A Busy Two Weeks Ahead – Russia #1

This coming week (Monday) I fly to Russia on another apostolic trip to that nation. I was there less than a year ago and am looking forward to once again being in that great (and really large) nation. My first stop is to the Caucasus which is a mountain range in western Russia. Last year I worked in this area for two apostolic young men who have a Network of churches and the Holy Spirit did some fantastic work. One prophetic word over a man has totally come to pass as he is now leading a substantial church in a northern city doing everything that the prophetic word spoke about. When the word was given he was in the south pastoring a small church meeting in his home.

This trip will see me ministering to leaders and leadership teams in the following cities in that area… Yesentuky, Kislovodsk, Piatigorsk, Mineralny Vody Been to this city before), Inozemtsevo, and Tikhoretsk. Good series of meetings planned. Remember that if we can impact the leaders we impact the people. These meeting – two topics… team leadership and prophetic evangelism.

Then we fly back to Moscow (where I first entered the country a week before) and drive 250 Km to the city of Ivanovo where I will be ministering to the leaders of another Network of churches. The bishop of this Network was seriously impacted a year or more ago by some ministry I did in Moscow … and then attended our Apostolic-Prophetic School in May in Kirovograd, Ukraine and so asked if I could come and minister to the leaders of his Network. Another full four days before flying home.

My administrator for Eastern Europe will be travelling with me. Normally he comes along to do the interpreting. However, this time the leaders have found their own interpreters. So, finally, I get to begin to directly disciple this young man in his calling as an apostle. You may ask – why incur extra expenses to bring him along? Answer (in case you are asking) – my work also involves equipping the next generation of apostles and this young (33) married man is just that – an apostle-in-training. He is also Russian speaking and my work includes raising up “native-born” men and women to minister to their own cultures. So, he will be doing some of the teaching and ministering prophetically with me. As well, this gives me an opportunity to speak more specifically into his life than can happen when we are training in our schools.

So, it will be a busy week with much preparation along with all the other regular events as I am now back into the swing of appointments and mentoring (this season I am mentoring 6 – up from 2). However, God is good and He always amazes me with how He helps things to all work out so that I can leave for these trips feeling “comfortable” with my level or preparedness. Of course, the most important thing is to be ready spiritually as there is a lot of prophetic ministry on top of the hours a day of teaching not to mention the wear and tear physically with long hours and much travel and living in a different city every 24 to 48 hours.

Prayers greatly appreciated.

What Are You Doing Today?

Yesterday I was in the beautiful “Green Mountain State” of Vermont, in the city of Montreal and then flew thousands of kilometers from Montreal to Toronto to Regina. Had some wonderful opportunities in this rather long day to start conversations and enter into numerous conversations about the Lord Jesus. Today I am driving hundreds of kilometers in southern Saskatchewan to minister God’s Word to a small but important church in the southeast part of this province. Ah! Another opportunity.

On my way there I will be doing the same thing I was doing in Quebec and Vermont and numerous airports and planes. I will be looking for opportunities to share with others about Jesus. That’s my job. No, not as a Christian leader or an apostle but as a believer. On my way out of this city where I live – at the very start of my journey – gas at a major gas station where young guys and gals pump the gas for you. I stand and talk as they do that. Then, as I buy a hot drink and pay for the gas there is always more help behind the counter than needed (except on football Sundays). I engage one of them in conversation. They are coming to know me.

90 minutes into the trip there is a bathroom break at a roadside gas station. Again, time to see what happens on my adventure. If there is someone else in the bathroom – I strike up a conversation. I hold the door open if someone is entering the facilities the same time as I do and make a comment to try and start up a conversation. Simple enought. Not offensive. Just bring polite and friendly. I buy a cold soft drink and chat with the girl behind the counter…

On the way back from preaching and ministering 4 hours later I stop for gas and a get drink at a different gas station in a different town and repeat the process. I look for stranded cars where I might be able to stop and help if someone is having car trouble. Arriving back in the city – Ah! some of the food stores are now open really late and one stays open all night. They are falling over themselves to help you as they are bored as very few people are there shopping at these late hours. I can always find something I need to buy.

