IN DIGITAL AGE

12“For the word of God is alive and active” (Hebrews 4:12a, NIV)

Some ten years ago, an Anglican bishop was ejected from his church for reading the Bible on his mobile phone. In those days phones weren’t allowed in holy places. Things are different now. I have read about a Center for Digital Theology functioning at one of British universities. The development of apps and social media is changing the character of worship. During services, believers may read their smartphones with more than 1,000 Bible versions in over several hundreds languages in them.

I’m no opponent of new technologies used for worshiping the Lord. Myself, I have the YouVersion app in my phone, which every day reminds me of the time when I should read another portion of the Bible according to my reading plan, and also supplies commentaries and cross-references. During  worship services, I read Bible verses and lyrics of hymns as they are projected on to the big screen , and enjoy music played on electronic instruments. However, I always carry my Bible with me, being, probably the only person in the church who reads a paper edition of God’s Word.

My Book of Books is dear to me. It was sent to me by my American student  after I had returned from the United States where I was teaching in a high school. Actually, the arrival of the parcel was the start of my spiritual growth. Almost every page of more than two thousand pages in the Bible contains my notes and markings. A lot of passages are highlighted in different colors. I remember on what occasion I marked the verses or made notes. I remember every pastor who preached on this or that passage that  I ticked. I feel the position of every book of the Old and New Testaments. I see the Spirit of God hovering over the waters in the very beginning, I hear the words “Yes, I am coming soon” in the very end.  The past, present and future of mankind are in between “Genesis” and “Revelation.”  The Bible is a living thing in my hands.

When, after more than 30 years, I met my American student last March, I asked her to sign the cover page of her present she had made long ago. On a specially assigned form of that page she wrote: PRESENTED TO my dear friend Vitaliy Babych FROM Holly Virginia Lord Reese. Thank you, Holly!

Our Father, we pray that Your Word will remain warm and throbbing regardless of which way it comes into our hearts. May the sharers of Your truths be blessed by You and always remembered by thankful receivers.

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THE HERITAGE FROM THE LORD

37 “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” (Mark 9:37, NIV)

 I love watching children at our church. Usually, they are present in the big room before the service starts, then leave with their teachers (some of whom are also their mothers 🙂 ) and then re-appear in the end, returning from their Sunday school class. They smile broadly when they see you and are the first to reach their hand for greeting. They show you pictures from Biblical stories they have colored and explain what is in the pictures. Even those who don’t speak English, seem to understand you perfectly when you address them in English.

We, adults, are so complicated as compared to children. We need a half-hour sermon to be encouraged, we may discuss religious issues to reason our faith. We say we want to be strengthened in our faith because circumstances made us disappointed.

Children aren’t like that. They say “God is good” and “Jesus loves me” because “the Bible says so.” They momentarily embrace and accept God’s truths. I could say that they readily ask Jesus into their hearts, but… Jesus IS ALREADY in their hearts. Kids can teach even mature believers a thing or two by their trusting example.

Heavenly Father, I pray that You give me the faith these children have. May I gain the sincerity, openness, and innocence of their feeling towards You.

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LEADER ON THE WAY TO CHRIST

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity (1 Timothy 4:12 NIV)

While on a train, I heard a young teacher complaining of how difficult it was to work at school. The administrators’ pressure, the low salary, unruly kids …

“Now, stop,” said her friend who was sitting next to her. “Do you know who is driving our train?”

“No, I don’t.”

“And do you know the name of the person who sold you a loaf of bread at the baker’s this morning?”

“No.”

“But your pupils will remember you as long as they live.”

I thought about a great responsibility which rests with a religious teacher – a pastor who, every Sunday, comes with God’ message to the congregation. He represents Christ with his sermon. The message is what God wants him to say, so the words must be clear, the pronunciation distinct, the intonation friendly, the ideas transparent and well arranged. But the main thing is that there should the pastor’s heart be in it too. He witnesses about Christ, and the believers will be influenced, in the first place, by the passionate truth of his narrative. A personal example will leave a deeper imprint than the deepest theological verities, no matter how important those verities may be.

My first pastor who led me to Christ is now far away from Ukraine. I will remember him as long as I live.

Our Father, we pray that we will always remember and be thankful to those whom you sent to help us come to You.

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YOUNG FOR GOD

12 The righteous will flourish(S) like a palm tree,
they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;(T)
13 planted in the house of the Lord,
they will flourish in the courts of our God.(U)
14 They will still bear fruit(V) in old age,
they will stay fresh and green
 (Psalms 92:14, NIV)

 My acquaintance was moving to the U.S. where his children lived, and he asked me to help him with his English. After a few weeks of intensive learning, he said, “You know, I feel young again when I learn English.” I understand my middle-aged student’s joyful surprise: with years, we find our limits – physical, spiritual, emotional, moral, so it’s really inspiring when we discover that these limits are becoming higher.

