People Are Afraid to Be Amazing

In our world and in the Church culture of our day people are afraid to be themselves. They are afraid to be who God created them to be. They are nervous about being different than everyone else and marching to the beat of a different drum. They do not express their uniqueness but rather buy in to a certain lifestyle that appears inviting and then they do everything they can to be the same as others living in that lifestyle – to fit in and be one of the “crowd.”

Example: Teenagers and guys in their early twenties worldwide wear oversized blue jeans that slide down over their backsides revealing their multi-colored boxer undershorts for the world to see. It is the same in every nation. People needing to or wanting to fit into a certain group and therefore not expressing their uniqueness as God would want them to – asks them to – needs them to.

Every one of us has been created by God to be unique and different then the others around us. We were created by God to be unique and to do amazing things for Him. But most are afraid to be different and unique and go against the flow. Therefore most never do anything amazing in and with their lives.

Most people are too concerned with what others will think – as if they really do think about you in a normal day. Many don’t want to be different because then they will stand out and might be noticed. Penelope Trunk wrote in one of her books “People are afraid to be amazing.” I agree. Because we don’t express ourselves and the unique person we really are – there has never been anyone like you on the face of the planet and never will be another like you – then we are not and can’t be amazing.

To be amazing you need to know who you really are. Not who you have become to fit in with the crowd you hang out with and relate to. Not who you are in your chosen lifestyle that you worked so hard to reach and now bust your butt to maintain. Not the “you” that changes depending on the expectations of the people you are currently interacting with. Not the person who is defined by the way you dress and where you live and the type of car you drive.

To be amazing you need to know the real you that is hiding inside – the unique person that God created in His image and that is a unique expression of God’s character and nature upon the earth.

But then we are faced with a bit of a problem. To express who we really are and thus be unique and amazing we need to take the time to come to know the real person on the inside; the essence of who you uniquely are as originally created by God. You will need to remove socially acceptable behavior, the expectations you have of yourself and that others have of you; you will need to remove the various masks that you wear in each situation; you will need to unlock the doors of your heart and come to know yourself; you will need to examine your life and discover new things about the real and unique you. Then – and only then – will the hard work begin.

The hard work is to then change the outside to match what you have discovered and uncovered about who you really are. To have integrity you will need to begin to adjust, remove, and change many things in your life and lifestyle to better express the real you, the unique you, the amazing you that you have now uncovered and discovered. Only the really brave need apply as this will, of course, not be easy. As soon as you start this process you will find yourself no longer “floating downstream” with all the other dead fish but you will find yourself discovering real life as you swim upstream and go against the flow.

But, as you begin to change the outside to match the newly discovered and unque inside you will become the amazing person that God designed you to be. And, you will then begin to do amazing things for God as well.

This is why God created you – to be the you no one else can be – because the world needs the real you, the amazing you!

The With-ness and the Without Principle

There is an old African saying: “We are, therefore I am.” I like that. It expresses the very life and nature of the Christian faith and the Christian Church. Because, as I have mentioned in the last few days, we only find our true identity in Jesus Christ when we are connected to the Christian community – in particular, one local church.

The US army captures this thought with their current advertising campaign for new recruits: “An army of one.” And, the Body of Christ is called, in Scripture, an army of the Lord and we are a singular “body” even though we are found in different local expressions (assemblies) in every nation on the planet we call home. The Christian faith is about community – connectedness – and being there with and for one another. And, once that is established and settled in your heart – being there for those who do not know Jesus because then we are a correct witness of the experience of being a believer.

If your witness is simply to explain a set of teachings and beliefs – then you have missed the point. As you are with people and building relationships you will be inviting them into an experience – an experience of the living God as found only in Jesus and His body, the Church. So, you need to be connected in a healthy and dynamic way first before you can invite them to share what you have – a personal and corporate experience of God. “We are, therefore I am.” An army of one!

As believers we should be with non-believers and other believers in community with Christ. With them in love and care, without judgment. With them in encouragement and comfort, without condition. With them in support and healing, without self concern.

While refining these thoughts first recorded a month ago I happen to be reading “The Irresistible Revolution.” Shane Claiborne writes: “Community is what we are created for. We are made in the image of a God who is community, a plurality of oneness. When the first human was made, things were not good until there were two, helping one another. The biblical story is the story of community, from beginning to end. Jesus lived and modeled community with His little band of disciples. He always sent them out in pairs, and the early church is the story of a people who were together and were of one heart and mind, sharing all in common. The story ends with a vision of a new community in the Book of Revelation where the city of God is dressed beautifully for her lover, this community called the New Jerusalem.”

Makes you want to do more than believe – makes you want to belong to this dynamic and eternal family called the Church. The door is open – come on in. In the wiith-ness principle you will find fulfillment and identity or you can simply wait outside and celebrate the without principle – alone!

Shut Up and Sit Down Maybe

The challenge of the church in the 21st century is to make itself less of an institution and more of a community…less led by people prone to call a meeting than by people prone to start a conversation.

Let’s admit it – basically the church has only two things to offer the world: Christ and community.

By Christ we mean Jesus Christ who is God and came to reveal the Father to His people. We mean Jesus who said that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Live. The only way into Heaven after death. We mean Jesus who died for our sins and then invited us to receive His forgiveness for those sins and to enter into a relationship with Him – which is really a relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit as well. This is a supernatural relationship with the Holy Trinity. He invites us into “community.”

By community we must mean something different than Facebook community … better words: connectedness and relationships. But, not just a relationship with a heavenly community (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) but also an earthly community called the Church. According to the Bible there is no such thing as being a Christian and not belonging to and being connected to a local church. We are, each one of us, members of the Body of Christ and the member of the body cannot survive without the body. Therefore, if you are a believer and are not interconnected with other believers in one local assembly of believers – accountable, functioning, responsible – then you a member who is AWOIL and you will simply die out there disconnected.

The Christian faith is all about being connected – not disconnected. It is more than believing it is belonging. Only in relationships do we discover God in His fullness. Only in relationship do we discover what it means to be fully human. Only in relationship do we discover who we really are. Relationships precedes identity – always has, even when you were a little baby. As you identified with your father and mother you found identity – discovering yourself and who you really are. A life-long process of course but always located within relationships.

So it is with the Christian when we are born again. Only in relationships do we truly find our identity as a believer and as a member of the Body of Christ.

So “withness” is vitally important. It was to Jesus as He immediately called together “His church” consisting of a leadership team of 12 and followers numbering up over 600 at one time. He was with them sharing life. We, as believers today, must be with other believers sharing the same life – the life and nature of God as found only in Jesus Christ. Withness before witness – then you have something to share – the Gospel and yourself because you will have come to know the real you as found only in withness.

So, please – if you are prompted to witness about your faith and yet are not connected in healthy relationships with other believers in a local church – sit down and shut up. Do us all a favour and don’t tell others you are a born again believer. After all, you are not a good example of what being a Christian is all about and you need to focus on your own life and relationship first. Hard to invite someone to experience something you are not (and maybe never have) experienced.

President of Presbyterian Union of Russia, Sergei Sinyakov

We had different prophets coming and ministering to us. They’d come with their spiritual keys and they’d open doors to places where supernatural knowledge is hidden. Of course when we saw it we would get ignited, encouraged and would move upon it. But when those prophets would leave, they’d close those doors and take the keys with themself.

But this time everything was not as usual and rather different. Lord sent to us brother Ralph. When he was about to close his last part of ministry session to us, we realized one significant thing – this time we’ve not only received a now-word and encouragement or inspiration, this time theLordhasgivenusmuch morethroughRalph – it was the key by which the supernatural knowledge, direction and vision can be available to us all the time. The Lord has also given us through Ralph instructions and insights of how to use it in a way that we would move in this ministry and not harm ourselves or others, but would allow God reveal us things for others knowing that it’s not just some human things but something that God wants to give us and others.

During 18 years of my life I had questions that were lying on the shelves of my soul and it was about the supernatural life of the Church and the Church’s moving in supernatural anointing. I was waiting for the time to come and kept believing that one day the Lord would give me the answers to my questions.

And recently, during the ministry of Ralph, God has answered though himto all of my questions. At that point I received a clear vision and understanding of how one can move in the gift of prophetic anointing and the gift of supernatural ministry without destroying andworking in a safe manner!

Dmitry Morozov, pastor’s associate, Moscow

Just some words about what Ralph Howe Ministry has brought to my personal life.

