God Is Building His House

God is building His Church. Pictured is a church building being built in Vladimir, Russia. But, God is building not a building but a people – the Church. This is His Church and He is building it. For many years man has built man’s church and now is the time when the Lord is revealing, through His apostles, the blueprint for His Church, a supernatural Church, a Spirit-filled Church, a Church based on revelation and built upon the Word of the Lord. It will truly be a House of Prayer for the nations but more than that – He will use it to send many workers into the harvest fields where the harvest is ripe and ready and the workers are still too few.

These people are called to go into all the world and make disciples. However, that is not happening because the Church has been built upon the wrong foundation. It will not matter how many teachings people hear and how often they are told the truth – the foundations are wrong so the teachings will not change lives and bring about the desired results. Until the foundations are repaired and relaid the Church will not, can not, do as God has commanded it to do.

We are seeing God begin to re-establish the apostolic ministry in His Church today. One of their tasks in the Kingdom and the Church is to repair existing foundations and to build and pour correct foundations. Then the Church can be built upon the proper foundations – that of the apostles and prophets with Jesus Christ being the chief cornerstone. Then, with the Church being built upon a proper, God-designed foundation, the saints will be trained and equipped and begin to move out into the harvest field (the world) and make disciples. Mind you, that is simply the beginning of a long series of adjustments and changes that the Lord is planning to bring to those churches that are open to His correction.

God is building His Church and as He does the world will see a new breed of believer and a new Church that has literally not been seen before. It will be focused, powerful, militant, mobile, flexible, and seriously committed to one thing – going into all the world and seeking and saving the lost – making disciples.

The Question:
Are you ready for such a supernatural, God-built and powerful Church that will fulfill its mandate?

The Question:
Are you going to be a part of this new church and new breed of believers?

He is Alive – Prove It!

The early Church which literally turned the world upside down had one message in three parts…
1> The Kingdom of God
2> The Resurrection of the King of that Kingdom
3> The need to repent with godly sorrow and be born again so as to enter the Kingdom and personally know the King (salvation)

We celebrate Easter today and so we will hear a message about the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Great! Once a year we hear a message about Jesus being raised from the dead. Yet, most of the year, as believers, we live like He never was and as if He is still dead and in the grave. The message of the Church – and not just on Easter – is that Jesus is alive! He is alive!

That message needs to be proclaimed today and every day by every believer who is still breathing. That is not an option – it is a command. And, it is an honor because then we are taking part in the on-going ministry of the Lord who is still “seeking and saving the lost.” (Luke 19:10). It is obedience to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) – an obedience based in an extreme love for the risen Lord.

But it needs to be proclaimed with more than words. You tell people today in our post-Christian, non-Church culture that Jesus is alive … in one form or another they will ask you to prove it. So, prove it. Paul did. In Romans 15:18-19 he declares boldly that he has fully proclaimed the Gospel – in word and in deed, by miracles, signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit. In 1 Corinthians 2:4-5 he declares that he (and us) are to publically exhibit God in our daily world – put God on display and allow Him to reveal Himself to others through us – through our words and actions. Then, he writes, their faith will be based in the power of God and not the wisdom of men.

So, it is Easter Sunday and He is alive. Prove it! Pray for someone. Prophesy over someone. Work in the power of the Spirit and see someone healed, delivered, raised from the dead… Jesus said that we could do it because He did it – read John 14:12 and believe it. We have been empowered to do it and thus witness for Jesus who is alive – read Acts 1:8 and believe it. But, to believe it means to act upon it. So, head knowledge is no longer good enough. Step out in faith and tell others that He is alive! And, do so with words and deeds, in the power of the Spirit. And, not just today but every day.

Why Did Jesus Fold the Linen Burial Cloth?

Why did Jesus fold the linen burial cloth after His resurrection? I never noticed this….

The Gospel of John (20:7) tells us that the napkin, which was placed over the face of Jesus, was not just thrown aside like the grave clothes.

The Bible takes an entire verse to tell us that the napkin was neatly folded, and was placed at the head of that stony coffin.

Early Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance.

She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, ‘They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and I don’t know where they have put him!’

Peter and the other disciple ran to the tomb to see. The other disciple out ran Peter and got there first. He stopped and looked in and saw the linen cloth lying there, but he didn’t go in.

Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying to the side.

Was that important? Absolutely!
Is it really significant? Yes!

In order to understand the significance of the folded napkin, you have to understand a little bit about Hebrew tradition of that day. The folded napkin had to do with the Master and Servant, and every
Jewish boy knew this tradition.

When the servant set the dinner table for the master, he made sure that it was exactly the way the master wanted it. The table was furnished perfectly, and then the servant would wait, just out of sight, until the master had finished eating, and the servant would not dare touch that table, until the master was finished..

