Seven Great Questions
Satisfied or Edified? (Part 1)
Robert Wurtz II
The enemy is not content to spoil the definition of the family; he wants to corrupt everything that God is working to establish. He militantly attacks our words and violently defends his redefinitions. He is a master at it. He can change terms so proficiently that anyone that reverts back to the former meanings is an idiot or a bigot. This is why Christians need to be students of their own history; all 2000 years of it.
Popular culture has successfully taught the masses to shun and detest the past. We are infected with the “Chronological Snobbery” that C.S. Lewis warned us about. And it was no accident. Yes, Satan is behind it all. He is a liar and the father of it. So we can rightly expect that he is hard at work corrupting the meaning of words that have heretofore been plainly understood in the churches of God.
Seven Great Questions
There are seven great questions that the Saints must endeavor to answer rightly if Christianity is to survive the onslaught that threatens to breach its walls on a daily basis:
What is Christianity?
What is Conviction?
What is Conversion?
What is Consecration?
What is Church?
What is Culture?
What is Compromise?
Unless we rightly answer the above questions we cannot understand God’s purposes in establishing the Church and therefore cannot possibly understand what it means to build that Church. Our definitions must be taken from the scriptures alone. We dare not invent our own religion with its own system of expression. We dare not assume that the enemy has not succeeded in infiltrating our understanding of these great topics. We must earnestly contend, not for the faith that was handed to us by the previous generation; but for the faith that was once delivered unto the Saints.
Build Means Edify
When we talk about building up a believer or building up the body, what do we mean? We are speaking of two different things, really: the individual believer and the corporate Body of Christ. Perhaps we need to begin by stating again that ye (as an individual and as a Body) are God’s building. Ye is the old KJV English, but it points the finger directly at the individual. Point your finger at your chest and say “ye” are God’s building project. This is more than saying we are God’s unique possession, we are also the consequence of His working. It began when we drew us to Himself through the preaching of the Word and the accompanying Holy Ghost conviction. The essence of the initial call is to “come out” of the world and come into the Kingdom of God. In the Kingdom all of the objectives are different. This is why the ways of the world and the ways of the Kingdom are mutually exclusive.
When God was ready to dwell among His people, He gave Moses explicit instructions on how His building (the wilderness Tabernacle) was to be built and how the service was to be conducted – down to the most minor of details. In fact, God anointed the craftsman to do the physical work. This means He have them the supernatural ability to accomplish the work. This was not haphazard. because this was God’s building and not man’s, there was no room for opinions about the details. God was very particular that His work be built according to His specifications. This is why we don’t read about folk adding to or taking from God’s blue prints. This approach was programmatic for the future. Paul told the churches, “Ye are God’s building.”
When we lose sight of God’s purposes in building the Church, we are bound to introduce things into our lives and into the churches that do not edify us as the Saints. In other words, they do not build according to God’s will and purposes. Our contributions must come from God – they must originate in Heaven. Men are not to live by bread alone, but by every Word that is proceeding from the mouth of God. This is not a figure of speech, it is to be our motto. The world says “Your satisfaction guaranteed!” The Saints reply, “Not my will, but Thine be done!”
This means we must endeavor to achieve our own edification and not our satisfaction. The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. It was true for the Lord Jesus, and it is true for us. Our natural tendency is to seek the pleasant and the comfortable. The average person in America today lives a more plush and comfortable life than Solomon. He may have had five slaves to stroke his headache, but we can take two pills and it leave all together. We have no concept of how plush we live in contrast to the kings and even pharaohs of ancient history.
We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification. (Romans 15:1-2)
This is why we have to start at the beginning and define our terms once again.
What is Christianity?
What is Conviction?
What is Conversion?
What is Consecration?
What is Church?
What is Culture?
What is Compromise?
