Audio Devos – – More on the Way!

As a church family we have had times in which we’ve encouraged everyone to read a particular section of the Bible together. I think that a community engaging God’s Word together in sync can be a powerful experience.  However, I’ve had a number of people who have told me that they desire to engage the Bible, but they despise reading and struggle to stay focused and understand what is going on in the text.

These conversations led our teaching team to develop audio devotions. For the past couple years we have done audio devotionals through a book of the Bible.  In 2015 we walked with Jesus through the book of Luke in the New Testament. This is the story of Jesus and his life, death and resurrection.  In the first part of 2016, we walked with the Spirit through the book of Acts in the New Testament. This is the story of the first followers of Jesus (the church) as they were sent out into the world to share the good news of Jesus.  These audio devotions were well received and hundreds of people regularly listened and went through a book of the Bible together.

The basics of the audio devotional are: 

  • We break a book of the Bible into sections to read and reflect on each day.
  • We have a variety of Watermarkers who participate in putting together these audio devotionals.
  • Each devotional includes a reading of the section of Scripture that day, some comments to better understand what is going on, a personal reflection on the impact of the text, and a closing prayer. They are typically around 10 min (although I have been known to stretch it to 13 min…. sorry).
  • Monday-Friday we upload a new devotional for that day and it can be downloaded from a variety of sources.

The benefits of the audio devotional have been:

  • People, who are not big into reading, are learning the story of the Bible.
  • We are all on the same page about what we are reflecting on. There is a sense of unity.
  • Our church family’s vision and values can spring forth from different moments in the text.
  • It provides people an opportunity to grow in studying the text and teaching it.
  • The additional background helps people, new to the Bible, understand more of the text.

Anyways, I have really enjoyed helping put these audio devotions together. They have been incredibly impacting for me personally.  We’ve had a lot of people ask us to do more.  So, we decided to go through the book of Nehemiah with audio devotions this Summer.  We are calling it, “Building with God through Nehemiah.” We will start it Monday, July 4th.

BWGTN_podcastWhy Nehemiah?

  • We wanted to do an Old Testament book. We’ve done a lot of New Testament study lately and decided going through an Old Testament book would be beneficial.
  • Nehemiah is a book that covers helpful themes that apply to our faith family. It deals with change, courage, leadership, dealing with challenging people, and pursuing a mission. Our church family is in the process of preparing for launching a new site and this text will be helpful in this time of transition.
  • Nehemiah is a bit shorter and we can walk through it quickly for part of the Summer. We will skim through some long lists of names that are difficult to pronounce. 🙂

S0, I encourage you to subscribe to the audio devotional podcasts on our website or with your podcast application. Check these options out HERE.

Influence

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I’m working on the message for Sunday for our “influence” series. The series is about learning to lead/influence like Jesus. I was thoroughly burned out by leadership conferences, books, talks, and conversations in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. I appreciated the growth as a leader, but I am thankful that God led me to focus on becoming a better follower. I like how Paul, in the New Testament, sums up his leadership strategy: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 11:1.  Christian leadership is following Jesus and learning to lead people to follow Jesus.  Any.ways, my hope is that our series will have this tone to it. You can check out one of the talks and see the rest of the series HERE.

As I think about those who have influenced me to follow Jesus and grow as a person, I am filled with gratitude.

What if each of us looked outward and considered how we might be able to encourage and invest in even one other person?

 

The NOW generation.

13482899_10153766493678763_1255173324188864355_oLast week Vicki and I had the opportunity to help lead a group of students, from Watermark, to the Ignite Camp. The theme of the camp was “Legacy.” The week was fun, deeply meaningful and full of “God moments.” The students were responsive to God, encouraging to one another, and were a riot to be with.

I really enjoyed directly investing in students again. I was a youth pastor for nine years before starting Watermark and taking on a new role. I always enjoyed being with students and seeing them embrace their faith and one another.

Spending a week with the students reminded me of some foundational beliefs I have about young people:

  • I believe that young people are the church of today and not tomorrow.  They aren’t “junior members” of the Body of Jesus waiting for their turn to contribute in the future. They are essential participants in the faith family right now. I used to say it this way: “the NEXT generation is the NOW generation.”

 

  • I believe that we need young people to fully participate in the faith family.  I value middle and high school ministry that builds a community of students pursuing Jesus.  However, I also believe that students are needed alongside the rest of the faith family for the church to become all that God desires it to be. Early in the life of Watermark we shared this belief in the form of a vision statement. It read, “students are the catalyst of the movement and examples to all the believers.”

