Rejecting Revival (Why We Don’t Have Revival)

Rejecting Revival
Robert Wurtz II

Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. (Isaiah 55:6–8 KJV)

The old timers used to say, “Be careful that you don’t miss God!” It was a way of reminding people that God moves in His own timing, and we must be sensitive to His dealings. He is a sovereign God; which is a way of saying that He is all-powerful and can perform His will at will. He doesn’t need permission from anyone — though He often moves in response to prayer.     

Our passage in Isaiah 55 has a clear context wherein God is dealing with His people by His grace to bring about His purposes with them. However, there is a timeless truth here that we do well to grasp. Isaiah admonishes us to seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near. The repeated key word is “while.” The implication is that God draws near at unique times bringing opportunity to restore or establish a meaningful and experiential relationship with Him. People become, “God conscious.” Some simply say that there is an “awareness of God.” This means we are suddenly aware that God is near and dealing with us.  


Once we know that God is near, we must respond to His dealings. He has created us in such a way that we know (on the inside) when this is happening. Theologians sometimes call this faculty an “a priori” knowledge of God. When God comes near we become conscious of our sinfulness and our need for forgiveness. There are a number of times when God was moving in the book of Acts, and it was said that “fear” came upon the people and that they walked “in the fear of God.” When the Holy Spirit healed and delivered people it was said that “great joy” was in that city. When God is near both the fear of the Lord, and the joy of the Lord can coexist without contradiction. 


God works to change our minds to agree with Him and His ways. God and man cannot walk together unless they are in agreement. (Amos 3:3) This is axiomatic.  Individuals must turn away from their wicked and unrighteous ways and acknowledge their sins. In other words, they must return unto the LORD. If a person is willing to do these things’ God will have mercy upon him (…) for He will abundantly pardon. 

Missing the Day of Visitation

There are times when God visits people sovereignly. We have to be ready to respond to God when He decides to move… not the other way around. Notice again, Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near. God initiates contact. There may have been many prayers going up to ask for God to come near, but it is always God’s sovereign choice to move.



For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side,and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation. (Luke 19:43–44 NKJV)

The destruction of Jerusalem came roughly 40 years after this prophecy as the terrible consequence of the unbelieving Jews rejecting Jesus. He came for a “visitation” — from the Greek episkopos meaning “to look over” or “examine.” John the Baptist came to make straight the path for Jesus through the preaching of repentance. Most refused to cooperate with what God was doing; that is, to repent and turn to Christ.  


It is one thing to recognize what happened to Jerusalem, but it is quite another to see ourselves in Luke 19:43-44. When God decides to come near, who can say whether He will move in that way again? The book of Hebrews warns us that if we hear His voice, we must not harden our hearts. We cannot risk passing up an opportunity to seek the Lord during the times of His unique visitation. 

This is not to say that we cannot go on preaching the Gospel and God will honor His word; but there are unique times when God visits people with what some have called “revival” and they must respond. 


Danger During Revival

Sometimes God moves on an individual level, or He will move among churches. He may even bring revival to an entire nation. The time would fail to tell of the first and second great awakening when God moved wonderfully. Every moving of God has a purpose. Only God knows all the reasons why He sends revival. However, we can rest assured that if we miss God’s visitation, there will be serious consequences. This is true for nations and for churches. For example, some suggest that John Wesley’s preaching and the revival that came to England in those days helped avert the revolution that took place in France. What if England had missed her visitation? 

For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it: for how should my name be polluted? and I will not give my glory unto another. (Isaiah 48:11 KJV)


When God begins to move, the enemy springs into action. He uses all kinds of means to stop a revival. This is a primary reason why we see so little revival in our times. Either men are worried about who is going to “get the credit” for what God is doing; or they try to use revival to promote themselves or “their ministry.” That is how utterly corrupt things are in our times. What did God say? For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it.   

Carnal people are a great hindrance to revival. Pastors fear how their congregations will respond if God chose to use some other person other than them to speak to the people. Church members sometimes view revival as God’s approval of a minister and may seek to replace the former pastor. These are the types of reasons why God and churches are often at an impasse. Politics is one of the primary reasons churches have lost out with God in modern times. Leaders and carnal church members simply refuse to get out of God’s way.

Sometimes the church members seek God in repentance… but the leaders remain in carnality. In fact, “spiritual leaders” are often the last people on earth to repent. They are determined to keep up appearances (to make things look all right whether they are or not). Again, this is often because of politics. No minister wants to give people ammunition that can be used against them at election time — so they cover their sins and carnality. This is quite different than men like Daniel who would cry out to God on behalf of the people and number himself among those who need revival. 

Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. And I prayed to the Lord my God, and made confession, and said, “O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments, we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments. Neither have we heeded Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings and our princes, to our fathers and all the people of the land. (Daniel 9:4-6)



If we only had Daniel for an example. we would conclude that ministers ought to be the first in line to repent when God visits His people. The very desire to seek the Lord comes from God. It is Him initiating a visitation. This is different than people who attempt to manufacture revivals. What is worse is that we have suffered a complete “redefining” of revival. What happens? People are keen on prophecy and healing revivals… and if a few people repent it is called success. The healing revival emphasis has been going on in America since the 1950s. None now live who know what a “book of Acts” revival looks like. Leonard Ravenhill (1907-1994), author of Why Revival Tarries, often lamented the absence of genuine revival in the English-speaking world.   

Eugene Bartlett, author of the Gospel hymn, Victory in Jesus, penned the famous line: 

“I heard about His healing… 
of His cleaning power revealing… 
how He made the lame to walk again 
and caused the blind to see. 
Then I cried dear Jesus 
come and heal my broken spirit… 
and somehow Jesus came and brought 
to me the victory.” 

At the time of this writing Bartlett was paralyzed over half his body from the stroke that would soon take his life. I have to ask, with our nation going down the toilet; with our churches cold and carnal; do we really need a healing revival? Do we really need a personal prophesy revival? Do we need a prosperity revival? What did God say? Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts. This is what God is after. Unfortunately, for Israel, they rejected God’s dealings until there was no hope. I’m reminded of the sobering passage:

Moreover all the leaders of the priests and the people transgressed more and more, according to all the abominations of the nations, and defiled the house of the LORD which He had consecrated in Jerusalem. And the LORD God of their fathers sent warnings to them by His messengers, rising up early and sending them, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place. But they mocked the messengers of God, despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, till there was no remedy. (2 Chronicles 36:14-16)

What happened? The leadership and the people continued on in their sin — making excuses — listening to the ones who “healed the wound of the daughter of my people slightly” — mocking the ministers and prophets who had the voice of God truly in their mouths. The crowd would celebrate the compromisers, but reject people who preached the truth. Sound like today? Indeed, it does. Nevertheless, who can say what God will do? If perchance He moves again to grace us with revival, may we be swift to respond, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. 


The House of Eli (When God Departed)

The House of Eli
When God Departed
Robert Wurtz II

And when the people were come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, Wherefore hath the LORD smitten us to day before the Philistines? Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of Shiloh unto us, that, when it cometh among us, it may save us out of the hand of our enemies. (1 Samuel 4:3)

Since God began dwelling among men, He has warned His people about dangerous characters who would come along and put His presence at risk. Satan seems to have an endless army of agents at his disposal who infiltrate God’s ”  house ” for the purpose of    running Him off. Satan knows that bad behavior and God do not mix. These phenomena play out countless times in the Old Testament and into the New Covenant. In fact, a cursory read of Revelation chapter 2, and 3 revealed how serious the Lord Jesus is about protecting the churches of God from bad people. These people came in to cause God’s unique presence to cease dwelling among the people; in the language of Revelation, to get their lamp stand removed. 

In Chapter 2 the Lord praises Ephesus for not bearing with those who were evil and for rejecting false apostles as liars. Pergamos tolerated Baalam like people in the church who stumbled the saints with fornication. He warned them sharply to repent. Thyatira allowed a ” Jezebel ” to stumble the people with fornication and idolatry. He gave her a chance to repent, but she did not; tribulation was now at the door for them. These are just some examples of how the enemy is relentless to corrupt the churches so that God’s presence will withdraw from them. 

An Old Testament Lesson

It is hard to read our passage without bringing to mind the complete lack of discernment that Eli showed when Samuel’s mother wept before the Lord. Here was a man ready to accuse a woman for being drunk, while his two sons were living like devils in the ministry. All the while, she wept because she had no son. Now Eli’s sons are about to manifest the full recklessness of their own father’s inaction. In modern times, he would be tried for criminal negligence. In Israel, God will now demonstrate His estimate of bad behavior within the ministry. 


It is folly to pretend to have faculties of discernment when one is devoid of basic common sense. (compare 1 Cor. 11:14a “does not even nature teach you?”) Any person who had even the faintest understanding of the God of the Jews would have known how evil these boys were. If a man fornicates with women of the church, he is capable of anything. Moreover, they would take the largest portions of the offering for themselves causing the offering of the Lord to be despised. A sinner could have been called in to bring correction to such high-handed disregard for the things of God. Why did Eli allow this to happen? God said it was because he honored his sons more than he honored YHWH (God). You see, what was designed to be God’s House, had year-by-year slowly turned into Eli’s house. 


