Men and the Church

Matthew 11:12 “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.”

As we approach Father’s Day here in North America my thoughts have turned to men in the Church and this interesting verse from the Gospel according to Matthew.

Interesting verse … “…and forceful MEN lay hold of it” and yet on any given Sunday there are many more women in any given church service than men. Less than 40% of adults in most churches are men, and 20 to 25% of married churchgoing women attend without their husbands. And the men that do attend often look bored – so bored.

Interesting facts … recently in an edition of Outlook Magazine I have been reading I was startled by the statistics regarding men and the Church. The “fact” that really got to me was that even the majority of men who do attend never let God change their hearts. Their hearts are not engaged in the experience we call worship and apparently they are not finding the teachings helpful or beneficial or, at least, are not applying the teachings to their personal lives. Church is failing to engage men on any meaningful level.

Interesting comment … Business guru W. Edwards Deming: “Your system is perfectly designed to give you the results you’re getting.” David Murrow goes on to say in his book “Why Men Hate Going to Church” that…”in other words, if every third car rolls off the assembly line with bumpers installed upside down, you don’t blame the bumpers. You’ve got a system that’s unintentionally designed to produce defective cars … It’s time to stop blaming the bumpers. The modern church system is getting the results it’s designed to get.”

Interesting observation … even thought the Founder was a male and His original 12 disciples were all male; the early heros of the Christian faith were almost exclusively male; men penned the New Testament; all popes have been male and over 90% of pastors in North America are still males … but, truth be told, the majority of leaders in almost all churches are female. Examine the bulletin and see who the contact names are. Look around and see who does the work during the week. Notice on Sunday who is actively involved in practical, hands-on ministry. Women are in the vast majority!

Matthew 11:12 “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.”

Interesting contrast … Jesus tells us that men should be involved in a military takeover of the darkness pushing it back with the Gospel of Jesus which is the beginning of light. That this is a power thing as men will take it over “forcefully.” That this will be necessary if we hope to see the Kingdom of heaven advancing as it should. So, obviously this is not the case and things will need to change drastically. But, I honestly don’t think we need to start changing things at the “church” level as the Church we have built is simply a result of a deeper problem – the way we see Jesus!

Interesting change … I believe we need to change the image or picture, the impression, we have of Jesus. When I was in my original seminary back in the late 1960’s there was a book published by a Jesuit priest called “Good-old Plastic Jesus.” It really impacted me even in my pre-salvation state because it presented a different side of Jesus than I was given in any sermon or church I had ever attended. And now, 40 years later I am doing a major study on Jesus in my research time each week … and sitting right across from where I write there is a pile of 14 books on various aspects of God as seen in the life and ministry of the real Jesus … books as diverse as “Jesus” by Charles Swindoll to “Jesus Mean and Wild” by Mark Galli to “Your God is Too Safe” by Canadian Mark Buchanan.

Interesting solution … Jesus is the key to what needs to change. Many books look at the Church and suggest what needs to happen to make it more male-friendly – I believe that is putting the cart before the horse. We need to see Jesus as He really is and that is different than how most churches represent Him. He is the Head of the Church; He is building His Church; and if we see and know Him as He really is then we will know and see God the Father as He really is because Jesus came to reveal the Father to us. Then with a clear picture of God that is not so culturally influenced and more biblically based we will allow Him to build His Church His way and that will look and function much differently than we see today.

Interesting work … and that is partly my task as an apostle. I am called a “Master Builder” in the Bible and as God reveals more and more of the blueprint for His Church we will begin to help Him build a Church that will be attractive to both men and women, saved and unsaved, young and old. Jesus attracted people of all ages and backgrounds – both men and women – and so will His Church if and when we represent Jesus for who He really is and the way He has truly revealed Himself to us – and then we can bury “good old plastic Jesus” and not pray for a resurrection because we will then know the real Jesus and men will flock to Him and find life, meaning, and signifigance.

Just my take on things!

