Impacting Leaders – Russia #3

Today I am flying to Russia. As this blog is released I will be half way to Toronto. There I have a few hours to wait and then catch the next flight to Frankfort, Germany and then a quick turnaround (2 hours) and another flight to Moscow, Russia. A total of 18 hours of flying and when you add wait time and travel at both ends you end up with a 30 hour trip. I don’t sleep when in motion so I manage to accomplish a decent amount of reading unless, of course, someone wants to talk – then I have an opportunity to witness to them.

A lot of the ministry will be doing in Russia is directly to leaders. On Sundays and sometimes during the week in the evenings we see others at the scheduled events but many of the events this trip are designed specifically for leaders. This allows me to speak at a different level than when it is a public service where everyone is welcome. Pictured above is an actual leaders meeting from one of my previous trips to Moscow to minister apostolically.

When we are able to minister to leaders we are having a much larger impact upon the churches of the nations represented at the meetings. We are able to speak into their personal lives as well as their ministries; teach at a deeper level due to the maturity of the leaders; teach different topics because there are specific needs that shepherds have which sheep don’t. There is a different dynamic when working with a room full of leaders than exists when ministering in a regular worship service of a local church.

This trip almost all of our ministry is to leaders. So, your prayers for the leaders of the nations represented would be greatly appreciated. They are hungry for more of God, often tired, sometimes wounded, and always in need of refreshing.

Would you also pray – right now – that I make all connecting flights and so arrive on time. As some of you know, the last trip overseas took two extra days due to missing all connections….

Mansions and Slums

There is a terrific disconnect today in many who follow the Lord. The Lord whom we follow lived very simply, never owned a home (“foxes have their holes but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head”), and instructed His treasurer, Judas Iscariot, to give to the poor. He was a man on a mission and lived life “lightly” and did not clutter it up with too many possessions but stayed focus and free.

If you believed and joined His mission you gave up most of what others took for granted – your fishing business, your family (“love me more than you love your mother or father”), your wealth (“sell everything, give to the poor and follow Me”) and lived the way He lived as you learned from Him. Disciples lived with their masters and in the same way as they lived – Jesus’ disciples were not an exception to the rule.

But today we have Christians who are living in serious luxury while their family members around the world are living without and even suffering for lack of the basics in life. They are our family, folks! One brother in Africa put it this way:

“The U.S. has built a humongous mansion in the middle of a world with a lot of slums.” Kenyan entrepreneur Ayisi Makatiani, founder, Africa Online.

He was referring to the nation. I am talking about the Christians and not just in the United States but in many nations of the world. Regretfully the ‘gospel’ being preached in many nations today is the prosperity gospel made popular in North America over the last 30 years but with its roots in a non-Christian religion that dates back many years. As this ‘gospel’ spreads so does a lifestyle not compatible with the message of the true Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. We build manions while other believers live in the slums through no fault of their own.

This came home in a fresh way on a recent trip to Kazakhstan. On the way to that wonderful nation I missed every connection. As a result I quickly read all three books that I had brought with me. So, in Frankfort, Germany I found a bookstore that sold English books and purchased a book that traced the historical roots of the “confess it and possess it” gospel – the prosperity gospel so prevelant in the world today – no longer just in North America. Not a book for the Christian market – a business book published in the United States by an author who encounter the message while overcoming breast cancer. “Smile Or Die – How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World” by Barbara Ehrenreich.

In the book there was one chapter on the Church … and within that chapter the following, and I quote: “Joel Osteen of Houston’s Lakewood Church …has been dubbed the ‘rock star’ of the new gospel and called ‘America’s most influential Christian’ by the Church Report magazine.” The “new gospel” is the prosperity message.

Writing further about the local church he pastors the author states: “… it boasts a weekly attendance of forty thousand people and a weekly income of a million dollars. Osteen doesn’t collect a salary from his church – there are already three hundred people on its payroll – because he is apparently content to live off his royalities. His first book, ‘Your Best Life Now,’ has sold about four million copies, leading to what was said to be an advance of $13 million for the sequel, ‘Become a Better You.'”

She goes on to critique his teachings and finds them sadly lacking any mention of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ and the need for repentance from sin leading to salvation. As a motivational speaker Pastor Joel is successful – as a pastor he is preaching New Thought as made popular by Mary Baker Eddy and the mind over matter people of the Christian Science movement. As someone who has read both of Joel Osteen’s books I would have to agree with Barbara Ehrenreich and humbly suggest that his message is anything but Christian and definitely not the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Now, you may be exception to the rule but generally believers seem preoccupied with what the Christian faith and God can do for us. The focus should be on what we can and should do with God – seek and save the lost, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and those in prision; lay hands on the sick, cast out demons and go into the whole world proclaiming that Jesus is Lord and winning the lost.

