Things I Have Learned From Flying Commercial

Things I Have Learned From Flying Commercial
Robert Wurtz II

He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall, But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:29-31)

Of all the articles I have written, this is one where I am truly thinking out loud (musing in print). I have woke up many times over the years from dreams of flying in commercial planes. Perhaps it is because for most of my adult life I have had an aversion to flying. However, the more I have traveled, the more comfortable I have become. I still don’t like to fly, but things have greatly improved.

In this particular dream I had recently, I was so comfortable on board that I was actually lying in a bed asleep. I was at peace and rest. Then, suddenly, I realized that the plane was a new Boeing Dreamliner! Some of you will know the troubled short history of this latest aeronautic innovation. I say “innovation” because the plane is so unlike the planes that were made before it, with new materials introduced, new technologies employed, etc. It’s almost like they started all over again. I don’t know about you, but I would not fly on a Dreamliner today. If my itinerary listed that plane- I would have to call and cancel. Just saying. 

For me, and for a lot of people, it takes a considerable amount of nerve to get into a multi-ton machine and fly across the ocean. In one sense, it is a step of faith. Not just in the plane or the pilots- but in God. You might be asking about now, what about the Dreamliner? Could you not trust God to keep you in that plane? My mind cross references to Paul’s words, “Sirs, I perceive that this voyage will be with hurt… not just to the ship… but also to our lives.” Why? Because too many innovations have been introduced at once so as to break continuity with the dependable and reasonably “safe” aircraft that went before it. It’s like they reached the ability to produce a plane that was almost bullet proof (such as the 737) and then they have to go and “innovate.” Amazing. Coolness obviously became a priority over faithfulness.

As the people of God, I think of us as an assembly “in flight.” I believe we need to be mounted up with wings as eagles. We need the wind of the Spirit under our wings. This is how I think of a local assembly. But what happens when so many innovations have been introduced into the churches that there is no longer continuity with the past? The Dreamliner, for many people is a nightmare. Likewise, how can we have peace of mind and a sense of security when things are constantly in a state of change within the churches? New methods of evangelism, new emphasis in preaching, new standards of living, New, new, new, everything until we are in a “Dreamliner” state. For example, we can’t even learn the lyrics to a song (much less take possession of it in our hearts) before something new is introduced and the old discarded. It is brand new plane with all new technologies. 

I cringe every time I see another news report of a battery on board that nearly melted a massive hole in the plane (or something like that). Another grounded flight- another abandoned take-off. In a strange way I fear this has become our state within many circles of Christianity. There have been so many changes made in so many key areas that we struggle to even get off the ground, much less establish a track record for dependability and faithfulness (to the Kingdom of God). I don’t know. I guess it’s just how my mind works these days. Have we exchanged tried and proven principals for an age of “dreaming” of new ways to do things? It’s not working too well for Boeing at this point. How is it working for us?

Things I’ve Learned From Elderly Saints

Things I’ve Learned From Elderly Saints
Robert Wurtz II

The glory of young men is their strength, And the splendor of old men is their gray head. (Proverbs 20:29)

It is sometimes hard to imagine that every elderly person that we come into contact with was young once. The unlocked wheels of time have a way of changing the appearance of a person until they no longer resemble the man or woman of their youth. The time would fail to go on describing the many people I have walked into their room and there, sitting on a nightstand or dresser, were the pictures of the person that once was. Men who were accomplished athletes and pictures of strength and masculinity; ladies that were as beautiful as any who graced the cover of a magazine or starred in a Hollywood movie. Indeed, the glory of youth is a fleeting thing. If God should will it and we live an abundance of years, we too, will look on as our golden, auburn, brown or black heads turn in uniformity to grey or white. Some of us will lose it all together.



    
As a Christian I have often wondered how an elderly person can go on expressing their faith in a meaningful way. Consider their circumstances. Among the first things to go are your sight and hearing. This presents a great challenge. Consider some of these problems:

If a person cannot see, how will they read their Bible? 

If a person cannot hear, how will they listen to someone else read it to them?

If they lose their mobility and become confined to a bed, how will they attend church meetings?

If they lose their mental capacity, how will they assemble their thoughts?

If they are in pain and medicated, how will they think clearly at all?

If their voice and lung capacity is lost, how will they sing the songs and hymns that once encouraged them? They can sing them to themselves, but this implies recollection of the lyrics. Most elderly believers cannot see a songbook well enough to sing from it- no matter how large the font.

If a person suffers from any combination of these problems, how will they share their faith with others? How can they express their faith at all?

Over the years I have met numerous Christians that no longer had the ability to express their faith as they did in their youth. Some were pastors or chaplains; some were Sunday School teachers and choir members. Some were born again as a child and were used to going to meetings several times a week- reading their Bible and all other standard Christian exercises. But now, for many of them, none of these things are possible. Imagine living, wondering, if you will wake up tomorrow, but physically and mentally struggle to express your faith as you once did. What do I do now? 

