Category Archives: Life as I experience it

Life

First, I need to apologize for being silent.  I have been on the road much these last 3 weeks, and then when I arrived home in Dnipro, my internet hasn’t been working properly.

Are you an introvert or an extrovert?  How many “friends” do you have?  How often do you connect with your good friends?

If you know me at all, you know that I’m an extrovert.  I would say that 15 years ago I would have been off the chart extrovert!  However, I feel that has somewhat modified and while I’m still an extrovert, I do cherish my “alone” times.

So, being an American and an extrovert, I have “lots” of friends. And many of them I try to connect with as often as possible.

I meet with two young men weekly when I’m in Dnipro.  It is a joy to hear their stories of how God is working in their lives.  This past week, one shared with me that he is using a Bible reading plan and invited a couple of his friends to join him.  They are now meeting together to discuss what they are reading.

The other young man shared with me that he reads the Bible in the morning and evening.  I don’t know how he has time as he is a medical student!  And that he is reading the Bible in English!  Boy, did that convict me.  My former supervisor long ago encouraged me to do that.  I just have never been able to get to that level of comfort.

Then, in my conversations with colleagues, I heard how one is being challenged to have a passion for prayer.  Another is being challenged in discipleship.

Life is happening all around us.  Whether we are an introvert or extrovert, we as believers need to be engaged with those around us.  Friends or acquaintances are waiting to hear the Good News.. and they will only hear if we are willing to speak.  Take time to make life happen.

Strong

“Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land that the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall put them in possession of it. It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”  Deut 31:7-8

 

In the late 80’s our choir at Faith Baptist Church, Wichita Falls, Texas, learned a new choir anthem called, “Be Strong and Take Courage.”  While it is based on Joshua 1:9, the words, “be strong and courageous” are also found in Deuteronomy as well.  Each time I read these words, my mind goes to the song I learned more than 30 years ago.  Take a listen here.

Moses had led the people out of Egypt, they had spent 40 years wondering in the wilderness. God was preparing to lead them into the promised land, yet, Moses was not going to be the one to lead them.  By the time these words in Deuteronomy were written in chapters 30 and 31, it appears that Moses has come to terms with God’s decision.  It would be Joshua who would lead the Israelites and now Moses gathered the people to share with them these words from verses 7-8.

Joshua had been Moses’ assistant for some time.  He had witnessed Moses’ leadership. Moses had be mentoring Joshua.  He knew that Moses was a strong man.  Now, Moses was preparing Joshua to take the leadership role.

There are some great principles that we can learn throughout Moses life and can apply them to our own situations. Because of the stage of life I am in, I know now, more than ever, how important it is for me to invest in the lives of young men.

What does the Lord mean, though, when He had Moses write the words, “Be strong and courageous”?  John Piper states here, “Joshua’s puny strength is not going to be enough. God will win these battles for them. The command to be strong, in view of the ground for I am with you means: Trust in the strength of God to meet your needs as you go to battle against the enemy.”

So I am to be strong and courageous.  And it comes with a promise:  God will be with me.  I have read this promise throughout the Old and New Testaments.  Last night, I even preached about this promise.

No matter the circumstance I may find myself in, God is with me.

And knowing that God is with me, allows me to be strong and courageous.

Fellowship

I have had a great few days of fellowship…

Fellowship with colleagues

I was in Kharkov for a 3 day seminar that IMB helped host.  My colleague and I helped some in the organizing of the seminar, but, most of the work was done by our friends and national partners.  I always enjoy fellowshipping with Linda because I learn so much from her.  She is so passionate about her work and the people she serves with.  Her love for the people of Kharkov is so evident.

Then, on Sunday, I drove to Kyiv.  I had lunch with Dan and Lori.  Both are long term M’s and so knowledgeable of the culture and the people.  It is always a joy to be with them and hear them speak so passionately for their work at the seminary.

Later that evening, I was invited to dinner with all IMBers in Kyiv.  I don’t see them very often and I am amazed at how well our TCK’s (MK’s) are growing in height and in walk with the Lord.  One of them recently decided to follow Jesus!  One of them has really sprouted up!  All of them seem to love to read! One is graduating this year and it was great to hear how he is trying to decide where to go to college in the US.  What a joy for this “uncle” to see them all!

