outreach

RESTING UNDER THE TREE

Mark’s gospel has gotten me under a tree recently. Mark wrote primarily to encourage Roman Christians in a time of persecution. Did it work? Yes!

The Epistle to Diognetus was written less than a century after Christ died giving proof of the growth of the church in Rome. Mathetes writes to his friend Diognetus. “For this reason you hate the Christians, because they do not deem these to be gods.” They didn’t accept the gods of Rome so early Christians were called “atheists” by the Greco-Romans. It cost them but in spite of the persecution they grew as the letter below suggests.

“For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all.“ He says much more.

Mark’s gospel records the first parables of Jesus that would have encouraged Roman Christians and us also. The first was a parable of four soil types where the first three didn’t bear fruit (false converts) because of poor soil conditions. The fourth type was good soil which produced much fruit up to one hundred fold. That is a picture of what genuine conversion looks like. I gave this first message on the The Parable of Your Soil last Sunday. They bear much fruit. What about you?

Then Jesus gives three other parables ending with one that pictures a tiny mustard seed growing into a huge tree providing cover for many birds (Mark 4:30-32). This pictures the kingdom of God and all who have repented and truly trusted Christ and are resting in this wonderful kingdom. It pictures believers of all ages here.

My little Nancy resting under the shade of the branches of this huge tree we found some years ago in Hawaii. Wow!

My little Nancy resting under the shade of the branches of this huge tree we found some years ago in Hawaii. Wow!

Some dismiss Christianity as a thing of the past that has seen it’s day and is in decline. It is a passing thing like all religions. But, after two millennia it is still growing and in the last century has tripled. The Pew Research Center says it is the largest faith on earth with roughly 31.5 % of the world’s 7.7 billion people (as of November 2018) claiming Christianity. Islam is second claiming 23.2%. Figures may not be fully accurate but, it does say something about the impact of gospel of Christ continuing. No other person in human history has affected the world more that Christ. That is why I am encouraged and resting under this massive growing kingdom. How about you? This Sunday we look at the parables where Jesus explains these to His disciples. See you at 10:30 at church or on line.

Pastor Mark

Also, this Saturday our men will gather from 8 to 9:30 for breakfast and our Bible study on 1 Timothy 2 in the Fireside Room.

SYMBOL OF A BORDERLAND

If an eagle symbolizes America, then what symbolizes Ukraine? It is the trident seen on my shirt here. But, what is it?

It is not an anchor but a stylized falcon from the time of Prince Vladimir the Great (980-1015) who first ruled in Kiev (Kievan Rus). Falcons are quick and alert much like our eagle.

The golden wheat and blue sky are the national colors.  Clearly the rich soil and good growing seasons have made the Ukraine the bread basket of this part of the world.  No wonder others want this productive land. My shirt is a gift from our associates here, the Sagadeyevs. They are also co-grandparents of our grandkids here. 

Our weekend in Odessa was productive too.  Sunday Caleb and I were at the Skinniya Church in the downtown. Their building, a store front, is smaller than our barn but packed full of people. During the week the building is productive also as a Bible book store. I spoke here on the resurrection.  Some Tatar believers from South Ukraine testified also about the first Bible in the Tatar language just produced. The director of education for all South Ukraine was also visiting and had lengthy discussion with Pastor Oleg afterwards.  Pray!

In the afternoon we visited an old Soviet resort where now about 500 war refugees are housed. The sun came out so we had the first outdoor service of the season.  Vladimir Sagadeyev organizes this regular outreach and provided portable sound and music which brought residents down from the old hotels nearby to see what we were doing.  What an opportunity for the gospel to such needy people.

Monday we relaxed until noon and then met our long time ministry associate, Velodia Motovilian and his family from the village of Makarovo. They came to have lunch and talk.  Our Ukraine Fund will assist them in doing a VBS this summer. They also have invited us to a special 25th anniversary celebration in October.

Minutes later we also met with Vasiliy and Olga Kaletnik to talk ministry for a few more hours.  Fortunately we were able to help sort out some financial matters and discuss future ministry.  We feel humbled that the Lord has put together such an amazing ministry team in this place that needs the gospel so much.   

We bid our missionary son Caleb's family goodbye in Odessa as we boarded our overnight train to Kiev. We'll spend a few days with our missionary daughter Rachel's family and then fly home. All in all I have gone boarder to boarder in all four directions and spent four nights and a day (53 hrs.) on trains doing it. Thanks again for praying for us during this amazing time of ministry and family fellowship in this amazing borderland of Ukraine.