A House For God


Shiloh was the temporary capitol of Israel before the first temple was built in Jerusalem. For over 300 years, this place served as a center of religious worship. In fact, the Wilderness Tabernacle was erected here semi-permanently, with the Ark of the Covenant and the other related furniture. This means that things had gone relatively well for some 260 years. Then came that dreaded 40 year stretch where Eli, the high Priest, judged Israel. There are over 100 references, directly or indirectly to the number 40 in scripture. Typically the number symbolizes testing, trial, or probation. During these last 40 years at Shiloh, the nation was spiraling into a backslidden condition with Eli’s “priestly” son’s Hophni and Phinehas leading the charge. 


Either one or both of the sons of Eli was an accomplished fornicator; and either one or both of the sons was a gluttonous man. Between these two sons sins, and their father’s dereliction, the entire house of Eli was judged forever ending their priestly ministry with Abiathar


Only God understands the secrets of men; so we cannot say with any certainty why Eli honored his sons more than God. Whether he was proud of them or afraid of them, we cannot tell. We only know that he would rather disobey God in the face of certain judgment than deal with them. In fact, so serious was the situation that God raised up the young boy Samuel to replace Eli as the spiritual leader in Israel. In the very spot where God was to be reverenced and obeyed (as He is reverenced and obeyed in Heaven), Eli’s sons were behaving in unconscionable ways. We have this simple description of these men, “Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the LORD.” (1 Samuel 2:12) 


The sons were evil and the father was complacent. Loyalty is when you will stand by a person even when they are in the wrong; faithfulness is when we will stand for truth no matter who it effects. Eli’s loyalty to his sons trumped his faithfulness to God. Absolutely nothing moved Eli to correct His sons. He was receiving undeniable and direct threats from God (not that God makes any idle threat). God spoke to him in the strongest of ways warning him of what would happen if he did not stop them. Nevertheless, he carried on into the 40th year as if God was not talking. 


Sometimes it seems as though God is never going to judge sin. Can you imagine how vexed the Saints were who witnessed these things? Year after year the house of Eli acted out. People probably wondered, ” when is it going to stop? ” they have made a mockery of the ministry. It’s a wonder there was any faith left by the time it was all over. Some would have liked to have done something perhaps, but they could not bring themselves to do it. Indeed, things were completely out-of-hand. Eli didn’t correct them, and neither did anyone else. Somewhere between charm and intimidation, the house of Eli behaved however they wished. God had to do something. 


He describes His plan to Eli saying, “I will raise me up a faithful priest, that shall do according to that which is in mine heart and in my mind: and I will build him a sure house; and he shall walk before mine anointed for ever.” (1 Samuel 2:35) God wants leaders that are after His own heart–not their own lusts. This account of the leaders in Israel’s history are recorded for us, the churches of God, as examples of what not to do in the Kingdom of God. 


Moving in a Superstitious Reverence


It came to pass that God spelled out his judgment upon Eli and his house because of the way they had treated Him before the eyes of all of Israel. We have said this before, but the primary role of any leader in the Kingdom of God is to sanctify the Lord in the eyes of the people. Leaders must never give the impression that God is like a common man who can be obeyed and disobeyed at will; but they must exalt Him and sanctify Him before the people — through their conduct — in absolute reverence. 


Eli and his sons didn’t live by every word that was proceeding from the mouth of God; in fact, they treated God as one who can be trifled with. Isaiah 66:1-3 tells us what is required for a place of “God’s rest.” They are a broken and contrite heart (humility) and one who trembles at God’s word (obedience). The house of Eli failed on all counts and it would signal the beginning of God’s departure in Israel.




Blasphemed Among the Gentiles


People may have thought YHWH to be a dumb idol of wood or stone based upon how they behaved toward Him. In fact, the sons and elders of the people were so rebellious and misguided, that they viewed the Ark of God, i.e., the Ark of the Covenant- the very throne of His divine presence, as a superstitious relic that could be used almost as an amulet. They didn’t look to God, but to the Ark itself to secure victory in their battle with the Philistines! 



They didn’t obey and regard God, but they tried to go a running into battle with the ‘symbol’ of the authority of God to overthrow the Philistines. There is an important truth here. What sense does it make to try to exercise authority over demons if we are not willing to obey God ourselves? This is a sobering point. Why would men who flagrantly disobeyed the authority of God call upon His authority in their time of need? They wanted saved out of their situation, but had no intention of submitting to God’s authority. Notice they did not call upon Him, but they used the symbol of His authority superstitiously. This is what things came  to. When men seek to utilize the authority of God for their needs, but will not submit to Him in their everyday lives, it is time for serious change. 

