Tag: Discipleship

Project Odessa Life | Monthly Ministry/Prayer Update | August 2012

Did you know?

Ukraine is considered to be 79.01% Christian by Operation World.

According to Wikipedia a survey from 2006 indicates:

Eastern Orthodox – 26.8%
Catholic – 5.9%
Protestants – 0.9%
Jewish – 0.1%
other – 3.8%
no affiliation/not aware – 62.5%

The Orthodox and the Catholics do not believe the Gospel means Jesus + nothing = everything. They add components to the Gospel which do not belong or they do not teach the Gospel clearly at all.

According to the Joshua Project,

1.1% of the population is unreached
20.5% is nominally reached
78.4% is established (established means it’s at least 2% evangelical)

Over 90% of those unreached people are Muslims.

Also, from Wikipedia,

“Today the largest Protestant groups in Ukraine include Baptists (All-Ukrainian Union of the Association of Evangelical Baptists), Pentecostals (All-Ukrainian Union of Christians of the Evangelical Faith-Pentecostals) and Seventh-day Adventists (Ukrainian Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists). Of note is Hillsong Church in Kiev. One of the most prominent Protestants in modern Ukraine is the practicing baptist pastor Oleksandr Turchynov, former head of the SBU, Ukraine’s successor to the KGB, and a former acting Prime Minister. Despite the rapid growth, today Protestants in Ukraine remain a small minority in a largely Orthodox Christian country.”

How is it possible that 78.4% of Ukraine is established if less than 1% is considered Protestant?

Did you know?

We need help in Ukraine.

Most missionaries quit before one year on mission?

We are not quitting.

Ministry Highlights

The months of August and September have been extremely eventful for us, so eventful in fact, I am behind on this update over a week. We’ll show you some pictures for an overview. Also you can check out some blog work if you like:

A video of me sharing about my personal prayer life and reviewing Steven Furtick’s “Faith Confessions video.”

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4PtTEdxdIYE?rel=0&w=640&h=480]

My good friend from South Africa, Gert Plotties van Rooyen’s, response was similar to mine:

“So I watched the video and it seems that he’s trying to mix self help ideas with a deeper understanding of what God says. I don’t like the idea that he has a ritual that he believes in before he preaches in the sense that he depends on having done that for God to work. I think he says frames it in the way that he’s preparing himself for the responsibility of speaking Gods word, but it seems like in effect he will just end up trusting in his ritual.

More than that his faith statement could be helpful in so far as reminding ourselves of objective truths secured by Gods saving grace remind us not to trust in ourselves or to depend on our own ability to hold on to God but rather to trust that He is gracious and sovereign and that he will keep us. But his statements seem to be attempting to create the reality which they claim in the name it and claim it tradition of our faith being the thing with secures Gods owing us all our desires. Which is nonsense.

In general I think it is good to pray and to use Gods word even when we struggle believe the things which it says. As we spend time in his word and the Spirit makes it alive in us and grows our understanding and faith that’s awesome. But to say things to activate our faith as if it is dependent entirely on our effort seems like a dangerous idea. My heart already wants to constantly find ways to not need the grace of God but to trust in my own efforts. I need to be reminded to look away from myself and my ability activate anything and to look to Jesus Christ and depend fully on Him because of the objective truth of His death and resurrection being sufficient, and only that being sufficient for me to be welcomed by God. The less it’s about me and my activation techniques the more my life is actually transformed to trust fully in God working in and through me despite my failings and inability so that I can only ascribe the glory to Him. “

A Blog about how important it is for the evangelicals to be united on mission despite denominational differences. Friends in the Foxhole.

A blog post listing the most memorable sermons I’ve heard from the last decade. Most Memorable Messages

Family English Camp!

Please pray for Alla and her little girl. They began coming to church after camp and are hoping they will stay faithfully in fellowship with us.

This is Kristina! A great girl witha really terrific attitude. Please pray for her and her family as they made a decision to follow Christ at camp but we haven’t seen them.

Please pray for Helen and her family. Helen is a super nice lady who was in my advanced Englsih learning class. She needs Jesus!

Pray for Dima, Tolik, Alina, Gera, Elusha, and Gleb.

Family English Camp! An awesome ministry opportunity.

More pictures from camp can be seen here.

You may want to consider being involved in one of these next summer!

Follow up and meetings with new friends after camp.

