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11.8.22


Unstopping the Wells of Revival: Clearing Away Distraction

Tuesday online prayer rooms
8am prayer 30min
9am prayer 60min

Heart
7pm, 12 Bassett St


Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:38-42, NIV


In Isaac’s day, the Philistines dumped rubbish in the wells to keep Isaac and his family from obtaining the water that would sustain their life in the desert. In our day, the enemy has been at work in a similar way, stopping up the wells of revival with all sorts of rubbish. And so this season, we are continuing to “re-dig” these wells of revival through our prayers. Our assignment is to pray through, repent of and renounce the various barriers and hindrances to revival that are keeping us and our declining Western church from the infusion of divine life which God has poured out on his people in past seasons of revival.

As we look into the metaphorical wells to start digging, an obvious barrier comes into focus: distraction. We live in an age of noise, constant activity, and total distraction. This distraction and noise is not inert…it is actually demonic. This past Sunday during worship, Father Len Cowan shared his deep conviction that distraction is a primary strategy of the enemy in our time. If he can keep our eyes off of Jesus our example, off of the race set before us (Hebrews 12:1-4), and onto political chaos, a 24 hour news cycle, endless binging opportunities on Netflix and Prime, a schedule jam packed with activities and work and social events, so that we don’t even feel we have time to pray…then he has succeeded. 

Carl Jung, the eminent psychologist once remarked that “hurry is not of the devil, it is the devil.” And surely it is not overstating things to say that one of the key outcomes of us being worried and distracted and overly busy with less important things is to keep us distant and separated from the life and power of God. Pastor Andrew pointed out on Sunday that Jesus is the vine and we are the branches (John 15), the only way to a life that is fruitful (and there is a world of difference between fruitfulness and activity) is to slow down enough to abide in Jesus and life in the awareness of his presence and our union with him. If we are overly busy and distracted there is simply no way for us to practice the presence of God. 

In the scripture above, Jesus comes to visit Mary and Martha. The two sisters could not have responded more differently to his visit. Each made a choice as to how to honor Jesus as a guest in their home. Martha decided to do what she believed was expected of her as a hostess, to busy herself in the kitchen, making food, and all that goes into entertaining a special guest. Mary, however, chose not to busy herself in the kitchen, even though this was likely what was socially expected of her. Instead, like the rest of the male disciples, she sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to his words. This was her way of honoring Jesus.

If we are to sit at Jesus’ feet and pay attention to his words, it requires that we say no to other things. Even things that are convenient or amusing to us, or perhaps even things that are culturally expected. When Brother Lawrence was asked by some of his visitors, what must I do in order to practice the presence of God, he replied that the answer was quite simple. All one must do, in order to dwell in the constant awareness of God’s presence, was to say no…to renounce everything that leads us away from God’s presence. Simple indeed. Easy? Not so much.

Mary renounced her duties in the kitchen, choosing instead to sit at Jesus’ feet. And this bothered Martha to no end. “Lord,” she said, “tell my sister to come help me in the kitchen!” But Jesus responds, “Martha Martha, you are worried and distracted about many things, but only one thing is necessary.” 

This is what the Lord is saying to us today. To his church in New England. “Friends, your lives lack power and authority and wisdom and peace and the anointing of my spirit because so many of you are living worried and distracted and stressed out.” We are living lives cut off from the vine because we are out there trying to crank out fruit on our own. Some of the stuff we are doing is expected of us by others. Some of our busyness is just to cope with our own exhaustion – like binging shows or doom scrolling our newsfeed or getting lost in tiktok and social media. Jesus’ words to Martha are for us. “You are distracted. But only one thing is needed.”

And then he says, “look at Mary. Mary has chosen the better part. Instead of distraction. Instead of busyness…whether it was extra or expected of her…Mary has chosen to sit at my feet. To spend time with me. To pay attention to me. To focus on me. And it will not be taken away from her.” 

And for us to participate in revival – we need to activate our inner Mary. We need to discipline ourselves to say NO to the hurry and distraction of our age and to find time to sit at Jesus’ feet. Every day. 

For Reflection

As you look at your life, what keeps you distracted? What occupies your thoughts and time, keeping you from focusing on the Lord? What makes it difficult for you to consider something like fixed hour prayer? Ask God to help you renounce what does not help you abide in Jesus.

For Prayer

Pray for yourself and the church to be like Mary. Pray for God to strengthen our resolve to spend time with Him, listen to Him, and linger in the secret place. Pray for the church to recover the spiritual habits and practices of prayer and abiding that nurtured the saints in generations past. 

