A Blog From Russia – Missed in the Regular Posting

It has been raining all night. Now early morning here in Moscow and already the traffic noises tell me that the roads are jammed with cars as people leave early for work to “avoid the rush”. I remember my dad having to do the same years ago as I grew up in the Montreal area. Traffic here is far worse, far earlier in the day.

We are going to “play tourist” this morning and have a walking tour of Red Square and parts of the Kremlin. Not sure it will be a go yet as it is raining quite hard and we would get very wet. But it is still very early in the morning here so it may all change in the next few hours. Time will tell.

Today we meet with another pastor starting at 2:00 p.m. We are joined at 5:00 p.m. by his leadership team for a time of sharing, teaching and prophetic ministry. We hope to be back in our rooms by 11:00 p.m. tonight. Again, time will tell. Speaking of time – time for a morning shower as it is time (6:30 a.m.) to get ready for a busy day ahead and much ministry as people’s lives are touched and changed forever by the power of the living God and the supernatural gifts that He gave to His Church. I will finish this blog sometime today as time allows. Hopefully we will get connected to my main blog page as well – as that is why, only now are things being posted. This new laptop is having trouble connecting to the blogging system we use. We are now going to send them via emails to my office and my personal assistant will post them for me as they are not having issues with getting onto the administrative side of the blog programming – my own blog page’s administrative back door.

Right now the office of this “retreat center” is not open for the day yet and so our wireless connection is not functioning – so limited to only off-line activities so I can’t even send them to my home office.

End of the long day…

Well – it was cold and raining all day but we did see a number of tourist sites – including very old cathedrals (oppressive religion) and Red Square. We arrived on time for all meetings – and the evening home church meeting finally ended at 11:15 p.m. because our curfew here is 11:00 for the facilities where we live and we still had to drive here through the traffic which is bumper-to-bumper day and night. So, needless to say we broke the rules and arrived back later than we should have. Not good and we did apologize.

The home church was attended by about 20 people and after a time of sharing and fellowship we had barbequed ram for supper and some Armenian flat bread (interesting looking but can’t tell you how it tasted as it was made of wheat and thus not on my diet). Then we had a time of praise and worship and I was blessed to be allowed to teach a little bit. I shared on the need for the Church to be structured and built biblically and they were hungry and listened with both heart and head … then, of course they wanted us to prophesy. So, we did. It helped that there was another person who could interpret for us and so Miroslav could simply work with me as an apostle and prophesy right along with me and minister effective – not having to switch roles each time from translator to apostle and back again as we ministered to each individual. He has a very well developed prophetic gifting and is very accurate and effective as a prophetic minister and is growing tremendously in his gifting and calling. I am seriously proud of him.

Arrived back at our “residence” and spent an hour and a half talking about the day (debriefing) and working through our prophetic feelings and what we were sensing about the two churches we have worked with over the past two days. We decided that we need time with each of the pastors to speak into their lives and share with them things that we see about their leadership (or lack of it) and what we see about their church and their people and leaders. We have some common observations shared by both Miroslav and myself so we believe we have heard God and are amazed how similar what we have sensed and perceived really is. If they are open to our input, and I hope they are, we can help them in many major ways and help their churches to be healthier and more biblical. We will need to find time to schedule this type of sensitive meeting in an already very tight and busy schedule.

At the end of sharing and debriefing we then talked personally about his recent courses (Ralph Howe Ministries is financing his master’s degree) and then about areas he feels he needs to develop in personally to enable him to minister more effectively. I have begun to mentor him at his request and this is always the first step. We came up with a number of things he believes he needs to learn and skills he needs to grow in and I will be developing a book list and purchasing the books and other material to bring with me in November when we minister together again in Kazakhstan so that we can begin to work on these areas.

Bed at 1:30 a.m. and up at 7:00 a.m. to be ready for the new day and totally different ministry opportunities.

