From the Renovaré Newsletter Archive

The selection below is from a November 1998 Renovaré newsletter. Download a PDF of the original newsletter.

Dear Friends,

Jesus, on the last and great­est day of the Jew­ish Feast of Taber­na­cles, stood up, cry­ing out, Let every­one who is thirsty come to me and drink. All who believe in me, as the Scrip­ture has said, out of their inner­most being shall flow rivers of liv­ing water” (John 7:38). In this dra­mat­ic and prophet­ic act Jesus was herald­ing the com­ing of that great out­pour­ing of the Spir­it which came at Pen­te­cost. And to this very day a mighty riv­er of the Spir­it is burst­ing forth from the hearts of women and men, boys and girls.

Ezekiel’s Vision of the Riv­er of God

Jesus’ prophet­ic word is pre­fig­ured in a great vision giv­en to the prophet Ezekiel. The back­ground is this. In July B.C. 586 the Baby­lo­ni­ans breached the walls of the city of Jerusalem, and on 14 August the Tem­ple, the holi­est site of the Jew­ish peo­ple, was burned to the ground. Israel’s monar­chy was end­ed; the City of David and the holy Tem­ple of God were no more. But then, out of the ash­es of this cat­a­stroph­ic destruc­tion God gives Ezekiel — an exile in far away Baby­lon — a stun­ning series of visions which look to a future day of res­ur­rec­tion, restora­tion, and renew­al for the peo­ple of God. These visions cov­er ful­ly twelve chap­ters, and they are a mar­velous descrip­tion of life as it is meant to be lived under the effec­tive reign of God (Ezek. 37 – 48).

Per­haps you are acquaint­ed with Ezekiel’s vision of the val­ley of dry bones that are brought to life by the pow­er of God. You may even recall his vision of a restored Tem­ple and a renewed wor­ship for the peo­ple of God. But you may not be as famil­iar with his star­tling vision of the Riv­er of God which flows out from under the thresh­old of this restored Tem­ple of the Spir­it. I say star­tling” because every­thing sur­round­ing this vision is about walls and stones, bricks and mor­tar. Then, sud­den­ly, right in the midst of these sta­t­ic images, Ezekiel sees water pour­ing out from under the altar; the Riv­er of God flow­ing with life and pow­er. It is a vision which looks both back­ward and for­ward: back­ward to the riv­er flow­ing from the gar­den of Eden; for­ward to the riv­er of the water of life” which is flow­ing eter­nal­ly through the mid­dle of the New Jerusalem (Gen. 2:10, Rev. 22:1).

In Ezekiel’s vision a heav­en­ly mes­sen­ger takes him to the entrance of the tem­ple and he sees water … flow­ing from below the thresh­old of the tem­ple.” He next escorts Ezekiel out­side the tem­ple court and shows him the Riv­er of God flow­ing out beyond the perime­ter of the tem­ple area. This, you see, is a Riv­er of life that sim­ply can­not be con­fined to any reli­gious sys­tem, no mat­ter how worthy.

With a cord in his hand the mes­sen­ger mea­sures out one thou­sand cubits and he takes Ezekiel out into the water and it was ankle-deep.” Mea­sur­ing anoth­er thou­sand cubits he leads Ezekiel fur­ther out, and it was knee-deep.” With a third mea­sure­ment of a thou­sand cubits Ezekiel is tak­en fur­ther yet and it was up to the waist.” With a final mea­sure­ment of a thou­sand cubits Ezekiel dis­cov­ers that it was a riv­er that I could not cross, for the water had risen; it was deep enough to swim in, a riv­er that could not be crossed.” You under­stand, I am sure, that regard­less of how far we go into the real­i­ties of the Spir­it, we can nev­er exhaust God’s bound­less resources.

Ezekiel then sees along the banks of the Riv­er of God a great many trees on the one side and on the oth­er.” Then the heav­en­ly mes­sen­ger tells him that beyond what he can see this water flows out from Jerusalem toward the Dead Sea and that when it enters the sea, the sea of stag­nant waters, the water will become fresh.… and every­thing will live where the riv­er goes” (Ezek. 47:1 – 9).

