The Holy Spirit has retired

If you listen to some preachers today you have to wonder if the Holy Spirit has retired or, at the least, gone away for an extended vacation. Jesus said that He would send the Holy Spirit and that the Holy Spirit would lead us into all truth. Now, we have internationally known “ministers” standing to preach and seldom reading God’s Word in public – in fact, seldom even mentioning it. However, they talk extensively on the vision, the dream, or the the visitation from some long-dead saint they experienced. And they often mention the angel that appeared to them or even spoke to them, the orbs of light, the oil, the gold dust, the “glory”, or whatever manifestation currently happens during their services. But, one must ask, “Where is the Word?”

It is the Word of God, our Bible, that is the Truth. It is the Holy Spirit that was sent to lead us into all truth and to bring supernatural revelation of that Word. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in angels and I know that dreams and visions can be, at times, of God. But the key way to hear God and receive revelation is to be the Word of God – the Bible – and the work of the Holy Spirit in our spirit leading us into all truth. The problem with relying on and quoting angels is that this is a subjective expereience and these ‘beings’ can actually be demons. Paul warns about Satan disguising himself as an angel of light. Joseph Smith of Mormon fame – two angels appeared to him. Roland Buck had two angels appear to him back in the late 1980’s leading him astray as well. We need to be careful. Dreams are also subjective and can be misleading. Jude, in his epistle where he is “contending earnestly for the faith” (Jude 1:3) goes on to mention his concern (God’s concern) about dreams. He writes: “Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme…” (Jude 1:8)

The Holy Spirit and the Bible. A combination that will not lead us astray. That is, of course, if you read the Word and apply the truths correctly to your life. Too much ‘pick a verse, any verse, confess it and God will have to perform it on your behalf’ going on. Too much taking a verse out of context and thus misusing or mis-applying it. Too much teaching someone’s experience as something we can now do although not commanded by the Lord to do so – such as Paul and his third-Heaven experience which God initiated and now we are taught we can initiate any time we want (I feel another blog coming on). Too much taking one verse and building a doctrine on it that is not confirmed nor backed up by the rest of the scripture ending up with a heritical “Cloud of Witnesses” teaching which is really no different than praying to (talking to) the saints as practiced by the Roman Catholic Church today. Should I go on? The list is long.

My point, if we would simply read our Bible and listen to the voice of the the Holy Spirit we will be guided by Him into truth as contained in the Word; we will be directed by Him in the proper application of that Word, and then our life will be founded upon the rock and will not falter when the storms of life come against us. If we continue to build upon dreams and visions, angels and dead saints visiting and speaking to us we are building our house upon the sand and there will be a great fall when adversity comes against the Church or us personally.

The Holy Spirit has not retired. Although, if you watch what is going on in Lakeland, Florida where night after night the Word of God is not preached and the service is based upon revelations, visions, dreams, angels, and supernatural wind and movement you might think He is on an extended vacation.

I Guess I’m Defective

Went to the local Chapters bookstore the other night. I do this once a month – not because I need more books to read but because I want to see what others are reading. Often I buy absolutely nothing. But, I am wanting to know what the average person today is reading … novels, biographies, non-fiction, best sellers, romances, detective novels, the whole spectrum of the publishing world.

I am very systematic. Grab a coffee at Starbucks – look through the magazines. Pay close attention to the people around you and what they are standing there and reading. Travel magazines, sports, exercise magazines for men and women, gardens, woodworking, tattoos. Noticed this time that Chapters has shrunk their section of gay “travel and fashion” magazines. A good indication that they are not selling in the city.

Over to the isles. Table upon table of “Heather’s Pick”, “Oprah’s book of the month”, newest romance books, the hottest in detective stories, and a whole table of anti-Bush, anti-Iraq war books. I look for my favourite authors to see if they have a new book out … Jeffrey Archer, John Grisham, Ian Rankin, Wilbur Smith, and Diana Gabaldon. Self-indulgent.

The religious section gets my attention next. It is right next to the New Age section. The New Age section (includes witchcraft and occult books) keeps growing and gaining floor space – the religious section is steadily shrinking. In the religious section – half the books are by Roman Catholic authors and about the pope, prayer to the saints, and books attacking or defending the Roman Catholic Church. Half of the remainder are Christian self-help and feel good books by Joel Osteen, Joyce Myers, and a slue of other writers. There are a few on the current controversy – The DaVinchi Code, The Gospel of Judas, Mary Magdalene. The rest are daily devotionals and books of prayers and other spiritual help books for Christians who are too lazy to read their Bibles and develop a personal relationship with God for themselves. Glad I don’t rely on this section for my reading on the Christian faith.

