The Word – Absolute Truth

The Word of the Lord is central to my life. I preach and teach His Word in many nations around the world. I prophesy a now Word of the Lord over individuals, couples, churches, towns, cities, and nations. The Word is what I do and I am honored that the Lord has given this work for me to place my hands to. The Word plays a large role in my personal and professional life.

As a result I wear out a number of Bibles a year. These are the tools of my trade and so a Bible goes everywhere I go – all of the time regardless. And, I write in them, jotting little revelations down in the margins (is there such a thing as a “little” revelation?), I mark them up, underline verses … customize them and make them mine. They are my prized possessions. This also means that several times a year I need to purchase a new one. Such a time is now as travelling is very hard on a Bible and it eventually needs replacing.

I could not find what I wanted on-line or in any paper catalogue; I could not see one in the bookstores in the cities I have been in or in the airport bookstores (some of the best bookstores are in airports) I visit between flights. A total no-go. Mentioned it to a Bible school professor recently asking him to check in the bookstore on campus. Received an email from him yesterday. The manager had just received a complimentary copy from a company introducing a whole new line of bindings and a new print format and the manager has given it to me at no cost to my ministry.

God is good! It is totally what I wanted … every detail is like God custom-designed this Bible for me personally and it has all the features that will serve me well in my studies and reading while travelling. My Father knows what I have need of even before I ask and have given to me an early Christmas present – and, yes, I have already unwrapped it.

Christian Leaders State

In a survey of Christian leaders – they were asked to identify the top ten “life issues” that they considered critical when looking at their people – especially their youth today. They published the top five priority issues…

1> That people who experience a transformed life in Christ – 84% of those answering the survey chose this one
2> That people would know why they believe what they believe (41%)
3> That people develop healthy relationships in life (35%)
4> That people learn to resist ungoly influences (23% of those surveyed)
5> That people discover and learn how to make right choices (18%)

The top five challenges facing Church leaders who deal with the youth of today:

1> Developing passionate followers of Christ
2> Making Christ and Scripture real and relevant
3> Getting people to know – and live – the truth
4> Helping people combat ungodly influences
5> Ministering intergenerationally (due to the large gap in values and attitudes between generations today).

It is interesting that those who conducted the survey concluded that these were all good but that the Church today was not addressing any of the above in any meaningful way. They concluded that to meet these needs and speak to these 5 priority issues will require a fundamental change in the way most churches are doing ministry.

It is time not for a renewal or a revival – we need a serious revolution in the way we approach ministry and today’s culture and their issues.

Would the Real Hypocrites Please Stand Up

There are a lot of people that I meet who say that they don’t attend a local church or assembly of worship because they simply can’t handle all the hypocrites that go there. So, they choose to stay home and, I assume, avoid all the unsavory characters who assembly to honor God and keep the Sabbath every week.

Yesterday I spent the day doing father/grandfather “Christmas” activities … going to my grandchildren’s Christmas concerts (sometimes called Winter Festivals or some other non-religious name). In one that I attended there was absolutely no mention of Jesus Christ and only one use of the word Christmas. But the word “CHRISTmas” was there as hard as it was to find.

The other Christmas Concert had a number of Christian carols and mentioned the birth of Christ three times and the principal even wished everyone in attendance a Merry Christmas. Wow! I thought that was politically incorrect and not permitted in the public school system supported by our tax dollars.

And, I looked around at my neighbors and others that I know and realized that these Christmas concerts were being attended by these people who are non-Christians because it is a convenient thing to do and their kids or grandchildren want them there and it is that time of the year and …

In-between the two Christmas concerts I took one of my daughters to Starbucks (don’t order their hot chocolate or their coffee for that matter – terrible stuff) and then a spending spree in a Chapters Book Store. It’s a Christmas tradition and memory maker that she and I have been doing for years (and we repeat it on or near her birthday). A special time with her father and friend (I am both).

And, did I mention that the store was packed with people buying presents (did I hear the words Christmas presents) being bought by non-believers and given to non-believers taking people, who do not believe in or worship Christ, further into debt as they celebrate a season they don’t believe in.

Now into this mix add Christmas parties at work, season’s greetings being offered one-to-another (and what season was that again?) … days off work at Christmas time as well as Christmas family gatherings.

My goodness – not bad for people who don’t even believe in Christ and don’t want anything to do with God and the Bible the rest of the year. And, not just the rest of the year – they really don’t want anything to do with Him even during this special season that celebrates His birth …

Now, back to those who don’t attend Church because of all the Christians they know who are hypocrites. Gee! Maybe they should go as they might find that they feel very much at home considering they too are hypocrites.

