Category Archives: House of Grace
During my time in Russia at House of Grace, John Musgrave had me explain to Vanya, one of the elders of Holy Trinity Church in Anapa, how I use PowerPoint in preaching. He said Vanya used the tool occasionally when he preached, but tended to only use it for text. I walked him through a previous sermon on 1 Timothy 3:8-13. I explained how I use text and pictures to illustrate my points.
Naomi Musgrave posted a picture from their worship service this morning. Vanya took what I shared with him and put it into practice. Naomi said that the people listened closely and the pictures helped them better understand his points.
From the standpoint of a teacher/mentor, it encouraged me to see that he took what I shared and put into practice in his next sermon.
From February 9-17, Carol and I were in Tsibanobalka, Russia, where we served at the House of Grace. Here is our report of our activities. Click on the link if you’d prefer a full copy of the pdf version.
This morning I had the group review the life of Joseph and highlight the major lessons they learned. They shared many insights from Genesis 37-50. Afterwards, I helped them look at the big picture of what God was doing. I explained how God was changing Joseph’s character, skills, and perspective even as his life was going from bad to worse.
I talked about the challenge of breaking the cycle of generational sin in a family. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were all guilty of lying and deception. Joseph was the first person to live with integrity. Some families pass lies, greed, pornography, anger, etc., down through the generations. They might be the first one to say, “Enough,” and stop the cycle and help their children pursue righteousness.
I ended the morning by taking them through Hebrews 11:8-23. I demonstrated how each of the patriarchs lived by faith.
We gave each of the men a pair of socks as a gift. I said that the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.” While I could not make their feet beautiful, I could help them stay warm. People from my church gave me money to use in buying the socks and it was our gift to them. We also gave Lena, my translator, a gift bag of cooking tools and supplies since we heard she likes to cook.
After lunch, we started the process of getting ready for the next group. While Carol was helping with the dishes, I stripped the beds so the laundry could be started. Now, we rest and reflect before starting home tomorrow.
The group was very positive in their comments on the evaluation form. One of the men said the teaching was “excellent” and another said he wanted to hear from me again. That is encouraging to know I hit the mark and met their needs.
John and I have begun to talk about returning next year to teach another class. We both agreed there is great benefit in returning year after year to teach the same folks. You can do more than just teach content. You can build relationships and invest deeply in a group of people. This is the third time in four years I have had the privilege of teaching at House of Grace. I know several of the men from previous classes. I am able to hear how they have grown and changed over time. This approach follows the practice of the apostle Paul who continued to return to the same city and church or wrote letters to the people in order to help further establish them in the faith. I hope that I will be able to return to invest in these men.
Thanks for praying.
The seminar is nearly over. I’ve taught 15 hours in the past two days. I will finish with another 2-3 hours tomorrow morning. Yesterday, I taught through the life of Abraham. Today, I covered the lives of Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Tomorrow morning I will wrap up with a review of Joseph’s life and a look at Hebrews 11’s description of the Patriarchs. I knew I was done for the day when I my eyes were having trouble focusing on my notes and my translator was struggling to keep up with my words. Lena has done a wonderful job but translating all day long is hard work indeed.
Several of the men have had an “Ah, ha!” moment. Their eyes light up, their heads nod in agreement, and they rapidly copy down what is said. They especially copy the principles I suggest are in the passage and the lessons I have learned personally from the study. During dinner, Erdnya said he appreciated what I taught about Isaac. Again, it encourages me that I am hitting the mark and finding the balance between explanation and application.
Last night, the men took off for the Black Sea beach after dinner. Tonight, they are boxing on the Wii. It is pretty entertaining to watch. During the break times, they play chess, play guitar, check their phones, drink tea and eat snacks, or go for a walk.
I asked Carol to write a few thoughts about her view from the kitchen:
…did you know that Russians love their tea? Several times a day “chai” is enjoyed. So, one of my jobs has been to keep the hot water coming… The days have been busy helping Naomi with preparing 3 main meals and 2-3 snacks a day for our guests. We have had 17 guests to feed. On Wednesday, we went into Anapa to the grocery store to pick up the fresh bread and vegetables. There was one aspect of shopping that I thought was actually a pretty good idea. In the frozen food section, they offer bulk frozen foods (pasta, vegetables, etc) and you get to purchase exactly the quantity that you need or want. It seems economical to buy as much or as little as you need.
Wednesday we experienced the “Car Wash/Pizza Place.” It’s a unique 2-in-1 stop. There are no automated car washes here. If you need to get your car washed, it’s done by hand. So we took a field trip to the local car wash that conveniently had a Pizza Place upstairs. So, while you eat Pizza upstairs, you watch your car being washed via video screen. Pizza was good, and depending on the line for the car wash, it could take 90 minutes or so to get the car taken care of…Lots of time to chat with friends!