The Ark Lost

The power was never in the Ark itself; it was what it represented in the Earth. The only power was in the peoples’ submission to God and their standing under His authority. The Ark had been sanctified to the Lord and was not to be used for man’s whims. It should have been the farthest thing from these elders’ minds. At least Eli had the good sense to tremble for the Ark of God as his sons took it out presumptively into battle. 


When a messenger returned he gave this report, And the messenger answered and said, Israel is fled before the Philistines, and there hath been also a great slaughter among the people, and thy two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God is taken. (1 Samuel 4:17) When Eli heard this he literally fell over dead. 


The story continues,  And his daughter in law, Phinehas’ wife, was with child, near to be delivered: and when she heard the tidings that the ark of God was taken, and that her father in law and her husband were dead, she bowed herself and travailed; for her pains came upon her. And about the time of her death the women that stood by her said unto her, Fear not; for thou hast born a son. But she answered not, neither did she regard it. And she named the child Ichabod, saying, The glory is departed from Israel: because the ark of God was taken, and because of her father in law and her husband. (1 Samuel 4:19-21) The glory departed  from Israel. The saddest thing of all is that God offered many chances for Eli and his sons to repent; they would not. 


A Big Shout


This story would not be complete if we did not go back and make an important point. When the battle began, 4000 of Israel’s men were killed. This is 100 times the number of years Eli ruled (judged) Israel. Upon hearing this news the elders asked, Wherefore hath the LORD smitten us today before the Philistines? How could they ask such a question? Was it ignorance? Were they blinded and hardened in sin? The elders should have known better than to suggest something so insane. Clearly neither the sons of Eli nor the elders had any clue about how Israel won the victory in the former days. 


Did they inquire of the Lord for an answer? No. Why? The Word of the Lord was precious in those days and there was no open vision. People apparently were not in the habit of seeking the Lord’s direction. Everyone did what was right in their own eyes. Rather than waiting on God to see why things had gone so badly, they presumptively rallied around man’s idea. That idea was that the Ark could save them! In other words, the method could save them, or the thing God had done in the past will save them. They were banking on yester-years victories, while living in flagrant rebellion. They refused to understand that when God moved in the days of old, it was because the people had sanctified themselves unto Him. They determined to obey God and His word at any cost, and as a result they saw mighty victories. What about these rebels? Did they think that God was going to be with them as He was in years past simply because they went through the same religious exercise of their forefathers? No way. Rather, God sought to slay the devilish leaders from Eli’s house. 

So the people sent to Shiloh, and they brought from thence the ark of the covenant of the LORD of hosts, which sitteth upon the cherubim: and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God. And when the ark of the covenant of the LORD came into the camp, all Israel shouted with a great shout, so that the earth rang again. (1 Samuel 4:4-5)


Notice how the people were excited about what they believed God (the Ark) was going to do. These people shouted so loud that some translations say that the ground shook. Now contrast this with David, who in the decades to follow, when the Ark is finally brought back into the city, danced before the Lord with all of his might. He was overwhelmed with excitement that God was returning to the tabernacle in and rule Israel. Yet, in the years prior the people of Israel made a loud ruckus and wist not that God was actually departing as they shouted! They made a big noise, looked up and God was gone. 

For a brief moment it almost fooled the enemy, but then they strengthened themselves. And the Philistines were afraid, for they said, God is come into the camp. And they said, Woe unto us! for there hath not been such a thing heretofore. (1 Samuel 4:7) Even the Philistines believed God was moving, but the people were operating in the emotional excitement of bygone years. Nobody can prevail on the stories of past victories. We have to establish our own testimony of a life of faith. The trouble is that they wanted victory without holiness.  They wanted to fornicate and covet and then go out and do exploits. It can never happen: at least, not by the Holy Spirit of God. 


Israel had not taken the time to sanctify themselves before the Lord as did Joshua and those who took the land. The consequence? What they thought was going to be a great victory ended up being their greatest defeat. Why? Because they mistakenly trusted in the objects and the memories and had not submitted themselves under the authority of God. They wanted the devil to obey God, but they had no intention of setting a course for personal obedience to Him. 


