want them to go.
Prayer: Lord, this hits me. What kind of example has my life set for younger people looking up to me? Am I preaching truth without living it? Or have I neglected to even preach it? I’m ready to go first and show younger people what matters. Amen.
Thursday—Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and willing mind.1 Chron. 28:9
You are on your deathbed. Your loved ones gather around, speaking their last words to you. Then in comes your son, daughter, grandchild, or godchild. The one you’ve cherished since your eyes first met. You’ve baked them cookies, taught them to hit a ball, cheered at their recitals, and held back tears with every milestone. Now they wait for your parting words. You’ve said “I love you” a million times, but this is it. The last goodbye. What do you say?
David faced that moment before he died. His son Solomon had listened to instructions about running a kingdom. He’d already been lectured about wild women, drinking too much, and the best investment tips. But this was it. The last goodbye. What did his father say? “Know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and a willing mind.” The most important legacy David could leave his son was the admonition to know God and serve Him. If Solomon followed only that piece of advice, he wouldn’t need the rest. Knowing God leads us to wisdom, to good moral choices, to financial freedom. When knowing God is our life’s goal, our children and grandchildren see it because it colors everything we do. The greatest legacy we can leave the younger generation is the instruction to know God and serve Him with a whole heart. Everything else is fluff.
Final Thought: Reaching the next generation requires us to demonstrate with our actions life’s #1 goal.
Prayer: Father, I want to leave the right legacy. I want my children and grandchildren to focus on what really matters: knowing you and serving you with a whole heart. Help me start now reaching them with that message. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Friday— The righteous will flourish like a palm tree planted in the house of the Lord…in the courts of our God. Psalm 92:13
“Isn’t that the same palm tree that was in your backyard?” Kori asked Tess. “Why is it in the front yard now?” Tess shook dirt from her hands. “It was, but I’ve moved it several times. I liked it in back last year, and on the side yard before that. This is its fourth home. But I can’t figure out why it looks so stunted.” Tess studied the three-foot tree. “I guess it can’t put down roots if you keep moving it around. Trees like stability so they can deepen their root structure and stay put when strong winds come.”
People are like that too. God’s people flourish when they’re planted in the house of the Lord. But what does it mean to be planted? That means we put down roots in one place. We weather relationship struggles. We stay in good times and also in trouble. We develop meaningful connections with people who pray us through our battles and who call us when facing their own. But in this church-shopping culture, we never question whether it’s right to hop from church to church. As long as Excitement Tabernacle entertains our kids, offers great programs, and Sunday sermons make us feel good, we perch on the seat every week. But when Thrill-a-Minute Church offers more, off we go. What happens to our roots? They shrivel like Kori’s palm tree. We become spiritually stunted and our children think that churches exist for their pleasure. If we replant them every season, we’re teaching them to search for Narcissism Chapel—a place they’ll never grow. Staying planted lets them flourish.
Final Thought: Reaching the next generation requires us to plant our families in a place faithful to God’s word and stay put.
Prayer: Lord, have I played revolving churches instead of sticking out the hard times with one church body? Sometimes you move people from one church to another for ministry. But unless you redirect me, I’m going to plant myself and stay put. Amen.