Tomorrow the conference will end around noon with lunch. Afterwards, we will help clean House of Grace from top to bottom…washing sheets, cleaning bathrooms; floors and whatever else needs to be done. The Musgraves have another group coming in for a retreat next weekend, so we want to be sure it’s ready for them.
Today was Valentine’s Day. John bought flowers for Naomi and Carol and we enjoyed a heart themed cake for dessert.
Thanks for praying.
Day one of the seminar is in the books. It was a warm, 66 degree day in Tsibanobalka. After dinner this evening, several of the men piled into a car and headed off to the Black Sea, which is only a few kilometers away.
14 of us meet around the dining room table at House of Grace for the teaching and discussions. There are twelve men in the class plus Lena, my translator. One of the men, Kolya, is an elder at Holy Trinity Church in Anapa, where John & Naomi Musgrave and Lena attend. The remaining 11 come from Sandzhik’s church in Kalmykia. These men drove 16 hours one way to attend the class. I know five of the men from previous classes I taught in 2011 and 2012, which allow us to build on the relationships we began previously.
Kalmykia is located in the Steppes of the Caucasus Mountains, near the Caspian Sea. According to John Musgrave, the land is flat for as far as the eye can see. Ethnically, the Kalmyk people are descendents of the Mongols and the only Buddhist people group in Europe. About 300,000 people live in the Republic with half of them in the capital city of Elista, where Sandzhik pastors his church. With only 15 churches in Elista for a population of 150,000, there is a huge need for the gospel. The rest of the population is spread through small cities and villages with one church here and a Bible study there.
Sandzhik, whom I’ve known from previous conferences, is a passionate evangelist, discipler, and church planter. The fact he brought ten men with him to this class testifies to his commitment to train and equip others.
I asked the group how many became Christians in the past year and one raised his hand. Two said they were believers less than two years. Only one of the men grew up in a Christian home while the rest are all first generation Christians, many the only believer in their family.
We started the day with breakfast at 9AM. The class began at 10AM. We took a half hour for lunch at 1:00PM, and then went until dinner at 6PM.
We are studying the Patriarchs—Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Today, we covered the life of Abraham in Genesis 12-24. The men asked good questions and made insightful comments during the discussions. I concluded by asking them to write down the most important principles they learned from Abraham’s life. We will review them when we start tomorrow morning.
During dinner, Slava mentioned that God had been teaching him about patience the past two years. He appreciated what I shared about patience and not running ahead of God. That was encouraging to hear and says that I am hitting the balance of teaching and encouraging.
Thanks for praying.
Last night we enjoyed dinner with John & Naomi Musgrave, our hosts at House of Grace, and Ilya and Tanya, a pastor in Novorossiysk. Ilya pastored the church in that city for several years and now serves his denomination, overseeing the church planting network. Holy Trinity Church in Anapa, where John serves as one of the elders, is part of the network.
Ilya told a very encouraging story of how God provided for the church to purchase their current building. It involved great sacrifice as he and his wife sold their home and donated all the proceeds to the project. It involved great faith as he was invited to come to the states to share his story. He applied for a visa in the days when visas were hard to get. He didn’t even have a plane ticket. When he received the visa, a family member declared it was a miracle and gave him the money for the ticket. He came to the states and shared his story in several churches. People gave sacrificially to build the building. He was given a house to rent which he was later able to buy. He recounted numerous stories of answers to prayer. It was a very encouraging evening.
As we drove to Novorossiyk, we observed many trees infested with mistletoe. (It looks like a messy nest in the trees.) I was reminded of what we learned two years ago. While beautiful, mistletoe is a parasite that infests and takes over the tree, and can eventually kill it. Not every tree, however, is susceptible. Some are resistant to it. The same is true of sin and temptation. If we allow it to gain a foothold in our lives, it will destroy us. But if we resist and stand firm in God’s power, we can remain healthy.
Part of Carol and my purpose here is a ministry of encouragement and presence. Because of our friendship with John & Naomi, we are a listening ear and a sounding board. We understand their challenges and frustrations and can understand and empathize with them. We can help them think through different issues. We also offer a helping hand to hang pictures and shop for groceries. (At least it provides a Kodak moment and makes me look like I’m helping.)
This morning, John met with Kostya and Kolya, elders at Holy Trinity Church in Anapa, and Vanya, an elder candidate. The church can only remain in their current location until September. As they discuss options for relocation, John has them thinking through several criteria—location, size, cost, proximity to bus lines, renting versus buying, commercial property versus residential property, land versus existing buildings, etc.
After their meeting concluded, John had me share with Vanya how I use PowerPoint in preaching. John explained that Vanya’s style is close to mine and he already uses PowerPoint for his outline. I walked him through my last sermon on 1 Timothy 3:8-13. Vanya was very attentive and was tracking with me in my explanation of what, how, and why I preach the way I do.
The students will begin to arrive this evening and the class starts tomorrow at 10am. Thanks for praying.