Mary and Olga are in the upper left. This is after church and Zhenya and I were helping them with some Bible questions. They are young believers, so please pray for them. In the upper middle is Kate. She gave her life to Jesus at camp and has been a faithful friend since. She came over for breakfast and we had Greek iced coffe and homemade Greek yogurt (the morning after the Greek style wedding we attended). We were going through the book of Matthew with her. Please keep her in your prayers as well. Upper right is Jullian sitting to the left. He is a very talented drawer who has had a very rough life. Please pray for his salvation! Zhenya in the middle has been meeting with me once or twice a week and we are helping to improve his English by reading theough Wayne Grudems “20 Basics Every Christian Should Know”. Lower left is Sasha. We are reading through the Gospel of John together. He is very busy with school now so pray we can make time to continue these meetings. On the lower right is Dima. We are reading through a book I have about Jewish culture and practice. He only reads the Torah so we decided this would be a good way for us to improve his English. We also love to play Chess when we meet!

Anton is a Bible College graduate who works in construction and has recently gone back to school. We have been meeting and reading a paragraph of Colossions at a time. After completing a paragraph, we examine the text together and ask 7 Questions:

What does this passage tell me about God?
What does this passage tell me about man? (or myself)
What from this passage really stands out?
What questions do I have about this passage?
What can I apply to my life from this passage?
How is this passage connected to Jesus?
How is this passage connected to the Gospel?
Afterwards, we play chess. :)

More English Clubs Of Course!

Greek Style Wedding of our friends who now live in Romania.

The wedding was ambushed by the rains gods! We were drenched and had to climb up a steep clay hill. It was a disaster! :)

Visit to Dnepropetrovsk for a Pastor’s Conference

Lera and I went to Dnepropetrovsk to a pastor’s conference we were invited to. We got to make some great new friends with Sovereign Grace guys from Dnepro and Germany, Christian book publishers Grace Publishing and In Lumine, and some really great Campus Crusaders.

The Ark (“Kovcheg”) Church released their second Sovereign Grace worship album in Russian!

At the tail end of the conference several pastors from around Ukraine sat for a few hours discussing how to advance the Gospel in Ukraine!

The trip was a tremendous blessing and we were extrememly blessed and encouraged by the people we met. Also, there were two American missionaries preaching in Russian which was a huge encouragement for me as they both learned without any formal classes.

Prayer Needs!

Please pray for the people you see in the pictures!

Please pray fopr a mighty work of God and spread of the Gospel in Odessa and Ukraine!

Ministry Projects you can pray for:

I wrote a tract about the differing theories on who Jesus is. It will be translated into Russian and published. We need a gifted illustrator for the artwork.

We are having personal meetings with heads of outreaches, organizations, and a couple politicians about the future plans for the Discipleship/Recreation Center “Opus Dei”!

Tuesday Night Bible Study! We are almost done going through the Redemption Book on Tuesday nights. We are planning lessons through this book to begin visiting different rehab centers once a week and taking through a ten week counseling program. We are still praying for funding for the translation of the book into Russian and have some possibilities pending.

Pray for our homeless friends Alla and Natasha. Lera met them yesterday while I was with the guys. It was our first contact with them since camp and they are not doing well.

Pray for my learning Russian and the next season coming after our internship. We may begin meeting next spring with a core church plant team and praying together.

Thank you so much!


To share in the reward of this work of God with us, follow this link!

One beautiful woman!

Friends in the Foxhole

There is a striking contrast between those living a peaceful, routine, Disneylandish sort of life at home and those who must face tragic realities of war or oppression as a normal part of life. There are many accurate parralels which can be made between war and our spiritual lives as Christians, as the Church. The Christian life will not survive lived as passive business, nor is it always fun, nor should it be reduced to a pursuit of all American good times. Often we live our lives completely oblivious to the warlike spiritual realities all around us. The Christian life cannot be passive, nor can we afford to live on cruise mode. Those of us who wish to end all struggle as God’s blessings effortlessly overflow into our lives, as we relax and enjoy the ride, will find that this only sinks us deeper and deeper into spiritual stagnation and defeat. In the Christian life, if we are not moving forward, if we are not fighting the war, we will find very quickly that we will be forced to pick up our gear and charge into battle. The forces of our sinful nature, the world, and the devil and his legion are forceful and strong. The battle has been won in Christ…which means we must fight to enter into His rest (i.e. the Gospel)!

All of us, as Christians, are soldiers. Some have different positions and differing assignments. If we could cross this analogy over into the mission field, I’d like us to consider a couple things. Missionaries abroad could be considered, if you will, to be on the front lines of the war. Meanwhile, many are stationed back home at headquarters, and some of those, not all mind you, have dodged the draft. Many are back home learning Greek, examining in depth studies on apologetics and theology. Others are raising families or building businesses. All of these things are good, to note, given the right context. People who are deciding on a church to attend may consider things like the children’s program, the preacher’s personality or the music style, others are more concerned with the mission statement, how missional minded the church is, or the structure of church government, or any combination of these sorts of things. The reasons we have different types of churches which, all things considered, have the same Gospel, are endless. I am not saying these things aren’t important or that people shouldn’t study Greek. I will say, that some people are using studying as a backdoor out the house of serving. And, “what”, you ask, “is my point?”

