Each Day Is Different – Russia #13

The last day of the first month of 2011 and I am ministering in the City of Mytischy in Russia. Thanks for your prayers for us and this apostolic trip. They are greatly appreciated. You have noticed if you receive the daily blogs automatically that there are two a day while I am away. This was a decision I made for a number of reasons.

First, there is just so much to write about and so much I would like to say not relating to apostolic trips. In fact, there are over 200 draft blogs sitting in the filing structure of the blogging program waiting for me to have time to develop the ideas. Secondly, not everyone is interested in my overseas travel and so I thought it wise to keep the regular daily blogs going and simply add a mid-day one on the trip which can simply be deleted by those who are not interested. Thirdly, it is my hope that it will encourage more prayer for the overseas work that this ministry is involved in so frequently.

The topic of teaching today is: “Now That You Have Received a Prophetic Word” and we will be teaching on what to do with the Word of the Lord that so many received yesterday during the Sunday service. And, because, as expected, we didn’t have time or strength to minister to 34+ leaders we will continue to minister prophetically tonight. I have had the morning “off.” This simply means there were no public events and so I had time with my administrator Miroslav to work on details for other trips into the former Soviet Union that are already scheduled for this year and next. However, we did manage a friendly chat as we went for a walk along the residential streets here in Mytischy. I admit – I was also looking for a cold Diet Coke.

Prayer need today – for the evening “in-house” ministry to leadership (only leaders in attendance) and that the Holy Spirit will move mightily and transform this network of churches into a powerful instrument in His hands.

Open Up and Become Vulnerable

To be vulnerable means opening your life to the possibility of being hurt; to be unprotected and open. This is what God calls us to be on a number of levels – in our relationship with Him, in our relationships with other mature believers, as well as with those we are discipling and mentoring.

Vulnerability is not something that comes naturally to any of us. By our basic human nature which is sinful we, like Adam and Eve, attempt to hide behind current day “fig leaves” and various “bushes” when it comes to relationships of any shape or form. We have socially acceptable masks that we wear – a different mask for each situation – often a different mask for each person we relate to. We are simply not free – or, at least, think we are not free – to be who we really are.

Being real and thus vulnerable with the people we relate to begins with being open, real and vulnerable in our relationship with God. It begins by opening our heart and our life to Him and allowing Him into each and every aspect of our inner world. It is allowing the Holy Spirit to shine His light in the dark corners so that we know that He knows absolutely everything about us – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Being vulnerable means actually making the Lord Jesus Lord. Coming under new ownership. Letting Jesus control and lead in all areas.

The second step before we can be vulnerable and open with others is to come to know and accept who we are – the person we discover as the Lord shines His light. The Bible talks about loving God and then loving our neighbor AS WE LOVE OURSELVES. We need to come to know ourselves and love the person we come to know. This means being comfortable with who we are and who we are becoming. Yes! There are a lot of things we know need to change and things to even dislike about who we are – but acceptance is the first step towards seeing that change. The first step in becoming free of alcohol is knowing and accepting that you are an alcoholic. It is the same principle here. Recognize who you are and so as not to be depressed – let the Lord show you who you are becoming (His plans and purpose for your life). And then accept and love who you are (not always what you do).

Once we have become real, open and vulnerable on these two levels – being ourselves with the Lord on a daily basis – and having come to know and accept ourselves … from that secure base of knowledge and acceptance we can begin to peel off the masks we wear with others and let them see the real person underneath. We can risk being known and being ridiculed and even rejected.

Because we know who we are and who we are becoming and are comfortable with that and know that we are totally known by the Lord and still loved and accepted by Him – we can risk having others not like us and even reject us. We are secure in His love and acceptance and know that we no longer have to pretend to be someone or something else with others. We can be open. We can invite others to come to know us and thus be vulnerable.

Today’s younger generation is looking for this type of authenticity, this type of reality, the integrity of faith that is so seldom seen in today’s religious world. They see the rigid legalistic world of organized denominational religion and the flakey and scary super-spirituality of the Charismatic Church and reject both. But when the youth of today meet up with someone who is open and not defensive, accepting and not judgmental, vulnerable and not closed up within themselves – they recognize that there is something there for them and gravitate to this type of person. They are sceamingly hungry for reality and somehow know that they can only find this within relationships that are real and vulnerable.

Once they see that in a person they will literally follow you until they too can become vulnerable and open – which means born again and in a relationship with God. And, as a result, you will never find yourself short of younger people following you wanting to be discipled and mentored. Welcome to the ministry as it should be.

Overwhelming Need – Russia #12

Today is Sunday and we are working in a church in the City of Mytischy which is not far from the City of Moscow. We have switched groups that we are ministering to and this is day two of ministering in a relatively new network of churches with a very young bishop called Paul. This church is the key church to the network and the one that he ministers in regularly.

A month or more before coming here we asked what he wanted us to minister on. Apostles always hope it is something that we are excited about – the Kingdom of God, the Apostolic model of the Church, how to walk in the supernatural… But I am getting use to the fact that most times they are going to want to hear about the gift of prophesy. It is no different this time. The topic for today is: “The Prophetic Today”. We have one service that starts at 10:00a and goes until who knows when.

The reason I don’t have an end time is because along with the teaching they, of course, want me to minister prophetically. And their request was that I prophesy over their leadership in this local church …. a total of 34+ people. Of course, that is a total impossibility. I may get to 15 of them … I don’t usually prophesy on the surface and it is seldom a paragraph long. They are usually very detailed and fairly lengthy. Add to that the translation time and you have 20 to 25 minutes per person.The day in not long enough to handle 34+ people in leadership.

So, I will do the best I can within my physical and spiritual limitations and recognizing that I still have another week of ministry after today. So need to pace myself and not give so much of myself here that there is little left for the next two cities where we are to minister to numerous churches and leaders. This is always an issue – their expectations are always greater than our limited ability. And, no matter how hard we work at informing them to keep their expectations within reasonable limits – they never do. They are so excited about God and just want everything they can get. I understand.

Today’s prayer request – for people to be saved in the morning service as I will be giving my testimony along with teaching on the prophetic. As well, for strength and guidance for the next two days (Monday and Tuesday) as we continue to minister here for this network or union of churches as well as meet with a number of pastors from other churches that we relate to in the City of Moscow for fellowship.

A Question to Ask Yourself

I minister prophetically and so I hear God speak from His heart about issues, circumstances, situations, that have been, currently are, and will be – past, present and future for hundreds of people a year. However, in my walk with Him, my personal walk, I sometimes fail to hear His voice. This is because He is silent on the issues I am bringing before Him.

That use to concern me and no longer does. The Bible states: “Truly you are a God who hides Himself, O God and Savior of Israel.” (Isaiah 45:15) And when He is silent it seems like He is hiding from me.

He will, at times, simply be silent – hide Himself – and not speak and reveal His will or His wisdom for the situation or circumstance. “Heaven is like brass” I think is the common way of saying what that feels like. Ever been in that situation? Certainly, we all have been from the youngest to the oldest Christian. And here is what I know when I hit that situation.

I know that God loves me unconditionally and so He is not withholding information or His insights because He is mad at me. In fact, 1 John 5 states that I can have a deep assurance of His love for me. I never need to question the extent of that love because His love sent Jesus to the Cross to die for me and to reveal to me just how much He loves me.

I can trust Him completely even though I am not hearing His voice in the situation. He has proven to me over and over again that He wants nothing but the best for me. I know deep in my heart that His plans and purposes are always that I experience His best for me at all times. It says so in Jeremiah the prophet. And I know for certain that all things (the good, the bad, and the ugly) work together for good to those who love Him and His purpose. So, I rest in that truth and trust Him completely in spite of His silence.

I realize that if God is being silent that it is a good time to examine my heart and my motives. Maybe, you know – just maybe – there are some things that need a bit of adjusting or fine tuning. Maybe I am not hearing the whisper of His voice because I have allowed some things in my life that should not be there and they are causing spiritual static and thus making it difficult to hear Him as He quietly speaks.

Oswald Chambers once asked, “Am I close enough to God to feel secure when He is silent?” And, after some thought, I realized that “yes, I am” and it does not concern me when He is being silent on a certain issue I am facing. I know He loves me unconditionally; I know I can trust Him completely; and I realize there is always a good reason for the silence. And, my relationship with Him is solid enough to handle the silence… and because I am an introvert I even appreciate the silence at times.

Prophecy Over a Church – Russia #11

Today we are beginning four days of work with a different group in the Moscow area – including the City of Mytischy which is simply another large city on the other side of the ring road that circles the City of Moscow. We are working with a number of new churches under the oversight of Bishop Pavel – a young man with a big vision whom we met on our last trip to Russia.

Last time we were here he drove from Moscow to Ivanovo to meet with us and receive a prophetic word. It is a five hour drive one way. So, we stayed in touch and he invited us to minister in a number of his churches as well as to his leadership.

