Serving does the heart good.

This past Monday (July 4th) we had a group of Waterwatermark servemarkers gather together to serve the city of Ferrysburg. We helped with the 4th of July picnic. The city puts on a free family-friendly fun party to celebrate. They were calling for volunteers and a Watermarker saw the need and rallied a bunch of us to help.  We had a blast and we had an opportunity to be a blessing to the organizers.

I personally found my heart come alive in the midst of the serving. I had the privilege of hanging out with Jeremy Hower and helping kids with the bounce house. Here are some of the reasons my heart came alive through this serving experience:

  • This was organized and championed by a Watermarker who is not on our staff team. She heard about the need and led the charge and did an amazing job communicating and organizing!  Way to go Christine!!!
  • We didn’t dream up our own event, we simply added willing hands and good attitudes to an existing event in need of volunteers.  The organizers of the event are great people and it was a joy to work alongside them.
  • I had a lot of great opportunities to meet all kinds of new people and chat. As an extrovert this filled up by batteries. As a missionary to West Michigan it was a reminder of all the different people in our community we are summoned to love in Jesus’ name.
  • This serve event took place in the community that we are starting another Watermark gathering site. We already have people living and working there, but I was thankful to practically serve and connect with more people in the community before starting any gatherings there. It gave me greater passion to join other churches in seeing people experience life with Jesus.
  • Everyone had a great attitude. I was so proud of all those who participated! We wore t-shirts that said, “sent on mission”, but I was more thankful that I saw people lovingly living it out.
  • I got to see my kids jump in and serve. I desire for my family to be people who look to help others and not merely look at ourselves. This opportunity sparked conversations in our family about what we value, why we serve, and being the presence of Jesus.

So I thank God for the chance to participate in a small way to His big Kingdom movement and I thank Him for breathing joy into my heart. I pray God will keep my eyes and heart open to the moments He brings me to serve others.

How about you?  Where might you have an opportunity to join in and discover the joy of serving others?

Revive Us

I need revival.

It can be easy to let my self-interest, my comfort, my petty concerns, my pride, and my mess distract me from intentionally and whole-heartedly joining God’s work in my life and through my life.  I desire to keep on being filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph.5:18) instead of being filled with my worries and trivial pursuits. I need revival.

Years ago I came across this passage that is used a lot when talking about revival. It is an incredible invitation to renewed life with God.

2 Chronicles 7:14

“Then if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.”

A few reflections and questions as I read through this verse:

  • MY people / MY name : Does renewed life begin when we first realize that our identity is found in God and not in ourselves or circumstances?  Do I fully embrace that my life is not merely my life, but God’s life?
  • Humble / Pray / Seek / Turn : Does renewed life begin when we recognize our own pride, self-dependency, and sin? Do I hate the sin and rebellion in my life or do I tolerate it? Do I take action and change my life’s direction or do I continue to go my own way? Do my humble confessions lead to changed living?
  • Hear / Forgive / Restore : God reveals His heart of grace, mercy, forgiveness, and restoration.  Am I amazed and changed by God’s grace, and love, or do I take it for-granted?  Have I experienced God’s renewed life personally?

I pray that I would experience revival and renewed life and that my community would experience this healing as well.

Reading this passage fills me with hope of renewed life and it inspires me to embrace God’s invitation to humbly pursue Him and His way. How about you?

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?