#26 Oprah and the Problem with America’s Views of Death

Death is misunderstood by most Americans and there are fewer greater influences that shape our culture’s thinking on death than Oprah Winfrey.

In this episode of “Now is the Time” I identify the problems with Oprah’s views on death and the afterlife and I discuss how that affects your understanding of the resurrection.


Below are three videos that include the thoughts of some of Oprah Winfrey’s most trusted “spiritual guides”.  Each one represents a slightly different view on the soul after death.


The soul continues on as part of everything.


The soul continues on individually in the spirit realm.


The soul finds a new form.

The Bible presents a different picture of death!

Man was not designed to die thus death is unnatural

Gen 2:17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

All death is the result of sin

Rom 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Death is a merciful act of God

Gen 6:3 Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.”

Death is final and is followed by judgment

Heb 9:27  And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.

Death is conquered by Jesus alone

1 Cor 15:55-57
“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.


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If you want to support what God is doing in Ukraine through local churches, missions and evangelism learn how you can do that here.

Question: What misconceptions about death have you noticed in the culture around you?

Why You Should Care About What’s Going on in Ukraine

From a distance it’s easy to watch the events that are unfolding in Ukraine and think,

“Why should I care?

After all it’s halfway across the world and it’s none of our business anyway.”

Unfortunately this apathetic response is typical of too many Americans.


Americans and more specifically American Christians should be deeply concerned about the conflict between Ukraine and Russia and here’s why.

It affects real people.

Too often we watch the news with an aloof attitude. The number of those who were killed or injured is just that, a number. We fail to see the broader and deeper impact on the family and culture, we fail to understand the pain and suffering that people experience for a life time afterwards!

The conflict in Ukraine is daily life for millions of people. The threat of violence in many cities is no longer a threat but a reality!  Besides the violence there’s the complication of struggling to deal with growing inflation which is now making it difficult for many Ukrainians to put bread on the table.

In today’s world what happens in another country doesn’t stay there.

We’re naive if we think that major events that happen in another country won’t affect us in America, they will! Today we live in a world that is more connected internationally than ever before.

The globalization of the market place means that if things go bad in Russia or Ukraine or any other major country it could have a significant impact on the US. However, it’s not just the economy, globalization affects the way the world thinks and acts on many social levels.

It shows that America has weakened.

It turns out that other world leaders have been watching the US closely and the news isn’t good. Obama’s numerous phone calls with Russian president Valdimr Putin have done absolutely nothing to ease the tensions and bring peace.


Because Putin has learned that US leadership is not willing to back their words up with action! This is not only a sign that Russia can do as she pleases but it is also a green light to the leaders of many other countries to do as they please.

Check out what Albert Mohler says about Obama and Putin.

There is a right and a wrong here.

Politics are not amoral, in fact all politics are built on the foundation of moral beliefs. When individuals, a group of people or a nation do things that are wrong we have a responsibility to stand up and call them out.  If we don’t stand against evil then we condone it by our silence.

It is the Christian’s responsibility to understand how Biblical principles apply in every situation, including politics. As believers we must carefully evaluate everything against the backdrop of God’s Word and then boldly stand for righteousness, justice and truth in every situation!

It may close down much of Eastern Europe to the gospel.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect for the Christian is that what is happening now may eventually lead to Eastern Europe closing the doors to the free proclamation of the gospel.

Russia is already well on it’s way to bring back more Soviet type control when it comes to freedom of speech and freedom of worship, while Ukraine has remained much more open. Russia’s annexation of the Crimea and possibly other parts of Ukraine likely signify a significant loss of freedoms for those who live there.

It can happen here.

Peace and freedom are more fragile than we’d like to think. Ask me 2 months ago if I ever thought Russia would invade and take over part of Ukraine and I would have said “No way!”

When we left Ukraine in October there was no hint that anything like this could ever happen. However, with the right conditions things can change very quickly.

America can also change quickly!

God is at work!

I hope I’ve given you enough reasons to care about what is going on in Ukraine but I want to give you one last one! This is something that you don’t see on the regular news but God is at work!

The crisis in Ukraine has created some unique opportunities to share the gospel and I want you to take a couple of minutes to check out a short letter and photos that we recently received from a pastor we work with in Ukraine.

I guarantee it will encourage you!

Category: Ministry, Ukraine · Tags:

Why American Pastors Don’t Stay and the Need for Faithfulness

After six months of visiting churches in the USA I’m beginning to think that many American pastors have ADHD (Attention Deficit Disorder)!

