Author Archives: wheelsms

The best travel is uneventful

Thanks to God’s grace and your prayers, we arrived safely at our first week’s destination. Travel thus far has been uneventful, which is my favorite kind.

For those who are concerned, my leg has held up quite nicely. I’ve gotten my share of exercise between walking several airport terminals and taking a stroll on the boardwalk yesterday afternoon while John & Naomi were taking care of some business in the city. I’m still trying to maintain my therapy exercises 1-2 times a day depending on our schedules. I even passed another milestone yesterday as I was able to walk normally up a stairway. Instead of going one step at a time leading with my good leg, I was able to switch legs as I went up each step. Granted, the boardwalk steps were shallower than normal, but I’ll take progress anywhere I can find it. Again, thanks for praying for my travel, rehab, and recovery.

Thanks for praying.


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Posted by on April 12, 2018 in Health, Russia, Travel


Anapa, Russia

Checked into a hotel in Anapa, Russia, a resort on the Black Sea where Russians go for vacation. Took a stroll up and down the boardwalk. Saw swans, sea gulls, donkeys, and a mock sailing vessel. A lot of construction is going on as they get ready for their summer season.

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Posted by on April 11, 2018 in Photos, Russia


Pride hinders givers from receiving

It puzzles me why givers have trouble being receivers. It bothers me that servants struggle with letting others serve them. Unfortunately, I am guilty of the same problem. My pride, independence, and self-sufficiency get in the way of me being on the receiving end.

As I contemplated traveling to Russia, I wondered how I would navigate the airports. I had been going to the mall and to the church gymnasium to walk several times a week in order to build up my stamina and endurance. Walking an airport terminal would be a tiring challenge, but I figured I could do it. A friend suggested I request a wheelchair service. I listened and made the arrangements.

After I said goodbye to Carol at Boston Logan Airport, the wheelchair attendant whisked me through security and all the way up and down the terminal to the departure gate. It was the best $5 tip I ever spent. As boarding began, a ticket agent wheeled me to the door of the airplane and I was the first one on board.

When I landed in Amsterdam, there was no one to meet me, so I walked all the way from the arrival gate to the front door. A long, slow, walk. When I approached passport control, an attendant said she didn’t want me standing in a long line, so she took me to the front to the next available agent.

When John, Naomi, and I checked in for the next flight to Moscow, John told the agent I had requested wheelchair service. A chair was produced and John wheeled me through security to the departure lounge and eventually to the departure gate.

When we landed in Moscow, I walked off the plane past a wheelchair sitting in the jet way. I assumed it was someone “who needed it.” Naomi mentioned it was available, and I responded, “I’ll be fine.” John countered, “Pride.” Shortly after his incisive comment, an attendant came up with a wheelchair and said, “Mr. Wheeler? I was waiting for you.” I apologized and allowed him to take me through passport control to baggage claim and then to an airport restaurant where we had dinner.

Accepting help chafed against my independent, self-sufficient nature. My pride would have worn me out physically and robbed others of the joy of serving.

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Posted by on April 10, 2018 in Character, Personal growth, Russia, Travel


Russia 2018 communication update

Praying friends,

I arrived safely in Amsterdam this morning. I reconnected with John & Naomi this evening over dinner and talked about some of the details for the next two weeks. Tomorrow we head for Moscow and the next adventure.

One difference this year is that I will communicate less frequently, and will save most of the details until I get home. The reason being is that I am traveling on a tourist visa and don’t want to attract any more attention to what we are doing than is necessary.

For several years, I traveled on a tourist visa and we were very open about what we were doing. Two years ago, a new law was adopted which made it harder for churches and individuals to do evangelism and ministry. Last year, we switched over to humanitarian visas for religious work in order to be above board regarding the classes I was teaching. Due to various complications, I went back to a tourist visa for this year’s trip, which makes it wiser to be a bit more circumspect in communication.

Rather than sending a daily update and/or posting it on my blog, I will communicate periodically via email, but will not post anything on social media until I return home.

Thanks for understanding and for praying.

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Posted by on April 9, 2018 in Russia


Live an Awe-Full Life

Fear is a part of our lives. Some fears can be debilitating like a fear of insects, animals, heights, water, public transportation, storms, closed spaces, crowds, people, illness, public speaking, or death. A German proverb states, “Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is.”

Perhaps our fear of fear makes us question the Apostle Peter’s statement, “…conduct yourselves in fear…” Instead of avoiding fear at all costs, we need to use it as a motivating factor. What Peter is trying to communicate is that if we call God our Father, we need to live with a healthy fear and awe of him because he is a holy God who judges justly. That is the main idea he presents in 1 Peter 1:17-21.

Because of who God is (1:17a). Peter states this paragraph with the word, “since.” In so doing, he connects this thought to the previous one on holiness. He shows that a healthy fear should motivate us to holy living. Peter is writing to believers who enjoy an intimate relationship with their heavenly father. Rather than treat him flippantly, we need to be mindful that God disciplines us in the same way an impartial judge dispenses justice. Years of obedience cannot purchase one hour of disobedience.