It Was One Of Those Days

A quieter day at home. Unusual to even be home and in my study and office. I am learning, like Paul, to be content in whatever situation I find myself in. Being home is comfortable and familiar and things have been designed and set up to enable me to accomplish a lot when studying, researching and writing. I admit, I like being at home.

However, in the season of my life that I have recently entered I find myself working from the front seat of my vehicle (it has a place to plug in a laptop and phone…), the Wi-Fi corner of the airport on a laptop computer, the cramped seat of an airplane, the end of the bed in an overseas hotel room or the back seat of a car as we speed down a highway in some new region of a foreign nation.

Yet this is okay. Not something I would choose but God, in His wisdom, has chosen it for me and then enable me to handle it by pouring out His grace upon me. Without that grace shift in my life I would, in the natural and in the flesh, be unhappy, discontent, uncomfortable, and unable to work and do what is needed to be done. But, with the shift in grace (His enabling power and presence) I am able to do all that is required of me and then some and to do so with a total sense of inner peace and contentment in somewhat less than favorable situations and circumstances.

Most certainly something supernatural has happened and continues to happen as, on a daily basis, He strengthens and encourages me to continue to grow and mature in my skills and abilities, and to change and adjust so as to better serve those He sends me to work with and minister to. A definite and massive shift in the grace that is upon my life.

Here is what I have learned (one of numerous lessons) – that which God calls us to do He will equip and empower us to do. It is called grace. He will, if we let Him, help us make all the major changes needed to do what He has spoken to us and do so in such a way that we can be totally content and at peace. And this peace that passes all understanding is so important – especially in ministry.

Yesterday was one of those days when that peace was essential – too much to do and too little time (it seemed) to do it all in. And then there were the schedule changes for upcoming events in the next few weeks – where one cancellation or adjustment effects everything else scheduled around that one thing. And, the changes being made to topics we are teaching in two weeks in a foreign nation – as if we are experts on everything no matter what the topic or how short the time to prepare (along with all the other things we have to do around here). Add a large dose of misunderstanding, a need for several emails to straighten out these misunderstandings (taking the high road as a leader and shouldering all the blame), the need then to raise more money for the trip to pay for some things that should have been supplied (the essence of the misunderstanding)… it was one of those days!

And the grace was there to handle all of it and walk in peace through all of it knowing that God is sovereign and that these things are really minor inconveniences that amount to very little when seen in the light of eternity – another work of grace.

Today – is shaping up to be similar in nature to yesterday – so I have prayed and sought God’s heart on all the matters (conflicts) facing me today and I am ready to dive in and watch what He can do when one has learned to trust Him and accept the situation one finds himself in as something that God has allowed. And, once again, just know that His grace will be sufficient for anything that will come my way – planned or unplanned.

We serve a great God and He is so awesome in the way that He deals with each one of us – His children. Such an honor to serve the King of kings and to have a small part to play in His very important work on this planet we call our home.

Changes in the Wind

The Holy Spirit is moving once again in a powerful, new way and we are about to hear the sound like a “mighty rushing wind” as they did on the initial Day of Pentecost when the Church was birthed. And, there are changes in the wind; major changes.

I believe that with my whole heart. There is a shift happening as pastors and leaders tire of “business as usual” and look to becoming “radical revolutionaries” for the Lord. Leaders are wanting to make a difference; wanting to see something signifigant and permanent take place; wanting to make an impact upon the world for the Lord and His Kingdom; wanting to see lives saved and radically and permanently changed by the power of God as found only in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They are tired of maintenance and want real ministry. It is time to go and find that one lost sheep – and then another and another and yet another…

As Scott Wallis states: “God has invested a great deal in the Church. He bought and birthed it through the blood of His Son. How long do you think God will allow a weak-willed, worldly-minded Church to be at the forefront of what He is doing? Will not God begin fighting against this type of Church and give birth to another type of Church purified through the refining fires of His presence? I think that it is time that we evaluate ourselves to see if we are in the faith.” (Page 33, Apostolic Team Ministry)

I believe the Church is in for a time of massive change where we will see many mainline denominations die off; those who now preach the Gospel become the new mainliners and walk away from the life-changing Gospel as politically incorrect and too hot to handle. I believe we will see the true Church of Jesus Christ – the churches in North America that still openly declare Jesus is the only way to Heaven and eternal life and not one of many ways – forced to “go underground” and no longer be as public as it is now because its message will become too radical and revolutionary for a politically correct population and government to accept. I believe that as we become less visible we will become more powerful and supernatural … in fact, we will become a powerful force to be reconed with – the leaven in the loaf; radical revolutionaries; a new prototype of the Church of the Kingdom and power.