I often say that the longest and loneliest valley a Christian will ever walk will be the final months and years of their long life. Usually they that hear me say that push the thought as far back into their mind as they possibly can- hoping it will never be true of them. I could not possible list the number of times I have heard elderly saints ask for prayer that their family would come to visit them. Loneliness is often the only faithful earthly companion of the elderly. Well, we can avoid this by dying young, but there are few in line wanting to do that. 

One thing I have learned from elderly saints is that we must prepare ourselves now for the circumstances of old age. Once you are old you will generally no longer desire or be able to “keep in check” the feelings and attitudes dwelling just under the surface of your personality. You will be so distraught at your circumstances that you no longer care what people think. You will likely speak your mind for good or evil. Keep that close to your mind and guard your heart with all diligence. In other words, the time to get deliverance from hard feelings and ill temper is now. Because if it is still there when you are older, it will typically come out in unguarded moments. What else ought we to do to prepare for the older years? 

First, we must become men and women of prayer. Understand that prayer is the primary way that you and I express our faith. Abraham had no Bible, but he built altars for prayer. The old timers used to say that we need to learn to pray until we touch God. Others have said we need to pray that the Holy Spirit come and anoint us to pray. That is a way of saying that God is enabling us to pray above and beyond the “lay me down to sleep” type of praying. Prayer is our lifeline to God. We ignore it to our own peril.

The disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray in Luke 11:1ff. John the Baptist taught his disciples how to pray as well. This is amazing. The greatest Prophet of the Old Testament was a teacher of prayer. Leonard Ravenhill used to say that no man of God is greater than his prayer life. As John the Baptist, Jesus took time and taught His disciples to pray as well. He taught them the content of prayer and the necessity of prayer. When faced with the cross He fell to the ground and cried out in prayer. A wise man once said that prayer doesn’t change God- it changes us. Prayer is the bringing of our will into harmony with God’s will. Jesus ended His prayer with, “Nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.”

There will come a time when all we can do is pray, so we need to be praying men and women now. Like the foolish virgins who left to get oil when the Bridegroom was coming- so too are they who wait to develop a prayer life until they perceive the need. By the time a person is in a crisis there is no time to develop a prayer life. We need to be able to touch God in an instant. 

The early church did not have Bibles to carry around or ipods to listen to music. The printed page did not exist until the 1400s. This is very much like the daily life of elderly saints. All of their faith and their understanding of it was what they had hidden in their hearts when they were physically and mentally able. They are living off of those reserves. This is a very sobering consideration. someday all we will have as means to express our faith is what we have built into our life and practice right now. I am afraid that in modern times we risk becoming too dependent on our books and gadgets- not knowing that at some point they will be rendered useless to us. We must put to memory the scriptures, now. We must commit to our minds edifying song lyrics, now. We must build altars of prayer, now.

   


From Neophyte To Devil

From Neophyte To Devil
Robert Wurtz II

Not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil (1 Timothy 3:6 NKJV).

Paul is writing to Timothy in what are commonly known as the “pastoral” epistles. Perhaps a better description would be “leadership” (overseer) epistles. Nevertheless, in our passage above, Paul expressly forbids Timothy from setting a novice in a leadership role within the churches. He says, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. The verb “pride” means primarily to make a smoke: hence, metaphorically, to blind with pride or conceit. Neither the A.V. (KJV) nor RSV’s “puffed up,” preserves the radical sense, which is the sense here intended — a beclouded and stupid state of mind as the result of pride. (Vincent) What could be so potent that it blinded the devil into a recklessness that is incomprehensible and brought ruin upon the Creation of God past finding out? What drove his desire to ascend- even into Heaven to be like God. What was driving him to be God’s enemy? One simple little word, “Pride.” 

A Neophyte

The Greek word for novice (meœ neophuton or our neophyte) comes from two words that mean new and plant. That is, a newly planted Christian. Christians and young Christians are devoid of the Christian experience and knowledge of God necessary to conduct oneself rightly if given responsibility. One must have time to bring ones mind under the absolute authority of God and His word before ever hoping to lead God’s people in anything related to Christianity. Otherwise, they risk leading after their own imaginations and what is right in their own eyes. Observe here in particular, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. The devil has destroyed himself through his pride. To set a new or young believer in a leadership role within the churches of God is to solicit the same devilish destruction of that person. It would be akin to handing a child a loaded revolver. They do not possess the wisdom or the maturity to handle the power that has been placed in their hands and almost certainly will in some way abuse it.

Leading When its Time to Listen and Learn

Paul was concerned that neophytes would be placed into positions that would destroy both them and potentially the church they were associated with. New converts have not had time to learn and as Matthew Henry has said, “the more ignorant men are the more proud they are.” Many who are in leadership today would have benefited to have spent a number of years learning before they began leading. To function within the kingdom of God is to desire to know God’s will and perform it. The devil, lifted up with pride, sees no sense in learning God’s will and ways but rather seeks to implement his own will. The proud are notorious for confusing their will with God’s. Paul has warned us in no uncertain terms. 