Because of what God has done (1:18-21). God redeemed us from an empty way of life. Our redemption was accomplished by something of greater value than precious metals—the blood of Jesus Christ. Before God created the world, he knew that Jesus would die for our sins and that God would raise him from the dead. That places a very high value on our salvation.

Live in Awe of God (1:17b). Because of who God is and what he has done for us, we should have a healthy fear and awe of him. We need to recognize that we are strangers and exiles. Earth is not our true home, but rather we are citizens of heaven residing temporarily on earth. In light of that, we should travel lightly.

Far too often, we go from one extreme to another regarding fear. With no fear of God, we view him as a buddy who overlooks our sin. With an unhealthy fear of God, we view him as a harsh judge and we live in fear. The one leads to license while the other leads to legalism.

In contrast, a healthy fear of God motivates me to live a holy life. Because I remember who God is, I will strive to avoid sin. When I do sin, I will remember his grace. Traveling lightly, seeking to honor God, and telling others of his grace all demonstrate my sense of awe and worship of God.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on April 8, 2018. It is part of a series of messages on 1 Peter. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.


The link between emotional intelligence and leadership

Book Review: Developing Emotionally Mature Leaders: How Emotional Intelligence Can Help Transform Your Ministry, by Aubrey Malphurs

Author and Professor Aubrey Malphurs has developed another tool for building a healthier church. As he has on previous occasions, the author focuses on the topic of leadership. This time he focuses on the emotional intelligence of a leader. This vital concept is often the missing link in teams that function well.

As the author points out, there is very little written on this topic, at least from a Christian perspective.

This book is seminal. At the time of this writing, I’m aware of few in the Christian leadership world who are exploring the importance of emotionally intelligent leadership to effective ministry except for an occasional doctor of ministry dissertation. Much of the work on emotional intelligence is being done by those who make no profession of the Christian faith. I’ve also found a few dissertations in the world of higher Christian education, but they’re not readily accessible. Hopefully this work will serve to inspire you and others to discover the importance of emotional resonance and to lead according.

The book is divided into four parts. Part 1 provides an overview of the topic and defines the key terms. Part 2 aims to help leaders understand emotional intelligence, including a look at the key emotions found in the Bible. Part 3 gives an overview of three widely accepted models for developing emotional intelligence and then presents the author’s model that consists of four skills necessary for Christian leaders. Part 4 includes a number of appendices designed to help implement the author’s model.

While not the easiest to read and digest, the book is thought provoking and practical.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

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Posted by on April 7, 2018 in Books, Leadership


Russia 2018 – April update

Dear friends,

I leave for Russia tomorrow evening. Considering what I’ve been through the past five months since I broke my hip in early November, that statement alone is cause for praise and celebration. I am extremely grateful for your prayers, encouragement, and support. More than on any previous trip, I am well aware of how dependent I am on God’s grace and your prayers to get me through.

While I am not yet at 100%, I am healthy and strong enough to make the journey. I have progressed from wheelchair to walker to crutches to one crutch to a cane and now halting steps on my own two feet. Since I am not ready to fly solo quite yet, I will be traveling with the cane. While I still have blood clot(s) in my calf, none of my doctors (surgeon, primary care physician, vascular surgeon) are overly concerned. They have me on Xarelto (blood thinner) for three months and told me to wear compression socks, but all said I should have no problems flying. Definitely a cause for prayer, but not for worry.

This is my seventh trip in eight years, helping to train pastors and leaders in Anapa and Elista. As I have on previous trips, I will be working with John & Naomi Musgrave, missionaries who lead a ministry called “Mentoring Matters.” This ministry follows the example of the Apostle Paul in Acts 13-14, helping to strengthen and establish churches by training leaders.

Since 2011, I’ve had the privilege of teaching on several books of the Bible or biblical leaders—Joshua (2011), David (2012), the Patriarchs-Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph (2014), Moses (2015), and Romans (2016 & 2017). Carol went along in 2011 and 2014 and served behind the scenes. This year I will be teaching the book of Revelation. As of today, 43 people from four different cities will attend the classes.

Here’s the schedule for the trip:

April 8-11             Travel (Boston – Amsterdam – Moscow – Anapa)

April 12-14           Teach class in Anapa

April 15                Church in Anapa

April 15-16           Travel (Anapa – Krasnodar – Elista)

April 17-19           Teach class in Elista

April 20-22           Travel (Elista – Krasnodar – Moscow – Amsterdam – Boston)

Please pray for safe travel, good health, effective communication, and mutual encouragement with the participants. Please pray for Carol as well. During the second week of my trip (April 14-22), she will be in SoCal visiting her parents and two of our kids.

Internet permitting, I will try to provide periodic updates during the trip.

I have attached a document below that will be in our church’s bulletin tomorrow. Post it on your refrigerator or put it in your Bible as a prayer reminder. Click on the link to download a copy of the document.

Thanks again for your support, encouragement, and prayers.

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Posted by on April 7, 2018 in Prayer, Russia, Scripture