I believe that the Church world is in for a major shaking as judgment begins at the house of the Lord. I like what the book of Hebrews states: (The Message Version – Hebrews 12:27) “One last shaking, from top to bottom, stem to stern.” The phrase “one last shaking” means a thorough housecleaning, getting rid of all the historical and religious junk so that the unshakable essentials stand clear and uncluttered”.

This passage (paragraph) begins with the warning: (verse 25) “So don’t turn a deaf ear to these gracious words…” Gracious, yes! But the grace must be received and acted upon quickly as truly judgment begins at the house of the Lord.

God has reintroduced the ministry of apostles and prophets to His Church for such a time as this. They are the foundation layers (Ephesians 2:20) bringing the focus of the Church back to “Jesus Christ, the Chief Cornerstone”. They are the ones who will – with the help of five-fold evangelists (beginning to be seen and needing training), five-fold pastors and teachers – equip the saints for the supernatural works that they are being called to be a part of. They are the ones who will lead the body of Jesus Christ into unity around the central focus – Jesus Himself and His mandate to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10).

These are exciting times to be a believers – but difficult times as well. Massive change will be seen in the Church as God continues to shake and shape His Son’s Bride. And being relevant to the society or culture we find ourselves in will not be the issue – being faithful to the call of Jesus Christ to go into all the world will be all that is important and it will be foremost in the minds of all true church leaders as they lead their people into the greatest adventure known to the human race – a Kingdom adventure like no other.

The Bible – A Manual of Bad Morals

Headline – the religious page of The Leader-Post Newspaper of Saturday the 24th of October, 2009 (Page G5) “Nobel winner calls Bible ‘a manual of bad morals'”

It seems that a Nobel Prize winning author – 86 year old Jose Saramago – at the launch of his new book “Cain”, which is an ironic retelling of the Bible story of Cain, Adam and Eve’s elder son who kills his brother Abel, stated that the Bible is a “handbook of bad morals” and that society would probably be better off without the Bible.

He stated: “The Bible is a manual of bad morals (which) has a powerful influence on our culture and our way of life. Without the Bible we would be different, and probably better people.”

His attack included comments about God when he states that the God we worship and serve is “…a cruel, jealous and unbearable God (who) exists only in our heads”

When I read this article I felt like saying“so what else is new? Stand in line along with every other atheist and serious deceived agnostic in the world today.” My second thought was: “Have you even read the Bible and tried to come to understand God as He is revealed from Genesis to Revelation or are you just forming opinions based on a feeling or on hearsay?” And, a third thought: “What makes you – an author of novels and someone who has left the church and now throws rocks at her – an expert on the subject and thus someone who speaks up and speaks as fact something that is just your opinion?”

Folks, this kind of comment from this type of person is becoming quite common and he is just one of many making comments such as this in public about something he knows little about. But he does have an audience and they do listen to him – and so should we. So, I didn’t say any of my thoughts to him and wouldn’t even if given an opportunity. I would, instead, listen and try to uncover or discover the hurt in his life and why he believes as he does – because he sincerely believes what he is stating.

We need desperately to understand apologetics. Apologetics is from the Greek [apologia], which means to make a plea for, or make a defense of whatever is in view. It is the branch of theology that is concerned with the defense of Christian doctrines. But, it is something that not just theologians and scholars should be involved in. It is something that every believer should be able to do – to defend the faith and speak on behalf of the Christian faith from a basis of understanding of both the Bible and the Christian faith.