It is obvious as I stand there and read covers and glance through the tables of contents of 20 to 30 books that there is little of any substance. The shelves represent a very shallow Christian Church and almost nothing that represents the Christian faith as found in scripture. I am disappointed once again – and ashamed.

The self-help isles keep growing and so are not hard to find. This is where I head next. Almost the biggest section of the store. So much pop-psychology, do-it-yourself analysis, New Ageish ‘draw on your inner self and inner strengths’ books that you almost want to vomit. Remember, Ralph – this is a trip to see what others are reading and buying so you can better understand the people you are trying to reach.

The 50 to 75% off racks always grab my attention on the way out. They are the remains of what once were the top sellers just a few weeks ago. Hard cover editions of books just released as paperbacks for the first time. Again, a good glance into what people have been reading during the three to four weeks between my trips to the store.

I now have a decent idea of what others are reading and thinking about. Good to know what the world is focused on. Helps me to think as they think on my daily ventures into the mission field where I live. Helps me to initiate conversations when going about my daily life.

Then out the door and back to the car. Safe – made it without spending money on more books for myself. It’s then I realize that I have left my Starbucks coffee on a bookshelf somewhere in the store. That’s okay though because I really don’t like Starbucks coffee. I guess I’m defective.

One young man – one long coffee

None but two! Last night in Saskatoon I had a long coffee with a young man I had the honour of prophesying over several weeks before – the word was for he and his wife. The coffee was planned as two guys hanging out getting to know each other. The start of a discipling and mentoring relationship.

What a refreshing time! I didn’t have to chase him for a time together. He showed up! Wow! Two serious young men in a row this week. We talked and shared about what we are doing right now, things about our family life as we were growing up. A little on our current spiritual journeys and churches that we worship with. Talked about spare time activities, hopes for the future, frustrations with the Church as it is today, schooling (Bible College for him and seminary for me) which was not always a good experience for either of us.

We did some planning – to look next time at the prophetic word and see what we should do to facilitate and cooperate with the word – the first steps. We talked about some books that he and his wife could read to begin to grow towards their calling and begin to flow in the supernatural gifts connected to their callings. A future missions trip to Ukraine in 2009 or early 2010. Some great discussions.

But here’s what I saw – and it is seriously refreshing and rare today. A responsible young man (26 years old) who is taking a degree at the university, married, owns a home (I’m sure – he and the bank), has a job, goes to church, loves his wife, has a budget and works on a cash basis only…. Wow! A responsible young man who has taken charge of his life and is going somewhere. That’s seriously refreshing and very hard to find in this day and age. At least, I don’t see too many of them in my ministry and travels.

This is a relationship that I hope develops quickly and continues to have the depth that we experienced last night over an almost 3 hour initial coffee. I look forward to what I will gain personally from this relationship and look forward to seeing how the Kingdom will benefit as this young man grows and develops into a powerful five-fold minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ having a major impact upon one third of the world.

I look forward to a healthy relationship with someone who is hungry for more of God – and all of God!

None but one!

Last Sunday while here in Saskatoon I was stood up. I had scheduled some time at DQ to visit with and come to know a young man whom I had trained recently in evangelism and street witnessing. He was a “no show”. So, because I still had another later appointment and then a meeting before driving home, I simply sat and read a book. It was a good read. But, I could have had a tighter schedule and arrived back home by 10 p.m. instead of 12:30 a.m.

However, it got me to thinking. I do that once in a while. It’s good for me. Things are changing in the Church world. I have discipled and mentored numerous people over the 35 years of my ministry. It’s a joy to teach younger people what I know about the Kingdom and the King. It is a great honor to train them in the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit, show them wonderful revelation truths in the Bible, take them overseas on mission trips. Just a serious joy and a calling upon my life and ministry from the Lord Himself.

But, after being stood up by this young man – who simply forgot that we had set and agreed upon this time together (indicating that he placed little value on this meeting and my time) I got to thinking. Yes, several thoughts in the same day. This could be contagious and dangerous.

During the previous week I had been stood up at least three times. Happens more frequently these days than I would care to admit to myself. People asking for time with me and then not showing up.

