Good Works

When you were born again it was a gift of grace from the Lord Himself and not received or accomplished by any thing that you had done or “not of works lest any man should boast”. (Ephesians 2:8-9). We all know that. This is the basic message of the born again Church of Jesus Christ, The message Martin Luther rediscovered which led to the Protestant Reformation.

But Ephesians 2:10 goes on to say – now that we are saved “by grace through faith” that there are some good works that the Lord would have each born again believer involved in. Not saved by “good works” but certainly involved in them afterwards.

However, I fear that the born again Church is slowly slidding away from the intended good works. We are becoming involved in social justice issues and other societal reform movements. The other day I read that David Ruis is now living in California and deeply involved in social justice issues. Just one of many examples I could quote where powerful evangelical leaders are becoming involved in social justice issues.

The problem is – I don’t see Jesus getting involved in the social justice issues of His times – foreign occupation of the Holy Land, slavery, mistreatment of women, demonstrations against war. No, He came to seek and save the lost. And, even His miracles, signs and wonders were not ends in themselves but rather means to this end – that people would be seriously touched by the transforming power of the Living God and so then come to the Father for salvation. The “good works” were a calling card or a vehicle to help people towards the desired end or goal – salvation – a personal relationship with the Living God (Romans 6:23b and John 17:3).

Ephesians 2:10 states we are called to good works. The passage in Matthew 5:14-16 about being a light to the world states that as we do “good works” we will be that light and people will glorify the Father. The good works are the beacon to draw others to the Father. Titua 3:1, 8 talk of being devted to or zealous of good works. But, these good works are not social justice issues. They do not involve helping an old man across the street, giving to the poor, caring for the orphans and widows, feeding the hungry – these are, according to Matthew 6:1-2 “acts of righteousness” and can, of course, be done by Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, Muslims, Buddists, humanists and even athiests.

There is only one kind of good works that born again believers can do that these others cannot do – supernatural works done by the power of the Holy Spirit. Miracles, signs and wonders. The gifts of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:1-11) flowing through us and transforming the lives of those who do not yet know Jesus personally as they should and must. This was and is the purpose of the Holy Spirit baptism – to empower us to be His witnesses and do these biblical “good works”.

All the other things that the Church is being sidetracted by – the “acts of righteousness” – are well and good and, I am sure, most helpful. But they are not biblical “good works”. Biblical good works are believers doing supernatural deeds that bring glory to the Father. Good deeds are doing like Jesus did – healing the sick, casting out demon, raising the dead, restoring sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf, seeing the lame walk and the captive set free. In fact, Jesus stated that “the things He did we shall do also and even greater things because He goes to the Father and sends the Holy Spirit upon His Church” (John 14:12). This happened on the original Day of Pentecost. And the good works have continued around the world ever since.

We must not get side tracked into social justice issues and other pressing and important issues and topics as has happened to most mainline denominational organizations. We must stay true to the original supernatural good works of the Bible – and be about My Father’s business as Jesus was … so that, like Paul, we can declare that we have “fully preached the Gospel” in word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God” (Romans 15;18-19).

Careful we don’t get sidetracked into acts of rioghteousness calling them good works and thus lose the opportunity to impact lives supernaturally.

The Opportunity Is There, Cease It

Keith Davey – National Director of Research and Development at Campus Crusade for Christ (ccci.org) states: “That we are entering a time of greater openness, not declining opportunity…” He is also seeing an increase in those willing to be trained and mobilized to meet the challenge. Statistics also show more students involved in the mission, greater responsiveness and a higher number of decisions indicated.

This is truly good news in the midst of a program-driven Church in North America. And regretfully, other nations are highly impacted by us and our form of Christianity as it is men and women from North America and western Europe who are traveling to these nations to help evangelize, disciple, train up and equip believers for the work they have been called to. So they simply duplicate who they are and this is not always a good thing.

To take advantage of the increased interest in spiritual matters as well as the increased interest in (younger) believers willing to be mobilized and equipped – the church in North America will need to move away from its inward focus of ministering to its own people and needs and begin to think of those who are without Christ and therefore in desperate need of the good news.