What is the ultimate overarching divine assignment of the Church? It is that God would be glorified as we enjoy Him! Then, that the world might see Him as we have, and glorify Him. So, as the Church, our ultimate overarching objective is that all the world would worship God, which has been Sovereignly designed to be their perfect and greatest best. Our war mission is this, nothing less, and each of our individual commands is unique. Some of us are called to be going to the front lines, some communicating with the front lines and reporting to headquarters, some are calling for recruits, some send resources and others cry out to God. The goers cannot go without the strategic support of those back home. Why do I say strategic?

God has been strategically working since before time began. He created a world where He could be most glorified in His work of redemption. Some believe He created the perfect world. He was strategic when and how He sent His Son, and strategic in how He prepared for His arrival through the ages before. He was strategic in how the Gospel spread through persecution and the Roman trade routes, the Koine Greek lingua franca, and the Jewish merchants. He was strategic in choosing Paul as an Apostle and He is strategic in His plans for you and I. All He does is with intention and strategy originating in a mind full of schemes of infinite wisdom. As a logical and ordered being His war strategies are numerous and intertwined, and we know, according to His word, the gates of Hell shall not prevail against them.

As full time (most often overtime :)) missionaries in Ukraine, my wife and I, and others we work with, have a team of financial and prayer soldiers who consist of baptists, presbyterians, charismatics, Calvary Chapelers, Sovereign Gracers, non-denominationalists, inter-denominationalists, etc., etc. and differing shades within these Evangelical camps. When you are on the front lines of war, the denominational lines begin to blur. I am not saying they aren’t important, or that I don’t understand the sense behind some of them. What I am saying is that we are at war and we have victory in the Gospel! In Ukraine, in the foxhole so to speak, we are planning and preparing to, by God’s grace, plant a church in the future and are gearing up and training now. God is assembling a special forces unit to plant a new church in Odessa. It is very important for those on this team to have like-mindedness in our beliefs, especially in our understanding of the Gospel. However, in the foxhole, a place where resources and mega churches and Christian sub-cultures are few, we are thankful for the people God brings to us. As long as we have the same Gospel and that is thoroughly understood and we agree on the large majority of the implications of that Gospel, then we can work together. When you meet a friend in the foxhole with bullets wizzing above you, things which were heavy concerns back home begin to seem more trivial in light of present threats of destruction.

When I was in the U.S. recruiting a financial team, many churches allowed me to come speak although I wasn’t apart of their “denomination”. Others did not. Many will only support missionaries from their congregation or denomination. I understand that and I understand why. But, it seems the emphasis has been placed on peripheral doctrines which are not aiding our, the Churches, war strategy. I do not mean that because some doctrines are considered “non-essentials” that they are unimportant, the question is, how important should they be in light of the war we are in? So, we have to strategically decide how we can pool our resources to be more effective war strategists, and I am not talking mere finances. When we plant a church we will have a team which is in agreement on the key issues. Don’t get me wrong, the vision, eschatology, soteriology, ecclesiology, liturgy, homoletic structure, and the mission strategy are all very important. But there comes a time when we must ask if it’s more important I have all these things 110% understood, or that I’m giving my time to people and discipleship? Strategically, when should I stop hiding in a closet learning and blogging, and begin serving and going? Our leadership team will be in agreement on our essential beliefs and particular “non-essentials”, which may be considered non-essential for church membership, but not for leadership, and these things are to be determined. But, don’t you think it’s great that we can go plant a church without a denominational stamp and understand the Gospel, and the breadth and power and scope of it, and harp on it ’til we die, and have that church thrive and work? Striving for unity around the Gospel to have as many friends as possible with us, in the foxhole.

For those of you who are curious, I would gladly disclose my views on any or each of these doctrinal topics, in detail, some of them being tentative. I will also say on any of them I could be wrong. Whichever camp on each of these issues you would find me in, by default, you would find there are people fighting in the foxhole with me, who I disagree with. This does not mean however that we are not wearing the same uniform and firing at the same enemy. So, wherever I fall, I cannot please everyone. Which as much as I want to be in harmony with all my fellow soldiers, my priority is to be faithful to God, to pursue truth in a passionate and worshipful manner as I believe He commands us to do, and to divide His Word, without dividing the body. This will mean there are things we disagree on, but it does not mean we can’t love each other. Please, stop backbiting your brothers and sisters and strategically deploy yourselves into battle, together united around the Gospel as much as possible. I don’t want to have a church which carries a label, and along with that many misunderstandings from those who have been trained by a biased mindset or culture. I want to center around the Gospel and the person of Jesus, love people and teach the Scriptures as they word it and let the truth be it’s own defense. Disclosing theological buzz words and controversies creates an atmosphere where many opportunites to love and disciple people can be lost. So, our war strategy is to work hard, to dot the “i’s” and cross the “t’s” of our theology, so much so that we know which hills are worth dying on, and in such a way that we don’t impend advancing into enemy territory. Love never fails! The aim of deepening our theology is to help ourselves and others find an increasingly profounder doxology!