Yes, I’m talking about short sermons and even worse the short tenures in their churches.

According to the Barna group mainline protestant church pastors hop congregations faster than a jack rabbit on Ritalin! Which is about every 4 years!

That’s a problem!

The problem is that we live in a culture that has largely forgotten the concept of loyalty, dedication and long term commitment and this has crept into the church.

Faithfulness used to mean sticking to it for 20 or 30 years or more and now it means showing up next week!

Before you lose all hope let me tell you that there are still a few faithful men out there.


Pastor Franklin was our pastor while we were at Shasta Bible College  in the late 90s. He has been a teacher, a pastor and a mentor for many men and women who are now in full-time ministry all over the world.

I preached my first real sermon in his homiletics class but it wasn’t all classroom training. He invited us into his home regularly to share insights on being a pastor and ministering faithfully. He even took a few of us young guys up to the baptistery one weekend and had us practice baptizing each other!

This Sunday I had the privilege of visiting Pastor Franklin’s church, Grace Baptist here in Redding, California.  I learned that Pastor Franklin has ministered in this one church since 1975!

That is 2 years before I was even born!

That’s faithfulness!

I’m thankful for his example of faithfulness. It encourages me to not give up.

Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love, but a faithful man who can find? Pro 20:6

Why don’t more pastors stick with one church for the long haul? The truth is that faithfulness is hard, faithfulness can seem boring and faithfulness never promises quick success.

However the church today is in desperate need of faithful men and women who will serve and teach and minister despite the hardships! Too often pastors move on before they even have a chance to see fruit in the hearts of those they minister to.

The real reward of faithfulness is sticking around long enough to see God work and in the end hearing the sweet words of Jesus,

Well done, good and faithful servant. Mat 25:21

Question: Do you know a man or a woman who has been faithful in their service to Jesus? How have they impacted your life?

Category: Ministry, Writing · Tags: ,

Is this War? Russian Troops on Ukraine’s Border

Valdimir Putin caught us all off guard when his troops marched into Crimea and very quickly and somewhat quietly took over.

What will happen now that the annexation of Crimea is pretty much complete?

war ukraine

Russian tanks practice their maneuvers. Picture: Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Presidential Press Service Source: AP

Will Putin go in and take another bite out of Eastern or Southern Ukraine?

Unfortunately there are many signs that indicate that Russian troops are prepared to go much further into Ukraine!

Here’s what Christopher Miller of Kyiv Post says,

“Russia is mobilizing for war and may be poised for a springtime invasion of Ukraine’s mainland, after stealing Crimea in less than three weeks. Tens of thousands of Russian troops and military hardware, including artillery, tanks, warplanes and helicopters are amassing and carrying out war games on all sides of Ukraine.”

Read the full post here.

Click image to view full screen

Will you join us in praying for peace in Ukraine?

Category: General Updates · Tags: ,

Worry vs Pornography

Some people like to read or knit and others like to ruminate on theoretic situations that might someday ruin their lives.

Worry is sin but we don’t often see it that way, it’s not uncommon to hear people make passing remarks such as, “Oh I’m just a worry wart!” or “I can’t help it, I like to worry.” They admit their problem but immediately pass it off as no big deal.

worry vs pornography

Worry vs Pornography

Imagine if we applied these statements to other sins. What if you were browsing for movies with a friend and you came across a pornographic film. To your surprise your friend suggested that you buy it and when you ask why he simply laughs and says, “Oh I just can’t help it, I’m a sexual pervert!”

Even if he were a sexual pervert, he probably wouldn’t admit it because that’s a sin and he’d be ashamed if you found out. Yet viewing pornography is really not that different from worry.

  • Both are sins of the mind.
  • Both fantasize about something that is not real.
  • Both are patterns of wrong thinking that develop deep thought habits which can be difficult to overcome.
  • Both cripple their victims by invading and distracting the mind throughout the day.
  • Both can lead to real physical problems.
  • Both will lead to relationship problems.
  • Both will keep us from pursuing God’s will in our life.

It’s no big deal

Rather than viewing worry as a sin of the heart which must be uprooted and destroyed by Jesus many see it almost as if it were a hobby, a pastime or just part of their personality. 

To a degree we enjoy worrying. It gives the mind something to do. At first it might even feel like we are solving problems, like we are staying in front of things or like we are caring for our loved ones. But then we get carried away and soon find that worry has gripped our minds with an uneasy sense of apprehension and doubt that grows with our fixation upon the problem.

Worry creates real problems

The problems around which worry brews are theoretical and most likely will never come to reality, however, the problems that worry creates are very real! Rarely will we attempt to do anything about worry until the problems which it creates in our life begin to bother us.

What do most people do when these very real complications appear? The first reaction isn’t to run to God’s Word for help but rather to treat the outward and physical symptoms. So if you can’t sleep you’ll find a whole shelf full of sleep aids at your local pharmacy. If that doesn’t work many turn to alcohol, excessive TV watching or many other ways of forcing the mind to forget its worries.

Medicating the symptoms

Then there are the narcotics given to us by the medical establishment as a way to slow the mind and dull the senses. Drugs like Prozac, Zoloft, Luvox, Xanx and Paxil are used by tens of millions of Americans as means to cope on a daily basis with crippling anxiety, worry, stress, anger and depression.

We know that these medications affect the processes of the mind and body and that they also have a lot of side effects! What is debatable is whether these medications actually help patients get to the root of the problem. By blaming chemical imbalances and treating only the physical results the idea that the underlying cause might be sin is often lost.

Worry is sin

The Bible clearly teaches that worry is sin and gives us guidance on how we should deal with it.

“Never worry about anything. Instead, in every situation let your petitions be made known to God through prayers and requests, with thanksgiving. Then God’s peace, which goes far beyond anything we can imagine, will guard your hearts and minds in union with the Messiah Jesus.” Php 4:6-7

Unfortunately many people are led to believe that their problem is purely a chemical imbalance that can be corrected by ingesting other chemicals which will bring their brain and body into harmony again.

What Jesus said

Do you remember Jesus’ famous “Sermon on the Mount”? (Matthew 5-7)

If you read through it you will find that Jesus speaks about lust in three verses. (Matthew 5:27-29) However, Jesus spends 10 verses addressing the problem of worry! (Matthew 6:24-34) That’s a good sign that worry really is something we should approach with a serious attitude.

Jesus simply said it like this:

“…stop worrying about your life—what you will eat or what you will drink—or about your body—what you will wear. Life is more than food, isn’t it, and the body more than clothing?” Matthew 6:25

Next time you are tempted to brush off worry as an insignificant character trait you need to stop yourself in your tracks and remind yourself that worry is a sin and if left unchecked worry can destroy you just like any sin can.

Question: In what areas do you struggle with worry? What methods have you found effective for dealing with worry in your life?

Category: Ministry, Writing · Tags: ,

#25 Why Does Crimea Want to Be Part of Russia? -Podcast

Before you listen to this podcast you should know that it is political!

In this episode of Now is the Time  I talk about Ukraine, Russia and Crimea. The recent political changes there are historical and they will affect the church.


russia war-001

Listener Questions

Below are the questions I answer in detail in this episode.

*A lot of people asked me: Why would anyone want to join Russia?

*Brandan Vaara asked: Isn’t it a done deal now? (Crimea is now Russia)

*John Rowe asked: What’s the best way to be in prayer for y’all?


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Next Podcast

My next podcast will be on Biblical reasons for leaving the church. If you have any questions on this topic or want to let me know what you think are good reasons for leaving the church please leave your comments here!

15 Free Books from the Shepherd’s Conference

Last week I had the privilege of attending John MacArthur’s Shepherd’s Conference at Grace Community Church in Van Nuys, California. It was a valuable time of encouragement and fellowship.

Since we live 80% of the time in Ukraine I only get the opportunity to attend these kinds of conferences about once every four years. As far as I can remember the last time I was at the Shepherd’s conference was around 2001 so it had been awhile!


What impressed me

I was impressed by the high level of organization. Everything seemed to go smoothly, even when the power went out while John MacArthur was preaching! He just kept right on preaching in the dark!

There were over 700 volunteers who served us, it was obvious that those who served us did it out of their love for Jesus.  Some how they managed to feed breakfast, lunch and snacks to over 4,000 attendees each day! They even had a free shoe shine service that I took advantage of.

What encouraged me

I was encouraged by the key note speakers dedication to preaching and teaching that comes straight from God’s  Word.

In particular I was blessed by Albert Mohler who spoke on Thursday evening concerning the importance of communicating the effects of sin and wrath of God as a vital part of the Gospel.

You can listen here.

What blessed me

Ironically the greatest blessing of the Shepherd’s Conference didn’t have anything to do with the key note speakers and seminar sessions!

The best part of the conference was the fellowship!

Attending the conference with me were 3 leaders from our church in Odessa and one from our sister church in Odessa!

