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Thankfulness … (November 2019 Update)  

We listen to a lot of old songs in our family. One of our favorites is the soundtrack from “Fiddler on the Roof” (which is actually based on stories Called “Tevye the Milkman” by a Jewish Ukrainian author, Sholem Aleichem). We love all the songs but especially “To Life” (L’Chaim). One verse sums up the biblical attitude toward thankfulness: “God would like us to be joyful even though our hearts lie panting on the floor; How much more can we be joyful, when there’s really something to be joyful for.” 

As believers, we have so much to be thankful for – even when things are not going well. In his book, The Godly Man’s Picture Drawn with a Scripture Pencil, Thomas Watson says, “Praise and thanksgiving is the work of heaven and he [the godly man] begins that work here which he will always be doing in heaven. The Jews have a saying – the world subsists by three things: the law, the worship of God and thankfulness. As if where thankfulness was missing, one of the pillars of the world had been taken away and it was ready to fall.” The psalmist says, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so” (Psalm 107:2) and “it is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord” (Psalm 92:1). As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday in America, it is good for us to think biblically about our thankfulness. Here are some thoughts from Thomas Watson about godliness and thankfulness.  Continue Reading »

People Need the Lord … (October 2019 Update) 

Evangelism is the life blood of Christianity. Every generation is responsible for sharing the gospel. As Dr. E. Stanley Jones once said, “God doesn’t have grandchildren.”  Because spiritual life is not passed on when God’s spiritual children have physical children. Each person must hear the gospel and respond. No one is saved by being in a good Christian family. That’s why it is important that we share the gospel with people. For “how shall they believe on him of whom they have not heard?” (Romans 10:14) 

Evangelism is our responsibility. But evangelism today is often done wrongly. In our class, we talked examined the methods Jesus used and Paul’s theology of the gospel to better understand evangelism. But we also looked at some wrong approaches to evangelism. Here are a few.  Continue Reading »

Public Worship  (September 2019 Update)

“Private worship is more important than Public Worship.” Until a few weeks ago, this is what I have always said and believed. But in preparing for teaching a class on Worship, I read an article by Don Whitney on “Private Worship.”i In his introduction, he wrote about a sermon by David Clarkson, Public Worship to be Preferred Before Private” which changed his mind. After reading Don’s comments about the sermon, I then read the sermon itself. I was convinced!  Clarkson has 12 lengthy major points followed by 9 explanations and another 11 exhortations or applications! Here are a few reasons that I have summarized from this excellent sermon with a couple more of my own observations.  Continue Reading »

Public Worship Preferred Before Private 

David Clarkson 

The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob. 

– PSALM 88:2. 

SO THAT we may apprehend the meaning of these words, and so thereupon raise some edifying observation, we must inquire into the reason why the Lord is said to love the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob. This being manifest, the words will be clear. 

Now the reason we may find assigned by the Lord himself, Deut. 8:5, 6, 11. The gates of Zion was the place which the Lord had chosen to cause his name to dwell there, i.e. as the following words explain, the place of his worship. For the temple was built upon, or near to, the hill of Zion. And this, you know, was in peculiar the settled place of his worship. It was the Lord’s delight in affection to his worship, for which he is said to love the gates of Zion, more than all the dwellings of Jacob.  Continue Reading »

How Beautiful … (August 2019 Update)

“And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!’ (Romans 10:15).  In Romans 9-11, Paul speaks about the sovereign work of God in election, calling and salvation. In fact, Romans 9 and Romans 11 are considered to be the strongest chapters on election and predestination in the Bible. However, sandwiched in between Romans 9 and 11 is Romans 10 – one of the strongest chapters on personal responsibility!

In Romans 10:9-13, Paul speaks about the necessity for every individual to choose Christ. He makes it clear that conversion takes place when “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” In other words, we must tell people to choose Christ. In Romans 10:13, he reminds us that “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Continue Reading »

While We Were Praying  (July 2019 Update)

The providence of God is amazing. He sees ahead and makes provision for His children. The word “providence” is a compound word in Latin – “pro” meaning before, and “video” meaning to see. Providence means that God sees ahead, or sees before anything happens. This is a great comfort to believers. We do not see the future, but God not only knows and sees everything that will happen before it happens, but He also makes provision for His children in every circumstance. What a comfort “providence” is to the child of God. Continue Reading »

Letters of Christ  (June 2019 Update)

Few things are more exciting than receiving a letter. Receiving a good letter of recommendation for your long-awaited job might be the best of all! In 2 Corinthians 3, the Apostle Paul speaks about “letters of commendation” (i.e. recommendation). He says that he does not need letters of recommendation about his ministry – the people he has ministered to are his letters of recommendation! “Do we need, as some, letters of commendation to you or from you? You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Cor. 3:1–3).

This is a common theme in Paul’s writings. When he was being criticized for his ministry, his response was always: look at the people and their changed lives as proof of the validity of my ministry. In ministry, we are in the business of changing lives. Sometimes we see the results; sometimes we do not see them for many years. But we continue to serve knowing that all the results are in the Lord’s hands.

May is a time for seeing the completion of another academic year while looking forward to getting ready for classes for the new year. For me, it means the last class of the semester is completed and graduation for the students has come. It is a time of remembering that all we do is to prepare students so that they will go out and be “letters of Christ” to the world.

Teaching Ministry …

In May, I taught my final class for this semester, Critical Thinking 1. This class teaches students to do research and to write clearly and logically. It is really one of the most important classes that we teach at the seminary because it forms a foundation for thinking that helps, not only in writing, but also in teaching Bible Studies and in preaching sermons.

