Don’t Lose That Loving Feeling
Maintaining the fire of revival in my life has required effort. My pride still seems to be the “water” that threatens to put out the fire within me. But the close-up look at the pride in my life when I saw the Lord has made it easier to recognize this specific sin when it makes its periodic attempts to return.
The year I woke up to find my career had replaced Jesus as my “first love,” I repented of my sin and asked the Lord to help me never go back into it. He and I both knew I needed a divine anchor, something to grab at the first hint that my prideful self was resurfacing.
The anchor He gave me was His Word. In particular, the first eleven verses of Philippians 2. Like a magnet, I have been drawn to these words that describe genuine humility — Christ’s humility. This passage is underlined and dated in every Bible I own. It’s on a yellow sticky note on my bathroom mirror. It’s written on the inside cover of my prayer journal. It’s memorized in my brain. It’s the log that helps to keep my fire burning.
More than once in the past five years… I have wearily read through those eleven verses word by word in a stark hotel room in some foreign country… I have prayed through them during my quiet time at home in the sometimes-lonely city where I’ve moved to work in full-time ministry… I have recited them quietly to myself before returning a call to the headhunter who has offered me a high- paying job and the chance to get back on the career path I left. I have felt the Holy Spirit bring the passage to my mind to almost scold me whenever repentance is in order.
In other words, temptations and challenges have come and gone. But when I saw the Lord in a fresh way, He was quick to show me that keeping His Word central in my life was my only hope for never losing the freshness. It really works. His plan for my life is the only one I follow, and I pray I never see it any other way.
Stir Up the Fire
Have you ever worked hard to build a fire, only to have it go out? Although I was raised in a log cabin with five fireplaces, I never learned to build a fire that would last. One of those fireplaces was in my mother’s bedroom. When I would go home, I would invariably find her sitting in her overstuffed chair by the window with a roaring fire on the hearth. As we sat and visited, the fire would die down, and she frequently reminded me to “stir up the fire, Anne,” or “put another log on it.”
You and I can respond to our wake-up call and experience the thrilling fire of personal revival, but if we neglect that fire, it will die out. And nothing is more miserable than a heart that has grown cold, chilling a life that once knew the raging warmth of a passionate relationship with Jesus. Not only does a heart that’s grown cold make us miserable, but it makes Him miserable too. It grieves the Lord. Speaking to the Ephesian church through the apostle John, Jesus explained,
I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance…. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. — Revelation 2:2-4
Jesus loves you and me, and He longs to be loved — really loved — by us in return.
For twelve years I taught a weekly Bible class of five hundred women in our city. I never missed a class. During that time, through the disciplined study of His Word, God gave me a wonderful love for Jesus. At the end of those twelve years, I knew with absolute certainty God was calling me to leave the class and go into an itinerant, Bible-teaching ministry.
I left the class and went out into the world. Literally. Three months later I found myself in Fiji helping lead a conference of five hundred pastors who had come in from other islands for miles around. Five months later I was in Brazil leading another conference for approximately fifteen hundred pastors and evangelists from all over the country and squeezing in a youth conference of more than two thousand young people. In between Fiji and Brazil, I was teaching in seminars and conferences every week in the United States.
Gradually I became aware that I was having to drag myself into my quiet time, that my heart no longer seemed to be uplifted in worship, and that I didn’t feel any real joy, but I thought I was just tired. I thought I must be suffering from prolonged jet lag along with time and food changes.
One morning, in my devotions, I read Revelation 2:1-7 and sensed, in my heart, Jesus speaking to me:
Anne, I know your deeds. I know all about Fiji and the extra sessions that were dumped on you that you accepted because of your commitment to Me. I know all about Brazil and the women’s sessions you booked into your free time because of your heart to get others into My Word. I know your hard work and your perseverance. I know you have endured hardships in My name and have not grown weary. Thank you, Anne, for all you are doing to serve Me. Yet I hold this against you: you are losing your love for Me.
When I came to that verse, I kept on reading. I knew He couldn’t be speaking to me! After all, I was traveling around the world telling others how to love Him! Surely He wasn’t speaking to me!
But He was! He kept drawing my attention back to those verses until I finally listened to what He had to say. I would have denied it and vehemently argued, except it was Jesus who was speaking to me! And I knew that whenever He speaks, it’s the truth. Finally, the light of His Word penetrated my delusion. Deep in my heart, I acknowledged that I wasn’t just tired; I was losing my love for Him! I cannot tell you how devastatingly painful that revelation was to me. I yearned to love Him, and I thought I did. But He did not agree.
With tears streaming down my cheeks, I asked, “Lord, what would You have me do?”
He replied from Revelation 2:5.
Remember the height from which you have fallen.
Remember what it was like to love Me with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.
I remembered. That love was the “height” in my relationship with Christ. And when I lost it, it was a long way down.
Then, still from verse 5, He said, “Repent.”
Repentance means to stop it: stop going in one direction; turn around, and go in the opposite direction. Since a “first love” is an emotional, affectionate, passionate love, and because emotions really can’t be controlled or dictated, I responded, “Lord, how? I want to repent of losing my first love for You, I want to stop not loving You emotionally and affectionately and passionately. But how? I am willing to repent, but I don’t know how.”
Again, He spoke to me from verse 5. “Return to the things you did at first.”
And I answered, “What things? Things I did when I was first born again? Things I did when I first began to serve You?”
And He seemed to point out two “first things” I needed to return to.
Simply stated, the two things were the “logs” for the revival fire: daily, disciplined prayer and Bible reading. The fire in my heart was burning dangerously low because it didn’t have enough fuel. Believe me, before that day was out, I had added those logs to my fire! And within a short time, it was rekindled into a roaring blaze.
Your fire will go out also if you neglect to stir it up and stop putting the logs on it.
So… stir up the fire!
Excerpted with permission from Expecting to See Jesus by Anne Graham Lotz, copyright Anne Graham Lotz.
Let’s get fired up! We have to stoke our fires for Jesus and stay hot for Him and pursuing Him with all of our hearts. Is your fire going out? Put logs on it! Come share your thoughts with us on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily