Here I Stand … (October 2017 Update)

October 31, 2017 will mark the 500th Anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation.  It was on October 31, 1517 that Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the church in Wittenburg, Germany.  His theses started the debates that would lead to the Reformation and ultimate separation from the Church in Rome. His goal was not separation but reformation.  He wanted to bring the church back to its doctrinal foundations found in the Bible alone.  The Roman Church had grown so corrupt and powerful that something needed to be done.  Luther’s 95 Theses began the Reformation.

Ultimately the reformation of the Roman Church failed and a conflict ensued between the Protestants (protesters) and the Roman authorities.  At the Diet of Worms (1521), the break with the Roman Church was finalized when Luther refused to recant his teachings.  At the tribunal to convict him of heresy, Luther stated:

“Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures or by evident reason…. I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus I cannot and will not recant, because acting against one’s conscience is neither safe nor sound. Here I stand. I can do no other. So help me God. Amen.”

So Luther stood only on the Word of God and the Reformation continued. Luther’s stance, along with many others who joined him, resulted in the separation of the church into Roman Catholic and Protestant.  It resulted in a return to the Word of God as our sole authority. It returned to the doctrine of salvation by faith alone.

This Reformation has changed the map of history, but more importantly, it has changed the lives of many people who came to see that Christ’s death was sufficient for them, apart from the traditions and rituals of the church.  Churches and missionaries around the world minister on the same basis as Luther did in 1517: Our conscience is captive to the Word of God.  We are here in Ukraine for this one reason: to teach the Word of God to ministers in Ukraine so that they too might have consciences bound to God’s Word alone.  So, while we miss our homes and families in the states, we can say with Luther, “My conscience is captive to the Word of God.  Here I stand, I can do no other. So help me God!”  Thank you for standing with us so that the gospel of His grace might be spread to the people of Ukraine and the former Soviet Republics! Continue Reading »

Redeeming the Time … (September 2017 Update)

Ephesians 5:15-16 says, “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time.” That sums up our August here in Ukraine!  While we had planned to make August a rest and recover month before the start of classes, God had other plans for us. We had planned to head west to the mountains for a vacation time, but we had to stay in Kiev to work on documents and some other things around the house.  That opened the door to a number of ministry opportunities that we did not expect. Continue Reading »

Family Blessings … (July 2017 Update)

John said, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 4). John was speaking about spiritual children in this passage.  But the same is true about our earthly children.  There are few blessings better in the world than having a wonderful family!  I have really been blessed with great children who have great families.  I have watched them go through many difficulties and walked through them honoring the Lord and coming out stronger.  It has also been a great joy to see how they have served the Lord in various capacities.  One of my great joys has been watching Sean and Meredith serve as missionaries through the Traveling Team in the US.  We were able to have this joy doubled as they came to visit us in Ukraine under the month of June.

Also, one of our greatest joys is to see our students walking in the truth as well!  It is an amazing experience to work with students for 4 short years and then to see how God is using them in their ministries.  We get to see this often and it is a real encouragement to us.  It is a struggle to know we miss so much time with my physical family (kids and grandkids) in the states, but that sadness is replaced when we see our students ministering here in Ukraine!  “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” Continue Reading »

Bearing Fruit … (June 2017 Update)

Colossians 1:10 says that we are to walk “in a manner worthy of the Lord, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” May is a month for classes and also for graduation.  It is a time when we get to see some of the fruit of our labors at the seminary.  Colossians also reminds us of the central important of helping these students grow in knowing God better.  We pray that our labors will be fruitful for God’s kingdom – not only this year but for many, many years to come! Continue Reading »

Grace upon Grace … (May 2017 Update)

John 1:16 says, “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” This is a difficult passage to translate.  It literally means something like “grace in place of grace.”  It emphasizes one grace coming in succession after another.  The idea is that through Jesus, we receive grace after grace after grace.  In other words, an endless supply of grace!  I like to translate this as “grace piled upon grace!”

In a sermon on this passage, John Piper hits the nail on the head in his exposition: “He could have said we received “truth upon truth.” But he said, “grace upon grace.” In fact, after this verse the word grace will never turn up again in this Gospel, but the word truth or true or truly will occur 55 times. In other words, there is no minimizing of “truth” in this Gospel. Truth is the way grace works: “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). But here, at the outset, the emphasis falls on grace.”

We can never minimize the importance of truth in the gospel.  Without truth, we have no gospel.  Without truth, we have no confidence in that gospel.  But without grace, we miss the whole point of the gospel.  It is good news, not simply because it is truth but because it is grace – grace piled upon grace!  That’s what we have in Jesus!

Last month (April), I had a break from teaching but not from working.  I spent the entire month working on the house, building furniture and moving us into our new house.  As we watched the building process week by week this last year, we were continually reminded of God’s grace upon grace for us.  Now that we are living here, we can see His grace piled upon grace. This month, we will tell you more about our new home, but first a few ministry updates … Continue Reading »

It Won’t Be Long! … (April 2017 Update)

For some reason, a number of Andre Crouch songs have been floating around in my head this month.  My favorite is “Jesus is the Answer”.  I love the words and the melody.  “Jesus is the answer for the world today. Above Him there’s no other, ‘cause Jesus is the way. That song expresses why we are doing this work and this ministry.  There is no other answer for the people of the world today! Another song has also captured my mind – “It Won’t Be Long.”  In the process of building a house and even doing ministry in Ukraine, it is a good reminder of where our focus needs to be: “It won’t be long, till we’ll be leaving here….”  Continue Reading »

Just around the Corner! … (March 2017 Update)

A lot of things are happening for us this this month and next so we have a lot coming “around the corner.  We have ministry opportunities with English clubs and also with teaching at KTS.  Additionally, we are trying to get everything ready for moving into our house, hopefully at the beginning of April.  So we have a lot coming around the corner this month.  Continue Reading »