Focusing on God’s Will

Focusing on God’s Will

Robert Wurtz II

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11 ESV). 

The people of God had rebelled to the point that He destroyed Jerusalem and sent them away captive to Babylon. The duration of their captivity would be seventy years. God went as far as to tell them to pray for the cities where they were captive and in those answered prayers they would find their blessing. This fact did not stop people from looking to the prophets, diviners, and dreamers for a different word. There was no short supply of such lies. 

It’s not unusual for man’s will to clash with God’s will. People get their minds set on their plans and then do everything in their power to bring it to pass. In the example of Israel they were told with certainty that they would be captive for seventy years — so they might as well get comfortable (so to speak). God said, “I know the plans I have for you…” (Emphasis on “I”).

Ambition and revelation are not the same things. People often mistake their ambitions for a promise from God. The old timers used to say that when you pray for direction from God, you must first set before the Lord what your will is and then seek God for His will. This requires honesty with oneself. We cannot improve on God’s perfect will. Anything different can only be lesser. 

Making things more challenging is when other people have plans for your life. Parents, mentors, teachers, and other influences are often guilty of this. Naturally, parents must raise their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord, but that’s not what I mean. They train up their child with something particular in mind that may or may not be God’s perfect will.  

You will recall that Paul the Apostle was trained at the feet of Gamaliel, a renowned Rabbi (Pharisee) of the day. The Pharisees had high hopes for Paul, and when he failed to follow through with their plans, they made him their enemy. They tried everything to destroy their own pupil. This fact is very insightful because it lays bare the thoughts and intentions of men’s hearts. This outlook says, “I’ll be friendly to you so long as you follow my will for your life.” It is the epitome of arrogance. Lost in all of these manmade plans is God’s plan—the ultimate objective. 

When my mother lay dying she confessed to me something that I think about and marvel. It happens that when I was a baby, she prayed that I would be a preacher… a man of God. I am often shocked by deathbed confessions such as these. Long before anyone else had a chance to make plans for me, God gave her this general prayer and left it at that. It took over twenty years for that prayer to come to pass. No manipulation. No coercion. Nothing. It was God’s plan all along, and He brought it to pass. 

Perhaps you are struggling under a load of someone’s plans or expectations for you. The person or group never misses an opportunity to shame you or in some passive aggressive way let you know that they are disappointed in you. You have failed to meet their expectations. Solution? For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11 ESV). 

Dealing With Rejection

Dealing With Rejection

Robert Wurtz II

“Those who hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of my head; They are mighty who would destroy me, Being my enemies wrongfully; Though I have stolen nothing, I still must restore it.” (Psalms 69:4 NKJV)

“But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, “They hated Me without a cause.’” (John 15:25 NKJV)

“But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.” (Matthew 5:22a KJV)

There are times in life when we perceive that a person has “ought against us” while in fact, they simply don’t like us. If we are to avoid feelings of what is commonly called “condemnation” (caused by worrying about how people feel about us) we must distinguish between offense and dislike. One of the hardest things to come to terms with is that some people are going to dislike you no matter what you do.
When a person behaves in such a way that leads us to believe that we have offended them it should be our Christian instinct to go to them for reconciliation. However, when the person who acts offended can think of no reason why they feel as they do… my experience is that it’s typically because they don’t like you or they don’t like something you stand for. They arerejecting you and may not even know why.
What complicates the issue is when the “spiritual” folks among us contend that they discerned something about us that justifies their behavior towards us. These types generally mistake things they like for being anointed and things they dislike as being carnal or demonic. Granted, there are legitimate reasons for disfellowshipping people that are outlined in the epistles. This is not what I am referring to. I don’t want to sound irreverent but we don’t get to act like we have been offended by a person simply because we felt a goosebump or got a weird notion when they walked by. God does not allow for such excuses for rejecting people. In fact, we are even supposed to love our enemies.
The psalmist understood these things. He wrote, Those who hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of my head; They are mighty who would destroy me, Being my enemies wrongfully. Talk about rejection! The people who hated him had no good reason for it. If you asked them they probably couldn’t tell you why they felt like they did. Jesus experienced it as well as we read, But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, “They hated Me without a cause.’” (John 15:25 NKJV)
Have you ever tried to propitiate a person who hated you without cause? I mean, the world would probably call it “trying to buy love.” I have spent hundreds if not thousands of dollars in my life trying to do what the psalmist described saying, Though I have stolen nothing, I still must restore it. You spend money on this and that. It’s like we sense that if we can just find the right gift they will stop acting like we have offended them. It doesn’t work. You buy gifts and things seem to be better. However, when the gifts run out the relationship sours again.
Selective Love
It’s not unusual for the world to be selective in who they do and don’t like or love. For those itching to point out that we can love someone and not have to like them I dare you to try it. What are you saying? “I love you… but I really can’t stand you?” Nonsense. That is a copout. What if God loved us in that way?
Notice what Jesus said, “But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.” (Matthew 5:22a KJV) Angry without a cause? Newer translations omit “without cause” but it’s a Greek word that means in vain. How can you or I be angry in vain unless we dislike or hate the person? The people we love we give the benefit of the doubt and would never be angry at them over trivial matters. If we are angry at our brother or sister without cause we have to face the facts — we are angry and we don’t know why.
I suggest that the reason why people (even professing Christians) who are angry with their brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment — is that it’s simply veiled hatred. It’s not acceptable. Our instinct towards people should always be that of love and kindness. When there has been an offense — there should be reconciliation. When a Christian rejects reconciliation (all things being biblical) they typically forfeit their Christianity card. Why? Because it is unbecoming of a Christian to reject a fellow brother or sister without cause. The consequence of “behaving as if you have been offended when you have not” is that it will be revealed and dealt with in the judgment.
If people hated the psalmist and Jesus without cause… they will hate you and me without cause. But it ought not so to be in the kingdom of God.    Dealing With Rejection

