The Book of Acts Today!

A True Story From Russia…

The young father and husband had been arrested for teaching the Bible to others … 

He had recently been saved – a miracle in itself – and began to read a Bible that he had obtained – a second miracle in Communist Russia 

He began to teach his wife and children the Scriptures – reading them together late at night and discussing them together … they received Jesus

In time neighbours joined them, and then more neighbours … until the house was full every night – people hungry to hear the Word of God … and they got saved

It’s like reading a story straight from the pages of the book of Acts

He was arrested – just a believer, not a pastor nor a leader – and moved a thousand kilometres away from his family and locked up in a prison because he was influencing people for the Kingdom

His cell was so tiny that when he got out of bed, it took but a single step either to get to the door of his cell, to reach the stained and cracked sink mounted on the opposite wall, our to use foul smelling open toilet in the “far” corner of the cell. Even worse, he was the only believer among fifteen hundred hardened criminals.

He said that his isolation from the body of Christ – his house church – was far more difficult than even the physical torture. And there was much of that. Still, his tormentors were unable to break him. Dmitri (not his real name) pointed to two reasons for his strength in the face of torture. 

There were two spiritual habits that he had learned and that he took with him into prison. Without these two disciplines, Dmitri insisted, his faith would not have survived.

For seventeen years in prison, every morning at daybreak, Dmitri would stand at attention by his bed. As was his custom, he would face the east, raise his arms in praise to God, and then he would sing a HeartSong to Jesus

HeartSong … a song he had learned that was very meaningful to him and expressed his heart and his love for the Lord

The reaction of the other prisoners was predictable.

Dmitri recounted the laughter, the cursing, the jeers. The other prisoners banged metal cups against the iron bars in angry protest. They threw food and sometimes human waste to try to shut him up and extinguish the only true light shining in that dark place every morning at dawn.

There was another discipline too, another custom that Dmitri told me about. Whenever he found a scrap of paper in the prison, he would sneak it back to his cell. There he would pull out a stub of a pencil or a tiny piece of charcoal that he had saved, and he would write on that scrap of paper, as tiny as he could, all the Bible verses and scriptural stories or songs that he could remember. When the scrap was completely filled, he would walk to the corner of this little jail cell where there was a concrete pillar that constantly dripped water — except in the wintertime when the moisture became a solid coat of ice on the inside surface of his cell. Dmitri would take the paper fragment, reach as high as he possibly could, and stick it on the damp pillar as a praise offering to God.

Of course, whenever one of his jailers spotted the piece of paper on the pillar, he would come into his cell, take it down, read it, beat him severely, and threaten him with death. Still, Dmitri refused to stop his two disciplines.

Every day, he rose at dawn to sing his song. And every time he found a scrap of paper, he filled it with Scripture and praise.

This went on year after year after year. His guards tried to make him stop. The authorities did unspeakable things to his family. At one point, they even led him to believe that his wife had been murdered and that his children had been taken by the state.

They taunted him cruelly, “We have ruined your home. Your family is gone.”

Dmitri’s resolve finally broke. He told God that he could not take any more. He admitted to his guards, “You win! I will sign any confession that you want me to sign. I must get out of here to find where my children are.”

They told Dmitri, “We will prepare your confession tonight, and then you will sign it tomorrow. Then you will be free to go.” After all those years, the only thing that he had to do was sign his name on a document saying that he was not a believer in Jesus and that he was a paid agent of western government trying to destroy the USSR. Once he put his signature on that dotted line, he would be free to go.

Dmitri repeated his intention:”Bring it tomorrow and I will sign it.”

That very night he sat on his jail cell bed. He was in deep despair, grieving the fact that he had given up. At that same moment, a thousand kilometres away his family — Dmitri’s wife, his children who were growing up without him, and his brother — sensed through the Holy Spirit the despair of this man in prison. His loved ones gathered around the very place where I was now sitting as Dmitri told me his story. They knelt in a circle and began to pray out loud for him. Miraculously, the Holy Spirit of the Living God allowed Dmitri to hear the voices of his loved ones as they prayed.

The next morning, when the guards marched into his cell with the documents, Dmitri’s back was straight. His shoulders were squared and there was strength on his face and in his eyes. He looked at his captors and declared, “I am not signing anything!”

The guards were incredulous. They had thought that he was beaten and destroyed. “What happened?” They demanded to know.

Dmitri smiled and told them, “In the night, God let me hear the voices of my wife and my children and my brother praying for me. You lied to me! I now know that my wife is alive and physically well. I know that my sons are with her. I also know that they are all still in Christ. So I am not be signing anything!”

His persecutors continued to discourage and silence him. Dmitri remained faithful., He was overwhelmed one day by a special gift from God’s hand. In the prison yard, he found a whole sheet of paper. “And God,” Dmitri said, “had laid a pencil beside it!”

Dmitri went on, “I rushed back to my jail cell and I wrote every Scripture reference, every Bible verse, every story, and every song I could recall.”

“I knew that it was probably foolish,” Dmitri told me, “but I couldn’t help myself. I filled both sides of the paper with as much of the Bible as I could. I reached up and stuck the entire sheet on that wet concrete pillar. Then I stood up and looked at it: to me it seemed like the greatest offering I could give to Jesus from my prison cell. Of course, my jailor saw it. I was beaten and punished. I was threatened with execution.”

Dmitri was dragged from his cell. As he was dragged down the corridor in the center of the prison, the strangest thing happened. Before they reached the door leading to the courtyard — before stepping out into the place of execution — fifteen hundred hardened criminals raised their arms and began to sing the HeartSong that they had heard Dmitri sing to Jesus every morning for all those years.

Dmitri’s jailers instantly released their hold on his arms and stepped away from him in terror.

One of them demanded to know, “Who are you?” Dmitri straightened his back and stood as tall and as proud as he could.

He responded: “I am a son of the Living God, and Jesus is His Name!”

The guards returned him to his cell. Sometime later, Dmitri was released and he returned to his family.

Sounds so much like some of the stories we read in the Book of Acts. It seems that God is still doing what He did back then … we simply need to believe and obey. 

Doing The Things Jesus Did

An apostle from North America was meeting with a group of leader of the underground church in China

During the evening there was a fellowship time among the leaders as they shared what was happening in their lives and how God was moving in their homes and in their ministries

The apostle took the opportunity to ask a question of these Chinese leaders of underground house churches … He asked:

“If I were to visit your home communities and talk with the non-believing families, friends, and neighbours of the members of your house churches — and if I would point out your church members and ask, ‘Who are these people? What can you tell me about them?’ — what answer would I get?”

The apostle writes: Many people started to answer at once. The response that jumped out at me, though, was the answer of a man who told me that his church’s neighbours would probably say, “Those are the people who raise the dead!”

As we read the gospels we see that Jesus raised the dead…

These believers just assumed that because Jesus did it that they too could do it

After all, Jesus was living in them and working through them

Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:12-14)

“I tell you this timeless truth: The person who follows me in faith, believing in me, will do the same mighty miracles that I do—even greater miracles than these because I go to be with my Father! For I will do whatever you ask me to do when you ask me in my name. And that is how the Son will show what the Father is really like and bring glory to him. Ask me anything in my name, and I will do it for you!”  (TPT)

“The person who trusts me will not only do what I’m doing but even greater things, because I, on my way to the Father, am giving you the same work to do that I’ve been doing. You can count on it. From now on, whatever you request along the lines of who I am and what I am doing, I’ll do it. That’s how the Father will be seen for who he is in the Son. I mean it. Whatever you request in this way, I’ll do” (MSG)

Sometimes I wonder if we really believe these words. It seems we pick and choose what we want to believe and only certain things we are willing to obey. In these verses Jesus challenges us to continue the ministry that He began. We see all of the things that He did as we read through the four gospels and the history of the early Church. These are the same things we are called, empowered, and enabled to do in His Name. 

I believe it is time that we do more than walk in faith. We must live with a sense of expectancy and anticipation. Even a sense of urgency. We must expect God to work through us during our normal daily activities and not just when we assembly together. We must anticipate with excitement the opportunities that He will open for us each day to touch people’s live with His love and His power. We should walk with our spiritual eyes open so we can see and embrace these opportunities and be His representatives in the situation and circumstances of life. And, yes, even believe that the dead will be raised. 

The Impact Of One

Ed nervously paced the crowded sidewalk outside Holton’s Shoe Store in downtown Boston. His brief lunch hour was nearly over, but he had not yet done what he had come to do. Inside the shoe store was an eighteen-year-old clerk who was a member of the Sunday school class Ed taught at church. The young man had seemed bored in class and generally disinterested in spiritual things since he began attending church one year earlier. Ed felt burdened to talk to him about his relationship with Christ, and today was the day he had planned to do so. But he was nervous about it. What if he won’t listen to me? What if he thinks I’m being too pushy and quits the class all together? What if he gets angry and throws me out?

Breathing a prayer for courage, Ed finally walked into the store and found the clerk busy at work. The young man was surprised to see his Sunday school teacher, but Ed quickly got to the point. “I came to tell you how much Christ loves you,” he said. They talked for several minutes, then the young man knelt down on the spot and opened his life to Jesus Christ. Later the clerk related the impact of his conversion: “I was in a new world. The birds sang sweeter, the sun shone brighter. I’d never known such peace.”

