Thursday afternoon: Greetings from JFK, where I have come today via Atlanta, and am now waiting for my flight to Moscow to board. The flight leaves here at 5 pm Eastern, arriving Moscow at 9:30 a.m. on Friday. This will be my second time to be at New Testament Church in Dzerzhinskiy, which is a city on the SE side of the Moscow metroplex. I was reflecting with my assistant, Tracey Sliker, that the pastor (Ivan) was our host on our first-ever trip to Russia 17 years ago, to a youth camp in a field somewhere in Russia. Dave and Tracey Sliker accompanied me on that trip, along with a couple teens from our church (Tylere Weaver and Sarah Anderson Papabathini). The week at that camp was unforgettable in so many ways, and in my travels I have bumped into people all over who were present at that camp of some 400 young people. It’s a personal delight to be renewed in fellowship once again with Ivan, and to share in this church he has pioneered on Moscow’s south side. I think this is the church’s 4-year anniversary.
My ministry schedule is as follows:
Friday night, speaking on the Cross
Saturday morning, speaking on the chastening of the Lord
Saturday evening, speaking for 20 minutes on worship as a lead-in to a night of worship
Sunday evening, speaking on the sprinkling of blood (an intimacy message)
Monday morning, a 5:45 a.m. departure for home (that will be a short night, smile)
This is the last visit to Russia that is currently in my calendar.
Some of you maybe saw this on my Facebook page, but this week my assistant Marie left for a 3-month work absence, to spend some time serving her mother in North Dakota. And Pat Prior, who has helped us with shipping book orders at Oasis House, has closed on his house and is moving to Traverse City, MI. Filling in now at our office is Tracey Sliker, a longtime friend. Already she’s doing great! Thanks for blessing Marie, Pat, and Tracey in your prayers.
Saturday 6:30 a.m.: Last night’s service was graced of the Lord. They had an in-ear monitor system for me and the translator, but neither system was working properly, so we did the message with just a floor speaker, which was challenging for me, but we made it through. Six men came forward to make a first-time public declaration of loyalty to the cross of Jesus. The time of Communion after the teaching on the cross was meaningful.
The pastor told me that the message was very important for them, that it tackles head-on some of the challenges they face. The evangelicals in Russia are accused, he said, of not valuing or emphasizing the cross. And I think I understand some of the reason. The Russian church was influenced heavily in the 90s by leaders in the body of Christ who were very strong on divine healing, miracles, the gifts of the Spirit, etc. And in some of those theological camps, in the paradox between the cross and the resurrection, they often choose to place their emphasis on the resurrection because they don’t know what to do with the cross. With those emphases in the evangelical church’s DNA, I can understand how they would be perceived by unbelievers and the Orthodox believers here as being “anti-cross.” The paradox is strong, and yet the right answer, at the end of the day, is a full embrace of both the cross and the resurrection. Perhaps I can play a tiny role in helping the believers here place due emphasis and value upon the very center of our faith, the cross of Jesus.
I will be collected at 10:15 this morning, doing a session around noon on the chastening of the Lord (Heb 12). Then a brief exhortation in the evening meeting on worship. Thanks for the prayer help!
Sunday 4:30 a.m.: Well, sleep isn’t happening so much here this morning, so I’m up and writing you, smile. At noon I spoke on the chastening of the Lord, a treatment of Heb.12:2-13. We went through each verse, one at a time, opening up the meaning of each verse and its relevance to our lives. To speak on such a weighty topic in just one hour, using an interpreter, was quite the challenge. I culled away as much as I possible could, to distill the message to its raw essence. Whenever a message is distilled that much, I always wonder how effective the communication is. But my friends here seemed to feel that the message was communicated. My prayer is twofold: That the Lord would use the message effectively with the saints here, and that He would help to strengthen and clarify the message in my own heart, so that I might write the book on this topic effectively. I thank you for praying specifically into that.
In the evening I brought a brief meditation on worship, using the seraphim who have eyes “around and within” as an illustration of the three directions in which we look in worship: up, around, and within. My focus for the evening was on “around.” I emphasized the relational aspect of corporate worship. In corporate worship we do not withdraw, sit down, close our eyes, and try to block out the room. That’s for the secret place. In corporate worship, we engage delightedly with the worshipers at our side. It’s a dynamic that makes corporate worship unique, and enables us to go somewhere together in the Spirit — because I believe we can further, faster, when we’re together.
Here’s what’s happening here today (Sunday): We are having two services. The first service is at the regular meeting place of the mother church. A brother from Australia named Richard Green has also been ministering at this conference, and he will speak in the 11:00 a.m. service. The afternoon is off. Then at 6:00 p.m., we are gathering at the site of one of the church plants from this mother church, a church plant that meets in downtown Moscow, not far from the Kremlin. At this gathering I am scheduled to bring the closing message of the weekend.
Thanks for your prayers, and I also bless you in my prayers. May you have a refreshing, renewing Lord’s Day. May your time with the saints be rich and sweet. May the presence of Jesus be strongly with you today. May your meditation in His word be fruitful. May you be equipped to shine with the light of Christ in this dark generation. May Jesus be glorified in your life, and may His kingdom come through your faithfulness.
Monday 4:00 a.m.: Greetings from the Moscow airport. I was collected at 2:15 a.m. at the hotel, and got to the airport in 50 minutes — record time for Moscow! But at that hour of the morning, traffic was not a hindrance. Had it been a decent hour, it would have been a 3-hour drive. In this case, better to choose an indecent hour. I’m here too early. I’m all checked in, have gone through Customs and Security, and have a 2-hour wait now. I’m not one for arriving too early to an airport, but in the case of Moscow, better too early than too late.
Last night: I spoke at City Church, a downtown Moscow church that has been planted by my host, Ivan, and he has sent his former assistant there to be the main laborer at that site. They meet at 6 p.m. in a nightclub, or at least that’s what the place looks like. The setting is very non-traditional, and the kids seem to love it, it’s packed with young people. Attendance was especially strong since it was the closing event of our weekend conference, and the atmosphere was electric. I spoke on the sprinkling of blood (Heb 10:22), and the presence of the Lord in the house was strong. A few kids came forward at the invitation to receive Christ. After the service was formally dismissed, the worship team launched into a lengthy set, and people hung around for the longest time and just soaked in the presence of the Lord. A long line formed desiring that I lay hands on them and bless them. By the time we were done, it was almost 10:30 when we pulled away. I have much expectation in my heart for this inner city work, please bless it in your prayers.
Tuesday night: I am speaking to a group of Korean pastors at IHOPKC. My heart is inclined toward the chastening of the Lord message, and again I would appreciate your praying into that. I need the Lord to give me language that makes the message life-giving to the hearers. It’s such an important topic, and yet challenging to address. Not the sort of message that people with itching ears will want to hear, if you catch my meaning.