March 22, 2017

Mercy and grace: much needed

I’m a pessimist. I’ve tried to change, but still tend toward negativity before seeing the upside of situations. However, it is safe to conclude that God uses negativity; all the OT prophets were black and white pessimists. They saw the danger and evil in their world and preached against it. In the plan of God, this is far more important and truthful than telling sinners “don’t worry, be happy.”

When I read the news, being pessimistic is easy. My news app on Windows 10 allows feeds according to interests. I’ve put in “inspiring news” and even those clips are often bad news. My heart is heavy, yet bad news gives me fodder for prayer.

The state of the church does that too. While many congregations are vibrant and growing in faith, there are others who have tripped along the way, falling into various problems that have distracted them from their purpose. I’m quick to spot this in groups and individuals. My challenge is to pray rather than criticize.

Today’s Scripture describes how this was not unusual in the past. The psalmist saw a need in God’s people and like I’ve learned, he pleads to God for revival:

“Lord, you were favorable to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob. You forgave the iniquity of your people; you covered all their sin. Selah You withdrew all your wrath; you turned from your hot anger. Restore us again, O God of our salvation, and put away your indignation toward us! Will you be angry with us forever? Will you prolong your anger to all generations? Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Show us your steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation. Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints; but let them not turn back to folly. Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land. Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other. Faithfulness springs up from the ground, and righteousness looks down from the sky. Yes, the Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase. Righteousness will go before him and make his footsteps a way.” (Psalm 85:1–13)

They started out well. God had forgiven their sin and blessed their lives. However, something happened that angered God about their behavior. While the psalmist does not list their sins, their history includes going their own way without consulting Him and falling into idol worship. For this and all other sin, the psalmist asks for a return to their former relationship with God. It began with His love and mercy toward them, which enabled them to love Him and be merciful to one another. He spoke peace to them and in His love and righteousness, they responded with faithfulness. Unfortunately, they did not stay in this attitude.

The psalmist might have preached to the people, but he knew that “pulling up their socks” does not work. We cannot save ourselves, nor can we revive ourselves when we fall into sin. Salvation is of God. O Lord, show us Your love and grant us your salvation.

Jesus, I have been praying for revival and You have answered by working on my own heart. I’ve seen sin in me that I never realized was there. This reveals to me that the people I pray for are likely as blind to their own need as I have been. We need You to open our eyes and our hearts so that we see our sins and repent, no matter what they are. I know that if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us, but if we confess our sins, You are is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored! Renew our days as of old and bring us back to our first love.

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