Guest Blogger


Time for a Change – Let’s Get Back to the Kingdom – by Guest Blogger Bill Lewis (apostle)

For years we have been following the mantra of the super church. We have equated size to success and have spent ourselves chasing the illusive. Many have judged themselves because they cannot achieve what is considered successful. We have followed the “be relevant” wagon and have seen the compromise needed to sustain that. While there is a truth in relevancy, there is a place where it becomes a sellout when Biblical principles and truth are sacrificed or never introduced to make things comfortable for the world.

We have sold the idea of a relationship with God as if we were shopping for the best deal on a god to represent us. Fire insurance, premium paid, pull it out when you need it. We have given formulas and steps for salvation. We have been good at marketing Jesus our “personal” savior. We have allowed the secularization of our message to affect what happens in the new birth. So, as we sail along with our “personal” savior, there is no cognizance of a kingdom or even citizenship. Our church attendance is when we do not have anything else to do. We blow it off at the slightest suggestion of something more entertaining because it is not a priority while we have our insurance policy. We do not see a kingdom and a king. We do not see a passionate lifestyle that is not about Bible banging, getting people “saved,” and being religiously weird. A passionate lifestyle can be had without any of those religious stereotypes.

If we return to kingdom, we do the king’s business. We are on an outpost establishing beach heads for the king. We see the ultimate victory which He is accomplishing. We have our duty while here. His prayer for us to pray had to do with “thy Kingdom come.”

The kind of expressions of church we are getting will not hold up in persecution or tribulation. It is too weak, too “personal.” It takes a long term, corporate vision to survive and have passion. It is looking beyond our generation to the many that may remain.

Our apostolic team is seriously exploring the “wake up call,” that God has for the church. There is a message the church needs to hear and there are not many ears listening.

Ralph’s Note: We will hopefully be looking at this in our next apostolic roundtable meetings in a few days (October 16 to 19) in Ohio and Indiana.

A “New” Approach to Prayer

The church of my dreams qould be built on prayer – radical prayer not religious prayer. Even in the born again chruch we often find religious prayer – prayerbased on formats and outlines. Years ago I remember studying a very well known prayer school method of prayer and then a few years later another program breaking the Lord’s Prayer into sections and working through the sections so that you could pray for an hour (remember Jesus’s question in the grden – “could you not tarry with me one hour?” Praying in tongues for an hour every day was the next one … and then the next one and another one.

All well and good for that day and my age as a believer – but, even then it seemed, to me anyways, to lack life and power. It was simply another format. I left a mainline denomination with their prayer book and set prayers repeated day-after-day and ended up in another “religion” with their set way to pray. Maybe these things are good for some but they certainly did not help my spiritual life to continue breathing. These “forms” of prayer would notxist in the church of my dreams. I remind you – it is the church of MY dreams … if you want them in the church of your dreams – fine with me.

I discovered that everything that was of any value in my spiritual life was initiated by God. When I was still a sinner – His Spirit pursued me and convicted me and brought me to th foot of the Cross. I didn’t go seeking the power that comes with the Baptism in the Holy Spirit – I didn’t even know there was more – another encounter – after salvation. He initiated that. So, why should it be any different in prayer … Paul states in Galatians 3:3, “Why after beginning in the Spirit are you now trying to complete it by the flesh?”

So, in the church of my dreams –

Artem Kaleyev

This young man, Artem Kaleyev from Russia, received a powerful prophetic word on Ralph’s recent trip to Russia (September-October 2010). His life-changing prophetic word dealt with what the Lord is doing right now in his life (2 things) and a call of God on his life to be a full-time apostle in ten years time. Of course, he is to enter into training right away as he needs to be discipled, trained, equipped and mentored. Ralph Howe Ministries has committed its resources and time to help him to fulfill the conditions for this word to come to pass and to enable him to walk out each and every detail of his word. The full prophetic word was powerful and creative and has already begun to bring about changes in his circumstances and situation. Remember, a prophetic word is the given and the person receiving it is the variable and will see change released into his life as a result of receiving a word. Your prayers for Artem Kaleyev and our work with him would be greatly appreciated.

