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Monthly Archives: February 2015

Saturday night in Tsibanobalka

IMG_2038As promised, I gave the class an assignment this morning. I gave the men 45 minutes to study two passages on their own—Deuteronomy 34 and Hebrews 11:24-28. The first tells of the death of Moses and the second summarizes his life. Then I had them divide into two groups and spend the next 45 minutes discussing how to teach the passage. It was an exercise in inductive Bible study and group process. One group took Deuteronomy while the other took Hebrews. Then we gathered at 11AM to share the results. IMG_2040Each group had a spokesman who taught the main points of the lesson to the rest of us. They showed great insight into the passage, highlighting several significant principles.

After the two groups finished, I explained that I preached through the life of Moses about four years ago. When I came to Deuteronomy 34, I decided to do something different and creative. Rather than simply preach the passage, we held a funeral as if Moses had died the previous week. We brought in several props—wooden casket, shepherd’s staff, sandals, and tablets with the 10 Commandments. One person read Moses’ obituary while others shared memories of their good friend. Then I preached a message on Deuteronomy 34. The men liked the idea and said they were going to schedule a funeral in the near future.

In our final session, I taught through Psalm 90, a psalm Moses wrote at the end of his life. The main idea of the psalm comes from verse 12—Count your days to make your days count.

IMG_7104We closed the class with a time of group prayer. I have observed that Russians take prayer very seriously and treat it reverently. They stand when they pray. Not only did they pray before meals, they wanted to pray at the beginning of each class session. It was fitting that we ended with the way we began.

After a hearty lunch, the men practiced a long goodbye before heading off to their homes.

Afterwards, John & Naomi, Lena our translator, and I began the process of cleanup. Dishes were washed, beds were stripped, floors were swept, and laundry was started. Then we sat down to rest before the next meeting.

In the late afternoon, John & Naomi and Lena met with three couples to discuss the future of the House of Grace. John & Naomi are transitioning to a ministry of mentoring pastors and wanted to find the right couple to take over the ministry of House of Grace. After a long discussion, the ten of us went to dinner at a pizza place in Anapa. It appeared to be a very positive discussion.

FullSizeRenderWhile the men were working on their personal study and group project this morning, I was helping Naomi in the kitchen, shelling eggs for deviled eggs. They will be served tomorrow at Holy Trinity Church of Anapa’s Day of Unity.

Today’s weather was a bit cooler, dropping down into the mid 40’s. Considering it is in the 20’s at home, I’m not complaining.

All in all, it was another good day of ministry.

Thanks for praying.

 

Bible study & cookies

Bible study and cookies & milk adds new meaning to Matthew 4:4.

Matthew 4-4

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2015 in Bible Study, Photos, Russia, Scripture

 

Friday evening in Tsibanobalka

10991700_1559175807684026_8243340034666843585_oAnother day of teaching is in the books. I began this morning with the ten plagues in Exodus 7-10 and ended with Moses losing his temper in Numbers 20. Needless to say, we covered a lot of ground. The last lesson was one of the most important. It illustrated what can happen when we don’t deal with a recurring sin. Moses killed a man in anger at the age of 40. He stormed out of Pharaoh’s presence at the age of 80. Nearing 120, he struck the rock in anger rather than speak to it. While his anger was forgiven, his loss of control and act of temper cost him his place in the Promised Land. Today’s lessons included some lively discussion and thought provoking questions. The men are thirsty for knowledge and desire to learn and grow.

The men don’t know it yet, but I will give them an assignment in the morning. I will ask half the group to study Deuteronomy 34 and the other half to examine Hebrews 11. Then they will come back and teach the main idea of the passage to the other group. I will close the class with Psalm 90 which Moses wrote at the end of his life.

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One of the features of House of Grace are the meals. No one goes away hungry as John & Naomi Musgrave serve tasty and plentiful meals. They do it to honor their guests and treat them as special people. From a US standpoint, the meals cost about $2 per person. From a Russian standpoint, the meals include items that the average person could not afford. During dinner, Lena and Vanya were discussing the cost of things such as meat and vegetables as well as the merits of sugar, honey, and fructose. They commented how much the cost of food has gone up recently. (When Carol and I were here last year, $1 = 32 rubles. Today, $1 = 62 rubles. It got as low as $1 = 70 rubles recently. It’s great for Americans but terrible for the Russians.) It makes John & Naomi’s hospitality that much more valuable.

