Joel and Loriann are friends of ours working in the Ukraine to engage people with the gospel. Their testimony, below, is sobering and incredible at the same time. The opportunity for the sake of the gospel there is amazing and Joel and Loriann are a tangible reminder of what it means to live the gospel. We wanted to share their testimony as an encouragement to you and to remind you to keep the people and Church of the Ukraine in prayer during this critical time.
Daniel Cavanaugh – Vision4Living
Dear Loved Ones,
What an amazing week it has been! We literally could have sent out updates every hour or so over the past week and we wouldn’t have been able to keep you all up to speed. Things have been happening so quickly around here. The bottom line is, the fighting and violence has ended here in Kiev and in most every other city in Ukraine. For this we are thankful!
However, before I get into all the changes taking place here, Loriann and I want to thank each of you who wrote with kind words letting us know you were standing with us. The letters of support and assurances of your prayers overwhelmed us. And to the many more who may not have written but have not ceased praying for us and for the people of Ukraine during these last weeks, we cannot thank you enough.
Our Sunday class this past week with the young people at church was very good. There was much relief that the fighting and violence had ended but also an acknowledging that even during the worst of these times, so many saw the Lord working in lives and waking up not only the Ukrainian church but the global church as well in prayer for Ukraine. A number of the young people asked, “Why did it take something like this to get us to start praying for our country?” (or for many Americans to start praying for Ukraine!) I was able to talk about how God is sovereign, and because He is sovereign he is in complete control over every situation. And even in the desperate, horrible times Ukraine has been going through, God has and is going to bring good out of it. I gave them Pastor Ron Dunn’s words, “Good and bad run on parallel tracks and often arrive about the same time.” No matter the situation, God is going to receive glory from it. This is what makes Him so trustworthy! And this is what we’ve been seeing in Ukraine since everything here has transpired.
As I’m sure you are all aware, Ukraine is under a new government now. Last weekend the former president, Viktor Yanukovych left the capital, Kiev for eastern parts of Ukraine. This was after he had signed an agreement with the opposition, which put an end to the fighting and was to transfer much of the president’s power back to the parliament. By Saturday evening it became known that Yanukovych did not just travel to eastern Ukraine to attend a meeting but was in fact attempting to flee the country. As of today he is still missing. Due to his leaving the capital and in every sense of the word, the presidency, an interim-president was appointed. The new president then ordered the parliament to put together a new government (i.e. president, prime minister, cabinet,) by the middle of this week. Just last night the new president and cabinet was introduced to the people down on Maidan Square. This is a huge turn around from just one week ago! While Ukrainians know that there are many hard days ahead, for them this last week, and the changes it has brought, has been some kind of miracle. Even those who began the protests in Kiev last November, could never have imagined that the country would be where it is today. But as we know, this all came at a high price. There were 88 known to have died in the fighting on Maidan Square. Today these men and women are looked at as soldiers who died for liberty.
On Tuesday Loriann and I went down to Maidan Square to walk around, pay our respects to those who died, and try and get a sense of what this was all about. Before any of you start freaking out, Kiev and more specifically, Maidan is perfectly safe. The fighting has completely stopped and the government forces who were doing most of the shooting and killing have been disbanded and removed. While we were in downtown Kiev, we didn’t even see so much as a police officer. The protesters are being very peaceful and now they have turned into the guards and security for the various government buildings and even standing guard in front of banks and other such businesses. While there are still thousands of protesters still occupying the square, they are not actively protesting anything right now, they are simply there to occupy and hold the establishing of the new government accountable. As you will see in the pictures we are attaching, the square, while still looking very much like a battle zone, has turned more into a living memorial than a protest camp. In fact this was something that surprised me while we were down there. There were literally thousands of people doing exactly what Loriann and I were doing; walking around, taking pictures, placing flowers at various barricades and memorial sites. Other than the guys who were still in their fatigues and body armor and who were holding their batons or bats, it was hard to differentiate between who was a protester and who was a visitor. The square and all of Kreshatik Street were still lined with tents and soup kitchens, indicating that people were not going to leave any time soon. Most of the big green army tents had signs on them letting you know what region or town in Ukraine the occupants were from. The soup kitchens were also manned and supplied by various cities and regions of the country. The soup kitchens were not only feeding the protesters but anyone could walk up to any of the kitchens and grab a plate of food or a sandwich to eat. There was a sense of camaraderie and togetherness while walking through this tent city within a city. Something else we sensed while walking was that people weren’t ready to let go and move past these protests. There was a feeling of relief that the fighting had ended, a joy that the old regime had been dismantled, but also a feeling of needing to keep their Square just as it is (in all it’s war zone ugliness) as a way of honoring it’s dead. The Slavic people have always put a strong emphasis on honoring those who died in battle. We came away from Maidan Square feeling that this is what this protest camp had turned into, a battle field memorial for those who died.
The next few months leading up to the snap elections scheduled in May, will be very critical months for Ukraine. Even now there is reverse protests in some parts of eastern and southern Ukraine, those parts that have traditionally looked more to Russia than to Europe. There has also been some blatant saber rattling by Russia, which is none to happy at the way the events of the last week have played out. While peace and calm have been restored in the last few days, there is still great potential for further unrest and fighting.