The Grace That We Need
Robert Wurtz II
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
In our previous entry entitled, “Living by faith” we examined the importance of waiting on the vision; that is to say, to wait on what God has said to us rather than taking matters into our own hands. We said that mixing our word with God’s word creates a mixture of God’s will and our will. It is rejected as the product of the flesh. In this entry I wish to examine his God sends His word to us for our edification and direction. We are not to live by bread alone, but by every word that is proceeding from the mouth of God. By implication we see that God’s Word is the true bread. In fact, this is what Jesus said: Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. (John 6)
The Word- full of grace and truth
In our passage in John 1:14, we see how this works. Jesus Christ, the Word of God, is full of grace and truth. This is what the passage says if for the purposes of our study we connect the phrase “And the Word was…” with the last phrase “full of grace and truth.” The Word is full of grace. This is an amazing statement. The source of God’s grace is found in Jesus Christ, the Word. God’s divine enablement proceeds forth from Christ. He is the storehouse of grace. He, as our Great High Priest, has within Himself all that we need for our edification (building up) and direction. When our Great High Priest speaks to us, His words are full of grace to help in the time of need. You will remember that the Ark of the Covenant represented the throne of God’s glory in the Old Testament and that only the High Priest could approach the throne (Holy of Holies). These were just figures of the truth that are in Heaven itself. The throne of Grace is the throne where Jesus Christ, our great High Priest, distributes His grace (Hebrews 4:16). Notice it is a “throne of grace”. This implies that the will of God and His authority are in play when grace is distributed. In other words, the grace we seek in the time of need is the grace we need to be being built up to do God’s perfect will. Keep this very clear.
The Lamb Priest
And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne. (Revelation 5:6-7)
We have a picture here of the Lamb of God, slain from the foundation of the World, signified with seven eyes and seven horns. You will know that seven is the number of perfection. Eyes represent knowledge and horns represent power. The Lamb of God, having proven Himself worthy of all things, has perfect knowledge and perfect power. As has been noted, “Not six horns so that he didn’t possess all power, though He had all knowledge; but seven eyes and seven horns.” He is all knowing and all powerful. Moreover, He is the only one worthy to deliver revelation to the churches of God. For it is written; “And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon. And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon. And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.” (Revelation 5:2-5) When we come to the throne of Grace we are approaching the only one worthy to open the book and loose the seals thereof. Many pretenders and anti-christs would seek to speak to the churches over the centuries; but Jesus Christ alone has that prerogative. He earned the right through His death on the Cross.
Speaking to the churches
The one with seven eyes and seven horns has both the knowledge and the power to provide His people with what we need. He is on top of it as the High Priest of the Old Testament would tend the Lamp stand. He walks in the midst of the lamp stands (the churches of God) observing as-it-were with His “seven eyes” to see just exactly what is needed so that He might send the Word of His grace. The Holy Spirit is the messenger that reveals this Word in the midst of the assembly, but any number of means. the people are simply instructed; “he that has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says unto the churches.” The Lord Jesus sends His grace filled Word to us to help in our time of need.
The Word of the Lord –Ron Bailey May 15, 2009
The phrase “the Word of the Lord” is used over 250 times in the scriptures and over 50 times in Jeremiah alone. It is easy to become desensitized to phrases like this, but to pause when we read them is very challenging. When God spoke of his own diligence in sending prophets to the nation of Israel he used a lovely Hebrew idiom which is simply “He rose up early in the morning and…” The picture, apparently, is of a man loading his camel for an early start. Of course God never sleeps, but the urgency and the industry of God sending His Word is captured just the same. How faithfully He sent those messengers. Some they ignored, some they opposed, some they silenced, but “the next morning” God just loaded up another “camel” and sent another Word. Sometimes prophetic messages were simply called “the burden of the Lord”. God solemnly warned the people of Jeremiah’s day that a day would come when there would be no “daily delivery”, no burden of the Lord. Jer 23:33. (see the KJV)
The grace that we need
God is sending “the Word of the Lord” to each and every one of us daily in this crisis hour. He speaks to His people individually and in churches with the expectation that they will hear and hearken to what has been said. It is the Word of His grace that is able to build us up and give us an inheritance among those that are being sanctified (Acts 20:32). It is our daily supply of every word that is proceeding from the mouth of God. Those words, that the Holy Spirit so lovingly quickens to our hearts, provide the grace we need in the moment. Sometimes God speaks long-term directives and we wait upon Him in those matters, trusting and obeying in faith; but there is a daily Mannah that comes forth from the word who is full of grace and truth. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. Amen.