Abusing Authority

Everyone is familiar with how people can get on a “power trip” and abuse others once they are able. It happens in the workplace and even, regretfully, in the churches of God. Paul said that Christians need the mind of Christ, who being in the form of God did not think equality with God a thing to be grasped, but humbled Himself even to the cross. (see Philippians 2:5-8) Power and authority in proud hands is very dangerous. Giving authority to lead to individuals who are young and or “young in the Lord” is a recipe for destruction. (Proverbs 16:18) 

Falling into the Condemnation

Obviously, over the centuries Paul’s words have been ignored, and people have been placed, as novices, into positions of authority and have fallen into the snare and condemnation of the devil. They are blinded by their pride and are locked into that state. What can be done for them? This is a tough question, in part, because pride is the one sin for which the devil will never make you feel bad for committing (D. Prince). So pride is tough to flush out. 

A World at Enmity With God

Pride has also been defined as “excessive self-esteem.” It is excessive confidence in ones own worth or abilities. Excessive self-esteem or excessive confidence in ones own abilities leads to self-exaltation. This is common sense. In the kingdom of God the stakes are much higher. We risk having a person use their God-given talents for their own self-exaltation in the midst of the congregation and not even sense for a single second that they have sinned. 


Walk prudently when you go to the house of God; and draw near to hear rather than to give the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they do evil. (Eccl. 5:1 NKJV)

No ability; no talent; no gifting; is of any use to God whatsoever until it has been put through the cross of Christ. A “cross-less ability” (an ability not put through the death of the cross) is a weapon in the hand of the devil. The world says “use your talents” and “use your abilities” to exalt yourself and often Christians echo such sinfulness as if God is glorified by my pride. God wants humility and meekness in His people. He hates a proud look. (Proverbs 6:17) If He gave abilities to a person beyond measure- He would expect them to walk in meekness and humility. We must humble ourselves even as a little child. The snare and condemnation of the devil is when we take what God has given us and exalt ourselves against Him or before Him. When we use our talents to draw attention to ourselves in self-exaltation; when we divide the worship between Him and us in the midst of the congregation – we have greatly sinned. We must humble ourselves. This can only come as we consciously surrender to God and His word and allow Him to teach us His ways. Then and only then can we ever hope to come before Him to minister or lead in the kingdom of God and avoid the snare and condemnation of the devil. As John Baptist said it, “I must decrease and He must increase.” Not just words- but reality. 









An Enemy Has Done This

An Enemy Has Done This

Robert Wurtz II


Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? (Matthew 13:24-28 KJV)

One main point

A parable is a short story meant as an allegory to teach truth. It will usually have just one main point that the teacher is conveying. He/she sketches a setting, describes an action, and shows the results. The story is told in such a way as to leave out actual people or places so as to remove from the hearer any personal interest so they can make an objective judgment of the case. Obviously there are limits on how far we can pull concepts from a parable. This particular one in Matthew 13:24-28 contains many truths that have been the subject of whole scholarly works and books.     
  
No Supermarkets

We will need to spend some time unpacking these verses if we are to understand the seriousness of this story. Notice the theme of this parable is the great harvest of mankind that will take place at the end of the age in which the true saints of God will be separated from the imposters. The means by which this harvest will come to fruition is a process of planting and growing ‘seed’. It is very straightforward. Common sense will tell us that planting a field for food in ancient times was a life or death situation. If something goes wrong with the harvest the people will not eat. Jesus used this analogy because it had a direct bearing on the lives of the hearers. This is God’s estimate of the importance of this harvest relayed in language the people could relate to. In the first century there were no supermarkets as we know them today. No harvest- no food. It was that simple. So in order to feel the gravity of this parable we have to deliberately transport ourselves back into the context of the hearers.

Agricultural Sabotage

Understand first, that a field had been plowed and there was good seed sown. This took tremendous physical labor. This seed will produce good, edible fruit. However, in our parable- then appeared the ‘tares’ also. Tares (darnel) comes from the Greek word zizania and it refers to what is known in modern times as Lolium temulentum. This is a weed that resembles wheat, but is potentially harmful or fatal[1]. The word temulentus is Latin and means drunk. In ancient times feuding families or enemies would wait until their subjects ground was plowed and would sow darnel into their field to cause a destructive infestation. When it was harvested it would contaminate the good wheat rendering whole fields a total loss. Darnel, in this sense, was a weapon of war. Separating the darnel from the wheat at harvest was a painstaking, if not impossible task. 