This change in focus from inward to outward, from attracting people to a service to reaching out into the community with “good works” (see tomorrow’s entry on this blog), ministry to missional … from leaders ministering to equipping, from believers being the receiptants of ministry to those doing ministry and entering into the priesthood of all believers. This will be quite the paradim shift in the way the believer thinks and the way they see the institution called the Church. But not impossible if God is in it.

However, be prepared to lose a lot of self-centered “believers” who came for what they can get and never for what they could give. Be prepared to recognize that we have few servants and many who simply want to be served. Be prepared to see many leaders who do not want to (and are unable to) equip others to do the ministry as they are co-dependant and need to be needed and actually want to be in the spotlight themselves and so will not “share the ministry” with others as they would become more equippers and less THE minister and thus not as noticed or needed. Be prepared to see many not bear fruit. Be prepared to see people actually leave because they came being promised “a good life” and did not enter the Kingdom and the Church out of repentance and godly sorrow for their sin and so are still mired in self-interest and self-centeredness having not truly “died with Christ”. Could this be the “great falling away” that Jesus spoke about?

This new Church of equipped saints who will take seriously their role in the priesthood of all believers – reaching out to impact their world by winning the lost both one-on-one and in meetings both small and large where statistics show people are now walking forward and making decisions for Christ – will be very different than the current “body of Christ; different in the way it lives and expresses itself. It will be, in many ways, a total makeover of what is seen as Christianity today. This, in itself, will be a good thing.

So the opportunity is there right in front of us – an opportunity to impact the world for Jesus Christ one person at a time. But it is up to each individual true believer in Jesus Christ to step up to the plate and cease this opportunity to be a fruitful disciple of the Lord.

Principles for New Christians

1. Read the Word DAILY
A healthy baby has a healthy appetite. If you have truly been “born” of the Spirit of God, you will have a healthy appetite. The Bible says, “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,” (1 Peter 2:2). Feed yourself every day without fail. Job said, “I have treasured the words of His mouth More than my necessary food,” (Job 23:12). The more you eat, the quicker you will grow, and the less bruising you will have. Speed up the process and save yourself some pain — vow to read God’s Word every day, without fail. Say to yourself, “No Bible, no breakfast. No read, no feed.” Be like Job, and put your Bible before your belly. If you do that, God promises that you will be like a fruitful, strong and healthy tree (see Psalm 1). Each day, find somewhere quiet, and thoroughly soak your soul in the Word of God.

Read more

Discouraged and Discontented

Many believers that I speak to are discouraged. Not about their relationshipship with the Lord but with the lack of fruit from their consistent efforts to win others to the Lord. They understand that the Lord said: “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men”. They are following, they are fishing. But, like the disciples they have worked hard using all their skills and have caught nothing.

They are not only discouraged – they are discontented. Not satisfied with this situation. They want to see people come to the Lord. We want to see fruit as a result of all our labor. So the feeling is – not good enough, there has to be more, better!

During my scond day ministering in southern Manitoba I was talking informally with people over mid-morning coffee (they ask the speaker to attend) and here as well as during the “after the service” felowship it is apparent that many are concerned with this situation. Especially the younger believers. They want to see more action and more results, more people taking advantage of the facilities here and the speakers that are faithfully brought in week-after-week all summer.

Well, let’s move away from “fishers” and look at “farmers“. Jesus spoke of the proclamation and growth of God’s Kingdom as the way corn grows in a field; first the blade, then the ear, and after that the full corn in the ear.

“For the earth brings forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest is come” (Mark 4:28-29)

Interesting! Jesus said: “The earth brings forth fruit of herself”. In other words, the Kingdom will bring forth fruit. It will grow. This is built in to its very nature, its DNA. It is the way God designed it to be. And in many nations like Iran, India, Nepal and Bangladesh the Kingdom is growing – daily, powerfully, in large numbers in many places in these nations. Why? Because, Jesus said, there comes a point in the growth of the Word of God in men’s souls, when the time for the Harvest is come!

As believers have faithfully sown the seed; in some cases given their lives as faithful martyrs who “loved not their lives unto death” (Revelation 12:11); and suffered and endured the horrors of persecution, rejection, imprisonment and torture for Christ … God has been at work using their labors to grow a harvest for His Kingdom. At first unseen and then, as it gains strength it pushes through the earth and sprouts and begins to reach towards the “son”. This is the BLADE PERIOD mentioned in Mark’s Gospel.