Over the few days I was there I’m sure that I spoke more Russian than I did English! In all there were about 40 participants from Ukraine.

I even met two young men from Perm, Russia whose church planted the church we worked with last summer!

15 Free books!

Each participant received a whole bag of great books and I’m giving all my books away!

I’m not giving them away because I don’t want to read them, I’m giving them away because I ended up with two copies of every book thanks to one of the pastors from our church in Ukraine who gave me all his books since he doesn’t read English and didn’t have room to take them home on the plane anyway.

Pick a Book

I want to make this as easy as possible for you, so here is all you need to do to get one of these books for free.

  1. Check out the list of 15 books here and choose one that you want.
  2. Come back to this post and leave a comment here to let me know what book you’d like me to send to you for free.

That’s it!

This is first come first serve so check the comments first to make sure your book isn’t taken. If you don’t see anyone asking for it in the comments then it’s yours!

Question: What book do you want me to send you!

Category: Books, Ministry · Tags: ,

Why I Love Vladimir Putin

In case you didn’t know Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin is the president of the largest country on earth, the Russian Federation.

Recently he’s been the subject of considerable hate and disdain by much of the West for what is going on in the Crimea.

But I really do love the guy and I want to share with you why.
As a politician Putin is a polarizing and fascinating figure. Just when you think you have him figured out he does something completely unexpected. Like the time he decided to ditch his body guards in St. Petersburg and take a walk alone down an alley!

When was the last time you saw a US president do something like that?

I find it interesting to listen to Putin speak. He’s the polar opposite of our American politicians who carefully weigh every word making sure that they use certain terms for effect and that they stay away from others for fear of offending their constituents.

When Putin speaks it’s obvious that he doesn’t care about being politically correct! He just says what he thinks and doesn’t worry about who got offended. He also has a record for doing what he says he’s going to do and sometimes doing it before he says he’s going to do it!

Putin has also taken the moral high ground on homosexuality and recently signed a law that bans distribution of literature that promotes homosexuality!

Now that’s all interesting but it’s not really why I love Putin!

The reason I love Putin has nothing to do with what’s happening in the Crimea and everything to do with what already happened on the Cross!

  • I love Putin because Jesus loved Putin enough to die for him!
  • I love Putin because he needs Jesus just as much as I need Jesus!
  • I love Putin because I understand God’s love for me! I John 4:7-21

I might not agree with all of Putin’s political decisions but as a Christian I am called to love him, pray for him and bless him.

Do you want to know how I’m praying for Putin?

  • I’m praying that he will become a true follower of Jesus!
  • I’m praying that his heart will be made new by the Holy Spirit!
  • I’m praying that God will bless him with spiritual sight!

 Question: Will you pray with me that God will bless Putin?

Category: Ministry, Slider · Tags:

How to Share the Gospel with Muslims

The recent events in the Crimea have brought attention to the 300,000 Muslim Tatars who live in that area. Many people have asked me recently about Islam in Ukraine so I though this would be a good opportunity to share with you some of the facts and give you some tools to help you share the gospel with your Muslim friends.

Getty images

Getty images

Islam in Ukraine

The Crimean Tatars have been in the Crimea since about the 1400′s. During Soviet times many of them were displaced by the government and it was only in 1991 that they were allowed to come back to their homeland. The reason the Tatars do not want Russian to annex is Crimea is because they are worried that history will repeat it’s self.


Muslims make up nearly a quarter of the earth’s population and Islam is considered the 2nd largest religion in the world and the fastest growing religion. Here’s how the statistics look between the US, Ukraine and Russia.

  • US  -2.5 million or .8% of the population.
    • Chances are that if you live in medium to large city you have plenty of opportunities to meet Muslims.
  • Ukraine -500,000 or 1.1% of the population.
    • Most of them live in Autonomous Republic of Crimea.
  • Russia, 9.4 million  or 6.5% of the population.
    • Islam is the 2nd most popular religion in Russia.

How to Reach Muslims with the Gospel

Last month I attended a seminar called “Heart, Mind and Soul -Muslims”. The seminar helped me overcome my fear of Muslims and equipped me to share the Gospel with them.   The information below was taken from the seminar.


In order to effectively reach Muslims we must have a proper heart attitude toward them which means that we must love them! By simply building relationships and loving Muslims around us we can earn the right to be heard. We need to understand that most Muslims place a high value on two things.