God’s Building – God’s Way
Robert Wurtz II
For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. (1 Corinthians 3:9-13)
The temple motif is common in the writings of Paul and is here again in 1 Cor. 3. It may be good for the reader to take a moment and read the entire 3rd chapter to get a feel for what Paul is talking about here. He is drawing our attention to what we are doing when we are laboring together with God. He first states, ye are God’s building. The fact that the churches of God belong to God exclusively, having been purchased by the very blood of Christ, ought to sober our minds to the task at hand. Later on we are given this solemn warning, If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. (1 Cor. 3:17) The Saints within the churches of God both individually and collectively constitute the Temple of God. This is God’s building project and an exceedingly precious one to Him. Again, to add to our sobriety we are warned, If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. So we see then a great contrast between those that are building the temple with gold, silver, precious stones and those that defile the temple. Paul deals here with proper building, improper building and destroying. For this entry I wish to focus on proper and improper building.
A cause of confusion
Over the years I have found myself in controversy about how the churches of God have been being built upon the foundations of past generations of dear Saints. I have lost friends over this subject and have been grossly misunderstood on a number of occasions. But I don’t think we should fear addressing this subject because it is utterly important to the success of the churches of God both now and going forward. Paul tells us plainly, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. So what are the possibilities? Understand that every day we are building into our own lives and spirits (our body the temple) either gold, silver, precious stones or wood, hay, stubble or things that defile the temple. If any person ministers in the churches of God (the corporate temple) they are bringing to the project either gold, silver, precious stones or wood, hay, stubble or things that defile the temple.
Things that defile
Things that defile and destroy the temple are like what we find ‘that woman Jezebel’ doing at the church at Thyatira. Here we read:
Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works. (Revelation 2:20-23)
Here we have a woman in the church at Thyatira pretending to be a prophetess, but is actually seducing the people into committing fornication and partaking of the table of demons- provoking God in the process. (1 Cor. 10:21) This kind of conduct falls in the category of, If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. (1 Cor. 3:17)
Hay, wood and stubble
Going in reverse order next we have wood, hay, stubble. These are not destructive things, they just don’t edify. This was always Paul’s question about what a Saint is doing, does it edify? Does it build us up in our most holy faith. Notice it did not say puff us up. Many things bring about a false sense of edification. They are building materials that God has not approved, but is waiting until the judgment to finally deal with it all. Keep in mind that wood in the scripture is symbolic of humanity or humanness. What is the origin of our contribution? Does it originate in the heart of God or in the human ideas of the flesh? It has to be tested. Here we read, Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. Here our Greek word for ‘sort’ is ὁποῖος (hopoios) and it means of what sort or quality, what manner of, that something is. “Every fire tests the quality of the material used in the building. Men today find, alas, that some of the fireproof buildings are not fireproof when the fire actually comes.” (A.T. Robertson) There is an eschatological (final judgment) fire that will test all of our works. This is not a threat for judgment, but to assess our works for rewards sake. There is also the day to day fires that we encounter as a matter of course in life. Many believers today cannot stand the fires of adversity and trial because they have built their life with wood, hay and stubble. Perhaps churches and ministries are failing because when the fire comes they are found to have only been wood, hay and stubble. We simply can’t expect to put a thatch roof on a solid gold building and it not be rejected. We have to bring things that are worthy of the foundation, which is Jesus Christ. Our service to God will be judged on the basis of quality not quantity (what sort not size). Marvin Vincent, one of the great Greek scholars of the 19th century explains it this way,“To this structure different teachers (builders) bring contributions of more or less value, represented by gold, wood, hay, etc.”
What is hay, wood and stubble?
The question then becomes, what are we bringing to the structure? What are we building our own spirits with? Are we building with materials that come from God or from something else? That is to say, are we building our spirits and churches with Bible based- God inspired things or are we moving in something else? Are we building with worldly wisdom or are we truly building with Spiritual means and materials? This is a vital question to ask ourselves.
About 10 years ago I recall traveling to a remote part of Missouri where back in the 1940’s my great uncle on my mother’s side was said to have built a wooden log cabin in a single day and spent the night in it. It was not much bigger than a small shack. He gathered up the trees, cut them and had shelter. I thought it was a pretty impressive feat, but I wouldn’t have wanted to ride out a tornado or forest fire in it. Some 60 years later it hardly recognizable as a building. Why? The elements had destroyed it. This is a slow fire of sorts. If circumstances were different and the builder could have taken the time and built it out of solid gold it would still be standing today. That is not a criticism, but it shows how desperately we need to take heed to how we build upon the foundation of Christ. Hay, wood and stubble can be gathered up off the ground and made into something very flimsy and temporal.