Every­thing the Riv­er Touches

What a mar­velous vision for your life and mine. The Riv­er of God is flow­ing today. No one can stop it, and no one can con­tain it. It is a deep Riv­er of divine inti­ma­cy, a pow­er­ful Riv­er of holy liv­ing, a danc­ing Riv­er of jubi­la­tion in the Spir­it, and a wide Riv­er of uncon­di­tion­al love for all peoples.

And the promise is that every­thing the Riv­er touch­es will live! Oh, my friend, may I urge you, as I urge myself, to step into the flow of this mighty Riv­er of God. Today. Now. Even as you read these words. Step into the Riv­er of God and then deter­mine nev­er to step out. This is a con­scious­ly cho­sen course of action that involves both group and indi­vid­ual life. Let it be for us, as Jesus says, that streams of liv­ing water will ever flow out of our inner­most being.

At times we will be ankle-deep in the Riv­er. A lit­tle like chil­dren in a wad­ing pool we laugh and sing and dance, and play. We are expe­ri­enc­ing the Father-heart of God’s accep­tance and plea­sure and joy. And the bro­ken­ness of our spir­it, the wound­ed­ness of our heart, the ache of our soul is healed. For every­thing the Riv­er touch­es will live!

At oth­er times we will be knee-deep in the Riv­er. The knees often speak of the prayer life, and per­haps we now enter fuller expe­ri­ences of ask­ing and receiv­ing, hear­ing and obey­ing. Pray­ing sim­ply becomes the nat­ur­al and nec­es­sary way of liv­ing for us: see­ing only what the Father sees, hear­ing only what the Father hears, doing only what the Father does. And a new seren­i­ty, a new firm­ness of life ori­en­ta­tion, a new shalom per­vades us inside and out. For every­thing the Riv­er touch­es will live! Still oth­er times we will be waist-deep in the Riv­er. The old ver­sions use the word loins” here, which sug­gest a deep­en­ing into the divine inti­ma­cy. We expe­ri­ence a secret, peace­ful, lov­ing inflow of God. Our Beloved takes us into the wed­ding-cham­ber as it were. And our respond­ing love grows rich­er, stronger, more steady. For every­thing the Riv­er touch­es will live!

Then, too, we will have times when the waters rise and we are swim­ming — swim­ming in a Riv­er that can­not be crossed. Here we dis­cov­er some­thing of the lim­it­less height and depth and width and breadth of God. We are car­ried by a cur­rent of life and pow­er that is sim­ply beyond us. We find that the impact of our actions far exceeds the work we have done. We know that a God-thing is hap­pen­ing. And we bow in won­der, ado­ra­tion, and praise. For every­thing the Riv­er touch­es will live!

One small word of coun­sel: it is God, not us, who decides where we need to be in the Riv­er— ankle-deep, knee-deep, waist-deep, swim­ming. It is all under his direc­tion. We must not try to plunge into the cen­ter cur­rent when we need to be splash­ing along the shore; nor should we stay in the com­fort of the shal­lows when God is call­ing us out into the depths. God knows. We can trust him to place us where we need to be, when we need to be there. Our task is a sim­ple one: with a con­scious act of will we intend to stay in the Riv­er of God. For every­thing the Riv­er touch­es will live!

A Mark­er and a Future

These mat­ters apply to groups and church­es and orga­ni­za­tions just as ful­ly as to indi­vid­u­als. All of us asso­ci­at­ed with this tail-light­ing min­istry” we call REN­O­VARÉ, for exam­ple, have expe­ri­enced the full range of ankle-knee-waist-swim­ming” adven­tures. We remem­ber each expe­ri­ence with thanks­giv­ing and praise.

In fact, we are com­ing upon a decade mark­er of sorts. On 21 Novem­ber 1988 five of us signed the papers which made REN­O­VARÉ a prop­er­ly rec­og­nized non-prof­it Cor­po­ra­tion. Back then we had only God and a laser print­er. Since that day a decade ago over 18,000 have joined our ranks in one form or anoth­er. Ful­ly 7,891 souls have signed the REN­O­VARÉ Covenant, indi­cat­ing their con­scious com­mit­ment to be dis­ci­ples of Jesus Christ, learn­ing (as Dal­las Willard has taught us to say) to live our lives as Jesus would live our lives if Jesus were us. I thank God for each one, ever pre­cious in God’s sight, car­ry­ing as we do an eter­nal weight of glory.”

