One Main Character

You have probably noticed that there is one main character in the Bible – God! The Bible is God’s story. Yet, often when we read the Bible, we read it as if it were about us. We look for verses containing encouragement and guidance for us. Romans 15:7 tells us that the goal of all we do is for God to be glorified. God’s great longing is to fill the earth with His glory. He wants to impact and impress all of creation with His goodness and greatness.

God longs to accomplish this mission through His people. If the starting point of all we do is not right (the focus is on us in other words), everything else will be out of alignment. If we get off track right from the beginning, we will miss our destiny down the road. God must be the goal of everything – the focus, the reason, the aim – of everything we do. God has a mission and he wants everyone to be a part of it. The mission is to glorify Himself through His great mercy.

When we were made right in God’s eyes, we are saved for God and called to join Him in spreading the good news of His love and mercy. The new covenant, the covenant of mercy and grace that has brought us into relationship with God, is first of all for God. We are saved for God first, then ourselves.

If the focus and goal of God’s plan for all eternity is His own glory, then we are called to seek, savour, and spread His glory. The Church is not divided into the called and the uncalled, those who go and those who stay, those who live for His glory and those who don’t. We are all on a mission for God – not a secret mission, but an all-consuming mission, and that mission is the glory of God.

So, as you read your Bible today – remember, it is all about Him and not you!

Christianity Is Relational

As you read this it will be evening here in Turkey. End of day one… I am in a beautiful spot in the mountains. I have never been to this area before. The scenery is wonderful for a guy who lives on flat prairie. Sitting on the balcony reading my Bible and praying this morning was a tremendous experience. It was cool but not cold weather-wise. But the Lord’s presence was warm and inviting as always.

Yesterday on my way to this area of southern Turkey I had opportunity to reconnect with some beautiful people from the United States and to meet some new people from both England and the United States. When a Christian meets another Christian for the first time there is an instant bonding and a relationship can get off to a great start because we have so much in common. Made the last leg of a long two day trip very enjoyable.

Today I have had opportunity to meet with some fantastic people from a number of nations. Meals, of course, turn into “business” meetings and even walks from one area to another in the hotel end up as times to talk and come to know others you have just met. An introvert’s nightmare but one that I believe I handle well.

Please pray for my time here that the Lord would be glorified and I would grow spiritually. I want to catch more of the Lord’s heart for His people and for His Kingdom and my role in what He is currently doing in the nations of the world. Thanks for praying. Greatly appreciated.

The Simple Church

We are called by God to go into all the world and make disciples in all nations. We do this because we love Him and thus obey Him. We also do it because we have been empowered and enabled to be His witness through the baptism in the Holy Spirit. We are called to “be” a witness and also to go and do – telling and teaching. So, being leads to doing.

It is the same with the church. We don’t go to church, we are the church. And we are called to be the church in the world – light where there is darkness, salt to add flavour and to preserve what is good while bringing healing to what is not good in our neighbourhood, society, and culture. We are called to “be” the church which then leads to us doing things as part of the church to impact and influence the world around us.

However, at times the “being” and the “doing” are neglected because we have so many church activities that we are involved in. There is the prayer meeting, the bible study, the small group ministry, worship team practice, the leaders team, the kids ministry… not to mention our own personal time with The Lord. So, our focus becomes ourselves – each of us looking after ourselves and then being a part of the bigger picture as we are involved in church programs and activities which, again, are often more about us than others – maintenance and not ministry. It does not leave much time to “be” a witness to the lost or “do” anything for those who are not part of the fellowship.

Maybe it is time to simplify the church somewhat. Nothing against all the activities – personal and corporate – that make up what we know as the Christian life. But, if they are simply activities that allow us to feel good about ourselves but keep us from “being” a witness to the lost and “doing” something for them or with them that will show them, in very tangible ways, that God loves them and cares about them – then it is time to rethink things a bit. Time to simplify.

There was once a small factory that produced lubricating oil for machinery. It had a great product and it was in very high demand. So, the factory was expanded and the product line was in production 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. However, the bigger the factory became the more oil it took to keep the machinery that produced the oil in good operating order. Eventually the company was so successful that it build the largest factory every seen, buying new and better equipment, hiring more people. However, it became so big that it was eventually using all of the oil it produced for internal use. It didn’t take long and the company went into bankruptcy.

Well, the church is in the same situation and facing bankruptcy – spiritual bankruptcy. All of of time, effort, and resources are going to the “factory” with little or no time, energy, and emotion left over to “go”, “be,” and “do.” So, because we are not fulfilling the ministry of The Lord, seeking and saving the lost, maybe it is time to simplify and change the focus from ourselves to those who are without hope because they don’t know Christ. From maintenance to mission and then ministry…

The early church travelled light and moved quickly. They only had organization if it helped to sustain the life of God (Zoe) that was flowing in the local church. They were mission and ministry oriented and thus grew quickly and spread rapidly. We are shrinking gradually and dying slowly but the outcome is inevitable if we don’t change what we are doing and, in some cases, the way we are doing it.

Simple is good.

Arrived in Turkey…

I have arrived in Turkey and will be settling in over the next hour or two, finding my bearings, locating the coffee shop, and connecting to the wireless structure. Then a decent sleep as I have travelled straight for 33 hours. Have read several excellent and spent time thinking through some necessary changes to what I do in the ministry and how I accomplish it. So, used the time well but it is now imperative that I sleep so that on Friday I am fresh and ready to meet with friends from various nations and even to meet some new people over a meal. Need to be fresh and able to focus on what is being shared and discussed.

While here there will be adequate time set aside for personal time with The Lord. More than most of us who are in full time ministry actually achieve while back home working. So, I plan some early morning walks along the sea shore and late afternoon walks among the orange and lemon trees that are bearing fruit at this time of the year. The next five days here are designed to allow each of us to focus on our personal relationship with The Lord and to take the opportunity of being away from the regular flow of events to actually “be still and know that He is God.”

Your prayers for everyone here and the forming of new relational bonds and the deepening of already existing solid, caring relationships would be greatly appreciated. I will try to keep you informed daily of other prayer needs as they arise.

Thanks for caring and praying….

My Life In God’s Word

I preach and teach a lot. I lover to study, research, dig in and dig through God’s word looking for the truth that the people I am going to minister to need to hear – that God wants them to hear through my words. Of course, my words are a result of God’s Spirit guiding and directing my study and my receiving the revelation that the Spirit shows me. I simply wrap words around the Spirit’s revelation of God’s word.

To get a decent teaching that actually expresses God’s heart takes a good, focused 10 to 15 hours. It takes prayer, focused digging, writing and rewriting, then polishing and changing an expression here and a phrase there to better express what I believe God is saying. When it is all done it then gels for a day or two and then suffers through one more rewrite and a lot of prayer before it is ready.

Some time ago when I was finished another great teaching I heard God say, “You have done well. You have spent the week studying My Word and you have done well in the way you have handled My Word and expressed the revelation I have shown you. You are ready to minister to others… but, you didn’t take a few hours to study My Word on a personal level so I could minister to you.”

That comment hit home. I spend many hours in God’s Word for the ministry He has called me to and given to me. However, I often fail to take quiet time every day in the same Word to let His Holy Spirit minister to me personally. So, I recently made some major, solid changes to my routine and the way I approach my day and my ministry. I have cut a number of things out of my day, stopped doing some things that were good but I don’t want just the good – I want the best. I want the best for my life and my walk with God. And, I know that when I have that, I will also have a much stronger, deeper, and more powerful ministry for The Lord. But, more importantly, a stronger and deeper relationship with The Lord.

It is not easy to cut back on the things you like to do so that you have more time for the things are essential to do to stay spiritually healthy, alert, and alive. It is not easy to break the comfort zone to enter back into a place that can be and often is challenging and stretching. It is not always easy to say no to people who want to talk or connect electronically from this nation and that nation… But, I have entered a season where I sense the next breakthrough is just around the corner and that I would be wise and it would be prudent to step back a bit, refocus, and prepare myself for what The Lord has planned. What His plans are I don’t know and I don’t need to know. I know the current step He is asking me to take and I and adjusting rapidly to enable me to obey. That’s all I need to know.

As this blog is published I will be reading my Bible and spending time with The Lord as I fly from Toronto to Istanbul, Turkey… it’s a night flight so it will be quiet.

More Time With Porn Than With Paul

Many of the people who sit in churches on Sunday spend more time looking at and reading porn than they do reading Paul’s writings in the New Testament. Most young people have not even heard of Paul the apostle and have read nothing that he wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of the living God. Both groups know little of the theology found in Romans, the deep understanding of the Church found in the book of Ephesus, the character issues dealt with in Galatians or even the basic life and ministry of Paul as found in the history of the early church in the book of Acts.

Surveys show that many who call themselves Christians are Bible illiterate. And those who do read their Bible can, and often do, end up with an unbalanced understanding of what the passage they read really means. So, they are reading and applying their Bibles in their own way which regretfully is not often God’s way. Of course, some of this can be traced back to the local pulpits which are, at times, presenting opinion and not Bible truth; a cultural gospel and not the Gospel of the Kingdom.

As someone who loves God’s Word and has spent close to 40 years reading and studying it I find this troublesome. So, I want to do my part to remedy the situation. Near the end of March of this year I will be teachings “Bible Basics & Discipleship” in a number of locations as well as on-line. A simple 90 minutes of learning the basics about the Bible and then the basic foundational truths contained in the Bible. There will be four lessons a month posted on-line. I’m doing this because one of the tasks of an apostle is to “lay correct foundations” (Ephesians 2:20) and to teach the basic doctrines of the faith (Acts 2:42 and Jude 3). I am doing this because my work includes “equipping the saints for the work of the ministry.” (Ephesians 4:11-12)

There is so much to do as we build the Kingdom and push back the spiritual darkness in all of our nations. As an author recently wrote: “We’ve got work to do. There are lost people to reach, churches to plant, and nations to evangelize. Hell is hot, forever is a long time, and it’s our turn to stop making a dent and start making a difference. This is not time to trade in boots for flip-flops. The days are darker, which means our resolve must be stronger and our convictions clearer.”

I could not agree more.

Building the Kingdom Or…

I work with a good number of people in many nations of the world. I watch a lot of news because some of what is transpiring in other nations has a deep impact on the men and women I relate to, disciple, mentor, train and equip. They are living through the people confrontation on Independence Square, Ukraine. They worked witnessing during the recent games in Sochi, Russia. They lead underground house churches in nations where the Christian faith is not welcome and Christians are persecuted. They are giving their lives to raising up the next generation of disciples and church leaders and seeing people saved.

I have also been working with some leaders here in North America. That was past tense. My work here in North America is always looked at and accomplished in light of what is happening in other nations. When you see what believers are doing with their lives and limited resources elsewhere; when leaders you know are in jail for their faith or fleeing their nations for fear of losing their lives; when you see and experience the hunger for truth and fresh insights into God’s Word in so many nations … When you see and experience this and then come back to the reality of the Church in North America… well, let’s say it is never an easy transition. And, it obviously impacts the work I do here. It can’t help but do so.

Recently I have released a number of people I was working with here in North America. One was so in love with himself (and yet really so insecure) that he was literally rude, arrogant, and unappreciative of the work I was doing with him. Another I have been working with by email and the original purpose was to discuss one topic and it quickly turned into a game where he is out to convince me of his extreme grace message – a heresy from the 600’s. Several others have been severed because of simply not staying in contact and thus simply ‘name dropping’ when asked who they submitted to and related to (their covering). I have also recently stepped back from several ‘friendships’ which were, in hindsight, just friendships in name only. I value all relationships but don’t have the time nor emotional energy to relate to everyone who wants to be connected relationally. So, I am pruning. I am stepping back and evaluating the use of my time and emotional and mental energy.

It is difficult to admit that some relationships simply have not and are not adding anything to your life or to the work God has called you to accomplish for Him. These are often long-term relationships with much invested in them. It is hard to bring things to an end as then you have to admit that you were not using your time wisely or that you were simply being used. As a relational person who enjoys people and spends a lot of time connecting to people it is difficult to have to break off relationships or tone them down and take them to a lower level then you have been relating on. It is never easy to say “enough is enough.” But, I had to do this and will continue to do this over the coming months. New beginnings and moving on with God often necessitates the ending of what was so that you can grab hold of what is and what is still to come.

I am maintaining relationships with those who are walking with the real Jesus, who are sharing the true Gospel, and are guided by the one true Holy Spirit and not the many other spirits out there. I am looking for new connections with people who are serious about building God’s Kingdom and thus taking the Gospel of the Kingdom – the power of God unto salvation – into the community where they live, the nation they are citizens of, and the parts of the world that have not heard about Jesus. In other words, people who are serious, committed, obedient, true disciples of The Lord.

I am simply not interested in playing Christian games and relating to “make believe” Christians who are not sold out to the King and the Kingdom. Time to move on no matter how painful that may be.

They Stayed and Prayed

Jesus prophesied that there would be a Church and that He would be building it. He told His disciples not to move out and obey His last command to go into all the world and share the Gospel of the Kingdom seeing people rescued from hell and falling in love with God their Heavenly Father. He told them to stay where they were until they had received the power of God to do the work of God – the power to be His witnesses. So, they stayed and prayed until the Holy Spirit came upon them and they were enabled and empowered to be the witness Jesus wanted them to be and to do the work that He was calling them to do thus building the Church and expanding the Kingdom.

The power came on Pentecost and has remained with the Church ever since. God has not lifted the power. But, in most places the power sits dormant because believers don’t believe. Or, they believe and don’t do anything with what they have received … So they “sort of” believe. I mean, if you really
believed in something would you not be actively involved in it. Maybe they don’t even believe that Jesus is the only way into an eternity in Heaven. I mean, something is definitely wrong. We are settling for much less than what has been given to us and we are simply majoring in being safe, secure, and comfortable. In other words, we are self-deceived and happy being so. One day each and every one of us will be accountable before God for what we have done with the message of the Gospel and the power we were given to spread it from nation to nation.

God has called us to “be witnesses” which means, in my mind anyways, that we should be so passionate for Jesus and so dedicated and thus committed to His cause of seeking and saving the lost that we live differently. We have a different focus from those who do not know Him. We have different values than those who are not born again. Our lifestyle is based in our beliefs and not in our culture and society’s standards of behavior. We should be seen as different – not weird, not wacko, nor super spiritual or spooky … But marching to the beat of a different drummer and letting others know that their is a different way to live, a better way to live … which is the only way into Heaven.

When people look at the way you live – how you entertain yourself, your attitude, your actions, where and how you spend your money, your support for the Kingdom and the cause of Christ, your basic lifestyle … Do they see your faith and your God or do they just see another person living the way they live? Have you ever thought about what it means to “be a witness” versus doing witnessing? It’s all about the total package that you present to the world. Does your talk and walk line up? If they read your Facebook page would they hear your passion for Jesus? If they could see what you watch nightly on television would your list of what you watch be any different than their list? Are you living out your beliefs and being the witness Jesus called us and empowered us to be? Or, are we simply “being” like everyone else?

Oh, I believe that it is about more than “being a witness.” We also need to share Jesus with others by our words and actions. I believe we are called to go and witness – more than “be” – “do.” We need to personally share the Gospel of the Kingdom with those we know and those we love. Our family, our friends, our co-workers need to hear about Jesus and His offer of eternal life – a relationship with God here and now and forever (John 17:3). We need to share daily with others because we honestly do believe, deep down inside, that Jesus is the only way into Heaven and an eternity with God.

But doing always starts with being. Being aware of and living in God’s presence. Being empowered and using that supernatural power to touch lives for Jesus. Being so concerned for the eternal destiny of those around us that we step out, risking our reputation and being unconcerned about what others think about us as we humbly share Jesus and the Gospel with them.

You see, if we are true converts to the faith and are actually born again we have the Holy spirit living within us. We also have the power of God flowing through us because we are baptized in the Holy Spirit and the power came upon us and has remained upon us ever since. We have all it takes to “be” a witness and to “do” witnessing. So, if that is true, and it is, why is it not happening? Too inconvenient? Too much trouble? Too controversial? Too narrow-minded? Too frightening? Too _____________ (you fill it in). I mean, there has to be a reason! Maybe we don’t really believe what we say we believe.

Maybe it would be good to take a deep look into your heart and see where you really stand with The Lord. It may be beneficial to read the New Testament and ask The Lord to help you see it with fresh eyes so that you have new insights into the truths contained in those pages. Maybe it would be good to see what The Lord really does expect of those who call Him Lord and Savior – you know, make a list – and see how you are doing. No need to share the results of your survey and your questioning. Just between you and Jesus. But, be really honest with yourself because your eternal destiny may depend on how seriously you take this little journey into the heart of God.

Remember, it was Jesus who said, “Not everyone who says Lord, Lord, will enter the Kingdom of Heaven but He that does the will of My father who is in heaven.” Are you doing God’s will or simply making excuses and being a cultural Christian and not the real deal?

Changing Seasons

I have been in the church business for 40+ years. I have had a variety of experiences (denominational work, independent work, networking, trans-local ministry) and ministered in numerous locations, cultures, and nations. I have taken over churches from others, planted churches, and consulted as an outside advisor to still others. I have learned a lot and forgotten little. A lot of my learning experiences have contained painful moments that one never forgets. There have been joyful times of victory and comradrie as well. Overall, it has been hard work with long hours and many times with little to no salary to live on. But it has been God – well, most of it has been.

I am currently just entering into another stage of my life and ministry. I have just been involved in closing down a church I planted and one that I have worked with for 33 years and 3 weeks. It is finished, closed, dead, buried and there will be no resurrection. It had some life on occasion. It was growing in numbers slowly. It had great worship and terrific teaching. But, the vast majority of people simply didn’t care. Didn’t care about the church. Didn’t care for or about others as it was mostly and often always about them. Didn’t give much thought or prayer to the lost. Didn’t listen to the hearts of others as they were too busy talking about themselves and others – one leading to sheer boredom the other to gossip. And, they did not tithe … even some of the leaders didn’t tithe. And, generally, the people attending spent more on the speciality coffees they drank – coffees from Starbucks, MacDonald’s, Tim Horton’s and numerous other places where you could spend $4.00+ on a cup of coffee then they gave to the church. Even the Keurig coffee machine at home had more spent on it monthly then was given to the church by some.

So, after working to rescue it numerous times and move it forward into the planned future God had for it, it is now closed. Some say I closed it. I did not! I just nailed the coffin shut but others were really responsible for it death. And it is dead and gone forever.

Sometimes we can have something that is good but not have the best. So, we need to prune it. Many times I cut good roses and great branches off the rose bushes so that the best buds can bloom. Good needs to be pruned so the best can be seen. Some really good people are now without a church home. Sometimes we need to end things because they are sick and not getting well. So, you cut your loses (of time and effort and increasing debt) and dismount because the horse is dead or soon will be. And thirdly, sometimes we just need to cut out the deadwood as it is simply taking up space and preventing true life from springing forth.

There were several aspects of the church and a few people that were good – and they were pruned. Hopefully they will bloom again somewhere and at some time and become the “best” for Jesus. There was much that was simply cultural Christianity and people who said they were believers and lived in such a way to totally disprove their declaration of faith. You might call them Christian athiests. They are sick and currently are not getting well. Maybe somewhere else they can one day be planted and have the life they have apparently been missing. And, there was much dead wood that simply needed to be chopped and removed. Only God knows what His plan for them is. The game just needed to end as there never would be a winner.

So I move on to a new season. I now have 40 to 50 hours a week free to focus on other ministry that I have been involved in part-time for a number of years. I can focus more specifically on the current apostolic call on my life and potentially make a living doing so. There is no financial risk involved as there has been no salary for the last nine months. A new adventure, new things to learn, new places to go, new ways to build, new nations opening up (Peru, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Burundai [Africa], and the United States), new skills to master, new relationships to build, and a new understanding of my future to grab hold of. And, I know, good fruit will come from all of this and already is.

Maybe even more time to focus on my wriitng ministry so as to fulfill several prophetic words spoken over my life. Maybe…

God Needs All You Have

The widow comes to Elisha and tells him her story – she has lost her husband and now the creditors are coming and will take her sons away and sell them as slaves if she does not pay them what is owning. She is hoping for the prophet of God to speak and that when he does a miracle will take place and everything will be taken care of by Almighty God. (2 Kings 4:1-7)

Elisha is just getting into this lead prophet thing and being the man of God that everyone comes to. Elijah, his mentor, has just been carried away into heaven and now his mantal rests upon Elisha. He is now Israel’s prophet and God’s national spokesperson. Instead of solving her problem he asks her a question. This is partly because prophecy was never meant to solve problems – that is simply not the prime purpose of the gift. His question: “Tell me, what do you have in your house?”

As far as bedside manners go, Elisha does not seem to excel. This woman came seeking his help, yet he begins by asking for an accounting of what she has in her house. Doesn’t it seem callous for Elisha to turn the tables on her in her time of need? Nonetheless, she answers him: “Your servant has nothing there t all,” she said, “except a little oil.”

Well, it turns out that one jar isn’t a bad place to start. The widow is about to find out that all God needs is all she has.

Elisha tells her what to do next. “Go around and ask all your neighbours for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.” She does just this. She collects empty jars. She goes home and closes the door. And she starts pouring. And she pours. And keeps on pouring until every jar is filled to the brim. At that moment the miraculous flow of oil ceases.

When she reports to Elisha what happened, he tells her to sell the extra oil and to pay her debts and live with her sons on what is left. God had supernaturally accomplished what the widow could not. He hasn’t just met her need; He has exceeded it – and racked up style points for extravagance.

And how did the miracle start? It started with something that seemed to amount to nothing. “You servant has nothing there at all…” Initially, all this woman could focus on was what she didn’t have. Elisha, on the other hand, was interested in her exception. “…except a little oil.” And it was her exception that became the vessel for an exceptional miracle.

The lesson – give God everything because God needs all that you have – even the little things that you don’t think are important.