24 July 2014


The Baptist Trumpet
July 23, 2014

“You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting.” (Daniel 5:27)

    On a certain night in Babylon, King Belshazzar saw a hand writing on the wall of his palace.  Among other things, Daniel the prophet had told him, “the God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified.”  That night Darius the Mede took both his throne and his life.

    I think God may speak similar things to certain world leaders today, many of whom have given these truths perhaps no conscious thought.  Very recently I believe a handwriting of sorts became a wake-up call to Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia.  I am speaking of the shooting down of the Malaysian Boing 777 over Ukraine on Thursday, July 17th.

    For the first time in the war against Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, Russia is completely exposed and unable to successfully hide it’s complicity in the tragic loss of 298 lives aboard Malaysian flight MH17.  Moreover, the Russian military has unwittingly exposed its proactive role in fighting Ukraine. 

    Until now, Putin’s entire diplomatic corps has everywhere confidently asserted Russia’s non-involvement in Ukraine’s “internal affairs”.  Now, continuing the Kremlin line is more than awkward for them and in part here’s why:

    Proficiency in using an advanced surface-to-air missile system like the Russian SA-11, which shot down the Malaysian airline, requires many months of training and practice.  Furthermore, downing a jet flying at high-altitude must be a well-coordinated multi-team operation, involving the expert use of tracking and communications technology housed in several carefully positioned vehicles. 

    Therefore, none of the untrained, rabble-rousing separatists in Eastern Ukraine could possibly have tracked and downed the Malaysian airliner.  This is true even if they had begun training many months before the outbreak of the war. 

    In spite of the Russian media’s well-polished efforts to the contrary, the disaster evidence overwhelmingly exposes the Russian military as an active combatant against Ukraine.  Even the separatists’ pilfering of the victims’ belongings, the removal of technical evidence from the crash site, the failed attempt to hide the black boxes (in an age of smartphone videos), has not diminished, but has rather confirmed Russia’s involvement. 

    The West knows it and Russia knows it, despite all of Vladimir Putin’s brain-numbing, fog-inducing war of words.  As the Russian infrastructure and economy continue to unravel, Putin increasingly needs to distract his people with a greater ultranationalist agenda, with a new expression of ancient Russian ideals, with a renewed fight for orthodoxy and justice against an increasingly decadent West.  He must depict the rise of Ukraine’s western oriented government as evil, neofascist, and even Russian-hating. 
    However, the evidence from the Malaysian Airline shoot down has dealt a blow to his audacity.  Even his diplomatic corps listened with icy stares as for the first time in years, Vladimir Putin spoke with hesitating stutters and with none of the usual interruptions of applause. 

    This is not the time to underestimate him, however, because history has shown that men of power are most dangerous when they are most shaken.  George Bernard Shaw once said that “We learn from history that we learn nothing from history”.   A few days ago Great Briton’s Prime Minister David Cameron said, "Europe must not forget the consequences of turning a blind eye when big countries bully smaller countries.” 

    How many lives were lost before Adolf Hitler “saw the handwriting” and took his own life?  Has Putin seen the handwriting in last Thursday’s aviation tragedy?  I think not, for when that day comes we will hear no more of him.  God is in perfect control of human events and his timing is also perfect.  His day will come.  Meanwhile, let us remember King David’s last words.  “The Rock of Israel spoke to me: ‘He who rules over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.’” (2 Samuel  23:3)

Woe be to all who forget this truth!

16 July 2014

A SEASON OF WAR by Jeff Franks

A Season of War
By Jeff Franks
BMA Missionary, Ukraine 

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven... A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war,
and a time of peace” (Eccl. 3:1,8).  

May God grant that all towns like this one will soon be free of conflict. Photo by Jeff Franks

Seasons come in divinely ordained cycles and do not ask us if we are ready for them. All evidence seems to show that a “time of war” has come to Ukraine. Alas, the Ukrainians were not prepared for the invasion and takeover of Crimea, and they were not ready for what is happening today in the
Luhansk and Donetsk provinces. 

