Sunday 2:00 pm: Greetings from Rochester airport, where I’m about to board for LaGuardia and then home. Had a blast this morning worshiping with the saints at Church of Love Faith. Very easy to engage in worship, their worship ministry makes it uber easy to connect with the Lord. The Lord graced me to speak from Heb 12, on the Father’s chastening love in our lives. At the close the altar filled with folks expressing their heart response to the Lord. It’s such a delight to minister to such responsive and engaged believers. Hope to do it again soon!
Saturday 8 pm: We’re back from today’s 5 pm meeting. The Lord graced me to speak on the cross. The group was tiny, about 20 folks, and so there never was any kind “room momentum” or “group synergy,” so I just went straight ahead anyways and preached as though 1000 people and Jesus were in the room. I love the cross!
Friday: Today I’m flying to Rochester, NY, to be with my hosts, Ron & Valery Sykes, and the ministry they have lined up for me for the weekend. Here’s what Ron has arranged:
My host, Ron, provides leadership to the Saturday church, and is on the pastoral staff of the Sunday church, leading right now in the areas of children and youth. Plus he’s an exceptional musician and worship leader. Our connection is through our mutual IHOPKC affiliation. He and his wife served on staff at IHOPKC for several years before returning to Rochester earlier this year—the city of their roots. They’re just fantastic people.
Friday 6:00 pm: I’m now at my place of lodging, with Jay and Laurel Lynn. If you’re interested, here’s a bit of some back story. When my brother Sheldon was a student at Elim (early 70s), he attended a church in Rochester called Covenant Church, Paul Garlington pastor. He was very enthusiastic about the church, and took me there once. Turns out I’m lodged in the home of the guy who was the primary drummer of that church back in those days. His first question to me, upon collecting me at the airport was, am I related to Sheldon? He did some recording (drumming) with Sheldon’s Elim choir way on back. Some years later, that church collapsed. My host church this weekend, colfc.org, is one of the city churches that has taken over where Covenant Church left off. This has been Jay and Laurel’s home church for 17 years now.
Saturday 1:30 pm: Today’s worship forum was marvelous. Strong sense of the Lord’s presence. The panelists on the forum did an amazing job, such excellent insight and help for everyone. I spoke on an eye covenant. At the close, a worship team spontaneously came up (whoever felt to do so), and I anointed with oil the eyes of those who desired that anointing of the Holy Spirit. Which ended up being the whole room, smile. Then they just hung out and worshiped — they were still going when I left with my hosts an hour after the closing. (I left to honor my hosts, and also to prepare for this afternoon’s 5:00 pm service.) The Lord honored our gathering with His presence and I think everyone was edified and renewed. I was.
Thursday: Tonight I spoke to a group of Korean believers at IHOPKC on the secret place. The Lord graced the message in a strong way, I believe there was strong edification and impartation. I love equipping the people of God to become self-feeders.
Saturday: Today I have a direct flight to Chicago, in preparation for ministry tomorrow morning at Salem Baptist Church on Chicago’s south side. I ministered at this church back in March, at a Wednesday midweek service — on that occasion I was asked to speak on worship for a Wednesday series they were doing on worship. I spoke on the cross as the center of all worship. Afterwards, they wanted to work the calendar to find a Sunday when I could return, and this is the Sunday we found.
This church has an astonishing facility in terms of seating capacity (their site says it holds 10,000), and it’s built in Chicago’s most crime-ridden zip code. Truly a light set on a hill. I was told they run 4000 people on Sunday mornings, but even if they are half that number, it’s a strong church in this part of the city. If you’re interested, you can visit sbcoc.org.
Sunday afternoon: Had a grand time this morning with the saints at Salem Baptist. Black churches tend to be more interactive and expressive, and so they expressed their connection with the message with clapping and amens. Which is way more fun, in my opinion.
Friday: Today I have a direct flight to Kiev, where I am scheduled for ministry this weekend at the Jewish Messianic Congregation in Kiev.
Friday noon: I am settled in my apartment in Kiev. A sister has given me the use of an apartment she rents out for business, it’s very nice. It was sunny, but now clouds have moved in, so I may go outside for a walk now that the sun isn’t blazing. Weekend schedule:
Friday 6:30 pm service
Saturday 11 a.m. Shabbat service (this is their main service of the week)
Sunday 2:00 pm meeting with worship and prayer leaders
This is my second time with this congregation, my first time being 5 years ago, also in June. I think the congregation is predominantly messianic Jewish, but they also have a strong Gentile contingent in the congregation. One of the largest messianic congregations in the world.
Ukraine is a land in identity crisis. One pastor said to me, I have people in my congregation asking me when will I expose Putin as the antichrist, and others asking that we pray for Putin to come and straighten everything out in Ukraine. This pastor’s analysis was that, whereas Russia and Ukraine started off somewhat equal in standing when the curtain came down, since that time Putin has pulled Russia forward into a strong advantage and Ukraine has fallen behind, locked up by inner turmoil politically. Economics is driving so much of Ukraine’s struggles. Ukraine feels isolated and alone. They’re at war with Russia, with all trade cut off. America has no interest in helping Ukraine, America is “homeland first” right now. They’ve been rejected by the European Union. Holding a Ukrainian passport has advantages almost nowhere. Getting out of the nation is one of the more promising moves to make. The population is elderly, and not enough children are being born to replace them. So Ukraine is diminishing in population. Pray for Ukraine.
