Friday, April 27, 2007

From the Protestant Church of Smyrna

From The Persecution Times comes this horrific reading. Below is altered a bit to allow for reading by the more sensitive reader (that inlcudes me!). Please pray. ~M

I think about this a lot, in fact, there was a time that I was eaten up with the horror of what humans can think to do to each other and what is happening to our brothers and sisters in other countries, the Sudan for instance.

It is important, though for us to be aware and to be praying. In our country, we Christians are so interested in our personal peace and affluence that we don't want to hear or even believe that there are people, children even, living in extreme poverty or being tortured because of the simple fact that they follow Jesus the Messiah.

Do we really think that we too will escape? I pray that were I given the chance to suffer and die for Jesus that I would not shame Him. I pray the same for my children. It is important to raise them on stories of those who are among the mighty army of martyrs. This link is a good one for keeping up on Christian persecutions.For this reason, but mostly so that God's people will pray,

I am posting the following, but recommend it for mature readers:

By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST MinistriesSMYRNA, TURKEY -

Smyrna is an ancient city today known as Izmir in Turkey that was founded at a very early period at a central and strategic point on the Aegean coast of Anatolia.It was the second city to receive a letter from the apostle John in the book of Revelation. Acts 19:10 suggests that the church there was founded during Paul’s third missionary journey. Due to the fact that the port city of Izmir houses the second largest population in Turkey today, the site of ancient Smyrna has been little excavated. Excepting the agora, theater, and sections of the Roman aqueduct, little remains of the ancient city.But there is a protestant church in there that calls itself “The Protestant Church of Smyrna” and it has issued the following letter to the Global Church which was sent to ANS....Dear friends,This past week has been filled with much sorrow. Many of you have heard by now of our devastating loss here in an event that took place in Malatya, a Turkish province 300 miles northeast of Antioch, the city where believers were first called Christians (Acts 11:26).On Wednesday morning, April 18, 2007, 46 year old German missionary and father of three Tilman Geske prepared to go to his office, kissing his wife goodbye taking a moment to hug his son and give him the priceless memory, “Goodbye, son. I love you.”Tilman rented an office space from Zirve Publishing where he was preparing notes for the new Turkish Study Bible. Zirve was also the location of the Malatya Evangelist Church office.
A ministry of the church, Zirve prints and distributes Christian literature to Malatya and nearby cities in Eastern Turkey. In another area of town, 35 year old Pastor Necati Aydin, father of two, said goodbye to his wife, leaving for the office as well. They had a morning Bible Study and prayer meeting that some other believers in town would also be attending. Ugur Yuksel likewise made his way to the Bible study.None of these three men knew that what awaited them at the Bible study was the ultimate testing and application of their faith, which would conclude with their entrance into glory to receive their crown of righteousness from Christ and honor from all the saints awaiting them in the Lord’s presence.On the other side of town, ten young men all under 20 years old put into place final arrangements for their ultimate act of faith, living out their love for Allah and hatred of infidels who they felt undermined Islam.
On Resurrection Sunday, five of these men had been to a by-invitation-only evangelistic service that Pastor Necati and his men had arranged at a hotel conference room in the city. The men were known to the believers as “seekers.” No one knows what happened in the hearts of those men as they listened to the gospel. Were they touched by the Holy Spirit? Were they convicted of sin? Did they hear the gospel in their heart of hearts? Today we only have the beginning of their story.
These young men, one of whom is the son of a mayor in the Province of Malatya, are part of a tarikat, or a group of “faithful believers” in Islam. Tarikat membership is highly respected here; it’s like a fraternity membership. In fact, it is said that no one can get into public office without membership in a tarikat. These young men all lived in the same dorm, all preparing for university entrance exams.The young men got guns, bread knives, ropes and towels ready for their final act of service to Allah. They knew there would be a lot of blood. They arrived in time for the Bible Study, around 10 o’clock.They arrived, and apparently the Bible Study began. Reportedly, after Necati read a chapter from the Bible the assault began.
The boys tied Ugur, Necati, and Tilman’s hands and feet to chairs and as they videoed their work on their cellphones, they tortured our brothers for almost three hours*[Details of the torture–[the DHM omits these, but if you wish to read them click on the link above]Neighbors in workplaces near the print house said later they had heard yelling, but assumed the owners were having a domestic argument so they did not respond.
Meanwhile, another believer Gokhan and his wife had a leisurely morning. He slept in till 10, ate a long breakfast and finally around 12:30 he and his wife arrived at the office. The door was locked from the inside, and his key would not work. He phoned and though it had connection on his end he did not hear the phone ringing inside. He called cell phones of his brothers and finally Ugur answered his phone. “We are not at the office. Go to the hotel meeting. We are there. We will come there,” he said cryptically. As Ugur spoke Gokhan heard in the telephone’s background weeping and a strange snarling sound.
He phoned the police, and the nearest officer arrived in about five minutes. He pounded on the door, “Police, open up!” Initially the officer thought it was a domestic disturbance. At that point they heard another snarl and a gurgling moan. The police understood that sound as human suffering, prepared the clip in his gun and tried over and over again to burst through the door. One of the frightened assailants unlocked the door for the policeman, who entered to find a grisly scene.Tilman and Necati [were dead. Ugur’s was barely alive.]
Three assailants in front of the policeman dropped their weapons.Meanwhile Gokhan heard a sound of yelling in the street. Someone had fallen from their third story office. Running down, he found a man on the ground, whom he later recognized, named Emre Gunaydin. He had massive head trauma and, strangely, was snarling. He had tried to climb down the drainpipe to escape, and losing his balance had plummeted to the ground. It seems that he was the main leader of the attackers. Another assailant was found hiding on a lower balcony.

To untangle the web we need to back up six years. In April 2001, the National Security Council of Turkey (Milli Guvenlik Kurulu) began to consider evangelical Christians as a threat to national security, on equal footing as Al Quaida and PKK terrorism. Statements made in the press by political leaders, columnists and commentators have fueled a hatred against missionaries who they claim bribe young people to change their religion.After that decision in 2001, attacks and threats on churches, pastors and Christians began. Bombings, physical attacks, verbal and written abuse are only some of the ways Christians are being targeted. Most significant is the use of media propaganda.From December 2005, after having a long meeting regarding the Christian threat, the wife of Former Prime Minister Ecevit, historian Ilber Ortayli, Professor Hasan Unsal, Politician Ahmet Tan and writer/propogandist Aytunc Altindal, each in their own profession began a campaign to bring the public’s attention to the looming threat of Christians who sought to “buy their children’s souls”. Hidden cameras in churches have taken church service footage and used it sensationally to promote fear and antagonism toward Christianity.In an official televised response from Ankara, the Interior Minister of Turkey smirked as he spoke of the attacks on our brothers.
Amid public outrage and protests against the event and in favor of freedom of religion and freedom of thought, media and official comments ring with the same message, “We hope you have learned your lesson. We do not want Christians here.”It appears that this was an organized attack initiated by an unknown adult tarikat leader. As in the Hrant Dink murder in January 2007, and a Catholic priest Andrea Santoro in February 2006, minors are being used to commit religious murders because public sympathy for youth is strong and they face lower penalties than an adult convicted of the same crime. Even the parents of these children are in favor of the acts. The mother of the 16 year old boy who killed the Catholic priest Andrea Santoro looked at the cameras as her son was going to prison and said, “He will serve time for Allah.”The young men involved in the killing are currently in custody.
Today news reported that they would be tried as terrorists, so their age would not affect the strict penalty. Assailant Emre Gunaydin is still in intensive care. The investigation centers around him and his contacts and they say will fall apart if he does not recover.The Church in Turkey responded in a way that honored God as hundreds of believers and dozens of pastors flew in as fast as they could to stand by the small church of Malatya and encourage the believers, take care of legal issues, and represent Christians to the media.
When Susanne Tilman expressed her wish to bury her husband in Malatya, the Governor tried to stop it, and when he realized he could not stop it, a rumor was spread that “it is a sin to dig a grave for a Christian.”
In the end, in an undertaking that should be remembered in Christian history forever, the men from the church in Adana (near Tarsus), grabbed shovels and dug a grave for their slain brother in an un-tended hundred year old Armenian graveyard.Ugur was buried by his family in an Alevi Muslim ceremony in his hometown of Elazig, his believing fiancĂ© watching from the shadows as his family and friends refused to accept in death the faith Ugur had so long professed and died for.Necati’s funeral took place in his hometown of Izmir, the city where he came to faith. The darkness does not understand the light.
Though the churches expressed their forgiveness for the event, Christians were not to be trusted. Before they would load the coffin onto the plane from Malatya, it went through two separate xray exams to make sure it was not loaded with explosives. This is not a usual procedure for Muslim coffins.Necati’s funeral was a beautiful event. Like a glimpse of heaven, thousands of Turkish Christians and missionaries came to show their love for Christ, and their honor for this man chosen to die for Christ. Necati’s wife Shemsa told the world, “His death was full of meaning, because he died for Christ and he lived for Christ… Necati was a gift from God. I feel honored that he was in my life, I feel crowned with honor. I want to be worthy of that honor.”Boldly the believers took their stand at Necati’s funeral, facing the risks of being seen publicly and likewise becoming targets. As expected, the anti-terror police attended and videotaped everyone attending the funeral for their future use. The service took place outside at Buca Baptist church, and he was buried in a small Christian graveyard in the outskirts of Izmir.Two assistant Governors of Izmir were there solemnly watching the event from the front row. Dozens of news agencies were there documenting the events with live news and photographs. Who knows the impact the funeral had on those watching?

This is the beginning of their story as well. Pray for them.In an act that hit front pages in the largest newspapers in Turkey, Susanne Tilman in a television interview expressed her forgiveness. She did not want revenge, she told reporters. “Oh God, forgive them for they know not what they do,” she said, wholeheartedly agreeing with the words of Christ on Calvary (Luke 23:34).In a country where blood-for-blood revenge is as normal as breathing, many many reports have come to the attention of the church of how this comment of Susanne Tilman has changed lives. One columnist wrote of her comment, “She said in one sentence what 1000 missionaries in 1000 years could never do.”

The missionaries in Malatya will most likely move out, as their families and children have become publicly identified as targets to the hostile city. The remaining 10 believers are in hiding. What will happen to this church, this light in the darkness? Most likely it will go underground. Pray for wisdom, that Turkish brothers from other cities will go to lead the leaderless church. Should we not be concerned for that great city of Malatya, a city that does not know what it is doing? (Jonah 4:11)When our Pastor Fikret Bocek went with a brother to give a statement to the Security Directorate on Monday they were ushered into the Anti-Terror Department. On the wall was a huge chart covering the whole wall listing all the terrorist cells in Izmir, categorized. In one prominent column were listed all the evangelical churches in Izmir. The darkness does not understand the light.

“These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also.” (Acts 17:6)Please pray for the Church in Turkey. “Don’t pray against persecution, pray for perseverance,” urges Pastor Fikret Bocek.The Church is better having lost our brothers; the fruit in our lives, the renewed faith, the burning desire to spread the gospel to quench more darkness in Malatya …all these are not to be regretted. Pray that we stand strong against external opposition and especially pray that we stand strong against internal struggles with sin, our true debilitating weakness.