The Ultimate State of Mind

The Ultimate State of Mind

Robert Wurtz II

“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.” (Philippians 1:21–24 NKJV)


“Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8 ESV)


“Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.”  (2 Timothy 4:8 ESV)

I have selected three passages in Paul’s writings to demonstrate a pattern of what I call, “The Ultimate State of Mind.” That is to stay, it is the best possible state of mind and cannot be improved upon. Paul’s ultimate desire and focus were on Jesus Christ. He said it most succinctly when he stated, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” It was not death that Paul sought it was being with Christ in the literal and final sense. Matthew Henry once said that “death is a great loss to a carnal worldly man; for he loses all his comforts and all his hopes: but to a good Christian it is gain, for it is the end of all his weakness and misery and the perfection of his comforts and accomplishment of his hopes; it delivers him from all the evils of life, and brings him to the possession of the chief good.”


The “chief good” is that Eternal Life — to know Christ in His very presence. Since the Garden of Eden man has been estranged from God. The Gospel makes it possible to be reconciled to God and to return to know His manifest presence. It is our final and most blessed inheritance of which the Holy Spirit is the guarantee (2 Cor 1:22, 5:5, Ephesians 1:14). In modern language we would say that receiving the Holy Spirit is the down payment or deposit; it is to secure an eventuality: when “we shall see Him as He is” or in Paul’s words to be “at home with the Lord.” 

For me, the true test of my spiritual state is the strength of my longing to be with Christ. Do I love the Lord enough to long to be with Him? This is more than being loving a doctrine or concept. Most believers seem content to express their faith along these lines. But do we love His appearing? That’s the question. I have preached along these lines before and have wondered if the hearers grasped what I said. It is unnatural to want to leave this earth. I get that. But at the same time, it ought to be our deep-seated desire — our constant longing — to be with Christ. How do we know that? Because Paul implied as much when he spoke of receiving a crown of righteousness as a consequence of “loving Christ’s appearing.” The Greek tense demonstrates that the crown of righteousness is for those who love, who have loved and still love his second coming (A. T. Robertson). 


If we consider that 2 Corinthians was written in 58 CE and 2 Timothy in 66 CE then we know that Paul felt this way at a minimum of eight solid years. In fact, prior to going to Jerusalem, he gave this testimony… “I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:22–24 KJV). Nothing moved Paul because he knew that the worst that could happen to him was that he die: and to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. 


How do you frighten a man like Paul? He can’t wait to get to Jesus. Again, he stated, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy. Generally, modern translations omit the word joy (charas). Commentators rarely pass comment on it. I suspect that it’s because they can’t see how it fits into Paul’s remarks. Yet it’s clear that he was simply saying that if he was worried about dying all the time, how could fulfill his ministry joyfully? Fear of death has a way of hindering our joy. But Paul didn’t fear death. He longed to be with Jesus and in that state of mind he could face anything with joy. He could look physical death in the face as if to say, “Death, don’t do me any favors because I can’t wait to get to Jesus.”   

Run For Your Soul

Run For Your Soul

Robert Wurtz II

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not!Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For “the two,” He says, “shall become one flesh.”But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.

Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Corinthians 6:15–20 NKJV)

If there is one sin that is almost guaranteed to send your soul to Hell if left unrepented of it is the sin of sexual immorality (fornication, adultery, homosexuality, etc.). I understand that those are strong words to start an article with, but it’s true and we might as well get to the point. There are numerous times in the New and Old Testament when we are warned about sexual sin in the strongest possible terms. This means sexual activity of any kind beyond the sacred institution of Biblical marriage. And just in case we may have somehow overlooked all of the solemn verses related to this topic… we have two final warnings among the epithets in the direful lists of the doomed and the damned at the end of the Book of Revelation (Rev. 21:8, 22:15). 