Uprooting the darnel during the growth cycle of the field was almost impossible after a period of time because the roots intertwined with the good wheat. The hearers of this parable would know all-too-well the challenges of dealing with this type of agricultural sabotage. So serious was this crime that the Romans outlawed the practice of planting poisonous plants in another persons’ field.[2]   

But While Men Slept

Knowing that sabotaging a farmer’s field was morally egregious and against the law, the crime would be committed “while men slept.” This is an important detail that we must not overlook. Bear in mind also that this parable is a metaphor for “true saints” and “false saints.” The false wheat was sown into the field while men slept; this implies a lack of vigilance. In times of war food supplies have to be guarded. In Judges chapter 15 Samson tied twigs to foxes, set the twigs a fire, and turned them loose in the enemies field. That act of war provoked tremendous wrath. Why? That was their food supply set ablaze! Where were the guardians of the wheat field? They slept. And while they slept the false wheat was planted into the field; that is, false brethren were sown into the churches of God.

Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?

This seemed like the logical thing to do; the problem was that the roots of the infestation were already entangled in the wheat. Jesus answered, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. This is important. The picture here is of relationships. The good wheat were in relationship with the false wheat. This made it impossible to deal with the false wheat without destroying or offending the true wheat. This allows the false wheat to grow up together in the churches of God assuming seats of authority and influence. In our times false wheat can make it all the way to top of religious organizations and the highest rated Christian television programs. Think of the implications of that.  

Known by Their Fruits

For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes. (Luke 6:43, 44)

This is so straightforward it is almost insulting. Of course people know the difference between good and corrupt fruit! Right? Not so fast. Relationships have a way of blinding a person. Is that not the old adage, “love is blind.” Anyone can spot corrupt fruit in their enemy or a stranger, but what about those closest to them? Are friends and loved ones viewed through the eyes of reality or are excuses made?

It is easy to get weary in modern times as it seems that standards are dropping on every front. In olden times some Christians were absolutely committed to making sure that in the churches the darnel (goats) were kept out. However, disbarring people from fellowship on the basis that they appear to be tares is not broadly permitted. It is not a matter of if they are to be dealt with, but when. With God’s permission and insistencen the tares (darnel) are allowed tp grow alongside the wheat until the harvest. It is too dangerous to pull them now – as the risks are too many. Only God has the discernment and prerogative in such things. Understanding these important facts makes sense of our Lord’s strategy in dealing with the unconverted within the churches. What was that strategy? 



Bind Them in Bundles and Burn Them

So Jesus answered again, Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn. (Matthew 13:30) This statement made by our Lord is a fearful one. Know that the false wheat have drank in the rain that came often upon it, just as the good wheat. Nevertheless, rather than bringing forth a fruit that was useful, it brought forth after “darnel.” It could do no other. Why? For every tree is known by his own fruit. God has already determined that plants will produce after their own kind. An apple tree cannot produce walnuts. To change the fruit you must change the root.

A Man Which Sowed Good Seed in His Field

To understand our last question we need to return back for a moment to the beginning of the parable. It is obvious that we are speaking metaphorically about the kingdom of heaven. There are two sowers if you will, a man that sowed good seed, and an enemy sowing bad seed. The first sower is none other than God Himself. The second sower is said to be His enemy (Matthew 13:25). Clearly there are those planted of God and those planted of the Devil (Satan). The one is sown in the light of the day and the other is sown under the darkness of night. This is very important.

Seed sown at night

While the men slept the false wheat was sown in the field. This aspect of the parable speaks greatly to our times. Paul speaks along a similar line in 1 Thessalonians 5:7, For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. This is interesting because you will recall that darnel is Lolium temulentum and the word temulentus is Latin and means drunk. You will know also that Paul tells us, And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18 KJV). The Greek word translated as ‘excess’ is asotia. Soteriology is the study of salvation and comes from the same root as asotia, except the ‘a’ is a negative participle. The word means literally ‘unsaved’ or ‘unsafe’. This may seem like a bunch of large shady exegetical steps, but the reality is these darnel are not saved and are moving in a sort of drunkenness as do all that are lost in sin. The problem is that they are often completely convinced that they are saved and are almost unchallengeable as a result. 

Accommodating Madness

The risk of pulling up the darnel is that even the wheat would be lost. Infestations in sabotaged fields made it impossible to take any steps until harvest. This does not mean that the owner of the field was ‘ok’ with the darnel. He was not. He could see how they were corrupting His field, but He had an eye on his future remedy. The reapers are the angels and the angels know those that are His. The job of separation will not be nearly as difficult for them as it would be for a man to separate a field of darnel and wheat. 

A Look Back

We need to go back a moment and ask why the men desired to pull the darnel up in the first place? Because though they were growing together they were not harmless. The men knew in time the darnel would become a problem. In the churches of God the darnel have a whole different desire than the true wheat. They are constantly interjecting ideas into the churches after their Adamic nature. They can’t relate to why the true wheat want a Bible based church or a true move of the Spirit. They move in the realm of counterfeit and compromise as a matter of course. They are instinctively carnal. Amazingly, our Lord looks past the present danger to the ultimate reality that they will be bound and burned. This is a metaphor for everlasting fire. But what about now? What are the consequences of having tares in the Temple of God as it were? Obviously they produce after their kind. They are what they are and can be no other until they respond to God in genuine salvation and are transformed into a new creation by the Holy Spirit. 