Gold, silver and precious stones
Gold is hard to find and sometimes very difficult to process. Silver is difficult to find and is very hard and costly to process. I once toured a silver mine in Calico, CA. where there are still large deposits of silver, but the cost to process it is more than the silver is worth. Precious stones are from the Greek that means rare and precious. Again, these things have to be mined from the earth through laborious and painstaking processes. Once they are found they have to be cut to shape to bring out their beauty and worth. This is what it is to build our spirits and churches with lasting and edifying materials. We need that which comes from God that is derived by the Spirit in prayer and study. We need builders that are men and women of the Spirit and of the Book.
But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy: So that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people: for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the noise was heard afar off. (Ezra 3:12-13)
The children of Israel had been carried off to Babylon because of their sin. The temple had been plundered and destroyed. Many years later a band returned at the order of Cyrus the Persian to rebuild the Temple. There were many promises associated with this temple. Yet we have a terrible event captured in Ezra 3:12-13 where the ancient priests and Levites and elders wept, most likely, because of the sad condition of the building as compared to the Temple they recalled from their you that was built by Solomon. The young people didn’t know any better. All they had was their present experience. They never witnessed the real thing. Their sin and compromise had cost them that and now there is this mixed reaction of weeping and rejoicing depending on your age. We have this in Haggai, Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do ye see it now? Is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing? Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the LORD; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the LORD, and work: for I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts. (Hag. 2:3, 4) We have here the promise that God is still with them- looking forward to a day when God will build His Temple. It was hard for the ancients to come to terms with what seemed like such substandard building.
If we will mind the words of Paul we will build as God has called us to; with excellence and with His prescribed materials. If we take the attitude of Cain and get mad that God won’t accept just anything we want to bring to the ministry then we are destined for heartache, loss and possibly sin. For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.
Fruit: The Ultimate Test
Robert Wurtz II
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. (Matthew 7:15ff)
Our passage is insightful, simple and straight-forward. Jesus is warning us to beware of wolves that would seek to come in to our midst under the guise of the prophetic, but lack the fruit of the Spirit. No doubt the enemy can counterfeit certain aspects of the prophetic through the use of clairvoyance. This is supernatural power or revelation that does not come directly from God. People that move in these realms may be defrauded into thinking that what they are experiencing is the Holy Spirit, but in reality it is not God revealing things it is the enemy. How can we know the difference? One way is to pay very close attention to our passage; Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. You cannot flip back and forth from the Spirit to the carnal mind like we often think people can. We are fooling ourselves to think such things. A tree don’t bring forth apples one day and thorns and briers the next day. In other words, you can’t move in the prophetic one minute and act as mean as a junkyard dog the next. If a person cannot discern what spirit they are of, how are they going to discern the spirit that everyone else is of? This is what Jesus told the disciples that wanted to call Fire from Heaven. You know not what manor of Spirit you are of. Paul’s litmus test for all of the spirituals (Spiritual gifts) was does it edify (the believer or the body)? Does it build them up in the faith or does it harm the church or the believer in their walk with God? Is it spoken in love or in bitterness? False prophets get mad and then start putting words in God’s mouth that are not so.
Notice how Jesus describes them; false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Wolves are notorious for killing and carrying off sheep. We have the wolf motif in Ezekiel 22:27ff, Her princes in her midst are like wolves tearing the prey, to shed blood, to destroy people, and to get dishonest gain. Her prophets plastered them with untempered mortar, seeing false visions, and divining lies for them, saying, “Thus says the Lord GOD,’ when the LORD had not spoken. (Ezekiel 22:27-28) Here they were taking advantage of the people speaking things that God had not said, divining lies, seeing false visions, plastering them with untempered mortar; that is to say, they were not preparing them for the destruction that was coming. They were suiting themselves and seeking their own ambitions. They seek dishonest gain while the people are about to be carried off by their enemies. They are thinking about their own plans and have no clue of what God is doing right now, though they truly,truly think they do. Ambition and desire for dishonest gain are always a deadly combination and is one of the reasons God had to deal so strongly with Ananias and Sapphira. Their greed caused them to hold back a part of the price, but their ambition was the beach head on which the enemy charged into their life with a lie to cast them in a favorable light in the church saying they gave the whole amount. They wanted favor with the people and were willing to lie to the Holy Ghost to get it. People moving in these and similar things are toxic to the churches of God. This is why God smote them dead. The whole story is exemplary.
