A Letter from Lughansk Churches

Despite the cease-fire the situation is Lughansk region is beyond words in terms of the human loss and suffering. There have been reports of at least two more churches being seized this week in Eastern Ukraine, one in Lughansk and one in Krasny Luch.

This week I talked with one of the ministers from Lughansk region whose church has been seized by rebels. We have given some aid to his church through our missions Ukraine Crisis Fund. He thanked me for the helped and said that despite the fact that they have no church building the Church continues to minister to the needs of people!

Photo REUTERS/ Marko Djurica

A woman leaves her burned out village in Lughansk region |Photo REUTERS/ Marko Djurica

Below is a letter I want to share with you from the overseeing pastor for Lughansk region. You can sense the pain in his words as he writes about the situation in Lughansk. You can read the original in Russian here.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, deacons and pastors of the Church of Christ!

I writing to you on behalf of the churches and ministers in Lughansk region. A real war has filled our cities and our villages inevitably bringing with it destruction, pain, death, sickness and hunger. I’m not writing about this as someone who is looking on from a distance but as someone who is directly involved in these tragic events. God called me to personally to experience this horror, fear and pain of war.

My city, Pervomaisk has been terribly destroyed, for more than 50 days there has been no water, electricity, no gas, no stores and no food, no pharmacies and no medication. Explosions, bombs and rockets. The dead are counted in the hundreds. Our wonderful church building “Revival” has been burnt to the ground. The city is empty. The lives of the church leaders have been threatened. The Church has been scattered. The people are left without even blood, they have lost everything they had. This is only a small part of what’s happening – it’s a drop of water in a sea of suffering that is storming our area. The situation in other cities is a little better. Lugansk is destroyed. Thousands of refugees. Church buildings in Antratsit and many others have been seized.

But thanks be to God, He is faithful and he has not forgotten us!

I want to thank you brothers for your active participation in our suffering, and in our ministry!

I know that in many churches they are regularly praying for us -THANK YOU! I ask you to continue praying! Many churches and families opened their homes to refugees from our region -may the Lord take care of you! Many churches gather food and clothes and I assure you that these are needed and valued! (In a few areas of our region the humanitarian catastrophe is such that people are waiting days for bread and water.)

I ask you and I exhort you to do the following:

Don’t stop praying for us. Pray for peace and for freedom in our area. Pray for repentance. Pray for the ministers and the churches that are carrying out this ministry in such difficult circumstances.

I ask you to open your heart to all who are going through tough times, to those who have lost their house, their work, their pay and their retirement. Open your heart and the doors to your homes. Accept these people and bless them!

I ask you and I call on you to help! Help churches, help the refugee camps, help the ministers who stayed behind in the conflict zone! This is extremely difficult, but we see how God is blessing our toil through those seeking God, repenting and being baptized.

We know that God will calm this stormy cruel sea! We believe that He is powerful to transform the suffering and pain of our people into joy and peace!

This is what we pray for with you, rejoicing that through the blood of the Lamb we became close family in order to suffer together, support each other and come to the aid of one another.

May the Lord bless!

Your brother in the Lord Elisha Pronin –  Area Association of Churches, Evangelical Christian Baptist, Lughansk Area

You can give to the Baptist Union here or through our Ukraine Crisis fund here.

Category: Ministry · Tags: ,

This Man Just Left His Family

This man’s name is Dima. He’s my friend, my student and my brother in Christ! Last year he got married, last month he had his first child and last week he left his family!

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He left his family because of all the fighting!

No, there’s no fighting in his family, the fighting I’m talking about is in Eastern Ukraine. He left his family because he was drafted into the army. He left his family because his willing to risk his life to protect his country and the lives of his dear little family!

Things here happen pretty quickly. He received his draft notice in the mail on Monday and by Wednesday he was gone!

I called him up as soon as I found out that he had been drafted to see how he was doing and to let him know that we were praying for him.

This is what he told me:

“Caleb, don’t worry about me, there are lots of possibilities for ministry here!”

He’s got his spirit in the right place and I’m trying not to worry about him! Isn’t it ironic that I should even say that after writing a book about how to stop worrying with one entire chapter about how to stop worrying over the safety of loved ones?

God seems to have a way of testing your faith and making sure your heart and your words match up!

The contrast

In world where all too often the only fighting young men do is with their wife, Dima’s example of faithfulness and sacrifice is inspiring.

We need more young men who understand the marriage isn’t about getting their needs met but rather about meeting the needs of your spouse.

We need more young men who act on principle despite the fact that it means traveling the road of hardship and discomfort.

We need more men who are willing to fight for their wives instead of with their wives!

A lesson in sacrifice

War has helped me to understand a lot of things in a way I never saw them before. Perhaps one of the greatest lessons that war teaches is the lesson of sacrifice!

When life is good sacrifice is about letting your spouse watch the movie she picked out instead of the one you wanted or maybe it’s taking an hour or two to fix that leaky toilet valve or doing the dishes after dinner. That’s all well and good but more and more that type of sacrifice seems to lose its glory when compared to the sacrifices of wartime.

The sacrifice in war is two sided, there’s also the side of the wife and children who are left behind. Sometimes their sacrifice is the greater one! Our family experienced that in 2006 when my sister’s husband was killed by a sniper in Iraq. These are painful sacrifices that will never completely heal in this lifetime.

One thing is for sure

It’s wartime that forces us back to those truths that we can know for sure no matter the situation, no matter the condition, no matter the loss, no matter our emotions!

All hope outside of Jesus is temporary!

All hope in Jesus is eternal and can never be taken away!

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
(Rom 5:3-5)

Question: Will you please pray for my friend Dima and his family?

Category: Ministry · Tags: , ,

Fighting Kills Elderly Church Member During Ceasefire in Donetsk Ukraine

Yesterday I received heart wrenching news from a friend whose church is in Donetsk. A piece of shrapnel killed one of their church members right in her own yard! This is the brutal truth of the supposed ceasefire in Ukraine.

People are still dying!

Officially the war has killed around 3,000 people, unofficially I’m sure the number is much higher!

When we quantify deaths with numbers and percentages they bear little weight on our conscience and on our heart. But when you have a connection, you begin to understand the overwhelming pain inflicted upon families, communities, and churches by just one death!

Photo: Dan Malmqvist/Nya Tider http://www.nyatider.nu/en/a-visit-to-war-torn-donetsk/

This young girl was also killed by shelling recently in Donetsk | Photo: Dan Malmqvist/NyaTider

Here’s what my friend wrote.

“I just found out that yesterday during the shootout at the Donetsk airport a lady who went to our church was killed, her name was Ludmila Prokofyevna. This is the first person to die in this war, whom I personally knew well. (I hope it’s the last). She was about 70 years old. When the shooting started she couldn’t get to cover in time, a piece of shrapnel hit her and she died right in her own yard! It’s sad… Although she died tragically I remember that she was always very lively and joyful. She loved to tell people about God. Because of her a few dozen people put their faith in God. And such is the end… However, I don’t believe it is the end! I believe she is in heaven now with God and it’s uncomparably better for her there.

P.S. May the Lord protect our friends and relatives in this lawless republic!”

  • Pray this weekend for the family of this woman who was killed!
  • Pray for the suffering churches that remain in these regions!
  • Pray for peace in Ukraine!
  • Share this with your church and ask them to pray too!

Our team of missionaries is actively working to aid churches and citizens in Donetsk and Lughansk regions.

Learn how you can join us here.

Category: Ministry, Slider, Ukraine · Tags:

#37 How Living in Wartime Changes Your Perspective

Yesterday a military helicopter flew over my head and these were my first thoughts:

  • Are they responding to an attack on Odessa?
  • Is it a Ukrainian helicopter or are the Russians already here?
  • Are they going towards the conflict or away?

In this episode of “Now Is the Time” I share with you how living in Ukraine while it is at war has already changed my outlook in life.

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lughansk airport destroyed

How Lughansk Airport looks today | photo: Segodya.ua

Living in a country that’s at war changes the way you think, it changes your perspective on everything! It infiltrates your daily life like a bad rash. The harder you try to pretend it’s not there the more you become aware of its presence!

lughansk airport

How Lughansk Airport looked earlier this year

Priorities change

It’s amazing how quickly what seemed like a vital aspect of life can become meaningless! In general the better life is the more insignificant man’s priorities become.

