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.
Thursday: I’m leaving the house at 6 a.m. today, on a journey for Lviv, Ukraine, and then from there a 2-hour drive to Ternopil, Ukraine. I met my Ternopil host pastor on my last trip to Ukraine, and now will be with him in Ternopil for the first time. This is the beginning of an 11-day trip. Here’s the Ternopil schedule:
-Friday night service
-Saturday morning in Lviv at a youth conference
-Saturday night back in Ternopil
-Sunday morning in Ternopil
-then Tuesday I travel to Kharkov
I covet your prayer help for these four meetings this weekend. I have especially struggled regarding the Saturday morning message, and so would especially appreciate your prayer help for that gathering. I was told it’s a youth conference with over 1000 gathering.
p.s. We received this week our sample copies of the Italian translation of SECRETS. Please bless this translation in prayer, may it be a mighty blessing to the believers in Italy!
Thursday 8 pm: Greetings from the sky, enroute to Munich from DC. A weather front moved into the DC airport just as we were about to pull from the gate, and it gave us a 90-minute delay on the ground. Already our trip is eventful! I will need to be rebooked to another flight once I arrive in Munich, but Marie was told that I should be able to get into Lviv around 3:30 pm on Friday, in enough time to make the Friday night meeting. (we have a 2-hour drive from the Lviv airport to my destination city of Ternopil)
My Dad made a ministry trip to Ukraine, in 1991, to teach in a ministry training school. His trip took him to Ternopil, so it’s kind of neat that now I can follow in his steps and keep the baton moving forward. Jesus, bring Your glory to Ternopil, Ukraine! By the way, my initial invitation for this trip came from the Ternopil church, and then I added the other two later stops since I was already going to be in the nation.
Friday 4:00 pm: I’ve finally arrived Ternopil! My flight out of DC was weather delayed, and I was certain I would miss my connection in Munich to Lviv. But lo, they held the plane for us! So I’m here on schedule, praise the Lord! Just no luggage, that’s all, ha.
Saturday afternoon: Good launch last night. Our host church is small, and the room was full. It was a meeting primarily for pastors and leaders. I spoke on being a friend of God and the Lord graced the message. It was meaningful to refresh my soul again in that message. Then this morning’s youth conference in Lviv, with the Pentecost Union, went well. They told me over 1000 youth would gather, and I was skeptical of that number, but they were actually right. Kids are here from all over this part of Ukraine, some coming from 200 or more kilometers. Some came in buses. The best crop of Ukrainian kids you might imagine. What a privilege to minister to them! It’s a one-day event, and rather stiff in its style, not what we in America would define as “youthful.” A choir from Ternopil was in the loft and led the singing, led by a choral conductor. The congregation was told which songs to stand to, and although they were standing, they mostly just stared at the choir, there really was no sense of congregational participation in the singing. Someone would talk, then the choir would do a song, then someone else would talk, then the choir would do a song. That cycle repeated 3-4 times, and then it was my turn. They had graciously given me 90 minutes because of the length of translation. I spoke from Deut 10:8, on being a New Testament Levite, and on identity. These kids are extremely reserved in their responses, so it’s difficult to discern how much they connected with the message, but the presence of the Lord was sweet and I sensed His help. Met some fabulous leaders, too. One of the other speakers at this event lives in Ozark, MO, and this is his 100th trip to Ukraine. He is fluent in Ukrainian. I asked him what are the similarities or differences between Ukrainian and Russian, and he answered in 3 words: “Spanish and Portuguese.” Ah, got it. At the closing prayer, I invited those who had a special personal connection to the message to raise both arms to the Lord during my prayer, and not even 10% of the group raised their hands. So very reserved. But very attentive and soberly thoughtful.
Now we’re making the 2+-hour drive back to Ternopil. The drive would be faster except that the road is so roughly. Sometimes the car must slow to a crawl to navigate the potholes. And then there can 1-2 lengthy stops as you wait to clear a construction zone. They are trying to repave the road but simply don’t have the resources to do what is necessary to stay on top of the job. At the rate of repair, they will never have a completely repaired road. It displays the economic challenges this nation faces. The drive beats up any vehicle that traverses it. They are an industrious people. May the Lord pour His Spirit and blessing on this great nation.
We should get home around 4:30, and then I will be collected at 6 p.m. for tonight’s meeting.
Sunday morning: Last night’s meeting in Ternipol was held at another church with larger facilities. A solid 200 people gathered from a variety of churches in the area, and were eager for the Lord and His word. The Lord’ grace was on the ministry of the word (Heb 12), and afterwards a good number came forward to express their response and identification with the message. The presence of the Lord in the midst was very strong and sweet. That’s best of all!
Sunday evening: This morning I spoke on the Secret Place, and sensed the Lord’s help in a clear way. I tried to present it in a way that wasn’t confronting but enticing. Afterwards, if the desire for prayer at the end was any measurement, the folks responded very warmly to the message. Almost everyone in the room came forward for laying on of hands, for fresh grace upon their secret place.
Saturday: I’m leaving the house at 5 a.m. today to grab an early morning flight to Newark, NJ. This Sunday I will be ministering for my first time at House of Mercy Mission in Newark, NJ. I’ve not met the pastor before, to my knowledge. He sent an invitation through our site. So I’m looking forward to making new friends in Jersey this weekend. This is a Sunday morning ministry only, and then I plan to return home Sunday afternoon.
Sunday 5:00 pm: Greetings from the Newark airport, where I am rebooked on a different route home because my flight to Detroit is delayed. Delta has a lot of delays today and I don’t know why. Anyways, I’m now routing through Atlanta and Lord willing should make it home tonight.
I’ve had a blast with the saints at House of Mercy Mission. Marvelous saints. So sincere in their love for Jesus, so delightful in fellowship. Already they’re talking like they want to do this again, smile. The Lord enabled me in delivery. The sound system seemed real questionable, but in the end the guy got the sound working quite satisfactorily. The Lord is good.
Sunday 5:00 pm: Greetings from the Rochester airport, where we are boarding in a couple minutes. We had a great time this morning at Elim Gospel Church. The Lord graced me to speak on Naomi’s Redemption Story. Second service was much easier for me, I had a better flow, having done the sermon once already. I was able to relax in second and just go with it. There was a sweet response afterwards, with several coming forward in each service for prayer ministry. Marci and I are heading for home with grateful hearts.
Thursday: Today Marci and I are flying to Rochester NY in preparation for a weekend of ministry on the Elim campus in Lima, NY. After graduating from Elim Bible Institute 36 years ago, I’m returning to speak at this year’s graduation ceremonies.
Here’s an overview of the weekend as best I can see it:
Here’s the messages on my heart for this weekend:
Friday 11:00 pm: Marci and I are having a grand time with our Elim family. Reconnecting with old friends, making new friends. Tonight’s Baccalaureate service was graced of the Lord. At the close of the message, a bunch of the students came forward to express their wholeheartedness for the Lord. We ended up having around 15-20 minutes of response time around the altar, which was very sweet, and not typical for a college Baccalaureate. I told stories, personal stories. Ended with the baseball film. Good responses to the message.
Saturday 4:30 pm: We had an excellent Commencement Service just now. Great spirit in the midst, much hope and expectation for the future, much looking to the Lord for help and guidance, a very sweet spirit of worship. The Lord graced me to speak on Jesus’ most common teaching. It was a great honor for me to be the speaker for the class of 2017. The Lord is good!