With such dreadful warnings in mind I wish to focus on Paul’s imperative command to “Flee sexual immorality.” Our Greek word translated as flee in English is found in many places in the New Testament where a person is running from present danger. Perhaps the most familiar example of this concept in action is when Joseph fled from Potiphar’s wife when she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house. (Genesis 39:12 ESV)


Why run? Because we are no match for sexual sin. It’s the one thing that the longer we entertain it the more likely we are to participate in it — and it’s too late once the enemy gets a foothold in the mind and ensnares us. If we entertain the possibility of sexual sin we are already under his delusion. Run for your soul! Not as Lot’s wife who turned back to see one last time. God is warning us to turn and run while there is still hope and we are still reachable. 

Paul offers us insight into how he dealt with his own natural appetites when he remarked, “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. ”(1 Corinthians 9:27 ESV) At first glance this doesn’t seem possible. Could the great Apostle to the Gentiles really be disqualified (Gk. adokimos) because of sexual sin? That’s right. He was as human as you are and I am. It was an ever present threat in this sinful world. Temptation often presents itself in subtle and not so subtle ways. Keep in mind too that the Greek word adokimos is frequently translated as reprobate. At the least he could have been disqualified from ministry… but more likely meant, based on his own frequent warnings along this line, that he could have lost his own salvation (Romans 1:28-29, 1 Cor. 6:9,10:8, Galatians 5:20-21, Ephesians 5:3-5, 1 Timothy 1:10, etc.).


The natural body has appetites that answer to these temptations. Paul’s solution? He took control of his own body and brought it into subjection. This means he refused to come under the control of the bodies appetites and rather pushed back with the utmost intensity and control. The Greek words are strong and mean to hit under the eye. This is not literal, but it shows the level of discipline he exerted upon himself. In other words, he was in the habit of telling his body “NO!” in the areas of natural appetites (eating, procreation, etc.). He refused to find fulfillment in the exercise of his glands. He controlled his body at all times and never allowed it to control him.


Deception and Separation


There are professing Christians in the world who are so deceived by sexual sin that they are fully convinced that flirting with the opposite sex is a valid form of expressing Christian love. They see no problem with texting other peoples spouses and speaking to them in a seductive manner. I know this because I have met them and counseled with them. It is total deception. As Christians we need to keep God’s word ever before our eyes particularly in relation to sexual sin. What did the Psalmist say? “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” (Psalms 119:11 ESV) James tells us that once lust has conceived it will bring forth sin and when sin is finished it will bring forth death. In scripture death does not mean annihilation it means separation. When sexual immorality is committed it causes death to relationships — most of all our relationship with God. 


Moreover, sexual sin can cause the total destruction of a local church. It can enter in to the life of one person and spread to the whole congregation. Stories abound of this sin entering churches and before it’s over the people are exchanging marriage partners and all kinds of inexpressible evil. These are not fairy tales as I have personally known of it to happen. This is why Paul warned about it so often and even told the Corinthians in Chapter 5 to turn an unrepentant fornicator over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. Why? To save the church and to save the man’s soul. He also warned the married couples not to fast for too long a period of time because in doing so it could actually open the door to Satan to lead one of them into sexual sin (1 Cor. 7:5). This could apply to any reason that a couple abstained from one another for an extended period of time. 


In summary, we need to do whatever it takes to make sure we do not become involved in sexual sin. I am persuaded that nothing puts a person in jeopardy of hell fire quite like sexual immorality. Why should we fool ourselves? Understand that Satan’s objective is to destroy as many lives, marriages, and souls he can with fornication and adultery. Apart from the risk it puts our souls in it also brings extreme suffering and pain to the minds of the people who commit the sin or are on the receiving end of a transgression. It defiles the person in ways we cannot comprehend and impacts the union that we have with Christ (1 Cor. 6:16ff). For one who is caught in the sin the admonition is to repent and renounce the behavior. For those who are in the throes of temptation — flee sexual immorality! And as a matter of general maintenance on our spiritual lives we need to discipline (our) body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others (we ourselves) should be disqualified.   