On Monday, July 14, a Ukrainian military spokesman reported that yet another large column of about 100 armed vehicles, including tanks, mobile artillery and armored per- sonnel carriers (APCs) had crossed into Ukraine from Russia across the porous border. Even the Russia Today news net- work (RT) showed a long column of tanks and trucks, some towing GRAD missile launchers, driving through Luhansk, Ukraine, all driven by anti-Ukrainian militia. Curiously, RT denies that the Russian government has provided any equipment or aid to these apparently well-armed rebel militi- amen. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry rightly called RT a
“propaganda bullhorn.” 

The July 15 headlines in Vesti, a local Ukrainian news- paper, read, “Ukraine Stands on the Brink of Invasion.” We are seeing a new gathering of Russian forces, this time with peacekeeping insignia on military equipment and uniforms. Our Ukrainian friends say Russia has already invaded, they continue today and will proceed in the same “plausibly deni-
able” fashion as the recent takeover of Crimea.

Another article in Vesti debunks an outrageous lie recorded on primetime Russian TV of how the Ukrainian “Fascists,” upon liberating the town of Slavyansk, publicly crucified a 3-year old boy before his mother. Then after she had allegedly watched him die and fainted, dragged her three times around the town square behind a tank. Of course, local residents witnessed nothing of the kind, but the interview with “Galya” the self-proclaimed eyewitness, has “gone viral” on the Internet. Russian media has not retracted her story. The accumulative effect of such propaganda is to bring the watching public to its collective feet, tearfully begging Presi- dent Putin to send Russia’s “peacekeepers” into Ukraine to
prevent further such atrocities.

What is real and not imagined is the rise of persecution of Baptists in eastern Ukraine. Separatist rebels have both occupied and destroyed Baptist churches in the Donetsk and
Luhansk provinces. Homes of pastors have been destroyed.

On July 10, pro-Russian militia took over Donetsk Christian University and held Pastor Pavel Minaev, the board
chairman, and 20 other workers hostage. Pastor Sergey Sko-
robagach of Mariupol was on a mission to help orphans
when he was caught and killed in a terrorist attack.

During our prayer meetings, Baptist refugees have re- ported kidnappings, beatings, torture and disappearances of their church members. Partly, anti-Baptist sentiment has risen because Ukraine’s interim president was a Baptist, and partly it is because the Baptists are known have been active in public prayer meetings calling for peace and national unity. In any event, the rebel militia has targeted them as purveyors of an “enemy ideology.” Truly, it is not hard to see “the enemy
of souls” at work here behind the scenes.

Coleen and I meet refugees almost every day because they come to our worship services and prayer meetings. Two families live next door and several others live right in our neighborhood! It is our privilege to help them however we can, but the Lord is most glorified when His local churches extend a loving hand. Praise God that many church members have taken in refugees, and some are even helping them from
their poverty!

Finally, I want to call your attention to the orphanages that are in Ukraine’s conflict zone. Just the other day, Sepa- ratist gunmen confiscated passports and forced the adminis- trators of Orphanage No. 1 in Donetsk to sign documents al- lowing their orphans to be transferred to Russia. The same kind of lawlessness is happening throughout eastern Ukraine.

Please keep the innocent children and their caretakers in your prayers. If someone should approach you to give to this need, please remember that when we talk of abusing little ones, is all too easy for charlatans to play on our emotions. We don’t always help by “throwing money” at a problem. Ukraine’s Chernobyl nuclear disaster and similar crises have led to fundraising abuses and moral shipwrecks. Rather, let us serve the Ukrainian Baptist churches in their efforts to care for the helpless in the name of Jesus Christ! And if we should do it through our giving, let us entrust our love gifts only into the hands of trusted servants of God, who have a
proven record of faithful accountability.

Above all, please keep the pastors and churches in your prayers. Just as this season, this “time of war” took the Ukrainian Baptist churches unaware, so it may be with any of us in the United States. Seasons do not ask our permission. Therefore remain alert because “to everything there is a sea- son and a time to every purpose under heaven.”