Another thought as I eventually drove home that night: I am doing almost all the initiating and contacting of the various young people I am discipling and mentoring (and I am older and busier than they are).

Question: Of the thirty men who have been prophetically called out by international prophetic voices as five-fold ministers and through prophetic words connected to me and my ministry for me to disciple and mentor – how many are hungry enough to pursue their calling, contact me, and even support my ministry financially in some way so that I would be less busy travelling and ministering so as to have time to be with them?

Answer: None but one!

Question: Why am I chasing them as if they have something to offer me? They should be initiating and contacting me and keeping appointments because I have something they need.

Decision: I’m here and available. Want help in understanding your calling, being equipped to do what the Lord has called you to do, and trained in the practicals of ministry – give me a call! No more chasing. No more doing all the contacting – this one-way relational street. Time for the young people to become active and responsible for their own development and callings. More than willing to help and pour my life into these young men but – it is time they stood up to the plate and got in the game. Hope they do! Doubt they will!

Had supper on Monday with one young man – professor at a Bible college – who has also had a number of prophetic words to connect with me and be mentored into his calling as an apostle. Great supper – terrific conversation. Good sharing of hearts. The relationship grew as we came to know each other better. Several follow-up emails about insights we had into our relationship. A breath of fresh air. At least there is one of the 30+ young men that I am not having to chase.

A Surprize

I’m in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan for three days. A city of 215,000 people situated on a georgeous river that winds through the city. Dated and married my wife here some 34 years ago. Travel here often as I work with a number of churches in this great city. A three day trip to sort out issues and growing pains for a Network of churches I founded and now act as an apostolic overseer for.

After a good day of learning and growing together – I went for supper with a great couple – an apostolic-prophetic couple. Terrific 3.5 hour meal. Wonderful sharing, good discussions. Then one of them dropped me back off at my hotel. Time 9:30 p.m.

Walking in with my Diet Coke looking forward to a quiet time, some blogging, and then bed. A lady I pass greets me by name. I am clueless (which is not unusual). So, I don’t try to fake it – I simply tell her she has me at a disadvantage and she introduces herself. Well, of course. Why would I not remember her – it has only been 31 years since she was a teenager and one of my travelling organists as I did three to five services a Sunday in a multi-point parish.

What a great time we had. Her husband was out walking their dog and when he came back in to the lobby he joined us. First time I had met him. First-things first … Jesus! When she was my organist she was not a believer. Never mind, I was the ordained priest and I too was not a believer. Since then – by God’s grace – we both met Jesus Christ and have walked closely with him since. Excitement can be felt throughout the lobby and others are listening to our conversation. It was a terrific celebration.

Things have changed since I last talked with her. She is now a vice-principal in a grade school in a town where I use to preach. She is here in the city for a training conference related to her work. But, more importantl;y, they are planting a church in the town where they now live (Kerrobert, Saskatchewan). It’s a house church so far but even in the next three weeks they have a wedding to perform of a couple who got saved, repented of their live-in situation and want to be married. Also two people who have recently accepted the Lord and want to be baptized as the Bible commands.

Folks, this is EXCITING. God is so neat.

Well, so much for the blogging and reading last night. I got to my hotel room just slightly after 11 p.m. But, a great interruption in a loosely planned schedule.

The Fight Continues

A Christian couple in the U.K. has been barred from serving as foster parents because they will not tell children that homosexuality is acceptable. Eunice and John Johns, who have four children of their own, have cared for 18 foster children over the past 12 years. The government council in Derby declared them unfit because of a British law that precludes from public service anyone who discriminates based on sexual orientation. John said he didn’t “understand why sexuality is an issue when we are talking about boys and girls under the age of 10.” Christianity Today, May, 2008, Page 17

John and Eunice are a Christian couple who believe the Word of God as found in the Christian Bible and, as believers, practice what they believe. They are not being accused of telling these children that homosexual behaviour in anti-biblical and ungodly. They are being accused of being unwilling to tell the children in their care that homosexual behaviour is acceptable and normal. They have not been found guilty of spreading ‘their faith’ and forcing their faith upon young minors, They have been found guilty of not being willing to spread the homosexual agenda that many in our society today believe to be valid and is seen as an alternative life style acceptable to the Lord.

