Do it lovingly; do it boldly; do it often; but do it!

The Christmas season is an excellent time to evangelize and tell others of the love of God that sent His Son to be born that first Christmas. You will need to take the story past the “crib” and move forward 33 years to the “cross” for without the “cross” the “crib” is simply the celebration of a child and not the birth of the Savior.

Then move the story along to the “crown” that allows Jesus to be called the “King of Kings and Lord of lords” and let the person you are talking to know that this King Jesus is returning one day to judge the living and the dead. And, mention that whether they are living or dead at that time they will face a judgment. For He who created the world (“without Him nothing was made that was made” – John 1:3) came to redeem it and so has the right to come back and judge it as well.

The world does not know this message. The Christian Church (in many places) is not preaching this message. Believers by the multitude don’t understand this message and so are not sharing it with others. As a result the Christian Church is not gaining more market share (what “occupy till I come” really means).

And, when sharing it don’t be shy or bashful. Don’t be apologetic or water down what it is we, as Born Again Christians, believe. Our worldview is the only valid one and the only one that lines up with God as revealed in the holy book known as our Bible. Others have the right to their opinions and beliefs. We too have that right. Others feel the freedom to share what they believe to be truth. So should we. Do it lovingly; do it boldly; do it often; but do it!

And don’t apologize for doing it. You have the truth – the only truth no matter what others believe or what others might call you. We are the only ones declaring truth – Truth as found in Him who said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.” True when He said it – still completely true today as well.

It is time to stand up and be counted as one who is not ashamed to be known by all to be a born again, spirit-filled, tongue-talking, Bible-believing, follower and disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. Time to stand up and be counted. The only thing needed for evil and falsehood to succeed and conquer the world is for the Christian to remain silent. I, for one, have determined to speak up all the time, everywhere.

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The Foundations Are Broken or Missing

Today, worldwide, the Church is being held back by the lack of solid, biblical foundations upon which she can then pursue her calling to “make disciples” and to reach the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. She has been built upon the designs of men and has thus become an institution and organization and is no longer a living and breathing, reproducing organism. Read more

Jesus as Mr. Rogers in Sandals

Time Magazine in the December 8th, 2008 edition (Page 4) had an interesting article on university students and their search for a spiritual home – an expression of faith that they could become a part of.

Shenandoah University (Methodist) in Winchester, Virginia is offering students the opportunity to look at various types of Churches “so they can find a good religious match.” That caught my attention because the Bible states in 1 Corinthians 14 that each “member” is placed in the Body of Christ by the Lord. That He is the One to determine where we fit and where we are to use our gifts and abilities best for Him.

From the article:

“While all the students were Christian, it would be their first Mass at a Catholic monastery. The trip marked the end of a 10-week series of visits to different churches – from batist to Quaker – sponsored by Shenandoah’s spiritual-life team, which oversees religious activities on capus, to help students find a good religious match. ‘In terms of looking at churches,’ says the group’s co-leader, the Rev. Don Vandyke Colby, ‘it’s speed-dating.'”

They are doing this because they have discovered that most high school students follow their parent’s religious preferences and then, when they come to university, they have a “Jesus as Mr. Rogers in sandals” impression of the Lord and thus simply fade from the religious scene. [Mr. Rogers was a nice t.v. personality for young children who invited you into his neighborhood and together you explored all sorts of neat things in his community and talked about manners, respect, and other issues of growing up. He was also an ordained minister. His program ran for decades.]

They found that half of U.S. high school seniors think that Sodom and Gomorrah were married. They also found that university students (over 50% of juniors) were saying that a spiritual life was very important or essential for them. However, they also discovered that only 44% of incoming freshmen attended religious services frequently and that by the next year this percentage had shrunk to 25%.

So, they have a representative of a particular branch of the Christian faith address them early on a Sunday morning. Then they travel out to a Church of that same expression and take part in a typical Sunday worship assembly that people who belong to that expression would be experiencing. Then later, back at the college, they discuss the morning’s involvement over a meal. The visit being discussed in the article was a visit to a Catholic monastery and their involvement in a Roman Catholic Mass. Whoa! And this from a Methodist University spiritual life team.