Superpastor

As I travel from church to church – it does not seem to matter the country I am in – it appears that there are unrealistic expectations placed upon the local pastors. It is as if people think they are super human or maybe even super pastor …

People place high expectations upon their pastors and often don’t vocalize those expectations – forgetting that they have a life, a family, and are simply a human being. Expectations include: they are to be good at everything – youth work, Sunday School, visiting seniors, preaching, leading Bible studies, as well as worship leading. On top of this they are expected to find two or three days a week to prepare Sunday’s teachings as well as have three hours a day in God’s presence and prayer. They are to be culturally relevant, good evangelists, always out witnessing. Appropriately dressed, always with the right attitude, a kind word for everyone, never impatient, always knowing the answer. Often they will have a second job to supplement their income but that does not take away from the quality demanded by those who attend. And, he should always be home to welcome and entertain anyone who may simply drop-in unannounced. Super pastor or super priest.

Of course, all of them fail us in one way or another because our expectations are over and above what anyone could expect of any one person. And, most times, the expectations are not spoken and so the super pastor is not even aware that all these things are expected of him. Not to mention they never agreed to all of these expectations in the first place. So, we are offended and think the pastor is simply not loving, caring or open to people such as ourselves. Maybe he is in the wrong profession and should simply go out and find a “real job.”

Let me suggest that men and women in ministry do not need all of our expectations piled upon them. They do not work for us – they work for the Lord and only for Him. Their ministry is to help the Lord accomplish whatever it is He has called them to do – not what we want them to do. Their job description is determined by Scripture and not the wants and needs of the people. They need to be treated as human beings and supported by our prayers.

And, to top it all off – it is not even biblical to have a pastor as the lone leader of the church. The church is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets and to have a healthy organism (not organization) it needs the five-fold ministry team functioning fully (apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher). And, by the way, the people today who are pastors are most often not the five-fold pastors of Ephesians 4:11 in the list above but simply “pastors” and local elders – not part of the five-fold team in the least.

Not to mention that most pastors would not look good in blue tights with a cape!

Olga

I want to thank you for all the topics and teachings. As soon as I learned about this seminar I knew that I’ve got to be there. I heard lots of good comments about this ministry and I wanted to experience it myself.

Although I heard some of the information before the most precious part for me was the practice. I had a feeling that I’m a disciple standing next to a teacher. You Ralph were a good teacher that brought corrections and adjustments. Now I can’t wait when I get new opportunities to move in prophetic. I thank God for giving me these opportunities to learn all of this stuff and being able to cooperate with you. I believe that we together can do whatever God wants us to do.

Thanks,

Olga from Vladimir

Irina

Dear Ralph!

I want to thank you for this three day seminar as I learned so much and so many things were revealed to me in a new light. I got stuck in my work, my problems and other business but I learned that God didn’t forsake me, He reminded me that He loves me and that I need to find rest in Him. The main thing for me is to be useful for God. While the seminar I received lots of confirmations of the things that I had in my heart. I’m grateful for your help in wakening me up because I was asleep over the last period.

Thank you so much,

Irina from Ivanovo

Withness and Witness

Jesus invites people to be with Him. “Follow Me…” was heard regularly as He selected those who were to come to be known as His apostles. After choosing the 12, Mark 3 states that He called them to be “with Him” and that He might send them out to preach. They were connected to a person – following a person – and not just a set of beliefs and doctrines.

Crowds loved to be with Him; His friends gathered close so they could be with Him. He promised that when two or more are gathered together He would be with them. Jesus shared His life with others and relationships, like His friendship with Mary, Martha and Lazarus, were very important to Him. Withness was key to His ministry as He was almost always with a crowd of people – multitudes followed Him.

When you were born again He gave to you the gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23b). This gift is defined as a relationship or the supernatural ability to be with Him all of the time (John 17:3). He wants us to be with Him. Jesus wants relationship and community more than He wants an institution or organization.