For Response

Resolve to spend time with God this week and to reorder your days, schedules, and activity so that you have time to be with God and remain in communication with Him daily. Find a spiritually buddy and hold each other accountable to prioritizing Jesus and reducing clutter from your lives.

11.1.22


Tuesday online prayer rooms:  
8am prayer 30min
9am prayer 60min

Men’s night – 7pm at 12 Bassett St

Unstopping the Wells of Revival – the Post-Modern Philistines

“Isaac accumulated flocks and herds and many, many servants, so much so that the Philistines began to envy him. They got back at him by throwing dirt and debris into all the wells that his father’s servants had dug back in the days of his father Abraham, clogging up all the wells.

Finally, Abimelech told Isaac: “Leave. You’ve become far too big for us.”

So Isaac left. He camped in the valley of Gerar and settled down there. Isaac dug again the wells which were dug in the days of his father Abraham but had been clogged up by the Philistines after Abraham’s death. And he renamed them, using the original names his father had given them.”Genesis 26:13-18, Message Version

Over the last few weeks, we have been exploring the theme of redigging the wells of revival. We are doing so by looking back to this story from the life of Isaac because of its usefulness as a metaphor for the present state of the Christian Church in our post-Christian, secular milieu. Isaac and his family face a life and death situation. It is a time of famine, and they are exiled in the Valley of Gerar in the Negev Desert. 

The existential challenge they face is the lack of water, without which no person or community can survive. If they don’t find water, they will die. And in the same way, the Western church today faces its own existential challenge. We need spiritual water, we need God Himself. His presence, his power, his infusion of divine life…or we will waste away. In our state of existential threat, we are so often tempted to look for a novel solution (eg. A new strategy, technology, or approach that will somehow reverse the snowballing decline of the church in our current moment. A silver bullet that will change things. Is it a better website? Is it cooler sneakers for the preacher? Do we need more smoke machines during worship?) 

Isaac responds to the crisis with great wisdom. He does not look for a novel solution. He doesn’t send for prospectors. He doesn’t send for water diviners. He doesn’t seek out a new location to dig a well. Because Isaac knows his father has been here before, and that he found water. And so Isaac thinks ”in our crisis we must go back to those old wells because we know we will find water there.” 

In our current moment, this is what we must do. The church has found water before in past seasons of decline. She has been renewed by the presence and power of God. She has been refreshed with past seasons of revival. In Providence, for example, there was a mighty revival in the year 1820. Somewhere between 5 and 10% of the city’s population joined the church in that one year. Today, if we consider the population of our metro area, this would be equivalent to somewhere between 75,000 and 150,000 men, women, and children joining the church. In a year. Can you even imagine? But this is what happens when the church finds water. 

But when Isaac goes back to those old wells, what does he find? He doesn’t find water. He finds the well, but he can’t get to the water. Why? The Philistines, in their envy and antagonism towards the people of God, took revenge on Isaac by “throwing dirt and debris into all the wells that his father’s servants had dug.” The wells are clogged and useless. Isaac knows the water is down there somewhere…but it is hidden beneath all the rubbish of the Philistines. 

As Martyn Lloyd Jones notes in his book Revival. The ‘Philistines’ have been very busy not just in Isaac’s time, but in ours as well. Our need is the same as it was 200 years ago. God is the same as He was 200 years ago. The gospel is the same as it was 200 years ago, just as relevant now as it was then. The same water is in the wells, but when we go back to these wells, we find them clogged. What has happened? Over the past 200 years, since revival swept Providence in 1820, the enemy has thrown dirt and debris and rubbish in the wells of revival. This is the work of the Philistines. 

It is important for us to go back to these ancient wells. To look there for the same power and life of God that has renewed God’s people in the past. But we have work to do as well. We must also clear away the ‘work of the Philistines.’ What is the work of the Philistines? This is some of what we will explore in future weeks as we continue to pray and seek God for revival. We must unearth the false ideas about God that we have unwittingly embraced. Popular beliefs that contradict the gospel but which dominate the spirit of the age. And there are sins, and patterns of sin that are contradictory to the gospel that we have agreed with and participated in. As we continue to pray for revival, a large part of that work involves repenting, renouncing, breaking agreement with the work of the Philistines. 

