Luba Timofeyeva

This was recently posted by friends of our, Charlie and Miki Chastain.  I’ve known Luba for many years.  She faithfully serves women in prison in Ryazan (in picture below).

I was a schoolteacher of history and a strong atheist.

I taught my students that the religion had been a deception and that exploiters had devised it in order to wield power over poor people.

I thought only about my family welfare and my work at school. I was sure that my lifestyle was good and virtuous and didn’t understand that I was a great sinner.

Life was not easy and was unpredictable.

My mom died from cancer at the age of 49. My brother was killed in Afghanistan at the age of 31. Even having my own family (a husband and two daughters) I often felt myself lonely and unhappy and started to think that there had to be more to life.

When the Soviet regime collapsed and many people rushed to Orthodox churches (we were not allowed to go to a church earlier), my younger daughter and I went there too. Later I had a desire to know about the real faith and wished to have the Bible.

It was in 1996 when I first heard about Jesus Christ and His gift of forgiveness and salvation. Two American ladies, believers, came to our school and had a meeting with the staff.  They showed us the Jesus Film, told us about the love of God and suggested to have a Bible study with us.

I and four more teachers started to visit the Bible study and at last could hold the Bible in our hands and read it. I was really interested in reading the Bible and later my knowledge of the Lord reached my heart and for the first time I felt the reverence for Him.

I repented and received Jesus into my heart. In 1998 at the age of 49 I was baptized.

The former atheist had become a Christian!

I am now a child of God inseparable from Him. Praise be to God!

And I am always very grateful to my American brothers and sisters in Christ that they’ve helped me to come to know God, that they helped us, Russian believers, to plant a church in Ryazan. And of course I understand that it is God who has made those amazing things possible.

God has blessed me abundantly with wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ, as well as with a wonderful family.

Charlie Chastain continues, “one of my fondest memories of Luba is one of the times she worked with us in St. Petersburg. Our team was staying at a guest flat owned by a ministry partner here in town – but the unique thing was that it had a large bookshelf full of Christian books: anything from novels to C.S. Lewis to deep theology. Luba was in heaven!

“She explained that access to this kind of literature in her town was next to nothing.  But because these books were only for the flat, she knew her opportunities were limited to dive in.

“So what did she do? At night, after all of our work was done, Luba would COPY these books by hand so that she’d have an opportunity to read them later.

“Ever since witnessing that, this has been one of the clearest examples to me of what desiring God looks like.”

Thoughts on Service

A friend recently sent this.  It expresses well our attitude towards service:

True Service

In his classic book Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster devotes a chapter to the discipline of service, modeled after the radical example of Jesus. In the following excerpt, he contrasts a self-serving version of service with God’s version, urging us to choose the discipline that comes when we serve in Jesus’ footsteps.

If true service is to be understood and practiced, it must be distinguished clearly from “self-righteous service.”

Self-righteous service comes through human effort. It expends immense amounts of energy calculating and scheming how to render the service. Sociological charts and surveys are devised so we can “help those people.”

True service comes from a relationship with the divine Other deep inside. We serve out of whispered promptings, divine urgings. Energy is expended but it is not the frantic energy of the flesh. Thomas Kelly writes, “I find He never guides us into an intolerable scramble of panting feverishness.”

Self-righteous service is impressed with the “big deal.” It is concerned to make impressive gains on ecclesiastical scoreboards. It enjoys serving, especially when the service is titanic.

True service finds it almost impossible to distinguish the small from the large service. Where a difference is noted, the true servant is often drawn to the small service, not out of false modesty, but because he genuinely sees it as the more important task. He indiscriminately welcomes all opportunities to serve.

Self-righteous service requires external rewards. It needs to know that people see and appreciate the effort. It seeks human applause-with proper religious modesty of course.

True service rests contented in hiddenness. It does not fear the lights and blare of attention, but it does not seek them either. Since it is living out of a new Center of reference, the divine nod of approval is completely sufficient.

Self-righteous service is highly concerned about results. It eagerly waits to see if the person served will reciprocate in kind. It becomes bitter when the results fall below expectations. True service is free of the need to calculate results. It delights only in the service. It can serve enemies as freely as friends.

Self-righteous service picks and chooses whom to serve.  Sometimes the high and powerful are served because that will ensure a certain advantage. Sometimes the low and defenseless are served because that will ensure a humble image.