We need to learn something from His example. People today – since 9/11 – have put more value on relationships than they have for a long, long time. They have come to realize that their relationships are more important than another meeting, another business trip, more time at the office, or many of the other things that seem to occupy our waking hours. Sociologists are calling this a “stickiness” factor. People are interested in withness.

The stickiness is everywhere. Bryan Dyson, the former CEO of Coca-Cola, gave a speech in which he asked his hearers to imagine life as a game in which you are juggling five balls in the air.

You name them: work, family, health, friends, and spirit. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls – family, health, friends, and spirit – are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged, or even shattered. They will never be the same.”

People are valuing relationships now more than ever. Community has become important. Withness is a key value in today’s society. Thus we see the monumental rise of Facebook, Twitter, Share and a dozen other internet social networks.

So here is my point: If you are hoping to be a witness you first have to be part of the ongoing withness. Witness arises out of withness. As you build relationships, become involved in people’s lives, get connected within the community – then you will have opportunity to be a witness for the Lord and for the Gospel.

Withness and then witness.

High-octane Sinners and Holy Lunatics

I dusted off an old book by a priest and novelist – Frederick Buechner. Few know him or much about him, including me. I just happened to find a few of his books in a second hand book store years ago. I read them, enjoyed them, and kept them. He wrote, “If the world is sane, then Jesus is mad as a hatter and the Last Supper is the Mad Tea Party. The world says, Mind your own business, and Jesus says, There is no such thing as your own business. The world says, Follow the wisest course and be a success, and Jesus says, Follow me and be crucified. The world says. Drive carefully – the life you save may be your own – and Jesus says, Whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. The world says, Law and Order, and Jesus says, Love. The world says, Get, and Jesus says, Give. In terms of the world’s sanity, Jesus is crazy as a coot, and anybody who thinks he can follow him without being a little crazy too is laboring less under a cross than under a delusion.” (The Life of Jesus, page 136).

Met any crazy Christian recently? I don’t mean goofy – there are plenty of them. And, I don’t mean spooky – many too many of them. I mean certifiably crazy and thus living like Jesus did. You know, living in a manner that is the total opposite to the way the world lives – thus labelled “crazy”. Bet you haven’t! Dare you, go find me one! Go on – find me one, just one!

What you will find, if anything, are believers who are well balanced in their lives – God, wife, family, job, church… everything well proportioned and “balanced.” That’s what they have been taught. To live a balanced lifestyle.

Question: How many biblical characters can you name who were balanced of mind? Since when have spiritual masters lived “balanced” and “orderly” lives? Since when did divine revelation come in neat and tidy packages? We have made Christianity into something that is balanced, sane, and stable when it was really mean to be radical and somewhat unhinged – at least to the mind of the non-believer and on-looker – the world.

Since when did the gospels portray Jesus’ followers (or Jesus Himself) as “balanced?” Where did we get this notion that a consecrated life is head-centered, left-brained, right-wing, even-tempered, danger-free? Remember the Quakers – also known as the Friends of Jesus. They were called Quakers early in their history here in North America – not because of their balanced behavior as believers but because of their “shriekings, shakings, quakings, roarings, yellings, howlings, tremblings in the bowels, and risings in the bellies” (a 1655 pamphlet description).

Ronald Rolheiser states, “Given that God is fire…isn’t the task of the Holy Spirit to introduce some madness and intoxication into the world? Why this propensity for balance and safety since…don’t we all long for just one moment of raw risk, one moment of divine madness.”

Why this mad dash for balance and normalcy as measured by worldly standards? Why this need to be respectable? Why all the restraint and need for social acceptance? Afterall, as someone once said, “Some of the greatest saints were high-octane sinners and holy lunatics.”

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is


St. Francis of Assisi is believed to have once said, “Preach the gospel at all times – when necessary use words.” It was a great way (and still is) to point out that our daily actions are important and need to convey God’s message of love. Often what you are doing or the way you are doing it speaks louder than all the words you have used to convince someone to receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

It’s an old but true statement (I first heard it from Dr. John Maxwell) that “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” In other words, our message of love has much more impact when it’s preceded by our acts of love. So, as you prepare to share the gospel with the people in your world, pray also for the opportunity to SHOW them the gospel, remembering that truth plus kindness is a winsome combination.