Saturday morning: Last night was the kickoff of Shabbat. (It starts Friday sundown.) The service was a high time of Jewish-style celebration. The Jews really do have a charming way of celebrating Jesus together. Very focused on Jesus and yet highly interactive. The men dance as a group, and the women likewise. They join hands and form lines of dancing, skipping up and down all the aisles in the sanctuary, then returning to the front to follow the motions of the leader. As a Gentile, you look into it, enjoy watching what they enjoy, revel in the fact that you’ve been grafted into the covenant, and yet realize they have something special as a people group. To experience this kind of worship celebration I must come here, I experience this only here. I spoke on being a friend of God. It’s always difficult to measure in a different culture just how much people are connecting, so in these instances I do my best to follow the Holy Spirit, get a nod from Jesus, and release the rest.
Sunday 9:30 pm: Today’s service started at 11:00 a.m., I was collected at 12:15. By the time I got there, the worship was mostly over. They had a minute of corporate prayer that sounded like a roar in the room, I took a video clip of it, and will post to my FB public figure page. I’ll also post a clip of the congregation watching the Job 5-minute video with both Russian subtitles and Russian voice-over. It actually went over real well. I stood at the podium while the film was being played, so was able to pan the congregation as they watched the screen. I spoke today on seeking the Lord for His perspective on our lives and circumstances. I used, for illustration, the lives of Joseph, Caleb, David, and Jesus. As I was delivering the message, I was aware that the Lord was wanting to bless the people with a strong anointing on the word. Prior to the service, I had asked the Rabbi via our liaison whether it would be OK, at the close of the meeting, to invite people forward for prayer, call the prayer teams up, and have the prayer teams anoint the eyes of the people with oil and pray for them. The Rabbi indicated that he wanted everything I said to be done except for using oil. It was expressed to me like this, "We are very careful about the annointing and we do it in exceptional cases only.” I said sure, no problem. So at the close of the message, I invited people to come forward and the prayer teams would lay their hands on their eyes and pray for them. After I had finished the altar call and turned the service over to the Rabbi, I looked over to my right, and suddenly realized they were pouring oil into plastic cups and preparing to give oil to all the prayer teams. Later I was told that the leaders spoke together during the sermon and decided spontaneously to go with what I had first requested. I think perhaps they saw where the sermon was going, got a grid for what I was envisioning, and decided to break their own rules and go for it. I think almost every person in the place wanted prayer. But before that prayer ministry happened, the Rabbi invited forward those who wanted to express a first-time decision for Christ, and 12 folks came forward. I was told they might have anywhere from a few to 30 respond to that appeal every week. The harvest is ripe in Ukraine! The presence of God was strong in the house and it seemed that the message ministered in a meaningful way.
They had another speaker before me, so by the time the service closed down, it was 5 hours after the 11:00 a.m. launch. I asked them later, what was your shortest Shabbat service ever? Over 3 hours. What was your longest? Over 6 hours. What is your average? 4.5 hours. And then after that, we went out for dinner, and I didn’t get back to my place until 9 pm. Wow, that’s a long day. They literally give the entire day to the Lord and one another. They’re there until it’s done. And the hall is packed.
I asked what percentage of their congregation is Jewish/Gentile, and was told 50/50. They said it used to be a higher percentage of Jewish, but some have made aliyah to Israel.
Sunday 8:30 p.m.: This afternoon we met at 3:00 pm in a hotel (this church rents Saturday space from a Pentecostal church, so they have to go to a hotel on a Sunday). Turns out folks from 10 or more churches joined us. I asked, “How did they find out?” My hosts didn’t know, it’s just how the grapevine works here in Kiev. Cuz the event wasn’t advertised locally. Around 200 folks filled the hotel room. I spoke on following the river of God in corporate worship. They were reserved during the presentation. At the close, I led in a prayer. The more I prayed, the more they got into it. Then they overtook me and just went for it. I had to stop trying to pray over them. The Spirit was strong and moving in the room. Folks ended up praying for each other all over the place. Then the clock pushed us out.
All three sessions here have been meaningful, graced by the Lord’s presence, and the saints have connected with the message. My heart is grateful to God.
Wednesday 11 pm: Greetings from Kharkov, where I am lodged in a very nice hotel. Their breakfast buffet is really exceptional for this side of the world. There’s lots of cottony parachutes flowing in the wind, it’s that time of spring. In Kansas City it’s the cottonwoods that do that, here I think it’s probably the willows, although they also may have poplars here. The soil in Ukraine is dark and looks very rich. Almost everyone has a garden, and fruit trees are cultivated widely in yards.
This evening (Wednesday) I spoke to the folks in the worship teams of this church, I’m guessing around 80-90 folks were in the room. A great time together! Tomorrow evening I speak to the church in a special gathering (they normally have home groups during the week). This is my third time to minister at Christian Center here in Kharkov. I’ve been only in weekday contexts, and each time around 500 adults gather. They have a remote campus around 20 km away, and they’ll be watching by video, maybe around 200 folks, so it will be a nice sized crowd. I’m planning on speaking on the secret place.
Friday: Had a great time last night in Kharkov. I spoke on the Secret Place, and as is typical for this church, almost everybody responds at the altar call. Everyone wants a fresh touch from God! The hunger here is refreshing. I’m leaving Kharkov with a grateful heart.