Relationships

The other day I went to get the mail. There is a mailbox at the local postal outlet where the majority of our mail goes. This way, when I am on the road travelling, it is not piling up out front for all to know that I am away from home. Never know who might take advantage of my absence. 

It is good to have to go and “get the mail.” It gives me opportunity to chat with those who work there and to build relationships with each and everyone of them. I have had tremendous opportunities to share the love of God in very practical ways with a number of them. We are all called to be ambassadors for the Kingdom in our community and neighbourhood. 

Today, in the mailbox there was an advertisement from a Canadian ministry regarding an American speaker who is coming in October to speak in their church. Interesting. I have never heard of the local church. I looked them up on the internet and they seem like a great local church with some solid leaders. So, I noticed that the return address on the oversized postcard inviting me to attend the event is a Florida mailbox. So, I looked up the speaker and, sure enough, he has mailed me the invitation. 

What is most interesting is that his ministry is one I have not connected to in over 20 years. He was once located in California and lost his local church and Bible school due to his chosen lifestyle. Then he relocated to England and set up shop there. Now he is in Florida leading a local church and a training school. So, my name and address has survived 20 plus years and at least three locations. And, out of the blue I receive an invitation to attend his ministry coming to a Canadian church. No contact over all those years. Literally no connection to him or his ministry. And, I am still on a mailing list because I purchased a set of DVDs several decades ago.

Listen folks – the Kingdom is all about relationships. The local church is only as strong as the relationships that exist within the fellowship. It is not about mailing lists and selling ministry resources and holding big events. Ministry that is changing lives and transforming families and communities are all relationally built. Programs are not working. Conferences don’t change lives or transform people. Even mass crusades are having little permanent effect on society, the culture, or individual lives. God works through personal relationships.

I personally stopped attending conferences years ago. I am not interested in spending money on travel, hotel, meals, and registration … then spending money when offerings are taken and resources are offered. I can invest my time and money much more effectively. I work in a local church where I live and, when on the road, minister to local churches. No large conferences. Just relational connections to local church leadership ministering to their people and helping the local church grow strong and effective. And, because we are relationally connected I return to these churches on a regular basis and connect in-between visits as we work in the Kingdom together.

So, a conference 1,800 Km away with someone I don’t relate to or respect in a church I have never heard of… I think I will pass thank you. I wonder if I can get my name removed from the ancient mailing list being used?  A list that I never asked to be placed on in the first place. 

What Is Worship?

When believers come together we “worship.” In fact, generally we call the gathering a “worship service.” But do we really worship? I mean, really?

In most services I attend in every nation where I work we sing songs or choruses about God. We sing songs that encourage us to believe, to move forward, to stand strong. We sing about Him. But, if you watch the words for most songs – the real focus is you, me, us. So, that is not worship. It may move us and may help us feel good, but it is not worship.

Worship must be directed to God. It must be believers expressing their hearts about God to God. The audience of worship is One, God Himself. The songs or choruses must express our love for Him to Him.

But, even that is limited by how much we love Him. Do we love Him with our whole heart? Are we wholehearted about our commitment to follow Him regardless? Are we willing to obey Him with our whole heart? If we do not love Him with our whole heart then our worship is limited or simply nonexistent. 

Going even a little deeper… If we have not given our whole self to Him – our physical life, our emotional life, our hopes and dreams, our desires and plans, our friendships and family, our past, present and future – then we are really not fully worshipping Him. Maybe we are not worshipping Him at all. 

The writer of the book of Hebrews states what worship is:

Romans 12:1-2 “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies (whole being) as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

In The Passion Translation this reads…

Beloved friends, what should be our proper response to God’s marvellous mercies? I encourage you to surrender yourselves to God to be his sacred, living sacrifices. And live in holiness, experiencing all that delights his heart. For this becomes your genuine expression of worship.

This is the correct biblical understanding of worship. This is the foundation of any and all worship that we might be involved in and that we offer up to Him. If we love Him with our whole heart and thus trust Him surrendering ourselves to Him totally we will then obey Him completely and instantly because He states “If you love Me you will obey Me.” Then we are positioned to worship Him from the center of our being with all that we are and all that we have – worship with and from our whole heart.