The weather this week is downright balmy. It got up to 57 degrees F today. Considering it’s in the 20’s back home in western MA, it’s quite warm for me. It’s the first time in weeks I haven’t worn a hat indoors to keep my head warm. On the drive from the Anapa airport on Wednesday, I commented that I’m not used to seeing so much green. While I am enjoying the warmth, my translator was bundled up in a blanket as she was cold. Guess it’s a matter of perspective. 😉

Thanks for praying.

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2015 in House of Grace, Photos, Russia

 

Thursday evening in Tsibanobalka

IMG_2021Thanks to all of you who prayed for the first day of class. God answered prayer. After a night of restful sleep, we enjoyed a good day of stimulating discussion.

Students started arriving about 9:30AM and the first session began at 10:30. 10 men are part of the class, along with Lena, our translator. During the opening session, I asked the men to introduce themselves—who they are, where they are from, and what ministry they are engaged in. IMG_2022Half of the group comes from the Holy Trinity Church in Anapa, where John Musgrave serves as one of the elders. Vanya, the pastor, and Kostya and Kolya, two of the elders, are part of the class. Several other men are part of a church/alcohol rehabilitation ministry in a village near Krasnodar pastored by Sasha. Around noon, Sergey arrived from Crimea. He traveled all night by bus to come for the day.

We met from 10:30 until lunch at 1PM. IMG_2023Then we reconvened at 1:45 and went until 5:10 when we broke for dinner. All told, about six hours of teaching today. I covered the first six chapters of Exodus from Moses’ birth up to the beginning of the 10 Plagues. Considering I am one-third of the way through my notes, I guess I am on track for a three-day class. Part of the time I lectured and part was filled with discussion and Q&A. There was much more discussion than in previous classes. John mentioned that the Anapa elders meet each week to dissect and discuss the upcoming sermon. Their training was evident in the quantity and quality of their questions. It made for a very interactive and interesting experience.

1507339_1558934411041499_1818744849395380593_oAfter dinner, I talked for quite a while with Pastor Sergey from Crimea. Due to the changing political climate, a large number of people not only left his church but the area as well. It has made for a challenging ministry. He asked a number of questions about how we do evangelism, Christian Education, special services, recovery programs, and more. Later, Pastor Sasha joined us for the discussion on recovery programs. Sasha’s ministry involves an alcohol rehabilitation center that makes use of a former collective farm. What they grow helps support the ministry.

As I listen to these men talk about their respective ministries and families, I am humbled by their commitment to Christ. My problems appear very pedestrian compared to their experiences.

Thanks for praying.

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2015 in House of Grace, Russia

 

Wednesday evening in Tsibanobalka

It’s been three full days of travel.

Monday – flew from Boston to New York JFK in the afternoon. Flew overnight from JFK to Moscow, arriving Tuesday morning.

Tuesday – Connected in the evening with John & Naomi Musgrave, who flew from LAX.

10960329_1558427214425552_3836815877101352432_oWednesday – The three of us flew from Moscow to Anapa. We went grocery shopping for the meals for the week. After getting the food stuff home to House of Grace and put away, we started preparing some of the meals we will serve the students over the next few days. Afterwards, it was time to put up our feet, relax, watch a movie, and try to stay awake into the evening.

The students arrive tomorrow morning, Thursday, at 10AM for the first session of the three day class on the life of Moses.

Thanks for praying. We’ll keep you posted.

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2015 in House of Grace, Russia

 

When God opens a door

All the places to goBook Review: All the places to go, how will you know?: God has placed before you an open door. What will you do? by John Ortberg

God is the God of the open door. He has placed open doors before us. Rather than simply an opportunity, these are open doors to do something eternal. An open door is an opportunity provided by God to act with God and for God. This is the theme of John Ortberg’s latest book, All the places to go, how will you know?: God has placed before you an open door. What will you do?

The theme of the book is taken from Revelation 3:7-8 where God tells the church in Philadelphia, “I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut.” It symbolizes “boundless opportunities. Of unlimited chances to do something worthwhile; of grand openings into new and unknown adventures of significant living; of heretofore unimagined chances to do goo, to make our lives count for eternity.”

Using biblical examples from the lives of Abraham, Jonah, Elijah, and others, as well as stories from his own life, the author provides a unique look into the age-old question of how to discover God’s will for your life. Like all of his books, the stories are humorous, real, practical, helpful, and encouraging.