As believers we seem to be sold on the idea of accumulating anything and everything our little hearts desire – and our hearts are “little” as they don’t encompass our brothers and sisters in other nations who are suffering for the Gospel and often don’t have the basics of one meal a day let alone three squares a day.

As believers we are selfish and self-centered and think that comfort, luxury (yes – we live in luxury), and having what we want when we want it are our God-given birthright as followers of Jesus.

The time is upon us when the Lord is making some major adjustments to our approach to the faith His Son died to establish. This will include a radical change in our lifestyle and focus as He brings us back to the idea of “dying to self” and “taking up our cross daily” as we “tell others the night-and-day difference that Jesus has made in our lives.” Those who are true followers of the Lord will be changed into His likeness and His focus will become our focus – His mission will be our mission – and we will change whatever needs to be changed to see His mission fulfilled in our lifetime. A radical adjustment is about to begin and it will most likely be very painful for many – but liberating nonetheless.

Igor and Natalya

Hello Ralph!!!

Thank You for Your e-mail. We greatly appreciate our relationship with You. And we see God’s hand in it as well.

We have good changes and events in our rehabilitation program. Now they hold their Sunday meetings in Korean Church in Arna. It is convenient in all respects. In addition this church gives them a place to start a program for women. Besides the Kapchagai-city’s government granted the program with the land of 30 hundred square meters. And one of foreign religious organization invests money for building a community of 300 squares. We have already got the construction plan. We believe that all of this is happening because of your prophetic
ministry. Everyone is encouraged and look forward to your coming this spring. You promised to spend two-three days in the rehab center. Read more

Apostolic Ministry – Russia #2

Tomorrow I leave for a two week apostolic trip in the great and large country of Russia. This is our third trip into the nation in the last 18 months and our ministry to God’s people there is continuing to grow and literally multiply. It is doing so very rapidly and so we are hard pressed to meet all the requests that we receive to come and minister.

The route is fairly simple this time. I fly from Regina to Toronto (3 hours flying time). There I have three hours before the next flight – and a good book to read. Then a 9.5 hour flight to Frankfort, Germany where I will then have a 4 hour stop over – with another good book to read. Then my last flight which is almost 4 hours long into Moscow – too tired to read. There I will be met by my administrator who works full time for this ministry and we will travel together to our first place of ministry (about three hours through Moscow traffic).

I will arrive near supper time on the Saturday which will be 9 hours ahead of the time where you live if you are in Central Canada. So, when it is 9:00p in Moscow it is 12:00p or noon in Central Canada. Each day while on this trip if you subscribe to these blogs you will receive an update of our activities during the middle of your day – late evening here. And, when necessary, we will be sending out prayer requests for things that are happening and that we are facing in the ministry in Russia.

We appreciate your interest in and continued support for the ministry we have been called by the Lord to accomplish in the nations of the former Soviet Union. Thanks for standing with us in faith.

Give It Some Thought, Please!

The governor of Mississippi once challenged each of the state’s 5,500 churches and synagogues to help one poor family to get back on its feet. That’s all – just take on one family. Only 267 took up the challenge. Within a few years, when they checked back, a mere 15 churches were still doing it and were matched with families who they were helping to get established again.

Surveys and statistics show that evangelical Christians are “significantly less likely” than are non-Christians to give money for AIDS education and prevention programs worldwide. And, of course, how often are Christians noted for their courageous defence of unpopular causes? Really very seldom.

Jesus said that we are to help those who are less fortunate than we are. We are to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, visit those in prison. (Matthew 25:31-46) He states that even a drink of cold water in His Name He will remember and reward. (Mark 9:41). The Good News is to be preached to the poor (Matthew 11:5) and must be done in a combination of words and deeds to fully preach the Gospel (Romans 15:18-19). This task does not end because Jesus said that “the poor you will always have with you.” (Mark 14:7) and so the work and the ministry to the poor will be a continual focus.

As I travel overseas I have come to redefine the term “poor.” In some places where I minister even those who are well off are not doing as well as the poor here in our nation. They are simply living one day at a time and eating one meager meal a day. They do not have a social welfare net to catch them nor a governmental system to aid them when they become unemployed or destitute. Drug addicts and alcoholics often cannot find state-sponsored programs to aid them in their recovery and so continue to live in their destructive lifestyle. It is every person for themselves in a less than pleasant reality.

This is where the church steps in and helps those who are the “poor” in their society. Drug addicts and alcoholics find local churches running rehabilitation centers; churches run food banks and used clothing depots; many have places for people to live right in their church buildings (they were built with this need in mind); and always on any given Sunday you find people from different walks of life and different income levels worshipping and fellowshipping together. They are there offering their neighbor a glass of cold water in Jesus’ Name. They are fulfilling the biblical mandate to care for the poor. And yet, by our standards, they are poor themselves. So, it is like one beggar sharing with another beggar what limited resources they might have. This is what Jesus would do – should we do any less?

The Book of James states (2:14-17): What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 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.

And, so, back to you and me. Are we reaching out to help the less fortunate? Are we talking to that person down on their luck who asked for loose change? And, the guy who walked through the coffee show looking for someone to buy him a cup of hot coffee and something to eat – did we help him? Did we buy him what he needed without judging why he was in such a situation? And then did we sit and listen to him as he ate the meager meal? Or do we protect ourselves from those who appear so different from ourselves because we are afraid that we will find out that there really is little to no difference between us – except we have some money in our pockets and they don’t? We have so much and, in general, give so little! The believers overseas have much to teach us in this regard.

Jesus would have stopped for the one. He would have fed the one. He would have listened with His heart to their heart. Jesus would have stopped to hug the one. Jesus would have let them know that they were precious to the Father and that He cared. Jesus would have accepted them just as they are. He would feed them and even clothe them if needed. And, we are called to do no less as we are His hands and feet in the world today.

It may be time to reconsider how we live and begin to adopt a lifestyle more in line with the biblical standard and the heart of God than the one we currently embrace and protect. Just maybe!

Apostolic Ministry – Russia #1

This Friday the 21st I will, once again, be on my way overseas on my first apostolic trip for 2011. This trip takes me to Russia where I will be ministering for two weeks in a number of different locations.

This trip I will be in a number of churches and ministries where we have not ministered before. These include a number of local churches as well as a major training school for future pastors and leaders. The first week we are in the City of Moscow where we have ministered a number of times during previous trips. However, we will be ministering to a new group for us. We hope, in some spare time, to touch bases with those we have worked with before and simply continue to build our relationship with them.

After our first full week in Moscow we will be ministering for three days in the City of Mytischy – again a new place for us and here we will be speaking to the leaders of a Network or Union of churches and ministering prophetically. Then we will be returning to the City of Ivanovo where we were in the fall of 2010 to continue ministering to the local church we are working with as well as to a number of other local churches as we do several joint services for the city. We will also be ministering in a local church in the City of Vladimir – again, new for us.

God has graciously blessed us, once again, with some wonderful places to minister where we can impact both the leaders and the people of a number of churches and Networks. We would appreciate your prayer support over the next two weeks (January 21 to February 7) as we travel overseas and fulfill the call of God on this ministry to lay apostolic foundations for His Church in many nations of the former Soviet Union.

Limited or Limitless – Your Choice

I have chosen to live a life without limitations. I choose daily to live a life without any limits. I can do this because I am a believer and deeply in love with Jesus. Because of my love for Him I choose to follow Him as Lord and not just as Savior and so can live without limitations. Because Jesus is God with Him all things are possible and nothing is impossible – so limitless is the way I chose to live my life as I follow Him.

I choose to follow Him closely and not at a distance. To hold Him at arms length means you will live a life with limitations.

I choose to obey everything that He commands – both written (the Bible) and spoken (prophetic) and thus not limit what He can do in and through my life.

I choose to walk in the light that I have to the best of my ability and with as pure a heart as possible. Thus He is able to supply everything that pertains to life and godliness (2 Peter) which means I live without limits.

I choose to listen daily to what He is speaking to me personally and then rearrange my life – that day’s agenda and plans and more – to fit what He has just spoken to me.

I choose to live by faith and not by sight and thus live a life that others might consider stupid or, at the least, rather different if not stange.

I choose to lay down my life daily (and willingly) because you only gain real life when you die to self and lose the normal life we all seem to want to hold onto.

I choose to not worry or become anxious over things that are happening in the world and in my life because I believe that God is sovereign and in control still. Thus I don’t limit what He is wanting to do in and through me.

I choose to evangelize even when I don’t feel like it or want to because it is obeying the Lord’s last command to His Church before His ascension and obeying leads to the Lord being there backing up my effort and words (see Matthew 28:20) and thus life lived without limits.

I choose to tithe and give over and above my tithe (no receipts required) as this releases the blessings of the Lord -not always financial but blessings none-the-less – and thus removes many of the limits I would otherwise live under.

I choose – well, you get the idea. I am a believer and have free will to choose and I choose to act according to the Word of the Lord and not my feelings. I choose to obey and not disobey. I choose life and not death. I choose to believe the best and walk by faith having tremendous hope in and for the future. I choose to love everyone I meet and accept them for who they are and how they express themselves. I simply choose to live according to God’s will for my life.

Who or what are you choosing to follow?

True Freedom Is Found Only In Lordship

The on-line dictionary defines freedom as a noun that means:
1. the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint
2. exemption from external control, interference, regulation, etc.
3. the power to determine action without restraint.

The Christian should disagree with all three of these definitions. Freedom is not to live without boundaries and restraint; nor is it to be exempt from external control. Nonsense! It is also absolutely not “the power to determine action without restraint.” This would simply be anarchy which is a situation in which there is a total lack of organization or control or the absence of any formal system of government in a society.

Freedom is found only by submitting to the Lordship of the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior. Freedom is not the absence of limitations. True freedom is acknowledging your limitations and connecting your limitations to God’s limitless all. Our limitations should make us rely totally on God and this brings freedom. Total freedom. The Bible even states this: “Those whom the Son has set free are free indeed.”

Often we think this means free of sin; free of demonic oppression; free of our past hurts and wounds; free of wrong relationship; free of destructive habits and attitudes; free of those things that keep us tied to the past. All of these and many more are absolutely true. But, we also need to be set free from ourselves – our own will and the will of our flesh.

There are three wills that are posible in the life of the believer… The will of the flesh, the will which is part of our soul realm (the human will) and the will of God.

John 1:13 “…children born not of the natural descent, nor of human will, or the will of the flesh, but born of God (His will).”

Real freedom is gained and lived out only when a believer submits their will (soul realm decision area) and the will of their flesh to the will of God. This is called making Jesus Lord. He must be in control or Lord of every aspect of a person’s life. This means we submit willingly to His Lordship and yield to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. This means we are open to hearing, receiving, heeding, and obeying His written will and revealed will for our lives.

Every believer can know part of God’s will for their life simply by reading the Word of God, the Bible – the written will of God. Here we find the basics of what Jesus, as Lord, expects from those who follow Him. This includes seeking and saving the lost; being a productive member of His body, the Church; worship, prayer, Bible reading and Bible study; tithing; loving, accepting and forgiving everyone….

But, on top of this we also have His revealed will to obey. This consists of the prophetic words that we have received, the Rhema words that have built faith as we read His Word; the things He has spoken to us personally and privately in the stillness of our hearts… We must submit our will (decision area) and our flesh to His revealed will – yielding to His guidance and direction and then changing so that we can accomplish what He is asking of us personally.

Only then can we experience freedom – true freedon, biblical freedom, God-given freedom that allows us to be who we were created to be and do what we are called to do. Lordship is the key to much of what is currently missing in the Church and the lives of believers. We have regretfully somehow separated Savior from Lord and thus ended up believing a lie and living in bondage while calling it freedom.

It is certainly time to change this situation. It is time to declare the Lordship of Jesus and the demands that, as Lord, He makes upon believers in general and each and every believer in particular. Then true freedom will be experienced, embraced and enjoyed.

Global Discipleship Schools International – Judy

I don’t think I fully realize all that Global Discipleship Training has done in my life. I feel it is a greater impact than I ever realized, of growing into God’s purposes for my life.

I started out just going to the section on prayer, and that was all I intended to do at first. With some insight and encouragement from others, I decided to continue. It has been an awesome time learning about God’s Word and God’s ways in fellowship with other classmates. It’s hard to believe we have completed Level 3 and are going on to further development of our character and our mission.

I am ever indebted to Ralph for giving of his life, his time, and his knowledge to lead and teach us. I also feel indebted to my class mates who accepted me the way I am and loved me anyway. They also helped me to grow and develop, as we interacted together and sometimes rubbed each other the wrong way.  We have developed lasting friendships through all our times together.

Global Discipleship Training is so worthwhile as you follow Jesus. As you study and learn and grow with others, you will grow closer to God’s plans and purposes for your life. It’s an affordable way to take Bible training and be discipled.

Content Or Discontent?

As I was planning to write this one today I will. But, not an easy decision because the concept that I want to communicate is being sorely tried and tested in my heart and life right now. It is November when I am writing this and what should have been a 30 hour trip from my home city to Kazakhstan has become a three and a half day extravaganza. I am currently in Frankfort, Germany and it is 8:30a – I am waiting to board a flight to Kazakhstan at noon, I hope.

The reason I say “I hope” is because of what has transpired in the past few days. I left home on Monday at noon for a 2:30 flight. The flight left at 4:45 and so I missed my connection in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. No explanation as to why plane was late. No apologies either. A huge line to rebook and got on the overseas flight the next day. That meant a hotel and three meals out. My medical condition caused a reaction to the first meal at the hotel even though I was really careful as I know to be after 30 years of the problem. So, skipped the next two meals to stabilize this old body.

Arrived at the airport the next day (when I should have been in Germany) and managed a good meal and no reactions. On the plane. Up, up, and away. Not! They could not get the doors to the baggage department to close so we sat on board for three hours – count them – before the problem was solved. The man next to me was going ballistic and freaking out because he was going to miss his connection. Join the line, fella as 95% of those on the flight were connecting in Frankfort to go somewhere else. So we leave four hours late and arrive 3.5 hours after the only flight to my final destination leaves.

Yes, I am stuck in Frankfort for the night. This time it was a “weather related problem” so they don’t cover the meals or the hotel. Weather related – stupid! Every other flight was taking off – how about a mechanical problem and so Air Canada should cover the cost. No way! Restaurant at the hotel a no go! Vending machines had nothing I could eat. Nothing in walking distance. To bed hungry … after a 12 hour flight during which I could eat absolutely nothing they served. Did I mention that the airline just didn’t bother with the special meals that were ordered with the tickets.

So, now back at the airport and it is 8:00 in the morning and I am having a coffee at McDonalds because the hotel room did not even have a coffee maker or a way to boil water for tea (I carry my own tea bags). Found a shop to buy some fruit and nuts and so having a speciality breakfast of my own creation attempting to stabilize my body which was having some major problems due to lack of food and food at the proper times. Then, of all things, a reaction to the McDonald’s coffee which use to be safe for me to drink.

I am hopeful that the last leg of this trip will actually happen today – and that I can arrive (two days late) to teach in the nation of Kazakhstan as planned. Poorer financially but practicing what I preach.

All the way through these four days (Monday to Thursday) I have kept my cool outwardly and actually inwardly. I have practiced being content and not discontent. I have practiced being thankful for the small mercies each day has brought – a warm bed, people to witness to, a Blackberry to communicate with loved ones, BBC News to stay informed, a good book or two or now three, book stores to locate more reading material, loved ones praying for me and a God who is faithful.

I am sure it was much more difficult for Paul the apostle in his travels throughout the Roman Empire to preach the Gospel and disciple the believers. However, he is my example when I get into situations like this. No matter what situation he was in he was content – thankful, at peace. He mentions several times in his writings that he was content with whatever the Lord allowed to come his way – permitted to happen in his life. I coined a phrase for this attitude many years ago – “Father-filtered.”

Here is my understanding. God is all powerful and in total control – He is Omnipotent and sovereign to use theological words. So, He could have prevented all this from happening but didn’t. He could have filtered this out of my life experience as I am sure He has done with many things over the years of protecting me, guiding and directing me. But He didn’t and so I need to be “content” with what He has allowed or permitted and “go with the flow” learning what He wants me to learn and seeing truths about myself I would otherwise have missed.

So, throughout these three/four days (12 time zones can play havoc with your sense of time and days) I have been content and at peace – it is a discipline that has been seriously tested but it has remained intact. I have enjoyed reading three books, writing blogs, talking with people, learning some German, and even sleeping a bit more than normal. But, I must admit I am looking forward to arriving and getting into some clean clothes as I have not seen my luggage since I left home and clean clothes and a shave would be nice right now – 15 more hours and we will be reintroduced if it has managed to arrive at the same time I do.

Well, the fruit, cheese and cashew nuts are all done – as is the coffee (I do not like coffee in Europe as even McDonald’s coffee is different). So, the blog must be done as well. Thanks for sharing my breakfast with me. And remember, be content. It’s a daily choice we have to make, isn’t it?