Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Turkey Day 10

Day 10 Pergamum

We visited only one site today because we had such a long bus day. Thank you for your prayers, I did well. In the morning the Lord reminded me that I could download books for my iPhone and so I downloaded a Jack Reacher novel. Those of you who have read him know that I made a good choice. Listening to a book made the whole trip so much better and I wish I would have done it sooner but better late than never.

The site we visited today was the ancient city of Pergamum, which is mentioned in Revelation chapter two. The city sits on top of a hill overlooking a beautiful valley. It has the steepest theater in Asia Minor with amazing acoustics for a theater with a seating capacity of roughly 8,000. You can stand on the stage area and be heard throughout the theater using only a speaking voice. We had one of our tours members go down and sing a few verses of a hymn while we were over half way up and heard him clearly, pretty cool.

The other mildly interesting thing is that we went to a Starbucks on one of our restroom breaks. It was fun being at Starbucks in Turkey, and yes it looks exactly the same only a little more expensive.

Tomorrow we go to Nicea where the Nicean Creed was formulated and visiting a well-known Mosque known as the Green Mosque. From there we are travelling to Istanbul.

For some photos click here.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Turkey Day 9

Turkey Day Nine

Today we travelled to the ancient city ruins of Miletus. This is the city where Paul said goodbye to the elders from Ephesus before departing to Jerusalem. He was eager to get to the city before Pentecost (Acts 20:16ff). It was a touching seen in the book of Acts where we see the deep love Paul has for the leaders he served Christ with in Ephesus. While we were in the old theater Pr. Mark lead the Presbyterian elders and deacons who were are on the trip in their commissioning service (like our commissioning of council members) and prayed for them. During that time I couldn’t help but think of the people who labor with me and with our other staff members at MLC. I felt such a tenderness, respect and love for all who care so deeply about the mission and ministry of Christ in our community and who support our pastors and staff. I am truly thankful for you all and I lifted you before the Lord in prayer at the center of that theater today. Thank you.

From there we visited a leather factory showroom. High quality leather is one of the major exports to France, Spain and other European countries from Turkey. Most of the world’s fine leather goods are made in Turkey.

We ended our short day with a trip to the Basilica of St. John. This is church where St. John was originally buried. It is now in ruins but it was great being at the original site of his burial. He bones are no longer there; they are in museums in other cities.

Tomorrow is a huge day with somewhere around 8-9 hours on the bus. The early wakeups challenge me, as do the long bus days. Continue to keep me in your prayers, especially that I might not miss the wonder of the places because of my fatigue.

Much love to you all.


Photos are here

Monday, June 28, 2010

Turkey Day 8 Patmos

We spent hours on a boat on our way to Patmos. This is a small island about four and a half hours away from the city of Ephesus. Patmos is the island that St. John was exiled to in 95 A.D. when a new emperor took the throne in Rome who was very anti-Christian. It was on Patmos that John received the book we now call Revelation. We were able to go the cave where John received and dictated this book of the Bible. It is hard to describe the power of being a place where Jesus’ beloved disciple prayed regularly and also received from the Lord scripture. Pictures are not allowed in the cave, which makes total sense.

From there we went to a monastery started in the 11th century named after St. John. The monastery is still active with 15 Greek Orthodox brothers living and worshiping there. We toured the museum and the church before having lunch and then heading back for another 4.5-hour boat ride to Turkey.

Having studied taught and preached from Revelation it was a very special day for me. Most of the day was spent at sea but I am so thankful for this opportunity.

For some photos my Dad took of the monastery grounds and the city click here.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Turkey Day 7 Ephesus

Today we visited one of the most visited sites in Turkey, Ephesus. It is estimated that nearly 10 million people a year visit this site, many of them coming from the ships. Since thousands of people go through the site a day it is hard to experience this site without a crowd but today we did just that. We were the first group through the gates and our guide was able to lead us through all the sites and we literally had the place all to ourselves, it was awesome. Very few of my shots have people in them and then it is only our group. We were the only people in the theater during which is so rare. The theater is mentioned in Acts 19 and I was able to read the passage with Mark in the very site mentioned in the Bible. Before the excavation this was impossible.