For so long I strongly desired and worked tirelessly to get more Bible training. I believe preaching is the greatest privilege a man could have and an enormous responsibility…to give an account for overseeing men’s souls is a frightening thought! So, with much care and humility, a man called should be given to diligence in preparation. I desired to learn the biblical languages and read 100’s of books before even attempting to open my mouth.

Then, I came to Ukraine. I came to where bombs were being dropped and shrapnel was flying and saw the immense need for the Gospel. Suddenly, it seemed far less important whether or not I could read the Greek New Testament or quote all the church fathers (of course for some of us this is our calling and we need you guys and thank you so much for defending the Gospel, and for all your hard work!). Now, what mattered was practical hands on picking up an AK-47 and pulling a wounded soldier out of harm’s way. And what mattered wasn’t that I was an expert, but that I knew the Gospel, and understood the Scripture enough to teach it in a meaningful way. There is a thin line where we must decide when learning should become going. For each of us we must decide this time strategically. For me, it seems God has called me to begin full time service, however hard or uncomfortable that is, and set aside my theological, what could be proud, aspirations. And, as we fight this battle, the education continues, but the strategic emphasis is practical ministry where theology is learned and applied in the context of doing.

When I say we must strategize, I do not mean at all to be hardened in any way to the leading of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit guides our planning through biblical principles. All our plans must be subjected to being given to God’s glory and the worship of Him by all nations! All our plans must include, biblically, and therefore being led by the Holy Spirit, death to selfish ambition, redeeming the time, etc. However, there are many ways where we are falling short.

When at war, we must be conservative on how we use our resources and winning the war becomes a top priority where serious sacrifices are made, sometimes our very lives. If we are at war, and if winning a war requires strategy, which involves stewardship towards effectiveness, then we must look at how to win the war. The war is over when all the nations are worshiping Christ! This is our aim. It is not that injustices would be corrected, or that the starving would be fed, and people would have clean water. If people are worshiping Jesus this will happen, and doing these things can be a strategic means to that goal. However, we cannot leave these acts void of the Gospel or our strategy is weakened. We must be strategic in all of life’s decisions. I am pleading for all of you to spend a day, a week, a year, to sit down and look over everything prayerfully. To seriously consider these things, we probably just need to put on the breaks and pull over.

Countries at war strategize to win and do what it takes to execute their strategies. If, to win the war, it is for every unreached people group on earth to worhip Christ, for those in my neighborhood to worship Christ, my family, the atheists and the religions who have distorted the Gospel, what is your role in the grand scheme of this? Are you a goer or a sender? How does your life plans, big and small, support this single assignment to win the war whether you are a baker or a doctor? How have you rearranged your time and finances to be as effective as possible toward this aim?

How has your life been strategically arranged to help us win the war together? Are there friends who belong in your foxhole but you’ve asked to leave?

Take some extended time to pray about these questions. How have you been strategic and Spirit led:
With your primary career choice or education towards this single aim?
With God’s finances He’s entrusted to your stewardship?
With your weekly schedule, priorities, and time?
With spiritual disciplines and prayer?
In planning practical service and building relationships with others?

In encouraging others to be strategic?
In where you send missionaries?
In where you are planning to go as a missionary?
In your local missional involvement now?
In helping your church to think more globally? Or even locally for that matter?
In where missionaries are you are supporting, if you are supporting any, and in what they are doing?
What type of short term missions you support or are involved in?

Are you a goer or a sender? If you are a sender, what does that look like?

In light of the present war, which doctrines are essential for:

Church membership?
Church leadership?
Partnering with or sending missionaries?
Working with missionaries?
Fighting in the foxhole?
Dividing over? :)

Is it more strategically beneficial for the Kingdom for you to enter the mission field on short term trips or for life?

Are you giving as much of your income and time to Kingdom building as is strategically wise and fruitful?

If you have decided to go into missions, what is your preparation plan?