I also thought that I experience the same feeling of “being young” when I read the Bible. The powerful tide of millennium-old wisdom uplifts me, makes me strong, and gives me confidence that I, following my Creator’s call, will be able to reach the heights set up in his Word.

As a teacher and as just an older friend, I would also like to encourage the youths whom I meet every Sunday at our worship services, not to lose time but to use it for God in the most effective way. Your years are teachable, your minds are sharp, your senses are keen, your devotion is bright, your will-power is strong. Older people have to study twice as hard to learn half as well. Get to know God by reading the Scriptures, by using sermons, commentaries, spiritual literature, by observing this life and measuring it against the Biblical standards. Build fellowship with those who love and worship God.

Our Lord, we pray that we will always feel young and strong to serve and worship You while preparing to enter Your Kingdom.

 

 

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HOW OTHERS WILL KNOW US…

fruit of the Spirit

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.(Galatians 5:22-23, NIV)

Once I read a story about Adelina Patti, a famous 19th-century Italian-French opera singer, who, before having her summer retreat in a remote village, had told her friends the address of the village post-office for them to send letters to her. However, the first time she appeared at the post office she didn’t have any ID with her and the official in charge said he couldn’t give her any letters in her name because he wasn’t sure whether she was really the Adelina Patti. The singer found a way out: she started to sing. After a few minutes, her beautiful soprano gathered a huge crowd of people in the post office and around it. Adelina Patti was singing as beautifully as she probably sang in the best theatres of the world.

When she finished, the official, who earlier doubted her identity, came to the drawer, took out a pile of letters and, without a single word, handed it to Adelina Patti.

Unfortunately, the modern world does not know (or doesn’t want to know) the true identity of Christians. In dozens of countries they are persecuted or discriminated. In democratic countries they are thought to be misfits. Some polls suggest that 70-80% of non-Christian young people in industrial countries consider Christians to be too judgmental, sheltered, out of touch with reality, or just “disingenuous proselytizers.“

The best way to prove our identity to the world, is to daily demonstrate the fruit of righteousness the Holy Spirit has grown and is growing in our hearts… To sing the heavenly music of love for one another and for others, of joy about God’s presence, of faithfulness to God’s principles… And also to train ourselves to be attentive and sympathetic, to be practically involved in meeting others’ needs by nursing the sick, assisting the elderly, feeding the hungry, raising orphans, sheltering the homeless, educating the ignorant…  By this the world will recognize us as God’s disciples.

Our Father, thank you for planting Your Garden in our hearts. We pray that we learn how to share its Fruit with those who are needy.

 

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WHEN NETS BEGIN TO BREAK

miracle_catch_280114

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” (Luke 5:4, NIV)

While studying the Bible, I prefer “slow reading.” After covering the background information about a chapter, I focus on a passage and start moving from verse to verse within it. In paper editions of the Bible I value maps, lists of geographical names, concordances, subject guides, all sorts of thematic links, insights and commentaries referring and cross-referring the reader to certain verses. With the Internet, there came parallel translations, quick search, interactive tools – like corresponding devotionals, storying, journaling and praying Scripture.

All that makes the Biblical text speak. I hear the voice of God and discover for myself the claim the Lord makes on me.

And it’s also from this angle that I interpret Jesus’ words when He, being in the same boat with Peter on the Lake of Gennesaret, requested him to draw away from the shore and then told the fishermen to put out into the deep water and lower their nets for a haul. “When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break” (Luke 5:6, NIV).

Lord, help us to follow Your directions and find spiritual treasures in the depth of Your Word.

 

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HIS STEWARDS

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, and all who live in it…” (Psalm 24:1 NIV)

While talking with my colleague, I heard her mention in passing: “I don’t like the word ‘responsibility.’” I knew that wasn’t true because my colleague was a very answerable and accountable person, and what she said was said just in fun. I also thought that responsibility is a characteristic feature of a human being. We were commanded to be responsible at the moment when God created the Garden and entrusted two people to be in charge of it. Now, with all the wealth the humankind possesses, God’s children realize they are responsible for managing that wealth.  Everything we have been given is not ours but it is a gift from God. We came into this world with nothing and we won’t take anything with us while leaving this world. Our money, opportunities, spiritual gifts and more, including the life itself, are a gift from God and ultimately belong to Him. We are His stewards. Very much like stewards, who are employed at large households to manage domestic duties (supervision of other servants, collection of rents, keeping of accounts), we are to “keep house,” i.e. to lead godly lives, knowing that we are to give account before the Master when He returns. To be spiritually fit, to grow up in the Lord and be strong in Him, to do all things with love, and be ready for every good work, to show a spirit of gentleness and be humble to all… We will never honor and glorify God until we settle these truths into our hearts and minds… This is the essence of our stewardship. This is our responsibility.

Our Lord, with your coming as sure as the sun rises (Hosea 6:3), we pray that by the time you are with us again we will have managed the wealth entrusted to us in the way You expect us to do.

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