Spiritual Awakening

I wrote this article and it can be found in Wednesday’s edition of the The Watertown Public Opinion. 06.12.19

“SPIRITUAL AWAKENING”

I love the city of Watertown. I have been in Watertown for a little over four years and my family and I have found the people here to be friendly, kind and welcoming. Because of my love for this city I have a growing desire to see God work in a new way in our community. My greatest prayer for my family, my church and this city is that we come to know and love Jesus Christ more than anything else on earth. In the book of Philippians 3:8 the apostle Paul clearly communicates what life is all about when he writes this, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.”

I would briefly like to mention a few barriers that keep individuals, churches and communities from experiencing a spiritual awakening. One obstacle is lifeless, dead religion. Due to the fact that I am a preacher’s kid I know what it is like to be very religious and yet at the same time to be far from God. Going to church, being baptized, and church membership simply do not mean that a person knows or loves Jesus Christ. So the first barrier we must overcome is simply going through the religious motions that give one the semblance of Christianity but fails to have the heart of Christ. Second, we must be aware of how short sighted it is to make pursuing pleasure and comfort our primary goals in life. We live in a great country and we have been blessed with so many material possessions. The problem is that we end up making our hobbies, jobs, sports, education, retirement, bank account what life is all about. Third, many people simply misunderstand what Christianity is about in the first place, so we end up disregarding it or thinking that it is irrelevant. Christianity is not first and foremost about rule keeping. Christianity is not keeping you from the good life. In fact, Christianity is the doorway to where the deepest joy and satisfaction that your heart could ever experience is found.

So, the question we should ask at this time is how do we experience a spiritual awakening in our life, churches, and in our city? I believe with all of my heart that the place it begins is when we seek after God in prayer. In 2 Chronicles 7:14 we read this, “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” Seeking after God in prayer will mean turning off the TV, putting down our iPhones, refusing to be distracted by a million trivialities, and asking God to do in a new work in our day and time.

A group of local Watertown pastors have begun what we are calling a “Community Evening of Worship and Prayer.” We have already met twice over the past few months and we have experienced a great time of singing, prayer and fellowship. This is a gathering that goes beyond denominational lines. We are, and should be, focusing on more than our own religious turf and thinking about the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33). The next Community of Worship and Prayer will be at Midwest Bible Camp on Sunday, August 18th, 6-7 PM. If you want more details you can go to www.prayforwatertownsd.com. Whether you have been in the church for years, or you have never been to church, you are invited to join us as we seek after God and ask him to be at work in our community in a powerful new way. We hope you will join us!

Pastor Michael Wallenmeyer
New Life Church

Why Aren’t You Changing?

“What people revere, they resemble, either for ruin or for restoration.” -Greg Beale

Do you feel stuck spiritually? Do you sometimes wonder if there is more to the Christian life than what you are experiencing? Are you living with a sense that you are just managing your sin instead of really dealing with it? Are you quietly wondering why you are not changing as much as you would hope?

PREMISE #1: WHEN WE WORSHIP GOD WE BECOME LIKE GOD.

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. -2 Corinthians 3:18

The apostle Paul makes it clear in 2 Corinthians that we are spiritually transformed by worshipping God, by “beholding the glory of the Lord.” There are a million different things in life that are screaming for our attention. Yet, how often do we sabotage ourselves by failing to slow down, quiet our heart and mind, and truly seeking hard after God in worship?

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

PREMISE #2: ALL TOO OFTEN WE ARE GOING THROUGH THE RELIGIOUS MOTIONS WITHOUT TRULY WORSHIPING GOD.

“I hate, I despise your feast days,
And I do not savor your sacred assemblies.
Though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings,
I will not accept them,
Nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings.
Take away from Me the noise of your songs,
For I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments. -Amos 5:21-23

Have you ever wondered why you, or anyone for that matter, can attend church, do their devotions, and yet remain unchanged spiritually? I think one of the problems is that our spiritual life has become too routine and mechanical. We are like the people that Amos is addressing. We have this tendency to drift in and out of religious experiences without a genuine, life-transforming encounter with God.