And on and on it goes, day after day … exactly what I was doing daily in Quebec and Vermont as I went on walks, sat in parks, met people in the small town store (called four corners as there are only two streets in town and they intersect), bought a coffee, ate out at a restaurant. Jesus said, “Go into all the world and share the Gospel…” and so that is what I attempt to do in every day life situations.

Here is what I have learned. People are generally more intersted in spiritual matters than we think they are. For the most part they have opinions about church, religion, God, and Jesus, and they are more than willing to talk about them. As long as we are respectful and truly listen to their point of view, many of our friends and neighbors would probably enjoy discussions about what we and they believe which can lead us to sharing the Gospel with them in time.

Christians often assume that they will need to drag an unchurched person, kicking and screaming, into a conversation about spiritual matters. On the contrary, spirituality is a hot topic these days. People like to offer their viewpoints and compare them to yours. Daily life is full of opportunities to engage people about God. We just need to be willing to begin the conversation. People are intrigued by spiritual stuff. Now more than ever, it is socially acceptable to get into conversations about faith. Just do it sensistively and sensibly.

Here are some suggestions from Lee Strobel whose ministry I sat under for several days a number of years ago in Vancouver, B.C.

1> Find a natural way to segue into spiritual topics

You want to be able to move the conversation from a recent sports game, the latest earthquake reports, the weather, family, friends, or their aches and pains and medical problems into spiritual matters. Do so by asking them questions about what they are sharing. While talking about weekend events tell them you are washing the car, grocery shopping, visiting with family and going to church. Then, segue by asking them if they go to church. You are now talking about spiritual matters and have done it in an inoffensive way.

2> To do so it might be good to listen, then listen and then really listen

Let the person you are talking to dominate the conversation. Ask questions and then ask more questions. Take an authentic interest in their viewpoint and what they are sharing. Emphathize with their feelings wherever possible. Don’t jump in and correct misstatements about the Bible or Christianity; you can always discuss these later. As we respectfully listen to their opinions, we earn the right to offer our own beliefs, either then or later.

3> Pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance – before, during and after the opportunity

Ask Him to guide your words and attitude; to help you come across loving and accepting – not judgmental and condemning. Ask Him for insights into the person’s life (a prophetic sense or even a direct word). Ask Him to guide you in what to say, when to say it, and how to express it.

And, best of all, enjoy the adventure and have fun.

Colossians 4:5-6 “Be wise in the way you act towards outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace.”

The Church of My Dreams

Day 5 and regretfully the last day here in the mountains of Vermont. Need to head back into the Province of Quebec as I fly home tomorrow evening and begin ministering the next day – the first Sunday of this new month. It will be good to be home, always is, but I must admit that I will miss the lake and the solitude, the stillness and continual quiet. However, it is back to real life I suppose.

While here I have been doing a lot of journaling. Of course I attempt to write personal things about my relationship with the Lord and personal things He is speaking to me about. And, He has faithfully spoken much to me about my relationship with Him and my personal life – thoughts, hopes, dreams, relationships. However, because I can’t and shouldn’t separate who I am from what He has called me to do He has also spoken a great deal about my ministry and what He is calling me to do and the adjustments that will take – personal and professional adjustments. “Doing” always arises out of “being”. Jesus called His disciples to ‘be with Him’ that He might send them out ‘to do’ (Mark 3:14-15). So, as He has spoken about my personal life (being) He has also spoken to me about my professional life – or the call upon my life (doing). Can’t be helped. I can’t separate one from the other and don’t think I should. Most of this will not be shared – no need to.

I have also been journaling about “The Church of My Dreams…” while I have been here. This I plan to share here in my daily blogs starting this Sunday. Over the next several weeks I will try to explain what I believe the Lord is doing in and for His Church. Some of it will be what I believe the Lord revealed to me about the Church He is building which will absolutely be the Church in the near future; some of it is what I have gleaned from the Scriptures I have been reading, and some of it will be simply my hopefully “sanctified” imagination. And, because I know the difference between those three only too well – I will most likely indicate which I am writing about in upcoming blogs.