There is a sobering pattern in Jeremiah’s writings that is summarized in one verse, How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets that prophesy lies? yea, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart. (Jeremiah 23:26) This is a staggering thing to consider that they are the prophets of the deceit of their own heart. Notice that the false prophet is deceived himself (or herself) and is articulating from that deception when they prophesy. They believe things that are not true and put a false construction on events based upon that deception. For Ananias and Sapphira, Satan had filled their heart to lie to the Holy Ghost. A person with ambition is blinded by their own desires until they may actually believe they are the only person they know that is truly hearing from GOD. They have so confused their own will with God’s will, that unless what transpires in their life is what they want, God’s will is not being done. This is madness and dangerous. Pretty soon the whole flock is in an uproar and confusion because the wolf in sheep clothing is prophesying the deceit of their own heart. What do they do? When those things do not come to pass they cover it by saying that God’s will is not done. This is nonsense. In the Old Testament when that happened a funeral was held for the prophet. But there it is.
By their fruits you will know them
If a person does not live in such a way that they consistently display a Christlike Spirit, they are not qualified to preach or prophesy. God can speak from a whirlwind, a donkey, rock, or anything else He may choose; but we have this passage from Jesus that gives the normative way of things, namely; Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. Don’t even bother hearing the person if they don’t display the fruit of the Spirit. Moreover, if the Spirit in which the prophetic message is delivered is not Christlike, but bitter and angry, consider our passage. A prophet in modern times (if there were such a thing) should be expected to yield the same Fruit of the Spirit as everyone else that ministers before the Lord. Moving in the gifts is no excuse to act out. This is why there are so many offenses in the churches of God. I dare say that in some circles, if we had everyone back that were foolishly and carelessly offended out, we would probably not be able to contain the people. Why pray for revival if we can’t act right? In fact, if a person is mean and spiteful, you already know what fruit they are of. Watch the fruit of the persons life. Do they live holy lives? Do they have a good reputation among unbelievers as an honest person? Are they universally loving or do they love just those they wish to love? Do they act hateful? These are all valid common sense questions that take little to no discernment.
The gifts as a weapon?
It should go without saying that the prophetical gifts are not weapons to be used on people that we are in conflict with. If we are upset at a person, we had best leave God out of it and not be putting words in His mouth or the Holy Spirit’s mouth in order to inflict harm to a person. The spirituals (spiritual gifts) are to be approached with great soberness, reverence and love. They are for the perfecting and building up of the Saints, not for the furtherance of the agendas of men. God warned Israel through the Prophets and the Disciples through the Lord Jesus. When Israel was deep in sin their prophets still thought they were hearing from God. Amazing! In fact we read in 2 Chronicles 18:23, Then Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah came near, and smote Micaiah upon the cheek, and said, Which way went the Spirit of the LORD from me to speak unto thee? Here is a man punching or slapping the true Prophet, while he was a false prophet. This tells me that sometimes people don’t even know that they are moving at enmity with God when they are prophesying, etc. To operate in the gifts purely and with no spurious input from either the enemy or our own mind of deceit, you and I have to come out of the world and draw near to God. We have to be being filled with the Spirit in such a way that we walk in love and speak the truth in love. Otherwise we risk being the very thing Jesus spoke of. The saddest thing of all would be to think we were sheep and shepherds, when in reality we were deceived totally, had no real fruit in our lives, but still believing we were right with God.
When I think about Israel’s experience coming out of Egypt and into the Promised Land I think also of our Christian lives. The parallels found in the types and shadows are a wonder for any believer to explore. But here we have a passage that seems to get little press these days. But the land which you cross over to possess [is] a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water from the rain of heaven. Is this God telling us that our life will be filled with ups and downs? I think it is. Jesus said it this way, said, “In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer I have overcome the world?” But could it also be God telling us that the end of our lives will likely be the longest and deepest valley of all? I want to examine that question in this latest entry.