Walk Slowly Through the Crowd

The spring and summer are fast approaching and we should be thinking – on a personal level – of how to use this time outdoors to tell others about Jeus. The summer brings with it an opportunity to be outdoors a little more so we have opportunities to meet with and visit our neighbors and others that we don’t have during the colder winter months. And, with a slightly more relaxed pace we are able to take time to talk to others about such important matters as where they will be spending eternity.

Last night (well really early this morning) I was leaving a coffee shop in a city near where I live. I had been in the city ministering at a special service. It was a neat three hour service of worship, teaching on the prophetic, and then helping those present minister to one another prophetically. Everyone in attendance received an in-depth word of the Lord about their life and ministry. Dynamic and powerful night. So, afterwards I am fellowshipping late into the night (early morning) with the pastors of the Church. Best part of any day.

As we were leaving the coffee shop / restaurant at around 12:30a as I needed to be on the road heading home – there was a man my own age sitting at a table by the door having coffee and a muffin. Sitting by himself. Not sure how we even ended up in a conversation with him but we did. Three of us standing there as he talked about a number of road experiences he had been a part of (deer, wolves, moose…). It was a great opportunity to get to know this very friendly and talkative man and if it had been any earlier (and if I had been less tired) I would have purchased another cup of coffee and invited myself to sit down. He would have agreed and then I would have swung the conversation towards spiritual matters and Jesus. But, I did need to get home while still alert enough to drive safely.

My point: people are open to talk and share if we are just walking slow enough through the crowds to really notice people and give them the time it takes to build a little bit of a relationship. Mid-afternoon coffee times here in my city and hundreds of seniors such as myself gather at the Tim Horton’s and Robin’s Donuts outlets scattered around the city. Often there are men and women sitting alone – either their friends didn’t show up that particular day or their spouse has recently died and so now they drink their coffee alone… An ideal opportunity to strike up a conversation – not just to get the gospel out as this often does not happen on first contact – but because you genuinely care for people just as Jesus does.

Each and every day the Lord gives you opportunities to be building bridges into people’s lives … building relationships based on respect and the simple God-given ability to listen and to sincerely care about people. People love to talk about themselves – they are their favourite subject – and we love to talk about Jesus. A lethal combination in my mind. However, we need to learn to be in less of a hurry and walk slowly through the crowd looking for God-given opportunities to start and become involved in a conversation. As well, you can simply make the opportunities by being open and friendly and genuinely caring about others.

So, whether you are on a beach relaxing, boating on a lake, watching a kids’ scoccer game or the local baseball team… remember that God is giving you opportunities to be an ambassador for Him and His Kingdom and learn to gently and consistently start and steer a conversation towards spiritual matters. Remember, as you do this, God promises to be “with you” and to confirm your words and His Gospel with supernatural signs and wonders (but that for another day and another blog).

Preaching to the Choir

Interesting conversation last night with a group of four believers regarding Christian radio and certain programs on the satilite station that a number of us receive in our vehicles which can also be heard at our work stations should we be so inclined as to tune them in while at work and not just when driving. Several well known names were mentioned – good people with terrific ministries and hearts that love the Lord – but it seems that at least one person in the group is seriously tired of hearing them preach to the choir.

It is obvious that these are Christian ministries speaking the Christian message on a Christian radio station which is, by statistics, listened to by Christians. So, we are simply preaching to the choir – the already converted. We are simply talking to ourselves and we have already heard the message. It seems pointless and fruitless – an effort in futility and so it may be. It may also be a waste of money – but, it sounds good when you can say that your program is heard on 658 radio stations across America.

Folks, let’s admit something – in general Christians (and churches) simply talk to themselves and are not communicating with the “other world” in which we find ourselves. We relate to believers of somewhat the same social class as we belong to, we meet with believers for coffee and fellowship, we speak Christianeze and perfectly understand each other, and are really not connecting emotionally or mentally with non-believers on any level that allows us to win their trust and respect and thus share the Gospel with them. We too, in our relationships, are preaching to the choir … speaking to those with whom we feel safe.

