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Random Thoughts

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Well…out of the city of Moscow, a couple flights, a train ride and a bus ride has placed me in the middle of a scene from Heidi. Amy and I are staring wide eyed at the Swiss Alps from a little village called Adelboden…surreal comes to mind…beauty saturates my eyes.

It is almost such a dichotomist reality I have lived the last week, my mind wonders if it is true. Moscow…wow, where to begin, while it has changed dramatically over the last 15 years as the nation has moved into a post Soviet reality…many things have not changed.

I am a watcher of people, and riding around under the city with millions of other riders gave me ample opportunities to watch people…up close…very close. Man, the trains were just packed as they rocked along, station after station.

I watched, and looked, and prayed, and wondered, and prayed some more. The eyes are a window to the soul, as they say…I believe the eyes are the pathway to the heart…you see in a persons eyes the state of their heart very clearly…most of the eyes I looked into were very dim, hazy, and downcast…they seemed to match the gray which enshrouds the city.

Imagine a nation and a people rich with life, history, and faith…and then a revolution which eliminates all of that, and all of the things that make you, well, you. Then imagine another change where those things are allowed again…you might wonder what truth is, what is real, when will the next change happen…will this change last…how do I live in the present in light of the past…is it really okay for me to step out an be noticed in a land where that was previously frowned upon, and prohibited, and could give you an all expense paid pass to Siberia…

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I thought about such a rich history as Amy and I walked through and meditated upon the beauty I found in the churches inside the Kremlin. There are seven beautiful churches inside the Kremlin, one housed the remains of the Tzar’s and the royals, others houses ancient works of art that made your jaw drop.

I pondered how could all the politicians who worked in the government buildings inside the Kremlin for so many years, walk by these churches that silently spoke of the God that the nation once had central to their way of life…Day after day, walking around a spiritual symbol while trying to eliminate religion from the heart and conscious of a nation…I really can’t fathom that.

Perhaps that is they way we apprehend God in the church though…He becomes so familiar that the beauty that stands before becomes nothing more than wood, paint, and windows to another world. So much beauty…so much Godly tradition…

One of the crypts I was looking at entombed an early prince who had came to Moscow to claim his throne, the year was about 1246ish…As the nation was a meld of Asiatic tribes and Slavic area tribes there were some rituals the Asiatic rulers asked the prince to perform some rituals that went against his Christian beliefs so he refused and was murdered for his Christian faith.

Amazing that early on, the rulers were willing to die for Christianity, and later they would outlaw the same. After we left the Kremlin we were able to meet the president of the ECMU (Evangelical Christian and Missionary Union) and his team in Mosc ow. They have a plan to launch 12 church plants that become 144 church plants at key locations in the city. They have a great vision, but are not yet sure how they will get there, and that is where our missionaries are coming alongside to help equip, train, and mentor.

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As Amy and I entered the church building to meet this team, we were met (for the first time) with smiles of hope…that spoke volumes to me. There is only one thing that can transform that which is hopeless and downcast into brightness that radiates out of the eyes, and that is a person, Jesus Christ. What can change Moscow? A sharp team with a ready plan? or a mountain of missionaries? No…only Jesus alive inside the heart of believers across the city will change the hearts that desperately need Him, but that is the passion that I see in the faces of these men with a heart for Moscow…okay enough for this entry for tonight , I’ll try to find a live wi-fi corner tomorrow!

Illuminate Deo
Monty

 

A Quick Word

Hey there…well, I forgot to bring my camera upload cable…and have been trying to find one in Moscow…so far not so good, but God is here! After way to many transfers, and flying for about 20 hours, we got into Moscow…Today was rich. We went through the Kremlin, and spent the afternoon and evening with the church planting leadership team. I was incredible to hear their vision and passion for what they believe God is calling them to do, and to answer questions about becoming a missional and moving church here in the city!  They had many…many…great questions about SVA, and leadership…and we spent a great amount of time praying for God to move in specific ways! I speak at the Open Door Church of Moscow tomorrow…so I’ll tag ya all later!

Illuminate Deo,

Monty

To Russia With Love

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Hey there! This week, Amy and I are heading out for a couple weeks to Russia! We will be in Moscow with some church plants, and we will also be in switzerkland and in England briefly before coming home!

My plan is to keep my blog going while I am over there, if all works out! So keep an eye on thee site, and I will upload pictures and what we’re doing with the churches in Moscow!

I figure with all the airport time we will be having between Frankfurt, Amsterdam, and Zurich…I should be able to get an up link!

See ya soon!

Monty

Your Easter Challenge!

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Do you smell luke God or Old Spice?

So then, says the pastor, Easter tells us that God is out there! Easter also tells us that God cares about you personally…and Easter also show us how we can live when we say yes to Jesus Christ, so that when we live each day, people are drawn towards the Living God who mysteriously dwells within us.

What I have found to be absolutely true in life is that the more time I spend with God…the more time I spend in His presence, and aligning my thoughts, heart and body with God…the more I have His aroma pouring out of me, and not my own!

