Over the weekend we visited Porkhov, a county center in the Pskov region. The pastor of the local church, Vyacheslav, is a missionary who moved with his family from Samara, Russia, two years ago.
I visited Crimea, Ukraine in the summer of 2007. Without a doubt, my favorite city was Sevastopol. The Russian Black Sea Fleet is stationed here and you can take tour boats around the harbor – hence the Russian flag everywhere. During the Soviet Union, the Soviet Black Fleet was here. After independence, Russia rents the base and shares the harbor with the Ukrainian fleet.
With its strategic location, Sevastopol has been sieged by the British, French, Turks and Germans over the past several centuries. Crimea is once again in the news with reports of increased Russian troop levels supporting protests against the newly installed government in Kiev.
To see why I loved the city so much – and Crimea in general – check out the photos!
We spent Christmas Day with Nansi’s home church in a Gypsy village of Dupnitsa, a town south of Sofia. I preached from a nontraditional Christmas passage (John 1:1-16) and Nansi translated. The children all got presents from Samaritan’s Purse, so if you and your church participated in any of the international Christmas gift outreaches, we saw the fruits of that!
A billboard in the middle of downtown Chicago asks:
Are You Good Without God?
The Chicago Coalition for Reason, who put the board up, describes themselves as:
An exciting group of organizations in the Chicago area, each of which celebrates a human-centered and naturalistic approach to life. For us, non-dogmatic and rational approaches to ethics, culture and the human experience are the most meaningful and satisfying.
As to the goals, the group thinks:
No reaction might be a good reaction.
“If Christians (or whomever) don’t react, that means atheism is becoming more acceptable in society. Which is great. If they do react, then what exactly are they opposed to?”
This is all part of the New Atheism, which is extremely evangelistic, and believes in proselytism more than most Christians I know – which ought to make us examine our zeal … or lack thereof. Though I have to admit, that my first reaction to the billboard isn’t shock. Most of the people I know and have grown up around are atheists, it isn’t exactly countercultural. Atheism has been the norm for a long time in the West.
A much more shocking billboard would be:
Do you know how much you need God?
HT: The Chicagoist
Katie Kirkpatrick, 21, held off cancer to celebrate the happiest day of her life. Katie had chased cancer, once only to have it return-to clog her lungs and grab hold of her heart. Breathing was difficult now, she had to use oxygen. The pain in her back was so intense it broke through the morphine that was supposed to act as a shield. Her organs were shutting down but it would not stop her from marrying Nick Godwin, 23, who was in love with Katie since 11th grade.
I came across while looking for pictures for another of my sites:
It’s labeled “God’s Charity.”
Such a beautiful building, and leaning against it, a man with serious problems. It would be very easy to go off on a rant now about the priorities of the Orthodox Church. It is a corrupt institution, with a lust for earthly power. It deceives people into thinking that they’re saved if they pay some money and go through the motions. It has failed abysmally to take advantage of the fall of the Soviet Union to bring people to Christ and combat the moral decay and nihilism that is rampant in that part of the world. That is all true, but it is too simple an interpretation of the photograph.
As one commenter said:
Впечатление, что храм при всей своей красоте абсолютно равнодушен к судьбе этого человека…
(I get the impression that the church, with all it’s beauty, is absolutely indifferent to the fate of this person)
That feeling is made even stronger by the fact that the church is surrounded by a sturdy fence. Could this picture describe our church, here in America, or our spirituality? Beautiful on the outside, but walled off to those who need it?
The church in America does a much better job with this, but there is always room for reflection and self-criticism. And this picture should touch the hearts of anyone who considers themselves a Christian.