Good for John and Eunice. They are willing, as Christian parents and foster parents, to stand up for the truth. And it is truth – not opinion. It has cost them something to take this stand – both financially and reputation-wise. They are being mildly persecuted for their faith just as Jesus said we would. They need our prayers.

Society is changing rapidly and not for the better. As Christians, we need to be standing up for what it is we believe and expect consequences. We need, first of all, to be sure of what it is we believe – the basics, the negotiables. Then we need to stand firm and not let government or society push us around.

But first, in many cases, the Christian needs to find out what the basic tenants of their faith really are – what truths are foundational to the faith they believe. They need to study them biblically and be able to defend them openly and publicly. They need to “count the cost” and then jump into the “values war” and “faith wars” that exist in each and every place that believers in the Lordship of Jesus Christ find themselves.

The time for doing nothing has ended.

Repent – be baptized – and so saved!

Does baptism really save? After Peter’s first sermon he responded to a question from those listening. The Question:”What shall we do?”

Peter’s answer: “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Repenting is fairly straight forward – although many false converts to the Christian faith think saying a sinner’s prayer was enough to get into Heaven when they die. The Bible states that withour repentance there is no salvation. Repentance – true biblical repentance – is the only way to enter the Kingdom of God and be assured of a place being reserved for you in heaven.

Repenting deals with a change of mind and purpose that turns an individual from sin to God.

1 Thessalonians 1:9 For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God

Genuine repentance knows that the evil of sin must be forsaken and the person and work of Christ totally and singularly embraced. Peter called on his hearers to repent or they would not experience true conversion. Many today have not repented – and thus are not true converts and so are not in the faith or in the Kingdom. They may say they are born again but they are following a born again religion.

Peter then moves on to being baptized – immersed – in water. This was in line with what Jesus told the apostles to do. “Go into all the world, preach, make disciples, baptize them…” (Matthew 28:18-20). He was not suggesting that if you were not baptized that you were not saved. He is stating that a true convert will want to be baptized so that he or she can identify, through the waters of baptism, with Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection (Romans 6:3-4).

For new believers at this time in the Roman Empire this was a crucial but very costly identification.
For many it syill is today.

The scripture goes on to say: “for the forgiveness of your sins”. So, we need to be baptized to be forgiven? No! Absolutely not. Dr. John MacArthus states: “This might be better translated ‘because of the forgiveness of sins.’ The reality of forgiveness precedes the rite of baptism Acts 2:41).”

Genuine repentance with godly sorrow brings from God the forgiveness of sins (Ephesians 1:7) and then, because of this experience, they were to be baptized.

Baptism was to be the ever-present act of obedience – so it has often become synonymous with salvation. Thus to say that one was baptized for forgiveness was the same as saying one was saved.

Today many denominations believe that baptism and the Lord’s Supper are all that is required to be saved. The Anglican (Episcopalian) prayer book and catachism states “there are two sacraments necessary for salvation – holy baptism and the Lord’s Supper.” Not true. Absolutely not true!

We need to return to a biblical understanding of baptism and the wonderful meaning it holds for the true convert to the Christian faith.

Christian, have you been baptized since you received Jesus as your personal Lord and Saviour?

Africa and…

There are a number of invitations for this ministry to go to Africa to minister. Two of the most recent being from Uganda and, this morning, Kenya.

I appreciate the need that exists in these nations – and elsewhere – for the gospel of Jesus Christ to be preached and people healed and saved. However, it appears that many of these ministries who have invited us are wanting us to come totally at our own cost. Our team pays the air fare, the resources needed while there (material for leaders’ schools, etc.), as well as our living costs while there ministering.

Now, I’m sure that they think we are rich. And, yes, in many ways we are wealthy here in North America. We live in sheer luxury compared to many other people in other nations – our life-style is in the top 3 to 5% of the world’s population. But that does not make all of us wealthy nor does it mean we have huge amounts of disposable cash floating around just waiting for a place to invest it.

Some ministries may be able to afford to take teams to these nations at their own expense – but some of us simply cannot. It makes us feel badly and we wish we could be of more help but…

I believe that for a ministry to be received and valued it should cost the host pastor or Church (and thus nation) something. They may not be able to pay the whole shot but they should be investing in the Kingdom and their own nation – not leaving all the costs to be covered by others from wealthier nations. Then they are sowing into the Kingdom and they are investing in their own nation. And, God will honour that!