 

  • I believe that students have real faith. I have seen incredible maturity in the faith of students. Young people aren’t waiting to one day have a real faith. This past week at camp I heard students share what they sensed God saying to them and how they believed they should respond. I heard students share their burden and concern for family and friends. I watched as students worshipped God with abandon. I admired the students honesty. I listened as students mourned the sin in their lives and reached out for the transforming grace and forgiveness of God.

So I dream of the day in which young people, in our faith family, are fully participating and engaged. This requires a change in thinking for all ages as we recognize the importance of every member of the Body of Jesus. I am excited about some next steps we are seeking to take as a faith family to see this increasingly become a reality.

I’ll wrap up with this passage in 1 Timothy 4:12. It is a letter from Paul, to his spiritual son, Timothy. I’m not sure how old Timothy was, but apparently his youth was a barrier for him or others he sought to lead. I think it is a good passage for our young people.

“Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.”

What would it look like it we fully embraced these beliefs about young people?  What would the impact be?

Vision of the past

When we started Watermark Church in 2003 we started it with a picture of what we believed could and should be. We started with a snapshot vision.  I wanted to share the original first attempt at picturing the preferred future of our faith family and wider community. This gives a bit of insight into the original DNA, prayers and dreams of our faith family.

Here is our original vision snapshot:

“Because Jesus is the center of our lives and we are devoted to Him, there is a contagious sense of awe, joy and generosity. As a result…

> people are constantly living life together in unity
> the wider community is being served and transformed
> the community’s understanding of what it is to follow Jesus is being redeemed
> the lost are becoming followers of Jesus
> the next generation is a catalyst for the movement and an example to all believers
> God’s Spirit of creation inspires innovation throughout the body
> new churches are being planted from Watermark throughout the world

The entire time the church is giving praise, credit and recognition to God.

And the Lord is rapidly expanding His Kingdom…”

 

I’m still inspired and praying for God’s breakthrough. Also, the seeds of these dreams have grown and still are found among us. 🙂

7 Letters Resources

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I have thoroughly enjoyed studying and teaching through the seven letters to the churches in Revelation found in Revelation 2-3. What makes the teaching even more meaningful is that I was blessed to learn about each city/church this Summer by traveling to each place in Asia (western Turkey). The trip was outstanding, the teaching was challenging, and I was able to go on this trip with my father.

Below are some of the resources I have used for this series (besides the Bible):

1) Traveling to Turkey on a Biblical Study Tour with Brad Gray. This trip was a spiritual, intellectual, and physical experience. I highly recommend going on a trip with Brad. It is worth the investment. I hope to take a group of Watermarkers to Turkey or Israel someday for a trip like this!  Here is Brad’s info and trips.

2) Guidebooks: A couple good guidebooks help you walk through the site, learn more of the background, and present some interesting information. I’ve used “A Guide to Biblical Sites in Greece and Turkey” by Fant and Reddish. I also utilized “Biblical Turkey: A Guide to the Jewish and Christian Sites of Asia Minor” by Mark Wilson.

3) Commentaries: I used a number of commentaries, but I enjoyed “Revelation” by Ben Witherington III and “Revelation” by Mark Wilson the most.

4) Book: “The Seven Cities of the Apocalypse” by Roland Worth is an outstanding book that puts together a wide variety of resources to explore each church community being addressed in the letters. This book is out of print and pricey, but I used one from a library. Yeah for libraries!

5) Websites: Ray Vanderlaan has good stuff on Israel and Turkey on his site: “Follow the Rabbi”.  I like to explore sites through pictures at “Bible places”. Another site/publication I enjoy is Biblical Archaeology Society.  Mark Wilson has a website with some information at “Seven Churches Network.”

All of these resources were very helpful, but the most impacting was the trip to study the letters in the places they were written to. The trip pulled together the passion, the pictures, and the information into a transforming experience. The best part of the trip and the study was that I experienced God, His love, and His mission.

I am thankful to my church family for giving me the gift of time to travel this Summer to experience God and His story in this way. I am grateful to the group that I traveled with, for the impact on my life. I am also thankful for my father who traveled with me, and helped make the trip possible. Finally, I am blessed to have a wife and family that encouraged me to go and experience this (even though I was gone a couple weeks).

You can watch the “Seven Letters” teaching here (with follow up questions for small groups).