But, regretfully most believers today do not really know what it is that the Christian faith teaches (the basic doctrines) nor are they knowledgable in defending the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3). This, I believe, is not a failing of the believer but a failure of the leaders of the Church. We have not properly equipped the saints.

It is my hope and dream that with the reintroduction of apostles to the church that this new leadership will help, in time, to rectify this situation and allow believers to stand firmly upon the truth once again – to know what they believe, why they believe it and how to defend it. It will take a while for apostles to sort their way through this and to develop a “list of basic doctrines” of the Christian faith – the “apostolic doctrines” mentioned is Acts 2:42 – but it will happen and I am already involved in just such a project for my work overseas in the former Soviet Union nations where the need for such a series of basic teachings is so important and so desperately needed.

Meanwhile, here in North America there are some great books out there to help equip believers who will take the time to read and to learn…
1> Who Made God (and answers to over 100 other tough questions of faith) by Ravi Zacharias and Norman Geisler.
2> The Faith by Charles Colson and Harold Fickett.
3> The Christian and the Pharisee by Dr. R.T. Kendall and Rabbi David Rosen.

It’s a start anyways…

The Adventure Begins

A week or so ago I wrote a blog entry on “Fellowship of the Holy Spirit – Russian Experience”. This is a second look at that experience and what I believe is an insight that has come as a result of that experience and a revelation yesterday during the preaching time at the first of two services I ministered in.

In my experience of walking with the Lord for almost 33 years (it will be 33 years on November 9th) I have never experienced here in North America what went on during our time on that mountainside in southwest Russia. And I have been thinking about that encounter with the Holy Spirit while with His people almost daily since having this life-changing encounter.

The Bible states that we are to have fellowship with the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 13:14). Having experienced the love of God the Father and the grace of God the Son we are now to fellowship with God the Holy Spirit who was sent by the Father and the Son to be with us. He proceeded from the Father and the Son as the early Church creed of St. Athanasius states. This is where I have fallen down in my Christian walk.

When we come together to fellowship as believers we are coming together to join “as one” what we are already doing on our own individually. If we are not fellowshipping with the Holy Spirit on a daily basis in our time with our Bibles and in prayer and worship – and not walking with Him in each and every thing we do during the average, regular day – then when we come together to “share fellowship” it is like there is nothing to share, nothing to join together into one experience or one event.

John the apostle writes and states: That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.

The revelation (and this may not be new to you) … to “share fellowship with us” you must first be walking with God and having “fellowship … with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ” personally and on a regular basis. Of course, it is the Spirit of God who is present and available for fellowship here and now so our fellowship is with Him and then, through Him, with the Father and the Son. Then we can come together and share our fellowship with one another as I witnessed and experienced in the Russian forest a few weeks ago.

So, this speaks highly of the men and women I was with that special day in my life -as this means they are walking “in the light” as John goes on to explain and when they come together they can honor one another, serve one another, love one another, bear one another’s burdens, pray for one another, encourage one another…. almost like experiencing Heaven on earth and, at the least, it was for me an experience – a small taste of what Heaven will be like.

It was and still is also an encouragement for me and a reminder to “snuggle up to God (the Holy Spirit) and He will snuggle up to you” (James 4:8 my version). I am a leader and I must lead the way. I cannot expect my people to do what I do not do and go where I have not been. And, I must share my experiences so as to encourage others to walk this way or as the apostle Paul states “follow me as I follow Christ”.

So, as I said yesterday in my teachings in two different churches where I had the honor of ministering … I have made the quality decision to do whatever it takes and invest whatever time it requires (and thus remove from my agenda and work load whatever needs to be dropped) to enter into fellowship with the Holy Spirit every day. To spend quality time coming to know Him intimately as I have already done with God the Son (Jesus) and God the Father over the last almost 33 years.

I started walking this way when I was first born again and have touched on it a number of times since – but, in general, I have allowed the pace of life and ministry to take me away from this fellowship I once experienced. However, that is going to change starting this morning.