Personal Application


When God stirs men in repentance, He is seeking to turn them back to Himself in personal obedience. God does not want His people living according to the counsel of their own will. He does not want us quenching and grieving the Holy Spirit when He deals with us. Human beings are creatures of habit, and sadly, quenching the Spirit can become almost a habit. This ought not so to be. God wants us in the habit of seeking His counsel and obeying His voice. That is to say, His gentle checks and rebukes along life’s way. Elijah is the example of a man that learned this very thing. Here we read,  


 And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah? (1 Kings 19:11-13) 


Sometimes people think God is speaking in ways that rend mountains. They are looking for an earth-shaking fiery ‘Word’, but God moves His people most often with a still small voice. We don’t need God to speak to us in a way that will shake the earth or move a mountain — we only need to give heed to God speaking to us in the subtlety of His dealings. When we spend time in prayer, or in the word of God, He will speak to our hearts in a way we can know His will with certainty. He will nudge us to do well, and we need to be responsive. It is of no consequence to give up a big shout if we refuse to obey the still small voice. This is why so many people never know the voice of God- they simply refuse to respond rightly to Him when they know He is dealing with them. Nevertheless, the house of Eli soon discovered that God will abandon a people who will not obey his will. His house is liable to become our house. 


See! Your house is left to you desolate; and assuredly, I say to you, you shall not see Me until the time comes when you say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ (Luke 13:35 NKJV)


  
   

  

I’ve Been to the Mountain

I Have Been to the Mountain
Robert Wurtz II


And when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah, and God struck him down there because of his error, and he died there beside the ark of God (2 Samuel 6:7-8 ESV). 

You will remember that the Ark of the Covenant was effectively the throne of Jehoveh (YHWH) that rested in the Holiest of Holies in God’s mobile palace, the wilderness Tabernacle. In time the Ark was taken by the Philistines because of the recklessness and sin of Eli’s sons Hophni and Phineas. God sent judgment to the Philistines until they willingly gave the Ark back to Israel. To move it they employed a ‘new cart’ and thus the Ark had rest until the time of David.

   
God on the Move

Man cannot initiate Spiritual things, God must do it. All that man can do is respond rightly to Him. God was reviving His people Israel after decades of backsliding. the first step in this process was to bring the Ark back among the people. Keep in mind that this effectively means that God’s authority would be among the people once again. As we discussed in the previous entry, the Ark started rolling on the cart and then it began rocking. If I might so say, the cart was a faster and more convenient way to move things along, but it was not what God prescribed. God commanded that the throne of His presence (Ark) be carried on the shoulders of four priests. This is one man on each corner. It required total unity of actions to move safely. If any one of the priests were out of step, the whole Ark could be dumped on the ground. Keep this in mind. When God starts moving among a people they have to get into total unity of direction and destination. One false step and the whole thing breaks down.


Rocking and Rolling


If you have ever served as a pal bearer at a funeral you will know basically how moving the Ark would be. The Funeral Director will usually stand at the head of the casket and give instructions. This keeps everyone on the same page. The people employed in the work may have never worked together before, but when the director takes the lead the process plays out very effectively. It is not a rushed job, but a careful and slow process. 


When the Ark is moved in this way it creates a problem for people that like to “get things rolling.” They get frustrated and anxious. As an example of this the children of Israel did what the Philistines did. They traded the careful and deliberate walking process for a new ox cart.  If they had lived in our times they may have loaded it up on a trailer, backed their Dodge, Chevy or Ford Pickup up to the hitch and took off down the road. All the while things are really rolling; rocking and rolling. We must admit, it would be a quick way to get from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’, but it totally misses God’s will.


Destination: God’s Will


 If I might use a phrase, “God was going somewhere” when He initiated revival in Israel. Many things would need to be done to get the people back into a right order. They had to get on the same-page with God. It would need to take place one step at a time. When the people were traveling into the Promised Land over a million people followed behind the Ark; but when they put the Ark on the cart, they were leading God. This is almost unconscionable; but it was where they were at that time. In other words, they had the horse before the cart. This may work well for moving farm supplies, but it can never be in the Kingdom of God. God is to take the lead with nothing before Him but His perfect will. As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. This is our picture. God has to accomplish His will and to do that will require ears to hear what the Spirit is saying unto the people.


Revving the engine


Have you ever been in a fast-food drive through where a person was revving their engine because the person at the window was not moving fast enough to suit them? How about a checkout line at the grocery store when a large cart is in front of the line and people start sighing, rolling their eyes and making intimidating noises and gestures? The reason this happens is that people are now accustomed to a “drive through” society that gets everything they want, snap! And the faster things get the more impatient each generation becomes. But you can only cook a burger so fast. You can only ring-up items at Walmart or the grocery store so fast without making a mistake. This is common sense, but impatience breeds irrationality. What happens? The person is liable to just pull out of the drive through or switch lines to find a faster one. 


This is a great problem in our times; even in many of the churches of God. Folks refuse to wait through a process that will take a “step by step” to get some place. They want a shot-in-the-arm move of God and are willing to load er up and take off to get there. But what does the scripture say? “Roll in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh?” No! “Walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.” No Christian comes equipped with a set of wheels. If they are to get where God wants them to be it will be a step by step process. Meetings are no different. They cannot be rolled out, they have to be walked out.