PREMISE #3: THERE ARE INDICATORS, OR SIGNS, THAT YOU ARE GOING THROUGH THE RELIGIOUS MOTIONS WITHOUT TRULY WORSHIPPING GOD.

…having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. -2 Timothy 3:5

  • You are lacking in joy.
  • You are critical with others.
  • You are easily angered.
  • You are lacking in contentment.
  • You are anxious.
  • You are irritable.
  • You are bored.
  • You don’t care much about those who are lost all around you.
  • You have unconfessed, unrepentant sin in your life.

Our behavior is directly related to the condition of our heart. We change our behavior by having our heart changed. Our heart is changed by coming into God’s presence and worshipping him.

PREMISE #4: YOU ARE CURRENTLY WORSHIPPING SOMETHING OR SOMEONE AND IT IS SHAPING YOU INTO IT’S IMAGE.

Those who make them (idols) become like them; so do all who trust in them. -Psalm 115:8

N.T. Wright puts it like this, “When human beings give their heartfelt allegiance to and worship that which is not God, they progressively cease to reflect the image of God. One of the primary laws of human life is that you become like what you worship; what’s more, you reflect what you worship not only to the object itself but also outward to the world around.”

Are you worshipping your job, family, hobbies, politics, success, fitness? One way to figure out the answer to that question is get alone for an extended period of time and ask God to reveal to you what it is that is most important to you in life. We are moving at such a frantic pace that often times we are not even aware of what is truly going on in our own heart.

PREMISE #5: THERE ARE HOLY HABITS THAT WILL LEAD TO SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION.

Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. -1 Timothy 4:7-8

  • Ask God to reveal areas of unconfessed sin and truly repent of it.
    • I personally believe that one of the greatest hindrances to spiritual transformation (or revival) is trying to manage our sin rather than really dealing with it. This may require getting into a relationship with someone who will pray with you and hold you accountable.
  • Sing songs of worship to God during the week.
    • I would say that one of the most special times for me is on Sunday when I am singing praise to God with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. But this raises a question, why don’t we do this more during the week? Perhaps we need to turn off the political talk show and listen to worship music instead.
  • Instead of merely reading Scripture meditate upon it.
    • We need to allow the Word of God to soak into our hearts and our minds. Are we really embracing the mind-blowing truth that God is speaking to us as we read his Word? What does it look like to meditate on God’s Word rather than merely reading it? Nancy Leigh DeMoss writes this, “As you read, pause frequently to meditate on the meaning of what you are reading. Absorb the Word into your system by dwelling on it, pondering it, going over it again and again in your mind, considering it from many different angles, until it becomes part of you.”
  • Commit yourself to a deeper prayer life.
    • Over the past year God has been convicting me when it comes to my prayer life. I need to pray for my own spiritual good. I need to pray so that I will not be overcome by the temptations that I face every single day. I need to pray for there to be a spiritual awakening in my church and city. We give lip service to the idea that prayer is important but far too often our lives reveal that we actually believe we can get by in our own strength and power. I think the bottom-line is that nothing much will change if we are not developing a deeper prayer life.
    • “We must be able to existentially access our doctrinal convictions. If doctrinal soundness is not accompanied by heart experience, it will eventually lead to nominal Christianity—that is, in name only—and eventually to nonbelief. The irony is that many conservative Christians, most concerned about conserving true and sound doctrine, neglect the importance of prayer and make no effort to experience God, and this can lead to the eventual loss of sound doctrine. . . . Christianity without real experience of God will eventually be no Christianity at all.” -Tim Keller

Partnering With Other Churches For The Good Of The City

PastorsSince I have been here at New Life Church I have slowly gotten to know a number of the local pastors. There is a group of us that meets every week for lunch at Perkins. It has been good just to get to know each other and share the ups and downs of ministry. Over the past few months we have begun praying as pastors on a monthly basis for revival here in Watertown.

“The coming revival must begin with a great revival of prayer. It is in the closet, with the door shut, that the sound of abundance of rain will first be heard. An increase of secret prayer with ministers will be the sure harbinger of blessing.” -Andrew Murray

I am excited to let you know one of the things we have decided to do is work together as churches and begin hosting times of worship and prayer. Praising God in song for who he is and asking God to work in a new way in the city of Watertown. In order to get the word out we have created a website that encourages people to be praying for the city of Watertown. You can find the website HERE.  We have also created a Facebook page HERE.