Circumventing Church Discipline


An Examination of “Touch Not the Lord’s Anointed”

Expanded Edition

Robert Wurtz II

Then tidings came to Joab: for Joab had turned after Adonijah, though he turned not after Absalom. And Joab fled unto the tabernacle of the LORD, and caught hold on the horns of the altar. And it was told king Solomon that Joab was fled unto the tabernacle of the LORD; and, behold, he is by the altar. Then Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, saying, Go, fall upon him. (I Kings 2:28-29)

Joab had conspired against Solomon to bring Adonijah into power. Fearing for his life he made a last-ditch effort to save his skin. What did he do? He ran to the tabernacle and took hold of the horns of the altar. This was a practice established under the law as a means of offering temporary asylum to those who had killed someone until it could be rightly determined whether the act was accidental, justified or murder. If the act was accidental or justifiable the killer was instructed to flee to a city of refuge where the avenger of blood could not pursue them (Numbers 35:10-34). However, if a person presumed to go into the tabernacle to take hold of these horns to avoid just punishment they were to be taken away even from the altar (Deuteronomy 19:4-14 Exodus 21:14). In other words, Exodus 21:14 kept Numbers 35:10-34 from being abused and Exodus 20:13 (Thou Shalt Not Murder) or any other capitol offense from being circumvented. Joab clearly abused the practice of “taking hold of the horns of the altar” so Solomon commanded that he be struck down- even before the altar.

A Satanic Doctrine

Likewise, in the churches of God, we are commanded and expected to deal with threats to the churches and to do so with the utmost care and resolve. God (not man) established the doctrine of church discipline and He expects that doctrine to be carried out. Why? For the protection of the saints and the salvation of the sinner. Understand that no matter who a person supposes themselves to be — they are subject to church discipline. That means everyone without exception. There are no special people in the Kingdom of God who are above the laws of God. In fact, we are told in Acts 10:34, Romans 2:11, and Galatians 2:6 that God is no respecter of persons no matter who they are promoted to be.

Believe it or not there are people who move within the churches who think they are special and chosen — insomuch that God has their back and will curse those who speak against them. To most of us this sounds like lunacy and devilry, but nevertheless they are there. How do we deal with these self-styled “special” and “chosen” people? We deal with them the same way we would the janitor in the church or the sinner who just joined it. God is no respecter of persons. He doesn’t have a set of laws for the “chosen ones” and another set for everyone else. 

No doctrine can be allowed to circumvent church discipline. Many may call themselves ‘prophets’ of ‘prophetesses’ or even apostles, but that proclamation is no exemption from church discipline. There are no free passes for deceivers and sinners in the Kingdom of God.

Touch Not the Anointed?

We have all heard the stories about some poor soul who dared to “touch the Lord’s anointed” and his house caught on fire or he fell over dead the next day. Nonsense! If we were to sit down and draw a line from tragic events to people in this way we could make the Devil look like a saint and have a story to prove it. These falsehoods not only need to be rejected… they need to be repented of and renounced utterly. The anecdotal justifications for such false teachings abound and poor ignorant souls sit and tremble in fear lest they be cursed for touching one of these self-styled anointed ones. 

What happened? Circumstantial horror stories are used to spark the fear of God in people so that that fear can be transferred to a man (or woman) making them untouchable. The people teaching it don’t even have the wisdom to see that the doctrine itself has brought a curse. The old timers used to speak of lies that were “hatched out of hell.” This is one of them. I suggest that one of the most destructive and diabolical lies of our generation is “touch not the Lord’s anointed.” It has produced scores of false teachers and sinners who believe they are above reproach, church discipline or even criticism. Understand that people are all too willing to pull snippets of scripture and doctrine from the Old Testament that are convenient for their purposes. If “touch not the Lord’s Anointed” was merely a typical example of such nonsense it would be one thing, but this is far more severe and dangerous. 

Every scripture has a context and without it… you have a pretext. Consider this line of reasoning from three snippets from the New Testament … “Judas went and hanged himself” … “Go and do thou likewise” … “Whatsoever you do — do quickly.” This may seem comical but this is how the Old Testament is frequently abused. What about “touch not the Lord’s anointed?” God set in order a precept in the Old Testament to protect prophets, priests, and kings from abuse. He issued a warning against those that would come against the ones that He had ordained to His service (Psalm 105:15). 

However, when David sinned with Bathsheba he understood that he deserved the death penalty. Kings were not exempt. Prophets were not exempt and priests were not exempt. In fact, if a so-called prophet were to give a false prophecy he was to be put to death (Deuteronomy 13:5). Just like the case of Joab, God’s word has within itself safeguards to make sure that no principal or truth can be abused or exploited. For the false prophet and the adulterous king “touch not the Lord’s anointed” did not apply to them and could not save them in the day of their sin no more than the horns of the altar could save Joab.   

Heretical and Sinful Leaders

“Touch not the Lord’s anointed” is creating monsters in the church. We are commanded in Titus 3:10-11 to reject a heretic after the second warning and to note and shun people who do not follow the doctrine Paul set forth (2 Thess. 3:14). Don’t fellowship with them or eat with them. Paul warned us in 1 Corinthians 5 to put wicked fornicators out of the church until they repent. In other words, these destroyers of the churches don’t need just ‘touched’ they need to be excommunicated in some cases. Jesus congratulated the church at Ephesus for condemning false apostles as liars (Revelation 2:2). There can be little doubt that these men professed themselves to be ‘anointed’- not just ‘anointed’ but apostles! This is how they established themselves. It is the enemies strategy. 