The first trip I took to Ukraine over a decade ago – the youth in attendance at a camp where I spoke took up an offering and gave to me 76 Griven (3 Griven were worth $1.00 at that time). This was a very powerful time in the service. They had sacrificed and given from their own need to bless the speaker who had come to bless them. The Church in Ukraine is doing great things for the Lord and impacting their nation for the Kingdom. I believe this is the direct result of hearts that were and are ready to sacrifice and donate so that souls in their nations may come to know Jesus Christ. I believe this should be the norm for believers worldwide.

That offering was a highlight of the trip for me. It was an indication that the young church in Ukraine was alive and well and would do well because they knew how to give. They have since gone on to a place where they now support my ministry with a monthly sum – substantial sum in their situation. This is a Church that the Lord can bless – and He is.

I am not saying that every offer to come and minister from Africa and third-world nations are expecting us to come at no cost to them. But some are.

I am not suggesting that we are not able to pay our way to minister in these nations when invited – although limited in the amount of funds available for this type of mission.

I am not suggesting that they are not investing in their own nations within the scope of finances that they have and that the Lord has blessed them with.

Biut it is time, I believe, that ministries in other nations stop assuming that every ministry here in North America is wealthy and thus able to respond and supply all costs for any particular ministry trip. It’s just not the case.

And, please remember, that some wealthier nations – like my nation of Canada – are also in need of being reached and thus we are investing funds here locally and nationally to reach the lost. Some third-world countries percentage-wise have more Christians than the one in which I live.

Ukraine Trip

Our planned two week ministry trip to Ukraine is coming together slowly. It appears we will now be there in October of this year. We will be working with two different churches teaching leaders and believers about God’s supernatural gifts and how they function today in the life of believers. As well, we hope to be doing some evangelistic work as many, in every nation, have not heard of the salvation offered through Jesus Christ.

This will be my fourth trip to Ukraine to minister. Each time I am there I am amazed at the speed in which they are recovering from Communism and how quickly the Church is growing and coming into its own. The message of Jesus Christ is spreading quickly and effectively in Ukraine. Buildings are being built or bought and renovated and new congregations being planted. One church I work with is even raching out with several teams going on mission trips into Africa. They are being obedient to the Word and are reaching out to their own nation and other nations with the good news that Jesus saves.

It is an honour to be a part of what this dynamic young church is doing and we are looking forward to being there with them in October, 2008. Check back often for further details of this upcomng ministry trip.

Jesus Who?

When I am working on the streets and visiting business offices to share the love of God and the message of salvation – I have discovered that many people seldom, if ever, think about the Church. However, they do think about Jesus.

There is a book by the title: “They Like Jesus But Not the Church” by Dan Kimball. It is part of the literature for the Emergent Church Movement. I would agree with the title even though, it seems, I seldom agree with the Movement itself.

However, I think we need to look at what Jesus they are believing in and “liking”. He is certainly not the Jesus of the Bible. He is, in many ways, a Jesus (or God) of their own imagination and is thus “another Jesus” as Paul would warn against (2 Corinthians 11:4) or simply another god thus breaking the 2nd commandment (Exodus 20:4) by creating a graven image of a personal god in our mind.

I have found that I need to listen to them – even ask a few questions – to discover what they believe about Jesus. Otherwise we are using the same word and can quickly find ourselves talking about two entirely different people. Very seldom do I find people – especially under 35 – who even come close to understanding the biblical Jesus. In fact, most people under 35 that I talk to have never read the Bible and don’t own one. So, it is necessary to first discover what they believe and then to engage them leading them to the truth about Jesus – as Philip did with the Ethiopian eunuch.

So, I am reading on several fronts so as to understand this group of people I am trying to reach and in order to present the Gospel in a “culturally relevant” way. Gee I hate that phrase. I read so that I can speak about Jesus and His message of salvation in a way that those without a church background and having little to no Bible knowledge can grasp and comprehend what the true message of the Christian faith really is.

I try to read up on current trends in the culture and what people are thinking and talking about. What questions are they asking? How can I, representing Jesus, answer those questions? I am also reading regularly in the area of apologetics – how to answer the often tough questions these people are asking about faith and God as well as faith in God.

This is hard work. But, it’s worth it because we are talking about people’s eternal destiny here. As an ambassador of Jesus Christ I need to know both the King I represent and the culture that I am representing Him in.

We don’t need to go overseas to be a missionary today. We simply need to step out the front doors of our homes.