Afterall, if they were true to what they state they believe they would not celebrate Christmas or any other event at this time of year (in case they get mistaken for one of those hypocritical Christians). They would not take off any time at work because they don’t believe in the reason for the seasonal holiday. They would not give or receive presents as people might think they actually believe that God the Father loved so much that He gave His Son to be born as a man and dwell among us.

Com’on folks – would the real hypocrites please stand up. And, a little side not -if they did stand up for what they say they truly believe – I might more easily find a seat at the packed-out CHRISTmas concerts each year.

People’s View of Church Today

People view church differently today than ever before … and most churches, church leaders and active members are clueless as to how those not involved or involved on the fringe view their organization and activities. It is time, maybe, to take a look as I continue this on-and-off series under the heading of “Church and Culture Today” in this section of my blogs…

Regretfully many people today view the Church in a particular way – but their perception is a distortion of what the true Church is. And, sadly, many churches are a distortion of what God wants them to be.

People’s perceptions (by survey):

1> Church is boring
The teachings do not relate to “real life” and are tolerated as part of the program. They really come for the music, fellowship, food, coffee….

2> Church is non-stop activity
There are too many events and activities and too many of them apparently are set up to entertain and to be a “poor” Christian alternative to what the world offers. People fel like we are always “going, going, going” and are asking “Yes, but going where?”

3> Church is not the biggest influence in their lives or even in their spiritual development
Attitudes and actions are molded – not by the Church – but by parents and the music that people listen to today. The parents have influenced a person in the basic formative stages of their lives and their music and entertainment are now forming their values, attitudes and actions as their parent’s influence fades. Church is 7th on the list of places that influence values and attitudes.

4. Church seems like a series of events that we attend and watch
Church is not seen as interactive and a place where people can interact and participate with what is going on. There is little or no room for relational discovery of the truth. Churches are not engaging people in relational interaction. It is a spectator event in their mind.

5> Church may help save my soul but it won’t help me grapple with the real issues of my life.
Church is not seen as a place to go if you are having life problems. It is not a place for those who are wounded by life and currently unable to cope with circumstances and situations. The messags simply don’t relate to life as I live it today.

We need to do some real PR for the local Church with the current society we are trying to reach here in North America. The message of Jesus is not being rejected – it is not even being heard. God is not being rejected – people are searching for spiritual truth and for God but have decided that the Church is the wrong place to look for either.

Time to communicate what we are really all about.

I’m Working On Schedules

Every month I take time to look closely at the planned events for the next month. This means a detailed look at each day and how the regular events of the work day are going to fit in with all the “extras” that have been agreed to and “sort-of scheduled” as I said yes to meeting with this group, talking to that person, being involved in that activity and speaking or ministering here and then there and simply jotted down the appointment with little thought to the overall scheme of the day or the week. Now I need to sort out driving times, preparation slots, who else I can see while there in that neck-of-the-woods and how to still “have a life” with all these events and activities going on. A monthly event – near the start of the month looking in detail at the next month yet to begin so I have lots of time to make adjustments before that month becomes reality.

In other words, I work out in serious details the next month – my job some time near the start of the month before. So, by now, the daily details of January and a lot of February are already set – allowing some flexibility but not a great deal simply due to what needs to be accomplished and done.

While doing all of this – and it is almost automatic after many years of living this way – I work with some detail on the next three months of daily life and ministry so that I can say yes or no to family events and other “social” times and events of regular life and the family. As well, I then know the open time slots for important things that just arise at the spur of the moment and any emergencies that might happen or good opportunities to impact lives with the Gospel that show up without much warning. In other words, detailed but still somewhat flexible.

I plan and book major events (week-long camps and overseas trips, for example) up to 2 years in advance. You can’t be spontaneous about these things as facilities need to be rented, advertising drawn up, money raised, teams formed, plane tickets purchased and so on.

In the midst of this long-term planning and detailed daily scheduling I have some serious priorities … first my time with God. This is both a detailed, daily thing as well as long term. I have time set aside every day to be with the Lord – both as soon as possible in the day and then last thing at night. Both of these “times” are somewhat flexible due to the nature of my life. My mornings are scheduled for around 5:30. However, if I don’t arrive home from a road trip until 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning then the 5:30 becomes 7:30. The nature of my work causes this but also allows me the flexibility to work around this. The point: God is always first and last on my mind every day.

In the short-term planning I work on carving out a day and sometimes two in a month when I can spend extended time with the Lord. Not the whole day, of course. Simply a good chunk of time to do some deeper thinking and to ask the Lord what in my life needs some adjusting and where He would like to see some improvements and change. “Search me, O God…”.