True service is indiscriminate in its ministry. It has heard the command of Jesus to be the “servant of all” (Mark 9:35). Brother Francis of Assisi notes in a letter, “Being the servant of all, I am bound to serve all and to administer the balm-bearing words of my lord.”

Self-righteous service is affected by moods and whims. It can serve only when there is a “feeling” to serve (“moved by the Spirit” as we say). Ill health or inadequate sleep controls the desire to serve. True service ministers simply and faithfully because there is a need. It knows that the “feeling to serve” can often be a hindrance to true service. The service disciplines the feelings rather than allowing the feeling to control the service.

Self-righteous service is insensitive. It insists on meeting the need even when to do so would be destructive. It demands the opportunity to help. True service can withhold the service as freely as perform it. It can listen with tenderness and patience before acting. It can serve by waiting in silence. “They also serve who only stand and wait.”

Self-righteous service fractures community. In the final analysis, once all the religious trappings are removed, it centers in the glorification of the individual. Therefore it puts others into its debt and becomes one of the most subtle and destructive forms of manipulation known.

True service builds community. It quietly and unpretentiously goes about caring for the needs of others. It draws, binds, heals, builds.

A Winter Walk

winterwalk-2Yesterday I had to run some errands down town, and decided to walk part of the way back home.  Just before the New Year we had a record snow fall since 1881, so much that the city almost came to a full stop for a few days.  Things are a little better now, but it is still hard to get around.  Nonetheless the scenery is a delight!

Our past winters have not spoiled us for beautiful views.  We occasionally had some cold spells and some snow, but this time we are really having a winter!!!!   For a few days now we had this beautiful snow covered trees, and the city looks like a winter wonderland!

It is truly a joy to walk through streets and parks and enjoy the clean snow, the lovely trees and buildings covered with frost!  I forgot how much I love waking in downtown St. Petersburg.

I walked by Moika river.  They cleared a little path on the embankment.  The access ways to the water were filled with snow, so I was not able to get down to the ice covered river.

Earlier that day I read from a devotional book about getting to some quiet place where you can see the majesty of the Lord.

winterwalk-62Well, I would not call the city a “quiet place”, but I sure did feel His majesty and power even in the midst of stone and granite and power lines and cars. He showed me that He was still in charge, and that He can do whatever He wishes to do.

Men can do great things, they are, after all, made after His image and likeness, but He alone will order the day!

So yesterday I had this wonderful and surprising gift from my Father, and I am so grateful for it!

May the Lord bless you and delight you with small and big wonders!

Magnificent

This was recently posted by some friends, Matt and Hope Hunt, who are currently in Morocco —

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U2 was in Morocco last year to write some of their newest album and here is a music video that was shot here in the city where we’re studying Arabic.  I couldn’t help but see the symbolism.


Magnificent by U2

Oh, oh, magnificent

I was born, I was born
To be with you in this space and time
After that and ever after
I haven’t had a clue only to break rhyme
This foolishness can leave a heart black and blue, oh, oh

Only love, only love can leave such a mark
But only love, only love can heal such a scar

I was born, I was born to sing for you
I didn’t have a choice but to lift you up
And sing whatever song you wanted me to
I give you back my voice from the womb
My first cry, it was a joyful noise, oh, oh

Only love, only love can leave such a mark
But only love, only love can heal such a scar
Justified, till we die you and I will magnify, oh, oh
Magnificent, magnificent, oh, oh

Only love, only love can leave such a mark
But only love, only love unites our hearts
Justified, till we die you and I will magnify, oh, oh
Magnificent, magnificent, magnificent

But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. -2 Corinthians 3:16-18.

Early in the morning

This is from Liz Hulley, a friend and co-worker here in St. Pete. She has a great blog; I encourage you to visit it.

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Who likes to get up on a cold, dark morning? Not me…although in the summer I would probably find another excuse.

But as I was going about my morning routine, an excerpt popped into my head:

“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance…” (The Gospel of John, 20:1)

What does morning mean to you? Perhaps it includes a lot of moaning and groaning before you begin your day. But how many wonderful discoveries have been made in the morning! The main one, of course, the discovery of our Risen Lord.