[1] The Gospel of Matthew R.T. France P. 525-526
[2] The Authenticity of the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares Ramesh Khatry P. 35

Stones Folly and a Dangerous Mixture

Stones Folly and a Dangerous Mixture
Robert Wurtz II

…having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! (2Timothy 3:5)

Our passage is taken from a familiar context towards the end of Paul’s last letter to Timothy. Here he gives a long list of sins similar to Romans 1:29-31, but adds this aspect “having a form of godliness but denying its power.” That is to say, having the outward form of a godly life but devoid of the inward reality. In this state a person effectively denies the power or virtue embodied in a life of holiness. They may give lip service to holy living, but deny it in any practical way. It is all theoretical to them. They agree with holy living in principal, but deny it in practical (practicable) ways.

Azusa Street

 Recently I made a pilgrimage of sorts to three important sites related to the modern day Pentecostal Movement. I began at what was once the old warehouse where the Azusa Street Revival took place in the early 1900s. Today the building is long gone and all that is left is a sign strapped to a light pole marking the spot. 


It was on this spot that holiness preacher William J. Seymour (1870-1922), a dear black minister blind in one eye, started meetings that became what we know today as the Azusa Street Revival. Most modern Pentecostal Denominations and Charismatic Movements trace their history to this spot. However, there is more to the story. 

William J. Seymour

William Seymour was born to former slaves in Louisiana. Around 1905 he moved to Houston, Texas and attended a Bible College led by Charles Parham. It was here that he learned the doctrines of the Holiness Movement as well as the belief that speaking in tongues (glossolalia) was the initial evidence of having received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Although he had not experienced this phenomena, Seymour and a small group of followers relocated to the home of Richard and Ruth Asberry at 214 North Bonnie Brae Street in Los Angeles, California. Even white and Hispanic families from local holiness churches began to attend these house church meetings. This group would gather together regularly and pray to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

The Bonnie Brae House, as it came to be known, is the place where holiness preacher William J. Seymour received the Holy spirit with evidence of speaking in tongues. It is said that many received the Holy Spirit in this house, shouting for joy until the foundation nearly caved in. people would stand on the porch trying to see what was going on in the house. Revival had broken out. However, there is more to the story. 
Charles Parham and Stones Folly
Charles Parham was one of the five sons of William and Ann Parham. He was born in Iowa in 1873 and moved with his family to Cheney, Kansas at the age of ten years by covered wagon. His father William Parham was successful in business, but his mother died in 1885 when he was around twelve years old. The next year his father married Harriet Miller, the daughter of a Methodist circuit rider. This fact is important because of the holiness teachings of the Methodists as preached by John and Charles Wesley. Circuit riders were rugged tough men that traveled from church to church on horseback preaching to churches that had no pastor. many died young from the brutal beating this ministry caused on their bodies. Nevertheless, Charles Parham adopted holiness views and was a holiness preacher from the age of fifteen years old. 
In 1897 Parham and a family member fell sick. Attributing their healing to Divine miracle, he began preaching healing and praying for the sick in addition to holiness. Some say he renounced secular medicine all together. He lived by faith and refused to ask for money, only believing that the Lord would provide for his needs. This would be the basis upon which he started Bethel Bible College in Topeka, Kansas in the months following. Some forty families forsook all and joined the College that once existed at 17th and Stone street. Today a Catholic church occupies the spot.

It was on this property that the old Stones Folly Victorian Mansion once stood. It burned down just months after Charles Parham moved out in 1901. Nevertheless, this is where Agnes Ozman at the age of roughly thirty years old received the Holy Spirit with speaking in tongues on January 1, 1901. From here Parham developed the doctrine of what Pentecostals know as “Initial Evidence.” He was a holiness preacher that had added healing and baptism in the Holy Spirit to his doctrine. 
A Dangerous Mixture
A lot of water has gone under the bridge since January 1, 1901. In fact, the churches of God would live to see whole healing “ministries” come about in the next forty years. Tongues would be emphasized, the gifts of the Spirit, Apostolic faith, you name it. everything except one foundational teaching. You might have guessed what it is? Holiness. The very holiness movement, built on the doctrine of the Methodist’s John and
Charles Wesley’s teachings, which gave birth to what is today the Modern Pentecostal Movement, has been largely if not completely abandoned in the main stream. What does that mean?
It means that there was a time when holiness of life was the norm and people that operated under the gifts of the Spirit were sanctified to the Lord. Today the emphasis is on grace to the point that people believe they can live in rife sin and still move in the gifts. People can prophesy and if they “miss it” ask God to forgive them as if it were any other sin. Not that God cannot forgive these things, but there is a recklessness going on in many circles that is the result of merging “Baptist” notions of Eternal Security with Pentecostal operations of the gifts of the Spirit. This would not fly with old time Pentecostals. These men believed you must live a holy life in order to be used of God. They believed a person needed to truly be born of the Spirit in order to be a Christian.
A Change in Emphasis

I must admit that once the Pentecostal churches adopted the “Billy Graham method” of salvation (sinners prayer, etc.) the door flew open to multitudes of people coming into the churches that were born of a decision and not of the Spirit. Christians began trying to operate under the gifts that were not even born again. What happened? The old timers were maligned and marginalized as “legalists” and “strict” in their doctrines and methods. Cynical remarks were made to throw people off from asking for the old paths. Soon almost nobody preaching on holiness in the main stream. Thousands of ministries based on healing. Thousands based on personal prophesy. Thousands based on prosperity. Where is the emphasis on holiness? Where are the preachers of righteousness? Or are we living in an era of …having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! (2Timothy 3:5)

       
   

 

How Shall They Hear?

How Shall They Hear?
Robert Wurtz II

For “WHOEVER CALLS ON THE NAME OF THE LORD SHALL BE SAVED.” How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO PREACH THE GOSPEL OF PEACE, WHO BRING GLAD TIDINGS OF GOOD THINGS!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?” (Romans 10:13-16 NKJV)

I have quoted this passage at length in order to focus on the importance of “hearing” the Gospel. Certainly, there is a sense in which all people everywhere ought to know that there is a Creator. We know that the world is filled with people that should acknowledge the light that they have, but they suppress it. In fact, God has written His laws in the hearts of men and women, so that from birth, we all have a basic sense of right from wrong. Nevertheless, unless people are challenged in some way they will go on suppressing these realities. Paul reminds us that some are so hardened in heart that they do it and approve of others that do it as well. How will they hear? God’s method of challenging these sinners is through what Paul called, “the foolishness of preaching.” Not that preaching is foolish, but rather people (especially those who consider themselves educated) often view preaching as a foolish thing to do. Nevertheless, this is God’s method. 

Unless They Are Sent 

It stands to reason that there are realities that must be true before a person can be sent to preach. Saul of Tarsus is an example. Until his Demascus Road experience, he was not qualified- nor did he desire to preach the Gospel. In fact, he was at odds with God’s revealed Gospel in mind and in practice. To a lesser or greater degree, all unbelievers (the unregenerate) are in a state of disagreement with God when it comes to the Gospel. Saul went so far as to persecute those who believed and would have stamped out the preaching of the Gospel if he could have. However, when Saul was converted and became (as it were) Paul (as a new creation in Christ) he satisfied the first requirement for preaching the Gospel. 

Until Paul was truly born of the Spirit he was not in agreement with God from the heart and could never preach the Gospel. This is because the carnal mind is at enmity with God and cannot be made subject to His law. Bear in mind that I am speaking of the Gospel as it is known in the book of Acts and the rest of the New Testament and not the post-tent crusade, man-centered gospel as it has been known now for roughly a century. The unregenerate can preach the “modern gospel,” but they could never preach the Gospel of the book of Acts. So we have to make the distinction between the preacher of the modern gospel and the Preacher that Paul is speaking of when he says, And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent?”

The “Report”

But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?” (Romans 10:16)

Paul, referencing Isaiah, calls the Gospel message “our report.” The first aspect of the message is the revelation of the sinfulness of all men and women. This is argued extensively in the early chapters of Romans and was preached regularly in the book of Acts. It typically produced one of two responses: anger or trembling. When Stephen preached, the people got angry and stoned him. When Paul preached to Felix, he trembled. Paul heard Stephen’s message and later repented. We have no record of Felix repenting. So we see then that it is not enough to tremble at the notion that we have offended God and are accountable to him in the great Judgment. We have to repent (change our mind) and turn to Christ. We have to agree with what God has said about our sinful behavior and our sinful condition. 

Roman’s 10:16 equates obedience with believing the report (message). If a person does not believe they will not obey. This is an act of the will- not a matter of being convinced. God Himself has shown man the truth. Many people have received far more “light” than they should have ever needed to believe, but they go on in disobedience. The religious leaders even saw Lazarus raised from the dead; and rather than believing- they sought to kill him again. Amazing. But this is how obstinate man can be. This is how hostile to the truth of the Gospel some people are. 

A God and A Gospel that Sinners Will Accept  

 Israel was loaded with false prophets that told the people what they wanted to hear. How could these wolves in sheep clothing ever bring Israel to a place of repentance? They were too busy telling the people about peace and safety. The same is true today. Men and women have fabricated a “god” that will accept their sinfulness and be available at their beckon call. Grace has become a synonym for license to sin. Some people will go to their grave worshiping this god- because the process answers their inward need to worship their Creator. It is a placebo. It is false. 