The lost art of walking


I learned to walk at a young age, as did most people. It still works the same way as it did back then; one step at a time. I don’t take two steps at once now that I have over 40 years of practice. It is simply a method that cannot be improved upon. This is how the priests were to carry the Ark of God. In the Western world most people drive almost everywhere they go. Some may ride bicycles or public transportation; but few people actually walk everywhere they go. Why? It takes too much effort and it is too slow of a process. “We need to get on with it!”the people may say. And when this mentality is employed in the churches of God then machinery will be used to “get-er rolling” rather than the people hearing from God in a “step by step by step” kind of way. This is an important point. Anything we hitch to the Ark to get it moving is in front of God. 


Excitement and the presence of God


There is a fine line between having a Godly excitement up to and including praising God with a shout or dancing before Him with all of your might, and trying to manufacture a move of God. If we miss this point we may as well pack our bags and go home. I once read a story of a “sound man” that used to employ the slide on the mixer to raise and lower the volume in order to manipulate a meeting. He learned that if he raised the volume at certain times the people would animate and if he pulled it back down they would calm down. Sadly, this reality nearly destroyed the man’s faith. He started to believe that there was nothing to it. If the power went off in the sound booth the people would say, “Wow, the presence of God sure left this place fast!” Song leaders have spoken of knowing how to whip-up the crowd by singing their favorite rah-rah type songs until they left their ministry. Some have to greater or lesser degrees lost their faith. Why? They learned how to manipulate peoples emotions. Sadly, someone neglected to tell these dear people that what they were doing was ‘manufacturing’ or ‘simulating’ a move of God. It is a hard saying, but one that we do well to allow to sink down into our ears; this strategy is no different than the machinery of the Cart and Oxen. 


Down shifting


I want to say this lovingly, that God’s presence is not subject to man’s equipment. He does not suddenly show up in a meeting when we turn the keyboard to “strings” or some other mystical sound. I love the sound of “strings” and simlar effects. I grew up in the 1980’s with a bent to loud music; but God’s presence is not made stronger and stronger as the sound guy cranks up the volume. This is a fabrication. Let me say as a musician, that if the meeting loses speed we cannot progressively raise the keys of our songs, for example, from C to Dm to Em to F to G to Am, etc. to get some momentum going. The whole event can become a bizarre distraction. I used to try to sing songs that were out of my voice range because I thought they sounded “powerful”. It always ended up in a disaster. It never “lifted the meeting” it merely made the people cringe.  


I have traveled through the Rocky Mountains and watched as my engine downshifted until I thought we would blow the engine, trying to pull some of the long stretches. If the meeting is not moving fast enough and we need to “down shift” to pull the hill we are using man’s machinery. We don’t need speed, we need to walk step by step. God comes when a people are prepared to walk step by step behind His leading; and not take a single step unless He says step. No pushing in line. We have to follow the Ark. 


You cannot lead where you have not been


We can’t drive our vehicle on a sidewalk. God has said to walk and we must walk. This is one step at a time and one event at a time. This is not to say that God has to do things one at a time and nothing else, but there has to be an order to what is going on. Men often try to “lead” a meeting, but truly the only people that can lead a meeting are those that are hearkening to the voice of the Spirit when He says “step” or “stop.” God gives instructions and we need to slow down and listen. God has to teach us. This takes time in His presence waiting upon Him. What does a waiter do? They watch carefully to see when the patrons need help. If they move too soon they may come off as an impediment; if they are too slow they will be charged with poor service. We have to move in step with God. Each person has to learn this in their own lives. Not just leaders, everyone. It took at least 4 men to shoulder the Ark. Any number of people could do it by substitution; but there is a minimum number of Levites hearing direction and moving in total unity.       


Carrying the Ark in a meeting


I have been in many meetings (typically prayer meetings) where the Spirit of prayer had come and we were moving in the Spirit as we prayed. As we gathered together, God was taking us somewhere. There were things that He wanted to accomplish for the edifying of the Saints and the work of the ministry during that meeting. We would begin just praying and then God would give some direction to one of us to do something (pray for someone, share a scripture, share a song, etc.). This would serve as a first step. We were gathered together in the name of the Lord and He was leading us in unity to accomplish His purposes in that meeting. Then another person may feel moved to do something else; once that was done, it constituted step two. Then another person may have felt moved to do something and it would be step three. This would go on until God was through doing what He wanted done in the meeting. They were very powerful. Often they took place in small rooms with no music or instruments. This may seem strange because several of us were musicians. We allowed the Lord to carry us along in His will step by step and all in total unity. Amazing things happened when we simply determined to meet with God in this way. I have a hunch that this is how the early churches must have functioned. 