There is no such thing in the New Testament as a sinner or heretic being under God’s special protection because someone believes they are or were at some point in their life anointed (like king Saul). If a person is causing destruction in the churches they must be dealt with no matter what their name or title is. I don’t care if they raised a thousand people from the dead — they are still subject to church discipline. Period. End of story. 

Only Satan could make acquiescing to lies and deceit appear nobel and biblical. He has provided the proof texts for the green light many in the churches are giving these deceivers and sinners. Prosperity peddlers, false prophets, adulterers and a host of other compromises and lies today are holding the horns of the altar as did Joab whilst pushing around the voices of Truth as did Zedekiah. Yet Solomon stated, “He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the just, both of them alike are an abomination to the LORD”(Proverbs 17:15). It is an abomination to allow lies and deceit to go on in order that the so-called “anointed” would not be touched. And it is an insult to God and man to condemn people who would seek to deal with the so-called anointed with “touch not the Lord’s anointed.” Sadly, many are handing the wolves the keys to the chicken house thinking they are doing God a service. It has to end. This doctrine must once-and-for-all be rejected, repented of, and renounced as the diabolical error and falsehood that it is and for the inexpressible evil that it has already caused. Perchance much future damage and destruction might be avoided. 

Sufficient Grace

Sufficient Grace
Robert Wurtz II

And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7–10 KJV)

In defending himself against false teachers at Corinth, Paul offers us insight into his thinking process regarding all of the horrific life experiences that he dealt with after becoming a Christian. In addition to all of the terrible deeds leveled upon him by unbelieving Jews and Gentiles… there was given to Paul a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet him. Apparently, this was done so that he would not be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations. We are not told specifically who or what this “thorn” is — we only know that he needed the grace of God to endure it. In fact, Paul asked God three different times to remove this “thorn” only to hear the familiar words, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” God was not going to take away this trouble… He was going to provide the grace to endure it.
Dangerous Error
As a young Christian, I lived on a steady diet of modernistic teachers and preachers of the so-called “Faith Movement” who would suggest that Christians should never be sick or suffer hardships related to finances, etc. I’ve heard everything from, “Elijah backslid and moved into a cave” to “Job’s real problem was his lack of faith.” Fortunately, one famous preacher repented of this teaching and promised to apologize to Job once he got to heaven. These ministers (unlike Paul) would have never counseled Timothy (as did Paul who didn’t even suggest that Timothy pray) that he use a little wine for his stomach sake and his frequent infirmities (I Timothy 5:23) and certainly would have never left Trophimus at Miletum sick (2 Timothy 4:20). Indeed, they could have shown Paul a thing or two about walking in Divine health and wealth. We are left to believe that had they been around with Paul — they would never have suffered toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.” (2 Corinthians 11:27 ESV) I guess we all can’t be as spiritual as these folks are. Fortunately, I renounced this nonsense early in my Christian life before it had a chance to shipwreck my faith.
Generally, when a person has a false view of health and wealth (typically buttressed by erroneous interpretations of verses like 3 John 2) they end up believing that if they suffer hardship (lack or prosperity and health) that the problem is either a lack of faith or a lack of God’s faithfulness that is causing it. After all, it has to be someone’s fault. What happens? They blame either God or themselves when trouble strikes. Bad things will happen at some point. They will get sick or something similar that contradicts their health and wealth beliefs. Sometimes when things get really bad their faith begins to waver or they get very angry at God.

Does God want everyone to prosper and be in health? What is the context of that verse in 3 John 2? Who was the verse addressed to? The truth of the matter is that John wanted Giusto prosper and be in health as his soul prospered. Why? Because he was in reputation for being sickly and John “wished/prayed” that he would prosper and be in health. I feel the same way about my sick friends. Don’t you? Of course. However, 3 John 2 is not an “across the board” absolute expression of God’s will for all Christians any more than Jesus telling the rich young ruler “go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven” (Mark 10:21 KJV). It also assumes that the person in questions “soul is prospering.” Think about it. How many Christians have active sin or compromise in their lives? How many are filled with hatred, deceit, bitterness, lust, envy, pride, etc? If God matched their physical condition to their soul’s condition — many would be destitute of all possessions — with one foot in the grave. Selah.