Of course, there are believers who relate well to the world but this is often because they live like the world lives and their lifestyle is identical to the world. And, they don’t mention Jesus to those with whom they relate – and, if they did, the witness would be null and void simply due to the walk not lining up with the talk. They are simply not different than the people they are relating to so their words are hollow and meaningless.

So, we are really a sub-culture within the wider social order of the culture in which we live. A sub-culture that is busy speaking to itself and is disconnected from the main stream of the society in which we find ourselves. So, we have a great message that the people need to hear but we have not connected with the people in any meaningful way so that they can hear what we have to say. And, we most likely don’t know how to communicate the message in a way that they would understand it and receive it – a problem arising out of talking Jesus to ourselves for so many years.

This is a problem one man discovered – a believer – when he encountered a homeless man and befriended him for the wrong reasons. The book is the story of their relationship written from the vantage point of both men. They came from different worlds, different social classes, different family backgrounds, different geographical areas, one was a believer and the other not (when they first met), and their lives became seriously intertwined over a period of years with both men totally changing as a result of their relationship … and both becoming serious believers whose faith alters their lives and influences the lives of those around them.

The name of the book is “Same Kind of Different As Me” if memory serves me correctly. I read it as an ebook on a flight overseas some months ago. The authors are Ron Hall and Denver Moore. Well worth reading – and reading more than once. May even help you to see your world differently so we can all stop preaching to the choir.

Tamara Zhylich

I am greatly thankful to God for Ralph Howe’s ministry here in our church in Kirovograd.

When Ralph explained how to receive God’s word in the right way and then how to interpret this word and use it, I grasped this process and began to practise these truths in my walking with God. I began to clearly hear God when I calm down in my spirit, as Ralph taught us, and tune on hearing. I was amazed about how easy and exactly God was speaking to me, revealing the roots of my problems, answering my questions and directing me. My fellowship with the Lord changed and became more alive.

Ralph’s teachings are very edifying and help to come closer to God and walk in His truth.

Helen Tymoschyuk

Ralph’s teachings helped me to get proper understanding of giftings and callings. The truths were revealed to me as before they were hidden because of the religious spirit. I was prophesied over earlier and the prophecy given by Ralph agrees with what was said earlier even in some specific words. I will practise what I have seen and heard, I will learn how to walk in the supernatural.

I am sure that the received word will change my life as it has already begun to come to pass. I received the word that God will carry love message using my husband and me. Today I saw a little boy. There you could see ill-being in his eyes and the feeling that no one loved him. He was with his drunken mother. Then God impelled me to tell the boy that God loves him. This boy looked at me and began to smile and went away knowing that God loves him.

 Watching how Ralph’s team serves I know that their experience can help many people to come to realize new possibilities and new understanding of how to walk with God and serve to others.

What does the received prophetic word mean to me? Our testimony is great – we are free from the financial burden that lasted for long time. The Lord has fulfilled His word and literally in twelve hours we got confirmation of the fact that our life fully belongs to Him. Also thanks to Ralph I realized that we should not tell God about our problems but we should tell our problems about God.

I would advice all of my friends to attend Ralph Howe’s services and to receive great blessing by hearing God’s truth and His message in a prophetic word.

Silence, Stillness and Solitude

Christians are like everyone else in that they live busy and active lives. It seems that life is speeding up or maybe, just maybe, at my age I am simply going slower. Either weay I can be busy and very active doing productive things 24 hours a day if I were to chose to be. There is never a shortage of things to be involved in or to do. I am sure that you are no different and that you face this in your life as well – being active and busy – occupied with life every moment that you are awake. Welcome to life in the modern world as I hear this concern everywhere I go in the world.

However, is it really an issue of a lack of time or is it really a lack of wanting to take a look inside at ourselves – our wants and desires, our motives and heart. Is it really a lack of time or do we simply fear looking at and examining the life we are living and what is going on in the society in which we live? Maybe we simply don’t see the value in taking the time to do this self-examination!