The approach is simple. “The first task is deconstructing what people think they know.” Well, that’s good if what they are tearing down is religion and man-made religious practices and beliefs. But, if they are dismantling the basic beliefs of the Christian faith as taught in the Scriptures – the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3) – then I would be deeply concerned. Yes, this is a Methodist University and John and Charles Wesley were dedicated to the Scriptures and accurate biblical teachings. But, today many of the Methodist groups no longer teach the faith as once delivered to the saints. And, the Roman Catholic Church is not known for their teaching of the Bible and is filled with the worship of the Blessed Virgin Mary, praying to dead saints, and numerous theological stances that are simply not biblical. So, I would be concerned with what it is they are disconstructing and building in the life of thjese students.

The article goes on to say that “A rigorous faith is going to serve them well. A rigid one is going to break when the first strong wind comes along.” Sounds good but…

Then, the article ends with a quote from a co-leader, saying, “Maybe the greatest sin of my generation is certitude.” Whoa again!

Are you saying that we can’t be certain in what we believe? Are you saying that if we know exactly what we believe and why – basing it on the Bible – that we are “rigid” and no longer “rigorous”? Are you saying that what we believe has to be fluid and flexible so it can ‘go with the flow’? That sounds like situation ethics to me! Are you saying it is wrong to build our faith on the established facts of historical Christianity and that it is more important to build our belief structure based on what we are experiencing? Are you saying we need a subjective and experience-based approach to our faith as apposed to an objective, Bible-based approach to the faith? What exactly is it that you are saying and trying to do wuth these students who are in a very vunerable stage of their lives?

Good that they are looking and exploring. But, to what are they comparing their experiences? What basic standard is guiding their looking and discovering? Too often in my conversations with Church leaders (note – leaders) it becomes apparent that they have constructed their own theological structures and understanding of basic scriptural principles which are of their own making and do not, in many ways, line up with historical Christianity or the understanding of the faith as delivered by the Holy Spirit to the Church as found in the Bible. Some even reject the basic tenants of the Christian faith by what they teach and expound … “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12).

I fear that these students may find a place to worship where they feel that they fit only to discover in time that the tenants of the faith believed in that group are neither Christian nor biblical. I see it almost daily in the circles that I travel.

Love Those Cute Sayings

I collect “one liners” – neat, concise statements that say a lot with few words. Some are cute, some penetrate right to the heart, others are simply funny.

Here are a few that have caught my fancy recently:

1> “I don’t know why some people change churches; what difference does it make which one you stay home from?”

2> “Coincidence is when God chooses to remain anonymous.”

3> “Forbidden fruits create many jams.”

4> “You can tell how big a person is by what it takes to discourage him.”

5> The best mathematical equation I have ever seen: 1 cross + 3 nails = 4 given.”

Here is one I saw on a church sign this past week: “Jesus – the only baby that changes you!”

Amazing how much truth and insight can be packed into one small statement. Jesus can and does change us from the inside out IF we will let Him. We need to give Him permission. It can go something like this: “Search my heart O God…” and be prepared that as He does so He will reveal things to you that, with His help, you need to change. God in His goodness loves us just as we are – but He loves us too much to leave us this way. He has better plans and a greater purpose for your life and mine than we could ever dream about, imagine or even ask and pray about. And, he is not trying to keep these plans and purposes a secret. He wants to let us know what His purpose and His plans for our life are. Wow!

But (and there always seems to be a ‘but’), before His plans and purpose can be activated in our lives we need to let Him do the changing, cleansing, adjusting, altering, removing, replacing, the fine-tuning of our heart and our soul – our desires and and our focus.

Sometimes this is somewhat painful – but it is always beneficial and best for you and me. God does nothing to harm us and everything to help us. It is just that change is never easy … but it is always good.

So, this Christmas give Jesus the most wonderful gift He could ever receive – all of you. “Therefore, I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2).

A great Christmas gift – and the giving of this gift will bring returns to you throughout 2009 as the Lord takes your gift (of yourself) and brings the necessary changes and adjustments to make you an instrument that He can use to glorify Him as you lead many to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

A Difference in Perspective

We work so hard to build our churches in such a way that Jesus is glorified and honored by what we do during our Sunday asemblies. And we work hard training and equipping God’s people (if you are a leader) and work hard at being equipped (if you are a member) so that we can help the people we interact with during our regular week come to know the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.

All of this is good. God deserves our best. We should work for excellence as nothing but the best is what we should be offering to the Lord “as our reasonable service of worship” as we do “all as unto the Lord” including our regular job by which we earn a living.