A new season of ministry and activity is about to begin. I will miss the somewhat slower pace of the summer months. However, it is always exciting to look forward to what the Lord is going to be doing in and through His Church (see Prophetic Sense on main web page) and to be an active part of it. It has been good to be here and to receive some of the details about His purpose for my ministry and continuing revelation of His plans in this exciting season of the Kingdom and Church that He is building. It has not been a holiday (whatever that may be) but it has been a good retreat and time with the Lord.

Want to Change and Grow Your Church – Change Yourself

For the church to change the leader must change. Only as the leader changes and grows personally does the church grow. Most leaders are not growing and so continue to do what they have always done. A mentor of mine once taught me, “If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always gotten.” Poor English – but true nonetheless. And, unless the leader changes and grows personally and in their skills as preachers of the Gospel – then they will continue to do what they have always done and so will the church they lead – regardless of good intentions and strategic planning.

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The Holy Spirit Is Alive and Well

I have this prophetic sense that the Holy Spirit is about to make His presence and power felt like we have not seen or experienced since the start of the Charismatic renewal back in the 1960’s. And, that God is about to invade His Church with His power and presence to bring major changes to both the way we see things and the way we function as an entity.

My prophetic sense is that the Lord is asking us to re-examine what we really believe about the Holy Spirit and His role in our personal lives and our ministries. He is asking us to examine how we have involved or not involved the Holy Spirit in our personal walk with the Lord and in our corporate life as believers in local churches. Is the Holy Spirit really engaged or is He simply an observer called upon in times of emergency and crisis? Are we fellowshipping (partnering, participating with, and sharing social interaction) with Him as the Bible calls us to (2 Corinthians 13:14)
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Never Give Up!

Before my time away in Vermont I was taking advantage of the summer months and the somewhat slower pace of ministry to meet with various leaders in a number of different cities and towns where I work. There was a consistent theme in every conversation. Everyone of those I spoke with was struggling with discouragement and even frustration.

This is not new as people in leadership in the Christian Church – and even believers in general – struggle, at times, with feelings such as these. In these cases these men were tired of the hassles of ministry, people’s expectations that are seldom discussed but are always there and usually extreme and impossible, personal and family struggles, stress over the finances for the ministry and thus family… the list could go on and on. Some were even thinking of calling it quits as ministry can often be a thankless job.

I too have had seasons where I struggled with why I bother to keep going and giving. Times when I have felt used and unappreciated. Always there is the stress of finances as it takes money to do ministry in today’s world and it seems to always be in short supply. Well, people have money for their priorities and giving to ministry projects often is not high on the list. It is really not a money issue as we are some of the wealthiest people in the world. BUt financial concerns are always right there! Never go away. Questions like, “Is it worth the hassle?” can thus cross your mind. It does not mean you or I are feeling sorry for ourselves – just wondering why it has to be this way.

During one of these times recently I remember simply sitting and reviewing my day as I usually do late at night and sorting through feelings and thoughts… the Lord clearly impressed the following in my mind and heart…

God created you
Jesus died for you
The Holy Spirit lives in you
God has a plan and a purpose for everything
All things works together for good

As I sat today by one of my favourite streams in the Green Mountains of Vermont this was again spoken to my spirit.

So, today, if you are struggling with negative thoughts; if you are wondering what it is all about and why it is happening to you; if you would like to “stop the world because you want to get off” I want to remind you that God created you, Jesus came and died for you, because you are born again the Holy Spirit lives inside of you, that God still has a tremendous plan and purpose for your life, and that as you walk with Him and work at what He has given you to accomplish in life and ministry everything will, in time, fit together and result in good even if now it is frustrating and apparently hopeless. Never give up!