When we first visit a church we have the leadership come up to the front during the service and we prophesy over the church and over the senior leaders (pastor and spouse usually). Pictured above – one such prophetic ministry time during one of our recent visits to this nation (another church in the Moscow area). It is always an exciting time because we are helping to paint a picture – partial though it may be – of the future direction of the local church as well as adding understanding regarding the changes and adjustments that the Lord will be making and what the Lord will be using the local assembly to accomplish for Him and His Kingdom.

This time we will be doing that form of prophetic ministry over a number of churches in this union and I believe it will have a tremendous impact upon each and everyone one of them. And, for the first time, we are planning to prophesy over a network or union. This is a young network of churches and I believe God has a signifigant role for them to play in the evangelization of this nation. So, we are recommending a time in one of the services where all the leaders from the various churches are present during which we will honor the Lord in worship and then prophesy over the network.

Please be praying for the next four days as we work in this network. It is our first visit and we want to bless them abundantly and have a signifigant spiritual impact in our limited time with them. Pray for Bishop Pavel (Paul) and his leadership.

Seeking the Mind of Christ

It is hard to seek the mind of the Lord when our own minds are already made up. And that is often the case for believers today. We know what we want to do. If it does not work out satisfactorily then we sometimes go to God and ask for His help. When we do it is often not to know His mind but to ask Him to bless what we have planned and that has not yet worked for us.

If things get really tough we go to Him and admit that our idea has not worked and that we need His help. However, we are still not seeking the mind of Christ on the issue or situation because we still have other ideas we are turning over in our heart and mind. So, when He tells us something we take it as a suggestion (often one of many) and end up discussing things with Him, negotiating and even arguing about what He is telling us to do. We treat it as a suggestion and often one of many we are receiving. So, we are asking Him for a plan but we still have plan B if we don’t like His plan A. This is not the way to find out the mind of Christ on a matter.

To know the mind of Christ we need to come to God humbly without a plan – without our mind made up. Then we can hear His thoughts and ideas – His plan for our day or even our life. However, we need to come to Him already having decided that the answer to what He is about to say is “yes” because it will be the best plan and for our own good. God’s plans and purposes are always good and always beneficial for us. So, if He is truly Lord then you trust Him and can say “yes” before you hear what He has to say. Then you will hear the mind of Christ.

However, we must not be so open-minded that we are stupid about this… We must come with our hearts and minds filled with His Word. His revealed will found in the Word (your Bible) is the only standard that we have through which to judge what we believe we are hearing Him say pesonally to us today. So, when we think we have heard His voice and thus His mind on the subject we can judge what we believe we heard to His revealed will – the Bible.

This means that we need to be regularly meditating on His Word so that our spirit (heart) is filled with the Word and we need to be reading and studying His Word so that our minids are being renewed and our lives transformed on a daily basis by His Word. Then, when we seek His mind and His will on a matter we will have the right heart (motive) and our minds will be able to grasp and understand what He is saying and we will correctly judge what we heard to determine if it is truly the Lord speaking to us.

Today as I travel from church to church and visit nation after nation many believers do not know the mind of Christ on the important matters they face daily in their lives. That is often why they come to our meetings – to hear God through the ministry of the apostle (they usually call me a prophet – which I am not) and to receive a personal word from the Lord. This is so wrong. First we should hear God for ourselves and then the prophetic word can be simply a confirmation of what we have already heard directly in our time with God.

Here’s the problem – Christians have become lazy and irresponsible. They no longer do the hard work of learning to hear God’s voice and practicing until they get it right. Instead, they have allowed the fact that someone has worked hard and long at learning to hear God accurately (a prophet or apostle) to let them slack off. Why work hard at hearing God and discerning and judging what you heard? Just let the prophet or apostle give you the word and be done with it. Sad! Easy way out. But, let me ask, what do you do when there is no prophet or apostle around? Why you wait, of course. And wait, and wait, and wait…. what a waste.

It is time to recognize that every believer needs to be hearing God’s voice and knowing the mind of Christ daily for their own lives … and then the apostles and prophets can get on with their work of laying the foundations for the Church and not simply ministering to lazy believers.

The Unsung Hero – Russia #10

Today is our last day at The Presbyterian Spiritual Academy in Moscow where they train leaders and future leaders for this network of churches and other networks that are doing a tremendous job of church planting all over the former Soviet Union in spite of persecution and limited finances. Another four sessions of teaching on the prophetic and also ministering prophetically. Tomorrow, we are still in Moscow and area but will be working for four days with another network or union, as they are called here, headed up by Bishop Pavel (Paul). More on that another day.