Goss Opera
The Goss Opera House. Thanks to Grace Ramey Photography for these great pics of Watertown!

Would you do me a favor? Take a moment to pray for Watertown, South Dakota. Pray that the Holy Spirit would be at work in a mighty way. Pray that Christians would be energized with renewed passion to love God and love others. Pray that those who do not yet know Christ would come to know and worship him. Pray that in all that we do that God is glorified. Thank you!

“All revival begins, and continues, in the prayer meeting. Some have also called prayer the “great fruit of revival.” In times of revival, thousands may be found on their knees for hours, lifting up their heartfelt cries, with thanksgiving, to heaven.”

-Henry Blackaby

Yearning For The Holy Spirit To Move In A New Way

As I have pointed out in a couple previous posts (HERE and HERE), preaching from the book of Jonah has me contemplating the idea of revival in our day and time. It’s not hard to understand why when you read this from Jonah 3:1-5:

Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days’ journey in breadth. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.

The incredibly wicked city of Nineveh heard the Word of the Lord, and immediately confessed their sin and turned to God. Amazing. It makes me wonder, could it happen today? In his excellent book, “Revival”, Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out that there are some obstacles that must be overcome if there is going to be revival today. He writes this:

And we, too, must become aware of that, we have got to feel it until we become desperate. We must ask ourselves how we can succeed if we do not have this authority, this commission, this might, this strength and power. We must become utterly and absolutely convinced of our need. We must cease to have so much confidence in ourselves, and in our methods and organisations, and in all our slickness. We have got to realize that we must be filled with God’s Spirit. And we must be equally certain that God can fill us with the Spirit. We have got to realize that however great ‘this kind’ is, the power of God is infinitely greater, that what we need is not more knowledge, more understanding, more apologetics, more reconciliation of philosophy and science and religion, and all modern techniques-no, we need a power that can enter the souls of men and break them and smash them and humble them and then make them anew. And that is the power of the living God. And we must be confident that God has this power as much today as he had one hundred years ago, and two hundred years ago, and so we must begin to seek the power and to pray for it. We must begin to plead and year for it. ‘This kind’ needs prayer.

It is so easy, such a seductive trap, to think that our strategies, or our “slickness,” is what matters when it comes to building the church and making a difference in this world. It reminds me of what we find in the first chapter of Acts, “And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Let me summarize these verses, “don’t launch your church plant, don’t hold a Bible study, don’t do anything or go anywhere until the Spirit of God is empowering you. How many times do we run out in front of God and his Holy Spirit thinking that in our own power we can get things done? Strategies, systems, and plans have their place but for anything meaningful to happen we need to once again experience the power of the Holy Spirit in our midst.

Are you yearning for the Holy Spirit to work in you, your family, your church, and your city in a new way?

Will you join me in praying for a fresh work of the Spirit?

Featured picture is “Pentecost” by Jean II Restout (1692-1768)

“A Praying Life” Seminar

A few years ago I read A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller. I will say that it quickly became one of my favorite books I have ever read about prayer. It is clear that Paul Miller has made prayer the very center of his life. It is invaluable to learn from someone who not understands the importance of prayer theologically but practices it day in, day out.

I am super excited to announce that on Saturday, September 30th, 2017 we are going to be hold “A Praying Life” seminar here at New Life Church.

How do you stay focused in prayer when you are distracted with so much to do?

How do you pray longer than five minutes?

How do you pray when your own life is messed up?

How do you ask when you’ve tried it before and it doesn’t work?

These are the kinds of questions and topics we will explore together. This is not a video simulcast. Bob Allums will be our speaker. Bob has been with seeJesus since the very beginning. He has been in pastoral ministry for over 14 years and has served at Crossway Books & Bibles. His great love is teaching the seeJesus seminars, especially A Praying Life.

You can register for this seminar HERE.

“The A Praying Life seminar is the most practical training in prayer possible, yet it is rooted in biblical theology. I highly recommend it.” -Tim Keller

A Praying Life Seminar Promotional Video from seeJesus on Vimeo.