What I mean is things like losing that extra ten pounds or searching for the latest Fall fashions or making sure you don’t miss the latest episode of Game of Thrones will always take a back seat when your life is in the balance!

In a way this change in priorities is good, it wakes up the soul! It boils life down to the basics, it removes the fog of pleasure and prosperity and focuses the mind one thing -staying alive! Whether it is protecting your own life or giving of your life to protect others!

I believe this pruning of priorities is useful for the church. What I’ve seen in Eastern Ukraine is churches that are no longer concerned with music styles and sermons that run overtime! Instead their consumed with the ministry of taking care of those who are left. Of providing physical and spiritual aid the elderly, the disabled and those who are spiritually broken.

Through the pain they now see clearly what God has called them to do! It’s a beautiful agony that produces an ache in the soul that says,

“Lord how can I serve?”

Long-term plans are thrown out the window

Western society is a culture of big plans. From the time I was a young man, my parents and my teachers taught me the importance of planning ahead. I’ve sat down in many meetings with different groups for hours as we’ve hammered out plans for the entire year or even the next five or ten years!

I’m not against planning but one thing I’m starting to recognize is that all planning is based on one primary assumption:

Everything will remain the same!

In war no one assumes that everything will just keep on going on as it always has. War teaches us that:

  • Everything is temporary, especially peace!
  • Everything is conditional (The saying here is “I’ll see you later if the Russians don’t come.”)
  • Concern is for the next day or the next week, not the next year.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.
(Jas 4:13-14)

The idea of peace takes on new meaning

Peace is one of those words that everyone can agree upon. Talk to anyone in Ukraine and they will tell you that more than anything they want peace! Talk to the separatists and they will tell you the same thing. Listen to Putin or Poroshenko or Obama and they will all tell you that their greatest goal is peace!

But there is no peace!

If everyone wants peace, why don’t we have it?

Wanting peace is never enough! Desiring peace and telling others how much you want it is like my kids telling me they’re hungry. They can tell me they want to eat all they want but if there’s not food in the house or no one is willing to prepare a meal then they will remain hungry!

Peace isn’t something that just naturally exists in the air we breath. Peace is earned, peace is made, peace requires hard work and sacrifice!

In order for there to be peace there must be people who are willing to sacrifice something for that peace!

But that’s not the only problem. You see people do want peace and some are willing to work for it. Unfortunately every one wants peace on their own terms! They’re ready for peace as long as it means that their terms are met, that they have been satisfied by the other side! As long as neither side is willing to submit, there will be no peace!

The conclusion is simple, eventually there will be peace in Eastern Ukraine but like the current ceasefire, it will be temporary!

Why?

Because all peace is temporary! Finite leaders are limited in their ability to provide anything, nonetheless peace! I pray that God gives wisdom to the leadership of Ukraine, I pray that soon there will be peace in Eastern Ukraine, I pray that six months or a year from now I can travel to Lughansk and Donetsk and worship with my brothers and sisters in Christ there!

Yet, I know one truth!

Only Jesus can provide permanent peace!

This war has given me a new perspective on Jesus as a king, as a political ruler who will bring absolute peace! He’s already doing this in the hearts and souls of individuals every day! Won’t it be wonderful when he finally takes the government upon his shoulders and give us complete eternal peace!

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
(Isa 9:6)

Links

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Ask me any question you want right here or give me a call and leave a message (747) 221-6478.

Question: Have you lived through a war? How has it changed your perspective?

I Have Two Moms and I’ve got Two Dads -Honey Maid Wholesome

Yesterday I came across this video from Honey Maid, a company that is known for its Graham Crackers and whose tag line is “This Is Wholesome!”

The video shows “wholesome” scenes of a boy named Issac with his family at home, praying at the table and playing with his siblings. Beautifully captured clips of children running and enjoying moments with their family at the beach are infused with glimmers of filtered sunlight and backdropped by uplifting strains of music.

The entire video feels like it’s giving you a warm heartfelt hug! You just feel good after watching it!

But there’s a problem!

Early on Isaac describes his family saying “I have two moms and I’ve got two dads.” It turns out that Isaac’s birth parents broke their wedding vows, left each other and started separate families! It’s clear that Isaac struggled with this at first but now he seems to be doing OK.

