Revive Us, O Lord

You might be familiar with the word to an old hymn:

Revive us again;
Fill each heart with Thy love.
May each soul be rekindled
With fire from above.
~ from “Revive Us Again” by William P. Mackay 

Whatever happened to the words “revive” and “revival”? These used to be spoken of more, even prayed for, in churches but have somehow fallen on the wayside. This is tragic, since we are in such desperate need of revival.

Imagine, for a moment, a cruise ship. On board are people involved in various activities. Some are working, some are in meetings concerning itinerary, and others are running to the next fun activity. Many are content with a sense of safety and security. However, look over the rails and there are literally multitudes drowning in the waters. Is this not unthinkable that those on the ship would not have a sense of urgency to help as many as they could?

I am not trying to be critical nor am I saying fun, rest, and relaxation are wrong. However, are not many churches like this ship and its passengers? We have our meetings and planners set for coming events, but often there lacks any real sense of urgency. Oh sure, we want our churches to grow numerically, but does it always have to do with “souls being saved”? While we might say, “Yes!” But does this include those who are quite different than us? The “sinners” and outcasts for whom Jesus also died? Shame on us when the gospel is more for “people like us.” Lord God, have mercy on us for our Pharisaical hypocrisies!

Our church events, like any secular entertainment, are fleeting. The persons (i.e., souls) around us are eternal. How can our hearts not be burdened for the perishing? Oh, that God would revive us again!

We’re Going to Heaven (but So Many Won’t Go)

We’re going to Heaven—O glorious day!
But still there’s so many who are lost on the way.
Will our hearts have compassion, will we be saddened so—
That we’re going to Heaven, but so many won’t go?

We’re going to Heaven, but so many to hell;
My brothers and sisters we have Great News to tell—
That on an ol’ Cross Jesus died for our sins,
Opening Heaven so that all may go in.

We’re going to Heaven, but are family and friends?
Will they know Jesus when they come to the end?
Oh, do they know how much God loves them so?
We’re going to Heaven, but will they, too, go?

We’re going to Heaven—O glorious day!
But still there’s so many who are lost on the way.
Praise God, Jesus saves! Let the redeemed say so—
We’re going to Heaven … but so many won’t go.
~ Geno Pyse

The Anatomy of Love

Our society talks a lot about love. It is portrayed in movies, sang about in songs, placed on t-shirts (eg., “I [heart] _____”), and painted on posters (e.g., “Give love a chance” “Make love, not war”). But the love of the world is, too often, romanticized and superficial. After all, many in Hollywood know nothing of devoted commitment of the characters they portray. Music celebrities are often known for their activities with groupies after the gigs. T-shirts are mere pieces of cloth, and those at protest rallies with posters crying out for love are often vessels of hatred, spewing out, “Burn in hell!” Die, you pigs!” “Damn you!” to all who disagree with their position.

The world’s version(s) of love is childish, fairy-tale make believe. The world’s version is like a marshmallow, a squishy puff of sugar. However, authentic love has substance of bone and flesh, so to speak, having an actual anatomy.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-6

Now, let’s consider briefly the anatomy, or structure, of love:

Patient (or long-suffering) – love bears with other’s differences, quirks, and mistakes without becoming quickly annoyed or rejecting hastily.

Kind – love is gentle and benevolent.

Content – love is not competitive; it is not envious when someone else has nor does it boast when someone else does not have.

Humble – love views others with equality of worth; it does not show partiality nor is it filled with contempt for others. Love does not feel superior to others.

Selfless – love does not demand its own way but considers the needs and wants of others. 

Levelheaded / Forgiving – love does not keep tally each time another fails, demanding absolute perfection. Love does not nurse a grudge to keep such bitterness alive.

Righteous / Honest – love does not not delight in evil or harm of others, nor does it take any delight in falsehood, gossip, or slander.

When fleshed out, love has real substance. Genuine love is not for the weak. Any fool can get angry, be rude, refuse to forgive, or desire harm to another. Any fool can scream profanities and derogatory statements in the midst of a rally. And any fool can look upon another with such contempt and hatred easily enough. 

It is easy to betray a friendship when one does not get his or her own way. It is easy to curse another rather than taking the time to understand them. However, what is hard, what is extremely difficult, is having genuine benevolence for others simply because they are human beings, regardless if they are like us, or attractive to us, or even kind toward us.

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good …Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. ~ Romans 12:9, 13-21

In the Person of Jesus Christ we have the perfect example of genuine love put into action. Jesus was kind and welcoming to the misfits and outcasts; He was gentle with people’s failures and shortcomings. While the Scriptures do show He was angry on a few occasions, it was always in connection with people’s hypocrisy, injustice, and hard-heartedness towards others; ironically, He prayed for forgiveness concerning those who persecuted and crucified Him.