Now if the master were done eating, he would rise from the table, wipe his fingers, his mouth, and clean his beard, and would wad up that napkin and toss it onto the table. The servant would then know to clear the table. For in those days, the wadded napkin meant, “I’m finished..”

But if the master got up from the table, and folded his napkin, and laid it beside his plate, the servant would not dare touch the table, because………..

The folded napkin meant,

“I’m coming back!”

Jesus folded the napkin…

What If Good Friday Ended with a Period and Not a Semi-colon?

In my part of the world it it Good Friday or God’s Friday as I like to call it. It is the day that God in human flesh – Jesus – willingly died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin. The Bible says sin separates (Isaiah 59:1-2) and for the first time Jesus was separated from His Father (God) and He knew it. From the cross He cried out and said, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?”

The Bible states that the “wages of sin is death or spiritual separation” and so Jesus suffered death – physical and spiritual – so that we could be forgiven, reconciled with the Father, and enabled by the Holy Spirit to have an intimate and dynamic daily relationship with God. This is called the gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23b and John 17:3).

Jesus decended into Hell where we would rightfully spend the rest of eternity after our physical death because of our sins. However, because He paid for our sins and shed His blood on the cross of Good Friday – without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness – we no longer have to fear Hell as it is not a place we will ever go to – to visit or to stay.

And it is here that I am glad that Good Friday didn’t end with a period – leaving Jesus is Hell and dead forever. Dead and gone like the founders of all other world religions and cult leaders. No! Good Friday ended not with a period but with a semi-colon. On the third day (Easter Sunday) He rose from the dead. He is alive. And He was seen by many who were followers and skeptics alike. Many today have also seen Him and can testify that He is alive. I am one of those people who has seen the resurrected Jesus. He is most certainly alive.

So, we have chosen to be followers of the Risen Jesus. He is alive – still speaking to His followers every day; touching and changing lives; working through His people to do miracles, signs and wonders; healing the sick, casting out demons, raising the dead. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. So, whatever He did during His 3 years of public earthly ministry before His death – He calls His Church to do today as we live on this side of the cross and the grave knowing He is live and working through His people to change the world one person at a time.

When you compare the Christian faith with the various world religions the major difference is that their founders are dead or will one day die. Our Founder is alive. The grave did not hold Him. Hell could not keep Him (He was without sin), and death had no claim on Him. Yes, He died on the cross of Good Friday. But thank God that was not the end but only the beginning and that He is alive and He is King and the expansion of His Kingdom goes on and moves forward even today 2,000+ years later.

Christian Community – Part Two

By Guest Blogger – Ben Reed – Ben is the small groups pastor at Grace Community Church in Clarksville, TN.

Healthy Community Is Not Comfortable.
Community takes you where you won’t normally go.

One of my first small group experiences is still fresh in my memory.

In college, I remember falling in love with God’s Word through the Bible study I did in community with others. The contributions of others revealed the richness of the Scriptures to me. Each discovery energized the faith of those of us huddled in Jesus’ Name, drawing out further insights and encouraging conversation.

My small group helped me to take risks in sharing my thoughts about spiritual things with others. This, too, was foundational for what God was preparing me to do in the future. I walked away stronger from the Bible studies in my small group because I knew I was growing closer to God, and I wasn’t alone in the process.

I don’t think I realized how much that small group was encouraging me in things that seasoned Christ-followers can far too easily take for granted, like praying aloud in the company of others, sharing a revelation that may (or may not) be obvious to others reading the same Bible passage, or responding to a prompting by the Holy Spirit to serve another in God’s household in some unique way.

My pursuit of the divine felt like an adventure with my band of brothers. They gave me permission to add to the conversation and influence. The power of the Word was demonstrated to me in how God inspired each one through our sharing. I loved the fact that even though I read a passage repeatedly, I could never see everything that came out in our conversations.

One other empowering experience through this early small group experience was our road-trip to downtown Washington, D.C., where we fed the homeless and talked with people on the sidewalks of Georgetown about Christ. It was one of the most terrifying and uplifting experiences I had as a newer believer. I remember my hesitancy but knowing that what we were doing was right.

It was the prayer and encouragements of those in my small group that help me and everyone else to step out of our comfort zones. As a result, I encountered Jesus through our serving (Matthew 25:40). I saw God break through to a seeking heart that received the Gospel despite the mocking of his friends. Community brought me to places where I saw God at work, places I would never have visited if it weren’t for the fellowship of others in Christ.

Small groups may not always seem glorious from the outside looking in, but somehow, God used that community of young believers to turn me inside out for His glory. I fell in love with small groups early on because they helped me fall in love with God, His Word, and the communion of saints that enabled me to be Jesus to those who were in search of Him.