As the video comes to a close there is a long shot of Isaac with his four parents and his siblings. The text reads:

“No matter how families change, what makes them wholesome never will.”

“This is wholesome.”

While I hope that Isaac grows up to be a fine young man and I believe that in God’s grace that can happen. There are several things about this video that disturb me!

Who is defining wholesome?

It seems that Honey Maid is trying to redefine the term wholesome.

Miriam-Webster defines wholesome as:

“Morally good or suggesting good health or behavior”

So what is wholesome about breaking vows, tearing a family apart and then expecting the child caught between the tug-a-war of selfishness to thrive because he’s loved?

Maybe Honey Maid wants to redefine wholesome because they’ve built their graham cracker snacks around the slogan “This is wholesome.” However, a quick look at the ingredients reveals a snack that mainly consists of white flour and refined sugar. That doesn’t suggest health to me!

What makes a family wholesome?

Honey Maid claims that no matter how family changes, what makes it wholesome never will. So what is that thing that makes a family wholesome? They fail to identify it, leaving it up to the individual to decide for himself. The conclusion is simple, build a family however you want, throw the rule book out, as long as you’re more or less nice to each other, then your family will be wholesome!

I submit to you that it is exactly the changes in a family that will determine if it is wholesome or not! Divorce is not wholesome, neither is abuse, polygamy, sodomy, homosexuality, living together outside the bonds of marriage, or any other such “change” people might desire to make in their family structure!

What makes a family wholesome isn’t just their attitude, it’s also their actions and their decisions.

What is a blended family?

The tag in the title for this video is #NotBroken. Their doing their best to show you that divorce doesn’t mean a family is broken but rather that it’s “blended!”

Is this what we should call a family where mother and father, husband and wife have separated and gone their own way? Logically the terms separation and divorce are polar opposites of the term blended! When I blend things I take separate ingredients and put them together to make one product!

Divorce doesn’t blend a family, it breaks it!

A blended family is not a family where mother and father live in separate homes, raise someone else’s kids and sleep with someone other than the parent of their own children!

A truly blended family is one that doesn’t break vows, one that stays the course, one that is an example of faithfulness and self-sacrificial love. One that stays together despite the difficulties!

Will the kids really understand?

In the video Isaac’s mother or step-mother, I’m not sure whose voice it was, states,

“As long as he felt loved and like he wasn’t pulled between two places, he would understand.”

I admit, in God’s grace kids who are unfortunate enough to grow up in a broken home can and do thrive and learn not to make the foolish mistakes of their parents!

However, it is naive for parents to think that any child in any divorce will not feel pulled between two places!

It is naive to think that any child in any broken home will ever fully recover from the pain of seeing his parents stop loving each other!

It is naive to think that a child’s young mind can grasp and understand why the fabric of his family has been pulled out from underneath him!

Does family really come first?

Isaac’s dad states,

“As you blend together, the family comes first.”

This is a nice cliché that pretty much anyone would agree with! However, Isaac’s father is forgetting one basic fact. The first thing in any family is the marriage vow! All families began with it and many families end when it is broken!

For family to really come first, the marriage must be guarded and protected above all! It seems like this guy really does love his kid, unfortunately what he doesn’t realize is that leaving his son’s mother is one of the most destructive things he can do to his family!

By nature a divorce always indicates that family did not come first! Something else came before family. Maybe it was selfish desires, maybe it was lack of commitment, maybe it was another woman or another man, maybe it was alcohol, maybe it was a job. Whatever it was it wasn’t family, because when family comes first, marriage comes first!

How perfect is perfect enough?

Isaac’s mom later states,

“It’s who we are, as perfect as we’re supposed to be.”

No sooner than she says the words above, the following text pops up on the screen;

“More than 40% of Americans are part of a blended family”

The message here is clear, everyone’s doing and it’s not really that bad so why should we try to live any different? Watching the video it’s tempting to agree. After all Isaac’s entire family, including step-parents and step-siblings are playing and laughing together at the beach. It appears that they’re all best friends and that they regularly get together for family events!

Maybe this is how it works in Isaac’s family, which makes you wonder why his parents ever got divorced in the first place! However, this situation is not true for 99% of broken families!

Divorced spouses don’t usually spend their free time together, they don’t usually relax on the beach together, they don’t usually throw parties together. And when they do, it’s often not a peaceful, lovey dovey, everyone being kind to each other type of event!

