Saturday 9:00 p.m.: I am lodged at a massive time-share complex, designed for Orlando tourists. My room overlooks the pool, smile. Westgate Lakes Resort & Spa. So if I don’t show up anywhere, ever again, maybe send somebody to come looking for me in Orlando, smile. I will be collected at 10:30 a.m. for the 11:30 service. My airport ride told me this is a tiny church, around 30-35 people, and already I know it’s going to be a blast to be with them. Their second anniversary as a church.
Sunday evening: My day started with an early prayer walk around the complex grounds. Just perfect temps! Then off to the 11:30 a.m. service. They had an extra strong attendance because of the special occasion. Longtime friends Bernie & Joy Clark also found their way to the meeting. We had a sweet time of worship, a good time of celebrating the Lord’s goodness for the two years of the church’s existence, and then the Lord graced me to speak on how He writes a story with our lives. A wonderful celebration! It was followed by a hasty lunch, then off to the airport.
I am now making my way to Dallas. When I send this, it means I’ve arrived at my Dallas hotel. I am coming here to attend the annual leadership conference at Gateway Church. The favor of the Lord has been on this church in the last ten years in a most unusual way, and I have come to taste of that and to place a bulls-eye on my heart, seeking the Lord for something fresh from Him. I’ll be here for the conference Mon/Tues, then returning home Wed morning.
Friday 6:30 p.m.: This afternoon I spoke on an eye covenant. It took nearly twice as long as usual to do it, because of the interpreter. The group tracked well with me, though. I am estimating 400 people were gathered, a good turnout. At the close, we provided opportunity for people to come forward and receive impartational prayer, and many came forward. The ministry was unrushed and precious. The worship team did a great job. Then they launched into some songs of rejoicing, and I left soon after that because of my need to prepare.
Saturday 12:45 pm: Greetings from O’Hare, where I’m checked in and waiting for my 1:40p departure to Atlanta. And then Orlando. I spent last evening in preparation for today’s session, and then was up early this morning, pressing into the Spirit. I felt I had liberty from the Lord to just get up and flow in the moment, without looking to a prepared script. I started with the groaning prayers of the Holy Spirit, Rom. 8:26. Then I showed the 5-minute film, God could have left Job alone. Then we did Isa. 49:20-23, which was our main text for the message. The loss of children, followed by the Lord’s redemption and the gathering of children. Then I used Naomi as an illustration, emphasizing the fact that the full redemption of her story was not realized until 100 years after she had died, and it became clear that she had given birth to the Davidic kingdom. She had lost her children, but now is surrounded by many children. The key verse was Isa. 49:23, “They shall not be ashamed who wait for Me.” Then I told the baseball story. The women thronged the altar afterwards, and the presence of the Lord was strong and real. The message was very non-typical for me, interweaving themes some of which I have not spoken of before. But I sensed the Lord’s grace. And realized I would never have scripted a message like that in my own thoughts. So the Lord could write it as I leaned on Him. It seemed to me that the Lord just wanted me to have a session in which I was off-balance the entire time. I trust His leadership.
Now I am en route to Orlando, to minister in the 2-year anniversary of a very young church called Restauración a las Naciones Church. I will minister with an interpreter. I am sure that when I am with them I will learn the nature of our connection, and how they felt inclined to invite me to their anniversary. I look forward to sharing with this new body of believers for the first time.
Wednesday: Greetings from the road, I’m on my way to Rochester, NY. My host is pastor Phil McNeill of Henrietta, who will collect me at the airport today, and then get me in the morning for tomorrow’s event. The Thursday event at which I’m speaking is an annual event with Elim Fellowship called the Tri-Regional gathering. Elim Fellowship (a fellowship of pastors and churches, of which I am an ordained member) is divided into regions across the USA, and the three regions huddled most closely to Rochester have had a joint annual gathering for many years. This year it is convening at Pastor Phil’s church in Henrietta. The event launches at 10 a.m. on Thurday, and is over by 2:45 p.m. I am the speaker for the day, and have two 45-minute sessions, at 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. The event draws pastors, church leaders, leaders from the Elim campus in Lima, and is also usually attended by the seniors at Elim Bible Institute & College. I consider it a great honor to be asked to speak to such a great body of leaders. A little over 200 folks are expected.
It’s in my heart to speak on Luke’s two unique parables on prayer, Luke 11 and 18 (I’ve written a book on each parable). Please agree with me for the Lord’s grace to be strongly upon our gathering, and enabling me in power. I am feeling very weak and dependent upon the Lord.
I would also appreciate your praying for my throat. I came back from Russia with a sore throat (there was the shaking of many hands and the hugging of many necks), and now I am fighting to keep the thing at bay. I’m popping Vitamin C and drinking fluids. Today’s trip is the first day in a week of travels, and I’m asking the Lord for this thing to be reversed that I might be unhindered in both fellowship and ministry during this next week.
By the way, here’s my upcoming week:
-Wednesday travel to Rochester
-Thursday ministry in Rochester
-Friday travel to Chicago, afternoon ministry
-Saturday morning ministry in Chicago
-Saturday afternoon fly to Orlando
-Sunday morning in Orlando
-Sunday evening fly to Dallas
-Mon/Tues attend a leadership conference at Gateway Church in Dallas
-Wed morning return home
Thursday 5:30 p.m.: The Lord really helped us today. I was leaning hard, feeling my need of His help in a real way. The response of the leaders to the messages was very sincere, there seemed to be much edification in the ministry of the word. And so much love was expressed — everyone made me feel sooooo embraced. In the words of Tom Brazell, “Welcome home.” I had great joy in reconnecting with so many cherished friends in my Elim family. It was also a blast to connect with a group of 20-somethings who are with Campus Target, as well as a group of around 15-20 Elim seniors. I love to hang with the kids cuz I like to be with people my own age, smile. I think 3 members of our intercessory team were present as well, and I felt the strength of their prayers very much (thanks Syl, Joan, Gloria!). I am now back in my hotel room, and my heart is overflowing with thanks for the privilege of ministering with and to such an amazing group of leaders. The cream of the earth. It’s so humbling to minister the word in the presence of so many men and women who are better than me in every respect. And there’s nothing quite like a worship service with a bunch of Elim people — they’re just ready to GO THERE!
Tomorrow morning I fly to Chicago, and am speaking around 3:00 p.m. at an event called Mujer Victoriosa. It’s a conference primarily for women, and I will be using a Spanish interpreter during my messages. I’m scheduled to speak Thursday at 3:00 pm and Friday at 9:30 a.m.
Wednesday 7:30 a.m.: Last night’s meeting with the group of Korean pastors at IHOPKC seemed to go well. About half the group was from Korea, the other half living here in the USA. I spoke on the chastening of the Lord, and found it profitable personally to be able to interact with them on this topic. After the message we had a time of Q&A, and it’s always interesting to me to learn in those kinds of contexts what sorts of questions a teaching like that raises for people. It’s difficult for me to measure how much the group was edified, but it seemed to me that the Lord was helping us all.
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.