Jonathan Edwards used to be strategic in planning his meals so he could be as effective as possible in life, which for him was always ministry. His time isolated with God was planned so that he could be more spiritually present to people when he was with them. There is a balance all of us must strategize. I would suggest for many of us, we have too much people time which isn’t fruitful at all. It would be greatly beneficial if the Church had a handbook which gave many examples of strategic outreaches, strategic schedules, strategic ways to use different careers, strategic places to send missionaries, strategic ways of cutting back on self indulging habits, strategic ways to be involved from home, or on the front lines, and strategic ways to save, invest, and give money towards the war efforts depending on various incomes, etc. I would love to write this book. Strategically however, I’ve currently decided to write a blog, pray for all the readers, and get back down in the foxhole with my friends.

If you can agree with this GOSPEL CENTERED CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT why not jump in the foxhole with us? To help us strategize towards the worship of God in Ukraine, click to JOIN OUR TEAM.

If You Only Read One….Make It This One!

Monthly Ministry/Prayer Update

The last couple weeks at camp has been one of the most fruitful and worthwhile things I have ever been involved in! To hear more just follow the link to the NEW VIDEO UPDATE. If you only ever watched just one of my video updates, please make it THIS ONE. :)


Click on this sentence to read why some short term missions might be a waste of time when they are not relational.

To read up on our current prayer needs simply scroll to the bottom, just above the “People” pics.


Just Before Camp the Ladies Had a Craft Day at Our Place


The ladies figured the first step in sparking a Jesus Movement in Ukraine would be to turn everyone into hippies. :)

…and Mexican Food for the Guys!


What’s a better way to get the guys together than to invite them over for scrumptious burritos. We were happy to have a couple Muslim friends over and had a great discussion over a quote from C.S. Lewis book “Miracles” comparing men to Limpets when trying to describe God.

The Team Prepares for Camp


After the team from South Africa flys in, we head to the camp for some training and preparation time. We had servant leaders from many countries working together! South Africa, Ukraine, Nigeria, Conga, U.S., & Canada!

Campers Arrive


After the campers arrive and we help them with their bags.

English Assessment Tests


Very soon after the campers arrive they go through an exam for placement in their English classes. This is for a lot of us and them, our first contact with them.

Conversations Over Meal Time


One of the greatest things about the camp was all the one on one conversations we had. Meal time was a good time to meet new people. As all of the leadership was very intentional about talking to new people I don’t think I sat by the same group twice the entire week.

Morning Meetings


Every morning was kicked off with some silly song that got our blood flowing. Then we’d have announcements and a trivia game where throughout the day the campers would have to approach the leaders to find out if they matched the trivia question. This gave us more opportunities for intersting conversations.

Bible Reading and Discussion Time


To start off the day we’d have a group come together for a time of Bible reading and discussion. For many, this became their favorite part of camp!

The same group would meet in the afternoon for another discussion time about other topics where we focused on getting to know people and helping people practice their English.

English Class


Gert & I were the teachers for the Advanced English Class, so we had the translators as well. The trick was finding words they didn’t know but would be useful for them. We had a great time and I was very impressed by their learning abilities! Poor Sergey, he was the only guy in the class.

Evening Meetings


In the evenings we met for some worship in song and a teaching from the Word. Each night focused on a different attribute of God. We spoke about God as creator, God as perfect, God as a just judge which was the night I spoke, God is love, God is Father, and finally a Gospel call night.

Bible Teaching


It was a great opportunity to show the youth that the cross is the best display of where God’s justice and love meet!



All the different conversations we had with the campers was what it was all about. We were very relationship focused and is my favorite thing about these camps! From the first day to the last we worked hard to connect with those God opened up. Many were open and we were surprised at their openess. They saw our sincerity and let us know how much we were appreciated!

Optional Discussion Times


The afternoons were open for free time but many of the campers joined us for an optional discussion time. I did a knot tying lesson one day and on another did an intro to the Bible talk. We also talked about God and suffering, had a first aid class, and a premarital talk all of which went very well.

Crafts & Tea Time


Various crafts and tea time were prepared for the ladies in the afternoons as well. We are not sure how some ladies actually made it through the door undetected.



The evenings were always filled with a different fun, competitive, and challenging activity where we had to work hard to work as a team to win.

Many of the campers also stayed up late playing all kinds of different games.

Skit Night


Our discusiion groups each had to plan and perform a skit together on skit night. You’d be surprised at how creative some of these guys and girls are!

Gospel Night ~ Decisions


On the final evening Arkadiy gave an invitaion for those who wanted to repent or had questions regarding it. I was very happy about the way we went about it, not using emotionalism or some kind of spontaneous decision tactic to get people to say a prayer.

I believe for the first time I saw a sound model for how to do an “altar call”.