Biblical Faith
Paul believed God and knew all things are possible to him. In fact, he prayed three times about his thorn(whatever it was) asking God to remove it. However, Paul could also take no for an answer. This is where true faith comes in. Think about all the miracles Paul witnessed. He believed in healing and even saw special miracles of healing through his ministry. When troubled by demon possessed people he cast the devil out of a woman. He even smote a man with blindness by the power of the Spirit. The list goes on. Consider this… no matter what the thorn may have been there was a situation in Paul’s life where he saw that very thing (or something similar) dealt with by the power of God. He knew God could fix the problem. Yet this thorn remained. Why? Because God had a higher purpose in allowing it to remain. It’s a hard saying, but God’s primary purpose is not to make us comfortable or give us all the creature comforts of life but to conform us to the image of Christ. Sometimes He wants to display grace in the life of a believer who is suffering. Much more could be said.
An old-time preacher once rightly observed that “Faith is not when faith healers empty a hospital or tear up a graveyard. Faith is when we keep trusting God in spite of the difficulties we are going through.” Satan wants us to blame God and even curse God and die when the trials and tribulations appear that Jesus promised would come (John 16:33). He wants us to believe that God is a liar by putting words in God’s mouth. This is Satan’s “end game.” It’s not God who is a liar it’s the false teachers and preachers who have helped Satan’s cause by promoting an overly-realized eschatology or some other heresy. In other words, they teach things that apply only after the resurrection or things that appeal to the flesh. These false ideas about theology and faith will leave us blaming God, blaming ourselves, or blaming someone who is suffering. What is it? Usually, the suffering ones are said to have a lack of faith or sin in their life. Understand that Job’s counselors are still alive and well.
 Sufficient Grace
Paul then moves into a realm that I struggle to comprehend. He states, Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. It makes me want to ask, Paul, are you saying that you rejoice in infirmities (Gk. asthenia)… a word that could easily be translated as a physical illness? This is a man with poor eyesight and a weak bodily presence. In the second century Acts of Paul and Thecla, he is pictured as small, short, bow-legged, with eye-brows knit together, and an aquiline nose. A forgery of the fourth century (in the name of Lucian) describes Paul as “the bald-headed, hook-nosed Galilean.”  (A. T. Robertson) This is just the physical part. What about reproaches and lack of basic necessities?
Paul didn’t like pain and suffering any more than you and I would. But his point of view made him practically invincible spiritually. He knew that when he was suffering that he fully relied on God and His sufficient grace. He ceased to move in his own limited strength and began moving and standing in the realm of God’s grace. God was holding him up and making him stand. This was the safest and strongest place he could possibly be in the area that matters most. The flesh hates it. The flesh prefers the comforts and smooth life of Fair Havens and the predictability of Egypt (so to speak). The carnal man hates being in a place where he knows he must rely on God for his next breath. Not Paul. He preferred this way… in his own words… that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

The Whole Counsel of God

The Whole Counsel of God

Robert Wurtz II

Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word (Acts 4:29 NKJV). 

Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. (Acts 20:26–27 KJV)

There is hardly a day that goes by without news of Christians being backed into a corner someplace. The forces of hell work feverously to put a stop to the message of the Gospel and few seem to know what the solution is. Something is missing. We are inundated with technology and talent. We are moved by the pithy sayings of smooth talking hipsters and stupefied by endless – meaningless drivel that masquerades as “preaching.” While the world is growing darker by the day and becoming increasingly intolerant of what the NT calls “sound doctrine” — we are being pushed to a precipice in which our only option is going to be to surrender or charge!         

The church of the book of Acts had no trouble knowing what to do or what to preach in these situations. In fact, some of the most straight-forward preaching known to man comes right from the pages of the book of Acts. They met the people where they were in their heart and understanding. Not a single soul heard a seeker-friendly, preacher-safety, message like we hear today, “Jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” That message may be safe to preach, but it rarely saves anybody. If it does “save” someone they typically end up being the type of believer that thinks that real preaching is harsh and that calling sin -SIN is judging people. Can you see the kind of mess that’s been made?

When Peter stood up and preached in the book of Acts he told the people like it is. He knew what to say and he had the boldness to say it. It was not his words and it was not his boldness. When he received the Holy Spirit, he went from a man who cowered down to a woman who asked about his relationship to Christ — to a man who could face a firing squad for Jesus. He was a preacher of the Gospel and that Gospel contained the whole counsel of God. This means that he left nothing out. He called sin -SIN and he called the people to repentance and faith.

Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. (Acts 2:38–42 NKJV)

Micah the Moreshite prophet preaching to the Israelites

Peter first called the people to change their mind and come into agreement with God about everything He has revealed. This is the part where the crowd gets angry. This is the part where the preacher takes his life into his own hands. Anybody can preach gentle Jesus meek and mild, but people have got to repent. They have got to come into agreement with God or there is no way forward. We may as well pack up and go home if we won’t preach repentance. Some will gladly receive the word and some will angrily reject it. Whether its the proclamation, the teaching, or the good news… (kerygma, didache, or evangelica), the fundamental revelation is to repent, believe the Gospel, and receive the Holy Spirit.