Divorce might be common now in the US, but that doesn’t mean we should just settle for it because it’s perfect enough! No, as with all sin we must continue to fight, to be examples of faithfulness and to teach our children that they should never settle for “perfect” enough in the moral arena of their life!

Why does a graham cracker company care?

I really don’t understand this, I mean they’re selling crackers, not marriage licenses! Why do they even care about the fabric of family life? Why are they trying to redefine family and tell us that everything is wholesome no matter how we choose to live?

I suspect they have an agenda!

Take a look at the video below. Their agenda goes beyond divorce!

Resources: I highly recommend that you listen to Alber Mohler’s comments in his podcast just a few days ago concerning the condition of the American family.

Displacement of any typical family structure in America reflects decline in marriage

Question: Why do you think Honey Maid is investing in these videos which seek to redefine the American family?

Category: Ministry, Slider, Writing · Tags: ,

Another Church Building Seized By Armed Men In Eastern Ukraine

This is the Church in the city of Antratsit or more accurately I should say this was the Church in Antratsit! Yesterday armed men along with two Orthodox priests stormed through the doors of the church and demanded that everyone vacate the premises!

Before I tell you what happened next, let me tell you about how God has used this church in recent months.

Last Friday I sat down with a friend of mine from this church in Antratsit in Lughansk region. He had just returned from visiting his hometown and what he told me was sobering!

Antratsit is a city of just over 100,000 people on the highway that links Lughansk and Donetsk with the Russian Federation. This means it is of special interest to the Russian backed separatist because of its strategic location!

The day before I talked with my friend he had returned from visiting Antratsit. Just to get to his hometown he had to pass through some 25 checkpoints between Kharkiv and Antratsit! Each checkpoint means giving out a little gift to the soldiers. Those little gifts add up and it makes for an expensive trip!

One of the first things my friend noticed when he came into town were five people handcuffed together around a large tree in the center of town. No, it wasn’t a Greenpeace protest! These poor souls were being publicly shamed and punished for some unknown crime! This is how the new self-appointed leaders of the city manage to stay in control!

The streets of Antratsit are eerily quiet. That’s because the Russian backed separatist who control the city banned cars from driving in the city. It’s only the separatist fighters who freely drive around in vehicles they have “procured” from some citizen who didn’t “need” them any longer! Even riding a bike around town can get you in big trouble! Those who have stolen authority in town keep their grip on it through a combination of deception, fear and hate!

Mobile phones don’t work and home phones only work with-in the city, making it completely isolated from the rest of society. The only TV channels shown are Russian TV and the only news on the radio is also Russian. These news outlets are constantly telling the citizens that the Nazi, Fascist Ukrainian Army is out to kill them and the Russian backed separatists are only there to protect them.

Despite the dangers and the difficulties there’s about 20 people out of 120 members in my friend’s church who decided not to flee the worn-torn city. Instead they have focused their attentions on serving the people of their city!

They started by turning their church basement into a bomb shelter where at night as many as 70 people would come seeking refuge. How appropriate for the Church of God to offer this type of protection!

The church also began to house and feed disabled people. These are individuals who can not quickly make it to bomb shelter when the shelling starts, thus it is important that they remain in the shelter as much as possible. The church is caring for about 20 disabled people.

The situation in the city is dire. Stores no longer have food on their shelves, pharmacies have been emptied of their medications, electricity is on only during specific hours of the day, no one is getting paid, no one is receiving their retirement!

The wealthy and the poor are in the same situation. They are both desperate for the basic necessities of life! From time to time the church has been able to bring in food from out of town. When they get a shipment, they do what they can to share with the rest of the city. It’s not uncommon for 700 people to line up outside the doors of the church just to get some bread and potatoes!

You would think that with all the church is doing for the people in the city that the self-appointed city officials would be grateful, unfortunately this is not the case! Yesterday when armed separatist entered the church building they gave them only 20 minutes, not even enough time to allow the people to gather all their things!

Not only did armed men demand that they vacate the premises but also that they hand over the ownership documents! When they asked why their church building was being confiscated, the separatists answered,

“Your denomination supported the war.” (meaning the Ukrainian army) So now the building is going to be an Orthodox Church or school, or something else.”