As the believers were faithful – not becoming discouraged but continuing to plant the seed and share their testimony so as to let others know about the Kingdom and the Gospel of the King, Jesus Himself – the Kingdom was slowly moving forward. As I mentioned, much of what is happening is still not noticed as the seed sprouts, takes root, begins to grow “underground”. But there is something going on. In time their efforts will be rewarded as the movement in the Kingdom will become apparent and many will begin to become interested in spiritual issues and will come to those who have faithfully planted seeds and ask their questions. This is the EAR PERIOD of the growth of the harvest when we will actually see movement and some hope of results from our labors.

As soon as there comes a saturation point – Jesus referred to it as the FULL CORN IN THE EAR period – then the most glorious time for the church happens – HARVEST. Jesus said, “Because the harvest is come!” The Lord of the Harvest will put in His sickle and souls will come into the Kingdom as a result of the faithful planting of many seeds (1 Peter 1:23 states that people are “born again through the incorruptable seed, that is the Word of God” .)

The development of the “blade” and the “ear” happens in the dark times when we don’t see any results for our many efforts. Growth is happening during the times that we look back at our many labours and look out over the fields where we are sowing seeds and become discouraged. It happens quietly and in a way that cannot be seen. But, things are happening.

Some believers have become discontented recently. They want to see more happening – more growth, more people saved, more believers out witnesses … and they need to know that this is a spiritual “feeling” that is from the Lord. He is preparing His people for the next stage in this Kingdom thing … the FULL EAR OF THE CORN PERIOD. This is when God answers our prayers to the Lord of the Harvest and sends more workers out into the fields proclaiming the Gospel and planting more seeds. This season is upon us – the discontent is from God and is to encourage us to pray to the Lord of the Harvest for more laborers in the fields … planting seeds now for a second and third crops that will follow the first (remembering that in North America the “first” harvest has not happened yet – but this also stations them in such a place that they can help to bring in the first crop for we are soon to enter into the (first) HARVEST PERIOD.

Let’s not call it revival. This is simply the natural life flow of the Kingdom in any given location. Let’s simply see it as the natural results of many believers sowing much into the fields and faithfully tending to those fields even when they do not see anything happening to encourage them. Let’s rejoice in it, work hard to bring it safely in, and continue to plant more seeds for the next crop and then the next crop – for the Bible states that we will “reap in due season if we do not grow weary.”

I believe we are on the verge of seeing that first Harvest – here in North America -as they have already encountered and experienced in many other nations in the world. Just as they should be preparing for their ‘second wave’ of new believers that will need discipling, we here in North America must be ready for the first fruits of our current growing season for the Lord of the Harvest is about to put in the sickle.

Last week while ministering in Manitoba I commented on the verse, “The Lord gave the Word; great was the company of those who proclaimed it” … Because of this the Harvest can be great, substantial. And, the opposite is true, without this ‘great company of proclaimers’ the Harvest will not be as bountiful as planned by the Lord.

It is time to pray to the Lord of the Harvest.

Strongholds Fell, Darkness Was Pushed Back

Week long camp is over and God has blessed His people. Seriously blessed His people. Had the honour of ministering Sunday morning before an extended lunch, fellowship and questions and answers from the four I was sitting at the table with. Then pack the vehicle and drive to the next service – 285 Km away. Preached to the assembly in this southern Saskatchewan town and then drove another 260 Km to my home city and my office. Didn’t even look – This morning, as I thought, it was overrun with work. It was piled high with papers before I left … overflowing with more papers now.

Sunday morning the worship was straight from Heaven. In fact, the presence of God was so tangible that the worship leader, Richard, got seriously touched by it and had difficulty leading for a few minutes. This terrific worship meant that the teaching and ministry time was much easier to “step into” as the anointing was already there and flowing – just needed to step into the river; did not have to find it first (if worship had been neutral) or blow up the dam (if the lack of anointing and power on the worship and worship leader took us to a -5 on a scale of 1 to 10). If you teach God’s Word or a major part of your ministry is the prophetic you understand fully what I just said.

