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The Reason for the Season! … (December 2017 Update)

Christmas has always been my favorite time of the year since I became a follower of Christ.  I know that December 25th is not the day of His birth and I know that modern Christmas celebrations have become so commercial that it is often hard to find Jesus in them.  But I enjoy remembering and celebrating the fact that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father.” I also enjoy the lights that remind us that He is “the light of the world” and that “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness can never conquer it.”  So, for me, Christmas is a time to remember – and to celebrate.  Jesus is the reason for the season!  He became a man so that He could go to the cross and die for my sins.  And He arose from the dead and will come again someday! That is worth celebrating – but none of it would have ever happened without that one night in Bethlehem.  “For unto you is born, this day in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord!” (more…)

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John Calvin as a Pastor

John Calvin as a Pastor

Most people remember John Calvin as a theologian. He certainly was that.  But above all else, for almost all of his adult life, John Calvin was a pastor. Preaching and teaching the Word of God were the primary elements of Calvin’s ministry. Many times, he preached or lectured on the scriptures as many as 12 times a week.[1] More than anything else, Calvin regarded himself as an expositor of God’s Word.[2] In his last will and testament, which he dictated on April 25, 1564 shortly before his death, Calvin began by describing himself as a “servant of the Word of God in the church of Geneva.”[3]  He summarized his life by these words: “moreover, I declare that I endeavored to teach His Word undefiled and to expound Holy Scripture faithfully, according to the measure of grace which He has given me.”[4]  (more…)

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He Giveth, and Giveth and Giveth Again! … (November 2017 Update)

One of my favorite hymns is “He Giveth More Grace” by Annie Johnson Flint.  Many times when I am troubled or when God has supplied unexpectedly, I find myself singing some of the verse of this great song.  It was written by a woman who lived all her life in adversity but continued to trust in the Lord.  The song concludes: “For out of His infinite riches in Jesus, He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again!” (Full song is at the end of this Update).

As I think about Thanksgiving this month, I am brought back to this song – He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again! I have so much to be thankful for … a wonderful family, both here in Ukraine and in the states… dear friends that are as close as family even though we are separated by geography and by time… a warm house and a full garden… wonderful opportunities for teaching… seeing students who are living the lessons they have been taught.  But most of all, we are grateful for Jesus and the change He has made in our lives!  We are so blessed to be part of His family and even more blessed that “He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again!”  Here are some of those blessings from this month…. (more…)

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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. (more…)

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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.” (more…)

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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! (more…)

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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 … (more…)

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