To say that the ministry has encouraged me is not a big enough word in order to express mycondition before and after and describe the changes.I have a feeling that it was like a trigger for making a shot. InsomesenseI went unleashed, I seriously got interested in the gifts of the Spirit especially in the gift of prophecy. I realized that I was not taught in how to move in the gifts and now is the time to catch up. In the spiritual realm I see a serious movement; I began to realize many things in a new way and got a real desire to become a full-grown participant of the Kingdom and live supernatural life, hear the voice of the Holy Spirit and to know Him. Earlier I would often receive revelations from God for my life and now I started to receive words from the Lord for another people. I know that it is only the beginning.

I want to thank Ralph for his ministry and I thank God for making our ways cross each other.

Christians are often AWOL and Yet Still Here

When with people are you really all there? Or, have you emotionally and mentally checked out? There in body only? Better question – Are you there spiritually or have you checked out at that level as well. Many believers are there but not really there. There are many reasons for this – busy, exhausted, lack of interest, just being politically correct so in attendance… You are, as a believer AWOL – Absent Without Official Leave … Jesus did not say you could simply “check out.”

Jesus is “God with us” and ‘with’ was a key word in His life and ministry. He was with His disciples; He was with the Father in His early morning prayer time; He was with Martha and Mary after their brother died; He was with the multitudes on the sea shore teaching, healing, and touching their lives with the love and power of His heavenly Father. He is “God with us.”

He did not come to teach sterile truth but to allow others to experience what He was experiencing … His disciples were with Him and began, right from the start to experience what He was experiencing. Their ministry-team life was a complex expression of the “with-Me principle.”

Jesus wanted His disciples to experience the reality He knew; he did not want to pass along the conclusions of His experiences. In the deepest moment it was not a sharing of belief and theology but an introduction to Abba. If Abba is met, shared beliefs can then follow as they walk together with Abba. All knowledge must be realized. Realized knowledge changes perception and overflows into actions. And, changes lives – starting with you! Being “with others” is the only way to “realize knowledge.”

The Christian faith cannot be worked out alone. Truth cannot be grasped without relationships. Neither can it be applied if you are not in relationship with others. It can be learned academically (head knowledge) but cannot be applied or made to become living truth unless worked out within accountable and loving relationships – the “with-Me principle” in a wider application.

You see – the incarnation is with-ness stuff. To witness to others the truths we have learned and applied we need to practice with-ness – to be with them. Witness requires with-ness. And, for most Christians that seems to be a difficult proposition – to be with others who do not believe in Jesus and to open oneself to be a part of their lives and let them be an active part of your life (with-ness).

Maybe we fear open and raw honesty – as that is what you will find in the world (and seldom in the Church). Maybe we fear others coming to know us on more than a surface level – because we have not taken the time to get to know ourselves in any really adequate way. Maybe we fear rejection. Not sure why we fear this “with-ness” but apparently we do.

But, if you will just take a small step into this exciting journey – you will find that it is not near as hard nor as difficult as you may think. People are hungry for meaningful relationships. People want to talk about more than the weather and sports – surface nonsense that passes for conversation these days. And, everywhere you go there are coffee bars and coffee shops open 24 hours a day to enable the building of “with-ness” that will result in meaningful and healthy relationships and opportunities o share the Gospel of love with them. People want substance and depth and we have both to offer – but first, before we can witness, we must first develop withness.

Stuff and Other Things

Have you ever watched people continue to accumulate more and more “stuff?” You know – stuff they don’t need, shouldn’t have, will never use, didn’t really want? Stuff! More stuff! And then it just sits and seldom gets used, admired, looked at, read, turned on. Wait a few years and it becomes the basis for a garage sale when people come and buy what you should have never owned at a greatly reduced price and the cycle often begins again.

Makes you wonder why people buy all this stuff in the first place. A lack of inner contentment? A need to surround oneself with stuff so that you look and feel successful? An attempt to impress others you hang out with? Maybe it is strictly the consumerism of the society and we are being sucked into it – but why? We need to ask ourselves this question. Why all this stuff?

In my experienced – limited though it may be – I have discovered that most often the people with less are happier than those who have more. Those who have just what they need to live life are almost always happier than those who are constantly needing to purchase more and more and more stuff. Overseas I see a steady rise in consumer spending and believers wanting to be more and more like those who live in the G8 nations … and so they are purchasing stuff and filling their lives with stuff and accumulating stuff. Sad! It is not making them happier or more content. It seems to simply breed discontent in everyone who gets caught in the trap.

I love what humorist Lily Tomlin said, “If I had known what it would be like to have it all, I might have settled for less.” I believe that is true of many who have it all or even wish that they had it all. That may be a dawning truth in your life right now. I know it is in mine.

I am watching what is happening in Eastern Europe as they enter into our way of life – exiting from Communism into consumerism. I see less contentment and little happiness. I see a lot of striving and envy. And, slowly but surely the banks are opening up branches for the regular people and credit cards are being advertised and offered. Credit will, no doubt, become a way of life as it is in North America and they will be able to accumulate more stuff!

In my life I am buying less and less. I have to admit that I have always hated to go shopping and can think of little in my life that is more boring. However, regardless, I am simply buying less and less. How many unread books do I need? How many pairs of pants can you wear in a week or at one time? How many Bibles do you need to own – after all, most never get read. Even when it comes to food items, I have found myself cutting back on the extras and becoming more basic in what we buy and eat – and also healthier as a result.

I was never an accumulator but I have managed to accumulate much. And, so I have begun to give things away. New things. Unused things. Not needed and needed things. And as I do it seems like there is a lightness in the spiritual realm that was not there before – like a spirit of consumerism has let go and gone. Call it what you want something has changed – left, lifted, opened up – and spiritually I am more alive and settled and content than ever before. I have lots of people overseas who can use what I no longer want to keep and I am spreading it out among many and very slowly so as not to feed this human desire to accumulate stuff.

On last comment … better to do this now than to leave the sorting and tossing to others after you are dead. Doing it now means you get to determine what goes where and who receives what blessing. Later, after you are dead, those sorting through your treasures will most likely see more trash than you do and toss it or sell it in a garage sale. I have seen it happen many too many times.

So, divest and give away what you don’t need or use – and expect nothing in return except to feel good about it and to then be able to walk with a lighter load. I agree with Lily Tomlin.

Watch Me, I’ll Mess Up Your Life

Urban monk Shane Claiborne, a founder of “The Simple Way” community in Philadelphia, shared with a group of Drew (University) students his incomprehension of those who testify, “My life was a mess. I was all screwed up and then I met Jesus and my life came together.” In his case, Shane says, it was the exact opposite. “I had my life all together. I was on an upward track and heading toward medical school. Then I met Jesus, and he messed up my whole life.”

And that is so true – when we, as disciples, follow Jesus closely (not at a distance) He will radically alter our lives and, from all appearances, “mess up your whole life.” Your personal plans, the reason you do things, the direction your life was taking, your goals … He messes everything up as He brings you into His Kingdom through the born again experience. If you had it all together and planned out – He will mess it up. If you thought your life was fairly unorganized and messed up already – once saved, it will be really messed up.

You see – when you say “yes” to Him and become a disciple – you enter a process of becoming. You will be “made” which is far better than what the world was offering where you would be “had.” The Bible states, up front, that getting saved will cost you everything. You are dead and buried with Christ. Dead people don’t have rights. Followers of Jesus don’t have rights. We will be made into His image – we will share His likeness. We will be made to become fishers of men – soul winners who seek and save the lost as He did. We will be joined to others and be made into His people, the Bride, an army of one, a family. We will be made powerful in Him as He baptizes us in the Holy Spirit and fire with power. We become new creatures in Christ – supernatural being. We are made His ambassadors representing His Kingdom and His rule.

Yup! I can see how that might mess you up a little bit. It did me. I was well on my way to becoming wealthy and wise. In my third year of a business degree and heading to be a chartered accountant when He called me. I answered slowly- finished my third and fourth years of my degree and then working in an international firm of accountants for 18 months … but eventually I knew it was time to discover more about God and to answer the call I had heard. So, I left the business world and have never looked back. It has not been easy at times; it has been, many times, very messy. But, He never promised it would be smooth and easy to follow Him and let Him “make” you.

But, in spite of or because of everything that I have been through I am who I am and who I am becoming and, at times, even I am pleased with what I see. It might have been messy – I am sure it will be messy – but the Lord called me to follow Him no matter what and follow I have. There are no regrets!

The Lost Art

Journaling appears to be almost lost in the life of believers and the Church. Few believers take the time to journal their spiritual journey and biblical insights on a daily basis. Prayer journals are becoming as scarce as hair on a frog. It seems that we are too busy, too concerned that someone will read our journals, not sure what to record, don’t care to, or maybe simply don’t understand the benefit of journaling on a daily basis.

Daily journaling remind us that our walk with God is a daily experience that can be chronicled and measured. You can see by reading back a few weeks or months how your relationship is developing and growing (or not) and make adjustments where needed. It is an excellent tool by which to measure your spiritual growth and the increasing depth (or lack of it) of your relationship with God.