So we ask you to please continue praying for Ukraine! We are not out of the woods yet. As we said above, the church seems to have taken these events as a wake-up call. This is a very good thing! Pray for the church as it mobilizes and seeks to help and assist not only in the social rebuilding of the country, but also the spiritual saving of men’s souls. Pray also for the new government. As the new president said yesterday, this new interim-government will not be able to please everyone all of the time. It will seem like a lose-lose situation for them. Pray also that the outside influences (east or west) would stand back and allow Ukraine to decide it’s own direction and not try to force, coerce or intimidate Ukraine in the direction that one side or the other wants. For hundreds and hundreds of years, Ukraine has been in the middle of a tug-of-war, pulled one way and then the other. And then lastly we ask that you would pray that the Gospel would find open hearts. Ukrainians are fed up with corruption; they are ready for a new way of life. Please pray that many would be open to the new and different life that can only be found in the person of Jesus Christ.
We again thank you for your prayers and support. More importantly, the people of Ukraine thank you.
With much love and gratefulness,
Joel & Loriann
“It’s not complicated”…according to the AT&T slogan. And, it’s not complicated when it comes to the gospel and how we live in the implications of it every day. Charles interviews Daniel to gain his perspective on the matter…
For many years it seemed there was no end to the voices predicting the approaching end of the world. History has witnessed many of these, but the advent of the printing press, radio, television, and now the internet have given them a bigger platform and a broader hearing. But even with these, people, including Christians, have become somewhat inoculated and immune to the sensational cries of coming destruction or even Christ’s return.
Sadly, it seems this is true regarding any sense of urgency about spiritual things and, in particular, the brevity of life. A Christian I heard about had on his desk the words, “It is later than you think”. This served to remind him and others of the brevity of life and the importance of making life count. Doomsday scenarios notwithstanding, it is necessary for each of us to realize that “time waits for no man” (or woman), and that if we are to finish well, we must live with the end in view.
A survey of Biblical history reveals some significant personalities who began strong but ended poorly. King Saul began as a glorious leader towering above his peers but ended falling upon his own sword. Solomon inherited a kingdom which had seen the defeat of all enemies and ruled over unimaginable wealth and glory, only to leave a legacy to his descendants of immorality, idolatry, and, vanity. Hezekiah led a revival of Biblical religion that was unprecedented at the time, was humbled by the Prophet’s prediction of his early death, then was graciously granted 15 more years of life by God. But as the years of that God-given reprieve neared their end, he squandered God’s grace, acted foolishly, and exposed the people of God to dangers that would destroy a future generation.
By contrast, Joseph struggled with pride in his early years but was later used by God to rescue a generation and cast a vision for the people of God for generations to come. Daniel was taken captive by a pagan empire and made physically incapable of having offspring. Yet, he wielded power and Godly influence among the ungodly all of his adult life and lived an example of faith and Godliness for many generations to come. The Apostle Paul was a vengeful and vindictive persecutor of the first century church who had every intention of ridding the landscape of every follower of Christ. But, by God’s grace, he became a follower of the Christ he persecuted, committed himself to bringing the Gentiles to Christ, and invested his life and the Scriptures in the lives of those who would carry the Gospel to the next generation.
All of this will move us, I pray, to remember “it is later than you think”, to “live with the end in view”, and “the end is near”. These have become cliches but not worthless ones. James’ admonition to realize life is a “vapor which is here for a moment then vanishes away” should drive us to God and ask Him for the grace to end well. The alternative is frightening and unacceptable. Therefore live every day before the face of God and end well.
By God’s Grace,
Its been just over 5 months since we launched CrossTalk and for those 5 months we have been pursing the implications Psalm 78 has for our lives. Today, Charles and Daniel take a final look at Psalm 78 and look forward to what it is coming next on CrossTalk…
“Winter: a lingering season, a time to gather golden moments, embark upon a sentimental journey, and enjoy every idle hour.”
– John Boswell
This winter has lingered a long time. Everywhere I go – the bank, shopping, grocery, standing in line – everyone wants this season to be over. But can we, as the poem encourages us, make this season a time to gather golden moments?
As I look out my window upon the blanket of snow, I remember the verse, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18), celebrating the beautiful magnificence of God’s landscape. “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7) – not forgetting those evenings that are more frequent because of the harsh winter, forcing us to stay in more; the meals together, spiritual conversations, and laughter around the fire.
It seems there are a few more idle hours because it’s too cold to go and do and rush around. Those hours can become golden moments. This poem reminds me to enjoy winters sweet sentiments: reading that spiritual book that’s been on your list, meditating on God’s Word, praying longer and remembering those in need. “She is not afraid of the snow for her household, for all her household is clothed with scarlet” (Proverbs 31:7) – using the idle moments wisely, trusting in her Savior.
Yes, winter has lingered longer, but the grass is peaking through, and winter will pass. If we spend this season lingering longer and gathering golden moments, our hearts should become more prepared for the Spring that awaits us. “And the LORD shall guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and make fat your bones; and you shall be like a well-watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.” (Isaiah 58:11)
What constitutes true servitude?