Ed left the shoe store that day rejoicing that he had overcome his self-doubt and fear and let God use him to share the good news with the young shoe clerk. This fearful Sunday school teacher could not have imagined that, during the next 150 years, millions of people would be just as thankful that he had overcome his anxiety and hesitation that April day in 1855 to share the gospel in a shoe store. Though unaware until now, you may be one of the people whose spiritual journey was influenced by this Sunday school teacher, Edward Kimball.

You see, the eighteen-year-old shoe clerk Kimball talked to that day was Dwight L. Moody, who became one of America’s great evangelists in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Moody had an impact all over the world. In addition, Moody later counselled a young man named J. Wilbur Chapman on the assurance of his salvation. Chapman became a Presbyterian minister, evangelist, and Moody’s friend and colleague in ministry. Moody and Chapman strongly influenced a young professional baseball player named Billy Sunday, whom God also called to evangelistic ministry. It is estimated that three hundred thousand men and women came to faith in Christ during Billy Sunday’s two hundred campaigns.

But Kimball’s legacy didn’t stop there. A 1924 Billy Sunday’s evangelistic campaign in Charlotte, North Carolina, resulted in the formation of the Charlotte Businessman’s Club, which continued to evangelize the region. In 1934, the CBMC invited evangelist Mordecai Ham to conduct a campaign in Charlotte. A young man of eighteen reluctantly attended one of the meetings and then gave his life to Christ. His name was Billy Graham. No one has preached the gospel to more people than Billy Graham.

Was Billy Graham instrumental in your coming to Christ? If not directly, perhaps the person who brought you to Christ was influenced by his preaching. At the very least, you likely know someone who became a Christian because of this great evangelist’s ministry.

The gripping reality is this: Countless millions of people have been brought to faith in Christ through the preaching of D.L. Moody, Billy Sunday, and Billy Graham during the past century and a half. What would have happened if a Sunday school teacher named Edward Kimball had allowed self-doubt to detour him from living out his passion for sharing Christ with others?

Who is God asking you to share the gospel and His love with today?

I’m Out Of Here

A hero of the faith died a week and a half ago quietly passing from this life into the next. Cecil John Glover of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan died at the age of 79. Although he passed from this life into the next quietly it was definitely not quiet in Heaven. All of Heaven broke into rejoicing as they welcomed one of their strong warriors into their presence. 

I met Cecil almost 40 years ago when he was sharing his testimony at a Full Gospel Businessman’s banquet. He often did share his testimony at their banquets in the many cities and towns where there was a group wanting to impact the business community with the Gospel of the Kingdom. Cecil would show up and just be himself. With guitar in hand he would lead worship, sing about his relationship with the Lord, share what the Lord had done for him as well as what Jesus was continuing to do through him.

For many years Cecil and his wife travelled extensively in Canada and the United States singing, preaching, teaching, and ministering. He had an amazing impact on many lives wherever the Holy Spirit took him. He was always sensitive to the voice of the Spirit and obedient to whatever he heard the Lord speak.

Cecil was an evangelist and a worshipper. But he also pastored a church in Moose Jaw for many years. A church that was a part of the network of churches that I founded and still lead. Many times Cecil would come to our church in Regina to minister, to teach, encourage, and to share. He was always upbeat, positive, and such a blessing to all of us. His music was amazing. Simple but amazing. A sample of his many songs is found in the link at the end of this blog – from his album “I’m Out Of Here.” I thought it appropriate as I remember this amazing man of God. For truly he is ‘out of here’ after having “fought the good (and long) fight of faith.” 

It was an honour to know Cecil, to have him minister to my people, and to minister on occasion to his people when he was pastoring. He was an amazing man of God and warrior for the Kingdom. Many people today are part of that Kingdom because of his sacrifice and ministry. As a result, he leaves a tremendous legacy behind. His funeral was help last Thursday and as I sat and listened it truly was a celebration of who Cecil Glover was and is. Enter into your rest Cecil. You of all people deserve it!

We will meet again …

Fight the Good Fight from Cecil’s “I’m Out of Here” album

            https://youtu.be/PAbyFIDdykg

The Journey

I believe that life is a journey. And, that on this journey we should always be moving forward. That means we should be learning, growing, changing, becoming more mature. I am in my early seventies and I am continuing to change and grow. I have a hunger to read and learn. I am interested in so many things and want to experience new things on at least a weekly basis. I get bored really fast and this helps me to continue to move forward on the journey.