So what did the church do?

I talked to my friend today and this is what he told me:

“The church is not a building, the church is still in Antratsit and they have decided to continue to help the disabled. So what they did was they took those 20 disabled individuals whom the church had been taking care of and brought them into their own homes.”

Of course this is not nearly as good of a situation, since their homes do not offer the protection of a bomb shelter! However, the church has found a way to provide them with a place to sleep and to feed them, so praise God!

There’s still a great need to send food and other basic items into the war zone. If you would like to help the church in Antratsit and others affected by the war in Ukraine you can find information on giving here.

Question: How would you respond if armed men came through your church doors and told you they were confiscating your building?

Category: Slider, Ukraine · Tags:

#36 A Dark Cloud is Rolling Over Ukraine -9 Ways You Can Pray!

Last night we had a refugee family from Eastern Ukraine over to our place for dinner. We talked for a very long time about the war, about the church, and about what will happen in Ukraine!

In this episode of “Now Is the Time” I share with you some of the disturbing news coming out of Eastern Ukraine! I also give you nine specific ways that you can be praying for Ukraine and for us!

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Women ride past a burned out Ukrainian tank in the town of Ilovaysk Photo: MAURICIO LIMA | Agência O Globo

Women ride past a burned out Ukrainian tank in the town of Ilovaysk Photo: MAURICIO LIMA | Agência O Globo

The family I visited with last night lived right in the middle of separatist controlled territory until just a few weeks ago. Before they left town it wasn’t uncommon to seen missiles rocketing across the sky outside their kitchen window and then hitting their mark only a mile or two away. Shortly after they left a shell landed across the street from their church, killing an elderly lady and peppering the front of their facility with shrapnel!

Now their entire church is scattered all across Ukraine. Some living with friends or family and some moving from place to place.

Unfortunately the news coming out of Eastern Ukraine is not good and prospects of returning home soon seem to be fading fast for around one million refugees!

Questions

This week received a great question from my friend on Twitter, John Rowe.

He asked if I could detail specific ways to pray for Ukraine and for our ministry here!

Do you have a question?

You can ask your question by leaving me a voice mail any time of the day or night right here! (747) 221-6478 

You can also record a message through our website here.

Here’s how you can pray!

Below are nine specific prayer requests. If you want to hear the details behind these requests please listen to this podcast episode.

  • Pray that the Ukrainian leaders would be given wisdom from God as they try to figure out how to secure their country.
  • Pray for the safety of Ukrainian troops and that they would not lose hope.
  • Pray for the many Russian soldiers and their families who are being “forced” to fight in Ukraine.
  • Pray for the city of Mariupol as they prepare to defend their city from Russian troops only 12 miles away!
  • Pray our team of missionaries as we work with churches to help refugees.
  • Pray for a team from our church who is going out this weekend to minister to soldiers in Kherson area.
  • Pray for Christina and I as we travel to Kyiv this weekend for papers needed in her permanent residency permit.
  • Pray for the family I mentioned above as they seek work and long-term housing.
  • Pray for me as I prepare a sermon series for our church on worry and anxiety.

You can help Ukrainians kill their worries!

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I’ve been asked several times if I’ll be translating my book into Russian. Worry and anxiety are huge in Ukraine now for obvious reasons! I can think of nothing better than giving Ukrainians a tool to help them take their worry and give it to Jesus!

If you want to help make the book available in Russian there are two ways you can assist!

First you can purchase a copy for yourself or a friend. 100% of the profits from the books sales will go to ministry in Ukraine, including helping to pay for the translation costs.

Purchase the paperback here.

Pre-order the Kindle version here.

Second, if you already have a copy of the book you can simply donate here.

Engaging Missions Interview

Last month I was interview by Bryan Entzminger at Engaging Missions. Bryan asked me a lot of questions about my life as a missionary in Ukraine. I wanted to include a link to that interview here because it will give you good insight to why we are here in Ukraine and what we are doing!

Listen to my interview on Engaging Missions here.

You can easily download this podcast on your mobile device by subscribing on iTunes or Stitcher.

Question: Will you do me favor? Please share the prayer requests in this post with your friends, your pastor, your church, your small group? If you can do that please let me know!

Not Even War Will Stop the Church in Ukraine!

I’ve never lived in a country that was at war with-in its own borders! Knowing that I could get in my car and be in a war zone in just a few hours somehow changes your perspective. Knowing that a foreign army is moving your direction causes certain priorities to change!

Women run from shelling in Donetsk, Ukraine. (AP Photo/Mstislav Chernov)

Women run from shelling in Donetsk, Ukraine. (AP Photo/Mstislav Chernov)

A change in perspective

Let’s just put it this way, no one here is complaining because there’s nothing good to watch on the 173 channels they get with their cable package! No one is throwing a fit because the car in front of them in the drive-through can’t get their order right! No one is whining because they can’t get a real person on the phone to answer their banking question!

People here are wondering if their brother or son or father will come back alive from Eastern Ukraine. People are watching the news to see if mortars have flattened their home town, not knowing if they will have a home to return to! People are anxiously waiting for the day when troops will come marching into our city and everything will change.

People are one edge and it shows in their faces! Smoke rising in the distance could just be someone burning garbage, or it could be a provocation, the beginning of something ugly! A distance boom makes you wonder, “Was that a car backfiring or was it something much more ominous?”

How does the church handle this?

When this kind of gloom is hanging over your city and your country it would be easy to think that it would infiltrate the church. It would be easy to assume that the atmosphere of disappointment, anxiety and despair would prohibit the church from fulfilling her calling.

Hardship doesn’t prevent the church from doing her mission, rather it enables her!

God designed the church with these kinds of situations in mind. Jesus gave the church a foundation that can not and will not bend or break, no matter how tragic or hopeless the situation!

Being built up on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the cornerstone,
(Eph 2:20)

The Church continues on!

These are painful times for the church in Ukraine, they are difficult times, they are trying times! Yet, the church marches on! The church marches on because she understands that only her Savior provides hope in hopeless times! She marches on because she understands the deep need to preach the gospel and bring the healing power of Jesus Christ to the hearts of Ukrainians!

Here is the proof

I saw it with my own eyes yesterday!

It was hope!

It was new life!

It was hearts full of worship, ready to follow their Teacher, their Savior, their God, their Jesus!

Take two minutes to watch the video of our baptism yesterday right here in Odessa, Ukraine on the Black Sea and I think you will see the hope and joy in their eyes!

Want to know what they’re saying?

Maxim: I feel joy today, I’ve been born again, I’m dressed in white!

Alexander: It’s a wonderful day, beautiful! Thank you Lord for everything, for this wonderful day. I want to thank everyone for everything!

Leda: I feel a new kind of joy!

Alexander: This is cool! Everything in life changes, I’m absolutely confident in that!

Alla: Such amazing emotions! I’m thankful to the Lord that he gave me new life!

Leda: Finally it happened!

Maxim: Everything was amazing! I’m very happy, we are all very happy! Blessings to everyone!

Question: How does the Church help you continue on when life seems hopeless?

Category: Ministry, Slider · Tags: ,

#35 Five Reasons Why “Don’t Worry Be Happy” Didn’t Work for Robin Williams

Here’s the truth, what sounds like a catchy song can actually be a dangerous theology!

I remember first hearing Bobby McFerrin’s song “Don’t Worry Be Happy” when I was in middle school. To be honest with you, I kind of liked it! It had a nice laid back feel and the message seemed simple and convincingly easy.

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Bobby McFerrin’s solution to worry was simple; stop worrying and be happy instead! It’s sadly ironic that Robin Williams appeared in the original music video from 1988. In the video you can see him quickly change his frown to smile when McFerrin sings “be happy!”

Unfortunately Mcferrin’s solution didn’t work for Williams!

I want to share with you several reasons why Mcferrin’s philosophy is flawed and doesn’t work in real life. If you want to go more in depth I suggest you pick up a copy of my book, “What If… How to Kill Worry and Anxiety Before They Kill You!” I spend and entire chapter debunking the “Don’t Worry Be Happy” philosophy.

Problem #1 It offers no solutions

Even in the song there are no solutions offered. Mcferrin sings about not paying your rent and then tells you not to worry. The problem is that your lack of worry isn’t going help you pay the rent and the fact that you’re happy probably isn’t going to make your landlord forgive your debt.

The song is actually a denial of reality. McFerrin took this teaching from a well-known Indian Mystic named Meher Baba, who taught that all reality is a figment of your imagination!

Problem #2 It has no legs to stand on

Not only does this philosophy not offer solutions but it also has no foundation, it has no basis for making its claim. It’s like telling someone who’s cold to be warm, it’s impossible to do unless you actually provide him with some means for warming himself up. McFerrin’s song give the listener no bases to change his thinking and to release him from his worry.

Problem #3 It relies on your own emotional strength

What McFerrin is really asking us to do is to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. Yes, it can be done, but the results are always temporary. You can put a smile on your face and pretend that you don’t have a care in the world, but sooner or later your worries will catch up to you.

Problem #4 It is illogical

If you think about it there’s really no connection between not worrying and being happy. Where’s the reason? Where’s the logic? It’s not there and that’s why it doesn’t work!

Problem #5 It misunderstands man’s greatest need

There’s an assumption in the words of this song. The assumption is that man’s greatest need is to be happy. If man is happy then everything will be fine.

Man does not need to be happy!

In fact if you look at the life of Robin Williams you’ll find someone who spent much of his life making people happy. It seemed like he was happy, and I would guess that he often was happy!

Yet it wasn’t enough!

We need more than happiness, we need a deeper peace that can anchor our soul in suffering, when we’re not happy!

We need a joy that stays with us in the trials of life and holds us together with our tears won’t dry.

We need a hope that gives us strength when the world around us is boiling over with war, hatred, and all kinds of unspeakable evil!

A better solution to worry!

Maybe Bobby McFerrin’s song can be fixed. I want to offer a solution. Let’s replace “Be Happy” with “Believe in Jesus.”

“Don’t Worry, Believe in Jesus!”

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Links

Question: How does Jesus relieve you of your worries?

Category: Ministry, Now is the Time Podcast · Tags:

What These Ukrainian Self-Defense Force Members Said Was Shocking!

Last week I met several members of Ukraine’s Self-Defense force and what I learned from them was shocking!

I spent the last five days with a bunch of our students hiking through Central Ukraine during what we call “Extreme Institute.” We camped in church yards and every morning and evening we taught from the book of Titus.
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During the day we had time to walk around the town or village where we were staying and share the Gospel. As we headed out on Friday I prayed that God would send the right people our way.

After sharing the gospel with a half-dozen people we had made our way into the center of town. We were taking a break for a few moments when a tall man in fatigues came out of the city hall building and headed our way.

For some reason I felt like I should stop him and talk with him. I stepped toward him and simply asked,

“What do you think needs to happen in order for there to be peace in Ukraine?”

Well, that was enough to get the conversation going and we ended up talking with him and his buddies for about 90 minutes!

Here’s what they told us:

90% of soldiers are ready to turn around and attack Kyiv.

Sadly many of the Ukrainian soldiers feel betrayed by the government in Kyiv. They feel that the government officials are pocketing all the money and not providing them with the basics like bullet proof vests.

Some of the officers have been bought out.

Unfortunately everyone has their price and it appears that some of the officers have been bought out by the separatist. They are paid to give the locations of the troops, which gives the separatists quite an advantage.

They are no longer fighting separatists.

While much of the media still calls the rebels in Luganska and Donetsk “separatists,” the soldiers claim that those they are fighting are very well trained men with tons of experience and the latest weapons and technology. For the most part they are not Ukrainians.

There are many more deaths than are being reported.

The official death toll for the Ukrainian side is just over 2,000. That’s a lot but soldiers say that the deaths are under-reported and true number is much greater.

They were preparing to bury a friend who was killed by a sniper.

Just an hour after I finished talking with them these two guys  buried a friend from their town. They had just brought his body back from the front lines where he had been shot and killed by a sniper.

We talked about more than just war.

I can’t talk about peace without sharing the news of the peace that only Jesus can give!

By the time our conversation moved to spiritual matters there was a small gathering of people around us. Some were also part of the Self-Defense force and others, I’m not really sure where they came from.

I clearly shared with all of them our Jesus, who is the only one who can bring ultimate peace. The two guys in the picture above also took Ukrainian New Testaments for further reading!

Question: Will you pray for my two friends in the Ukrainian Self-Defense force?

Category: Ministry, Ukraine · Tags:

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