I feel like the old drunk in Independence Day (the movie) when he is flying his jet into the mother ship of the invading alien forces and yells “I’m back” with great volume and emotion. Well, I too am back … to my first love and learning more about the person and personality of the Holy Spirit as I share fellowship – deep, intimate fellowship – with Him on a daily basis. The adventure begins.

Churches on Every Corner

A church on every corner doesn’t guarantee Christ in every heart. In fact, many of the corner churches are not preaching the Gospel of salvation but are actually preaching some other gospel and a different Jesus than the one proclaimed in the Scriptures (2 Corinthians 11:4). And, many of the churches that do believe the biblical Gospel are not preaching or proclaiming it as they are busy with maintenance religion which focuses on caring for and keeping the sheep they already have in the fold and they are not concerned with the lost ones…

I was reading the other day – an interview with two pastors who lead the fastest growing churches in the United States. I was amazed that they have only one focus – the salvation of lost souls. I was amazed that all church programming includes some element of winning the lost. Their personal passion is to win the lost. The focus and the passion of the people of the churches they lead is to win the lost. Their conversation focuses on winning the lost. They were single-focused on the task that Jesus gave to His Church – the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) and not apologetic in the least. No wonder they are leading the two fastest growing churches in the United States.

We need believers to reach the millions of people who never go to church – missionaries to their own nation. I don’t like the word “missionary” as it depicts someone with a special calling and most New Testament missionaries were really simply believers who were part of an apostolic team that was out there winning the lost and planting churches founded and built to win the lost and then disciple, train, equip, mentor and release the new believers to reach the lost at any cost.

I don’t like the word ‘missionary’ but, for many, it is a word they definitely understand as their churches send out missionaries. So, I believe they need to be sent out and be missionaries to their own neighbours and neighborhoods. I would call this being an apostolic people – however, I don’t care what we call it as long as we are doing it.

I had coffee for 90 minutes yesterday with a young married lady who is a mother of four (and one of my daughters) and we were talking about the lost. I can’t help myself – it is just a major focus in my life and not something I have to work at bringing up in conversations. To have time with me means talking about saving souls and your role in the same. She and her husband are about to start a home church (bible study – cell church – fellowship group – outreach) which will be studying some material that I taught about a year ago and that impactd their lives, family and marriage. They have invited several other Christian couples to join them in this 6 week event – along with an equal number of unsaved and non-church attending friends. It was a great coffee.

I am passionate about telling others about Jesus and the night and day diference He has made and is making in my life (1 Peter 2:9 The Message Version). I am an apostle. It does not matter what I speak on or what the topic of the sermon is – I can and do always bring it around to the need to be influencing our world with the life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ which is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). And I unashamedly invite every believer whom I fellowship with or who spends time with me to join me (and the Holy Spirit) in the wonderfully exciting task of taking the Word of God to unreached people in Canada and the world.

I leave in mid-November for the nation of Kazakhstan where I will be spending 15 days teaching and ministering in a team of four. Bob MacDonald from Canada (www.BobMacDonaldMinistries.com) will be going from his nation. He is a wonderful apostolic man who ministers a sure Word of the Lord both as he teaches from Scripture and when he moves prophetically. A powerful man of God.

Along with us will be two young apostles (in training) from Ukraine. Ralph Howe Ministries has paid their way to be with us as they learn how to minister apostolically so that they too can be winning the lost and impacting nations. All four of us – as we teach and minister – will be constantly drawing believers and leaders back to the main task of the Church – seeking and saving the lost (Luke 19:10).

We can’t help it – everything just ends up there – every conversation, every teaching (no matter the topic), every service, every training school. Afterall, we are “sent ones” and we have been commissioned and sent by the Lord for a very specific task … to pour foundations for the Church of Jesus Christ which the Lord is building and which is built upon revelation (the prophetic) and which the forces of Hell cannot defeat.

A Church that is not only on every street corner but is reaching out every day to every heart so that Jesus Christ is preached in every neighborhood and every nation.