Book Review: “Difference Makers: An Action Guide For Jesus Followers” by Scott Boren

photo“Difference Makers” by Scott Boren is a book written to encourage and challenge followers of Jesus Christ to make a difference for the kingdom of God in everyday, ordinary life. The book is written so that the reader can focus on one chapter per day. After you have done your reading you are encouraged to spend time prayerfully considering what God is saying to you through his Word.  Here are a few themes of the book that stood out to me:

Making a difference in everyday life: “Most difference makers have more in common with George Bailey (It’s A Wonderful Life) than the heroes of the Avengers. They are ordinary people who make real differences in the small stuff of life, through the unseen actions that don’t appear significant and most often go unnoticed. They connect with neighbors and meet little needs. They befriend a homeless person and allow him to shower in their home from time to time. They tutor a child who needs extra help. However, the superhero trap invades our thinking. We assume that we have to do something big and noticeable to fix the world in order to make a difference. The call of the hero is the call to stand alone, to stand above the crowd, and to depend on one’s own resources to change what’s wrong. I always assumed that the real difference makers came in the form of preachers, foreign missionaries, and those who moved into the inner city to work with the impoverished. While I see no problem with taking on public roles that result in high-profile influence, we need to break the hero mentality and look at the ways God works in the world.” P.26-27

Emphasis on community: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Pet. 2:9). The ‘you’ in this sentence is plural. It is not talking about ‘you’ as an individual. It is about who you are as part of a new nationality, a new citizenship, a new way of living. We are chosen to be part of this people, who are priests to the world together…Difference makers are part of a difference-making society. If you want to serve people at a homeless shelter, then go with a friend or go as a small group. If you want to mentor a child at a local elementary school, find someone with a similar longing and go together. If you want to invest in a family in need, then work with a few other people. Don’t think about what you can do. Think about what God wants to do through a group of his people.” P. 62, 64

Importance of prayer: “God fights for us in ways we can’t, don’t, or won’t. Making a difference is rooted in the action of God, who never stops coming against the lies we so easily believe. The mission of God’s people is to put themselves on the line between the revelation of God’s love and those in need of that love. We put ourselves in this place through prayer. We see the war for what it is. We know that we cannot make things right without tapping into what we cannot see. For a neighbor experiencing domestic violence, we pray. For a co-worker who’s angry with God, we pray. For a family down the street who cannot afford to feed their kids, we pray. We pray not as an alternative to doing something, we pray so that we might have the power to step in with more than good ideas or what we think they need. We pray so that we might act in God’s power and make a difference beyond logical answers.” P. 139-140

Another great quote about prayer is found on page 120, “Prayer opens the door for entry into mission.” What a great reminder for all of us who want to get out there and start making things happen. We need to patiently wait upon the Lord so that we are operating in the power of the Spirit.

Challenging the consumer mentality: “No church is perfect, but that’s not the point. We often miss out on what God is doing through the church because we expect it to be exciting and stimulating. We expect it to meet our needs, and then we go about our normal lives. Of course, that is the pattern of our culture. We participate in very little that fails to meet our needs or entertain us. It is impossible not to carry this mentality into the church. We consume church. Unless we confront this life of consumption, we will never grow up to practice a life that makes a difference. We will move from place to place and fail to stay put long enough with a specific group of people in a specific place to be a specific colony of heaven. Making a difference requires a mentality of investment, not one of consumption. As long as we consume church-in whatever our preferred form-we will miss out on the experience of being God’s colony in a country of death. Being part of a church requires us to stay put, to contribute, to work through difficulties, and to love others even when it would be easier to leave.”

A gospel focus: I am undeniably a gospel junky. Which means I immediately want to know if the author of any Christian book is keeping the gospel central to everything they write. Without the gospel we end up with good advice, no power when it comes to spiritual transformation.  So I was happy to notice that Chapters 22-28 are really all about abiding in Jesus Christ, not merely as an individual, but as a community of believers. The emphasis on the gospel is critical because the idea of sending people out to live as difference makers without abiding in Jesus is a frightening thought.

A good and challenging book that really functions as a devotional that you would read everyday and pray over. I recommend it!