I was honored to give my testimony. The Lord directed the parts I was to share and how to share them delicately as there were young children present. I directed it especially to the young people who are most in need of an encounter with the living God. God, as always, honored the testimony with His presence and power and I could literally see the work of the devil crumbling in peoples lives as I spoke and ministered from the lead verse of my testimony (3 John 2). Strongholds were falling and darkness were being pushed back. It was seriously evident – like I have actually never seen before during hundreds of opportunities I have had to share my testimony in the past.

I called a prayer line at the end of my testimony and, as always, asked some in the congregation to come and help minister in the prayer line to all the people. You see, I believe in “equipping the saints” (Ephesians 4:11) and in “the priesthood of all believers” (1 Peter 2:9). It was for those who needed a healing of any kind – physical, emotional, relational, financial, mental, spiritual. A good number responded. Good and powerful ministry took place.

One man had been ministered to by someone else and was just standing there still in God’s presence. I was about to close the prayer time and enter back into worship when I felt that I too should pray for this young man.

No sooner had I approached him and laid my hands on him then I had a prophetic word for him flood powerfully into my spirit. I had prophesied over a number of others that I had prayed for in the prayer line and ministry time – I don’t know how to “just pray” for people anymore as it always turns into a prophetic word for them – but this was much more powerful, much more pressing. I delivered it as I received it. It was life-changing.

Then it was time to prophesy over the camp grounds and the ministry that owns the camp facilities and operates the camp programs year-round. With people I receive the prophetic word as I am giving it and am clueless as to what I am going to say before I hear myself say it. But with local churches and ministries I receive the prophetic understanding of God’s heart for them and their future as soon as I arrive on their campus and it matures, deepens and ripens as my time there goes on. So, I usually end up giving it near the end of my stay in each place I go to minister.

This place, Christian Enrichment Family Camp (www.rocklakecefc.org), has a tremendous future planned by God. In fact – overwhelming. It is about to have worldwide impact that will influence nations. Many changes will be necessary to facilitate what God is planning to do through this ministry. A tremendous walk of faith in economically perilous times will be required. The transformation into their future will be breathtaking and supernatural in nature. But they have the right leaders for the ministry who are very dedicated to doing only what God wants them to do and have no personal agendas in the mix. Perfectly poised for everything God has planned for it. He and they are ready. You will hear a lot about this camp in the future.

Good to be home – not yet back in the office as I will have to shovel my way in as the paperwork seems to multiply when you close the door and walk away for a week…. That’s tomorrow’s work. Today is a day in the study with the Lord.

The Young, the Old, the Restless

Early morning at camp – I mean early. Seems the Lord thought I should be up so up I am. And ready to go for another day of watching what God does in the lives of the people He loves. It has been amazing, simply amazing.

Last night (Friday) we again held a public service. Worship was out of this world – heavenly and anointed. I mean seriously anointed and I would know as I am in services day after day, week after week all over the world and can quickly tell when we are worshipping and God is pleased and when we are simply singing songs and nothing is transpiring in the Spirit realm – no anointing. It is always easier to preach and minister when the worship has moved us from earth to Heaven and into the throne room of God – the holy of holies.

Last night I spoke of being known in Hell. Based in Acts 19 where the demons say “Jesus we know, Paul we have heard of, who are you?”. Again, the Holy Spirit took it and placed the emphasis on evangelism and winning the lost although that was not the original intent of the teaching when I wrote it. Almost every night that has happened in the teaching – the material basicly stayed as written but the emphasis or, in some cases, Holy Spirit additions as I preached were dealing with telling others about the night and day difference Jesus has made in your life. Interesting – but it is definitely what the Lord wanted these people to hear.

After preaching – more worship. And here was the neat thing. We had a new worship leader last night and I switched topics because it is now the weekend and we have new campers at the service – so ended the series I was doing and went elsewhere. The songs the new leader picked (he just arrived at the camp in the afternoon and was not in any other service this week) he picked songs I did not know (that is always great) and every single one of them related to the written notes I was working from AND the additions the Holy Spirit led me to add as I preached. God is good and certainly knows what He is doing. It was His service all the way.

