Know your limits… To go further!

Praise the Lord. Another sermon down. One more to go. Here’s what “The Life of David” looks like right now:

  1. Overview
  2. 1 Samuel 16 – God has His Own timing
  3. 1 Samuel 17 – Who is your Goliath?
  4. 1 Samuel 18-20 – Love, Jealousy and Obedience
  5. 1 Samuel 21-24 – Temptation and God’s promises
  6. 1 Samuel 25-27 & 29-30 – You offended me!
  7. 1 Samuel 28, 31 & 2 Samuel 1 – The death of Saul
  8. 2 Samuel 2-5 – Civil War
  9. 2 Samuel 5-9 – After you God’s friend?

The last sermon, #10, will be on David and Bathsheba. I’ve learned so much about preaching, planning, and God’s faithfulness through this series. I had the privilege to preach sermons 1, 2, 3, 6, 7 and 9.

Those scripture passages are HUGE! I don’t know if I would do it this way again. It might be best to break this story up even more to about 12-15 sermons.

That’s what I mean by “know your limits to go further.” I’ve gotten some great feedback / constructive criticism during this series from one of our teachers at the seminary and from my wife, Katya. They and others have encouraged me in this process, exhorting me to bring more focus to the messages.

For instance, I could probably teach three different sermons from 2 Samuel 5-9, the passage I thought from today. A lot of pastors actually try to do that, trying to squeeze every exegetical lesson from the verses they are expounding on.

I don’t know about you guys, but, when I do that, I end up having a wide, hour-long puddle of a sermon, instead of a narrow, deep well that the congregation can draw water from. It’s hard to drink from a puddle in the same way that it can be hard to receive deep, impacting truth from a sermon that is about everything and nothing at the same time.

All that to say, I’ll learning my lesson. Today the sermon was about 60% of the length from last week, much more focused, and (imho) just as deep / impactful.

Please pray for this week… I might talk to my pastor and ask him to take this one. WAY too much going on right now.

Пам’ятаємо Іру Захарову

(English at the end)

Це – передмова недільного богослужіння 17.02.2019, день після того, як Іра пішла до свого Спасителя. Надіюсь, що це якось дасть трошки надії або спокою всім, кому боляче від того, що Іри вже не серед нас.

Ось вірш, який я прочитав на початку тієї проповіді:

Як розуміти – такі слова?
Голова щось не може збагнути!
Що він сказав? Ні – це не вона…
Такого – не може бути!

Як, ну як – така молода!
Як пережити злу новину?
Як довіряти, коли година прийшла?
Не хочеться навіть так думати.

Як можна радіти, коли їх вже нема?
Коли вже тут ти їх не побачиш?
Нашу Надію не знає земля
Ісусе… мій Господи – це Ти
Тільки ти.


Please be praying for the churches and families here that lost an amazing friend, sister, and minister – Ira Zakharova. She recently moved to the Front to serve in children’s ministry there. While she was back home, she died from what sounds similar to a heart attack. (I’m not a doctor… They said that a blood clot stopped her heart.) This is a very hard time for all of us.

The audio above and poem are some words that were said at our church in memory of her and finding encouragement from Christ’s words in John 11 about the Resurrection.

We miss you, Ira.

Thank you

Thank you.

Missionary life has its ups and downs. The past few weeks have had both. Health problems in the family, hard news from relatives, missing “home” (what does that mean, now that I’ve lived here for 8 years?), and being apart as a couple… It means a lot in these times to have reminders that people “back home” in America remember who we are and why we’re here.

Above is a Christmas card that I just got from the staff of my sending church in Indiana. I know about 1/2 to 2/3 of the people that signed the card, but even the signatures that I don’t recognize mean something to me.

It came at the right moment.

Pray for your missionaries.

Remember them.

Thank you.

If you would like to send cards (or books!) to missionaries here, please contact Diana Faulk at Horizon Indianapolis. She’ll hook you up:

+1 (317) 823-2349 – Church office

Horizon Missions

7702 Indian Lake Road

Indianapolis, IN 46236

Please pray for the dog lady

God has an interesting way of getting us to our knees sometimes. There are some things that push us over the edge (like last week’s sermon prep) and force us to say, “God, I really need your help with this one.” Today, part of that was talking to our friendly, neighborhood “dog lady.”

BE WARNED – I’m going to sound like I’m complaining / venting… Well… That might be partially true, but this post has a good ending, and I realize that this is an area that I need to change in.