Then to hear about the work going on in Kyiv in disciple making.  How great to know that the Lord is working in the hearts of Christ followers to make other disciples.  I learn so much from my colleagues and am thankful for everyone of them and their respective ministries.

While our team is small in Ukraine (compared to when I arrived in 2003), I count it a privilege to serve with those who have chosen to plant their lives here.

Fellowship with Ukrainians

Whenever I have the opportunity to be around Ukrainians, I know that I will grow in some way.  I will never completely know or understand the culture, but every chance like I had the last 5 days, allows me to grow one step closer.

My time in Kharkov was incredible.  I got to meet like minded believers from around Ukraine who are serving the Lord, using the talents He has given them.  It was so encouraging for me to hear of the Crisis Pregnancy Center in western Ukraine and the family who serves there.  Then, I got to spend about 20 minutes hearing how God is using brothers and sisters in numerous cities and villages along the war front to begin new work.  Just incredible that people have chosen to serve in dangerous areas.

So, my heart is full of memories right now from the times of fellowship I have had the last week. Thank you to those who continue to pray for the work in Ukraine.  Please keep praying!

Why

Oftentimes, when something bad or unpleasant happens to us, our first response is to ask God, “Why?”  I find it interesting that even people who don’t consider themselves particularly religious often ask this question.

Moses sure asked God many questions that began with the word, “Why?”  Take for example in Number 11, as the Israelites are in the desert asking for meat, Moses asked, “Why have you dealt ill with your servant?”  I found it also humorous later in the same verse when he asked, “Did I conceive all this people?”

The Why question is often the first thing off our lips when something happens unexpectedly in our lives.  I know that I am guilty of having done this in the past.  I think it is a natural response.

The Israelites questioned almost everything that happened to them in the desert.  And Moses took their requests to the Lord. I’m sure he grew tired of it over time.

What kind of response should we have?

If you have spent anytime with me, in person or reading this blog, you know about the things that have happened to me in recent years.  Many times I have asked that question about my situations, and there were sometimes where I “feel” I was justified in asking the question.

But the Lord uses the circumstances in our lives to prepare us for what will happen down the road. When I reflect over the WHY questions of the last 4 years, I see how God did just that in my life.

Almost 4 years ago, I was uprooted from my life in Donetsk.  God put me in some situations where I had to “get over myself.”  I had to allow God to stretch in me ways that I have never been stretched before.

So, when I was diagnosed with cancer in November 2016, honestly, I can say that I did not ask, “Why?”  I accepted it as part of God’s plan for my life and He gave me unbelievable peace.

What about the future?  Well, I hope that because of life circumstances, God has prepared me for whatever may come.  And, hopefully, instead of “Why,” I can say, “Why not!”

Sabbath

I am reading through Leviticus at the moment. This morning I read in chapter 23, which outlines many of the days of celebration or remembrance.  And in several Old Testament law books, it is evident the Lord desired that the Sabbath be a day of solemn rest.

As a child growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, I still remember the Blue Laws in Texas.  Most stores were closed on Sunday, to allow workers to go to church, etc. If memory serves correct, there was a discount store, Treasure City in Wichita Falls, that closed on Saturdays and was open on Sundays.  It was probably one of the first stores that started bucking the trend.

Well, by the 80’s, the Blue Laws were changed and stores began opening 7 days a week.  Now, many large supermarkets in the US are open 24/7.

When I moved to Ukraine the first time (24 years ago today!), I remember most stores were closed on Sundays, with the bread store opening for a few hours on Sundays.  Today, most stores are open 7 days a week, and a few never close!

However, in many parts of old Europe, tradition has held that businesses close on Sunday to this day.

I know the older I get, the more I need a day of rest.  I enjoy being at home and taking a day to relax.  It doesn’t happen every week, but I sure like to take advantage of it when I can!

What about you?  Do you take a Sabbath? If so, what does it look like?