The unsung heros of all ministry we do overseas are the interpreters. In the above picture I am listening to the interpretation of some prophetic words being spoken by leaders who are practicing how to flow in the gift of prophecy for the first time. The interpreter in this case is Igor and he was an excellent interpreter and a serious blessing to our activities while with us.

It is interesting to work with an interpreter. There are benefits to working with an interpreter and there is also a downside to it. The benefit comes when preaching because you teach or preach in half sentences and half thoughts and then pause for them to interpret. This is great as it gives you opportunity to think through exactly what you are saying and how to say it best. The downside – every 30 minute teaching takes 60+ minutes. When prophesying the downside is you can’t just flow with the prophetic sense you receive but constantly need to stop and let what you are saying be interpreted. Until you get use to the start and stop it can really hinder the person prophesying.

An interesting part of working in a nation whose language you cannot speak is that you constantly have a shadow. Everywhere you go you need the interpreter … walking to the building, prayer room, on your way to the bathroom, up front, meals, informal meetings with people, after service … they are constantly there from the moment you are dressed in the morning until you undress at night – and often even then you are sharing the room where you are staying with them. There is little privacy and a serious lack of space and quiet time. An extrovert’s delight I am sure but I am not an extrovert.

Often the official interpreter has help. There are usually a number of others who have a fair working knowledge of the two languages involved. Their abilities are not good enough to flow properly with someone in the pulpit or when prophesying but they certainly can help at meal time, bathroom breaks, and for other things that arise like informal meetings and people wanting to talk after the service ends. So, I work with a number of other people other than the official interprets.

So today – would you please pray for the men and women who work with me formally and informally enabling me to minister in this great nation of Russia. They are the unsung heros and I just want them to be blessed and refreshed by the presence of the Lord as they work with me.

Praying About Small Things

Jim Cymbala, a pastor in New York, states: “Don’t worry about bringing small things to God, for with God everything is small.” I totally agree and would add: “Therefore bring the large things – the major issues in your life – to Him as well.” In fact, good advice to heed would be – bring everything to God in prayer … everything. After all, as it states in Luke’s Gospel “Nothing is impossible with God.”

Why don’t we take everything to Him in prayer? Because we trust in our own strength and wisdom; we believe in our own plans and follow our own agenda. We think we know enough and are smart enough to solve the issues on our own and without His help. But, when eveything fails, we do admit, in a way, that we can’t do it on our own because then, and often only then, do we pray about it. What stupid people we, as believers, really are.

One of the churches that I work with here in Canada sent over a short praise report a few weeks ago – just before Christmas. It said: “Just wanted to share a couple of awesome testamonies that were shared at our Christmas breakfast Sunday morning. A couple were feeling a financial crunch and just prayed for God to help them out the other day just driving along in the city. Then later that day they received a cheque that they weren’t expecting for some time and it was for at least double the amount expected! Then, we had prayed for a lady … for swelling in her ankles that had become quite serious, about 3 weeks ago . She said she noticed that her ankles were not swelling anymore (about 2 weeks ago) and there has been no swelling since. Praise God!! He is so faithful.” [I changed the names into generic “she” and “they” removing the actual names of real people]

Reports like this should be a daily thing as God is always wanting to be involved in the daily affairs of our lives. Our lack of fellowshipping with the Holy Spirit on a daily basis and then not taking our requests – small and large – to God our heavenly Father in prayer causes us to live way below our potential. As a result we struggle with things we should not be struggling with and face situations alone when God wants to handle them with ius and often for us (so that we are not even involved). We fight many battles we don’t need to. If we would only listen for His voice we would hear, as Jehosaphat did, “stand still and watch the Lord fight your battles.”

I have begun a prayer journal in the last few weeks. I miss so many opportunities to praise Him and thank Him because He is constantly answering my prayers and yet I miss this fact because I often forget that I prayed about it. But, He never forgets and brings the answer to our prayers in His perfect timing. However, by then the prayer request is long forgotten. So, I simply record the things I speak to Him about on the left hand side of a journal’s double page – and then, every few weeks, I review what I have prayed about (and written down) and record the answers that have been received on the other blank page on the right hand side opposite the request. I date the requests and the answers … facinating exercise and really encoures me to pray about even more things – including the small and often apparently insignifigant things.

Thanks Pastor Jim. Blessings on you and your ministry.