Rolling the Ark in a Meeting


To “roll” the Ark on a cart is to seek to get things moving real fast in the hope that at some point something will manifest. The meeting is wound up into an excitement and there are few steps that can be taken. Imagine four men being strapped to a trailer on each of four corners. The Dodge truck takes off and the men try to walk, but all they can do is drag their feet and shred their shoes. Soon the Ark is off to the races and it is a million miles from the “carrying the Ark” method employed in scripture. The priests risk being dragged to death. Someone may say, “Well, it works and you have to reckon with that.” God often moves in imperfect situations because He is a going-forth kind of God. He would meet with a person in a pub or gambling hall if they would surrender to Him in that moment. God is a good God and He loves us. But how much more could be accomplished for God if we would allow Him to teach us His ways? The world wants to honk the horn in the drive-through or act out in the checkout lane because things were moving to slow. This makes for a sobering question. 


Would they come? 


 Could God get us to slow down long enough to really listen? This is not to say that God plays games with people. He wants us to know His will. He is not hiding it or encrypting it. It usually doesn’t take hours to get some direction from God; if it does it would be the exception to the rule. God will move when the people get themselves ready. The ball is usually in our court. 


If we woke up tomorrow and God had instituted a New Testament type meeting, would the people come? Church meetings today are “spectator based” most of the time. It is little different than a ball-game with the crowd cheering, etc. as they look on. that is not a criticism, it is just where we are. God is wanting to teach us to seek His face and earnestly carry the Ark in a meeting. He wants us to carry it in our lives. 


Some of us have had the privilege to go to the Mountain. As one preacher asked the question, based on an old WWI tune, “How are we going to get them back on the farm, after they have been to Paris.” The men and boys of WWI had worked the farm all their lives until they saw the lights of Paris. Many Christians have endured many of meeting with the machinery of “new carts” and oxen. But once you have been to “Paris”, that is to say, “the mountain of Paradise” you are never the same. Who will ascend into the Hill of the Lord? God is calling us- and it is one step at a time.   

 



  


Repent, and Do the First Works

Repent, and Do the First Works
Robert Wurtz II

 Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent, and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and will remove your lampstand out of its place unless you repent. (Revelation 2:5 MKJV)

Our passage finds our Lord giving instruction to the church at Ephesus that had once ran well, but has now left her first love. He is walking in the midst of the lampstands as our Great High Priest observing the condition of the lamp and has noticed that it is not burning as it once had. Having established the lamps to be placed in the world as a light, it is essential that each one burn in its fullness as was designed. The job of the High Priest is to maintain these lamps by adding oil, trimming and replacing the wick, and any other thing figuratively that pertains to the burning. In the case of the church at Ephesus she had left the love she had at first for Christ and had turned aside after other things. We are not told what they are. So let us find ourselves in this passage. Here is a church that was burning for Christ, but now they are burning for something else. Their light is growing dim for God and excelling in brightness for other things. A lamp without a flame is good for nothing but to be a stumbling block in this darkened world. Jesus gives the diagnosis and the remedy. they have to choose. If they choose wisely they will return to their First Love and go on being what God has set them in this darkened world to be; if they chose foolishly He said plainly,  I will come to you quickly and will remove your lampstand out of its place. 

Remember from where you have fallen

Our Great High Priest begins by telling them to remember from where you have fallen. This means they were to go back to the very beginning of the church. Ephesus was an exceedingly pagan city built around the Temple of Artemis (Artemision). Artemis was a particularly horrid god to look upon, but people traveled from around the world to visit and work near the temple. 

It was a wealthy city because of the commerce, insomuch that the temple doubled as one of the first world banks. Fortunes were made from the sale of hand-held figurines shaped in the image of Artemis. Magic arts were practiced as well as a host of other immoralities. The Diaspora brought the first light to this darkness when the Jews were scattered here by the Assyrians and Babylonians. They set up a synagogue as a place to worship and learn about the One True God (Jehovah/ YHWH). Ephesus makes its appearance in the Book of Acts when Paul passed through with Priscilla and Aquila. Paul passed on while Priscilla and Aquila stayed behind. Around this time they met a powerful preacher from Alexandria, Egypt named Apollos who had also come to Ephesus. He was mighty in the scriptures and disputed with the Jews knowing only the baptism of John. Priscilla and Aquilla took him aside and taught him of the things that happened since John the Baptist and then he took things to a new level mightily showing that Jesus was the Christ. So we see then that at this point the scriptures had come to Ephesus through the diaspora of the Jews who set up a synagogue and now Apollos who had preached John the Baptists message of repentance. these are the first seeds of the Gospel and serve as the foundation for the church at Ephesus. 