At the end I called up some people to help in the prophetic ministry over a young man. I am again amazed. He lives in the city of Moose Jaw 40 minutes from the city of Regina where I live. God has him come to camp (a 6.5 hour drive for him and a 5.5 hour drive for me) where we meet and he receives a prophetic word about his current situation and his destiny in the Lord. A neat young man. I was watching him during the worship and the teaching … God was “all over him” and doing some neat and deep things in his life – then God permanently alters his life through the prophetic words ministered to him by two men attending the camp and myself. Again, God is so good and so in love with His kids.

I want to go on record as saying – I am very optimistic about the Church of Jesus Christ and the work we have been called to do. Yes, we live in tough times. Yes, hearts are often hard and not open or receptive to the Gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ. Yes, it seems we sow and sow seeds and never see a harvest. Yes, we need a release of God’s power that has yet to be seen in this generation. Yes, Chjristians are so busy and life is so hectic that they do not seem to have time for involvement in the adventure of soul winning and evangelism or don’t even have an interest in becoming involved. Yes, people don’t seem interested in what we have to offer and those who are spiritually hungry are no longer looking to the Church to answer their questions but rather to philosophies and other world religions. BUT, I am very excited about the opportunity all this offers to the Church and those who are willing to actually do what the Lord has called His Church to do – seek and save the lost.

The future is bright and exciting. The challenges are many. But, God knows what He is doing and as the darkness becomes gross darkness the light will shine through those who take seriously His Word and become involved in the greatest adventure ever offered to humans – seeking and saving the lost; evangelism, soul-winning; telling others about the night-and-day difference Jesus has made in your life (1 Peter 2:9 The Message Version). AND, the young men and women I see and minister to around the world are buying in and becoming deeply passionate about the Lord and deeply concerned for the lost. The future is more than bright – it is going to be a lot of fun and I am glad that, at my age, I am still permitted by the Lord to be deeply involved in a lot of what is happening worldwide and that retirement is no where on the horizon.

There is a spiritual restlessness in both the young and the old who are hungry for God and seeking to be in the center of His will. A spiritual restlessness that is grabbing hold of God in new and fresh ways and moving quickly into the mighty exploits that those who know their God have been promised they will be able to see and do. It is time to stop playing Church and rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic (the boat is sinking no matter where the chairs are put so do something about the water of the world that has entered the boat and is causing her to go down) and begin to become the people of God, the holy nation and royal priesthood He has called us to be from the very beginning.

Spiritually Hungry Young People

Young people are being called to serve the Lord Jesus Christ in the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit all over the world today. In unprecedented numbers I am seeing young people hungry for God and the things of God and willing to obey regardless of what it is He is telling them that they should do. It warms my heart as it is good to see.

These young people are not the “Church of the future” but are the Church right now. They are being called as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ and leaders in the Church. This young generation (18 to 30) are being empowered by God, trained and equipped by seasoned apostles and prophets (there are not enough of us to do all the work), and will soon be released to reach people for the Kingdom and build a Church that will be apostolic – a church built differently than any existing right now and that will be outward focused and not bog down in the administrative details (buildings, budgets and bodies) and inner life of the Church that takes so much time, effort and money right now. Maintenance of the saints (we call it ministering to one another) will no longer be the focus – as reaching the lost will become the heart cry and action plan for this new prototype of Church beginning to appear in nations around the world.

I am teaching and ministering at a camp in southern Manitoba (a region of my nation) and a good proportion of those here worshipping and learning in the evening services are young people … Bibles in hand, journal or notebook open, and hearts ready to receive what God has for them. It is heartwarming to see the younger generation hungry for the things of God and willing to say “be it done unto me according to Your Word” as Mary once said about bearing a child out of wedlock because this was God’s plan and purpose for her life.

Last night, during the service, I ministered prophetically to a young man and called him into full-time ministry – a ministry that will be worldwide (yes, I know, we live in the middle of absolutely nowhere) and impact many nations. I gave to him a brief “table of contents” for the next five chapters of the book being written about his life. Powerful! God really did speak to him. I had no idea who he was, who he was connected to, where he goes to church … just saw the hand of God and the calling of God on his life and the Lord said to inform him of some of the initial details. Lots more could have been said and will be said if he actually does as I asked him (which is unusual in this nation) and that is to keep in touch with me so he can be guided and equipped to walk in the fullness of his calling.