Of course none of this could have been done without the help of the translators! Thank you thank you thank you translators!

Banquet & Certificates


Back in the City


After camp, we are not done yet! We spend more time with the campers at church, the catacombs on a guided tour, seeing the city center where Daria and myself guided a tour for the group, some time at the beach, walking through 411 WWII park and ice cream at the church where the campers say their goodbyes to the team heading home.


After Camp


After camp is over it doesn’t mean our work is over. The people at our church are very intentional about relationships and discipleship and go the extra mile to stay in touch with as many as we possibly can. New friendships have been forged and a large handful made decisions to turn over their lives to Jesus!

We’re already planning another mexican food and movie night after we finish the second camp.


Prayer Requests


Please pray for the second camp, the family camp which begins this weekend.
Please pray for those who made a decision and for those whioch are seriously thinking about spiritual things.
Please pray against legalism and empty traditions and for clarity of the Gospel both at these camps and in Ukriane as a whole!
Please pray for the team as we need an extra measure of strength to get through these camps.
Please pray about whether or not God would have you or your church to be involved somehow!
Please pray for Odessa!
Please pray for Ukraine!

Missions exist because worship doesn’t!



Get Involved


Some ways you can be involved:

Prayerfully. If you would like us to send you a prayer card to remind you to pray for us we would be happy to! Just let us know.
Last month a few individuals were extraordinarily generous and we are unspeakably grateful! We are still in need of month to month supporters! Please pray about being involved as a sender of meaningful missions. To give, CLICK HERE!
Let us know if you would like to come in the future on a construction crew, to help with one of these awesome English Camps, or to give away your life so that God would be worshiped by more Ukrainians! Pray about full time missions in Ukraine! It’s worth it!
To send us some socks and underwear (or clothes) for the homeless, CLICK HERE!


For More Info on the Camp, watch this video:


[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nydAyemH0Is?rel=0&w=640&h=480]

Click on this sentence to read why some short term missions might be a waste of time when they are not relational.



Camp Pics


Many more great pics from camp can be viewed HERE.

What is a Redemption Group?

Mars Hill Everett

I remember reading a blog once by John MacArthur called “Grunge Christianity?“. He severely criticized Mars Hill in Seattle and Mark Driscoll, rather than from a Scriptural defense, the article was highly opinionated. He acused the ministry in Seattle of stunting the sanctification of the church members.


“His defense of substitutionary atonement might help his disciples gain a good grasp of the doctrine of justification by faith; but the lifestyle he models—especially his easygoing familiarity with all this world’s filthy fads—practically guarantees that they will make little progress toward authentic sanctification.”


After what I experienced this week, I would encourage people to set aside their criticisms if they do not have first hand inside knowledge of the community and work of God at Mars Hill. Clearly God is sanctifying his people as Jesus is lifted up in a way which I have never seen in any church. Johnny MacArthur I love you but on this issue you are speaking out of ignorance and it would be a diservice to God to continue seeking to sway people from sitting under the ministry of this church.

Last week was hands down one of the most transformationally impacting weeks of my life. How so?

First, before I answer the question, I’ll give you a helpful backdrop. Ever since reading books like John Owen’s “The Mortification of Sin” and Thomas Boston’s “The Crook in the Lot” I’ve realized that the principles in these Puritan works, the hard and rich teachings, were not regularly taught from the pulpit. What I was now learning, I thought, should be Christianity 101, foundational teachings for the Christian life. These things I was learning had long been kept from me by men at the pulpit who were perhaps unaware of the weight and importance of these things or just wanted to avoid them. However, especially in the context of our modern culture, not everyone would enjoy reading the oftentimes verbose Owen who can fill half a page with a single elongated sentence with several connected thoughts written in old Puritanical style.

In my hunt against sin and idolatry in my heart, I stumbled across a book by Mike Wilkerson called “Redemption | Freed by Jesus From the Idols we Worship and the Wounds We Carry”. I knew the book was developed from a ministry at Mars Hill called Redemption Groups, which I barely missed a chance to attend while I was a member at Mars Hill living in Seattle a couple years ago. The numerous endorsements I found in the book by men I highly respect excited my curiosity further.

After reading it, let’s just say I decided to go through the book with a few friends in Odessa, Ukraine, reading one chapter a week and coming together with some of my own discussion questions. All of us men were profoundly blessed by these meetings.

Then I discovered on the internet they had training sessions for leading what Mars Hill calls Redemption Groups. I applied and was allowed in, although I would end up going by myself instead of with a ministry team to train, and a program to implement in our local church, which is needed to be officially certified to lead Redemption Groups at your church. However, what I learned will not only forever change my counseling approach greatly improving it, but will hopefully be the beginning of a powerful ministry in Ukraine.

