The First Day of Spring? … (February 2018 Update)

In Ukraine, March 1st is considered to be the first day of Spring.  In ancient Ukrainian calendars, March 1st was celebrated as the New Year – the end of winter and the beginning of Spring.  Even today, people here still welcome it with some celebration and greeting each other.  But, in Ukraine, it is anything but Spring!  Just to remind us, March 1st greeted us with a foot of snow (on top of what we already had) and temperatures below 0 F!  But I know from living here the last 7 years that any real Spring weather is still about a month away (and we can even have snow in mid-May sometimes, like last year!).  Still, March 1st is a date that everyone in Ukraine looks forward too.  It is a reminder that winter is nearly over and that it is time to start getting prepared for Spring. Continue Reading »

Teaching and Admonishing … (February 2018 Update)

Last month, I traveled to Lviv, Ukraine to spend a week teaching theology sections at Ukrainian Baptist Seminary.  I had 57 students so my week was full – but my heart was fuller!  It was a great joy to be involved in teaching these leaders for the church of Ukraine.  I am reminded that teaching one another the Word of God is the task of every believer (though maybe not in the same way).  In Colossians 3:16, Paul tells us: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” What a joy it has been to be able to teach the Word here in Ukraine!  Here are some highlights from last month in our lives and ministry. Continue Reading »

As we move into 2018, we are ready for what the Lord will do through our ministry here in Ukraine this new year!  Each new year provides new opportunities and blessings beyond what we can even imagine.  In my class on prayer, students have a number of verses to memorize. My favorite is Ephesians 3:20-21: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly, above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” This is our confidence as we move into another year of serving the Lord in this ministry.  Here are a few praises from 2017 and some prayer requests for 2018. Continue Reading »

The Great Birthday

Charles Spurgeon

“The angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” — Luke 2:10

There is no reason upon earth beyond that of ecclesiastical custom why the 25th of December should be regarded as the birthday of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ any more than any other day from the first of January to the last day of the year; and yet some persons regard Christmas with far deeper reverence than the Lord’s day.  You will often hear it asserted that “The Bible and the Bible alone is the religion of Protestants,” but it is not so.  There are Protestants who have absorbed a great deal besides the Bible into their religion, and, among other things, they have accepted the authority of what they call “the Church” and by that door all sorts of superstitions have entered.  There is no authority whatever in the word of God for the keeping of Christmas at all, and no reason for keeping it just now except that the most superstitious section of Christendom has made a rule that December 25th shall be observed as the birthday of the Lord, and the church by law established in this land has agreed to follow in the same track.  You are under no bondage whatever to regard the regulation.  We owe no allegiance to the ecclesiastical powers which have made a decree on this matter, for we belong to an old-fashioned church which does not dare to make laws, but is content to obey them.

At the same time, the day is no worse than another, and if you choose to observe it, and observe it unto the Lord, I doubt not he will accept your devotion: while if you do not observe it, but unto the Lord observe it not, for fear of encouraging superstition and will-worship, I doubt not but what you shall be as accepted in the non-observance as you could have been in the observance of it.

Still, as the thoughts of a great many Christian people will run at this time towards the birth of Christ, and as this cannot be wrong, I judged it necessary to avail ourselves of the prevailing current and float down the stream of thought.  Our minds will run that way, and, because so many around us are following customs suggestive of it, therefore let us get what good we can out of the occasion.  There can be no reason why we should not, and it may be helpful that we should, now consider the birth of our Lord Jesus.  We will do that voluntarily which we would refuse to do as a matter of obligation: we will do that simply for convenience sake which we should not think of doing because enjoined by authority or demanded by superstition. Continue Reading »

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!” Continue Reading »

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]  Continue Reading »

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…. Continue Reading »