But back to the Church itself. We must remember that it is His Church and that He promised that He “would build His Church”. Yes, He uses us. No, we can’t just sit and do nothing as we let Him build His Church. But, only He knows what each local church is to look like and how He wants it to function. Only He knows what He wants you to accomplish for Him and how he wants that particular task accomplished. So, we should be listening more and grasping His heart for the particular local church in which you worship and minister. He knows the individual blueprint and we really do need to hear from Him each day as we help Him in various ways to build His Church.

Just a slightly different perspective (for some -maybe a signifigant difference) that we often lose in the rush of ministry, needs to be met, people to be loved and programs to be run.

Along with a change in the way we view our work for the Lord and the local church – there is another change in perspective that I believe is needed today. Yes, the local church is very important and vital to the spreading of the Gospel and the winning of the lost. But, we need to step up one level and see that there is something bigger than the Church – and that is the Kingdom. Brother Yun in his book “Living Water” states: “we are not called to build Your kingdom, but You will bring Your kingdom.”

We pray that, don’t we, every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer (really the disciple’s prayer – the real Lord’s Prayer or High Priestly Prayer is found in John 17). “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven”. So, again we are not building His Kingdom – He is. But, if we will “be still and know that I am God” we will hear His voice and be able to help Him in some way in revealing and expanding His Kingdom upon the earth. As Brother Yun so ably put it …. “we are not called to build Your kingdom, but You will bring Your kingdom.”

He is building His Church and He is revealing and expanding His Kingdom – and sometimes we are so anxious to help that we simply get in His way. I remember when I first learned this lesson. I was struggling and striving to build a large work for Him (or so I thought – really it was so that I would look good and feel successful). And I clearly heard Him say “I will build My Church Ralph, if you would get out of the way.” I will never forget that morning. It changed my life and my ministry forever. I took my hands off His Bride and now only do what I hear Him tell me to do when He tells me to do it. Striving and struggling stopped and I began to find out what He meant when He said “My yoke is easy and My burden is light”.

And, every once in a while I find myself needing to revisit this truth. I find myself slipping back into old, familiar patterns … taking on people and projects that He has not asked me to become involved in. It’s easy to know when I have done this and reverted back to my old ways. I find myself physically and spiritually tired – often emotionally and mentally tired as well. His yoke (my work for Him) is no longer easy as I am doing it in the flesh because He didn’t ask me to do it in the first place and so it is devoid of grace and His Spirit. And I find myself unusually burdened by things, events and people. I am holding on to them like I am their “saviour” and it all depends on me. Instead, I need to loosen my grip as none of this was ever mine to start with as it is all His – His Church and His Kingdom and I am simply here to serve Him when He asks me to.

A Manifestation I Don’t Understand

The other day during the worship – and it was a seriously anointed and powerful worship time – a man was slain in the Spirit right next to where I was standing. And, as he lay there we watched gold dust appear all over his face and neck. I don’t believe in this ‘manifestation” and so I wonder if the Lord did it for my benefit so that I would become a believer. It was simply amazing the watch.

The day before my interpreter Mirograv had some gold flakes appear on one hand but just a bit and we did not see it appear so it could be said that he was simply in contact with someone whose makeup included some sparkles. But, when you actually see the gold dust appear and cover a man’s face and neck – and when it is still there five hours later for all to see … you have to know God was up to something and blessing His children with a manifestation of His presence.

I am now okay with this manifestation having experienced it in the midst of tremendous worship which the Devil would not ever come near. It was definitely from the Lord and I’m okay with it even if I don’t understand the whys and the wherefores. Who am I to think that I need to understand everything that the God I worship and serve does?

Christmas and the New Year

I’m in Saskatoon working from my portable office in a hotel room. Been there and done that before. However, I am thankful for the convenience of modern technology that allows a person to accomplish work no matter where they happen to be. Will be home tomorrow as it is a short trip to accomplish just a few things and see a few people.

We are now just several weeks away from Christmas. It is my hope and prayer that along with all the extra activities and events that this season tends to impose upon us – that you will take time to still your heart and soul and spend some quality time with Jesus. It is easy for Him to take second place in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the season. It is up to every believer to make sure that this is not the case this year. Guard your time with Him.