There’s a lady in our apartment complex that lives on the first floor. She seems pretty nice, if not a little eccentric. If anyone remembers Wanda Gilmore from the PBS Wishbone TV series growing up (is that weird that I remember that?), that’s what she reminds me of… except that she loves dogs instead of plants. Unfortunately, I don’t know her name, so I’ll just affectionately call her “TDL” or “The Dog Lady.”

She keeps several “previously-stray” dogs in her first-story apartment. You can often hear them barking as you walk by. There are many different breeds and kinds, some old, some young, one or two are blind, one has had multiple surgeries. She lives for those dogs, to give them a home. I somehow think that she probably doesn’t have anyone else.

The poor dog that has had multiple surgeries, Bagheira, often would kind of guard the front door of our building. She would lay there and just hang out, sometimes waiting for TDL, sometimes just because she liked it. Bagheria has never been very nice to our dog, Candy, and growls at her every single time we walk by. I’ve tried several times to make friends with the dog, offering her cookies or other food, and nothing has worked.

The problems happened when people were leaving home fellowship one night and I chose to walk Candy while seeing them out of the apartment yard. In the confusion of everyone walking out, making sure the kids were all accounted for, etc., I neglected to keep a close eye on Candy. Bagheria has only ever growled up to that point, so I didn’t think it was a problem that she was at her usual spot. Then, it happened – Bagheria attacked my dog.

Now – no dog attacks my dog. Not if I’m close by. They all get to know that really quick. In addition to that, there were kids nearby from the folks that come to home fellowship, so I was terrified and felt that I needed to take swift, pointed action.

I started to chase Bagheria with Candy’s leash, eventually throwing it at her (this all took about .7 seconds), right as TDL came out the door to see what was going. She’s been suspicious of me ever since. I feel that it’s impossible to have a positive interaction with her. That all happened about a month before Christmas.

We met downstairs about an hour ago while I was walking Candy much later than I normally do. It didn’t really go well – she started to raise her voice at me basically right off, asking me to stand aside while she made her way past. I immediately obliged, telling her that she didn’t need to shout. That’s something that I still haven’t gotten used to about Ukrainian culture – everyone likes to yell here. EVERYONE! It’s like it’s the only way that you can get your point across.

The rest of the conversation was about how she was terrified of me, because I habitually don’t let her go past. I apologized and told her it wasn’t something I was purposefully doing (that’s also something that doesn’t seem to “count” here…), and that I will try to keep that in mind in the future.

When I got home, I was thinking about how I’m preaching this sermon series and am trying to serve in the church, while I’m doing a bad job being a missionary to my neighbors. (Any other missionaries feel me here?)

TL;DR? Please pray for her and that we can be a light to her. I was thinking about how she might be lonely or may even be “self-medicating” something by keeping all of those dogs. Either way, I want to be a better neighbor (…without being a pushover). We need wisdom, I need grace and tact (two things that I often lack), and we need the Holy Spirit to give us the right words to love her much better than I am right now.

Thanks for praying.

P.S. – The sermon series is going alright. I’m working on sermon #3 about 1 Samuel 17. Here’s an advertisement that I put together for it:

david and goliath recolored

It says “Fight in the Valley: David vs. Goliath”, quoting Goliath “Am I a dog…” and David “I come against you in the Name of the Lord of Hosts!”

God, this is too big for me!

Almost every time I study for a sermon, I have a long time of gathering information, following tangents, digging in the passage, in commentaries, in sermons of the “greats” (Chuck, Spurgeon, other CC pastors, Keller…), and then I get to a point where I throw it all in a pile and pout, because I don’t know what to do with all of it. 🙂 That was yesterday with 1 Samuel 16.

I shared that with my wife today, and she started talking with me about fearing people. Honestly, I do that a lot. I feel a huge pressure to perform as a preacher, to “bring it home”, even to entertain. I want to do all of that for several reasons: I want to attract people to God, I want to bring people into the church, and I want people to like me… However, I’m not the Holy Spirit, and, honestly, my motivations can be so off that I’m the one missing the lessons from 1 Samuel more than anyone! I take on a burden that’s way too big for myself! God is so gracious to me to allow me to study this stuff.

My dog sleeping on her chair in the living room. Yes, that is her chair.