It Is Time

I am, in some ways, an old-fashioned preacher. I actually have a “study” that I go to every morning early before the sun comes up. There I meet with the Lord and read and study His Word as He commands all believers to do. There I research the teachings I am working on and listen to His voice as He guides and directs the studies, research and writing. Oh, I have an office as well – but I don’t go there until God and I are finished in the “study”.

Now, in this study there are a few things that are obviously missing. There is absolutely no phone, no desktop computer, no printer, and no paperwork. Just God, Bibles and books… It is a “study”. It could also be called a “prayer closet” although mine is much bigger than a closet.

Many pastors and leaders today no longer go into their “study” to be with God early in the morning. They go to the “office” and there hope they can find some time during the day and the many activities they face to find time to connect with God. Of course, the demands of people, the phone ringing and the constant, unending paperwork soon win out and time with God is forfeited for ’doing ministry’. We then find ourselves working for God and not working with God.

This is not just a problem for pastors and church leaders. It is a problem for all believers. Once we enter the “traffic flow” of the day our time of refreshing in the presence of the Lord is soon forgotten as we rush through our day doing what is expected, demanded, or required of us. All good things usually – but, in the crush of life, we have lost the best and the most important.

It is time to regain some stability and solitude in our lives and find that place (even a chair turned to face the corner so as to prevent distractions) to meet early with the Lord God whom we worship and serve – Jesus Christ

Apostles and Truth

The Church according to Scripture is called to be “the pillar and ground of the truth” in the earth (1 Timothy 3:15). The truth in Christ is our greatest weapon in our fight to regain what the devil has stolen and to win the lost to jesus. After all – the truth will set you free if you apply it to your life. By itself – without application – it can do nothing. And, long before it sets you free it will probably first make you miserable as it wil ldemand change and serious adjustment.

The devil fears the truth more than any other thing in the earth because he knows that if someone will take the truths of scripture seriously and apply them to their lives they will not only find personal freedom but that they will also be dangerous to the domain of darkness and to the devil himself.

Truth – God’s truth – is also the foundation upon which all apostolic ministry is built. And the apostles and their ministry are an important part of the Church and help to lay the foundation (doctrinal and otherwise) of the Church today so that it can equip the saints for the work of the ministry and then the Church will be mature and stand in unity with the Head and with each other. Definitely dangerous to the Devil.

Therefore the devil fears the apostolic because apostles deal in the truth, teach the truth and live the truth of scripture. Apart from an understanding of truth, not what is perceived or believed, but truth as it is conceived in the mind of God, there is an absence of genunine apostolic ministry.

Had coffee this week with someone who gave me a book to read. Now, many people give or lend me books to read. Don’t know – maybe I look like I need help and so they are offering me these books in the hope that I will learn something and grow more mature. Anyways, I am really into books and read as much as I can (currently a 550 page book by Jonathan Dimblely printed by the BBC on the history and people of Russia) and so I appreciate the books people give me to read as long as they are patient and don’t want them back in a hurry.

However, God prompted me to pick this one up and read it immediately – not place it on the rather large pile of “to read” books piled behind me here in my study. And, so far most of the book is man’s opinion and a serious twisting of Bible truths making it sound like what this man is teaching is biblical when it is not.

Now, he is the pastor of a 17,000 member Church in another part of the world (I am not impressed – it is easy to gather a crowd or run a circus but hard to build a church on proper biblical teachings) so he is much more “successful” apparently than I am. But, his teachings are heretical even though he makes them sound really good. They are man-centered and man-pleasing and so he can attract a crowd and look successful in man’s eyes and even in the eyes of the Church world. But, again let me repeat, he is not teaching biblical truth.

Apostles today are called to attack error in the Church and teach correct biblical doctrine. We are called to lay foundations for the Lord to build His Church upon. These foundations must be the truth as found in scripture and not the truth of scripture as interpreted and manipulated and twisted by man. We must “earnestly contend for the faith once deliverd to the saints” (Jude 3) and not the truth “as we perceive it”. We must be careful that we are not seeking after “teachers who will tickle our ears” and that we are not believing “myths and silly fables” as Paul warned Timothy and the leaders of the early Church.