Paul was greatly challenged by Jews that believed they were the elect and could not possibly be at enmity with God. They saw no need to repent under the deceptive religion they believed. We get the impression in Romans that many believed themselves above the common people because they were teachers of the law and of “babes.” In their mind this made them exempt from the very things they taught. They were born and raised Jews and therefore were God’s people by divine right. Paul thoroughly challenged this belief. 

In modern times we have a similar dilemma. Many people are born into Christian homes, and like the Jews, believe that this is what makes them a Christian. They would never admit this, but we have to account for the fact that historically the many children of true Christians are likely to have never undergone a true conversion experience. The Puritans experienced this in the 16th and 17th century in America and had to make compromises in church procedures to accommodate them within the churches. Paul would have challenged these peoples’ assurance-just as John the Baptist had done. God is able of stones to raise up children in Christian homes; nevertheless, this does not make the person a true child of God. 

We can train up a child in a way he or she should go, but this does not make them believers. This was Paul’s message in Romans. We all, no matter our upbringing, have to come to a place of Godly sorrow and true repentance. We have to acknowledge our sins just like everyone else. We have to repent of many of the sins that run rampant within churches and go completely unchallenged. In fact, we have to begin to see how many churches have established their rules of conduct in such a way that it allows children raised in church to fly under the radar. There are a lot more sins in the world than drunkenness and homosexuality (sexual immorality). Hypocrisy, greed, lying, gluttony, pride, and a host of other like things are often the very sins that answer to sinners rebellion. This is what the Pharisees and religious leaders (who thought they were elect) we often guilty of. When these go unchallenged-many people never see their sinfulness and therefore will never repent. Stephen was the type of preacher that could look at Saul (Paul) who was “blameless as touching the law,” and declare “you stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, you do always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did – so do you.”

 How Shall They Hear?

If there is any question that I dwell on more than any other it is this, “How shall they hear without a preacher?” Until we get some people truly born of the Spirit and called of God- there is no hope in our lands. We have “ministers” a dime a dozen- but where are the preachers like Paul and Stephen that will call the people to repent and believe the Gospel? How long must we go on wearying ourselves as did Israel with false prophet after false prophet? The only hope we have is for the preachers that are truly born again to preach the Gospel as it is supposed to be. Not ear-tickling, and not abusing the people, but ministering the “report.” I have no doubt that if men will do this God will back the words and we will begin to see real change in our lands.         

  

Religio Licita (Approved Religion)

Religio Licita (Approved Religion)
Robert Wurtz II


I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. (Revelation 3:15)


Religio licita is a Latin term used in ancient Christian writing to describe how Rome approved of Judaism within the Roman Empire- in contrast to Christianity that was effectively outlawed. Roman authorities, influenced by the spirit of Antichrist, violently persecuted the early Church. Christians were genuine. They repented, believed, were baptized and received the Holy Spirit. They burned for God in ways hard to imagine. Despite lethal persecution, in just one century the Gospel spread clear to Britain. Then the fire began dying down in many places. One of those was Laodicea. 

Spreading Death

G.W. North once stated that “preaching the Word without Fire is spreading death.” I think he was right. In fact, I think the enemy loves a tepid message. He loves lukewarm Christians, teachers, and preachers. Lukewarm Christianity is the Devil and the world’s “Religio licita.” They seem to approve of it all together. Nevertheless, the Lord has made clear that He will spew a lukewarm people out of His mouth. Simply stated, lukewarmness is Christianity on the fence; halting between two opinions. Our Greek word for “hot” means to boil. Jesus said, I would thou wert cold or hot. This is not “boiling” with the fire of emotionalism or some other strange fire; it is the consequence of God’s Holy Spirit being at rest in a believer. They burn and burn for Christ. 

Lukewarmness: Government Approved!

The Romans were not the only people to approve dead religion; society does it today. Liberal writers and educators love to refer to times of revival as “religious fanaticism” or some other cynical phrase. Why? The Devil and his children hate for Christians to “boil” for Christ in the Biblical sense and will provide a battery of substitutes. He works feverishly to bring the temperture down. The frenetic pace of compromising measures threatens to overwhelm the Saints. Even some highly educated Christians feel the need to tone down for the sake of appearances. Perhaps this is due in part to the wild antics of people that claimed to be having revival, but were not. In modern times, the word “revival” has been so abused and blasphemed that one is reluctant to describe anything as a “revival” lest it immediately be held in derision. The same is true for the “fire” of God.  

Romancing or Repenting?

