A Witness in Kiev

The Evangelical Free Church is in the Ukraine. 

The following is a note from a ReachGlobal’s Kiev City Team Leader, Amy Richey, in partnership with Pastor Kaluzhny, who pastors a large congregation in Kiev.

kievFriends, as you may know the situation in Ukraine has escalated quickly over the past several days.  Pastor Kaluzhny says, “The violence and the cynicism cannot be described by any words. As the result we have more than 1,000 injured and at least 25 killed, mostly—the protesters.”

Several thousand protestors have been putting pressure on parliament to revert the presidential powers to the original state of the constitution when President Yanokovich took power.  When there was no vote, it resulted in riot police using force against unarmed protesters.  By the end of the day on Monday, riot police began destroying the barricades and started taking over Maidan (the central area where the protesting has taken place).

On Thursday, the city of Kiev went into panic mode as the government ordered snipers to strike the protestors. More and more people were killed without adequate defense.

Amid it all, a prayer tent in the center of Maidan continues to minister with believers and non-believers alike. Many are calling out to God like never before. Kaluzhny adds, “As never before, we need God’s protection and a miracle.”

How to pray specifically:

1. Please pray specifically that those working in the prayer tent would be safe from harm. Pray that God would bring peace to many amid the complete chaos. And, that He would be glorified among the nations, amid the conflict.

2. Pray for the families who have lost loved ones in the violence and for the many medical workers who are tending to the wounded.

3. Pray for a peaceful resolution. Pray that the Ukrainian government would realize they are shooting their fellow Ukrainians. Pray that they would put down their weapons and that Russia stays out of the conflict.

4. Pray for quick and complete resolution to a very complicated situation throughout Ukraine. Pray for unity of believers and deep healing throughout the country.

5. Psalm 121:3-4, “He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” Pray that Ukrainians would be reminded that their creator knows all of these things and is with them during this terrible time of conflict. He is shalom amidst the chaos.

The Kiev City Team is seeking $25,000 to assist partners in continued ministry of tending the wounded, distributing Bibles, and feeding the homeless.  Go to http://go.efca.org/resources/project/kiev-emergency-help.

Blanketed by Snow

It just keeps coming and coming.  Yeah there’s sledding and snowmen and beauty–but I can’t push my mind past the shoveling.  Unrelenting storms have me dreaming of going south.  Still, I must agree with my wife who loves the stuff; there’s nothing quite as exquisite as a fresh blanket of snow.  The white almost hurts your eyes.snowfall

Our sins break our hearts.  Whether our opposition to them is weak, growing, or zealous, we find ourselves somewhere on a continuum that may have begun with indifference, but now at times borders on despair–especially if a particular one has deeply dug hooks in us that we cannot seem to shake.  What must God be thinking?

Judah was a mess.  Pointing up the road to the ruins of the northern kingdom–now absorbed by Assyria, Isaiah warned, “You’re next unless you repent.”  The people in Jerusalem had forsaken God like their cousins and rolled out the red carpet for evil.  To the reader, it sounds like Judah will be the next nation of kindling wood for God’s wrath.  Surprise.  This gracious Father invited them to a peace conference and made them this heady offer: Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord; though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; (Isaiah 1:18).

The Lord begged His people to repent: wash yourselves; make yourselves clean (1:16).  The problem is that after we repent, sooner or later we fall again.  Repentance does not stop sin; it does not make us right in God’s sight.  Only Jesus can make us right by turning our sins white as snow.  Not the day-after-tomorrow’s whiteness which turns ugly as it melts, that eventually exposes the bland untidiness of winter grass, that is browned by car dirt and chalked by chemicals, but remains as pristine white–whether 10 or 100 years from now, as it was when it fell and consumed our every sin.  Snow just covers dirt; Jesus consumed all our sins on His cross.

I guess Betty’s right: isn’t the snow beautiful?

Hearing and Ears

Do you listen to God?

I can’t hear.  No, that’s not a metaphor.  Thanks to two ear infections, the noisiest sound I’m hearing these days is the blood splashing around inside my head.  For 2 weeks I’ve been saying “WHAT?!” a lot, and shouting because it sounds like everyone’s whispering.  Yeah, I have some hearing loss that is the curse of the aged–as well as using shop machinery for years without ear protection.  But Betty’s always suspected that some of what I don’t hear, I don’t want to hear.  Of course she’s mistaken.

I’ve always feared losing my eyesight more than my hearing.  But this has been educational.  Last night, as our extended family enjoyed some fun at a local pool, my son said something to my wife and me.  Seeing my face, he came closer and repeated what he’d said–this time, yelling in my ear.  We laughed and he explained, “You had that look that said ‘I have no clue what you’re saying but won’t admit it!'”

How is your hearing?  There is an disturbing and sizable collection of verses in the Bible which describes people who have ears–but can’t hear.  Not a disability due to infections, advancing age, or some accident.  They are the result of a hardened heart.  The Songwriter speaks that way about idols: they have ears, but do not hear (Psalm 115:6).  Of course, inanimate gold, stone, or wood statues won’t hear despite having ears carved on them.  It’s the verses about human beings that are so disturbing.

In judgment, God made the Israelites’ ears “heavy” so they wouldn’t hear from him and repent (Isaiah 6:10).  And then there were the many days when the Israelites themselves stopped listening: You have neither listened nor inclined your ears to hear, although the LORD persistently sent to you all his servants the prophets… (Jeremiah 25:4).

Jesus warned those listening to him preach: It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile.  It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear (Luke 14:35).  Clearly he understood there would be those who used their ears, and those who didn’t.  And when Paul had his final recorded discussion with Jewish hearers, he quoted this dire warning from the prophet Isaiah: For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them. (Acts 28:27).

I called this collection of verses “disturbing” because taken together they seem to say that if we ignore God enough–maybe just listening to him occasionally or when it suits us, God could take our hearing.  The ears will still be there, but hardening our hearts can prompt God to permanently damage our hearing: even if He yells we won’t hear Him.

My friend, are you listening?