And, as I look at the long-term planning I also make sure that God remains a priority and I attempt to schedule in and then guard time with him … a 3 day retreat every three months and a week long extended time with the Lord annually or semi-annually should I be so blessed. This is not hard to do really. Everyone has long weekends … everyone except preachers as Sundays always fall in the middle of the long weekends. However, I book off the Sunday (from preaching not from attending the assembly of the saints) and spend three days every quarter in extended time in God’s presence and enjoying a mini-retreat while remaining at home.

The week-long time with the Lord can either be done as part of your annual vacation leave or worked in as part of your EDOs (earned days off). Where there is a will there is a way and no one is busier than someone else really … it is simply a matter of wanting to do this and making it a priority. You can go away by yourself and have a week alone – or, if your home affords you the privacy and quiet – you can accomplish this week in the comfort of home (if you can ignore the phone, the doorbell, the mail, the television, the radio, the….).

So, in the midst of daily details of work and a large family and while planning months and yes, even years ahead, I actually put first the King and the Kingdom and schedule time with Him daily, weekly, monthly and annually. And then work hard to protect and guard that time – keeping it and my heart only for Him.

I’m working on schedules – and it is slow and methotical work that occupies a great many of my brain cells and can be very frustrating and seriously tiring at times. I always do the “monthly maps” and the “annual additions” in pencil and carry a big erasure because things change and move about a lot – causing me to always remember my priorities and not weaken when asked for more time to be given here or there, to that project or that person. God first!

I have learned that the Bible is true – “seek first the Kingdom of God and all these other things will be added unto you…”

Kazakhstan November 2009

Kazakhstan – Trip and Information

Today I head to the airport and fly to Calgary, Frankfurt, Germany and then into Almaty-Alta in Kazakhstan to begin a little more than two weeks of ministry returning on December 1st.

It is not going to be an easy trip as the rules and regulations in Kazakhstan are quite severe and certainly limit what we can do and where we can do it. In fact, I received an email yesterday from one of the team members which commented that “My friend from Denmark who does mission work in Kazakhstan said that for them it’s safer to gather pastors and leaders for training events in Turkey or Ukraine and thus not be caught and still be able to do some local underground ministry.” So, we are heading into a troubled situation and could certainly benefit from your prayers. Read more

Russia October 2009

One More Sleep

Tomorrow I board a plane here in my city – fly to Calgary, Alberta where I will have lunch. Then at supper time I will board another plane and fly to Munich, Germany. There I will have breakfast which will really be supper. Then quickly on another flight to Moscow, Russia where I will have supper which is really breakfast. My internal clock will be a bit confused by the jet lag and the 9 hours dofference in time. It is even worse coming home but that is another story. Read more

I’m Just Doing My Job

Her name is Charity. I see here once a month for less than five minutes. She works as the receptionist and front desk person for a company that we have a contract with to maintain and service the two printers/copiers that the ministry owns and operates here in our office complex. I see her when the monthly reports of usage are due and I need to pick up fresh supplies of toner or a new printing drum that needs to be installed.

Well, on Thursday, on my way back from an out-of-town trip, I swung around to where their offices are because I had phoned earlier in the week and left a message with a sales person that I needed and would pick up some supplies. They would deliver to the office free-of-charge but we are seldom there when they come and so it is very frustrating. So, I just pick it up each month. And besides, it gives me an opportunity to talk to non-believers who desperately need Jesus.

So, I am picking up my supplies. Charity asks me how I am doing (part of her job description I am sure) and how my trip to Kazakhstan went. She remembered. Six weeks ago I told her that the next monthly reports and payment of the invoice would be late because I was going overseas to Kazakhstan. Commented on Ukraine being my next trip – AH! Do I sense God entering the conversation. Her parents are from Ukraine. What do I do there in Ukraine?, she asks. Thanks Lord – I recognize the door You are opening and I will certainly walk right through it. Say no more, Lord!

I found out that she thinks the Bible is a book of myths and none of it can be believed.

I found out that she has no actual knowledge of the Bible – but has read bits and pieces of it. Asking her what parts she did not believe I was quickly able to show her she was wrong and the Bible is correct and right – even today.

I found out that she and her younger brother are looking for spiritual truth and looking everywhere except the Church.

I found out that she has no idea that any type of Church exists except the traditional, legalistic, liturgical, scandal-ridden churches that meet in the old big buildings in the older sections of the city.

I found out that she thinks all of “this” is religion and was astonished when I suggested that Christmas and the birth of Jesus was about the destruction or tearing down of religion and the establishment of a way to have a personal relationship with God. Seriously amazed and actually dumbfounded for a minute. Did I see a team forming? Yes! Got you….