I personally believe that it is both a lack of desire and even a fear of what might be discovered if one took time to actually do this. I believe we can “make time” for whatever we really believe is important or necessary in life and for life. I believe that if we were convinced that examining “life” was important and necessary that we would ‘find time’ to do just that. So, we have made a choice not to take a good look at the life we are living – often, I believe, out of fear regarding what we might find – a shallow, self-centered, me-focused life lived day-to-day without purpose or direction or much thought for things eternal and things that will really matter when life on this planet is over.

An ancient Greek philosopher – Socrates – once stated, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” I believe this is true. And, I believe that Christians in particular need to slow down and take time to examine their daily life so that it can become more than existing and reacting but can be the abundant life with purpose as Jesus promised and lived proactively as Jesus lived His life. The believer needs to find time for being “still” on the inside and the outside, to rediscover “solitude” and learn to be comfortable being alone for extended periods of time, and finding the true healing value in “silence” when there is no television, internet, streaming video or audio … no cell phones, Blackberries, or iPods demanding their attention. Frightening at first – but absolutely necessary if one hopes to live an examined life.

This quote that Socrates said was spoken at his trial for heresy. Socrates was on trial for encouraging his students to challenge the accepted beliefs of the time and think for themselves. The sentence was death but Socrates had the option of suggesting an alternative punishment. He could have chosen life in prison or exile, and would likely have avoided death.

But Socrates believed that these alternatives would rob him of the only thing that made life useful: Examining the world around him and discussing how to make the world a better place. Without his “examined life” there was no point in living. So he suggested that Athens reward him for his service to society. The result, of course, is that they had no alternative and were forced to vote for a punishment of death.

Karl W. Palachuk in his book Relax, Focus, Succeed states: “Luckily, we don’t have to choose between an examined life and death. But the sad thing is, most people avoid leading an examined life. It’s not that they don’t have time or make time. They actively avoid examining their lives.”

He goes on to write, “People who do examine their lives, who think about where they’ve been, how they got here, and where they’re going, are much happier people. No one has all the answers. And no one’s life is free from trouble and strife. But those who have some sense of where they belong in the universe also have a context for understanding how all the elements of their life fit together.”

I agree – and would add that, as a believer, they would also see how what they are doing in life fits (or does not fit) into God’s plans and purpose for them – God’s will for their life. This just might be an important thing to discover. But to do any of this believers need to rediscover the ancient practice (Christian – spiritual discipline) of silence, stillness and solitude so that they can hear the Spirit (the Holy Spirit) speak to them. I have been preaching these 4 S’s now for 30 years as they are cornerstones of my personal life and walk with the Lord. I practice what I preach – on a daily basis. Without them and the results of stopping my world daily to experience them and thus hear the voice of God I would have never made it this far. But my teachings on the subject – although welcomed and accepted – are seldom applied and lives are not changed.

I was reading an e-book the other day on the flight from Toronto to Regina – a book on prayer by Steve Brown. He stated, “On the other side of the silence, I encountered the God who is really there.” I responded with a hearty “AMEN” (well, I really said “you bet”) and scared the passenger next to me. Having just completed 2 weeks of ministry overseas where it is constant motion, ministry, and meetings the whole time you are awake…. I had often stayed up later each night than the team members with whom I lived and was always the first up in the morning (one shower with a limited supply of hot water available and four people to use it) which allowed me time to be still, silent, and alone (solitude) in the midst of a busy schedule and team situation. Without this special time after awhile I would be working for God but not with Him. I would be a servant and not a son. I would be walking and ministering in the natural instead of the supernatural.

Every day I found time to be with Him, to still my body and mind, my heart and spirit and commune with Him who is life itself. I made time. It is an essential part of my daily life – every day. I learned long ago, like Socrates, that an unexamined life is simply not worth living. And, that I needed to come to really know myself – who I am in Christ, where I am going as I follow Him, and to have that “time of refreshing in the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:20). And, it is the same when home and working in my study on material to teach and publish, or in my office working on plans and details for the next apostolic trip locally or overseas… I make time to be with Him and focused on my relationship with Him every day (even at 1:00a as it was yesterday after a very active, busy and full day). Absolutely essential and never an option – not a “take it or leave it” part of my life.

Examined your personal life – inner and outward – recently?