So, when we sing a song or two and get an emotional feel from it, we say that the “worship was anointed.” What does that mean? What is anointed worship? A feeling? A sense that your heart was touched? You entered into His presence (whatever that really means)? A knowing that you have, once again, encountered God? What does it mean to say that something is anointed? That worship is anointed?

How about we go back to the basics. How about we remove the huge business that worship songs and worship teams have become. A multi-billion dollar business worldwide, by the way. How about we boil it down to the biblical foundation. Worship, yes even anointed worship, is you surrendering yourself to God totally. That and that only “becomes your genuine expression of worship.” Nothing more, nothing less is genuine worship. 

The Purpose of Church?

Recently I had a leader that I work with in Western Canada ask me what the purpose of the Church is? Interesting question – a good question – from someone who is leading a local church and has attended church all of her life. She is looking for a way to revamp the way they do church. In other words, the way the weekly gathering flows – the various things that should go into the weekly “church service.”

The New Testament does not give us a template for a weekly church assembly. It seems that every local church – Corinth, Ephesus, Galatia, Rome, Jerusalem – functioned as they were led by the Holy Spirit. Most, of course met in private homes. A few used a local school or met outside. But, we are not given a lot of insight into what they did. And, the insight we do gain from the occasional verse is not a set pattern to follow. It is simply what that particular local church did. For example – in Jerusalem …

Acts 2:42 “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”

So some people will choose a verse like this and then design the whole weekly assembly with these elements prominent in the expression of the life of that church. 

The leader who asked the question was quoting a verse – expressing that this was the only verse they could find that expressed the purpose of the church assembly. You know the verse…

1 Corinthians 14:26 “What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.”

Again, this was Paul’s instruction to the church in Corinth. The format he was suggesting was as a result of the issues they were having when they gathered together – people living in immorality, drunkenness at the services, unruly behaviour. And, if we were to apply this verse and the seven verses following explaining how they would work in the service … then we must also apply the next verse

1 Corinthians 14:34 “As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission…”

Remember now, the person who asked the question is a woman who leads a church. Whoops!

You simply cannot take a verse or two out of content and its environment (who it was written to, why, and when) and use it today to base a format on. Not good use of the Bible and not what the Lord meant for us to do. 

The only expressed purpose of the Church – every local church – is found in Ephesians 4:11-16:

“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

Again, please note that there is no set pattern for the local church assembly or worship service to follow. But, the purpose of the local assembly is clear – leaders are to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. 

Ministry is what happens out where believers live. So, they are to be equipped to minister to the lost so that they can be touched by the love of God and come to the foot of the cross and be saved. What goes on in the service or assembly is really “maintenance” as we are ministering to one another and taking care of those who are already sheep and part of the sheepfold. So, as we gather the purpose of the gathering is to equip the saints to reach the lost. This fits with the only call or mandate that the Lord gave the church… “Go into all the world and make disciples…” (Matthew 28:19). 

And, we call the local assembly a “worship service!” So, really, is it? What is worship anyways? More on that next time. 

The Kingdom Differences

In the Kingdom of God there are many things happening all at the same time. Some things are generic to all nations. Other events and happenings are specifically targeted for a region or individual nation. God knows what each area needs and fine tunes the Kingdom events and Spirit movements to suit each region and move them forward in His purposes and plan. It is amazing to watch and see. More amazing to be involved in many of the different nations and actually be aware of and have a part to play in the differences. 

For example, when I first went to the nation of Kazakhstan the main topics were the church that Jesus was building and the gifts of the Spirit. The main ministry other than teaching was prophesying. Now, when I go to Kazakhstan the topics are leadership, the Kingdom, and the Church – especially house churches. The three main groups I work with have moved forward, matured, grown, and are hungry for the next step as they move into the Kingdom realm and its expansion through soul winning and church planting.

In March of 2020 I will be in Vietnam. This will be my first visit to that nation and so I have begun to read up on some of its history and especially the role of the Church in the nation – both currently and historically. I am told by those planning the trip that I will be holding a school on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit and especially the prophetic. And, that this is the first time ever that this will have been taught to the specific group that is inviting me. So, pioneer work of an apostle. And, in a different place and space than those I work with in Kazakhstan. The Kingdom is amazing that way.