That is what I long for people to experience when I meet them…not an encounter with Monty, but an encounter with the God of grace who Monty follows.If people leave an interaction with me only smelling some Old Spice and not God, then I need to realign my heart with His so that He is moving in and through me…this is what people need from me more than anything else, a heart surrendered to Christ.

So my challenge today is to spend as much time with God as you can…read the Bible, start with the Gospel of Luke so that you get well acquainted with Jesus and His scent…Read slowly and let the words absorb into you, they will change your life!

Spend as much time as you can simple talking to God, and then do the most radical thing ever…wait and listen for Him to speak to you! Give Him your day, your heart, your mind, and let Him move you through your work day into the conversations and circumstances where God’s scent can emanate from your heart…who knows someone may say…wow, that scent of your is so powerfully beautiful, where ever did you get it?

Right then, you need to smile as your heart expands and a smile spreads across your lips…God has just given you an opportunity to take part in His mission…life truly does not get any better than that!

Take my challenge this Easter…live in such a way that you smell like God!

Illuminate Deo,

Monty

The Morph of Grace

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Matthias had never really liked his father
. It seemed that whenever he needed his dad just to -be there, or to listen, he was never around. He didn’t really blame him though, times were hard, and money was scarce. Matthias knew his dad had finally resorted to stealing in order to get his family food, but that left him confused, not sure whether he should be happy that his dad was at least trying to keep them all fed, or angry that he broke the Torah to do it.

He saw the pain in his mother’s eyes every evening as she sat alone wondering where her husband was. But today, for the first time Matthias saw his dad through very different eyes. Today, a tear journeyed down his cheek collecting into a pool at his dusty feet. He heard and saw in his dad the man and father he had always wanted: compassionate, interested, forgiving, and humble. But why did something like this have to happen?

Matthias sat in the dust at the foot of the pole which held his dad. There were two other men up on poles as well. One of them Matthias knew. He had seen him in back alleys and in places where no good would come, but the other man he had only heard about. It was this man that had a life changing effect upon his dad, this Jesus.

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Matthias knew that Jesus had done nothing wrong. His dad had been caught stealing, and so too the other man, but Jesus was innocent. While Matthias’ dad looked alternately between his son and Jesus, the years of hurt and anger began to dissolve. The hard, cold look of a criminal was replaced with the tender gaze of a person who had just received the most lavish of gifts. The other man on the cross began mocking and spewing out words of hatred toward Jesus, but Matthias’ dad cried out,“Don’t you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong." Then he said, "Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom."  (Luke 23:40-42)

Matthias had never heard his dad speak out for someone else. There was such passion in his voice, such surety. He admitted that what he had done was wrong, and extended compassion to Jesus.
“Oh, Dad,” Matthias said, as his heart raced between pleasure and pain. Pleasure that his dad had encountered Jesus, and pain that he would soon breathe his last.

But then Matthias heard Jesus speak. It wasn’t very loud at first, but it was clear and definite. He said, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:43). The smile that broke out across the face of Matthias’ dad could have filled the temple courts! And Matthias found the meaning to a new word, hope!

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I have been creatively thinking about the thieves upon the cross lately. What might it have been like for them to be there with Jesus, what was happening in their families. You see one of the men upon the cross began taking the steps to work through life’s hurts, habits, and hang-ups. First he admitted that he wasn’t God, and as he hung there with a sentence of death upon his cross, that knew he was powerless to change things. But as he looked at Jesus, he took the second step which was to believe that God exists, and that He had the power to change his reality.

God has a name, His name is Jesus, and the thief upon the cross placed his faith in Jesus as the only one who could change his fate.  The man then took the third step by  consciously choosing to trust Jesus with his life and his future. He openly confessed his sins before God and those who were minglingabout… he came clean. No more blaming, no more deceiving. He finally came clean and Jesus spoke those powerful words to him, words of hope. “Today you will be with me in paradise!”
It didn’t matter what he had done, no sin is so big that God cannot forgive it. He also didn’t earn these grace filled words, they were a gift from the giver of life who was about to breathe His last so that we could breathe eternally!

When we come clean before God, we receive God’s gift of grace and forgiveness. I don’t know what sins or mistakes you might have in your closet today. Perhaps it’s fresh, or perhaps it years old, it really doesn’t matter. Jesus says ‘look to me, trust me, come clean and I will remove from you this load that feels like the world’s weight.’ This is the process of having a clean heart and clean hands.

Matthew 5:8 says, “Happy are the pure in heart, they will see God.” If you want to experience the gaze of Jesus that fills you with forgiveness and hope, you need to start coming clean. Confess to God the areas that aren’t going right, the attitudes and habits that need changing. His promise is to forgive you instantly!!   1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Wow, what a promise! This promise is based upon God’s character and promises, not about your performance!

Who may climb the mountain of the Lord? 
Who may stand in his holy place?
Only those whose hands and hearts are pure,
who do not worship idols and never tell lies.
They will receive the Lord’s blessing
and have right standing with God their savior.
They alone may enter God’s presence
and worship the God of Israel.
Psalm 24:3-6

Grace. A beautiful gift to us when we don’t deserve it, but it is the gift that transforms the coldest of hearts into flames of passion!

Illuminate Deo,
Monty