A Man After My Own Heart

Reading an interview with someone planting a church on the strip in Las Vegas and something he said made me actually want to call him and let him know how welcome his comments were and how much I agreed with him. He is planting the first church that will function literally on the strip itself.

The question from the interviewer … “What models or leaders are you looking to as you plant the first church on the strip?”

Answer: “Nobody really. The big mistake church planters make is letting [well-known] churches set their example. With only between 2 percent and 4 percent of the Church reaching the unchurched, the “growing churches” are the best show in town because they’ve learned how to reach Christians. So we actually try to not look at other churches and what they’re doing. I spend more time looking at Starbucks, Conan O’Brian and Disney World – they’re the best at reaching out to he lost.”

Makes you want to shout “Amen, brother – preach it and preach it loudly.”

There is a denomination planting its second church right now in this city where I live and that is how they are building. In a smaller center near another church where I also minister on a regular basis there is a group of people planting a new work ‘for the Lord’ and here again it is a group whose gifts and callings were not recognized by other churches.

These new works start by holding special events, attracting dissatisfied Christians from other churches, would be leaders whose wonderful giftings and callings were not recognized by the other church they were in – usually because their rebellion and lack of submission was speaking louder than their gifts and callings; unbroken but gifted believers who are dangerous to themselves and the church in general… seldom do we see new churches started by someone who is out winning the lost and starting by discipling new believers and building something new for the Kingom – mostly we are simply recycling the saints. It is easier and quicker that way.

I am in the process of researching and planning a number of new church plants in a number of different locations – rural, good-sized town, and city … and I am not looking to the models being suggested by the experts and the leaders of mega churches who have the time and staff to write a lot of the books that are out there on the market telling us how to do it. I am simply watching the people in the locations where these church plants will be located, studying local needs and the community in general… and asking the Lord for a unique strategy to see unbelievers come to know the Lord and be discipled. trained, equipped and mentored by those in leadership positions within these new works.

I honestly will turn away transfers from other churches unless they will first go with a leader back to the church they are leaving or have left and deal with all and any outstanding issues. I don’t want their religious baggage to clutter up the new work for the Lord. I don’t want would-be leaders who are gifted and unbroken to join thinking their gifts and callings will finallly be recognized and they will be able to lead. Go somewhere else and cause a disaster – don’t need you. Not happy and content in the church you are currently in – you won’t be happy and content in this new one we are planting. Happiness and contentment are by-procuts of your relationship with the Lord and not the church you attend or the ministry to have. Please don’t join us as we don’t need your unsettled heart and spirit. The Bible states that the Lord plants each member in the body of His choice (1 Corinthians 12) and so I only want those whom the Lord is planting to become a part of these new expressions of the body of Christ.

So, I say “amen brother – preach it!” Let’s seek the Lord and build in the manner that He tells us to build. Afterall, each church is to be a unique expression of the body of Christ as there is no ‘mass production’ of churches – no MacChurch corporations – in the Kingdom. Just unique expressions of the life of Jesus flowing through His people. He said that He would build His Church and, as an apostle, I am looking to Him for the unique blueprints for each of the church plants that I am currently involved in. It would be easier simply to copy and implement a plan that worked somewhere else. Many books have been written to tell us of their success stories and how to do it… but it was how the Lord told them to do it there at that time – not here at this time.

So, the hard work has begun …. praying! Seeking the Lord’s heart for each of these locations and the people we will reach – new people whom we can win to Him and then be responsible to disciple, train, equip and mentor into ministry…. afterall, this is what we are all about in the ministry here at Ralph Howe Ministries. Our slogan is “Loving God, Equipping People, Mentoring Leaders, Reaching Nations” and we are about the Father’s business.