Another enemy of a true boil is the current rage found in much of what we commonly call “evangelicalism.” This rage is based on teachings that suggest a romantic, sensual love between Christ and the Church (some call it “Bridal Paradigm”). It affects the lyrics of our songs, our concepts of God, from the radio to the satellite. It is almost certainly the consequence of unregenerate (not truly born again) people interpreting the scriptures through the only lens of love they understand; human relationships. This is why so many lyrics and sermons are anthropomorphic. If a person has never experienced Romans 5:5, they cannot write or preach about it. What do they understand? Familial and romantic love. They understand the feeling they get when they listen to their favorite love song and think about their boyfriend/girlfriend. This is what colors their understanding. Listen closely as the Christ of the book of Revelation or Isaiah 6, is profaned into one that drowns the church in grace, wraps her in His arms and gives her a sloppy wet kiss. This type profanity is so common it would be superfluous to cite more examples. Is this how they define God? Compare their definition to scripture. 

Romantic and almost sexualized concepts of worshiping Jesus are easy to accept, especially among young people, because they are longing for a sense of the romantic and sensual in their lives. People want a God like their media manufactured, idealized version of the perfect boyfriend or girlfriend; not controlling or demanding. Good looking and always making me feel good. One that will love me no matter what I do, and in my love language. One that will wait on me to find myself- for years if necessary. One that will allow me to have a night out with my friends and never judge me. 

However, burning with romance is not burning for Christ in the Biblical sense (take a look at the picture in this link). In fact, Christians and theologians of bygone eras would have labeled the thought blasphemy. Many, today, would have considered their Jesus as “an abusive husband.” Nevertheless, what we are describing at length is the “Religio Licita” of modern times and is forging the concepts of Christianity for generations to come. 

Jesus – Not a Rock Star

American Idol has single handedly made idolatry acceptable in the western world and in a large portion of evangelicalism.  In the 50s and 60s young girls would gush as “lovesick” when they attended the concerts of men like Elvis or bands like the Beatles. Some wept and screamed; some even fainted. What emotional madness was this? Young ladies by the scores used to stand outside Elvis’s mansion in Memphis shaking and holding their hands just hoping to get a glimpse of the star. This is where the guys went to “meet the girls.” 

Christian “Labels”

In modern Christianity, almost anything is OK if it has the label “Christian” attached. I sometimes wonder if there came about a “Christian marijuana” many would smoke it. Christian so-called Rock Bands enjoy nearly all of the worship that Elvis received. Parents approve and are happy that their children engage in these things because at least it is a “Christian” event. It is OK to idolize these people because they are Christians? 

“Rock and worship” is the new mass and the singers are the new priesthood. Singing about a made-up Jesus in an ocean of earthly phrases. I believe it is one of the most effective strategies to infiltrate and influence the churches that the Enemy has employed to date. Why? He learned how to tap into the closet, sensual, desires of people who were itching to give themselves over to the culture of American Idol(atry). Nevertheless, Jesus is not Justin Beiber. We do not come together to be “passionately ravished” by Him as if He were a lover. God is holy and is expected to be reverenced. At the risk of being tarred and feathered, I wonder if this is why the concert model of worship has come into vogue? The same types of emotionalism and passion that were heaped on Elvis many are trying to heap on Jesus- and in the same type of ways. 

Consider these lyrics:

Your love is extravagant
Your friendship, it is intimate
I feel like moving to the rhythm of Your grace
Your fragrance is intoxicating in our secret place
Your love is extravagant

Spread wide in the arms of Christ is the love that covers sin
No greater love have I ever known 
You considered me a friend
Capture my heart again

Compare this to:

He left His Father’s throne above
So free, so infinite His grace-
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray-
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

Both songs speak of Christ’s love. The one is clearly earthly and sensual- the other is biblical. As one writer commented on the former song, you could take the “t” off of Christ and almost have a secular song. Try it and see. 

Religio Licita in the Kingdom of God 
   
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.(Ephesians 5:25-27)

The Bride and Bridegroom motif in scripture is certainly valid; however, in its extreme and sensual construction it is subverted. Approved religion in the Kingdom of God is a very different thing than what can be achieved by a “romantic relationship” with Jesus. In fact, a cursory look at history, as contrasted with modern history, will demonstrate a preoccupation with romance today that was virtually unknown in the main stream in centuries past. Hollywood has dramatically effected how people think of relationships. It is false enough in a marriage, much less in our relationship to Christ. If we carry this ideology into our religious expression we are doomed. 

So how did we arrive at a merger between the secular and sensual love (radio and TV idealized) – romance crazed culture of the 50s,60s,70s,80s, etc., with the Visible Church (or more narrowly evangelicalism)? How did these things we have discussed corrupt our faith? Simply stated, it is Religio licita (approved religion). The people have been given what they wanted. Like Israel when she wanted a king- a generation wanted a way to have both Jesus and their popular culture. A generation was never told in their evangelistic message that they must choose one or the other; they were allowed to keep both. What happened? They mingled them together and this is what we have. With each passing day there are fewer people on earth that even see what has happened and even less that care enough to challenge.

I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. (Revelation 3:15)

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