When Paul was leaving Ephesus he reminded the leaders concerning the content of his ministry. He told them plainly, “Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:26–27 KJV). This is a flashback to Ezekiel when God told the prophet to warn the people or that their blood would be on his hands (Ezekiel 33:8). Paul had been warned repeatedly that when he arrived at Jerusalem that chains and afflictions awaited him. Yet he still pressed forward and continued to preach to everyone until he was free from their blood upon his hands. He died in Rome under Nero — who obviously was not trying to hear his message.

In the face of demons and danger, Peter and the disciples knew that they needed supernatural power to proclaim the truth in a world that will not put up with it. We can echo with him the words, Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word (Acts 4:29 NKJV). This is what we need today. First, we need to know and preach the full counsel of God. Secondly, we need the BOLDNESS to preach it without fear or favor.  They didn’t pray to preach in love or peace because they already had those fruit of the Spirit in their lives. What happened?     

And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:31 NKJV)

Faith in the Fire

Robert Wurtz II

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:6–9 NKJV)

If there is one thing that is certain about our Christian faith, sooner or later it is going to be tested. God has ordained for this to be and it is as sure as the Sun rising in the morning. The writer to the Hebrews tells us that God shakes everything that can be shaken so that the things that cannot be shaken will remain (Heb. 12:27). Haggai 2:6 promises that, when it is time for the final judgment and the end of this age, God will shake not only the earth but also the heavens. All that will remain is what cannot be shaken, namely the kingdom that Christ shares with those who continue to trust in Him (IVP/NBC).

Our passage in 1 Peter 1:6-9 contains a phrase that reveals two types of faith. Peter speaks of the “genuineness of your faith” and by implication, there must likewise be a counterfeit faith. The genuine type of faith is more precious than gold, leading to the salvation of the soul. Counterfeit faith is less than worthless because it masquerades as the genuine article — soliciting the trust of all who encounter it. Like counterfeit currency that is discovered at the time of payment, counterfeit faith ends in misplaced confidence.  What a let-down!

“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. (1 Peter 4:12–13 NKJV)

Peter tells us to not be surprised or astounded when the fiery trial comes as though something strange is happening. As dreadful as it is, it is perfectly normal. Some of the oldest and most provoking stories in the Bible deal with sufferings and trials. God uses fiery trials for a multitude of reasons. Yet suffering is always used by our opportunistic enemy to bring doubt. Job’s wife caved in and told him to “curse God and die” when he had lost everything and was covered in boils. She failed the test — though he passed with flying colors.

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Trials are often extreme tests of faith. In fact, Peter uses a Greek word for fiery that could be translated as a furnace. We find it in Proverbs 27:21 related to the smelting of metals. What is happening? Our faith is being tested. Keep in mind that the original readers of Peter’s words were under extreme persecution. The KJV does not give the sense of the present tense as it is in the Greek (is trying you) but implies some future event (is to try you). However, Christians were already in the furnace (as it were) as Nero is said to have killed Christians for sport. This was on top of all of the ordinary trials of life that result from the fall of man (death, disease, etc.). Christians were tied to long poles, dipped in pitch, set ablaze and raised to be street lamps during the night. That was a very literal fiery trial. There were other unconscionable tortures employed as well. Most people will never experience anything so gruesome. Yet more or less we are all going to be tested in this world.

Finally, notice again what Peter says, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials…” The AV (KJV) has the rendering, “Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations.” The Holy Spirit, through Peter, wants us to know that in light of eternity the “various trials” are only a “little while” or “for a season.” When the trials finally end and we pass from this life we have all of eternity to rejoice that our faith withstood the test, purified in a furnace, resulting in the salvation of our soul.








A Sweet Smelling Aroma

Robert Wurtz II

Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. (Ephesians 5:1–2 NKJV)

Our passage is one of many examples of Paul explaining some mysteries of the OT priesthood (temple cultus). The concept of a “sweet-smelling aroma” is introduced in Genesis 8:21 when Noah offered of his flocks a burnt offering. It is taken up again in Exodus 29, Leviticus chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 17, 23, 26, etc. The examples in Exodus and Leviticus are more interesting because those burnt offerings were carried out with the sacred fire that God kindled from heaven. This fire was to be used exclusively for the lampstand, altar of incense, brazen altar, and the preparation of the shewbread. What was God teaching us in the OT and how does that relate to Paul’s words in Ephesians 5:1-2?

The Tabernacle

The context of Ephesians 5:1-2 deals with our responsibility to imitate the kind of love that God expresses. That love, in one sense, is the antitype of the sacred fire that the priests were commanded to use in the OT. When the sacrifices were offered using the sacred fire they were a sweet-smelling aroma to God. When Jesus offered Himself for our sins, His offering was also a sweet-smelling aroma to God. Why? Because His offering was presented in the sacred fire of the love of God. It is this reality that we are to imitate.