Burger King Spirituality

B.J. Gallagher – a sociologist and best-selling author of business and inspirational books is quoted in Outreach Magazine as saying: “I take a bit from various religions to put together a theology that works for me – what M.Scott Peck referred to as ‘Burger King’ spirituality (“Have it your way”). I like what author Matthew Fox says: God is like an underground river flowing deep beneath the surface of the earth. Different groups of people dig wellls, and when they find water, they think they have found the only water! In truth, all these people are tapping into the same divine water. So it doesn’t really matter if I get a few teachings from Buddhism, a couple from Judaism or Hinduism and lots from Christianity; it’s all coming from the same source.” (Outreach Magazine, May/June 2010, page 116)

She is not alone. Many are doing this in our world today. And, you have to add to the mix beliefs that are uniquely their own and that are not gleaned from any other religion. People have their own ideas and concepts of what truth is for them and often it is a mixture of personal opinion, influence from their section of the current culture, and pop pyschology gleaned from local music trends or some professor they are studying under. It seems that truth today is whatever you want it to be. And because we live in a society that values tolerance we simply accept what others believe with the attitude that “if it works for you – that’s great.”

Where does that leave the believer in Jesus Christ? Where does that leave those who believe there is only one source of truth and that it is God and that His truth has been revealed in Jesus Christ who states, “I am the way THE TRUTH, and the life?” Where does that leave those who believe that the Ten Commandments are still the moral standards for behavior today and thus the truth upon which life is built according to God? Where does that leave those who believe there is only one road to Heaven and it is Jesus or, to follow the writer’s idea, only one well that you can dig that actually reaches true living water. Well, it makes us appear antagonistic, narrow-minded, judgmental, and non-acepting of other beliefs.

So, believers have their work cut out for them – we must present THE TRUTH regardless of what others believe to be the or their “truth”. We must share that Jesus is the only way to Heaven and that the Gosepl is the only way to salvation. We must present the truth. We must defend the truth. We must earnestly content for the faith (Jude 3). We must not allow the current deceptions to go unchallenged. We must present the truth every time we sense an opening. We must take advantage of every opportunity we are handed and, if at all possible, create our own opportunities to share Jesus with others. We must share the truth gently and lovingly but we must share it nonetheless. And, we must do it often and everywhere.

Of course, this assumes we know exactly what it is the Bible teaches and what it is that we believe. And, it assumes that we know how to present what we believe in a way that communicates clearly and lovingly. And, this assumes that we know how to defend what we believe from other competing beliefs and prove that we are right and that the other philosophies and religions are wrong. This assumes we are strong enough in our faith and beliefs to withstand the opposition and hold our own in a discusion or a debate. This assumes we are able somewhat knowledgable in what other religions teach and know the difference, subtle at times, between what they believe and preach and what we believe. This assumes that we understand that we are fighting systems and beliefs that belong to the god of this world and that are blinding the minds of those who might believe (2 Corinthians 4:4) and that we know that others are preaching “another Jesus, another Spirit, and a different gospel” (2 Corinthians 11:4). This assumes a lot.

This must be something we do intentionally. We must decide to learn the truths of our faith and how to communicate them well. We must intentionally set out to know what others believe and how to present what we believe in a way that will place the truth before them. We must decide that this is truly something the Lord has commanded that we do and that He demands we become involved in this task – and respond in total obedience. We must make some serious decisions that will commit us to a new path and a new way of life and then simply determine to do it. Or, we will see the Gospel of life simply become less and less known and no longer being an influence in our nations.

Prophetic Testimony Time

Pictured to one side is a pastor and business owner from the nation of Belarus giving a wonderful testimony of a prophetic word that he had received the night before about financial blessings and a release of money – that was fulfilled within hours of him hearing it. I am listening intently to Miroslav my interpreter translating his words so that I can share in his blessing of seeing the Lord’s hand move so quickly on his behalf after he had received the prophetic word.

There are many similar pictures from our recent apostolic trip to Ukraine where everyone present at the School for Apostles and Prophets had received a Word of the Lord about their calling and place in the Kingdom – without one they could not attend the School. During the School a number of those who were there as a direct result of their prophetic word received other words from the Lord through the ministry of our various team members. Good words. Powerful words. Life-changing words. Confirming words repeating what those receiving them already knew in their hearts or had heard elsewhere. Revealing word – words revealing new aspects of their future and their ministry for the Lord. Exciting and powerfully life-changing words speaking to their future, their possibilities, their potential – not to certainities but what can be if…

This “if” is substantial. First there are the stated conditions contained in the prophetic word. What is it the Lord has told the person to do. “If you do this – then I will do that…” is what you are looking for. Absolutely essential that all stated conditions be met in any prophetic word received if you hope to see it actually be fulfilled and come to pass.

This substantial “if” also includes a number of unstated conditions … that you are born again and a true convert to the Christian faith, that you are attending worship and connected to a local church, that you read and study your Bible regularly, pray regularly, are fulfilling the basic commandments of the Scriptures (love God, love self and neighbors, and the Great Commission), that you tithe and make offerings, that you deal with sin in your life quickly and properly – confessing and forsaking it. The list goes on.

My point – if you want to be able to stand one day and give a powerful testimony of your prophetic word coming to pass and bearing fruit you need to meet both the stated and implied conditions. Otherwise, of course, you could simply blame the person who gave you the word and call it a “false prophecy” when really it is not. At least that will make you feel better.

Sitting At A Famous Man’s Desk

When in Belarus a few months ago I had opportunity to visit a small museum where there were a number of “rooms” from the past set up … a merchant’s shop, a local home’s sitting room, a room where the bride and groom went to sign official documents, and so on. It was like walking into the past – the distant past – and becoming a part of it. Like submerging oneself in a culture to learn the language. Pictured above is the “room” designed after William the Second’s study in his summer home that was located in the city that I was visiting. I am sitting on his actual chair and behind the desk he used during the summer months to do his official correspondence and work as head of the Prussian Empire so long ago. Facinating.

I am doing a study (the desk in my study is not near as beautifully engraved as the one the ruler of the Prussian Empire used) … on some fairly ordinary men who did not have desks and chairs nor did they go to the office. But they did become well known in spite of never ruling an empire or having an army to command or a country to defend against the attacks of another. However, they became a force that changed the world forever. I’m studying the lives of the 12 apostles – 11 who followed Jesus during His three years of public ministry done in the flesh and the 12th who was chosen at the start of the book of Acts to replace the one who betrayed His Lord.

What is most amazing about the disciples is that Jesus ever selected them at all: among them, a handful of common fishermen, a hated tax collector, and an impulsive political zealot.When you take a fresh look at the disciples, you are faced wth a stunning fact: The men the Savior chose were ordinary. Hopelessly human. Remarkably unremarkable. But they were available and obedient to the Master’s call. And, under Jesus’ teaching and touch, they became a force that absolutely changed the world forever.

I work with many small churches both here and overseas. And often people are discouraged because they are so small in numbers and there are so few to do the many jobs that need to be done in a local church regardless of size. And, I remind them that the Lord turned the world upside down using 12 men who were willing to be obedient and “go into all the world…” Ordinary men walking in the extra-ordinary. Natural men walking in the supernatural. I remind them that 12 men touched by God in a way no one else had previously experienced – but that we can experience today through salvation and the baptism in the Holy Spirit – spread the Gospel to the whole known world at that time.

In their quest to spread the Gospel message, the apostles would witness unimaginable miracles and endure unspeakable hardships and often cruelty. Yet despite overwhelming forces aligned against them, they changed the course of world history in a single lifetime. And, most importantly, I remind them that with God they can do the same as well. All God is looking for is ordinary people who are committed to Him, loyal to His Son, and who are born again and Spirit-filled (baptized in the Holy Spirit). Ordinary people who are committed to a local church – sharing the vision of that Church and the direction it is moving in – and working to see that vision fulfilled. Ordinary people who are faithful, available and teachable.

They will never be famous. They will not likely ever have a room in a museum dedicated to them. They might not have people remember them after they have daily served the Lord and gone to be with Him in Heaven – but, they will be faithful servants of the living God who, empowered and enabled by the Holy Spirit, brought eternal change to the people around them and their little corner of the globe – and even further. No desk, no special room dedicated to their memory and work – just ordinary people with an extraordinary God doing what they are told.