  • Community or Ummah
  • Honor and its opposite shame

Community is all about relationships and honor is about how the community views those relationships, thus relationships drive Islamic values, it is even higher than truth. Americans tend to value independence, rights, privacy. If we don’t understand the significance of community and honor to a Muslim it is doubtful that we will be able to build a relationship with him. If we cannot build a relationship with a Muslim we will not have our best opportunity to demonstrate love and share the gospel with him.


It’s also important that we understand what Islam is and how Muslims think. A Muslim is one who surrenders or submits to God or a follower of Islam. They are not about having a personal relationship with God, they are about obeying God.

15% Atheist/agnostic/ancestry only 35% Believe in name only -do not practice regularly 35% Believe and practice regularly 15% Fundamentalist (only a very small percentage are terrorist)

The 5 authorities of Islam What do Muslims hold as authoritative?

    1. Qur’ran: Muslims believe this was God’s final revelation
    2. Taurat/Zabur/Injil: Torah/Psalm/Gospels (Bible)
    3. Sunnah: The customs and practice of Muhammad
    4. Sira Rasul Allah: traditional biographies of Muhammad
    5. Hadith: collections of sayings, acts, approvals of Muhammad

Although they say they believe much of the Bible they may also say that the Bible is corrupted. If they say it’s corrupted you can just tell them, “Let me know when you find a place that is corrupt” and then move on. Important truths:

1. It’s OK that you don’t know it all. Start to engage Muslims in order to build relationships. 2. Be inquisitive and listen; these add to your credibility and are keys to building deeper relationships. 3. Similarities between Islam and Christianity are door-openers to spiritual conversations. 4. Sharing truth is a process; proceeding step by step is more important than downloading all you know in one sitting.


Connecting with Muslims at a soul level means building redemptive relationships with them, loving them and praying for them.

  • Establishing redemptive relationships provides the best context for opportunities to communicate love and truth.
  • Involvement of the Word of God is critical. Let the Word of God speak for itself! (Hebrews 4:12).
  • Respect for Muslims personally and their religion is vital.
  • Listen, be humble, gentle and have a quiet confidence.
  • Spend time with them, lots of it! This shows them that your relationship is important.
  • Meet their needs with acts of kindness.
  • Hospitality communicates powerfully.
  • Get them into the Word of God: chronological studies recommended.


Below is a list of great resources that can help you effectively reach Muslims with the Gospel. I’ve also made a list with all these resources in one place on Amazon -All the Prophets have Spoke – John Cross -A Wind in the House of Islam – David Garrison -Understanding Islam and Christianity – Josh McDowell -What Every Christian Needs to Know about the Koran – James R. White -Is the Injeel Corrupted – Fouad Masri? -The Gospel for Muslims – Thabiti Anyabwile -Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus – Nabeel Qureshi and Lee Strobel -Breaking the Islam Code – J.D. Greear -Message of Hope -Bridges – Crescent Project DVD series

Follow up ideas

  • Pray that the Lord brings Muslims into your life.
  • Eat at a Middle Eastern restaurant – and talk to the owners/staff and give a good tip.
  • Attend local ethnic festivals.
  • Visit a mosque. (…learn and build relationships).
  • Start and ESL program.
  • University students: (holidays, dinner).
  • Guide someone through the “Message of Hope”.
  • Love them.

Question: Do you have any Muslims who live or work near you? Will you seek a redemptive relationship with them?

Category: Slider, Writing · Tags: , ,

How To Pray For Ukraine After Russia’s Occupation of Crimea

Things are changing so fast in Ukraine that it’s hard to keep up with the news.  We’ve been watching events unfold almost on an hourly basis through Youtube and Twitter and we’ve also been talking with family in Ukraine on a daily basis.

Your prayers for Ukraine are vital this week as Russian troops continue to move into the Crimean peninsula. While it has been peaceful so far, there is a great potential for this to turn into something much deadlier.

Prayer Requests for Ukraine

1. Pray that Russian troops who now occupy the Crimean peninsula would be peaceful.

2. Pray for wisdom for the new government in Kyiv as it deals with the tense situation in the Crimea and financial problems.

3. Pray for churches and Christians to be bold as they share the peace that only Jesus can give.

4. Pray for our family members in the cities of Kyiv, Cherkassy and Odessa.


Please Share!

We need as many people as possible praying for Ukraine this week, so please share these requests with your church, small group and on your social networks.

The events of this week will determine much for the Ukrainian people.

While we don’t know what the future holds for Ukraine, we do know who holds the future and we can trust him!

Thank you for your continued prayers!

Category: Slider, Ukraine, Video Updates · Tags: