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?

Heart of Obedience

Have you ever heard someone say, “delayed obedience is disobedience”?  I think I found the story it is taken from…

I was reading the book of Deuteronomy today and came across a part of Israel’s story that I haven’t paid much attention to in the past.

Let me briefly set it up…

God powerfully freed the people of Israel from their slavery and oppression in Egypt. He provided for them, protected them, and personally guided them to the land He promised them. Before they entered the promised land, the people sent spies to check it out and see what they were up against (this turned out to be a bad move). The spies returned filled with fear (except for two faith-filled spies) and the people lost heart and started to complain and consider going back into their slavery in Egypt.

God had clearly given the people a command to obey and the encouragement to act.

We see this in Deuteronomy 1:21

“See, the Lord your God has given you the land. Go up and take possession of it as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, told you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” 

But, instead of choosing obedience and trusting God, they chose disobedience and trusting the reports of some of the spies. They listened to the wrong voices.

So God explained that their consequence would be to live out their days in the wilderness and never enter the land He promised them. The next generation of Israel would enter the land and not the generation that disobeyed. Then God told them to get moving back into the wilderness.

This is where I typically end the story when I think about it and tell it.  But, there is an interesting bit in this story that can be missed.

The people of Israel were heartbroken and recognized their rebellion. But instead of following God’s new command to go back into the wilderness, they decide that they would now enter the land. God warned them to not go into the land to fight because He would not be with them. But, again they did not listen to God and they gathered people and weapons and marched forward. They met opposition and were soundly defeated and retreated.

In the past, I somehow missed the part in the story where the people try to take the land on their own and are defeated.

This story made me think about obedience and the heart behind it.

God told them to enter the land. They delayed the obedience and sent out spies to check it out and decided to not go in.

God explained their consequence. They recognized their sin.

God told them to enter the wilderness. They disobeyed and decided to now enter the land.

But, it was too late. They had revealed their heart, their lack of trust in God, and their pride. I find it fascinating that the people chose to disobey God’s clear guidance a second time immediately after recognizing their failure.

Did they think they could avoid the consequences of their disobedience by entering the land?

Did they think they could do it without God?

I’m reflecting today on how I respond to the the commands and guidance of God.

  • Am I quick to obey because God can be trusted and He is good? Or do I delay obedience out of fear, pride, or looking for alternatives?
  • Am I obeying to avoid consequences and prove something? Or do I joyfully obey to embrace God’s way of life and respond to His love?
  • Am I learning from my mistakes and failures?  Or do I continue to march headlong into disobedience time after time?

(The story is found in Numbers 14 & a retelling in Deuteronomy 1)

When I don’t have words.

Recently there have been a number of very difficult and tragic events that have taken place in the lives of people I know. One person is dealing with relational chaos, another friend is struggling with work, a few people have serious health challenges, and another friend from back in the day lost her son.  Ugh. Heartbreaking.

My heart absolutely aches over the issues swirling around our faith family and friends.

Scripture encourages us to not pull away from people when tragedy or difficulty strikes. Romans 12:15 tells us to, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” In other words, walk in step with others on whatever journey they are walking.  I find it easy to have words for people when it is time to rejoice with those who rejoice.

However, when someone is in the pit of depression, or a health crisis, or facing a tragic loss… I often don’t have the words. I desire to mourn with those who mourn, but the usual words seem hollow in those moments. I do believe that the most important thing to offer people, in the midst of difficulty and pain, is your loving presence and not clever words. I think the most helpful thing is walking alongside someone on THEIR journey.

One well that I draw from in times of mourning, tragedy, and confusion are the Psalms in the Bible. Often when I don’t have the words for a prayer or words to articulate what I’m feeling, the Psalms provide me the honest words I need.  The Psalms get real about real disappointment and pain. The Psalms reveal that God is big enough to handle our anger and confusion.

For example, in Psalm 22:1-2, David writes:

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? 

Why are you so far from saving me,

so far from my cries of anguish?

My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,

by night, but I find no rest.”

He goes on to proclaim his trust in God and desire for God’s name to be known, but in this Psalm you get that complicated real life experience of having faith in God and at the same time questioning if He is even listening.  When I don’t have the words, I look to God’s Word to give me words. I find that they are more honest than some nice, “Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul” quote.

So, do you find yourself around people who are mourning or struggling? What would it look like to be present and  walk with them in their journey? Take the pressure off of having to say something profound and healing. Perhaps your presence is the best gift to give.

Do you find yourself in need of words to pray or share in the triumphs and tragedies of life?  Perhaps the Psalms will be a well you can draw from.

There are many Psalms that are helpful. Here are a few Psalms of Lament to check out, to pray, and give you words: Psalm 6, Psalm 38, Psalm 142.

May God bless you with His presence on your journey.