It slows us down in the morning as we stop at the start of the day to reflect on life and our relationship with the Lord. Setting our minds and hearts on the supernatural before the natural floods our minds and lives is a good thing. Spiritual before physical; stilling our hearts before we seriously stimulate the mind; being still before God before becoming overly active before man. Especially important if you want to gain God’s perspective of your day.

It helps you to respond to life honestly. As you record thoughts and feelings, situations and circumstances you begin to find the rhythm in your life, the stream of thoughts and feelings flowing underneath the activities and situations you are facing. As a result you are able to see things in context, feel things within a context, and thus respond more adequately to what is actually taking place.

Journaling helps you to reflect on the meaning of your life experiences, and to be specific in your requests to God. An unexamined life is not worth living someone once said. I agree! And so we need to both take time to reflect, as believers, on the greater meaning and significance of life as you are living it. Then you can pray more specifically and receive guidance and direction that is less general and more targeted as God shows you things in your heart and mind. Mid-course directional changes are better than deathbed regrets.

You can look back in your journal and see the progress you are making. Ah! And it is so good to see how things are developing. Because you live with yourself every day you often miss the growth and development that is ongoing and marvellous. Like having a puppy – you don’t realize how big they are growing. But, those who only see the dog once a month will. So, if you don’t journal you will be unaware of your growth or lack of it. And that is never good.

Journaling helps you to build momentum – and without journaling you lose momentum. Seeing how you are growing and developing in your Christian walk is encouraging and motivating and helps you not to become discouraged and thus lose momentum.

I am sold on journaling. I don’t have the time – I make the time. I fear others may find it and read my thoughts – some have (that’s their problem). It takes discipline and I don’t always like discipline but I impose this discipline upon myself because I have, over the years, seen the immense benefit of this daily task. You can journal in a note book, in a binder on loose leaf, in your computer (on-line journaling programs are available free), or even on line (called a web log or blog). You are reading my public journal – the rest is private and none of your business. 🙂

Pray Persistently and Never Give Up

There is a story told by Howard Hendricks (author and professor)… He walked into his class at seminary one day and said: “Gentlemen, I want to tell you something. My seventy-year-old father received Jesus Christ as his Savior. That might not be very meaningful to you until I also tell you that for forty years, I have every day prayed for his salvation. And after forty years, God finally said yes.”

Never mind the theology of whether it was God who was reluctant to say “yes” during that time or his father’s stubborn heart that caused the delay – the neat thing is that the Lord did answer his prayer and welcomed his father into the royal family and the body of Christ. Angels and the heavenly hosts held a party over one lost sinner saved. So did Howard Hendricks. But, 40 years of daily prayer is a long haul by anyone’s estimation.

How often have you given up praying for something – especially something you know is within the will of God as stated and outlined for us in His Word, our Bible? You prayed for a week or two and then simply gave up thinking either God was not listening or that He was saying ‘no’ to your request? How long after starting to pray did you begin to doubt and become double-minded and thus unable to receive anything from the Lord? (James 1) Or maybe you are one who in the heat of the moment pray for someone or something and then when the panic or the passion for that person or situation simmers down so does your motivation to pray. Is that you? Do you become bored because God is not answering you immediately as if He is there to serve you?

Or maybe you don’t understand that prayer is the way that God has chosen to work upon the earth. This is the way His will, His plans and purposes are released upon the planet. This is why He taught us to pray “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” With our consistent prayers God, in His timing, will release His perfect will and His plans and purpose for the person or situation we are praying for – IF we don’t lose heart and give up.

Hudson Taylor, founder of China Inland Mission, never stopped praying for the Chinese people. His son records that the sun never rose over China that it did not find his father on his knees praying for his people. And now tens of millions of Christians worship in this communist nation – the result of this man’s persistence.

One of the weakest areas of the church in North America is this whole area of prayer – individual and corporate. Prayer meetings are not popular nor well attended. We have seen the formation of many “houses of prayer” separate from the local church but the Lord said that it was His house (the local church) that was to be the house of prayer for all nations.

It is time that all of us as individual believers to re-establish an active, alive and dynamic prayer life first. Then, in the near future, come together in the local church and begin to seek God’s face and release God’s will for those you know and love who are still lost. Time for excuses to end. Time for God’s people to do what only we can do – pray in the powerful Name of Jesus and watch God move mountains as we do.