From there we went to the rarely visited church of the Virgin Mary where the third ecumenical council met to discuss the nature of the Virgin Mary. I remember learning about that in early Church history and it was wonderful to be in the place where it happened. Mark read to us from Revelation 2 which is the letter to the church at Ephesus. After that I helped him with the words of institution and we shared the Lord's Supper with the group. It was very special.

After that we went to Turkman carpet shop. There we had a wonderful presentation on the process of making a Turkish rug, which is one of the cultural treasures of Turkey. The shop is likely the best in Turkey. We have the afternoon off since we are getting up at 4:45am to go to Patmos tomorrow. Patmos is where St. John lived and where he received the Revelation.

I am enjoying the rest and I feel relatively "normal".

Here are a few shots.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Turkey Odds and Ends

Turkey is about the size of Texas, a little larger.

It is fertile here. Driving around the country reminds me of being in a combination of Napa Valley, Eastern Washington and the Sierras.

The mountains are amazing, with high numbers of rock peaks and some large walls. It is a climber’s dream and I often find myself dreaming about the countless routes up these peaks.

It is a secular state. That is right, Turkey is a secular state ruled by a democracy. It is the only country whose population is primarily Muslim (90%) that is a democracy. They are trying to show the world that it can be done. Therefore, you see women dressing from totally secular to heavily religious and everything in between.

Apartments are the predominate style of living, very few people living in a single family home. The big cities have literally hundreds of apartments buildings decorated in bright and bold colors.

A large majority of people grow grapes for shade and therefore they are seen all over the country.

The people speak Turkish, which is related to Finnish, Hungarian and Korean.

Day 6 Hieropolis and Afrodisias

I am feeling better today, thank you for the prayers. I skipped dinner and slept really well last night.

Today we were at Hieropolis which is a biblical city and very interesting. Surrounding the city are hundreds of tombs from the ancient world. Also it is a popular tour spot with the Russians because of the hot springs there. These springs were popular thousands of years ago and it was a draw to the city because they were thought to have healing power. The water flows from a nearby fault in the Earth so the water is rich in minerals. When the water evaporates it leaves white calcium deposits and the hillside is white with all of these deposits.

We also went to the city named after the god Aphrodity. While not a biblical city is one of the most impressive sites in Asia Minor. It has so many different parts of city excavated and it really helps give one a sense of the wonder of the ancient world. I am getting a much better sense of the world in which the Bible was written and the one where Paul was called to preach the good news.

Here are a few photos.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Turkey Day 5 Antioch Pisidia and Laodicea

Early start today with a bad nights sleep due to a room that was too hot made for a challenging day today. It was also a very special day because when we reached the church in Antioch Pisidia Pastor Mark asked me to read with him St. Paul's first recorded sermon. So we took turns proclaiming God's love through the scripture using the very words St. Paul used in the very place he preached. Co-preaching the sermon was a truly amazing experience for me and I am thankful Pastor Mark was kind enough to include me in this way.

From there we went to Laodicea (see Revelation 3:14-22). We were able to visit some rarely visited sites and we saw exactly why St. John made the reference to being lukewarm in 3:16. Having studied and taught Revelation I am honored to be in the sites where these churches are.

We spent 7 hours in the bus today to accomplish seeing these sites. Needless to say I am tired and praying passionately that I will be given the rest and strength from the Lord to be able to soak in the gift that this trip is. Tomorrow is another long day with more important biblical cities.

Today was very special for me, one I doubt I will ever forget. I am thankful to my parents for the gift of the trip and my congregation for allowing time for continuing education, I am learning a ton.

With love,


Here are some photos.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Turkey Day Four

Day Four Tarsus and Travel

We spent six hours on the bus today. It is hard for me to sit in the bus, which sometimes has good airflow, and other times is really hot and stuffy. Needless to say I am a little tired today. We went to Tarsus where St. Paul was born. Very little of the ancient town is left. There is a well that the people used and so Paul would have used it and there is a small section of a Roman road that Paul would have travelled on. The big deal today was being in the birthplace and home of Paul.