Thankful

Earlier today I went to the laboratory to give blood.  For the last several months, some of my numbers for my liver have been abnormal.  So, after a month of taking some medicine that the gastro doctor prescribed, I had to give blood today to see if the numbers are better.

While sitting in the chair, with my sleeve rolled up, I began squeezing my fist.  This has become automatic for me. I smiled as the nurse began to check my vein.  I’m thankful the Lord has blessed me with a good vein in which to draw blood.

Thankful that most of the time, I don’t even feel the needle anymore.  I watched as she inserted the needle and watched as my blood filled up the vials.

Another thing I am thankful for… the fact that most results are back quickly.  Last year, from February to July, I gave blood weekly at my oncologist’s office.  I learned that most results that my oncologist needed would be ready within minutes.

I’m thankful for technology that helps doctors diagnose problems.

I’m thankful for a pharmacy that I can call and order medicine.  Thankful that they will call me if there are any issues.

Most of all, I’m thankful for a Lord that has given me peace.  Peace in knowing that He is with me every step of the journey.  And I’m thankful for His love.

 

P.S.  I wrote this several hours ago, and have just received the results (by email!).  While there are a couple of numbers still a little high, most of them are much better and within norms.  Another reason to be thankful!

Glory

Moses was able to experience God is ways that most people will never have the opportunity.  As I read through Exodus this morning, I was struck by Ex 33:18 when Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” The Lord instructs Moses what He will do so that Moses can “see” Him.

While Moses desired to see something more physical from God, what about me?  Do I want to see God’s glory?

Moses had just encountered God on Mount Sinai when the Lord heard celebration going on down below.  He instructed Moses to go check on the people.  When Moses arrived, the people had built the Golden Calf.

Imagine being in Moses’ place.  Having just heard and experienced God’s instruction, you see the people have abandoned all that they have been instructed to do.  Moses was angry, especially at his brother, Aaron. Moses once again interceded on the behalf of the Israelites.  The Lord replied, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.”

It is at this point that Moses asked to see God’s glory.

Almost four years ago, when I left Donetsk I read a great book.  If you read this blog, you know that I am referring to The Red Sea Rules by Robert Morgan.  One chapter is entitled, “Be more concerned for God’s Glory than for your relief.”

Oftentimes, we ask the wrong questions when in the midst of conflict or troubles.  Some questions may be, “How did I get into this mess?” “How quickly can I solve this problem?” “Why did this have to happen to me?”

As the author of the book states, these are natural questions that come to mind in the midst of the heartache.  Yet, he proposes asking a different question, “How can God be glorified in this situation?”

I’ve had to do this a few times in the last four years.

Finding myself “displaced” from my home, my friends and my surroundings in Donetsk, I wound up in Kyiv living with colleagues for a few months.  I am so thankful for friends who took me in, and I know that God was glorified in their willingness to open their home.

Then, as the decision was made for me to move to Dnipro, again, I asked, “How can God be glorified in this situation?”  And He has been!  He provided many new friends who loved and accepted with me with open arms.

Finally, in The Red Sea Rules, Morgan states that “God doesn’t waste suffering. If He leads us into impossible spots, He will deliver us in His own time, in His own way, and for His name’s sake.”  I can state that I believe this 100% after having to go through a cancer diagnosis and then treatment.

I saw God’s hand and love through every step of the way.  I pray that I have been a good witness through it all.  I have seen God’s glory through this struggle.

Since God allowed me to return to Ukraine, I have seen God’s glory in many ways.  Through a wonderful conversation with a woman with stage 4 cancer, who has since died, I remember vividly speaking with her to encourage her and I left being the one encouraged.  Meeting with a brother in Christ who is enduring his second round with cancer, and how he continues to share the Love of Christ with those he meets.

This past Sunday I preached in a Dnipro church.  I shared my testimony.  Afterwards, a middle-aged woman shared that she had breast cancer 8 years ago and had been cancer free until that week when she received news that she had stomach cancer.  My heart sank as I heard the news.  Yet, throughout our conversation, she was positive and, it was apparent, that God was with her.  God’s glory was evident.

Through my recent experiences, I know that God has a plan, even if the situation seems dire.  I hold on to that hope, knowing that I need to seek God’s glory in and through the circumstances.  So, no matter what may be before me, I can ask, “How can God be glorified in the situation I am facing?”

