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5.30.23 | Revival Remixed | Acts 2:42-47


*In-person at 12 Bassett St, Providence RI

Prayer Guide

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Acts 2:4-47

Whenever God moves in revival, it is always different than the way it happened before. Nobody gets into Narnia the same way twice.

That said, whenever God moves in revival, it is always the same as what happened before. In every time period, nation, culture, context, what we find in every revival is a repetition of the same things that have happened before.

Revival is a recovery of something that has been lost in the sands of time. It is a restoration of the church to God’s normal.  Specifically, what we find in every revival is a repetition of what we see in the birth of the Church at Pentecost. 

In musical terms, revival is a remix. It is the same song but played with a different arrangement, a new beat, a fresh feel, a fresh vibe. So as we pray for revival, we are praying for something that has, on the one hand, never happened before. Every revival is different and new. But on the other hand, we are praying for something that has happened many times. We are praying for God to take the same song he has been singing – the same song we will sing with him in the New Jerusalem – and to remix it with a fresh beat for our time and context. 

The revival that followed Jesus’ resurrection in the early church in Jerusalem after Pentecost gives us the structure and melody of the song. Even if we don’t know what the beat will feel like in our time, we know the song by looking at Acts 2. 

There are 7 elements of normal spiritual life we are asking God to restore in revival. 

  1. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching.” – The scriptures came alive and the people received them, leading them to theological depth. 
  2. “They devoted themselves to…the breaking of bread…they broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.” – The people experienced compelling and rich community life. 
  3. “They devoted themselves to…prayer.” – The disciples experienced an increased commitment to prayer and an upgrade in their rhythms and patterns of prayer.
  4. “Everyone was filled with awe at the many signs and wonders performed by the apostles.” – The gospel was demonstrated and authenticated by miraculous works of the Holy Spirit, including the very same kinds of healing, deliverance, and prophecy that marked the ministry of Jesus. 
  5. “Everyone was filled with awe…every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.” – In Tim Keller’s words, the early Church experienced anointed worship. Their worship was marked by awe at the manifest or felt presence of God. While God is always present, sometimes he graces our gatherings with his Royal Presence.
  6. “The believers had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.” – Also in Keller’s words, the early Church demonstrated compassionate social concern. There was an awareness of needs in the community and a willingness to practice the kind of generosity that met needs and modeled God’s justice. This is a powerful witness to a watching world. 
  7. “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” – There was a culture of bold evangelism and proclamation of Jesus. Individual believers embraced their calling to share about Jesus with their friends and family and associates. The result was a movement where conversion was normal. 

For prayer: Where have you seen signs of these dynamics in your life or church? Thank God for this and ask Him for more.

Which of these do you especially long to see more? Ask God to do it again in our time. Ask God to write a fresh remix of the song in 2023.

(For Sanctuary Church)

 Next Steps: block off Thursday nights in June to seek God with others for his new normal in our lives, home, church, and city.

5.23.23 | Waiting for the Power | Acts 1: 1-14


*In-person at 12 Bassett St, Providence RI

Prayer Guide

“In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.”

Acts 1:1-14


On the Day of Ascension, 2000 years ago, which the church celebrated last Wednesday, Jesus gave the church (us included) a mission. We are going to carry on his ministry to the entire world as his witnesses. All that he did, we will now do, but rather than through one man in one place – through millions, even billions of believers, across the whole earth. 

Jesus gives a critical instruction to the disciples before he sends them out to carry out phase 2 of his own ministry as his Body on earth. “But wait for the gift my father promised,” he says. “For in a few days, you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit.” 

So the disciples went back to the upper room. And they waited. They had no idea how long they would wait…as it turns out, they waited ten days until Pentecost, when the Spirit of God was poured out in tongues of fire, and the city of Jerusalem heard the sound and three thousand were converted and the church was born. But as they went into that upper room, they had no idea what God was going to do and no idea how long they’d need to wait.

We have prayer meetings that go 45 minutes. We set an end time because if we didn’t nobody would come. We’d need to get on with our lives. But what if God told us to start a prayer meeting with no definite end time…as he did for those first disciples? What if that prayer meeting went on 24 hours. 48 hours. 72 hours. A week? How would that feel? What if nothing happened for 7 days, 8 days, 9 days….

Have you ever wondered why God makes the church wait in prayer? In 1906, God put a hunger in an African-American pastor named William Seymour and others to pray for revival and for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. They began a prayer meeting in Los Angeles…on March 4, 1906.

It wasn’t until April 9, 1906 some five weeks later, that the Holy Spirit fell on one man. And then others. And others still. And then revival broke out, touching hundreds, then thousands. Today a half billion Pentecostals trace their spiritual roots to that one prayer meeting. Those five weeks of WAITING on God in the upper room in Los Angeles.

Why does God make us wait? Why must we learn to wait in prayer on the things God has promised? God could do it instantly…like with a microwave TV dinner or drive through chicken nuggets…but he doesn’t. For the same reason that the good stuff (ribs, brisket, thanksgiving turkey) always takes time to cook. God is not a God of the drive through, he’s a God of the slow cook.

As it turns out, God had strategic reasons external to the church. On the day of Pentecost, pilgrims were gathered from all over the known world. But in addition, there are things that only happen in us while we are waiting on God and the answer to our prayers seems to tarry.

What is God doing in the waiting? He is preparing the container…the wineskins of our hearts. He is stretching our hearts, softening them. He is crucifying and crushing and mortifying our flesh. So that our hearts and character are actually ready to receive his new wine, to receive the very things we are asking him for. 

Revival tarries at times because we are not ready to steward the gift we are asking for. Maybe our ideas and motives are not yet aligned with his. Maybe our sin and pride and flesh need to lie dead on the altar before the FIRE of God’s presence can consume us. We don’t always know why God makes us wait…but waiting is (as Tom Petty) pointed out, always the hardest part. But it is absolutely indispensable.

Jesus waited. He waited thirty years until his baptism, until he was clothed with power, until the Spirit descended on him. Only then did he enter his ministry. He waited forty days in the wilderness, fasting and seeking God and battling Satah, before he began preaching. During his ministry, he turned aside to lonely places to pray and wait on God. Before he called his disciples. Before he set his face toward Jerusalem. He waited all night in the Garden of Gethsemane. He waited forty days before ascending. 

And then he waited ten more days before he asked the Father to pour out the Holy Spirit on the church. In the church calendar, we are celebrating those days right now, as the disciples waited in the Upper Room for the promised Holy Spirit. Jesus made them wait because he wanted the core, defining experience of the church to be that of waiting together in the upper room in prayer. Waiting in prayer is the DNA of the church. If you look through Acts you see disciples waiting on God in prayer over and over and over. Acts 4, Acts 6, Acts 13, Acts 15. Someone said the Book of Acts is the account of what happened in between corporate prayer meetings. 

God makes the church wait in prayer because waiting together in prayer is the fundamental vital behavior that makes it possible for the Kingdom of God to spread in the power of the Spirit. We can run out and do it in our own strength and wisdom and resources and we’ll get a human sized result. Or…we can seek the LORD whose ways and thoughts are higher than ours…and then let him send us out in his power and with his strategies, and we will see a God sized result. As we celebrate the Ascension…this is a moment for us to recommit to a culture and priority of waiting in prayer. Waiting on God in corporate prayer in the upper room.

For prayer/reflection:

  1. Ask God to give you and the church a spirit that is willing to wait on Him in prayer. 
  2. Ask God for a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit. Fresh empowerment for ministry. Fresh touch of his presence.
  3. Ask God to activate his church as Jesus’ Body to extend God’s Kingdom in our city, state, and region.

5.16.23 | Ephesians 3:14-21


*In-person at 12 Bassett St, Providence RI

Prayer Guide

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work in us…”

Ephesians 3:20

There is nothing we could ask God for, which God could not do. There is nothing we could imagine that God could not do. The only limits on how God could answer our prayers reside in our own imagination.

And yet, why are we so rarely surprised by God’s answering of our prayers? Why does prayer often feel so boring to us? I was surprised after all by the machine learning of google’s algorithms which predicted the scripture verse I typed above even as I began typing the first three words. “Now to him,” I typed…and the computer finished each phrase until the entire verse of scripture was written out. We are shocked and surprised that machines are able to read and know all of human literature so that they can literally finish my sentences. But we are often so rarely surprised by God.

It is because our imaginations are limited. God can do more than we imagine…but if our imaginations are limited, so is what we will ask God for. The question we must ask then, in prayer, is how do we expand our imagination?

At a Christian fellowship at a local university, some students tried to take this verse seriously…asking God to expand their imagination. My friend Anthony got up in front of a white board with a marker and asked the students at the prayer meeting: “let’s think of people who in our heart of hearts we don’t ever think could become Christians.” The room began listing names out on the board until it was full. Then he read this verse. “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think.” The room realized – we don’t pray for these names usually because we can’t imagine them entering the Kingdom. But the limit is not with God…it is with us. None of the disciples could have imagined Saul of Tarsus, the Darth Vader of the early Church, coming to faith and becoming an Apostle to the Gentiles. God had to expand their imagination. There is no one God cannot save or rescue. No one he cannot use. And if we can’t imagine it, our imaginations need to be stretched and strengthened.

There is likewise no place God can’t break through. Anthony asked the students to think about places on their campus where God couldn’t bring his Kingdom. Places that were so dark and so closed off that there was no hope for them. He began writing them on the board. And then he told the room – “he is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think.” And folks realized they needed to repent. The debate team. The Pride Club. The rugby team. The Greek system. None of these places were beyond God’s ability to move or save or redeem. The students began repenting for their lack of faith, prayer, and desire.

For Reflection/Prayer 

Where does your imagination need to be stretched this morning. If it is true that God is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all you ask or imagine, where does your imagination need to be stretched? Where does your asking need to be stretched? Perhaps God wants to move in power but is waiting for you and me to ask him for it! 

This morning, stretch your faith by thinking of the people and places that in your heart of hearts you believe are beyond God’s power to save, redeem, or break through with his Kingdom. And REPENT!!! And begin asking God to move there, knowing that your prayers are only a hint of what He is able to do.