Over these ten years we have held some forty-four Region­al Con­fer­ences, and near­ly thir­ty oth­er local con­fer­ences, spe­cial sem­i­nars, and retreats. At times we have laughed and danced. At oth­er times we have been on our knees in prayer­ful con­se­cra­tion. Repeat­ed­ly we have felt the warmth and care of God’s over­whelm­ing love. Then, too, we have had times when we felt in over our heads, and, yet, in that very moment we were being car­ried along by a cur­rent and life not our own.

And what of the future? Oh, that ques­tion is easy to answer: it def­i­nite­ly feels like one of those over our heads” times! All who read this pas­toral let­ter know of our com­mit­ment to hold an Inter­na­tion­al Con­fer­ence in Hous­ton next June 30 — July 3. (How I hope I will see you there!) This sin­gle event exceeds our entire annu­al bud­get. But, through a full year of prayer­ful dis­cern­ment— watch­ing doors open and signs giv­en — we believe God has been say­ing to us, It’s time to swim.” And so we have ven­tured out into the Riv­er where our feet no longer touch the bot­tom and we have been feel­ing the thrill of the cur­rent of God’s love and pow­er. This gives us con­fi­dence that the Hous­ton Con­fer­ence will be an espe­cial­ly God-kissed event.

Many oth­er hopes and dreams dance in our heads. We have an Insti­tute of Spir­i­tu­al For­ma­tion on the draw­ing boards wait­ing for God’s tim­ing. In May 1999 I will be in Eng­land explor­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ties (and per­haps even par­tic­i­pat­ing in the launch) of a British expres­sion of REN­O­VARÉ. Many oth­er inter­na­tion­al venues are open doors before us: Aus­tralia, Ger­many, and Korea are among our top priorities.

Dal­las Willard and I are work­ing on the pos­si­ble launch of a series of Sum­mits on Chris­t­ian Spir­i­tu­al­i­ty” that we hope will help artic­u­late the direc­tion of spir­i­tu­al­i­ty in our day. We are look­ing to do these Sum­mit” gath­er­ings in North Amer­i­ca, South Amer­i­ca, Europe, South­east Asia, Africa, and Australia/​New Zealand. It is pos­si­ble that they will be fol­lowed by a world gathering.

I could go on and on. In each case we are watch­ing the flow of the Riv­er of God and see­ing what part we have to play in it all.

Ask­ing, Seek­ing, Knocking

All of this to say that we need your help as nev­er before. Every dream needs fund­ing. Not every dream, of course, is to be act­ed upon, and our com­mit­ment to you is to con­tin­ue to prayer­ful­ly dis­cern which dreams we should act upon and which we should let pass into obliv­ion. We believe that God will give us the mon­ey to do what we are being called to do.

This is where you come in. I am ask­ing, seek­ing, knock­ing. Of God … and of you. Will you help us? You can say no, of course, and some because of life cir­cum­stances should say no. But many oth­ers need to say yes. Some can say yes in a small way. Oth­ers can say yes in a large way. But every yes is a YES to God. (Even those who must say no in a mon­e­tary sense can do so in the spir­it of a mighty YES to God.)

Sev­er­al friends of REN­O­VARÉ have joined togeth­er to set before us a $26,000.00 match­ing chal­lenge gift. (How very gra­cious and gen­er­ous of them!) There­fore, every dol­lar you give to this work in the days ahead will be matched, thus dou­bling the good you do. This makes the present an opti­mum time for you to help us.

We all have a pri­or­i­ty oblig­a­tion to the poor and I urge you to give gen­er­ous­ly and joy­ful­ly to the poor. Then, I urge you to give gen­er­ous­ly and joy­ful­ly to wher­ev­er you are being nur­tured spir­i­tu­al­ly — and I most fer­vent­ly hope that REN­O­VARÉ is part of that net­work of spir­i­tu­al nur­ture you are receiving.

God bless you and strength­en you at this beau­ti­ful sea­son of the year. Remem­ber: stay ever in the flow of the Riv­er of God. For every­thing the Riv­er touch­es shall live!

Peace and joy,

Richard J. Foster

Text First Published November 1998 · Last Featured on Renovare.org May 2022

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