Peter walked briskly through the dusty road, his hands loosely swinging by his sides. His pace let everyone around him know his was on a mission and soon, there were several following his lead. They’d seen the look of determination on his face before and knew exactly where he was going: the upper room.
Peter swatted at the fly darting annoyingly at his face, and whispered to himself, “Jesus.” He immediately felt the aggravation melt away, but his attention caught the edge of Mary’s flitting skirt and his muscles tensed with that familiar ache. He forced his face forward and whispered again, “Jesus.” He walked faster, watching his feet move through the street to avoid the constant distractions. Then a scream pulled him from his concentration and he looked up just in time to avoid the donkey barreling toward him, dragging its harried owner. Peter breathed hugely and whispered, “Jesus.”
By the time Peter made it to the upper room, he’d endured a solid hour of temptation and distraction. The name of Jesus had become like the pulse of his heart, gushing from his lips. Never had he felt so attacked … or determined. He settled himself near the window in the upper room and closed his eyes as others trickled in. They whispered in wonder, and he continued to press in despite the hissing noise that was trying to tear him away. “Jesus.”
He’d been up for hours now, unable to sleep. Finally, he responded to the Spirit calling him and he went to the upper room. Although everyone was wondering why he was there and if he had something to share, he kept his eyes closed and his mind on Christ. Eventually, they all followed suit and began to pray with him. Their eyes were no longer on Peter, no longer on each other. Like a mantra, they whispered throughout the room, “Jesus.” Time lost all meaning, and Jesus was now on their lips, now on their hearts and minds. Then suddenly, Peter felt the wind began to blow gently and peace descended on him. As the breeze picked up, he felt the strangest mixture of heaviness and lightness all at once. He opened his mouth to breathe deeply, and after one huge inhale, words began to spill forth. Strange words. Words he had never heard before, but felt from the depths of his stomach came rushing out of his mouth, accompanied by the greatest power he’d ever felt. It reminded him of Jesus.
The room erupted. Noise came from every corner. Peter opened his eyes to see fire hovering above the heads of his friends and family, and incoherence spilling from their mouths. Still the power coursed through him and he lifted his hands and refocused his mind on Jesus. Before long, he heard a huge commotion in the streets below. He looked out the window and was greeted by a thousand astonished faces. Some were snickering, some snarling, but many were simply perplexed. He heard one say, “They’re all drunk!” And those around him laughed. Suddenly, fire filled Peter’s heart and a flame touched his lips, and he leaned out the window and said loudly, “Men and women of Jerusalem! These men are not drunk as you suppose! They are filled with the Spirit of God!” The crowd instantly fell silent, listening intently to the melodic sounds coming from the upper chamber. Then one shouted jubilantly in Greek, “I know that language! It is my own!” And others throughout the crowd, who’d only journeyed to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Weeks, shouted in their language as they recognized their words spilling forth from men and women of Galilee and Nazareth. And within minutes, a great throng of people heard about Christ for the first time, in their own language and from the mouths of everyday townspeople! Peter, pulsing with the power of the Holy Spirit, became animated and began to describe emphatically the life and death of Jesus, refute the accusations and lies of the Pharisees, and proclaim Christ to the multitude. When he was finished, many walked away with something to think about. But three thousand gave their hearts to Christ, repented of their sins and were headed for the Jordan to be baptized!
This is fiction, I know, but it’s on my heart today. Today is the anniversary of Pentecost. Happy birthday, church!
One thing I noticed about the church, though, is the way it’s changed over the years. It all started out as a gathering of prayer. Check out Acts. It was all about gathering with fellow believers and praying. The evangelism was a small part of the church. The prayer was as common as breathing itself. The men and women who began what we call church today were men and women without titles, without degrees, and without any other motive in gathering but to pray, exhort and encourage one another. They weren’t the most prestigious in the community, and they weren’t the pageant winners. They were the hungry, yearning for something more than what the Pharisees were doing in the synagogues.
Poor Jesus. He used to be the focus. He used to be the purpose of the church. Without realizing it, church has become so much more than it’s humble beginnings, and because of that, so much less. Miracles are no longer common occurrences, the anointing is so faint we can barely recognize it, and when we do get a healthy dose of the Spirit, we are so uncomfortable, we shut Him down and toss Him out quick so we don’t lose anyone. It seems we’d rather come in and go through the motions than wait on him in a very vulnerable, humble atmosphere of prayer. Are you still wondering why the church is incredibly ineffective in today’s society? Could it possibly be that instead of pressing in to know God and hear His heart for the world, we push in to the pews, settle our bums there and listen for the “in closing …” announcement of the pastor. Do you really think Satan would have a fighting chance in a society that has decided to pursue Christ alone? Peter saw three thousand saved one day and five thousand the next. We aren’t lacking the numbers, church. There are just as many unsaved sitting in our churches, and billions more who don’t bother with church at all. If this is war, we are the laziest, most selfish soldiers who ever enlisted.
Oh, the truth hurts so much. I’m not pointing fingers, for sure. I’m just as guilty. But for once, I’m suffering from some major motion sickness. As much as I love the gathering, the praise and worship, and the encouraging and uplifting message, I’d trade it all for some heavy anointing and glory to the degree that the only thing I can do is lay prostrate at His feet while He cleanses me, restores me and fills me up to overflowing. I’d like to be so full of the Spirit, I change the world without saying much of anything. Simply being here, walking among the hurt and the lost, and dripping the condensed power of God all over their circumstances. Not because of who I am, but because of who He is in me. Peter’s shadow healed people! Renew your works in our days, Lord!
What’s it going to take? I could be wrong, and realize an opinion isn’t worth much, but here’s mine: It’s going to take some people who are willing to admit that what we are doing isn’t working all that well. Sure, it’s cool, and it’s good for us. The Pharisees thought what they were doing was also cool and good for everyone. But was it powerful?
In closing, I’d like to say this: we all keep talking about revival and we are yearning for something more. I just wonder, what will it take for us to humble ourselves? Will it really take catastrophic events, or is it as simple as the church coming together to seek His face. Not just talk about how it’s the best thing we can do, but really doing it. Calling off the masquerade, dropping our masks and getting real with God. Losing our self-righteous veneer and getting real with each other. Humbling ourselves, repenting and turning away from the sin that we are steeped in, and seeking His face. This is how we take America back, church. Not with another program, but with another Pentecost.