Along the way, the author gives insight into why some people respond positively to open doors while others avoid risk. He addresses the subject of which doors to walk through and which ones to avoid. He also provides a helpful chapter on why God might close a door and how to respond appropriately to it. The book provides helpful insight as to how to recognize divine opportunities in life, how to overcome the fear of missing out or of making the wrong choice, and how to walk through open doors with confidence.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Tyndale Blog Network http://tyndaleblognetwork.com/ book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2015 in Books

 
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I have so much to learn about God

2-23-15 Sproul

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2015 in Quotes, Tim Challies

 

Our ministry continues despite the snow

Below is a copy of a letter sent to the congregation of First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA.

First Central Baptist Church

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2015 in First Central Bible Church

 

Seasons change … but not fast enough

Shoe - seasons change

Can I get an “Amen!”?

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2015 in Fun, Winter

 

When Pigs Fly

When it comes to the subject of the supernatural and especially spiritual warfare, we tend to go to one of two extremes. We are either overly fascinated or in complete denial. We either see a demon under every rock or we believe that Satan is simply a metaphor.

The tension between these two opposites was popularized in the characters of Mulder and Scully in the television show, The X-Files. One saw a conspiracy of otherworldly proportions while the other sought a scientific, rational explanation for every phenomenon.

C. S. Lewis expressed this dichotomy in his preface to The Screwtape Letters,

There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.

swine dive-PP-poster edgesIf your approach to the supernatural is to say, “I’ll believe in Satan and demons when pigs fly,” then Mark 5:1-20 is a passage of Scripture you should examine. Jesus’ encounter with a demon-possessed man results in the ultimate swine dive.

This is the second of four miracles that demonstrate the lordship of Jesus. He has power over nature (4:35-41), demons (5:1-20), disease (5:24-34), and death (5:21-23, 35-43).

When Pigs FlyJesus travels to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. He journeyed through a violent storm and encounters a man with a violent storm inside of him (2-5). The Gerasene demoniac was strong and untamable. He was a danger to himself and a terror to others. He knew exactly who Jesus was because he knelt before him, asked not to be punished, and addressed Jesus as the Son of the Most High God (6-7).

When Jesus confronted the demon and asked for his name, the demon responded, “Legion” (9). A Roman legion consisted of 6,000 soldiers, 120 horsemen, and several technical personnel. “Legion” spoke of great numbers, efficient organization, and relentless strength. Whether the man was possessed by 6,000 demons or not, it was certainly more than one.

Verses 11-13 are perhaps the most confusing in this passage. In a world where we are told that animals have rights and are treated with more value than a human being, we are puzzled why Jesus allowed the demons to enter into the pigs and destroy them. Perhaps it was to illustrate that violence done to a pig was better than violence done to a man. Maybe it demonstrated that the demons had truly left the man. Either way, it showed that the demons were ultimately focused on destruction.

At the same time he demonstrated his authority over the demons, Jesus restored his image in the life of a profoundly disfigured man (14-17). The ex-demoniac was now rational, controlled, at peace, and in communion with God.

The surprising outcome of the event is that the man’s healing terrified the townspeople more than his previous madness. It also impacted their economic future. Both of those reasons motivated them to ask Jesus to leave and not come back.

Rather than allow the ex-demoniac to accompany him back across the Sea of Galilee, Jesus encouraged him to go home and tell of his deliverance (18-20). The man obeyed and heralded the good news far and wide.

When Pigs FlyI take away three primary lessons from this story.

  • God will go to any length to rescue someone in need. Jesus traveled across the sea through a raging storm to deliver one person. How far will he go for you and me?
  • When God rescues a person, he transforms them completely. When Jesus cast out the demons, he transformed the man from untamed to controlled, from terrorizing to at peace, from naked to clothed, from a wild man to being in his right mind, from an outcast to going home.
  • God can deliver us from anything is we will come to him. He can free us from a miserable past, from sins that plague us in the present, and from a hopeless future. The only thing that can stop him is if we send him like away like the Gerasene people.

Some years ago an ophthalmologist, just fresh from college, commenced business. Without friends, without money, and without patrons, he became discouraged, until one day he saw a blind man. Looking into his eyes, he said, “Why don’t you have your eyesight restored? Come to my office in the morning.” The blind man went. When an operation was performed and proved successful, the patient said, “I haven’t got a penny in the world. I can’t pay you.” “Oh, yes,” said the doctor, “you can pay me, and I expect you to do so. There is just one thing I want you to do, and it is very easy. Tell everybody you see that you were blind, and tell them who it was that healed you.”

What has God released you from? Who can you tell your story to?

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on February 22, 2015. It is part of series in the Gospel of Mark. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.