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Love: The Engine that Powered the Asbury Outpouring
At times, hushed whispers of adoration. At other times, exuberant praise and joyous refrains. Hughes Auditorium at Asbury University, in Wilmore, Kentucky, was host to an extraordinary visitation of the Holy Spirit for upwards of 370 hours — more than 15 days. This was a time of lingering and renewal that most had never experienced.
Who is praying on the wall?
Though I spent less than a minute in Hughes Auditorium the day I arrived, the presence of the Lord was so tangible, I burst into tears.
That it was Valentine’s Day — a day on which love is traditionally celebrated — seemed especially significant to me. The holiday named for a martyr whose love was radically Christ-centered has devolved into one that has expanded the definition of love into carnal, ungodly, even evil forms.
God seems to want the day — and the definition of love — back. This outpouring at Asbury was sparked by chapel speaker Rev. Zach Meerkreebs, envision leadership coordinator for the Christian and Missionary Alliance. Meerkreebs, who spoke from Romans 12:9–21, was continuing a series focused on love in action. He challenged students to look at those seated near them and ask the simple, if awkward, question: “Do you love me?” This oft-used English word is actually overused and imprecise, but the Greek word in Romans 12:9 is agape, which can be defined as “seeking the highest good for the other.” The rest of the passage upon which Meerkreebs was speaking illustrates what love in action might look like:
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:9–21, NASB).
It’s a daunting list. An impossible list. And a picture of love in action that may be unknown to many, including Christians.
That love was unknown to Meerkreebs as a youngster. “Some of you guys know my story,” he said. “In my childhood, I experienced what my perpetrator … the person who abused me, called ‘love.’”
Meerkreebs’ willingness to allow the Lord to use his story to touch others resonated. “Some of you guys have experienced radically poor love. Like evil love, selfish love. And I would say today, we should not even give it the honor of calling it ‘love.’”
Instead, Meerkreebs called upon the Lord to bring pure love. “If there’s people in this room that literally feel the weight of that perverted thing that one person called ‘love,’ Holy Spirit, move through these rows,” he prayed. “Move through these rows and love on these people. Jesus, if there’s people who have experienced hypocritical love in the church, heal them to show them Your true self.”
This love, the pure love of Jesus Christ, empowers revival, according to Derek Prince, who wrote of this in Seven Steps To Revival — Volume 1. As Scripture puts it: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35 ESV).
Meerkreebs told the students: “You cannot love until you are loved by Jesus, … 1 John 4, 7 through 20, says we love because He first loved us.”
Agape love is marked by Christlike behaviors, such as preferring others over oneself, loving one’s enemies, and humility. Exactly as the Romans scripture enumerates.
Yet this kind of love is not self-generated. In fact, anything of self will extinguish, suffocate, and murder agape. As Prince points out in Seven Steps To Revival — Volume 1, self-humbling is a mark of agape.
Meerkreebs put it this way:
Stop striving. Stop wearing this heavy burden of, ‘I gotta love because I’m a Christian.’ … You gotta love because you’ve tasted and seen the goodness of God. … You have been loved. You have to continue to put yourself before Jesus and be loved by Him so you can love others.
I can’t get rid of preference without the love of Jesus making me want to give up preference. I can’t forgive my enemies. I can’t forgive my dad who abused me except if I’m loved by Jesus. I can’t forgive those churches that did me wrong until I am experiencing the love of Jesus.
But our puny, human attempts at humbling ourselves are doomed to fail outside of the Lord’s grace. As Prince explains, righteousness — being in right relationship with God — cannot be achieved by rules, trying hard, or good intentions. Righteousness comes from God by faith in Him (see Phil. 3:8–9).
Meerkreebs captured the idea this way:
But what is the source of your love? White-knuckling it, trying really hard? Or is it the love of God for you? What is the purpose of your love?… Is it to get love in return from the person that you’re giving love to? That’s not this love we’re talking about.
And who are, what are you becoming through this expression of love? If you’re loving someone and not becoming more like Jesus in that love, then I would go search what that love really is. … Some of us need to sit in the love of God. Some of us need [to] taste and see and experience the power of the Holy Spirit.
Because if you want to become love, if you really want to become love in action, you start by prostrating yourself before the love of God. … You can’t earn your way to heaven. You can’t blow people’s hair back by your love and your leadership. You have to experience the love of Christ in your life. …
Do not leave here before you learn about the love of God; experience the love of God so you can pour it out. Pour it out. Pour it out. And He will fill you back up.
Asbury, the world needs this kind of love. … Syria and Turkey need this kind of love.
Your mom and dad need this kind of love. The teammates on your team. The people on your floor.
Wilmore, Kentucky. Lexington, Kentucky. The United States needs this kind of love.
They need a bunch of Christians [experiencing] the love of God so they can pour out the love of God. Not through their own efforts and not through their own knowledge, but because they are filled with this love. … Become the love of God by experiencing the love of God.”
This is the invitation to which Meerkreebs called the students of Asbury University on Feb. 8, 2023. When he left, though, he apparently felt his address was less than the best, reportedly texting his wife: “Latest stinker. I’ll be home soon.”
In the way that only He can do, the Lord upended Meerkreebs’ expectations. The King of kings chose to tarry with those who chose to tarry with Him. In this way, love poured into, through, and out of those students and all who entered into the holy invitation.
This is what I experienced in Hughes on Valentine’s day — the circle of godly love of which the Apostle John spoke. Love beginning with God and flowing to us, and flowing back to God and out to our brothers and sisters in the kingdom and beyond (see 1 John 4:7–21).
Will you accept the holy invitation?
Lord, in agreement with Rev. Meerkreebs, we pray as we worship: May we experience more of Your love to be poured out to love others, to become love in action. When You produce fruit in us and in students across the world, we pray specifically for the seniors, that as they prepare to go, they will be filled with the love of God, so that they can pour out the love of God. Choose to do a new thing in our midst. Revive us by Your love. Amen.
Share your story about the Lord’s love below.
New York City–based Joyce Swingle is an intercessor and a contributing writer for IFA. With her husband, Rich, also a contributing writer for IFA, Joyce shares the gospel of Jesus Christ around the world through theater, speaking, writing, and film. Prior to going into full-time ministry, Joyce worked for about 20 major magazines and now works in pastoral ministry and Christian counseling. Photo Credit: Jeremy Story.
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I have watched many hours of God’s move on the campus of Asbury. It reminds of what I have discovered in the study of the Welsh Revival of 1904-1905. In that renewal of thousands of Christians and over 100,000 professions of faith, the centerpiece of the Spirit’s “wave” was worship…not preaching, teaching or even corporate prayer…but WORSHIP. It is reported that it was spontaneous and continual with periodic insertions of Scripture and short reflections. But the essential center of the entire experience over many months was the singing of worship. I found it particularly arresting that one of the hymns that came out of the Welsh Revival was focused purely on Jesus as the Lamb upon His Throne. I believe God is using and will use “unknowns” to continue His ushering in of a mighty, sweeping Revival, the lines which we have perhaps never witnessed before – Revive us, O Lord in the midst of these depraved and desperate years ! (Habakkuk 3:2)
Thanks so much for the part of the prayer that remembers seniors, of which I am a part. Want to pass on to Heaven serving God every day and sharing Christ with the people He brings my way. The fruit is ripe and ready!!! 🍎🍋🍇
This is an awesome article, Joyce! Thank you so much for sharing the message from God’s heart that was given right before revival, broke out at Asbury!
“You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”
Jeremiah 29:13 NASB1995 The students were urged to find God’s heart of forgiveness and He poured out His very Presence upon them and in them. And it is spreading and spreading!!
Thank you, Joyce! I had watched the sermon and was very moved — but seeing the quotes and reading your piece adds so much more power to what he said. So wonderful!!
Thank you so much, Joyce, for letting us know the speaker and the text of the message God used to touch the hearts of Asbury students and cause them “not to leave” until they experienced the love of God. I knew it could not have been “just another unremarkable chapel service,” as some portrayed it.
It has been over 70 years since I forgave the one who committed incest against me. Rev. Meerkreeb’s words brought tears of joy to my eyes as I thought of all those who now walk in freedom from shame or bitterness because of his transparency and invitation.
Matthew 5:44 – Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good for those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you…” A number of years ago, a sniper was shooting people randomly in one of our southern states. For weeks, he killed some and wounded others. The police were frustrated and desperate to arrest him. People were fearful. I prayed: Lord, bless that gunman, direct Your love on the man, do good for the man, I pray for his soul to be saved. The next day, the police located and identified the gunman while he was asleep in his car. They arrested him easily and without incident. God gave him away. A prayer for love is a powerful prayer, but Christians must practice I Cor. 13 qualities of love, or their Christianity is “worthless” (as Paul said.)
This whole Asbury and Revival has moved me so very much! It is time; it is time for this awakening! I can see the Holy Spirit moving to and fro! February 8 was the day I lost my precious son in 2021 and just feel he is somewhat knowledgeable of it all and happy about it! Thank you for all that is helping to coordinate or speak regarding this Revival and am praying for more everywhere!
I’m humbled by how you are looking at the day of Feb. 8 — a day that could be filled with so much sorrow. May the Lord continue to bless you and yours and to redeem this day in His joy. Thank you for sharing. In Him.
Why did God choose Asbury? I think it has to do with humility… and that is where love starts…I can love because He first loved us.
Asbury also has an altar…they never lost sight of offering a place to students and staff, and most recently visitors, where humility and love meet. An altar….Students know they can go down to get Prayer, leave their burdens, meet with The One who hears, heals, and who collects their tears. An altar. Let’s restore that place in our own homes, places of worship, and in our hearts. We have learned from students who lingered as The Holy Spirit found a resting place… And God bowed down to meet them. He will do the same for us. Watch where the altars are still in place and available. When we kneel, He meets us there. Thank you Asbury!
Wow. That is a wonderful side to the revival story that had not been told. Thank you Joyce.
Oh dearest Lord, your love and your righteousness have prevailed through all the ages! In this broken and perplexing world, we pray with all our hearts that you spread the presence of your powerful love throughout this land and across the world. Show us in our daily lives how we can be your hands and feet and mouths to express your sacrificial love, in Jesus’s name.