Obey

Why is it so hard to obey?  Isn’t it easier than disobeying?  These were the questions going through my head as I read Exodus 19-20.

The Lord had one “simple” request as He spoke to the Israelites: “if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Ex 19:5)

Imagine being in the place of the Israelites… they had seen the hand of God as they left Egypt, and as they crossed the Red Sea.  When they wanted food, God provided.  When they wanted water, again, God provided.  Now God told them that they would be his treasured possession.. if they would obey his voice.

I remember as a child, I was pretty strong-willed.  I disobeyed by parents often.  My parents fed me, bought clothes for me and took good care of me like a treasured possession.  Yet, I still failed and broke their hearts.

The Israelites, like me, had a “history” in seeing the good.  They knew what God was capable of doing.  God had protected them, provided for them.  God also never left them.

Today, as a believer, I have that same promise.  There have been times when I have been disobedient and done things on my own terms.  And there was always a “course correction” that happened.  I have learned that it is easier to obey, even when I don’t feel like it.

I have also learned that following the Lord’s will is best for me.  He knows my strengths and weaknesses.  He knows what’s best for me!  That’s why I try to discern His will in every decision in my life.

To obey is a choice.  What choice will I make today?  Hopefully, one that glorify the Lord as I listen to His voice.

 

 

Fear

Fear can trigger emotions that can paralyze us or move us to action.  Often one can only have moments to process the fear, determine the risks and react.

Moses was leading a large number of people from Egypt toward the land the Lord had promised them.  They were already in a heightened sense of urgency due to what had just taken place.

As the Israelites arrived at the Red Sea, Pharaoh pursued them and drew near.  Imagine the emotions that the Israelites must have felt at that moment.  The Red Sea before them, Pharaoh’s army behind.  Ex 14:10 says, “and they feared greatly.  And the people of Israel cried out to the Lord.”

At that moment, the Israelites’ emotions took over and they accused Moses of bringing them out to the wilderness to die.  Moses responded in v 13, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the lord, which he will work for you today.”  If I was one of the Israelites, I’m wondering what I would have been thinking at that moment!

The rest of Exodus 14 tells a story of one of the great miracles of the Old Testament as the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, Pharaoh’s army following and being swallowed up by the waters and dying.  The Lord saved Israel from the hand of the Egyptians.

The chapter closes out with these words, ‘Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.”

Three times in the course of 21 verses the word “fear” is used.  The people feared Pharaoh, Moses told them to fear not, and, lastly, the people feared the Lord.

Twenty four years ago this month, I got on a plane from Dallas Fort Worth airport, flew to Chicago, Copenhagen, Vienna and Kyiv.  It was the first time for me to fly internationally and I was a little fearful.  I was moving to Ukraine, not really knowing what I would face.  But I was trusting the Lord.

I think a healthy dose of fear is useful at times.  It is how we process and use that fear that will determine its effectiveness.

Hardened

The word “harden” or “hardened” is used nineteen times in the ESV version of Exodus.  In every case, it referred to Pharaoh and the hardening of his heart.

Miracle after miracle the Lord showed Pharaoh through his servants Moses and Aaron, yet, Pharaoh would not listen and his heart became more against Moses and the people.  In Ex 9:30 Moses even realizes something true about Pharaoh, “But as for you and your servants, I know that you do not yet fear the Lord God.”

At that point, seven plagues had befallen Egypt.  Pharaoh had witnessed that the Lord spared His people in Goshen, but that the rest of Egypt had experienced the plagues.  And still Moses was able to say “you do not yet fear the Lord God.”

As I read Exodus 8-9, the word hardened reverberated in my heart.  It caused me to stop and ask, “is there any area in my life where my heart is hardened?”  Unfortunately, there are some places where I need to trust the Father more, most deal in relationships.

We like to try to “fix” things on our own, because, after all, that is what we do.  But sometimes, I think we need to let go of our “death grip” on some situations, some relationships, and allow the Lord to work and bring healing.  Only then will our hearts experience the joy that comes from true fellowship with the Lord.