I recently read an amazing and candid book called “Becoming” by Michele Obama. I am not a political person and read it because it was recommended highly by my sister and her adult daughter. It was an amazing read. Michelle Obama is an amazing writer and has had an amazing life both before and after her eight years as First Lady of the United States of America.

In her book, the epilogue, she writes, “At fifty-four, I am still in progress, and I hope that I always will be. For me, becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn’t end. I became a mother, but I still have a lot to learn from and give to my children. I became a wife, but I continue to adapt to and be humbled by what it means to truly love and make a life with anther person. I have become, by certain measures, a person of power, and yet there are moments still when I feel insecure or unheard. It is all a process, steps along a path. Becoming requires equal parts patience and rigour. Becoming is never giving up on the idea that there’s more growing to be done.” (Becoming by Michelle Obama, page 419)

One of my first mentors always said that many people suffer from “Destination Disease.” They set a goal and work hard to achieve it. And, when they achieve it they begin to live like they have arrived. They have reached their destination. They don’t set new goals. They don’t find a new vision for their life. They simply, at best, coast through the rest of their life … or park and stop growing.

When I first heard the teaching and then later read it in one of his books I determined that I would never “arrive.” I would never catch “Destination Disease.” I want to continue growing, developing, maturing, learning. So, I set goals. One consistent goal is to read a book a week. If the book is a shorter one – under 200 pages – then I read two during that week. I read because I need to. There is an inner hunger to learn more, to grow, to develop. And, there is so much one can learn from others just by reading. I make time to read. Anyone can do that as well if they want to. 

The current younger generation seems to not want to or like to read. I recommend books to the young men I disciple and mentor and they admit that they have not read a book in years. Some don’t try. Those that do quickly fall in love with reading and thus growing through reading. Those that don’t almost always stop the discipling / mentoring relationship. They just, at this stage in their life, don’t see the need to read. Maybe they are growing and maturing through what they watch on You Tube and listen to on their smart phone. Maybe not. But, there is such potential for growth and maturity if the individual will simply pick up a book, get alone, and immerse themselves in the discoveries of others. 

Of course, I drag a paper copy of the book around with me. I am never without a book in my car. You never know when you might find 15 minutes to read while waiting for someone or something. And, I have graduated to ebooks as well. Partly because I have run out of shelf space and am almost out of floor space so cannot stack many more paper books. Partly because of convenience and it weighs less when travelling by plane. The new eReaders are waterproof which makes reading while camping and kayaking a pleasure. 

So, we are all on a journey. Hopefully you believe that you never arrive but just keep learning and growing. And, books are my prime way to learn and to grow. 

Kamshat – Campus Crusade for Christ, Kazakhstan

Wanted to share the joy of starting fulfilling your prophesy over the ministry. It was tremendous the move of the Holy Spirit after your visit of my team and students. You remember a student said that he had visions before becoming a believer and he has them after. That night Ersultan and the rest of my team and some students cast out demons from that student for 3 hours. It was shocking the way demons reacted in him. Then yesterday we continued casting out the rest major 2 demons and a devil from him for 2 hours. Everyone saw visions and then we prayed over students to release speaking in tongues, after worshipped together and the room filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit.
It’s amazing the move of the Spirit which is a starting towards the fulfillment of your prophecy to the ministry of my team. Praise the Lord for His grace on us.

EVERYONE HAS A STORY – Part Four

In review, we have previously looked at the following points regarding telling your story about what Jesus has done and is doing in your life…

1> Ask for permission and don’t be pushy.                                                                                    2> Use ordinary language.                                                                                                                  3> Start briefly and share more as it becomes appropriate.                                                        4> Highlight God’s presence and power

5> Clearly present the before-and-after pictures

6> Share the source of life transformation

7> Let the joy shine through

8> COMMUNICATE WITH HUMILITY

A testimony is not a bludgeon we use to pound people into submission. It is a witness to what God is doing in our lives and a gift for others to enjoy. We need to be careful that our testimony does not come across as a speech in which we tell people that we are right and they are wrong, or point out how good we are now and how bad everyone else is who does not know Jesus. Rather, a testimony is a humble declaration that God is moving in our lives and that we are grateful for what He is doing.

9> REMEMBER WE HAVE MANY TESTIMONIES

Be careful not to get locked into one testimony. Don’t just memorize a scrip and robotically deliver the same words with the same inflection every time you tell your story. Instead, listen to the people around you and discover where they are in life. When you share a testimony, make sure it is relevant for them.