For reflection: 

What are the false unBiblical  ideas about God that are floating around in the atmosphere? That you and other believers are tempted to agree with (knowingly or unknowingly) embrace or live by? What vital truths about God have been lost or forgotten in the 200 years since revival came to Providence in 1820? Ask the Holy Spirit to shed light on these things? What habits or patterns of life are preventing the church (you included?) from experiencing more of God.

For prayer:

Let’s name and renounce these lies about God we and the church have agreed with and declare the truth as we pray. Let’s repent for ourselves and on behalf of the wider church for the patterns of sin we have allowed in? One sanctuary Intercessor had an image of a whale caught in a net and slowly dying – where have we as God’s people been caught in the patterns of the world? Start by asking this about yourself and breaking these attachments.

10.25.22


Unstopping the Wells of Revival: Spiritual Thirst

Tuesday online prayer rooms:
8am prayer 30min
9am prayer 60min

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

John 4:13-15

This fall our theme is unstopping the wells of revival. Last week, we discussed how in Genesis 26, Isaac and his family found themselves in an existential crisis. They were in the desert without access to water. And obviously without water, life is impossible. Isaac’s solution to this crisis was to go back to the wells his father Abraham had dug, and to clear out the rubbish and the dirt that the Philistines had thrown in these wells and thereby, to stay alive. 

The church today finds herself in a similar situation – after a very long decline we are in desperate need of the most basic thing: life itself. We have become spiritually dehydrated. And if we want to see the church survive, let alone thrive and flourish as a blessing to our declining culture, we must find a way to access the same source of spiritual water that has renewed and revived the church in past generations. We need to go back to those wells and dig them out again.

This fall we are identifying and praying through the barriers to revival…the “rubbish,” as it were, that has been thrown in the wells of revival and that is preventing the people of God from accessing the life and power of God.

One of the first and foremost barriers to revival is our own lack of awareness of our thirst. 

In John 4, Jesus sits down at a well in Samaria in the heat of the noonday sun. A woman approaches to draw water at this odd hour. She is there at that time because she is an outcast. She is not welcome at the well with the other women of the town, who come in the cool of the morning. She must come in the heat of the day. The reason, we later find out, is that this woman has had five husbands and is currently living with a man who is not her husband. This is why she is an outcast. We don’t know exactly why she has had five husbands – or is living with a man who isn’t interested in marrying her. But we watch in awe as Jesus engages with her.

“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,” he says to her.

This woman, like all of us, is thirsty for God. But for years she has been masking her thirst with other things. In the same way that she has come day after day to draw water…she has gone from relationship to relationship to try to fill the void in her life and soul. But it clearly is not working. Her trips to the well are a metaphor for her spiritual life. She is so thirsty…but the “water” she is drinking (one relationship after another) is not actually hydrating her. 

It is a bit like when someone feels thirsty, and reaches for an alcoholic beverage. The beverage is a liquid, and on the surface seems to satisfy or mask the sensation of thirst. And yet paradoxically, the more alcohol a person drinks, the more dehydrated they become. This is how it is for the woman at the well. The more men this woman lives with, the emptier she feels inside. And this is how it is for the church today. We are unaware of our thirst, because we are masking it with other things. Things that make us more and more spiritually dehydrated and empty. And this pattern will continue until, as the woman did, and recognize that only Jesus can satisfy us. 

Thirst is a gift from God to point us to him and our need for him. But in order to feel our spiritual thirst, we have to stop masking our thirst with other things that are not spiritually hydrating us.

For Reflection

What are the substitutes for God you have used to mask your hunger and thirst for him? Is it food or alcohol? Is it social media? Is it entertainment? Is it things you shop for or buy? Is it work or school or career? Relationships? Money? Activity? What are the things you look to for life that are not Jesus? “Whoever drinks this water will thirst again,” Jesus says. “But whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.”

For Action

Consider fasting with the leadership community of Sanctuary on Tuesdays. You could skip a meal, or two, or all three. (obviously, if you have food issues, use your discretion on this) One of the best ways to become aware of the spiritual thirst for God in our soul is through fasting. Fasting often unmasks the deeper state and thirst of our souls for God. It helps us get in touch with our hunger and thirst for him…which is what we need if we are to dig out the wells of revival through our prayers and repentance in the next season. 

For Prayer

As the Spirit brings things to mind, ask God to break your/our attachment to these spiritual substitutes. Ask God to deepen our awareness of our thirst for him. Ask God to make us so keenly aware of our thirst that we begin seeking him with greater intensity in the coming months and years.