Training, Equipping, and Mentoring – Russia #9

This is day three at The Presbyterian Spiritual Academy in the city of Moscow, Russia where pastors and future leaders for this Union of churches are trained, equipped, and mentored. We have been having tremendous meetings and it is exciting to be able to impact churches in many Russian-speaking nations both now and into the future by having this opportunity to speak to their pastors, leaders, students (future pastors), professors and teaching staff. God has open an excellent door of opportunity here for our small ministry with the potential for incresed ministry in the future. Already we are speaking about a return visit for another week to teach here in the school.

I am enjoying the interaction that I am having with the students here at the academy. Many are young men who are just starting out in life and in ministry and have given up much to be here to train for the ministry. Many come from nations where, when they return to plant churches, they will be persecuted for their faith – maybe even jailed. Some are more senior in age and entering full-time ministry as a second career due to the call of God on their lives. Most are recent converts who have immediately answered the call to ministry that is upon their lives. So, our day is full of wonderful conversations with terrific people and we often speak with them individually and in small groups into the late evening.

While here in the City of Moscow we are also taking what little spare time we have to connect with and visit with leaders that we have built relationships with in the past. These leaders have either travelled to where we were teaching and attended one of our many events over the last number of years or they have actually had us into their churches to minister. We build relationally here in this ministry and so visit with those we work for and work with as frequently as possible. There are four leaders here in the city we know and with whom we plan to have time to fellowship this week. One is a pastor of a church belonging to a network that has been opposing the work of true apostles in Eastern Europe, another is a pastor of a house church that meets in an apartment, another a house church pastor that meets in a house, and the fourth is a priest who is no longer pastoring.

Prayer request for today: The continuing ministry here at the academy (today and tomorrow) and for our fellowship with these four pastors for whom we have worked and continue to build relationships with. Your prayer support and your encouraging emails are greatly appreciated.

God Is Seeking a Certain Kind of Person

Christians often feel that God is hiding from them and could care less what is going on in their lives. Some think he loves them but is detached and distant. Others think it is simply impossible to hear God regularly and that even in a crisis He seldom speaks or intervenes on their behalf. FOLKS, The problem is not with God – it is with us. God desires to be close to us and to release His power on our behalf and bless us but…

And, it is a big but. The Bible says that IF we draw near to God He will draw near to us (James 4:8). The opposite is true – IF we do not take the time to draw near to Him He will not draw near to us. In fact, the Bible states that God goes to and fro throughout the whole earth looking for those (even one single person like you) whose hearts are loyal to Him and focused on Him (2 Chronicles 16:9). When He finds someone who loves Him with their whole heart, soul, mind and all of their strength (Matthew 22:37) He acts on their behalf and blesses them.

God is seeking those who seek Him with such openness that He can be Himself to that person in a way that He cannot be to others. He is a jealous God and looks for one who is happy for God to be the only person who knows what is happening to them. We need to be “playing to an audience of one” and understand that He is the only ‘person’ that really matters.

Grasp this truth: if you are looking for someone who will understand you, the real you… someone who is always there for you and does not have a hidden agenda or any hidden expectations… who loves you unconditionally with total acceptance and absolute forgiveness … who wants only the best for you … someone who is there at all times and is singularly focused on you … who believes the best about you and is watching your back (and front and both sides) … He is the only One. He is the Someone. He is not just Lord and Savior – God in the flesh – but He is also your greatest fan.

Too often we look to others for what only God can give. Too often we look to others for that ‘pat on the back – well done’ feeling. The Bible states in John 5:44: “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?” The Message Version reads: “How do you expect to get anywhere with God when you spend all your time jockeying for position with each other … and ignoring God?”

When we place Him first in all things – including relationships – then He will be there for us at ever turn. Only when we “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness…” will we then see His hand in our lives as we will have released Him to move on our behalf. Only when our hearts are focused on Him and know that He is all that we need will He become just that – all that we need! And then we will hear His voice and see Him move mightily on our behalf.

We are well into the New Year and I need to ask: Have you placed Him first in 2011? Are you focusing on your relationship with Him each and every morning when youget out of bed? Are you focusing your heart on Him the last thing before going to bed in the evening? Is He your “all in all” or is He still simply an “add-on” when you need help or hit a crisis in your life? Is 2011 going to be any different than 2010 was? Now would be a good time to determine that it is going to be and decide what need to change in your life so that God will see another heart that is totally loyal to Him.

Do so – and you will be seriously amazed at how often God speaks to you and how many times He intervenes in the circumstances of your life and the situations that you find yourself in. Just amazed. He is not playing “HIDE AND SEEK” He is simply waiting for you to turn your heart towards Him.