Apostles are much needed in the Church today – and I pray that the Lord will continue to raise up these “defenders of the truth” who are not afraid to get in there and “contend (fight) for the Truth as contained in the timeless Word of God that does not need to be interpreted – simply preached and applied.

Fellowship of the Holy Spirit – Russian Experience

If you were to ask me what my fondest memory of my recent trip to Russia is – I would have to be honest and say it happened on my day off when I was “playing tourist” and not during any of the 40+ teaching opportunities when I ministered God’s Word through preaching, teaching and prophecy.

On our last day in the caucasus I accompanied a number of pastors and their spouses on a tour of the mountains – a 2.5 hour drive to get there with a roadside lunch of some special “pizza-type” food of one of the many people groups found in Russia. Then a few hours on ski lifts going half way up a fairly large mountain and simply enjoying God’s handiwork as the scenery was beautiful – magnificent. Then, part way back to where we were staying my team stopped with these men and women for a supper in a dense Russian forest. This is the event that had the biggest impact upon me.

The impact was not immediate – although I was aware of God doing something in me and speaking to me. However, later as I thought about the “feeling” and the events of that cool mountain evening and our meal cooked on a campfire and eaten with our fingers, I realized what I had truly experienced and then I cried for hours.

I thought we were going to tour with the two lead apostles of the network (they call them “unions”) and have a somewhat quiet day. Then I discovered that there was going to be 20+ men and women on this day long outing. This “change in plans” or “hidden plans” had happened frequently during the visit and it felt a lot like manipulation and I didn’t like these surprises being sprung on us.

The vehicle I was in was small and noisy and so the long drive was not comfortable or what you would call pleasant. However…

The mountain was wonderful – but I have seen mountains before and I am tired and this is not my idea of a “day off”. I also had the feeling this was going to end up with me being asked to prophesy over those in our party who had not yet received a prophetic word at our many meetings. I was right but simply declined stating it was a day off and I would like it to remain as such. They seemed to understand although they were disappointed, I am sure. Then the long drive back late at night.

But the forest meal …

I watched as these 20 pastors and spouses made the outdoor fire, heated water in an old fashion Russian outdoor teapot (it was really neat) out of the 1800’s. They prepared the food, cooked the meal, and did so in less than comfortable surroundings as it was in a forest without proper seats, picnic tables, etc. They worked together as a real team – each helping the other getting the many tasks accomplished and enjoyed every minute of their time together. It was a celebration.

This was not an easy task – to feed 22 of us. We basically had what we had brought. The water supply was great – a fast flowing river with “the cleanest water in Eastern Europe” according to their reports. It could be heard throughout the evening and was a marvellous backdrop to our activities.

We sat on logs and ate our food (it was wonderful) with our fingers tearing at the meat that had been cooked, picking up food with our hands from common plates set in the center of the group… an experience. A good experience. But, that was not what I wanted to share – just background.

I watched 20 men and women – most in difficult ministry and living situations – laugh together as they worked together. They respected each other, worked as a team, there was a prayer going on over there, a story over here, a hug back there, tears flowed like the river in the background …. Then, all of a sudden, as we were seated on the cold and damp ground eating and drinking hot and strong tea the Holy Spirit showed up. We were still laughing together and eating lots of great food with our fingers, sharing and talking, listening and laughing but there was a mighty sweep of the tangible presence of the Holy Spirit that swept into the area and settled on all of us. It was as if He found out there was a party going on and decided to join us and celebrate God’s goodness at the end of 8 long days of ministry. It was majestic – awesome – incredible – overwhleming – unforgetable – powerful – emotionally moving – life-changing.

Paul states in 2 Corinthians 13:14 “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all”. I experienced the “fellowship of the Holy Spirit” in a whole new way – as never before.