You will recall that Nadab and Abihu decided to offer common fire to the LORD and were struck dead. It is believed that they were intoxicated at the time because immediately afterward the priests were issued prohibitions concerning intoxicating drink (Lev. 10:9). Likewise, Paul adds later in Ephesians chapter 5, And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18 NKJV). Not only does alcohol alter our judgment, it tends to ungodly lust rather than godly love.

There are two other occasions that come to mind as it relates to offerings as Christians. In Romans 12:1-2 were are called to present our bodies as living sacrifices — holy and acceptable unto the Lord. This is a picture of a living burnt offering. The love of God is shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5) and thus we are enabled to offer ourselves to God as a sweet aroma. All that we do, motivated and energized by the love of God, produces an acceptable offering to the Lord. Any other motivation or energy source (as it were) is as strange fire to the Lord. It is simply not acceptable to Him.

Secondly, we have in Philippians:

Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. (Philippians 4:18 NKJV)

Here we have an example of an offering being given to Paul out of love. How do we know? Because it was a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. This agrees with Paul’s words to the Corinthians on love — which reveal the necessity of love in all that we do. What does it matter if we gave ALL of our goods to the poor if we did not offer them in love? So on and so forth.

In Revelation chapter 2 we have the Ephesians in a state where they had left their first love. Jesus informed them that unless they returned to their first love, He would remove their lampstand. Why? Because godly love is (in one sense) the antitype of the sacred fire of God. When the fire goes out — ministry cannot go forward. What use is a lampstand in a darkened room once the flame is extinguished? It’s just one more thing to stumble over in the darkness. So it is with a Christian and a Church. No matter what we do — if we are devoid of God’s love — we are nothing.

So we see then, that the key to presenting God with an acceptable offering is to do so in the love of God. That love — that fire — must be the energy source and motivation behind all that we do in ministry. When it is present… our labors and offerings are a sweet-smelling aroma unto Him. This is a major key to acceptable ministry.






Redeeming the Time

Robert Wurtz II

See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. (Eph. 5:15-16 NKJV)

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. (Col. 4:5 ESV)

Walk in wisdom towards those without, redeeming opportunities. (Col. 4:5 Darby)

Our passages offer great insight into Paul’s approach to the Christian life and ministry. In Eph. 5:15-16, he does not use the Greek word chronos (time) in this verse, but kairos (opportunity).  This is significant because Paul wrote Ephesians in roughly 62 AD (near the end of his life) having experienced severe hardships that left him imprisoned on several occasions. He suffered first hand the “evil days” that he writes about.

Every minute was precious to him because he never knew what a day would bring forth — except that the Holy Spirit warned him in every city that chains and afflictions were waiting for him (Acts 20:23). He was liable to be imprisoned for years at a time with little access to the people he desired to minister to. So when an opportunity presented itself, he “redeemed it” and made full use of it. Otherwise, those moments of time… those opportunities would be lost forever. Other than daylight savings time, there is simply no way to turn back the clock. 

Businessman pulling a clock hand backwards

Wasting Time and Opportunity

When I was a child, minutes seemed like hours, hours seemed like days, days seemed like weeks, weeks like months, and months like years. Everything seemed to be in slow-motion and my mind was recording it as it were on a high-speed camera — logging details so precise that the memory of my youth seemed to be decades long. But now that I’m old, years seem like months and months like weeks, weeks like days, days like hours, and hours like seconds. What happens? When we are young we are so impatient and time seems to drag by. When we are old we grow patient and time no longer waits for us. Youthful impatience slows the speed of time to a crawl. Aged patience unlocks the wheels of times to blazing speeds. The young man asks, “What’s taking so long?!” The old man bellows, “Where has the time gone?”

The famous British missionary C.T. Studd (1861-1930) wrote a poem that captures the essence of Paul’s repeated admonition to “redeem the time.” I quote only the last stanza:

Only one life shall soon be past and only what’s don’t for Christ will last. And when I am dying, how happy I’ll be, If the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee. — C.T. Studd


When opportunities come along to do God’s work we need to make use of them. In one sense, time is opportunity. In fact, sometimes we need to make our own opportunities. If we make ourselves available to God He will present opportunities to us. If we waste away our time those opportunities will be lost. 

We simply never know what a day will bring forth. Why procrastinate? Why waste our time on meaningless things? We may have far fewer opportunities than we realize. For Paul, he knew he had to make every one count. He could be thrown in jail and the opportunity to minister to specific needs in time would be lost forever. In these last days, loaded with every means of time-wasting one could imagine, may we ever be mindful of Paul’s and C.T. Studds words:

See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. (Eph. 5:15-16 NKJV)

Only one life shall soon be past and only what’s don’t for Christ will last. And when I am dying, how happy I’ll be, If the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee. — C.T. Studd