Those two words Lancia uttered simultaneously released a vortex of intense longing deep in my spirit and a whirlwind of stirring which has resulted in months of sleepless pondering, prayer and meditation as I have search Scripture in an attempt to identify what I had been wrestling with for quite some time: “Why is the modern day church seemingly powerless compared to the Ecclesia in the book of Acts?” Where are the signs, wonders, miracles, deliverances, “share in common practices” commanded in Scripture that are recorded in Acts? Why would they “die out” and not be for today, too?
Then I heard a message that challenged: “If you were to be placed on trial for your faith is there enough evidence in your life to convict you?” Is there? I was discontent with my response, not with a melancholy feel sorry for myself or pathos, but with a Christ-centered referent conviction. Did my life reflect the joy of the Lord, power of the Holy Spirit, confidence and authority of the King’s daughter, or generosity and selflessness of the early church? I was deeply stirred into prayer.
I repeatedly chewed on the following scriptures:
“42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Acts 2:42-47
“32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.” Acts 4:32-35
“16 Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed.” Acts 5:16
“And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” Mark 16:16-17
“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be My disciples.” John 15: 7-8
“Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” John 14:13-14
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness[d] be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7
Did these signs follow me? Having been raised in Spirit-filled churches in the 70s and 80s I witnessed miracles, demonic deliverances and dramatic life transformational encounters with God, both in the churches we attended (we moved frequently) and even in my own family. In Christian youth camps I watched as several ladies’ legs were lengthened and crippled individuals were able to walk. I saw lives transformed by the Spirit. I witnessed profound generosity of believers reaching out to one another with provisions as needed. My father would accidentally hit his thumb with the hammer and mutter, “well, Praise the Lord!” rejoicing in all his circumstances. My parents lived by faith and food on the table was miraculously provided at times.
A shift seemed to manifest itself in the Church the 90s and 2000s —a hip worldly consciousness which seemed to step away from the simplicity of my parents’ faith to embrace a gospel which was more intellectual and didn’t appear so radical. I was led to attend seminary in 1996 and here, too, although a Pentecostal seminary, the emphasis was stronger on church doctrine and theology, neither of which are wrong, but more emphasis was placed on equipping with head knowledge than it was in leading us to move by the Spirit as seen in the early church. Not one single class taught us to pray for the sick.
Fast forward to 2022. Can our churches be convicted in a court of law by the above Scriptures? Can we? I am not sure all of us can. Hence, my discontent made holy by the ache in my heart to see God glorified in the body of Christ.
My heart’s desire is to see the body of Christ moving in the fullness and power of the Gospel; that we, a peculiar people, His Ecclesia, bring much glory to God in our joy, authority, selflessness, and power.
I know countless friends and family members who battle cancer, Covid, diabetes, mental illness, and fear. I have wrestled with multiple sclerosis for 10 years despite having been prayed over for healing. I am willing to accept the limitations imposed by this disease and have faith that in God’s perfect time I will be completely healed but am at peace if not. But I long to see my mother’s leukemia healed, to lay hands on the sick and see them healed. After years of studying and working in the counseling field, watching suicide rates skyrocket among both our teens and elderly, my husband and I long to see the oppressed set free. My list is long.
In repeatedly presenting these longings before God I was led to shift my prayers in a new direction. Proverbs 18:21 exclaims that, “the tongue has the power of life and death.” I frequently listen to podcasts from Bethel Church in Redding, California. A profound message by Dan Farrelly moved me to begin using my mouth to declare the Word over our household, the church and our city. I began speaking the Word over all our circumstances by faith. Hebrews 4:12 reads, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Pick up my sword and wield it with accuracy and confidence. Paul, in Romans 8:28 tells us, “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God.” Our declarations move into a greater dimension when we can use our mouths to declare, to praise God by faith for what He is doing—our mustard seed.
I am declaring by faith “all things” are working for our good and His glory. Ephesians 3:20-21 reads, “now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.” I am choosing to thank God by faith for revival, awakening and equipping the church, leading my son and daughter to a transformational experience with the Cross, provision, healing and so much more.
My prayers have led me to cry out for the revival which has been prophetically decreed in Joel 2:28, “and it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.” I believe that this last promised move of God will fully awaken the Church so that we move with the fullness of the Acts community.
He knows my heart, that I love Him and am fully surrendered to His plans and purposes. As I have matured in Christ over the years I am being led into a deeper sense of the presence and intimacy of God beyond my human expectations of what I need Him to do for me. I wrestle. I beseech, I praise, then I choose: Being Still. To Know.
The featured image “Tattered Pages” is (c) of Lancia E. Smith and used with her glad permission for Cultivating.
The illustration of the oak leaf is courtesy of Jordan Durbin and used with her generous permission for Cultivating.
Mary has cherished life-long literary dreams coupled with a passion for ministry, all of which lead her to study English literature and later theology and counseling in seminary. She has been designing artisan jewelry for nine years while homeschooling son Ian and daughter Julianna. After 14 years of ministry in San Diego she and her husband Mark Miller, along with their teenagers and cat, Lord Peter Wimsey relocated to Charlottesville, VA where they enjoy farm life, chickens and all. Mary enjoys off-the-wall humor, gardening, cooking, and curling up with anything penned by Dorothy Sayers, C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, or Jane Austen.