Here is North America …we are seeing the slow death of the traditional Church as younger people no longer find these churches meaningful. But, we are seeing the growth of new churches that are being planted and that target the younger generations. And, we see many traditional born again believers forming or joining house churches where the format of the assembly is flexible and fellowship and prayer are the major focuses. And the mega churches that often have seen major growth through younger people and families transferring in have seen their growth slowing down as smaller church plants become attractive and more suited to the lifestyle of young people and their desire for family type fellowship and relationships.

It is no longer business as usual. Things are changing quickly in the Kingdom. Change is targeted and specific. Different in each place. But the one common feature of all the changes is the return to the primary focus of the Church – seeking and saving the lost. This is what Jesus came to do (Luke 19:10) and what He commanded His Church to do as we “go into all the world and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19). When this becomes the focus of all true believers then we will see the pace of change increase and the growth of the Church reach epic Bible proportions. 

I believe we are on the verge of something so amazing and awesome…

Drink – Don’t Drive

A quote from an unknown source: “The mark of a successful man is one that has spent an entire day on the bank of a river without feeling guilty about it.” One of the greatest lessons that I’m learning from God is that rest is not a sin. Taking a break doesn’t mean you are lazy or that you are not valuable. Catching your breath now and then does not mean you are not carrying your load, or that you are less committed to your church, your company, or your calling.

I have learned that scheduling rest in BEFORE my calendar fills up is really the way to go. rest is jot an afterthought; it has to be a primary responsibility. It brings a rhythm back to life and a cadence that makes like sustainable. If you are tired, your soul gets weary. And if your soul gets weary, you are depleted more than you can afford. If you were a long distance runner there is a rule that is followed; every fifteen minutes you drink six ounces of water. Even if you are not thirsty you are not allowed to violate your hydration limits. Here’s the point – If you wait until you are thirsty to take a drink, it’s too late. Your body is already into dehydration. The same is true spiritually for your soul and your spirit.

This is why God gave us the gift of rest (the Sabbath). And, today it seems that we have a hard time accepting His extravagant gift. We somehow imagine that the world (or our family, our marriage, our company) won’t be able to go on without our involvement. There is simply too much to do and no time to rest. Yet God says: “You shall do no work at all… it is to be a sabbath of complete rest to you, and you shall humble your souls.” (Leviticus 23:31-32) Did you hear what it said? In this version of the commandment it tells us the reason for a time of rest – a sabbath. It is to “humble your soul.”

What does that mean? God is saying that if we wait until the work is done before we rest, we will never rest. The work will never be done! So even in the midst of the work, we have to cease and rest. Wow! You mean, we are not indispensable? This may be a really rude awakening. but the fact is the world will go on even if we are not involved for a day. Don’t think about this one too long, but the world will also go on even after we depart this life. I know it is difficult to contemplate, but it is true. When we rest at predesignated intervals, we are reminding ourselves that ultimately God controls the outcomes, not me or all of my wonderful efforts. It is good for us to wean ourselves off the need to be needed. For many, this would be the beginning of health.

In fact, if we violate the Sabbath rest, something morphs in our soul. We start to get proud, edgy, anxious. The psalmist tells us, “It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat bread of painful labors; for He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.” (Psalm 127:2) God says, “Let Me humble your soul with rest. It is not all about you. I can get the work done even without you.” When we rest, God continues His work. When we reenter, it is with a humbled soul, hungry again for what He has called us to do. We return once again as a servant knowing that our Master can and did manage with us but that He is again offering us an opportunity to become involve din His work.

The lesson – drink in on regular intervals and stop driving yourself – take time to rest. In short form: Drink … Don’t Drive!

The Evening and the Morning – The Second Day

I am always amazed at God’s Word, our Bible. Every time I read it I learn something new. Not “learn” as in more information in my head; “learn” as in a heart revelation and thus transformation because of the new insights. An example: I am flying to Bishkek, Krygyzstan recently and I am reading and The Lord asked me, “When does your day begin?” When do you start your day?” Now, when The Lord asks me a question I know He is not looking for information – afterall, He is God and knows everything. He is asking so that I will learn (in my heart) a new truth and thus be transformed. My answer was, “Whenever I wake up!” Of course, at the time of asking I was mixing mornings and evenings up due to flying through 12 time zones on to the other side of Planet Earth. So, in reality I was not sleep and the morning and evenings were all mixed up. But, I digress.

