Take up the high calling

“Whoever you are, the land to which God has brought you is not like the land of Egypt from which you came out. You can no longer live there. Your old life and your former ways are crucified now, and you must not seek to live any more for your own gratification, but give up your own judgement into the hands of a wise director, and sacrifice your pleasures and comforts for the love of God and give the money you no longer spend on those things to the poor.

“Above all, eat your daily Bread without which you cannot live, and come to know Christ Whose Life feeds you in the Host, and He will give you a taste of joys and delights that transcend anything you have ever experienced before, and which will make the transition easy” — Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

church aisle
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

It is time for a renewed hunger

I am working my way through a book by Andy Lord called Transforming Renewal: Charismatic Renewal Meets Thomas Merton 

The book is a comparison of the teaching of David Watson and Thomas Merton. I know a David Watson, so I quickly discovered they’re not the same men… mainly because the David Watson in Lord’s book died several years ago. (I’m pretty quick in my deductive powers that way.)

There is a chapter on the process of renewal that has challenged me personally. Most of the following notes are thoughts from Lord on Watson’s writings. Not so much on Merton (for this post). Being a reader of Merton, this book has fascinated me. And this chapter is really challenging me.

There is an ongoing life in the Spirit. There is growing vitality, love, and power that we witness in the NT. We have to KEEP GROWING.

Watson calls believers to a consistency. This is enabled through the infilling of the Spirit.

HOW TO BE FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT.  (David Watson)

  1. Preparation

Search the Scriptures. Explore. Ask questions.

Explore a biblical theology that will enable the mind to be renewed in with a true knowledge of God as revealed in Scriptures. It is also about a review of the commitment made to Christ. ARE WE SAVED? ARE WE FOLLOWING CHRIST? These are tough questions to ask!

  1. ASK

It is rooted in our awareness. We have to KNOW we have a need. We have to search… and thirst. We need to be continually exploring the Scriptures and allowing a holy thirst to be developed. We often don’t know our need. Our heart for the Scripture is dry. We don’t have desire to engage. Thirst can’t be cultivated. We don’t even KNOW our thirst! But when we realize we have a need… we begin to ASK. We begin to SEARCH.

We need a new searching. We need a hunger rising. But that hunger rises up out of a disciplined life found in Scripture. If I am reading Acts, there is a better chance for my soul to get hungry and say, “HEY! I’m not experiencing that! WHY NOT?” It’s a far greater chance I might get hungry doing that than NOT reading Acts.

CULTIVATE THIRST.

Begin to realize that the power of the Spirit is REAL and you will start to long for more.

Thirst can be cultivated. When we are around people who have found that deep well, we get thirsty. There have been times I’ve been around men like Henry Blackaby and Dallas Willard and just being with them created thirst. I heard from them and there was a deep calling to deep. I had to know more.

I think of a missionary, Calvin Olson, who walked with God. To be with him was to want God more!

We need to ASK for more. We need to LONG for more!

  1. Give Thanks

We need to give thanks to God for answering our prayer. Psalms are filled with forward affirmations: places where they gave thanks IN ADVANCE for God hearing their cry. It is a step of confident faith.

It is time to get HUNGRY for the Spirit!

Renew Our Minds

 Renewal is a process of thought, will, emotions, prayer, waiting, and faith.

We need to get away from a one time experience mentality. Conversion is not a punctiliar action. Neither is renewal. We need permission to EXPLORE. We need to give people not yet in faith permission to explore. We need to have a hunger stirred. Create thirst.

Don’t be afraid of the journey.

It’s the same way in renewal. We have to STAY ON A JOURNEY.

We stagnate too easily and too often. We don’t keep renewal a priority. We don’t keep an expectation for thirst a priority.

Renewed churches flow out of a people whose hearts are being continually renewed by the Spirit. It’s a messy process. People move at different speeds. Not everyone progresses the same. Yet, it is VITAL we all move! We have to do it in community. It is impactful to the world!

Renewal happens even in tough times. Dare we say it? ESPECIALLY in tough times. We have to know our need of God!

Renewal is not a gentle pursuit for quiet times but a risky journey in times of pain, sin, and challenge as the Spirit breaks in afresh in visible ways. 

 For David Watson, he wanted believers to have a LIFELONG learning process. Let us be nourished throughout life. Let my own ministry be that model! Let me continually call out to my church to have them keep on growing. Don’t settle in.

How I would love to find a way for ministers in my own “tribe” (the Assemblies of God) to keep on learning. To find ways to grow. They need to keep on being challenged. We don’t just need pragmatic principles but a call to deep spiritual formation and a way to keep on expanding their theological training. We don’t have to have expensive education to grant ongoing degrees, but we should have a higher level of expectation so that we work to TRAIN our ministers.

If we can have conferences to talk about the nuts and bolts of church planting, why not have conferences to center in on how to develop a spiritual life? Bible study? Theological reading? How to read theologically? When we will ENDORSE those moves and PLAN those kinds of conferences (or at least tracks within those conferences), the rank and file will raise their levels of expectation as well.

CREATE THIRST.

Create LIFELONG thirst!

The importance of renewal with Watson and Merton is found in cultivating continual learning. Don’t stop. What’s more… as leaders of leaders we should RAISE that level of expectation. We should EXALT a hunger.

I don’t want to just relate what is the latest I’m learning from John Maxwell or Andy Stanley. How about what I’m learning from NT Wright or Amos Yong or Dallas Willard? Why NOT raise that standard? It just might create that necessary thirst.

Call us out, O Lord! Call us out to THIRST!

It has to be cultivated. It has to be modeled. It has to be PLANNED OUT. We can PLAN thirst. We can PLAN the cultivation of hunger. We can take people on a Curriculum of Christlikeness that is a lifelong journey.