Posts Tagged ‘apostles’

“…And all that believed were together and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need…”  (Acts 2:44-45)

After drifting in confusion throughout my teenage years, I returned to Christ in my twenties while attending a Quaker college. I became a member of a very popular evangelical Friends church. Our pastor was a tremendous orator, and our choir was spectacular, and I enjoyed all of the pleasantries that a church has to offer its members.  I sailed on seas of serenity for several years.  Then one summer, a terrible storm rolled into town.

I forget what year it was that Juan Carlos Ortiz, a pastor from Argentina, was invited to be the keynote speaker at the yearly meeting of Quakers.  We had conferences and services all week at the college where I had been a student.  The auditorium was overflowing in the evenings with pastors, teachers, missionaries, and lay people from our churches, and Ortiz began to probe into all of our hypocrisies with pointed words.

He described a time when he became profoundly discouraged as a pastor leading a lifeless church in his village.  One Sunday, he said it was time for him to preach his usual sermon, and he stepped up to the pulpit, and the Spirit broke into his thoughts saying, “Another one?”

“Yes, Lord, another one,” the pastor replied.

“Why?” he heard the Voice asking. “Did they do what you told them the last time?”

“No, they didn’t,” he said as he continued to the pulpit, but when he got there, he found that he could not preach.  He took the microphone, and said firmly, “Love one another,” and sat down.

Everyone in the congregation looked at one another in confusion.

The pastor rose again and said slowly, “Love- one -another”, then sat down again.  After some whispering and stirring in the congregation, he stood up for the third time, and said, “Love one another!” and sat down.

He did not get back up, and he watched to see what would happen. He says he did not know what he was doing, or why. Everyone looked at one another, and looked at the pastor, thinking he knew what he was doing.

After some moments of silence, people began to mingle, and to ask one another for prayer requests, and to pray in small groups.  The pastor just watched and before long, he saw people in tears and people rejoicing and people crying out to God. This went on for hours. Because of his silence, the Spirit took over in his church.

Pastor Ortiz recounted how a revival broke out that continued long after that day, and it spread throughout the region.  People became determined to love one another as Jesus had commanded.  They went about showing love to one another in a multitude of ways, and there were no church programs for a long time.

After a month or so had passed, one of the elders in the church asked Pastor Ortiz if he was ready to preach another sermon, so he agreed to prepare one for the following Sunday.  He said he was almost terrified to preach to this congregation now, because they were ready to do whatever he said.  He said that before, it didn’t matter, because no matter what he said, they wouldn’t do it.  But now they would, and he knew he had to have the anointing of the Spirit, and a word directly from the Lord.  He had to fall on his knees and inquire of God, to be able to bring a message.

When the next Sunday came, and he stood to preach, he said the enthusiasm of his congregation was a fearful thing to behold.  He said they looked like athletes lined up and ready to run, as soon as they had the Word.  He spoke only a few words.

He talked about Jesus’ commandment to “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”  He explained that this means to love your neighbor, and wish for your neighbor the same things that you want for yourself.  He said to try to help your neighbor to have the things that you have.  He said if you have a nice house, then you should want your neighbor to have a nice house too.  If you have good clothes, you should wish for others to have the same.  He kept his message very simple and straightforward and short.

Following his message, Pastor Ortiz said that his church went out and immediately started obeying what he had preached.  One of his church members was talking to his maid that following week, and found out that she had an epileptic husband who could not work, and that they lived in a shack, along with their children.  This church member arranged to have a fine home built for the maid and her husband and family.

Another church member learned that he had a neighbor who was a plumber, but he could not work because he had no truck or tools.  So this Christian went and bought his neighbor a plumbing truck and the tools he needed, so he could be employed again.  Pastor Ortiz said that he and his church literally wiped out poverty in their village, by following the commandment of Jesus.

Juan Carlos Ortiz then began to explain to us that the early church didn’t get together to have meetings and discussions and to form committees.  They were warriors who came to church to get more strength, so that they could go out and further God’s kingdom and stand in the midst of persecution.  He spoke about how thousands of people were saved every day after Pentecost, and that the apostles accomplished all of this “without programs, without robes, without a choir, and without an altar call.”

He told us that we need to stop playing religious games, and start thinking about our identity as “servants of Jesus Christ”.  He asked us to stand and say to everyone around us “I am a servant of Jesus Christ.”  He said that we have developed spiritual amnesia, and have forgotten who we are in Christ.  His message was that we needed to recommit ourselves to Jesus, and the spreading of the gospel.

After delivering his message, people swarmed down to the altar for prayer without any formal invitation.  I saw pastors and teachers and church members with tears in their eyes, and godly sorrow over their failures.  I was one of them, and I had a renewal in my spirit that day.  I was determined to be a servant of Jesus Christ from that day forward, and to listen to His voice, and follow whatever He asked me to do from then on. I felt the fire of His Spirit burning within me for the first time.

As I was leaving the auditorium, I noticed a close friend that I had invited crying in one of the seats, and I went to sit with her.  She was deeply moved by the message because, she said, she had always believed that all Christians were phonies and hypocrites, and now she was convinced that there are some real disciples.  We were both changed that day, and an adventure had begun.

As my church tried to return to its former state of apathy and inertia, I just couldn’t let it happen after such a prophet had been among us.  I discovered that I “made waves” everywhere I went, because a great storm had come to town.

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For more true stories like this one, click on “The Twisted Cross” at the top of the screen.

OLIVE TWIST ©2012


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