After talking with her and taking a walk with my dog, I finally had a direction to take the sermon. I was originally going to talk about the dreams and plans we have. I think I have something better, though – God’s timing vs. our timing. One of the reasons I want to talk about that is because of a conversation I had with my driving instructor here in Ukraine. (I’m taking driving lessons again, because I’m transferring my license from America to Ukraine.)

My instructor talked about how he didn’t understand why God allows evil everyday. Now, some people might think that this is a problem with God’s goodness vs. evil or something like that, but that’s a misunderstanding of His plan. This is a timing issue – God will deal with the evil in the world, but in His own timing.

And that’s the main tension (at least that I see) in 1 Samuel 16. The cool thing about all of that is that you can link this to Christ as well. Here are some observations that I’ve made and may include in the sermon on Sunday:

  • God’s timing is not our timing, and He often told Biblical characters what He was planning on doing without telling them exactly when He was going to do it. This forced them to wait and pray and prepare their hearts for God’s work.
  • God is already working in every situation for each part of His plan. You can see this in the second half of 1 Samuel (where David gets a chance to work in the palace while waiting to be king) and in almost every other Biblical story where someone has to wait. God is already moving, preparing us or the situation around us for His plan. We need to be diligent and wait.
  • Both David and Christ waited a long time before the realization of God’s promise of kingship (David waited until Saul’s death, while Christ is still waiting at the right hand of God)
  • Christ is waiting with us and for us. He wants to be with us in Heaven, where there will be no more evil, no more crying, no more pain, no more sickness, etc. He doesn’t enjoy this time of separation and suffering. He wants it to end, but He is waiting, as we are, for us to come home.

I hope all of that encourages you. Please keep praying for this sermon series. I really want to see the church blessed by it… Not just so that I can get a pat on the back, but so that people will fall more in love with Christ and with the Word He’s given to us to teach us about Himself.

P.S. Please also pray for our pastor, Ruslan, who is recovering from a successful knee replacement surgery. He’ll be home soon from the hospital.

Pastor Ruslan taking some of his first steps after surgery

We need more books!

I just added a page to this site with a huge list of books that will be updated from time to time as we get them. Katya and I recently started seminary, which is one of the reasons why we are reading a lot more now; however, one of the side-effects if that is learning to enjoy reading more. Also, I’m doing a lot more preaching and teaching in the church, which is forcing me to be more well-read. Lastly, I’ve been witnessing more, which has pushed me to have conversations about subjects that I’m not familiar with (certain types of atheism or agnosticism, philosophies, other religions or religious viewpoints). More and more reading!

All of that to say – reading is awesome. We love books and are having a blast using them to minister to more people.

This is where you come in, my friend. It’s really hard to find English books in Ukraine, and reading on a screen-based device results in less comprehension and sore eyes for me. All of this is why our church is working on putting together care packages with books for us. If you would like to be a part of that, please click here.

The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.

– Dr. Seuss

Martial Law in Eastern Ukraine

Thank you all for continuing to pray for Ukraine. Here is a (translated) quote from the Ukrainian BBC on the decision that was made by the Ukrainian Parliament this afternoon:

The Верховна Рада (Ukrainian Parliament) on Monday evening voted to enact martial law in the border regions of Ukraine for the next 30 days…

The president added a command to the measure that the country would only enact martial law in the regions that border Russia and the Azov sea [where the Ukrainian Navy was attacked], which include the oblasts (basically counties) of Cherihiv, Sumy, Kharkiv, Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhia, Kherson, Odesa, and Vinnytsya.

Apparently the defense measures will be applied this Wednesday (the 28th). If you recognize some of the names in that list, that may be because we have missionaries and / or friends in all of those regions except for Donetsk. Please especially be praying for them. We are still waiting to see if / how this will affect us personally, as we do not live in one of those regions bordering Russia.

UPDATE FROM LAST POST: I need to correct something I said in my last post. The government is not considering and has not declared war officially against Russia. The wording confused me, because the words for “martial law” is literally “воєнний стан” or “a state of war” in Ukrainian. This basically means that the government recognizes that it is in a war, but it has not declared against whom.

One of my friends that lives in one of those regions the East says that they are doing well and, though they are watching the situation closely, he does not believe that they are in any danger. Here is a direct quote from our conversation:

As far as I can tell, it shouldn’t have any affect on daily life as long as Russia stays on their side of the border… So far they have for the last 5 years.

When he says “their side of the border” he means that particular part of the country, not the Donetsk / Luhansk (Donbas) area.