We will also soon enter the new year – 2009. As January approaches it would be a good time to read over once again any prophetic words that you have received. It is good to take note of what has transpired from the Words already and what exciting things are still to come. And, just to note if there is a condition or two that you need to fulfill so as to release the blessings and promises of God that are contained in your prophetic Words. Often things are not happening and the Word is not coming to pass because we are not doing our part. This might tie up a few loose ends before the year-end and release the hand of God in your life early in His new year.

And then there are those pesky new year’s resolutions. Why not think spiritual this year and set yourself a goal or two that will stretch your faith and help you to grow and mature in your walk with the Lord. With that as a foundation 2009 would most certainly start off on the right foot.

Ukraine #19 – Thinking Back and Forwards

It is interesting that here they respond to the prophetic words and begin immediately to apply and work with it. So different than in North America where the attitude is much more “ho hum” about the words received. Here they come to you and want to know right away what they should be doing first and then second and then third and what they need to learn and where the resources are. They are hungry to obey God – seriously obey God. What a joy. At times I think I have died and gone to Heaven. Makes one wonder what is wrong in North America (although I hate to compare) and when, if ever, it is going to change.

In North America I ended up chasing people who have been called out prophetically to be connected to me and learn from me about being an apostle. I have since learned it is their responsibility to fulfill their word from the Lord and not my responsibility to chase them to get them to do something with it. That was a great relief and I have since stopped pursuing these 32 men and have stopped calling and trying to arrange meetings with them (with me travelling at my expense – and they obviously not wanting to take the time to meet if I read they responses right), and have stopped sending them resources (again at my expense) and am simply waiting to see if they care enough about a word from Heaven that they have received to do something about it. I am not short of other work to do.

And, with people and leaders (and called out budding apostles) all over the place here in Ukraine and other former Soviet Union nations just crying out for help, input, mentoring, and friendship I will simply invest my time and resources, abilities and giftings, emotion and focus where they are appreciated and where what the Lord can do through me is appreciated as well. While here I have been planning 2009 calendars (trying to keep my sanity while saying yes to most speaking opportunities) and have penciled in four 18 day trips here to Ukraine. As I did so I felt the Lord tell me that all four trips may start and/or stop in Ukraine but that He would be opening doors in other neighboring nations for me to minister prophetically and to teach. I would be more than comfortable with that, more than happy to say “yes”.

All of the people here are hungry for what God can do. Their living standards are nowhere near what ours are – although definitely greatly improved since my last visit – but that is not stopping them from moving forward in the will of God for them personally and for the Church of Ukraine and then the world. They are unselfish. They are excited for others when people receive a prophetic word. Each Word is a small “party” in itself and a great celebration of the wonderful blessing Jersus is pouring out of that individual or couple. They are dedicated and seriously committed to the growth and expansion of the Church even at their own expense and discomfort. They want to see their nation changed and totally transformed. They are interested in seeing Ukraine stand in her rightful place and play a part in spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the whole planet.

In fact, the feeling is: “lead, follow, or get out of the way” and that they would be more than willing to win the whole world themselves if no one else is interested in joining them in fulfilling the Great Commission.

This is a place where, like the apostle Paul, I could be “poured out” as a drink offering before the Lord as I served these people and taught them what I know and mentored the leaders – especially the next generation of leaders.

This is a place that the apostolic calling on my life and my drive to disciple and mentor would be welcomed openly and used to its maximum. I plan to take advantage of their openness and as a friend of mine states: “run with those who are running with you”.

I am simply tired (spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically) of listening to Christians who are well off and have everything complain about absolutely everything and do absolutely nothing. I simply need to move on and go where my gifting is welcome and where I will have numerous opportunities to be used and benefit others.

The Church in North America is boring and uninteresting because it is self-contained, self-centered, and full of its own importance and Christians are focused (forever and ever) on their own problems and issues. Get a life! Try getting saved and converted and thus get His life flowing in you and watch what a difference that will make to the way you live.

End of rant!

Opposition to the Gospel

Around the world Christians are being persecuted for their faith. In our local church we have a night a month we gather to pray for a specific nation – this monh it is Kazakhstan. My Personal Assistant does an in-depth research of each nation we pray for and produces a ten page summarry of the nation – religions, social climate, geography, history, needs, population, current trouble spots, government, and anything else that helps us pray effectively and in an informed manner.

It is evident that being a Christian in this nation is not an easy road to walk. The government – still a Stalin-type dictator – has placed serious restrictions upon the Church of Jesus Christ that functions within the borders of the nation. To get in to preach the gospel and to be there for a week or more is quite complicated (more on this in a later blog) and it is all the result of persecution of the Church.