That is my encouragement for the day.   🙂

Challenge

Here is another encouraging post from Liz Hulley, a Stoneworks missionary in St. Petersburg —

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Looking back at previous blog posts, I noticed that I often post something from Oswald Chambers in October. I wonder why that is. Perhaps the autumn brings about a kind of desperation that makes me reach for something uplifting.

“The challenge to the missionary does not come on the line that people are difficult to get saved, that backsliders are difficult to reclaim, that there is a wedge of callous indifference; but along the line of his own personal relationship to Jesus Christ.

‘Believe ye that I am able to do this?’ Our Lord puts that question steadily, it faces us in every individual case we meet.

The one great challenge is – Do I know my Risen Lord? Do I know the power of His indwelling Spirit?”*

I don’t have a problem asking myself “What would Jesus do?” I think it is a good idea to follow Christ’s example.

However, we can get into a pattern of striving to make ourselves like Christ, by our own means.

Maybe it’s better to ask ourselves, “Do I trust God in this situation? Have I surrendered this to Him, or am I still trying to do it all myself?”

*Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest -reading for Oct. 27th

It is not the healthy that need a doctor.

A friend recently sent this to me.  Her marriage just about fell apart, but at the last minute she and her husband agreed to reconcile:

I had been thinking recently about the past two years and all the pain I have been through.  I started feeling sorry for myself and a little angry at the circumstances.  The deepest hurts came from lies and broken relationships, regarding my husband’s choices.

So, naturally I was praying about restoration and new understandng as I look at my husband.  God clearly spoke to me and said….you fell in love with a sinner, an outcast….that’s exactly what you are supposed to do!

My devotional the next morning led me to Matthew 9:11-13.   It talks about God sitting with tax collectors and sinners as everyone questioned Him about His motive.

His answer was simple….”It is not the healthy that need a doctor, but the sick. I want kindess more than I want sacrifices.”

At that moment, it dawned on me…..sitting with and loving the ‘broken’ is what God wants from me. It’s what He did!

The Purpose of Scripture

Recently sent by a friend —

Our deeply held conviction is that everything in Scripture is for the purpose of bringing us into a deeper and closer relationship with the Lord, so that we may truly know Him and be conformed to His image and that He may truly know us, as He indicates to be so essential in Matthew 7 and as Paul says in Galatians.

The goal on every level is to surrender completely to Him, so that His lordship may be complete.

This is the purpose of all the truths of God’s Word.

The problem for many Christians over the ages has often been that Scripture has been interpreted in a way that nullifies the purpose of our obedience to Him and to His Word. Continue reading

Trusting His Methods

John and Karen Bull have become good friends; they live in St. Pete with their four children.  You can learn more about them here and here.  This is a nice post by Karen that I wanted to share:

OK, this is really John’s revelation…but it was so good for me, that I had to write it.

Background:

I have often felt frustrated with “last minute” things that are done “by God.”  Sometimes, wondering—were they from God or did people just make it happen and it finally did.  OK, more than that, let me go even farther and say that I have chatted with the Lord(once or twice) about “why don’t you do things ahead of time and prove Your Hand is in things, instead of being so last minute—it does terrible things to “God’s reputation” when people think…well, you just have to wait for Him to act and it won’t happen til the end.”

Continue reading

God’s Love in Action

Olga and I have three young ladies from our church staying with us, Zhenya, Anna and Natasha.  I’ll post some pictures of our ‘new family’ soon.  Natasha works at Crimson Sails, a Christian children’s shelter.  Here’s one story of the way the Lord uses His people to save the lost. This is from Street Cry’s update

Dasha (in the photo at left) was sent to this Christian shelter by her district police station officer.

Her alcoholic mom’s alcoholic boyfriend attacked Dasha with a knife.  She managed to escape almost without injuries with her grandmother’s assistance. With no time to even get dressed properly, and without a coat or boots, this young child ran through the snow and frost to the police for help.

As the police inspected Dasha’s home, they found a destroyed apartment, with almost everything sold in order to buy alcohol.  There was no food and not only Dasha did not have a desk to do her school homework but she did not even have a bed where she could sleep.  The court case began by denying Dasha’s mom parental rights.  While the case proceeded, Dasha was placed in the Christian shelter.

Very soon, she received Jesus and began attending Sunday school at our church.

Continue reading