Then, after the coffee fellowship, I had the honor of talking with two ladies until just after midnight. The younger of the two (age 25) had a series of excellent questions about different teachings she has heard (Word-Faith) and what others are trying to get her to believe (that the gifts petered out with Peter – dispensationalism). Wonderful hour and a half talking and sharing and answering questions and probing what the Bible actually teaches about the issues she was concerned about. Actually a lot of fun as I love to “talk Bible”! Again, a member of the younger generation sorting out truth from fiction, Christian doctrine from man-made theology and what it is the Bible is actually saying to her as she devours it daily.

Everywhere I go I see this hunger in young men and women – hunger for God, hunger for the supernatural, hunger for a significant purpose for their lives which they are finding in Jesus Christ.

It is regretful that many are saying that they cannot find Jesus, the supernatural or significant purpose and involvement in their local churches and that is the reason they come to weeks like this in a camp situation … Here they are fed the “meat and potatoes” and can practice what is being taught … with me beside them to help, correct, and equip them.

That’s simply what apostles do – lay foundations in the Church (Ephesians 2:20) and equip the saints for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12).

Ukraine, February 2009

Direct Connections

Up at 6:00 a.m. and to the airport in my home city by 9:30 a.m. Coffee with some family members – actually I had a Diet Coke – and then I went through security screening and boarded the plane – with another bottle of Diet Coke.

Plane was late leaving as a bag had been checked and loaded and then the person who checked the bag was a ‘no show’. So, they had to unpack the majority of the baggage to find that person’s bag and remove it. Made us feel safer but also a little concerned as this meant we left to fly to Toronto 30 minutes late. The pilot did partially make up for lost time (regained 10 or so minutes) by going faster than normal. Helps with the connecting flights to be there on time or else you miss it and then you miss all the other connecting flights as well – finally not arriving when you need to. Read more

Principles for New Believers

1. Read the Word DAILY
A healthy baby has a healthy appetite. If you have truly been “born” of the Spirit of God, you will have a healthy appetite. The Bible says, “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,” (1 Peter 2:2). Feed yourself every day without fail. Job said, “I have treasured the words of His mouth More than my necessary food,” (Job 23:12). The more you eat, the quicker you will grow, and the less bruising you will have. Speed up the process and save yourself some pain — vow to read God’s Word every day, without fail. Say to yourself, “No Bible, no breakfast. No read, no feed.” Be like Job, and put your Bible before your belly. If you do that, God promises that you will be like a fruitful, strong and healthy tree (see Psalm 1). Each day, find somewhere quiet, and thoroughly soak your soul in the Word of God.

There may be times when you read through its pages with great enthusiasm, and there may be other times when it seems dry and even boring. But food profits your body whether you enjoy it or not. As a child, you no doubt ate desserts with great enthusiasm. Perhaps vegetables weren’t so exciting. If you were a normal child, you probably had to be encouraged to eat them at first. Then, as you matured in life you were taught to discipline yourself to eat vegetables. This is because they would physically benefit you, even though they may not have at the time, brought pleasure to your taste buds.

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The Church As it is and As it Should Be (Part One)

When one looks today at the Church of Jesus Christ and examines its life and structure what you observe actually has little resemblance to the early Church in the book of Acts. I believe today’s Church falls far short of what is set out for us in the New Testament as normative to the Church of Jesus Christ. I believe it does not express the heart of God nor His original intentions. So I would like to set out some of the differences that, in my mind, become obvious when you lovingly look at the Church as it is today and as it should be. And, I do so as someone who has been preaching for 41 years and who has pastored for 37 of those years. I also do so as someone who now ministers full-time trans-locally as an apostle to the local church. The Church has been central to my life and ministry for many decades and so, as one who loves the Church, I want to speak into the life of this precious group of believers worldwide. This is the first in a summer series of articles you won’t want to miss.

1> We have a church that is organizational and structureds where the Lord wants an organism that has life. Read more