So, if you are feeling insignifigant and ineffective right now – think about this stream. It has been here for as long as I remember. I use to sit by it as a teenager and that was a long time ago. It does the same thing day-in and day-out. It works hard at flowing because of beavers who want to dam it up, natural debris that clogs it up, man-made stupidity that prevents it from flowing as it should… and sometimes it wonders if it is worth the effort it takes and why should it continue because it seems, at times, to lack purpose and it can’t see the results. Yet, just a little way through the woods is the 32 miles long lake that this little creek keeps fed on a daily basis with fresh rain water allowing it to be one of the cleanest and clearest lakes in the United States.

We often cannot see the big picture or what it is that we are accomplishing that will have eternal signifigance. But, if you are walking in God’s will for your life what you are doing is very important to the Kingdom and King and does have eternal purpose and meaning. So, it is worth the hassle and although it may only be one small part of a very large whole – one stream or creek feeding a large lake – it is worth it. Never give up.

The City of Kislovodsk, Russia

I am in the Cacausus Mountains in Russia and we have moved into a new city – Kislovodsk – where we are having one jammed-packed day of ministry to the leadership of a number of churches in this city. We will be talking about prophetic evangelism and about working in teams … simply touching the surface of both topics because of the time restraints (24 hours in the day).

The leadership in the various churches we are working with have sacrificed a great deal to be with us. Most are bi-vocational which means along with 40+ hours working in their local churches they also hold down a secular job to earn an income and support their families. For example – the cost for half of my trip to this nation ($1500.00) – which is what they were asked to meet (no salary – just cover expenses – with the second Network being asked to do the same) was impossible for them. In fact, the average income for the churches we are ministering in is much less than $1,000.00 a month and so meeting that amount was impossible for them. We came anyways because the Lord directed us to and we are standing in faith for the difference so we can pay all bills for this trip upon my return to Canada.

The leadership in the various churches are also serious hungry for whatever the Lord is saying and wanting to do. No hardship is too great to be in line with the Lord`s will for their lives and ministry. They are dedicated, committed, sold-out, and determined not to mention somewhat radical in their approach to the Christian faith. They are so hungry and ready – expectant and enthusiastic – they they literally suck the anointing right out of you. They come prepared with questions and expect you or the Lord to answer all of them. They are not worried about appearing ignorant or unknowing – they simply want answers and whatever the Lord has for them regardless. What a refreshing group to teach and work with.

The leadership is also young in age. Most are under the age of 40 and have young families. And, many of them are young in the Lord as they often begin a church or take over an existing work just months after they come to personally know Jesus Christ and having received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. They are walking by faith and seem to have few if any fears. They are simply trusting God for everything and are willing to go wherever He wants them to go as soon as He tells them. Not a problem to switch jobs and locations, sell and buy or rent another place to live in another area of the Cacausus. Whatever God wants when God wants.

It is really exciting to be a part of what is happening here. An honor the Lord has given to us and we are being as blessed or even more blessed than those we came to bless. Isn`t God amazing.

Once again – we would appreciate your prayers as tomorrow we move on to another place – the city of Piatigorsk.

Russia Is Opening Up For Our Ministry

I was sitting in Toronto Airport answering emails as I now have one of those “internet sticks” for my laptop. I know – there is a fancy name for the thing but I never said I knew what I was doing when it comes to computers. I have three hours between flights. I have just received notification from my Administrator for Eastern Europe that a major Bible School and Seminary has invited us to spend a week with their students at the start of 2011 to teach them on the basics of prophecy and the ministry of apostles and prophets. We are now working at connecting that to a postponed trip to the city of Khabarovsk, Russia which did not happen due to late arriving paperwork regarding permission to be in the nation on a “religious” visa and not just a visitor’s visa.

It appears that Russia is opening up. I will be there mid-September to the beginning of October 2010 working with leaders and leadership teams in each of 7 different cities I will be in. This will involve two different networks of churches called union. In total I will minister 40 times to leaders and leadership teams in various churches in as many cities. Topics have just come in for the first network (called unions) – team ministry, prophetic evangelism and, of course, prophesy over everything that is still breathing. In the second set of meetings for the second network I am to teach on the apostolic church model and, of course, prophesy over everything that is still moving.

