Little Providences from A Big God! …  (May 2021 Update) 

Every day, we experience “little providences” from the hand of God, but we usually don’t notice it. The providence is mysterious – often even hidden from our eyes. Yet the little providences that we do see remind us that the Lord is working all things together for good even behind the scenes. 

The word “providence” is a Latin term which literally means to “see before.” It means that God sees everything before anything happens and He makes plans to accomplish what He desires. Biblical providence is not the same as fate or luck. Luck is blind, but God is all-seeing. Luck is what happens accidentally; providence happens because God sees and plans ahead. Fate is impersonal; it does not care about the people who are affected. Providence is personal; it comes from the hand of a loving Father. 

Since we don’t see what God is doing, we are often (at least initially) frustrated by the providences of God. We desire one thing, but it seems like God is letting everything get in the way of our plans! Providence often feels frustrating – until we see the amazing way God is working out everything for His glory and for our good. On our trip back to the US this past month, we experienced many “little providences” – some caused me a great deal of frustration. But the Lord showed us His kindness and His wisdom in each situation.  

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In 1996, just 5 years after Ukraine gained its independence from the USSR, Kyiv Theological Seminary opened its door to its first students. Since then, KTS has prepared students for many different ministries in Ukraine, including Pastoral Ministries, Church Planting, Biblical Studies, Christian Education, Biblical Counseling, Youth Ministries, and Missions. KTS has also developed Master’s degree programs in Biblical Studies, Youth Ministry, and Biblical Counseling. And a number of our graduates have gone on to complete other Masters and Doctoral degrees in Europe, Great Britain, and America. But most of all, KTS has excelled in training and preparing Ukrainians for church ministries in Ukraine. 

It has been my joy to be part of this ministry of teaching and training since September 1996 – that will be 25 years this fall. I first came to Kyiv to teach at the end of September 1996, and I have been teaching there ever since. It has been my joy to teach some of the best students in the world during these years! Many of these students have returned to KTS to teach and direct many of its programs. Even the current President of KTS, Ruslan Khmyz, was one of my first students at KTS! Eight (8) former students are now professors at the seminary and four (4) serve as Program Directors at the seminary. Five (5) more are serving as Assistant Directors for the various seminary programs. One former student, Vitalii Mariash. is now our Academic Dean and another, Eduard Borysov, is the Director for our Talbot Seminary Master’s Degree program. (In addition to those serving at KTS, some of the first graduates are also teaching and serving as program directors and professors at Ukrainian Baptist Seminary in Lviv). It is amazing to look back and see how God has raised up leaders from these students who are now teaching and training the future leaders for the church of Ukraine! 

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Legos first appeared in 1946 in Denmark, but they never really gained popularity until the 1970s when they began to add various themes to their blocks. Since then, Legos has been one of the most popular toys for children (and adults) of all ages. Why is this? In fact, Legos were not alone in their popularity. Before Legos, there were plenty of other “construction toys.” Many of us can remember the hours spent creating with Lincoln Logs, Erector Sets, and other popular building sets. In fact, even without these “sets,” children from the dawn of civilization used blocks of wood and stones, mud and sand to build their creations. But why? I think there is one simple reason – we were created in the “image and likeness of God.” 

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I love the Toy Story movies and I especially love Buzz Lightyear. He repeats his motto boldly – “To infinity and beyond” like it is really possible. But, in reality, it is not even logical. You cannot go beyond infinity! However, when speaking about God, it actually might make sense. In other words, even infinity itself is not sufficient to describe the majesty of God. Infinity is at least a concept we can grasp.  But God’s existence and power is actually – well, beyond infinity! 

Lately I have been reading about some of the theories of Stephen Hawking and other scientists concerning their ideas of multiverses. (That’s a whole other story.) But in the process of reading their theories, there was one common concern that all scientists in this quest had – the idea of infinity bothered them greatly. It was a concept that they acknowledged mathematically but they could not fit into their theories. Infinite is something that they could not measure, so they had to work with imaginary numbers to avoid infinity in their equations (because infinity would either result in models with endless loops or collapsing in on themselves). And since they could not test their theories on an infinite universe, they had to examine only small sections of the universe and then extrapolate their data which again leads to an unworkable infinity! 

But God is infinite. He defies measurement. He defies understanding. Simply put, the Lord is beyond measure. Therefore, one attribute of God is infinity – or we might say, infinity and beyond! 

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In the Year King Uzziah Died (January 2021 Update) 

Those ominous words come from Isaiah 6:1. For Isaiah and the nation of Israel, the death of King Uzziah was a national and a spiritual tragedy. It is difficult for us to imagine what the death of Uzziah meant for Israel and Isaiah. Uzziah had served as King of Judah for 52 years from the time he was just 16 years old! He was the best and most popular king since King Solomon. His rule had meant peace and prosperity for Israel. But now everyone was concerned about what would happen to Israel, especially since the newest superpower, Assyria, was threatening invasion. It appeared that Israel would fall apart. It was a time of great national crisis. But it was also a time of great personal crisis for many, including Isaiah. Uzziah was the only King that Isaiah had known in his life. 

But it was also a time of spiritual crisis. This beloved leader, in his final days, had overstepped his power. He wanted to be named the High Priest as well as King. He was warned not to do so, but he entered into the Temple and to offer the holy incense. The Lord struck him with leprosy because of his great sin. And Uzziah had to leave Jerusalem and live in seclusion until the day of his death (2 Kings 15). The actual penalty for violating the sacred place of the temple was death (Numbers 18:7). Instead, God struck Uzziah with leprosy, a disease that has been described as a living death. Uzziah had done great things for Israel but, in the end, his pride and arrogance lead him to a disgraceful life and a lonely death. 

First, in his distress, Isaiah went into the temple and what he saw there was that God was still seated on the throne (Isaiah 6:1)! No matter how tragic things appear on earth, God is still seated on the throne. And he also noticed that “the train of His robe filled the temple.” This indicates the majesty of God. Isaiah sees God seated like a King ruling over all. He not only saw God “seated” on His throne; he saw that God’s “train filled the temple.” These are scenes that portray the majesty of a Holy God. God is King and He rules over all that happens in the world. The occasion for Isaiah’s vision was the death of King Uzziah. With the death of Uzziah, the destiny of the nation of Israel was in question and Isaiah was concerned. But when Isaiah “saw the Lord high and lifted up,” he was reminded that – no matter what was happening on earth – even if evil and chaos might reign for a while on the earth – a thrice holy God was still seated on the throne. In difficult times, we need to take time to go into the temple and remember that our majestic God is still seated on the throne. 

The past few months have been difficult ones for everyone. The events of the past week probably leave us all wondering what the future will hold. The truth is, only the Lord knows. In fact, that is a comforting truth. Not only does the Lord know what will happen, He was not surprised by any of the events of the last few months that have surprised all of us. He was in control and He will continue to be in control. But what should be our response? Look at Isaiah’s experience in Isaiah 6. Continue Reading »