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REVIVE US AGAIN?

REVIVE US AGAIN?

I grew up the son of the preacher of a First Baptist Church in a small Louisiana town (Ponchatoula, not that it really matters here). Twice every year we would have scheduled revival services.

A preacher/evangelist would come to town especially to preach for us. Often there would be a guest music leader, too.

In the week leading up to revival, we would have "cottage prayer meetings" that would take place in homes around town, praying for God to send us a revival.

We would sing the great old hymns about revival, singing:

    Lord, send a revival
    Lord, send a revival
    Lord, send a revival
    And let it begin in me

and

    Revive us again
    Fill each heart with thy love
    May each soul be rekindled
    With fire from above

    Hallelujah, Thine the glory
    Hallelujah, amen
    Hallelujah, Thine the glory
    Revive us again

The visiting minister would often stay with us and we got to meet a lot of great men of God. Many wonderful meals were enjoyed during this week. We also had early morning services and hot donuts afterward!!

God's Spirit would move and people's hearts would be stirred. Many would commit to be better servants of the Lord.

Such beautiful memories!!!



AND ALL WRONG



Now before you jump on me about saying it was wrong, I need to clarify that I'm NOT saying the way we did things was wrong. What I AM saying is that my perception of the whole thing was wrong.

There are a lot of things that I didn't fully understand. Perhaps I still don't. I hope I'm still learning and growing.

Let me give you a pertinent example. In the second chapter of Acts, we read, "When the day of Pentecost had arrived, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like that of a violent rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were staying. And tongues, like flames of fire that were divided, appeared to them and rested on each one of them." In case you are wondering, all my scripture quotes use the Holman Christian Standard Bible.

We used to have "hurricane lamps" that we pulled out and lit whenever there was a storm and the power went out. The lamps had a fairly small flame, but put out a good bit of light. Remember when they used to do cartoons and things where a light bulb would appear over the head of someone who had an idea? These two things are kind of how I always pictured these "tongues of fire", a flame about the size of a light bulb over their heads. Again, ALL WRONG!

As I have studied God's word over the last few years, it has become clear to me that God's fire is NOTHING like that.

I won't give you the full text of these, but here is a list of places where God is described as a CONSUMING FIRE:
  • Exodus 24:17
  • Deuteronomy 4:24
  • Deuteronomy 9:3
  • Psalm 18:8
  • Isaiah 29:6
  • Isaiah 30:27
  • Isaiah 30:30
  • Isaiah 33:14
  • Hebrews 12:29


Sometimes, that consuming fire is a terrible thing. Let me give you of a few examples:
  • In Genesis 19, Lot has been warned by angels to leave Sodom and Gomorrah because of the extreme evil of the cities. Lot and his family left, "Then the Lord rained burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah from the Lord out of the sky." (verse 24)
  • During the exodus from Egypt, we are told in Numbers 11:1-3, "Now the people began complaining openly before the Lord about hardship. When the Lord heard, His anger burned, and the fire from the Lord blazed among them and consumed the outskirts of the camp."
  • Also during the exodus, three men (Korah, Dathan, and Abiram) led a revolt against Moses and Aaron. This story is in Numbers 16. Verse 32 says that "the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and their households". But there is more to the story. There were 250 men who were planning to be "priests" under the new leadership. After the leaders were "swallowed", verse 35 tells us, "Fire also came out from the Lord and consumed the 250 men who were presenting the incense."
  • When the people of Israel, led by Moses and Aaron, presented their first sacrifices to God, we are told in Leviticus 10:1-2, "Aaron's sons Nadab and Abihu each took his own firepan, put fire in it, placed incense on it, and presented unauthorized fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them [to do]. Then flames leaped from the Lord's presence and burned them to death before the Lord."


It would be pretty scary if we stopped there, but there are some wonderful examples of God's consuming fire:
  • The last example I gave you from Leviticus 10, was preceded by this in Leviticus 9:23-24: "Moses and Aaron then entered the tent of meeting. When they came out, they blessed the people, and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. Fire came out from the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. And when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell facedown [on the ground]."
  • In Judges 6, we are told about Gideon's call by God to lead Israel. Gideon tells the Angel of the Lord that he's not able to do what needs to be done. He is then told to prepare a meal. Verses 20 and 21 tell us, "The Angel of God said to him, 'Take the meat with the unleavened bread, put it on this stone, and pour the broth [on it].' And he did so. The Angel of the Lord extended the tip of the staff that was in His hand and touched the meat and the unleavened bread. Fire came up from the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened bread. Then the Angel of the Lord vanished from his sight."
  • One of the favorite stories from the Old Testament is the story of Elijah's "battle" with the prophets of Baal. As you will recall, 1 Kings 18:38 says, "Then Yahweh's fire fell and consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench."
  • David planned to build a temple for God, but was not allowed to do so. Instead, his son Solomon built the temple according to David's plans. Once the temple was completed, all of Israel gathered for the dedication ceremony. Sacrifices were prepared and placed on the altar. Then Solomon prayed. In 2 Chronicles 7:1, we read, "When Solomon finished praying, fire descended from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple."


You may ask, that's nice history but what does it have to do with revival?

First, you will notice that in each of these examples, man didn't build the fire. The fire came directly from God.

We also see that the consuming fire from God is sometimes used as punishment, but is also sent to consume the sacrifices of His people. And these weren't little lamp fires. They were big fires.

I now believe that the "tongues of fire" over the heads of the disciples in Acts 2 were more like bonfires.

But there's more. And this is where it gets personal for me.

One of the first Bible verses that I can remember memorizing is Romans 12:1. It says, "Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a LIVING SACRIFICE, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship." (The emphasis there is mine.) I always read this kind of like "be a good boy for Jesus".

Revelation 3:15-16 relates God saying to the church at Laodicea, "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of My mouth."

I find myself in a very real struggle.

God hates lukewarm. I hate lukewarm. I'm sick of being lukewarm. But I also like being in control.

I want to present myself as a living sacrifice to God. But that means being CONSUMED BY HIM. This thought shouldn't frighten me, but it does because I LIKE BEING IN CONTROL.

Father Yahweh, please help me. Revive me. Consume me!


UPDATE:

My dear friend Curt pointed out to me that Elijah didn't ask God to consume the sacrifice. And he was right. I went back and looked at all four of the stories that I mentioned before where God consumed the sacrifices. Here is what I found:

  • Moses and Aaron blessed the people
  • Gideon asked (Judges 6:17), "give me a sign that it is really you talking to me."
  • Elijah's prayer in 1 Kings 18:36 was, "today let it be known that You are God in Israel".
  • Solomon prayed a lengthy prayer, concluding by asking God to come and fill His temple.


So, rather than asking God to revive me and consume me, perhaps I should be praying:
  • Lord, bless me.
  • Lord, show me that you are with me.
  • Lord, show that you are God.
  • Fill me, Lord.
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