It was – powerful. And I experienced the highlight of my trip on a day when I was doing something I would not have, in the natural, chosen to do in less than comfortable or even convenient circumstances. Yet, God honored the hearts of these men and women and the unity they work together with …

Reminds me of Psalm 133How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down upon the collar of his robes. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.

A Branch of a Global Enterprise

“My job, like yours, can be demanding. I work full time for a ‘branch of a global enterprise’ called the church, whose mission is to change the world and take the Founder’s message to every person alive. So I must stay visionary, mission-focused, and growth-oriented as a leader. Mere management – the maintenance of ‘what is’ – will not satisfy my ‘leadership soul’ nor please the heart of my CEO, Jesus Christ. He loves people and wants the church to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). That’s a full-time job that can easily demand every ounce of energy and creativity I can muster!” Comment by a pastor of a church

Here is a pastor who has captured the importance and the urgency of the work that he does and the calling that he is fulfilling in his life. A pastor who has captured the heart of the Founder who came to “seek and save the lost”. The Bible calls this The Great Commission. It is the mandate of the Christian Church and the true call on every believer. They are called, wherever they live and whatever they do for a living, to share Jesus with others as they go about their daily life. We are all “missionaries” or “sent ones” which means we are all apostolic in nature.

As God reintroduces the role and ministry of the apostle to His Church – and we are popping up all over the place in country after country all over the world – we will see God’s people being lovingly confronted with the need to reach out on a daily basis and touch others with the love of God and the message of the Gospel. Apostles will constantly bring this mandate of the Church back to the center of Church life – every aspect of Church life. They can’t help it – it is part of what they are and what makes them tick.

As I meet with pastors in my nation, in the United States, in Ukraine and Russia… I always ask what their plans are to reach the lost – their plans for ministry and not just what they are doing in the realm of maintenance (often called ministry). I had one such conversation after a long day mountain climbing and sight-seeing in Southwest Russia last week. A couple from Moscow had joined the “party” for the day and on the way back after supper we joined with them in the vehicle in which they were riding. I asked them what they were doing to reach the many non-believers in their city – a city of 20 to 24 million people.

I got the same answer I receive everywhere I ask the question – from every pastor I have asked over the past two years. “Well, Moscow is a difficult city where there is a constant turnover of people and little stability….” Well, I answered, I suspect that the early Church had the same problem with people moving in and out and around throughout the Roman Empire. But, they still reached out and watched the Lord add daily… Another excuse followed and then another. And that is what they are – excuses.

Small town, medium-sized city, mega-city … same answer. House church, small church, mega-church – same answer. A focus on the difficulties being faced, the unique challenges, the spiritual conditions or historical strongholds … on and on it goes … but the reaction is the same. Defensive! And, every pastor I have spoken to knows they are simply making excuses for having a focus other than the right one. In every discussion – and during my last trip overseas I had seven or eight of these conversations – the leaders I am talking with always admit that I am right and that they need to reconsider their priorities and begin to focus on winning the lost at all costs.

So, apostles remind us of the real task at hand – the real mandate of the Church – and encourage leaders to reevaluate their priorities and thus their ministry. We are encouragers who come along side these wonderful men and women of God who have given their lives for and to the Lord and His Bride and attempt to lovingly adjust their focus so that they will begin to reach out personally and then equip their people to do the same.

Apostles must be patient as this is a slow and somewhat painful process and we need to be there for these pastors and leaders as they think and pray, adjust and change, become constantly aware of and centered on this “new approach” and learn how to do this themselves – and then eventually to invite their people to join them on this great adventure. Apostles need to pray a lot, write a lot of emails, travel and spend time with the leaders who relate to them and be there for them in every way possible – while still maintaining their own time of reaching out daily to touch the lost with the love of God.

Got to go – dentist appointment first thing this morning … and opportunity to speak to Chris and others about what the Lord is doing today as they will ask – they knew I was going to Russia and that I have just returned. Ah! Practicing what I preach! I’m on my way – excited and expectant.