I found out that she is open to coming to the Church that I a member of – in fact, she invited herself.

I found out that she was willing to meet with me over a coffee and/or a meal along with her brother to discuss all of the above.

I found out she is excited to have had the opportunity to chat about these realities and her misconceptions even in the front office with people going by us and entering various doors and hallways. Did you note Ralph that the phone did not ring once in the 15 minutes you were chatting. Yes, I noted that Lord – thanks!

All of this in 15 minutes or less.

Do you think God was in this? I do. But then I am a bit of a radical as I believe God is in and guides and directs all of my conversations – I mean all of my words, actions, thoughts, and total bahavior. And, that He gives me supernatural guidance as I go about the proces of living my normal, somewhat boring, every-day life.

Pray for Charity as I will be dropping in on her again this week – with a gift – a Bible in modern English. One for her and one for her brother. Afteralll, it is the Christmas gift-giving season isn’t it?

2010 and Spiritual Food

Well, a few days away from the regular grind of life, family time, good food and friends, and an opportunity to sleep in the afternoon several times. The holiday season is good for the soul and body.

Hopefully you have also found time to feed the spirit. You were created in God’s image and John 4 tells us that God is Spirit – so you are a spirit-person and your spirit needs to be fed daily from God’s Word (the food of the spirit). Jesus said: “Man does not live by physical bread alone but by spiritual food (every word that proceeds from the mouth of God).” Important to remember during this festive season when body and soul seem to be the focus.

As we approach a new year – another gift from the hand of God – it is a good time to make a quality decision or two as to what your plans are in 2010 to feed that spirit-person that is crying out for food that satisfies.

I have been taking a good, hard look at my Bible reading, Bible study time, my memorization program, the way I meditate on the Word, the time I spend journaling and recording what the Holy Spirit is showing me … I am basically looking at the way I relate to God’s spiritual food and the diet I have been eating. It seems I always start the year in top gear doing great – but by year-end things have slipped a lot.

The lull between Christmas and New Year is a good time to examine where things are at in my relationship with the Lord and His Word and then to make some changes … some minor and some major so that I can better engage the Word (Bible) on a daily basis and more accurately hear God in my heart-of-hearts (spirit man) as I do so.

Not speaking of making a bunch of rules for myself, simply adjusting my disciplines a little – I am talking about releasing more and more of the very life of God in my life as I read the Word in 2010.

If It Works, It’s Right (Part Two)

Today people have a distored view of reality – of the way this cause-and-effect world really operates -and it will lead them down a path of destruction if their view is not corrected. they hold to an “immediate workability” world viewpoint. This is the way they see life and function in life. And, it is the task of believers to help change that distorted view of reality. It is your job and mine to see that people begin to see things from God’s perspective – the only true and accurate way to view reality.

If “immediate workability” is their criterion in making choices, they will be readily induced into instant gratification, temporary fixes, and expedient answers that promise not the provision and protection of God’s ways but deceit and destruction. They will take the easy way out every time. They will not look for what is right and noble but rather for what is easy and workable right now – and accomplished with the least amount of effort.

When “immediate workability” is our way of operating, then taking steriods to enhance athletic performance seems worth doing. If “immediate workability” is the criterion, premarital sex will seem like a viable option. If “immediate workability” is the criterion, cheating may promise easier and more desirable results than studying.

If “immediate workability” is our crtierion, who among us will choose sacrifice over selfishness? Who will choose the cross instead of the culture? Who will choose righteousness rather than self-gratification? If our culture is not helped to see reality from God’s perspective, how will they respond to the call of God, to His will, or to His desires for them?

The Church desperately needs to move people from the distorted and faulty premise upon which they now make choices and help them see God for who He is and how He relates to them. They we will be able to distinguish right from wrong, truth from error, and good from bad. We must help people today to understand that Scripture is a revelation of the living God who wants them to know Him for who He is and respond by entrusting their futures to His soverign will.

People need – I know I sound like a broken record – a spiritual experience or encounter that will transform their pragmatic mindset into such a passionate relationship with God that they readily respond to Jesus’ admonition to “love the Lord your God with your whole heart, soul, mind and strength…” and will thus come to see the world and others the way God sees them and then be able to “love your neighbor as you love yourself” … thus defeating “immediate workability” turning it in for a true view of what is really right and wrong, good and bad, godly and ungodly.

We have a lot of work to do to turn the culture around so that people can see things in a correct light and begin to see God for who He truly is. The Church needs to learn to represent this one true God to the people they are to reach … because only a personal relationship with Him will take away the “immediate” and allow us to consider the “eternal” and remove the “pragmatic” and “workable” for the holy and the just.