God then showed me that if I were to look at the creation story (book of Genesis) where He created the days, we find these words: “So the evening and the morning were the first day.” (Genesis 1:5 NKJV). This pattern is repeated as God continues to create each successive day. “So the evening and the morning were the second day.” (Genesis 1:8 NKJV). In other words, God started each day in the evening, not the morning. Your day does not begin when you get up. It starts when you go to sleep. Rest begins your new day, not coffee.

I have been doing it wrong. I thought my day began with the morning’s coffee and the start of activities; but instead, it actually began with the evening’s rest. I was now in need of reprogramming my mind to that biblical reality. You see, the success of any short race is determined at the start, and now that my days obviously start in the evening – I needed to start better. There are two ways to win a race. One is to be faster than everyone else , and the other is to start sooner! In a normal race, that’s called cheating. But in life, it’s called wisdom. For an Olympain, it is called illegal. For a Christian, it is called biblical.

If you ever need to sleep in, learn to sleep in on the front side of the clock, not the back side. Simply put, your deepest sleep is when your REM cycles happen, and that typically takes place between 11:00p and 3:00a. That is when you will get your deepest sleep. If you miss getting to bed before 1:00a, you will have missed half your chance at receiving your deepest rest. You may think you can sleep in until 9:00a to get your eight hours of sleep. But you are mistaken! You will have had the sleep time, but not the rest. Your sleep will be shallow compared to what it could have been, and when you awaken just before noon, you will still feel sluggish and lethargic.

So, you can sleep in on the back side dumb, or sleep in on the front side smart. Go to bed at 9:00p and get up at 5:00a. Then you will have had eight hours of sleep – real sleep! Then you will have had a good night’s sleep – evening and morning – because you are cooperating with God’s design for the body.Learn to sleep on the front side of the clock. Sleep right and double your rest…

While in Montreal I am attempting to implement what I learned while flying to Bishkek.

Your Purpose On Planet Earth

Once in a while it is good to review why we are here on planet Earth and to think through all of the “stuff” we are involved in and see what is really contributing to why God put us here on the earth. I am assuming, of course, that you are born again and thus have a personal relationship with the Lord and that you have, sometime in the past, sat down with the Lord and written out your personal mission statement.

Let me be bold and share my personal mission statement: “To intimately know and touch the fullness of God as found only in Jesus Christ and to invite others to personally experience His life and love.”

So, I have been thinking lately about all the things I do, the we I live, what I do for my living, how I relate to people, and the hopes and dreams I now have at my age and running them all through the filter of the mission I have in life. The mission statement is the given as I believe the Lord revealed it to me and called me to live with this purpose in mind. So, that means I am the flexible – my values, my priorities, my preferences, my hopes and dreams – are all flexible and must consistently be adjusted to come into line with what the Lord revealed as His purpose or mission for my life.

Well, there are some changes to be made. I have drifted somewhat from center… So, as I approach another year-end I will need to make some adjustments so that I enter 2013 in the center of God’s will for my life once again. Making them now in early December allows me time to reschedule things in early 2013 that are already set and bring all my planning back into line with the Lord’s purpose and plan for my life.

The philosopher Plato once stated that: “An unexamined life is not worth living” and I agree. But, your life needs to be examined in light of eternity, the Lordship of Jesus over your life, and the plan and purpose of God for your life. Why not take some time in the coming few weeks in the midst of the Christmas hussle and bussle to examine what you are doing and why. Remember, His gift to you is time – and there are only three things you can do with time – waste it, spend it, or invest it. The Lord would want you to invest it in His Kingdom purposes.

The Mission of Ralph Howe Ministries

Yesterday I mentioned your personal mission statement and what it is the Lord has called you to do and to accomplish with your time on the planet. Today. I would like to share the mission statement for Ralph Howe Ministries – the sponsor of these blogs…

“Introducing the ministry of apostles and prophets to the 21st Century Church;
Laying biblical foundations to bring healing and wholeness to that Church;
Equipping and releasing a generation of passionate leaders (who will be);
Ministering in supernatural power to win the lost and plant new expressions of the Church that Jesus is building.”