For nearly 20 years I have been involved in ministry to the elderly. Once a week and as often as twice a week, my wife and I have been involved bringing the Gospel to non-believer, backslider, and faithful Saint in multiple nursing homes in the area. Some of you know me as a Bible Teacher, Preacher, Manager, Moderator, or other things, so this ministry has kind of sat on the fringe. It began in early 1994 as I was invited to assist a team that went to a hospital here in Kansas City. There I met many dear saints of God at the end of their lives. Some lived in bodies that were twisting and breaking down; others were slowly losing their thinking and memory ability. These are Saints like a precious man named Nineveh that was once a Pastor. Though he once preached the Gospel and traveled around, now he was confined to a room in a lonely hallway. He loved to sing all the verses to “O, how I love Jesus!” Then there were Saints that I look at and say as they writer to the Hebrews- people of God to whom the world was not worthy. Women like Juanita and her best friend Doris. Juanita was a quadriplegic induced by years of cerebral palsy. Her friend Doris that was also an elderly person battling cerebral palsy would push Juanita across the hospital, down the elevators, down a long corridor to the meetings. There were many residents to push down and Doris wanted to make sure we got Juanita. She could barely walk herself. She used the wheelchair as a walker of sorts and pushed her there and back when the meeting was over. The time would fail me to tell of all the dear saints that made a tremendous impression on me as a young Christian and continue to make an impression today.
Going in the rapture
I’m sorry to have to say this but many dear Saints of God that are now in their graves have died believing they would go up in the rapture. That is not a criticism, I am merely articulating the circumstances to give context for this entry. I have heard folk testify that they want to die in their sleep or they want to go up as Enoch that walked with God and was not for God took him. Many never saw the deepest and darkest valley they could have ever imagined would be the last scene on the stage of this earthly life. Some Saints I have known looked forward to retirement only to have their spouse turn ill or pass away before they could enjoy one day of it. Do we believe God when He says, But the land which you cross over to possess [is] a land of hills and valleys? Would it be indiscreet for me to tell you that dear Saints that have been with us helping out in the meetings have passed away almost with the frequency of a college or high school sports team? They get a player for 3-4 years, but we see precious Saints sometimes pass in one year after filling a role. Does that shock you to hear? It is true. What about Christians that are to young for elderly care, but have watched a spouse walk out on them for green pastures after all their kids left home? We can argue about the what’s and wherefore’s, but the truth is it happens and for the victim it is a deep and dark valley.
Solomon tells us clearly about old age in Ecclesiastes 12. It would be wonderful to believe that everyone is going to go up in the rapture, but if the Lord should tarry every one of us will die of the last thing that ailed us. The longer we live the more suffering we will experience. I have known many people that have outlived their spouse and children. Some were widowed, remarried and lost that spouse also. Think of the suffering and pain of heart. As it is said, death is one per person; but we can prepare ourselves now by spending time in the Word of God while we still have good eyesight and hearing. Many dear saints cannot see good enough to read anymore and are dependent on someone else to read to them. Hiding the Word of God in our hearts while young will be invaluable in times of trouble, especially if and when our senses start to fail us. Living in a room all alone is a dreadful experience if you don’t know the Lord. Learning to pray and spend time in fellowship with the Lord is essential to maintaining joy and love and peace in the difficult times. I have found that sometimes all that is left for a Saint is to pray. Selah.
At the New Life Conference 2012 I heard a dear Saint say that as long as we can find someone to love we will always have a reason to live. In some countries the elderly are taken care of by family so nursing homes are small. But if a person lives long enough they will eventually need some level of trained care. This is where Christians can go in a minister to dear saints that are no longer able to express their faith in ways they did when they were young and mobile. I think of the words of the Lord Jesus, I was in prison and you visited Me. Is it enough just to tell folks that Jesus will never leave them nor forsake them? A nursing home is almost like a prison to many because it’s the last place they will ever live. They cannot leave so they live lives that are somewhat like a prisoner. I think Jesus’ words apply here.
I once made a long anticipated trip through Monument Valley. It is the backdrop of many Westerns and car adverts. Traveling down the valley headed West is a very sobering experience. It seems as if the scenic view is only a few moments ahead. I can’t imagine walking it. Life is that way. Sometimes the last stretch is the longest and most grueling, but the finish line is just ahead. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a cheering section lined along the highway shouting YOU CAN MAKE IT! You are almost home! The Lord loves you and He has not forgotten about you. Millions of dollars are spent each year on various ministries and missions organizations and rightfully so, but what about that train station down the street or in your town where some dear Saint just boarded the last time on their road to eternity? Probably the greatest mission field on earth is a building full of terminally ill backsliders or dear Saints that wonder if they are forgotten.