Here in my nation we are not being persecuted. We are being opposed but not outright persecuted. We have to be careful what we say from the pulpit. Sections of the Bible have been declared “hate literature” and a person peaching from them can end up in court and even in jail. Never mid it is God’s Word and Truth. It flows against the Mosiac we claim to be and the religious freedom (tolerance) we proclaim.

Afterall, adherants to the Muslim and Hindu faiths can apply to have their weekly holy day off of work and get it – as long as they are willing to work another day or an evening shift. But, try that as a born again believer. Doesn’t work – won’t happen. At least not in the case of several of my adult children who have faced just such a situation. Opposition but not persecution. Yet!

However, I do believe that in my nation – as in many other nations in our world today – opposition will turn to persecution. Afterall, we are, in the eyes of the world, bigots, intolerant, condemning, judgmental, and wrong. The Mosaic society I live in here in my country and this city accepts and tolerates all religions and all life-styles – except, it seems, if you declare you are a born again believer and actually hold to some values and a moral standard.

If you are a Marriage Commisioner and a gay couple approach you to do their wedding (which is legal in this nation) – you do not have the right to say “no” to officiating at their wedding. Now, there are many other Commisioners who would not have a problem doing the wedding but the one that does has been centered out, set up, and taken to court. He has lost. Marry them or lose your job. Never mind the matter of conscience or religious beliefs. Never mind that if you were of some other faith and said no – it most likely would not become an issue. Subtle – yes! But only for a while.

So, now is the time to determine how we will respond to growing opposition that may turn to outright persecution. Now is the time to look at what Jesus said we should do.

He told us that in the world we would have troubles and persecution. So, we need to be ready when it intensifies and actually moves from mild opposition to outright persecution. What needs to develop and mature, character-wise, in our lives? What fruit of the Spirit (thus the nature of Jesus) needs opportunity to grow and mature? It’s time to think and pray about this.

Oh, I know we can never be sure how we will respond until the time comes that we have to. Afterall, the grace to handle situations is only poured out as we need it. But, we could and should be looking at the foundations of our lives in preparation for that time when the grace is poured out to enable us. If the foundation is not solid and established – the grace will have little to work with.

Paul put it this way in the midst of personal persecution … “That we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” (2 Corinthians 1:9).

Ukraine #18 – I’m in Canada – I Found a Tim Horton’s

Ukrainian coffee is not something I am fond of. So, after getting up at 4:00 a.m. and walking to the Airport in Amsterdam – flying to Paris and going through all the check-ins once again – then flying for 9 hours to Toronto and having to learn my way around the new terminal and the above ground train shuttle (you can no longer walk between terminals) I went through security again and set off the system. Another patdown – another opportunity to share Jesus.

However, as soon as I entered the gate area I spotted a Tim’s … extra large – 2 cream and a bottle of REAL Diet Coke. Ukrainian Diet Coke has a different sweetener and really is not nice.

Downloaded two weeks of emails (310 of them) and now sitting for the next flight out to Regina. An hour to wait and then almost 3 hours in the plane. I bought a new book as I finished the last one on the Paris-Toronto flight and the other new one I have not read yet is in my baggage. My baggage is somewhere in Europe and we are not sure where yet. So, after I land need to go to the drugstore and purchase a razor and a TOOTHBRUSH – my kingdom for a toothbrush (it’s a really small kingdom) right now!

Back to work as I sit here in Terminal One doing emails and catching up a bit on what has been happening since I left 15 days ago. My goodness people are impatient when they don’t get an immediate answer to their emails. Chill out folks – I’ve been busy. Won’t catch up on the emails tomorrow either as two services and lots of driving – however, my son-in-law, bless his heart, is going to come with me and drive for me both ways as jet lag will have set in. I arrive home at 6:30 tonight (if things go as planned which has not been the case recently) and that will be 3:30 a.m. Ukraine “body time”. Tomorrow will be a bit of a push but God’s grace is always sufficient and I will be sleeping in my own bed tonight – I have died and gone to Heaven, I think.

More later … I’m going to sit here and enjoy my new book, my real coffee and my real Diet Coke. Blessings and thanks for taking the time to read my travel / ministry log which has been posted two weeks later than each daily one was written. Good to be back where my technology actually works again.