A missionary friend in northern Ukraine with a translating and publishing ministry in Ukraine called In Lumine has received the rights from Crossway to translate the book into Russian, which will become a powerful ministry tool in the future for the Russian people. All we need now is the funds to get the work done and printed. $2,500 will get us 1,500 copies in Russian. If you can swing this, it is a charity well worth the investment.

To contribute to this translation project in full or in part, CLICK HERE, and write “Jacob Nelson – Redemption Book Translation” where it says “Designate My Donation”. (Leave the spot which says “Dedicate My Donation” blank.)

Mike Wilkerson Speaking at the Immersion Training

Basically, a Redemption Group is a small group of men or women, maybe 4-8 people with 2-3 leaders sitting in a circle, seeking to further Redemption in each participants life by the power of the Holy Spirit. After a forty minute teaching based on the Redemption Exodus story out of Egypt, ultimately into the place of God’s presence, everyone breaks up into their groups for about 1 1/2 hours. Throughout the course of about 10 weeks (at training it was squeezed into an intensive 6 days) various issues can be addressed.

We learn about such paramount things as how do we interpret the story of our own life and define our identity by sin we’ve committed or sins committed against us. We are faced with the contrasts of our story being part of God’s story, not Him being part of ours. We seek to identify what our identity should be in Christ and what God believes about us in light of the Gospel and transparently seek to determine what our hearts believe concerning these things, not merely what we can recite biblically or creedally. Then we look at how these beliefs have been impacting our lives. We are helped along in this process by the discerning questions of the group leaders and the participants who all try to follow the Spirit, as a team, creating a safe environment and establishing trust so that perhaps people are free to share struggles they’ve never shared before or never realized they had.

Lives are transformed, grown men ball their eyes out, people come to greater visions and revelations of Christ and the cross, many realize sins they never saw before bringing them into the light, and burdens often carried for years and years are lifted. Probably everyone sees themselves in light of their Gospel identity and sees God and the cross more so than ever before. O the glories of the cross!!

Issues which came up were intense and varied, as the lessons and groups sought to help people deal with sin and suffering, applying repentance and the Gospel in a clearly enlightening and well defined way. Alcoholism, self-atonement, distorted views of identity, God, or the Gospel, legalism, self-righteousness, pornography, addiction, sexual abuse, emotioanl abuse, rape, homosexuality, neglect, Gospel identity, perfectionism, discontentment, control, playing God, lust, incest, mollestation, rejection, abandonment, manipulation, idolatry, fear of man, self-glory, power trips and shame are just a few of the things confessed, as people come into the light finding new life, rest, and joy in God’s presence found in the light of the Gospel!

Praise God! I never heard so many stories of victory in my life and never saw so many transparent people find acceptance, love, and healing! After my week at the Redemption Group Immersion I will forever be changed for the better for the glory of Christ.

Do your self and your church one of the biggest favors you ever did, read the Redemption book and look into Redemption Groups.

“…it’s not our raw experiences that determine our lives but the meaning we make of them –the stories we tell and the stories we believe.” (p 22)

“…what is even more devastating than the abuse itself is the way some have allowed it to define their lives.” (p 23)

“We need to know the story which makes sense of life….the story is not about you, it’s about him. He is both the author and the main character, and he has written you into his story to say something about him. Yet, if we are honest, we tend to script our lives with ourselves as the protagonists and God in some supporting (or possibly antagonistic) role.

Often, God is cast as the mere extra. At best he adds to the background action; at worst he’s overlooked…we must be careful not to come to the right place with the wrong idea.” (p 26)

“…we must be willing to let go of the stories we’ve told to make sense of our lives…Your hope need not rest in making sense of it all; rather, you are invited to set your hope of redemption in the Redeemer.” (p 27)

“…to be human is to worship…You worship what you live for, whatever is most worthy of your attention and devotion. It is what drives you at the core…” (p 29)

“…to be human is to long for shalom…”the webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight…We have an inborn sense of Shalom. It is home, and we long to return.” (p 29)

“God’s words had been true. So the consequences of their sin followed God’s story, not the Serpent’s.” (p 30)

“…sin erodes our awareness of life lived always before the face of God…” (p 31)

“…addictions, for example, aren’t just alcohol, food, or pornography problems. They are worship disorders. They flow from the hearts bent on worshiping created things rather than the Creator.” (p 32)

“Redemption is not a series of steps we practice or rules we follow. It is not the forced motions of religious practice. No human effort can accomplish redemption for oneself or anyone else. We need a Redeemer. Just as God’s story is not ultimately about you but about God, so also redemption comes not from you but from God. God’s story is about redemption. But, more specifically it is about a Redeemer. Jesus is the main character of the story, and his life and work are the center of the plot.” (p 32)