I look regularly at the call upon this ministry that the Lord has given to me and review what I am doing and planning to do in light of what it is He has asked us to do here at Ralph Howe Ministries. Often there is a need to make small adjustments to bring us into line with His design and purposes. But, generally we are close to the center of His will most of the time.

As we plan 2013 it is fast becoming rather full with numerous overseas apostolic trips as well as well an increase in ministry in North America. It is also very evident that there is a great need and demand for written material to be published and circulated to enable and equip churches to make the changes the Lord is asking of His people in all nations. The demand for materials continues to increase as do the range of topics I am asked to write on and supply material about.So, it has become abundantly obvious that more time will be spent in the study in 013 and less in the office and doing other things that ministry often requires.

So, as we go through the hectic December Christmas season there is some soul searching to do, timetables to adjust, priorities to evaluate and reposition, and much prayer needed so that we are ready to jump into 2013 and continue to fulfill the mission of Ralph Howe Ministries in the nations of the world and here at home.

The Clock Is My Dictator

Have you ever felt pressed for time? I have! Often… In fact, almost always. Yet, we are not meant to live with the pressure and the stress that lack of time brings into our lives… And the clock is not suppose to be the thing that drives us each day to accomplish what needs to be be done. I ran across the following while recently overseas (I read while flying) and thought it might give you food for thought. It is based on the 23rd Psalm…

The clock is my dictator, I shall not rest.
It makes me lie down only when exhausted.
It leads me into deep depression, it hounds my soul.
It leads me in circles of frenzy for activities’ sake.
Even though I run frantically from task to task,
I will never get it all done, for my ‘ideal’ is with me.
Deadlines and my need for approval, they drive me.
They demand performance from me, beyond the limits of my schedule.
They anoint my head with migraines, my in-basket overflows.
Surely fatigue and time pressure shall follow me all the days of my life.
And I will dwell in the bonds of frustration forever.

Taken from Christine and Tom Sine, Living On Purpose: Finding God’s Best For Your Life.

Now, this might be a good time to go back and read yesterday’s blog entitled “24/6”

24/6


We all live busy lives. The pace of life seems to be constantly increasing in spite of all the “time shaving” devices that have come along and all the wonderful electronic ways we now have of staying in touch with one another. As I look to the future I believe things will continue to move quickly and even speed up and most will find themselves living a “hectic” life if they don’t do so already.

In my own personal life I know that things have not slowed down in spite of reaching an age when many retire and slow down permanently – or, at least, switch gears and become busy with different things that when in the work world. I find myself pressed for time, always behind, and constantly facing one deadline after another. I suspect I am no different than many of you reading this blog.

Here is a decision that I have made. I have decided to no longer work 24/7… In fact, I have decided to no longer function full tilt 24/7. Like most people, if I get a day off (happens infrequently) it gets absorbed in ‘catching up’ with whatever is yelling the loudest. So, the day off is a day lost to the tyranny of the urgent and not a day of rest or a day in which I can think and assimilate everything that has been happening so that I have inner peace and a stable inner core. It is simply not a biblical “day of rest” or a Sabbath.

So, I have recognized that I live in sin because one of the Ten Commandments commands that we take a Sabbath. Even God worked 6 days straight at the time of creation and on the seventh day He rested. Who do I think I am that I can work harder and faster than my Creator. And, what makes me think that I can break a pattern that God has spoken about and said “It is good” and not suffer any consequences. So, I have repented, given a lot of thought to my life-style, and am making numerous changes – some of them major ones.

I have determined that I will no longer live 24/7 but that I am going back to God’s original plan and will work 24/6 and take the day of rest that He so wisely prescribed. No mobile phone, no text messages, no email, no Goggle, no appointments, no catching up on work that is piling up. Just a Sabbath where my body, soul and spirit can heal, re-connect with the Lord, and regain the strength and inner peace to once agin face the world and all of the challenges of life for the next six days.

Sometimes we move so quickly that we need a day set apart to rest and let our soul catch up with us. I have decided that the time has come to do just that.