Listen to the same thought from James the apostle“Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:15-17).

The lesson is clear: What we DO really does matter.

As you live your life today, be mindful that even the smallest of acts can have the biggest of consequences. The other day I was walking my dog and a young man walking his dog was just ahead of me – embarrassed that he did not have a bag with him and his dog was – well you know – and the rules of the park are to “scoop the poop.” However, I had two bags with me and so was able to offer him one – a random act of kindness that led to a brief but good conversation.

But, let’s not forget the flip side of the coin. The Bible also asks, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” (Romans 10:14)

In reality, God’s Word completes the truth of what St. Francis said by reminding us that words are necessary. We must do more than silently serve people, hoping they will somehow notice the spiritual dimension in our lives. For them to really understand and embrace the message, Paul the apostle warns that we will need to explan it to them verbally as well.

What we do matters – what we say matters as well. Actions and words together are two of our most valuable tools when we go into our mission field every day.

No Clones In the Kingdom


When you were born again the Church, consciously or unconsciously, began to mould you into its own image. The Bible states in Romans 12:2 (Phillips Version) “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God remould…” Please note: Let God remould – not the Church. So, in my Bible I have “added” those words (‘not the Church’) as a note to myself in the margin because over-and-over again I have seen well meaning believers attempt to do the remoulding.

Early in my walk as a born again believer I worked hard in sorting out who I was. As a priest in a main-line denomination who was not born again I knew who “the priest” was and what he was suppose to do according to the branch of the Church I belonged to. Now, as a follower of Jesus, I began the journey of discovering what was Bible and thus God and what was Church and thus often simply man’s idea. In the process of sorting out man’s expectations and teachings from God’s expectations and biblical truth I soon discovered that I had allowed the Church to squeeze me into its own mould.

Please, I don’t blame the Church. I allowed it to happen. I went into seminary a person and came out a priest. After encountering God and being born again and then walking with Him daily experiencing His love, acceptance and forgiveness I began this often painful process of turning the priest back into a person because God had created a person – a living and unique human being – me! A difficult journey of self-discovery. Difficult because “the Church” and individual members of the Church didn’t want this to happen.

You see when everyone looks the same, acts the same, talks the same, in going in the same direction and at the same pace then they feel safe and secure. However, when one or more of the herd breaks away and begins a journey of self-discovery – physical, mental, spiritual, relational, emotional – then that one becomes “diseased” and must be cured and brought back (squeezed back) into line. It is necessary for survival of the institution – of the local McChurch franchaise. However, it is death to the individual that Jesus loves and gave His life on the Cross to redeem.

After leaving the denomination and planting a Church I discovered that even born again Christians try to squeeze you into their mould. Have your devotions every morning, they should be an hour long, pray in tongues, gear your prayer life to the word A.C.T.S., tithe, give offerings, support the poor (alms), witness to people every day, attend church twice on Sunday and once mid-week, go to a small group, don’t drink, don’t smoke and on-and-on it goes. And, of course, there were others added to the list simply because I was ‘the pastor.’

People had expectations of their pastor – most not biblical and almost never expressed or agreed to. Some expectations were totally off-the-wall and impossible to fulfill even if one had wanted to (which I didn’t). So, once again I found myself fighting to be the unique (and thus different) individual that God had created. Setting boundaries, learning to say no to people, carving our “personal space,” further self-discovery, coming to love this “new me” and then loving my neighbor as I loved myself…. Learning that different and unique is okay – in fact, good because God created each and every one of us to be unique and thus different in some ways from everyone else around us. No clones in the Kingdom.

Now, years later, I find it is still something I need to be conscious of. Maybe as the Church becomes more of an organism and less of an organization this will be less of a conscious and daily necessity. That’s my hope. But meanwhile, it is worth the effort and the risk.