A genuine servant is motivated by the love he has for those he serves. Mind you, this does not imply that the ones you serve are lovable or that you feel a great emotion of love for them. But, to be a true servant, it requires the mind of Christ – a mind that is not consumed with itself but willing to lay down its life for the sake of others no matter what your position. Let’s consider Christ’s mind in Philippians 2:5-8:
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”
Let’s think about this for a moment:
Jesus Christ was the Son of God who created the universe – the third person of the Godhead who gave himself willingly without remorse or doubt. He gave himself for a people who had rejected Him and His ways – a people who not only rejected Him but despised and hated Him – even those whom had not even been born. And even in spite of all this, He took upon himself the form of a servant – with all its historical significance – so that you and I might know redemption!
Never allow yourself to be motivated by the response you may receive from those you serve. Many times you will find yourself discouraged because people either have not or refuse to see the value of what you are investing in their lives. Never make a decision to be the servant you are called to be based upon the emotion of the moment. Humble yourself and know that what you are doing is for the furtherance of the Gospel and the glory of Jesus Christ.
Servanthood affects every aspect of life…
…Especially leadership. When we think of true leadership or greatness, it is polar opposite of God’s definition. Jesus said, “He that is greatest among you will be servant of all”. True leadership is servant leadership. The Leader is not only there to give direction and vision but he also knows and understand the needs of those he leads. He positions himself – even if that is a lowly one – so he is not lording over those God has placed in his care. Instead, he meets those needs with compassion and care no matter how menial or subservient the task.
And last but not least, servanthood affects every relationship that we will steward in our lifetime. Our freedom in Christ releases us to serve those whom God has placed in our life: our fellow churchmen, family, co-workers and bosses, and the list goes on. We were not set free to be and do what we want rather we were set free to be and do what we could never do. Let us have the mind of Christ. May it transform our thinking and application. May we be as Christ who took on the form of a servant and became obedient even to the death of the cross. This is true servanthood.
A line from a recent commercial says: “A legacy is not born. It’s built. And it happens over time.” Those who would leave a lasting legacy must be in for the long haul. A legacy for Christ is not built in days or even weeks, but years.
In parenting and pastoring the tendency is to place too much emphasis on short-term victories and failures. Temporary exhilaration or despair can easily cause us to lose sight of a vision for the future. This may lead to pastors and church leaders who keep looking for the next new technique or approach that will assure the growth of their churches and immediate success. It may lead to parents who tire of the grind and leave children to themselves or opt for “normal” family living.
Building a lasting legacy requires us to fight through the failures and setbacks of the present. It requires the spiritual stamina that only comes from constantly looking to Christ and His Word. Distractions and discouragements will come, but they cannot be allowed to deter us from the task of leaving a lasting legacy for Christ. Parents, the journey is a long one that will end all too quickly. Spend your days passing on a passion for Christ that will stand the test of time. Pastors and church leaders; buildings and budgets are necessary but may not be the indicators of long-term success – live, work, and minister with the next generation in view. Remember, “A legacy is not born. It’s built. And it happens over time.” May Christ by His grace help us to do it.
For His Glory,
Consider the Cross
You will never understand true forgiveness apart from the cross. True forgiveness of our fellow man is an expression – a testimony – to the power of the Gospel in human form. When we realize the magnitude of the depravity of which we have been forgiven – the weight of our sin – then we will understand that forgiveness is not based upon the worth of a person but rather the love of God that is flowing through us. [Eph.2, Rom. 3:23, Rom. 5] The cross made it possible for our forgiveness and the ability for us to forgive others. Never lose sight of the cross because, in so doing, you will lose sight of what it means to forgive. God gave His only son to be mutilated upon the cross so that we might know forgiveness of every wrong. This must be our motivation, our foundation, and our lifestyle when it comes to the issue of forgiveness.
Bitterness is Real
However, we must not fail to recognize that bitterness is real and deadly. How do we deal with it? Is it a matter of perspective?
Forgiveness is a Miracle
In all reality, forgiveness is a miracle because no one – when seen through the mirror of our sin – deserves forgiveness. We have it all backwards. We fail to see that it was us that offended a holy God not the other way around. Judgment is what we deserve so, therefore, the fact that He would choose to forgive His people is a miracle. We do not and never will deserve that forgiveness. Anyone who continues to reject His gift of salvation cannot blame God but only themselves – condemned to eternal judgment. But thanks be to God that He has forgiven those whom He has called! Let us forgive as He forgave us! [Mark 11:25 & 26] Others may not deserve it, but neither do we.
Forgiveness is a Choice
God made an eternal choice to forgive His chosen race of their sin. Those of us who are of that race – who possess an understanding of the weight of forgiveness through the Spirit – must make the same choice to forgive all those who wrong us. We can do no less, because forgiveness does not happen by default. Otherwise, you do not know or understand the forgiveness that you thought you found at the cross.
Its one thing to be passionate about the truth but are you communicating the truth. Passion must always translate into the communication of your passion. Join Daniel and Charles as the discuss the “how” of communicating the truth. They dive into why partial communication is as bad as no communication of the truth…