The Emphasis Today in the Church Jesus Is Building – Part Four

We have been looking at the emphasis in the Church that Jesus is building – what the Holy Spirit is focusing on right now and well into this decade as Jesus builds His Church – the one that will take the Gospel of the Kingdom to every corner of every nation; the Church that is taking seriously the mandate the Head of the Church, Jesus, left us before ascending into Heaven.

Today – let’s briefly look at an often forgotten biblical teaching – the priesthood of all believers. This priesthood is not for some selected small number of men who will go to seminary and who will be ordained by church officials and thus be “qualified” to lead a congregation or local church. The whole concept of two separate classes of believers – clergy and laity – is non-biblical and foreign to the Bible understanding of the life of the local church. It is part of the church that man has built.

Martin Luther (1483-1546) rediscovered two truths that had been lost to the Church by the mid-1400’s. The first was “salvation by grace through faith” (Ephesians 2:8-9) and the second was the priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:5). The first was re-established during his life – the second one almost forgotten and, most certainly, not welcomed by the leaders and hierarchy of the Church of his day (or today).

Today God is reintroducing the theology and practice of the people of God being priests unto Him. And, because of apostles and prophets being restored to the Church (see Part Three of this series) the priesthood will be prophetic and apostolic.

In the time of Israel’s exodus from Egypt God called His people to come to His mountain and worship Him – coming into His presence and hearing His voice. Out of fear, they refused to go to the mountain top and into God’s presence but instead sent Moses to be their representative and tell God what was on their heart (priest) and to listen to God and come and tell them what was on His heart (prophet). God never intended either of these tasks to be delegated to an individual. He always wanted a prophetic priesthood. A people who would know His voice and what is on His heart (prophetic) and who would minister out of His presence and with His power (priesthood) in they moved about their every day world (apostolic) so that many non-believers would hear the voice of their Father and be seriously touched by His supernatural power and come into the Kingdom as new believers.

So, the Holy Spirit is currently reintroducing and restoring the priesthood of all believers to His Church. This will mean that Sunday teachings will need to move from being pastoral and personal to a time of “equipping the saints for the work of the ministry” (Ephesians 4:12). This will mean the call on the leader is not to lead without rocking the boat – but to make sure that everyone gets out of the boat and begins to be challenged to minister powerfully in the Name of the Lord. Every member of the Church that Jesus is building is a minister. Every member is to be prophetic hearing the voice of God regularly and accurately and every member is to be apostolic – being sent out as priests of God into the world to reveal the Father’s heart to non-believers and thus fulfill the call upon every disciple’s life.

The priesthood of all believers who are a prophetic and apostolic people – the fourth focus for the Church that Jesus is building.

Tuesday in Butler, Ohio

Thank you for praying for the ministry ongoing here in Ohio during this apostolic trip to the mid-west United States. Your prayers always powerfully impact the work of The Lord on these trips to the United States as they do for ministry in Canada, Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Even while here in Ohio I am working on plans for the second quarter of 2013 and several trips to minister in both Eastern Europe and Central Asia. As you can understand, much planning and a tremendous number of emails, Skype conversations, and phone calls go in to each and every ministry trip for many months prior to the actual time away. Thanks for praying for this planning and for proposed trips to Turkey, Armenia, and Kyrgyzstan among others.

Today there are no public meetings here in Butler and surrounding area. My host and mentor (same person) and I have spent the morning discussing some joint writing projects as we believe we need to be addressing some serious issues we see in the Church today. As well, we also sense that the Church needs to be aware of some trends that are dangerous to the work and life of the Church. So, we have been drinking coffee (I mean, what else) and sharing what is on our hearts for the Church and what parts of that life and mission we believe God is calling us to speak into. It has been a productive morning. There will be three or four more opportunities like this in the coming week. Your focused prayers on these quiet, behind-the-scene meetings would be greatly appreciated.

As always, each day ministering away from home sees meetings with various people and today will be no different. There are several meetings planned with people – each with a different agenda. While here this week I will be meeting with their Young Mens Discipleship Group (Wednesday night), their Youth Group (Sunday night), the deacons and their wives (Friday night) as well as running an 8 hour evangelism seminar (all day Saturday) and the Sunday morning service as well. Please remember these scheduled public meetings and the personal one-on-one meetings held daily as well. Your ministry to those I am ministering to is greatly appreciated. God bless you for your participation in this wonderful opportunity to minister in the United States of America.

The Emphasis Today in the Church Jesus Is Building – Part Three

We are looking at the emphasis in the Kingdom and the Church in 2013. We have looked at the intimacy factor and the Kingdom focus. Today, let’s briefly look at apostles and prophets. For more on this topic there are many articles and postings on the main web site at www.ralphhoweministries.com

Jesus is building a new and proper foundation for His Church in every nation around the world. Some existing churches are open to this fresh revelation of an old truth and others are not. However, the Lord is working with those who have open hearts and are receiving the message and the messengers; understanding and seeing the need for apostles and prophets and inviting authentic apostles and prophets into their churches to minister and be a vital part of the foundational work being done in the building of the Church of Jesus Christ.

The third focus in the Kingdom and the Church that Jesus is building is on apostles and prophets. These two ministry functions and roles are first, foundational, functional, and focused.

First – 1 Corinthians 12:28 states: “First apostles, then prophets…” In other words, to begin a new work or when planting a church the initial ministry needed is that of an apostle and prophet. So often we send in a “church planter” which is a non-existent minister and ministry in the pages of the Bible. Or, worst still, we send in someone with the call of a pastor on their life. The Bible clearly states that the first ministries needed are those of apostles and prophets.

Foundational – Ephesians 2:20 states: (the church) built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Jesus Christ being the chief cornerstone.” Jesus is the only true foundation for the Church as well as being the only Head of the Church that is needed. However, apostles and prophets are foundational. Grab the distinction – Jesus is the foundation, apostles and prophets are foundational. To build properly their ministry must be established first as then the other ministries can be built upon them thus forming a healthy and reproducing church.

Functional – The ministry of the apostle and prophet within a local church is to equip the saints. Ephesians 4:11-12 states that these ministries were given to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. In other words, to prepare and enable the regular disciples of the Lord to walk in the supernatural power and presence of the Holy Spirit and minister to unsaved non-believers so that they fulfill the call of God upon their lives. Again, note the distinction – the apostles and prophets do not do the ministry; they equip and train the believers to do the ministry.

It is extremely wrong when a church hires a professional clergy to do the ministry. First of all – sheep don’t pick the shepherd; secondly, biblically there is no division between clergy and laity; and thirdly, the ministry is to be accomplished by the believers and not the professionals.

Focused – When apostles and prophets are first, foundational and functional – then they can focus the church and see the church become apostolic-prophetic in nature. This means the people will be prophetic because the Bible states that “all can prophesy” and so the disciples of the Lord will walk in the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit and move out from the church being missional – reaching the lost and reproducing. When there is an apostle involved in the ministry team then the people become apostolic. The word apostle means “the sent one” and so the people become ‘sent ones.’ And when a prophet is involved in the foundational ministries of the church then the people move out to save the lost by walking in the supernatural power and gifts of the Holy Spirit. This becomes the main focus of the Church that Jesus is building today.

So, welcome the ministry of the apostles and prophets and reap the powerful benefits of these ministers of the Kingdom…

On the Road to Butler

It is Monday and my short (2 full days) visit to New Life in Waynesburg have come to an end. This morning I had time with the pastor of New Life before he headed out to his secular employment and then was picked up to drive back to Butler, Ohio (an hour’s drive). Knowing my driver I am sure there will be a Starbuck’s on the way. Coffee to go most likely.

This afternoon I am hoping to spend time with several young men I am relating to here in Ohio and, of course, drink more coffee at various Starbuck locations – there are Tim Horton’s here in Ohio but these are Starbuck’s people. Then supper with my mentor and his wife and an evening of fellowship and sharing. They are early to bed people so I will be able to have some time later in the evening (right next to their coffee machine) drinking coffee and reading. I always have three of four books with me on any trip I take as there is always time to read between, before, or after events that are scheduled. And, I love to read as I am always hungry for more information and spiritual insight.

Would you please pray for Levi and for George. I will be meeting with both during my visit here in Ohio. I have built relationships with both and believe both have powerful callings upon their lives – and, as usual, I want to be involved equipping and mentoring them. I have included their pictures in this blog (Levi is the older of the two – George the younger). George will be going overseas with me hopefully this summer when I next minister at a youth event in Eastern Europe or Central Asia. He has been preparing for 18 months now and is looking forward to joining me hopefully in 2013.

Your prayers for the remaining days of this trip (Tuesday through to next Monday) and for George and Levi would be greatly appreciated. Pray bold prayers as God really loves to hear us believe for big things and to pray with assurance and faith.

The Emphasis Today in the Church Jesus Is Building – Part Two

On Saturday we started looking at the things that Jesus is emphasizing in 2013 in the Church that He is building. Jesus stated that He would build His Church and He is in the process of doing just that. However, as we see in the prophet Jeremiah there is often first a need to “pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow” (Jeremiah 1:10) before one can “build and plant.”

The book of Hebrews states that there is a time of severe shaking coming. Hebrews 12 states: “So don’t turn a deaf ear to these gracious words…One last shaking, from top to bottom, stem to stern. The phrase ‘one last shaking’ means a thorough housecleaning, getting rid of the historical and religious junk so that the unshakable essentials stand clear and uncluttered.” (Hebrews 12:25-27 The Message Version).

As Jesus shakes His Church breaking down what man has built He is bringing a new emphasis on His Kingdom. This is His second emphasis in 2013 and a continuation from 2012…

The Kingdom is far bigger than just the Church. It involves and includes His people, the Church but is far bigger and more challenging than the Church. Jesus came preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom and not just a Gospel of salvation. Again, the Gospel of the Kingdom (Luke 4:43) includes the Gospel of salvation but is much bigger than just this. Jesus was declared as One who was born King and kings have a kingdom. Jesus is head of the Church but also King in His Kingdom. As the prophet Isaiah states: “For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder…Of the increase of His government and of peace there will be no end.” (Isaiah 9:6-7 part) He is the King and the Ruler (government) of the Kingdom.

The emphasis within the Kingdom – and for this reason, the Church – is not maintenance but expansion. His Kingdom is to constantly growing and expanding until it encompasses the whole world and every human being has had opportunity to hear the Gospel of the Kingdom and the Name of the King – Jesus. The expansion of the Kingdom happens when those who called themselves disciples and say that they love the King – do as the King commands. After all, Jesus said that if we love Him we will obey Him. He has commanded that we, as disciples, go into all the world and make more disciples. In other words, reproduce as healthy disciples should. Healthy sheep begat healthy sheep.

But more than this – the Kingdom expands by then grouping these new disciples into local churches – new church plants – where they can be fed, cared for, matured, trained and equipped and then sent out to reproduce and thus expand the Kingdom even further. So, it is more than adding new believers to the Church – it is multiplying the number of churches in each and every nation of the world – all 195 nations. So we are not working with “addition” but with “multiplying.”

The Gospel of the Kingdom involves preaching the good news that Jesus died for our sins and we can have our past forgiven, a purpose in life, and a place in Heaven when we die. This Gospel when preached involves deep conviction by the Spirit of the living God and a response by the unsaved person – godly sorrow with repentance (2 Corinthians 7:8-10). This means the person is truly forgiven and saved or born again and a valid and true part of His Kingdom. Jesus preached this: “Repent, for the Kingdom is at hand.” This was also the message preached by Peter and Paul (Matthew 3:2; Matthew 4:17; and Acts 2:38)

So, the Kingdom will be an emphasis in 2013 as we take Jesus to the people – the Holy Spirit will then bring them to Jesus as that is His task. And, by this the Kingdom will continue to expand.

Waynesburg, Ohio on Sunday

This morning I preached and ministered prophetically in New Life Church in Waynesburg, Ohio. Waynesburg is a village of just less than 1,000 people and the church here is very active and very much alive. The worship is wonderful, full of God’s presence, and anointed. This, of course, makes my work during the preaching and ministering prophetically much easier as I simply ‘go with the flow.’

I arrived here late yesterday afternoon and enjoyed fellowship with the pastor both on the way and upon arrival. I heard a great deal about this local church and it is evident that they are pleased and somewhat proud of what the Lord has done and is doing as they follow His lead and walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh.

As this is my first visit to this town and this church I am walking gently feeling my way and coming to know who is who and who does what. Most of the constructive ministry will be done outside of public services – behind the scenes in meetings with the pastor and his leaders. If this first visit goes well I am hopeful that this will be the beginning of a long-term relationship where I can be one of their apostolic ‘consultants’ and can continue to speak into the life and ministry of this local
church.

Please pray for the afternoon and evening today (Sunday) and all that the Lord would have us accomplish in my limited time here. And, pray for Monday morning when I will be with them for the last time summarizing what I felt and saw spiritually as well as relationally. Your prayers are greatly appreciated and are a vital part of this ministry the Lord has given to me. Thanks for praying.

Butler and Waynesburg

Arrived in Ohio last night and spend the evening with my mentor and his wife enjoying good food and fellowship as well as catching up on the news of the River of Life Church that he leads and where I will be ministering starting on Tuesday… Today (Saturday) I will be picked up and driven to Waynesburg to work there with the leadership team tonight and then preaching and ministering to the people of the church there.

This is my first visit to New Life Christian Church in this town. I have met the pastor and his worship team before as they ministered in River of Life Church one Friday evening when I was there in 2012. However, this is the first time in the town of Waynesburg and this local church. I am looking forward to coming to know the pastor and his team better and to sensing what the Holy Spirit is wanting to do in the midst of His people in this small town in Ohio.

Please pray for safe travel (driving) and a powerful Saturday afternoon and evening and a full day on Sunday. On Monday there will be a time of debriefing with the local pastor and then time with him and my mentor who will come to Waynesburg to pick me up and take me back to his home and the church in Butler where I will be ministering from Tuesday to the following Monday.

Thanks for praying and having a vital part in the ministry The Lord has called me to here in the United States. Also, would you be so kind as to begin to pray for a four day trip into Dallas, Texas from the 28th to the 31st of January. Many thanks. God bless!

The Emphasis today in the Church that Jesus Is Building – Part One

As we begin the year of the Lord 2013 it is a good time to have a look at what the Lord of the year will be emphasizing in His Church. Remember, it is His Church and not our Church. I received a Christmas card from a church that I work with – and it was signed “pastor so-and-so’s Church” followed by the name of the church. It is not his church and they are not his sheep. The Church belongs to Jesus and today He is building His Church. To do so He must change much of the church that man has built. In the midst of what will be a busy construction season there are a number of things He is focusing on … I want to briefly look at one a day over the next 8 or 9 days.

The first and most important emphasis in the Church will be on intimacy with the Lord. Everything rises and falls on the intimacy factor. All ministry arises out of your intimacy with the Lord. Intimacy is what the Lord came to earth for – both as He ministered revealing the heart of the Father letting us know what the Creator God is like and His desire to re-establish a relationship with His creation – with you and I. And, intimacy is what the death and resurrection of Jesus is all about. By His shed blood we receive forgiveness for our sins and the gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23). The Bible defines eternal life as an intimate relationship with our heavenly Father and with His Son whom He sent (John 17:3). So, establishing and growing relationships is what the Christian faith is all about. Without developing and maintaining a relationship you simply have another religion.

Mark 3:13-14 sets the tone for the life and ministry of Jesus – then and now. “And He appointed twelve (whom He also named apostles) so that they might be with Him and He might send them out to preach.” The key is that a relationship with Him is first and foremost – and then the ministry arises out of the relationship. Then you are working with Him and not just for Him. Then you are walking in the Spirit and not doing everything in the flesh. So, like Moses we are able to speak to God “face to face as a man speaks to his friend” (Exodus 33:11).

The Devil knows that this is the key to a powerful, mature, strong believer and so he attempts to keep the Christian busy so they become absorbed in life, activities, ministry and other ‘good things’ while neglecting their relational base with the Lord due to a lack of time and energy. This way the Christian faith which is based on a relationship with the Christ becomes simply another religion based on good works done in the Name of the Lord but not at His leading or command. Thus the Lord’s response to those who were ministering but did not “know Him”…

Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you [relationship]; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!

In 2013 in the Church that Jesus is building intimacy with Him and fellowship with the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 13:14) will be a constant emphasis so that every believer becomes “rooted and grounded in love” because “God is love.”

First Apostolic trip of the New Year

I left this morning early (4:30a) for the airport for a flight from Regina to Winnipeg and then on to Toronto. As this is published I will be just about to land in Toronto and will then begin making my way to almost the opposite end of the buildings to a ground floor exit straight onto the runway. This 40 minute walk (after going though USA customs, reclaiming and then rechecking my bags) takes me to the twin prop plane that will take me to Columbus, Ohio (just less than an hour’s flying time) and then I will be picked up and driven to the village of Butler, Ohio. I will arrive at my destination 14 hours after leaving my home. The first of many planned trips in 2013.

During my 10 days here in Ohio (12 days if you count travel days) I will be working with two churches – one in Butler and one in Waynesburg. Both of these are small towns (they are called villages in Ohio). This is my 5th trip to River of Life Church in Butler and my first trip to New Life Christian Church in Waynesburg. The ministry I have been asked to be involved in is wide is scope – from prophetic counselling to a full day teaching on supernatural evangelism. Of course, there will be a number of worship services where I will be preaching and prophesying, meetings with leaders, ministering to the youth… and, each day, time with young men I have begun to build solid relationships with – Kyle, Christopher, George, Levi… Above all, most days I will spend quality time with Bill who is, in many ways, a mentor to me.

Your prayers, as always, are greatly desired and appreciated for this time I am spending in Ohio (January 4th to the 14th). You are a vital part of what the Lord does through this ministry and you are greatly appreciated for your support and constant encouragement. I will post an update daily around noon while away…

The Same Old Same Old

We are into a new year and for this year to be any different than any other year each of us needs to makes some changes. If we always do what we have always done then we will always get what we have always gotten (poor English – but true nonetheless). So, the start of a new year is a good time to look at the areas of our lives that we are unhappy with – where there is a lack of peace, contentment, or satisfaction. Those areas where we know there is something lacking and yet they are vital areas to walking with the Lord and experiencing His life flowing in and through us.

In the story of the Wise Men – after being warned in a dream not to go back to Herod they returned by another route. They change the way they were going. And, as we enter this fresh year it leads me to ask the question: Have you turned and gone a different way this past year? Or are you following the Lord as closely or closer than you did at the start of 2012? Are you continuing to closely follow Jesus or are you turning and going in directions you want to go now we are into 2013? Same question! And the answer is….

The start of a new year is always a good time to think deeply about our spiritual life – the life and light of Jesus in us. It is a good time to take a spiritual inventory and see where things are at – where you are at with the Lord of your life. Remember, if He is not Lord of all, He is not Lord at all. The very definition of Lord means He owns you and thus you serve Him and do as He wants – and not the other way around. North American Christianity is much too self-centered and me-oriented. It is not about you or me – it is all about Him. And, so we need to change the way we are going and take a different route like the Wise Men did.

Let’s make 2013 a time when we truly become a people of His presence and experience His peace in our heart and lives and His power in our ministries to the unsaved. Let’s not let 2013 be a rerun of 2012… remember you only get to live this year once; it is not a dress rehearsal where we get to do it all over a second time. Time can be wasted, spent, or invested. Let’s make the changes necessary so that we are investing our time wisely with eternal significance and not simply spending time or, worse still, wasting time.

2013 is a time to move forward with the Lord and in the call that is upon your life to go into all the world and seek and save the lost, making disciples…