The Baptism of John  

The purpose of John the Baptist was to prepare the way of the Lord through the preaching of genuine repentance. When I use the word ‘genuine’ I mean it in the ordinary sense of the word. If I buy a watch or ring that has 18K stamped on the side I want to know that it is ‘genuine’ 18K gold. Christ cannot build the church with shallow experiences. John preached repentance in a way that the people had to prove they had repented with works showing their repentance. Then they were baptized. This is simple enough to understand because Jesus gave us a definition of repentance. He said that Nineveh ‘repented’ at the preaching of Jonah, but a greater than Jonah is here.  (Luke 11:32) Nineveh had no Bible or instructions. They were given a hopeless message, “Yet 40 days and Nineveh shall be destroyed.” This vile people that the Bible said did not know their right hand from their left repented without any kind of direction from a minister. The king took off his robe and put on sackloth along with the rest of the people. Even the animals fasted. We need to pay attention to this story in the Book of Jonah because Jesus said that at the judgment they will be called to rise up against those that have the knowledge of Christ and yet refuse to repent. (Luke 11:32) Repentance and works worthy of repentance was Appolos’ message and it was Paul’s message even to the end of the book of Acts. (Acts 26:18-21)     

Have you received since you believed?

 Paul said to them, Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed? And they said to him, We did not so much as hear whether the Holy Spirit is. And he said to them, Then to what were you baptized? And they said, To John’s baptism. And Paul said, John truly baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe into Him coming after him, that is, into Jesus Christ. (Acts 19:2-4 MKJV)

These were 12 men that had thoroughly repented of their sins in the John the Baptist sense of the word. They didn’t withhold controversies with God, they laid down the weapons of their rebellion and turned fully to God. This is the key. Many people never make it past this point because they are not willing to fully surrender to God in a way He can believe them. (John 2:23-24) God cannot be fooled. the Holy Spirit is come into the world to convince the world of sin, righteousness and judgment to come. Just as Jesus pointed out the controversy between Him and the rich young ruler, so also the Holy Spirit is moving in the ministry of Jesus Christ in the earth- pointing out controversies between us and Christ. He calls us to repent of all known sin. This means that repentance must be:

1) bold and not timid 
2) total and not partial 
3) permanent and not temporary.

One reason for baptism in water is to show forth our repentance before the world. If we were bold enough to sin and rebel against God in public then we ought to be bold enough to repent and turn away from our rebellion in public. God is not looking for public sinners and private repent-ers, He is looking for people to come of their sinful life with a high-hand renouncing the powers of darkness and the vileness of their past life. The key word is renounce. Some people need to deeply renounce their sins before God- agreeing with Him that they are sins- calling them by the strongest terms we can. We are not victims called to self-pity, but we are rebels against God called to come before Him in Godly sorrow. We have sinned and we need to acknowledge it. (1 John 1:9 confess is acknowledge) Once we have done this in the genuine sense receiving the Holy Spirit will not be a fuss. 

Receiving the Holy Spirit

When these 12 received the Holy Spirit in Acts 19 the whole dynamic at Ephesus changed. They lived in the shadow of the Temple of Artemis, but were now temples of the Holy Spirit. This is more than speaking in tongues, it is a wholesale change of desire and spirit. They went from the power of Satan to the Power of God. They were in Christ and receiving all of the benefits of being in Him. They were dead to Sin and alive unto God. They were crucified with Christ nevertheless they lived. They were no longer in the flesh because they had begun in the Spirit. (They presented themselves unto God as a living sacrifice and the Fire of God fell from Heaven and consumed them while they liveth. They were burning for God in holy love – agape love. The love of God had been poured out into their hearts by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). They walked in the Spirit as the true sons of God. They were enabled to bear the fruit of the Spirit. They were on-fire for God. They were reconciling with their enemies and making restitution for past sins whenever possible. No longer would they have ought against their brother or sister and try to bring a sacrifice to God- they made it right. Suddenly everyone lived in the shadow of their compassion. They wanted to see souls saved and lived changed by the power of the Spirit. 

 Returning to what they remembered 

If Ephesus were to come into revival they would have to go back and do the works they did at first. It was some 40 years or so between the birth of the church at Ephesus and the writing of Revelation 2. A lot can happen in 40 years. New generations can be born that do not know the Lord nor the works He had done in the past. (Judges 2:1ff) People can get cold in their love for God. They will have to travel the road of their fathers if they are to ever retain their lampstand.    
   

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