“When the New Testament authors wrote about Jesus as our redemption, the Old Testament stroy they had in mind was the exodus, the prototype of redemption.” (p 33)

“Redemption is “in effect, the renewing of creation…a return to the world as God intended it to be…the transformation from the sinner dead-in-sins to the saint alive-forevermore-in-Christ is so radical as to be called a new creation.” Redemption restores you to your origianl purpose, to image God by your worship.” (p 36)

“The Puritan preacher Thomas Chalmers, in his sermon The Expulsive Power of a New Affection, said that desires for God and desires for sin cannot coexist in the human heart. They are two opposing “affections” — one will always push out the other. So, he said, “the only way to dispossess [the heart] of an old affection, is by the expulsive power of a new one” (see Gal. 5:16-17). You can’t just “stop it,” because the it is always more than behavior. It is always rooted in your affections, in what you love — what you worship.” (p 38)

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Lera's November Update

Hello my friends!
Happy Thanksgiving! I have a lot to thank God for! I have learned a lot from our pastor and teacher friends who came to teach us in the Seaside Missionary Training Center. One thing I believe I benefited greatly from is the week we were encouraged to do spiritual disciplines, specifically, prayer, bible reading and study, memorizing passages, fasting, service, meditation, stewardship of time and money. Which is so important, they are our lifeline for living a life pleasing to God, and I can’t teach others to do something I’m not doing myself.

Another week we focused on Inductive Bible Study where I saw more clearly the importance of seeing the subject of a passage and why the author wrote it in order to see the context and the purpose in order to avoid error when interpreting God’s Word.

We studied many other subjects also. Among them was Biblical Counseling. Spiritual Disciplines, Inductive Bible Study, Biblical Counseling, and short term missions my husband and I decided will be my four areas of ministry focus throughout my life. Not to mention helping out with the kids at church and the worship team.

But I have something I am especially thankful for. I am thankful to God for my husband that He gave him passionate heart to serve. Encouraging me to do my disciplines just being an example for me. It is so amazing to have one mind and to serve together. The Training Center has encouraged me to do things that I didn’t really do before, such as, one on one discipleship. After lots of time in prayer, for the girls I am working with, I found another young Christian girl who needs help and spiritual support. Of course I will learn a lot from it as well. You can pray for me so that God would use it to help me grow as I am helping others grow. It is hard to see good girls who are not saved yet. But I am not kinder than God and I know He is able to save them if it is His will.

God put in my heart to do a women’s bible study. For some time we were learning about the women in Genesis. Not long ago we had a trivia game for girls with questions about all of women in Genesis. We had a lot of fun and found out that we learned a lot about them.  I like to see the faith of the women in the Bible, their courage, experiences and tests.  Although we don’t Know much about Hagar for example, she is often seen in a negative light, but God loved her and showed His love for her in the desert even though she made mistakes.

Sunday in the worship service, I was reminded by God very important things. Everything that God gave me, my time for example, can become an idol for me if I consider it mine. It is not up to me to spend my time however I want to, but How God wants it. So it encouraged me to do even more for God than I already do. To spend more time in studying my bible and sacrificing my time for other people.

And as the Training Center is close to the end we are starting to build more certain plans. I will continue to do what I already do but also I am planning on helping the other girls however I can to disciple them. Jacoby is going to continue helping with the English club, men’s group on Wednesday morning and discipleship with guys. You can pray for him as he will begin studying Russian intensively soon.

Please pray for:
1. God’s work through us in the city of Odessa.
2. That God would provide for our financial needs for God’s mission here.
3. Open visa for me so we would be able to go to the U.S. in spring
4. Exams that I need to pass from my distance University. It will be tough.
5. Masha that she would accept Christ, Ariadna a 17 year old girl I disciple, and Lidia my accountability partner.

A prayer for you:

“Loving God! Please give my friends the spirit of wisdom that is teachable and teach them the knowledge of Your Son. Let Jesus dwell in their hearts so they would reach people with the Gospel. Strengthen them in Your Word and send them in places you prepared for them: in their home, in their neighborhood, on their job and in other countries. So they would live a life that glorifies You and would grow in Your grace.

In Jesus name I pray, Amen.”

“Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples. For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised.”

1 Chronicles 16:24-25

"Worship in songs"


"Sunday school"








[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5uyxZPNmupI&w=640&h=480]

“Worship Night at Living Hope Church”

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJdlqQTIslo&w=640&h=480]

“Trivia game for girls (Women of Genesis)”