Have you ever been a part of a community that stretched and shook you?

Are you willing to do whatever it takes to have that healthy community?

I’m Still In Ohio

My last day in the USA until near the end of the summer
when I will hopefully once again spend a week and a bit in this wonderful country as I put the finishing touches on my first book to have it ready for release in September of this year.

I have been in the United States since early Saturday and have had a great time fellowshipping and answering question asked by Linda – a prophet of God and wonderful teacher of His Word at New Life Church in Celina, Ohio. She is pictured above on a cold day recently on their front patio overlooking the lake on a cool and windy afternoon. I have spent several days in Indiana at the apostolic roundtable – Spring 2011 edition. Amazing and marvellous. Now I am back with George and Linda answering a few more questions, sharing great fellowship, walking beside the lake (pictured above as well) their house boarders on, having time with the Lord, and spending the best part of the day with Kyle Spence – a young apostle-in-training, graduate nurse and medical student training to be a doctor. Full day which will end at midnight when I arrive home tired but fulfilled – knowing I have been in God’s will, knowing He has helped me to touch lives, and knowing that He has touched my life and heart very deeply in the last few days.

Thank you for your prayers. Could I now redirect them to our upcoming trip to Kazakhstan? I have already obtained my visitor’s visa (before coming here due to the shortage of time between arriving home and leaving again). I leave on the 28th of this month and will be ministering for two full weeks in the southern part of the nation. However, there are people coming from all over the nation – including some old friends from the north – the city of Karaganda. Your prayers would be greatly appreciated.

Christian Community – Part One

Community is what we are created for. We are made in the image of a God who is community, a plurality of oneness. When the first human was made, things were not good until there were two, helping one another. The biblical story is the story of community, from beginning to end. Jesus lived and modeled community with His little band of disciples. He always sent them out in pairs, and the early church is the story of a people who were together and were of one heart and mind, sharing all in common. The story ends with a vision of a new community in the book of Revelation where the city of God is dressed beautifully for her lover, this community called the New Jerusalem, where heaven visits earth and people are fully reconciled to God and to each other, the lion lays down with the lamb, and mourning turns to dancing, and the garden takes over the concrete world.” Pages 134-135 of The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne.

Community is hard to come by in today’s world and in the Church today. Community takes time and everyone is so busy. Community takes inviting people into your life – and most are afraid to become known, I mean really known. Community takes looking to others and being less self-absorbed – listening and caring. Community means going the extra mile when we don’t feel like it; turning the other cheek when we would rather hit the other person. Community means growing and being stretching and becoming – a loss of the status quo. Community is often difficult and messy, uncomfortable and stretching. But, as believers in the Lord, community is absoultely necessary.

It is amazing how many believers today actually think it is okay and acceptable to not be part of a local church. They actually declare they are Christians even though they are not doing what the Lord did and still does – live in community. He was and is part of the Trinity, a community. While on Earth He continued to live in a community – discipling 12 men who were His constant and daily companions. Even now He is in community – wth the great cloud of witnesses – believers who have gone before us and are with Him in Heaven right now.

But, people today believe they can be Christians without being connected to a local church – totally ignoring the example Jesus set for us and further ignoring what the Holy Spirit spoke and Paul recorded in 1 Corinthians 12 about every member being a prt of the body that God selected for them to be a part of. And what He wrote in Ephesians 4 about every member (believer) being properly connected and functioning so that the body can be whole and healthy.

It is even more amazing how many believers think that by attending on Sundays and giving their tithes that they are therefore part of the community of faith and that local church. How wrong. They are simply hanging around the body but have not made a commitment to that body – a commitment to know and be known.

The Christian faith is about more than what you believe and how you behave – it is about belonging to the Body of Christ, the Church and thus belonging to and being connected to other believers in a close and often intimate way.

Are you fully connected to the body of Christ or are you simply playing Church?

The Roundtable Has Been Powerful and Now…

The apostolic roundtable (my fourth) has ended at noon today (really more like 1:30p) and this is being posted after we have finished (due to the time difference of two hours). It has been a powerful time in the Lord and many good things were discussed and decided. I will write more about that in an e-newsletter issued by Ralph Howe Ministries (you can sign up to receive it at www.ralphhoweministries.com). The fellowship has been better than great and has resulted in many late nights and early mornings. But, well worth it as I come to know more of the men who come regularly to these roundtable discussions and especially the next generation of young apostles who are also in attendance each time.

So, we are travelling back to Celina, Ohio which is a 2.5 hour drive and sharing more fellowship in spite of how tired we all are. As well, we will be reviewing and summarizing what has taken place over the last three days. Then I am spending the evening with an older couple (George and Linda – their home by a lake is pictured) answering her many questions sent to me ahead of time – including one on how apostles and prophets are to work together.

I love being asked questions because often I learn so much when formulating an answer – and even, at times, have to admit that to answer the questions being asked I have to do research because I simply don’t know. Often it is simply that no one has ever asked that paticular question before and I had really never given it any thought. I like being stretched. So, a night of questions and answers over a great meal (she is a wonderful cook). Sitting in will be a young apostle by the name of Kyle who is George’s grandson and whom I am discipling and mentoring.

So, a great morning and a busy late afternoon and evening ahead. Thanks for your prayers and please continue to pray for me and for those I will be meeting with today, tonight and even those I will be meeting with tomorrow as I continue my time here for another 24 hours to do some one-on-one work.

Go Outside and Talk to People

The weather is warming up in my part of the world and the snow is gone. It is time to once again get outside and begin to relate to neighbors and those we meet on the bike paths and when walking our dogs. The winter seems to bring about a retreat from simply talking and interacting with people or has it?

I believe that in general people today in North America are no longer as friendly nor as willing to simply stop and chat with people they are meeting when out doing other chores. Maybe we are too busy, maybe we just are not interested in knowing others. No sure why. But this I know, if we do stop to chat our conversations are pleasant but certainly shallow and surface in nature. It has been said that “many of us have settled for a lonely world of independence and riches when we could all experience the fullness of life in community and interdependence.” However, for that to happen we would need to change the way we live. We would need to get to know our neighbors – really know them, share resources, care for those around us, and help those who need help.

So, someone whose lifestyle is radically different than most of the lifestyles we live wrote, “Why would I want to sit in my car by myself when I can ride my bike and meet others along the way? Why watch TV when you can play outside with sidewalk chalk? Okay, sometimes I still want the sauna or the hot tub, but the rest I can live without. And I mean live without.” Got me to thinking…

People are the reason God became man and dwelt among us. People are the reason Jesus died on the cross. People are what is redeemed by His death and resurrection. And yet, as believers we often spend more time, energy, effort and money on belongings, luxuries, comfort, holidays, trips, and material belongings that isolate us from others than we do on reaching out and touching others. We have struggled for independence when really the Church and Christian living is all about interdependance and being connected to others – sharing resources and freeing up money – releasing wealth so that we can invest it in the Kingdom and reach people for Christ.

Patting Mother Teresa on the back, someone said to her, “I wouldn’t do what you do for a million dollars.” She said with a grin, “Me neither.” However, she did it simply out of love for Jesus. Her needs were cared for – a set of clothes to wear, a meal (sometimes two) a day, and a dry place to slep. But, more importantly she had purpose and reason for living and thus a meaningful and fulfilled life – filled with love, service of others, and obedience to the Lord. What more could a believer ask for or even want?

Well, apparently Jesus and His call to radical obedience is not enough and we need to isolate ourselves within our luxuries and away from those who might upset us, inconvenience us, and cause us to move out of our comfort zone and maybe rethink the way we are wasting resources and life itself.

So sad that Christianity has, in many people and places, been reduced to self-centered, comfortable way of life when really it was meant be a challenging way of death to self. Sidewalk chalk anyone?

Apostles and Prophets Working Together

Today is day two of the Apostolic Roundtable, spring edition
. I am in Elkhorn, Indiana with 30+ brothers in the Lord … apostles and prophets.

Yesterday morning I worshipped with the saints at New Life Christian Church in Celina, Ohio (picture). This was my third visit to this dynamic congregation in this small Ohio city. They are moving forward in the things of the Lord. This has not always been easy for them but it has been rewarding and beneficial. Recently they have released several key senior leaders to work in other churches several hours away from hoime base – released them to build and encourage the growth of these smaller church plants. This has meant senior leaders selling their homes and literally relocating physically and spiritually. But, they see it as a small cost to pay to serve the Lord and build the local church and His Kingdom.

Today the worship and prayer time at the roundtable were intense and powerful. The men here are sold out to the Lord and have been through so much to serve Him where He has them – in various countries and situations. Some hold down full-time employment in the market place and so are focused on the local church they help to lead. Others have been released by the Lord to focus full-time on a wider ministry (trans-local) and so do not hold down a second job but are free to travel constantly and minister for the Lord in many places. One young man I am coming to know very well manages three restaurants for a living while still ministering both locally as well as taking a team to Peru to minister on a regular basis.

I am honored to be here among such dedicated men of God who have and are giving their lives in service to the Lord in so many different ways and places.

Please pray for all the men gathered in this large hotel conference room – for our times of worship, prayer, prophetic ministry; for the teachings and discussions; for the informal fellowship and relationship building over meals and between and after the sessions. Pray for the kniting of hearts and minds and the moving forward of our understanding of the King and His Kingdom and the many issues being faced by the Church today.