Tonight we are sleeping in Konya, which is a very important site for Muslims because it is the home of the 13th century mystic poet Rumi. He is revered throughout the Islamic world and the monastery, which he started and where he is buried is now a museum. It is a very special site for Muslims and we saw many people making pilgrimage to their holy site. The quality of the antique Turkish carpets displayed was amazing as was some of the calligraphy and some of the manuscripts of the Koran.

Tomorrow is an even earlier wakeup was another long day travelling to Antioch Pisidia.

Here are some photos

Turkey Day 3-Antioch

Today we went to Antioch, which is the site of the first Gentile church. It was truly amazing to be in the church where Paul pastured for over a year. I can only imagine the sermons he preached and the worship that they had there. The Bible says that Barnabas worked with Paul and that Peter came to Antioch to visit. Tradition has it that Peter was the first bishop of Antioch and so the church is named after him.

It is hard to describe what it is like to be in the church that Paul pastored. I think it will be hard to fully integrate the power of a place like that. I know it makes it hard to sleep some nights thinking about all of the events of the day. The church is nothing to look at; it is a glorified cave. Christians were persecuted so they went into to hills above the city to worship and the church was in those hills.

During the time of Paul Antioch was one of the largest cities in the area; it was a true cultural center. It was kind of like New York is today. For example Mark Anthony and Cleopatra came to Antioch to be married. The city had over 400,000 making it a large city in those days. Due to many earthquakes over the years, one, which killed 250,000 Antioch, is no longer the cultural center it was in antiquity. To help us get a sense of the beauty and wonder of the city during Paul’s time we went to a museum in downtown Antioch.

We saw some of the most beautiful mosaics. Most were from the 1st and 2nd centuries A.D. and some of the other artifacts were from the time of the Assyrians (7th century B.C.) and the Hittites (14th century B.C.). These were a wonder and I took a lot of photos to help us get a sense of what the city was like.

To see today’s photos click here.

Turkey Day 2

Today we went to a pottery art gallery as our first activity. These folks are true artisans creating very high quality unique art. The studio is owned by fifth generation artisans and is an entirely family owned operation, which creates most of the pottery in house and hiring some additional artist t help with the special (think expensive) pieces. The pottery from this part of Turkey is world-renowned and is shown in art galleries around the world.

After the gallery we traveled to an underground city. The city is completely underground and was created originally by the Hittites as a way to store their produce and wine. During the first century the Christians in the area would retreat into the city to flee persecution from the Romans. The cities could hold 1,500 people and sometimes 2,000 people. The city was four stories deep with designated areas for worship, water, storage and other life. The ventilation shafts were often camouflaged so that their air supply wasn’t cut off. They would cook at night so the smoke wouldn’t have been seen. When the persecution passed they would return to the villages above and then use the caves for food storage.

The city was used heavily until the third century when Christians were no longer persecuted. They were used again in the 6th and 9th centuries, as marauders would pillage the Christian towns. I was reminded how thankful I am to live in a country where we don’t have to hide in caves or be secretive about our love for Christ. I was also touched by the worship space in the city. In the midst of persecution the Christians would sing, pray, hear messages about Jesus, the One they were being persecuted because of. I find this very inspirational because we can so easily take our relationship with Christ, the Church and fellow believers for granted. We can get caught up into consumer Christianity where our congregation is there to meet our needs; when we want, and how we want.

This is just the opposite; it is all about Christ and faith in Him. Life becomes about living our faith and passing on the faith. If those Christians had renounced their faith then Christianity in this part of the world during that time period would have died out. Instead, it grew and was passed on from generation to generation for almost three hundred years until Constantine ceased persecution of Christians. We can learn a lot about what it is important from these ancient people.

Dad and I are doing well. The schedule is a little tough for me but I am still holding up well. I am able to rest this afternoon and go to bed early tonight which is good.

