Ukraine

GOD OF LOVE OR VENGENCE?

"God in the Old Testament is a god of vengeance and wrath, while in the New He is loving and kind."  "How could a loving God cast people into hell?"  These are common questions that deserve some thought. With wars and crisis around us how could God be loving or even care?

But what does the Bible actually say? It is clear that God is not an either/or God but a God who is both.  God's vengeance is seen in the Old and New Testament as in this NT verse that quotes the OT. Heb. 10:30 says, "For we know Him who said, "VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY." And again, "THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE." " 

God's love is also illustrated in both testaments. The OT Hebrew word "Chesed" is commonly translated "loving-kindness" and refers to His "love." Psa. 118:1 is one of my favorite verses. "Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting."  Well known NT passages like John 3:16 remind us that God's love (Gk. agape) is primarily expressed through Christ's sacrifice on the cross for sinful man. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life."

Since God is absolutely just He, in his love, must deal with the sin and corruption of this world. Some feel like He has not. But the book of Revelation makes it clear that He will deal with all sin and corruption eventually upon Christ's second coming as we have been studying in Revelation 6. The scariest place you could ever be is as in the hands of God when He deals with sin. "It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Heb. 10:31).  He will eventually deal with all sin.  But the most wonderful place you could be is under the protecting love of the Good Shepherd's fold (Jn. 10:14ff).  That can only happen when we come through repentance and faith to Christ who paid the price for our sin.

The picture my son Caleb sent shows a building destroyed by war in the area of Ukraine we visited recently.  The building pictures what sin does to our world. But the beautiful blue sky reminds us about the promise of Christ's second coming in the clouds to deal with the corruption of this world and give His own the hope of heaven.  What a picture!

Building destroyed by recent war in Slavyansk, Ukraine. 

Building destroyed by recent war in Slavyansk, Ukraine. 

Pastor Mark

P.S. 

Don't miss our annual noon Memorial Day Picnic at the Marshall home on Fox Island (684 6th Ave).  Bring your own meat to grill, and a salad or dessert to share.  Beverages and tableware provided.  Stay for the afternoon and enjoy various outside activities and games for kids and adults.  Dress for being outside most of the time.

In case you missed it, here is a video about Camp Gilead that was shown a few weeks ago. It is has been consistently rated the best Christian camp in the NW for the last three years. Time now to register at www.campgilead.org for summer camps. 

BORDERLAND TO BORDERLAND

Did you know the name “Ukraine” means “borderland?” Late last week Nancy and I parted ways in the Western Ukrainian city of Lviv and Caleb and I traveled from border to border in this borderland. It is about the size of Washington, Oregon and Idaho combined but with over three times the population.

It borders both Europe on the west and the old Soviet Union on the east. This has resulted in wars being fought here over it as well as ideological differences as well as the rich soil and access to the Black Sea. If you lived here, rather than the U.S., statistics say you would die ten years sooner, make 86% less income and be 13% more likely to be murdered. That being said, it is a great place to proclaim the gospel of Christ. 

Recently we were in Lviv on the western border. It feels much more European with many historic buildings and lots of beautiful old churches with minor key choirs, candles and incense. People cross themselves just walking by churches. There are also lots of coffee shops and sidewalk cafes. Tourist abound here.

Then we boarded a train to the far eastern border. The next morning we had a few hours in the middle of the country in Kiev where the Maidan revolution took place in 2013/14. We walked through the war ravaged area that has been cleaned up. It now has many memorials with pictures of those who died to free the country of corruption. There were still damaged buildings and bullet holes evident. Yet there was a festive attitude that was sad considering the death of the "heavenly hundred" that took place here as they are called.

Then we boarded another train and arrived in Druzhkivka the next morning near the front line of the current war. That is why we were here. A special seminar was being held to help Christian handle the stress of war and also minister to others with the gospel.  It alone provide answers for the evil of war and the problem of a sinful world and the promise of eternal life. 

We met with over a hundred church leaders in the Light of the Gospel Church.  The city was taken over by separatist forces in March of 2014 and freed several months later.  However, many surrounding cities have not done as well. People have fled, businesses closed, jobs became more rare and some places have been destroyed by fighting.  We were warned not to walk in fields because there may be mines there.

We also had the rare opportunity to visit an army base to do an outdoor chapel for the soldiers. The place looked like a war zone for sure.  Around it were numerous weapons. About 25 came into a dusty court yard to listen as we sang Christian songs to a guitar.  I spoke about our son-in-law Gabe who died in Iraq and how God sustained us through faith. Another speaker also gave a similar testimony. The soldiers clapped when each finished and many even wanted pictures with us.   

All of this took place as dust blew and an occasional troop truck arrived from the front with soldiers and guns going off duty.  We chatted with them after the service. One told me he had also served in Iraq the same time Gabe did as brothers in arms. What an amazing day. 

See the videos for more detail.

 

 

 

 

WHY FAMILY REST IS VITAL FOR MINISTRY

This week we had an unusual family reunion in Kiev with our missionary kids. Earlier in the week we worked hard doing repairs on Mike and Rachel’s home. I also preached in their church Sunday and we met with the pastor’s family.  Tuesday I spoke on resurrection evidences at the Kiev Theological Seminary chapel. 

It was a blessing to interact with young adults preparing for ministry where my son-in-law Mike Gustafson teaches.  I related God’s blessing on Discovery through expository preaching and how the Lord led us to do ministry in Ukraine in 1994 and has even led a refugee family to our home.  

The mission field is often a very busy and difficult place for missionaries. It is easy to be idealistic about missions; but that quickly fades when you arrive on the field.  A century ago going to the mission field meant leaving home for decades and having little support when you arrived in a hostile culture.

Today jet travel and technology help a lot, but it still can be difficult. The reality is that many missionaries drop out after the first term on the field. That is why it is important for there to be genuine support, prayer and interest from the family and church back home.  Even Jesus went away with His disciples to “come apart and rest awhile.” The Jerusalem church also provided that support after Paul’s first missionary journey too if you look closely at Acts 13 and 14.  

Part of our reason for visiting Ukraine this time was to provide that support.  So this week we had kind of family reunion in Kiev. Caleb’s family came from Odessa by overnight train and joined us in Kiev for just plain fun, food, talking and cousins playing with each other in the yard for a day. Then Nancy and I and Caleb’s family took an express train west to spend R & R time with them in Lviv. 

Check out the pictures and Caleb’s video to see a bit of what this was like as we made some memories.  Then consider some R & R for your family.  Let me know what you think.