This year’s class seemed very excited about learning to write and think logically. In all our exercises, we try to give biblical support and connections so students can see how this affect their ministries. We receive many positive comments in the student’s evaluations. One student’s comment in the class evaluation was, “I can now write an essay!” For many, this is a big step. Most schools here do not spend time teaching students the basics of research and writing so many students who come to seminary have trouble writing clearly.

Other students mentioned how this class helped them to think logically and eliminate logical errors in their thinking. But my favorite comment was “God was in this teacher! This was most important!” Of course, teaching the material is important, but I always hope that they are learning spiritually also. This is especially hard in a class on research and writing. But I try to incorporate many practical ministry and theological concepts in our examples. More than anything, I hope every student can see God’s Word at the foundation of all we do – even writing classes!

Also, May is time for graduation. It is exciting to see some of the fruits of our labors on graduation day. This year, we had students graduate in our Biblical studies program, Youth Ministry, Missions, Chaplaincy, Pastoral Ministries and Church Planting. We also had a number of students graduate in our Masters of Biblical Counseling Program this year including one student from France who is a missionary sharing the gospel with Muslims there (a very difficult ministry!). What a joy to see these graduates complete their studies and head out into various ministries!

In July, we will be traveling to Western Ukraine to help teach at an English Camp outreach in Svalyava near the border of Romania and Slovenia. Normally this church has a number of helpers coming from the UK to help with their camp. This year, they only have two helpers so Katya and I are excited to be able to come and help with this outreach. Be praying for us as we travel there and help teach English and the gospel at this camp.

Preparing for Fall … 

Even though classes are finished for this semester, my work is not. I am working on getting classes ready for fall. In September, I will be teaching Prayer and Worship (KTS) and then Evangelism (KTS). In October, I travel to L’viv to teach the Prayer and Worship class at Ukrainian Baptist Seminary there. In November, I will be teaching Church History at Kiev Seminary. I also have one more paper (from 42 students!) to grade that is due in the middle of June.

Also this summer, I will be creating a new Evangelism class for the Church Planting department. I have reformatted the class so that we will study the theology of evangelism each morning and then we will have some practical exercises and outreach each afternoon. This is an entirely new class so I have a lot of materials (handouts and PowerPoints) to prepare over the summer so that the materials can be translated before September.

Our Family …

June also marks the end of our first Home School year! The girls have learned a lot and it has been a lot of fun too! We have learned about God’s creatures and the girls are learning to read. This summer, they will be reading and doing some science projects. They are excited about school at this point. The first days of June, we took a short break and the girls were asking to do school. They even starting “playing school” so they could keep their routine. We will be doing some Bible verses and science and reading throughout the summer.

But we are looking forward to doing some out-door activities too. There were a couple of holidays at the end of May in Kiev and we enjoyed taking the girls to some of the activities. We went to Kiev Day one weekend and then to International Children’s Day the following weekend. They especially enjoyed the carousel, the plays, the bands and the water fountains!

We are also beginning to harvest some of our fruits from our garden. The girls are enjoying finding strawberries to eat nearly every day. They are also enjoying preparing salads from the garden. It has been a real blessing having our garden after living in an apartment so many years! We are looking forward to seeing the harvest God will give us this summer!

Prayer Needs …

Thank you for praying for Katya’s mother. In February, she had some strokes but she has improved a lot. Continue praying for Debbie’s mom and dad, Bill and Sally McCullough. Sally’s health continues to decline. Joy was able to spend a weekend with them just encouraging them and helping them out.

Please continue praying for my health also. It is difficult to say how I am doing. Some days, I feel pretty normal. Other days, it is difficult to breathe and I get very tired. When I am teaching, I have to make sure I take a rest at every break and I usually don’t eat lunch in the cafeteria – I take a short nap instead. But, on the whole, I am doing okay. Thank you for praying for my strength as I teach.

Pray for Ukraine …

Continue to pray for Ukraine, especially regarding the war in the East. Russia continues to send more weapons into the area while denying they are doing so (they are caught on camera by UN observers frequently). They have stepped up attacks on the frontlines. We were seeing 1-2 Ukrainian soldiers killed per week. Last month, we saw 2-3 killed per day. Pray for peace in the east and for the millions of refugees this war has created. Also pray for those who minister in these areas, both chaplains and pastors.

One new concern is about what will happen in January 2020. Currently Russia sends most of its natural gas to Europe through pipelines in Ukraine. Russia pays Ukraine $4 Billion/year as a transit fee. This contract ends December 31, 2019. Putin has said publicly that Ukraine will not negotiate (not true – Ukraine will lose a substantial amount of much-needed money without this contract). Since 2014, Ukraine has not bought any gas from Russia. They buy gas from Europe that is really Russian gas resold to Ukraine. Last month, Putin said that the supplies to Europe will be reduced so that Ukraine will not have any gas. Without the gas transit contract and the European gas reversals, Putin said that Ukraine will freeze. He is correct. He has cut off gas supplies to punish Ukraine twice in the past (for a couple weeks) and that was when Ukraine was on “friendly terms” with Moscow. So we expect that, at the very least, gas prices will rise significantly. At worst, we will be without gas heat. In preparation, we are planning to convert our gas heating system over to electric as a precaution. This will cost us around $1000 but we think it is a better option than having no heat in the winter. We are hoping to do this near the end of the summer.

What about your life? What kind of letter of Christ are you? If the people you minister to were your letters of recommendation, would Christ commend you? Would you be a letter for Christ that the whole world could read and see Jesus? We want that to be our recommendation – that we are changing lives for the sake of Christ! Pray that we can be faithful to this task and also that our efforts will bear lasting fruit in His kingdom. Pray that we will truly be “letters of Christ” in Ukraine! Thank you for praying for us and for supporting us in this great work!

By His Grace,

Jim and Katya

Kristina and Nadia

Continue Reading »