The food is very good in all the places we are going, I am enjoying going to local places and eating local dishes. Tomorrow we are going to Antioch, which is a very important Biblical city.

For some photos of todays trip click here.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Turkey Day One-Cappadocia

We made it! We were delayed out of New York so our 9.5 hour flight turned into a 12 hour flight while they fixed the airplane while we were seated. That made us miss our connection in Istanbul so we waited 6 hours in Istanbul for our flight to Kayseri which was over an hour late so it was really 7 hours. That means we were traveling for about 32-34 hours before arriving at our hotel.

Today we went to Cappadocia. It is an area known for its rock formations and cave dwellings. It is an important site for Christians because St. Basil the Great lived among the caves in the area. He is one of the early fathers of the Church, especially for the monastic life. He emphasized community life and a community rule among other things. He battled the Arian heresy that said Christ was not fully human or divine, he was somewhere in the middle.

The orthodox (right teaching) is that Christ is both fully human and fully divine (which is important on many levels). The Nicene Creed (which was from the Council of Nicea, here in Turkey) states that Christ "is one being with the Father". So today we were at the home of one of the most influencial leaders in the early Church. We saw the caves they lived in and the churches that they worshipped in. The frescos (think paintings) dated from the 9th century and some from the 13th century. Pretty amazing stuff. We also toured the countryside and saw the unique topography which draws tourists from all over the world.

The weather is good, not too hot and not too windy. I am feeling pretty good considering all the events and I am very thankful for that. For those of you who are praying for me it is working so keep it up!! Also this year I brought my father-in-law's camera (which is better than mine) and I am delighted with the shots (210 today).

To see a small sample click here

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


I was asked recently how much or what part do we play in our transformation by the Spirit. Some would say none, it is all God and while the sentiment is good it is not totally accurate. Yes it is God who calls us and woos us but we still have a part. If we had no part then all people would be transformed since God desires that all people be transformed.

I like to think of it as 99.5% God and 50% us. I know that the math doesn't add up but let me explain. The overwhelming work of transformation is done by Christ through the Holy Spirit. I also believe that God wants us to be participants in our transformation, we must desire to be transformed. Desire and intent are the keys that unlock the door to spiritual growth.

Desire and intent shape our lives and if we begin to desire God and intend to follow Christ then we will begin to be open to the Spirit and to spend our time in ways that help us encounter God. Our desire may be weak but is a start and our intention may wain but it is a start. We must ask ourselves the question do we desire to grow closer to Christ? If so what do we intend to do about it? Desire and intent are the 50% because at first it seems like we are choosing and acting in order to know Christ and once we get started we realize that almost all of the work is done by God.

After a while when the rapid growth stalls and we are in a holding place with God then desire and intent resurface because it is easy to grow complacent in our relationship with God and to be satisfied with a little knowledge and a little experience and not dive into to the deep ocean and rapid current that is God. We get scared and hold back in the shallow water, we say "we are saved and know Christ". Yet brothers and sisters there is more waiting, there is an endless abyss of God. Desire surfaces again and so does intent, this is what I call the second desire and second intent and this is again the 50% participation.

This second intention and desire is what helps us grow to the next place in our life with God. Fear is our great enemy at this point and many Christians hold back because of fear and never experience a fuller and more intimate relationship with God.

Friday, June 4, 2010


The other day I had the chance to go hunting. While I was out in the woods glassing clear-cuts I had the experience of God's presence gently coming over me like a wave. In these moments I feel so whole and well. So often living with chronic illness I can feel broken and I am so thankful for the opportunity to be fed and nourished by the gentle and loving ministry of the Holy Spirit.

In those moments I also realized again how thankful I am for all the people who come around and alongside me in my life. I was especially thankful for my wife who does so much for me and for our family. I was mindful of family and friends who support. As my church community came to mind I was again filled with gratitude for the many people who help me in life and ministry.

God has this way of ministering to us in just the ways we need. So often this ministry is right before our eyes and it takes a little space from the ordinary to be able to see God's blessing in the ordinary and also we need to be away from the ordinary to receive God's blessing that comes from those times as well.