For example, if you are talking with someone who is dealing with loneliness and you have experienced God’s presence in a way that has strengthened you when you have felt alone, share that testimony. But if you are conversing with a spiritual seeker who is wondering if God provides for our needs and takes care of His people, you might tell a very different story – a different part of your testimony. As you walk with Jesus, you will have more and more stories about how a relationship with God transforms various areas of your life.

People love to hear stories, and that’s all a testimony is. In the course of most days you will have opportunities to share organically about the difference your faith in Jesus is making in your life. Pray for these opportunities, notice when the door is open, and then share your stories in a natural way. 

The Holy Spirit will infuse what you share with power. Remember, your part is not to change lives or even to have all the answers. But you can talk about the ways God is moving in your life. Your stories might be just what another person needs to hear.

EVERYONE HAS A STORY – Part Three

This is the third in this series of blogs regarding giving your personal testimony. Previous blogs had commented on the following points regarding giving a part of your Jesus story…

1> Ask for permission and don’t be pushy.                                                                 2> Use ordinary language.                                                                                              3> Start briefly and share more as it becomes appropriate.                                  4> Highlight God’s presence and power

5> CLEARLY PRESENT THE BEFORE AND AFTER PICTURES

When giving your testimony work to present a contrast between who you were and who you are now. In other words, gently state the difference encountering Jesus has made in your life. For example:

  • From hate-filled and self-centered relationships to loving and caring relationships
  • From a life without purpose and direction to a life of deep meaning and clear direction
  • From fear of death to confidence in this life and hope for eternity

Though such a pattern isn’t mandatory for every testimony, it does help people see the difference Jesus can make in a life. If you have experienced a transforming work of God, let it become the focus of one of your testimonies. Here are a few more examples:

  • From loneliness to a sense of belonging (to God and His family, the Church)
  • From anxiety to peace
  • From financial irresponsibility and fear to hard work and financial stability
  • From selfishness to generosity
  • From addiction and enslavement to freedom from addictions

The list of options is as diverse as our life experiences.

6> SHARE THE SOURCE OF LIFE TRANSFORMATION

As we share the story of our life transformation, it is critical that we articulate that Jesus is the source of the change. We could not have brought it about on our own. We don’t want our lost friends and family members to think that the transformation in our lives is the result of going to church or hanging out with a nice new group of people or even getting ‘religious.’ The only power that can changes from the inside out is the work of Jesus. His death on the cross, in our place, and His resurrection in glory are the reason we are becoming new people. We should be careful to express this as we share our stories. 

7> LET JOY SHINE THROUGH

Joy is a universal language. If we talk about God’s work in our lives, the amazing changes we are experiencing, and the relationship we have with Jesus, but do so without joy, we will send the wrong message. Knowing the Father, walking with Jesus, and being filled with the Holy Spirit should bring a flow of joy that is visible and contagious.

This is not to say that we should paste on a fake smile and blurt, “Praise the Lord,” at the end of every sentence. It means the joy of the Lord is evident in our lives, even in the tough times. When the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) is growing in our lives, people will see it. Joy is always part of our story, because we know Jesus, the Author of joy. 

An Encouraging Word

Hey pastor Ralph,

As we spoke that Sunday it would be a really neat opportunity to join you on a trip. I feel I would learn a lot in a very short time by tagging along on a trip!

As you spoke I found that you have a tangible and raw faith that I have found in very few people that I have personally met face to face. I see a hunger for the lord and a zeal that drives you to live a lifestyle that is both rare and admirable. I learned somewhere along the way that people usually forget the majority of what you say (I want to say 85% but don’t quote me haha), but they rarely forget how you make them feel. As you spoke I felt energized, rejuvenated, and overall like a life with Jesus is both rewarding and attainable. As I am usually a part of the forgetful statistic, I wrote down the main points from your sermon and they have been great checkpoints as I work on my heart.

I will say things have been difficult lately as I have been feeling like my faith is something I’m dragging along through life lately and not necessarily allowing it to push me and give me purpose… if that makes sense. As I look at the list of checkpoints I have been easily able to find where I have been slipping. All that to say I really found your message encouraging so thanks for that!

I really appreciated getting to know you and I also hope we are able to keep in touch and develop a deeper relationship! I know you are busy and so I really appreciate you reaching out and getting in touch with me!

Thanks again for everything,

Matt J.

The Word – A television series on Access 7 television

Photos from the taping sessions of the new television series, “The Word”.
Watch for the Series, when it runs on Access 7 television.
Always delighted to have you participate, Ralph Howe Your personal testimony of the power of our Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth to transform lives is refreshing and the message you brought to the viewing audience of “Fear of God” was solid and edifying. Blessings!    ~ Leon Cairns