Genuine love is both benevolent and sacrificial for the sake of others. For all the talk and portrayals of love in our society, do these correspond with reality? How can it when we are so busy flinging mud, refusing to see any common ground; when we have such disdain for others whose political leanings are different than ours; when the “end justifies the means” while destroying others, regardless of any deception or smoke and mirrors, as if injustice can bring about justice?

My friend, love is hard. It requires courage to lower the defenses and resolve to put off our egos. It requires humility to “turn the other cheek” and to consider the needs of others. It requires commitment to hang tight when every part of you simply wants to let go. Only as we are willing to become weak will we truly become strong.

“Hell no! That’s stupid! I’m not humbling myself for nobody!” many will say. Ah, but this is precisely why we are in the mangled, divided mess we are in today. Nevertheless, unless we are willing to humble our own selves, extend kindness, meet on some common ground, and treat others with courtesy and respect, we might as well throw away our banners and burn our placards extolling love and unity. For there is no other way these can be attained. We must study the anatomy of love and put into practice its various elements. Cursing, force, and violence will only  produce more unrest, keeping us in the mangled, bloody mess we are in. Only genuine love will lead us to a productive peace and unity we claim to desire.

Lessons In the Dark (Failure Does Not Have to Be Definitive)

There are times when a person must go through times of darkness. The reasons vary, but sometimes darkness comes as a result of immense failure. Such was the case for the man of God Samson.

Before he was even conceived Samson was ordained to be a deliverer for the people of Israel. By the Spirit of God he was granted incredible strength and valor. His life was to be holy and consecrated to the Lord. Yet, when we read the account of Samson in the book of Judges, we read of a man who squandered his privileges (even having sex with a prostitute [see Jud. 16:1]), and who took his abilities for granted. This squandering eventually cost him dearly.

Samson later falls in love with the woman Delilah. The lords of the Philistines convinced her to seduce Samson and find where his strength came from. After three failed attempts, Delilah pouted and reasoned, “How can you say you love me if you are not willing to tell me your secret?” Being beguiled by the woman, Samson shares his heart and what was not to be revealed. After he falls asleep, Delilah cut Samson’s hair and the Philistines rush in to subdue him. We then read the dreadful words,

And she said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And he awoke from his sleep and said, “I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had left him. ~ Judges 16:20 (ESV)

For so long Samson took his privileges, anointing, and victories for granted he was oblivious to the fact the Lord departed from him. He was to experience such profoundly humiliating defeat. After rushing on him, the Philistines gouged out Samson’s eyes, put him in shackles, and imprisoned him at the grinding mill.

Samson was alone in the darkness of his blindness, yet it was here that he had time to reflect, grieve, confess, and listen. He was learning hard lessons of squandered privileges, of pride, of immorality, etc. Yet, among all these lessons he would also learn of God’s grace and faithfulness. God would yet hear Samson’s prayer and grant him a major victory. Centuries later he would be named among people of faith:

And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets—who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions. ~ Hebrews 11:32-33

Perhaps you have tasted the bitterness of failure and experiencing its painful consequences. May you take courage in the Lord and find some peace in His promises. Due to your folly, may you listen to the instructions of the Holy Spirit and gain some wisdom.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. ~ Proverbs 1:7

Your failures do not have to define your identity or your future. Consequences might be devastating, but they do not need to demolish hope if you will be still in your darkness. Turn to Christ, and listen to His Spirit. Confess your sin(s), admit your guilt, and own up to your failures. There can still be mighty victories won through Him.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. ~ 1 John 1:9

My enemies, don’t be glad because of my troubles! I may have fallen, but I will get up; I may be sitting in the dark, but the Lord is my light. I have sinned against the Lord. And so I must endure his anger, until he comes to my defense. But I know that I will see him making things right for me and leading me to the light. ~ Micah 7:8-9 (CEV)

It’s a Beautiful Morning

Followers of Jesus Christ are not to live in deliberate or habitual sin. We are asked, “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom. 6:1 -2, ESV). Furthermore, elsewhere the purposes of both grace and salvation are explained:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age. ~ Titus 2:11-12

Even so, the Bible teaches us, “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins, (Ecc. 7:10) and “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 Jn. 1:8).  And life teaches us experientially that we can sometimes blow it profoundly! How many of us have asked, “Will God forgive me of this? Again???” In fact, some give up altogether that God still loves them and can forgive them.

My friend, perhaps you have asked such questions. Maybe you are wrestling with such doubts now. Believe me, I have been there numerous times. But God’s grace truly is amazing, and the death Jesus died in our stead transcends our understanding. I hope you will be encouraged by the following passages:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ~ Lamentations 3:22-23

As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. ~ Psalm 103:13-14

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. ~ 1 John 1:9

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. ~ Psalm 51:17

Perhaps you have blown it big time and guilt haunts you. My friend, look to the cross and the glorious and merciful Savior who had been slain upon it and is now alive forevermore! Find refuge in His mercy and peace in His great love for you. His mercies are new every morning, and there is never a time when we are not in need of them.