The trip in early 2011 – first stop will be a major Presbyterian Bible School training future pastors from numberous Russian speaking nations. Talk about opportunity to impact the future church in a big way. Thank you Jesus! They want me to teach on and demonstrate prophetic ministry. Then over to Khabarovsk (we hope) to teach five times a day for 8 days for Grace Church in that major city in the north-east part of Russia. Exact dates still to be nailed down.

These are exciting times for our very young ministry and there is much to do between now and then. Research and write material; rewrite teachings I have already taught to improve them (always an ongoing process); details of which team members will join us in each of these locations for both trips (and finances to help these young team members); raising of funds and sponsors to help support those who would like to attend but to do so would mean missing work and thus they need some help financially so that their families do not suffer. Then there are the flights, schedules, living accomodations, diet restrictions, official paperwork to obtain the Visas necessary to enter the country and do what we are doing openly. Busy time ahead.

But, most important of all is the need for people like you to be praying for both of these upcoming trips and the people who will be impacted by what we have been asked to teach and the prophetic ministry which is a constant request everywhere we go. As well, remember when you are praying that if we impact leaders we are indirectly impacting all of their people. The outcome of these two and a half weeks of meetings each time we go can be and will be powerfully tremendous and far reaching. Please pray!

Hi Ralph – Meet Ralph!

As I sit by the side of the lake (day 3) here in Vermont I am once again reminded by the Lord of my personal definition of the Christian faith. The first half of my definition sounds like this – The Christian faith is a daily, ever deepening, dynamic, personal, unique love relationship with God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ empowered and enabled by the Holy Spirit…

The reason that it is unique is that each and every believer is unique. Although each of us is created in God’s image we are, each one of us, one of a kind – unique. I’m me! I can’t be you and you can’t be me. I can hear you saying, “I know that.” Do you, really? If you do then why do you compare yourself, your situation and circumstances, your position and possessions in life with others around you. Comparison and not contentment means you don’t really understand that I am me and you are you. Comparison simply leads either to pride if you think you are doing better than I am (whatever that means and however you measure that) or depression when you believe you are worse off.

I am me! And the journey God has designed for me is both unique and perfect. Knowing this keeps me from comparing my journey with others and from complaining. It means I don’t have to look around and see what others are doing and how they are living their lives – I need to look within and simply make sure I am being true to myself – the real me! Looking inside means I need to be in touch with who I am and what God has called me to be and do. Note the order – “be” and then “do.” What God has called me to be is foundational to knowing what God is asking me to do and how He is leading me to accomplish it.

Most of us do not really know the “real me.” It takes time. It takes self-examination. It means allowing the Holy Spirit access to every corner of our heart – permission to open every closet door and examine every skeleton that He finds … even rattle a few if necessary. It means changing things that we see and feel that we know are not pleasing to God and not helpful for living a godly life. It means coming to know why we do what we do – and why we don’t do what we know we should do.

The result, of course, is living a life with integrity and one that glorifies Jesus Christ. The road towards that end product is what we don’t like – because the journey is often painful and will require a great deal of radical inward change resulting in a change of outward behavior and life-style. It will mean being comfortable with being different than other believers and most certainly different than non-believers. You might be misunderstood. It will mean being tagged as somewhat radical. Being rejected by some whom you thought were friends. Having family members keep their distance because they are no longer comfortable with who you are becoming. Becoming the real me can be dangerous!

But, after 33 years of journeying down this road of self-discovery and life-style adjustments I have discovered that if you work hard enough at being yourself, you won’t have the energy to be critical of others who don’t believe like you do nor live with the values you have chosen to build your life upon. I have also discovered that, in time, you become very comfortable with who God created you to be – the unique you formed in God’s image – and you really are not concerned with what others think and how they react to your chosen beliefs and lifestyle. You are simply being true to yourself as God created you – different but hopefully more loveable.