This we know. Christ Jesus was there when our brothers were giving their lives for Him. He was there, like He was when Stephen was being stoned in the sight of Saul of Tarsus.Someday the video of the deaths of our brothers may reveal more to us about the strength that we know Christ gave them to endure their last cross, about the peace the Spirit of God endowed them with to suffer for their beloved Savior. But we know He did not leave their side. We know their minds were full of Scripture strengthening them to endure, as darkness tried to subdue the un-subduable Light of the Gospel. We know, in whatever way they were able, with a look or a word, they encouraged one another to stand strong. We know they knew they would soon be with Christ.We don’t know the details. We don’t know the kind of justice that will or will not be served on this earth.
But we pray– and urge you to pray– that someday at least one of those five boys will come to faith because of the testimony in death of Tilman Geske, who gave his life as a missionary to his beloved Turks, and the testimonies in death of Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel, the first martyrs for Christ out of the Turkish Church.

Reported by Darlene N. Bocek (24 April 2007)Note from the church: Please pass this on to as many praying Christians as you can, in as many countries as you can. Please always keep the heading as “From the Protestant Church of Smyrna” with this contact information:izmirprotestan@gmail.com http://www.izmirprotestan.org

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Happy Birthday, Steven!


Today is Steven’s 19th birthday. I have struggled with what to write…as you all know, I’m no writer and I have difficulty putting what I want to say down on paper. Also, the things that we enjoy about Steven are not so easy to describe…they are attitudes, and gestures…things that show his heart to us, but not easy to put into words. But, I’ll try.

We used to be worried that Steven would be swept away by peer pressure - he loved his friends so much. But we see that his love for his friends has helped him to learn how to urge them on to greater godliness, to “call them on the carpet” if need be. We have seen that Steven is an exhorter, and we are thankful.

We used to be worried about Steven’s diligence to do what he ought…he really struggled with that in his early teen years, but also all through high school. But, Steven has risen to his calling, though and diligently studies “morning, noon, and night”. He is doing very well in college and has grown in his writing abilities. His English teacher has said that he is an “exceptional writer”. I have seen him working on a paper, it has taken great diligence on his part (I bet he would say, “blood, sweat and tears”).

We used to worry that Steven would be in rebellion - he has such strong ideas. It took him some time to learn how to speak them in a way that was respectful of authority. But, Steven treats his father and I with much deference and affection. His strong ideas continue to show his worldview which is one that glorifies God and we are thankful that he is so headstrong in this way!

Steven insisted on driving me and Shayna to a friend’s house a couple of evenings ago. We were invited to watch a movie, and finding out that we would be watching it on their laptop (their household is packed up in boxes ready to move) he offered to bring a television and DVD player and set it up for us. He did this and though they offered to bring us home, he insisted again, that I call him to pick us up. He remembers to get the doors for me, car doors as well as the regular kind and is always solicitous and gentle with me. Steven always remembers to hug and kiss me and I am so grateful for such small gestures! I think that one of the things that I will miss most when he goes off to “leave & cleave” one day is our conversations. Steven understands how important it is to me to “just talk” - I’m a quality time kind of person. He seems to understand that I need to talk things out, often to figure them out. He tells me his opinions, and what’s going on in his life, and he “calls me on the carpet” sometimes too.

Conrad and I are so thankful for the children that God has been pleased to bless us with. Each of them is unique and special…a real joy to us. Steven is not the least of these. Last year, I put the text of Psalm 1, but this year, I just want to put up a few verses:

1 The proverbs of Solomon: A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son grief to his mother. Prov. 10:1

1 A wise son heeds his father's instruction, but a mocker does not listen to rebuke. Prov. 13:1

15 My son, if your heart is wise, then my heart will be glad;
16 my inmost being will rejoice when your lips speak what is right. Prov. 23:15,16

The father of a righteous man has great joy; he who has a wise son delights in him. Prov.23:24

Be wise, my son, and bring joy to my heart; then I can answer anyone who treats me with contempt. Prov. 27:11

“4For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer. 6If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. 7Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives' tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. 8For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.
9This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance 10(and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.
11Command and teach these things. 12Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. (13Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 14Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you.)15Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.
16Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.”
I Timothy 4:4-15

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A bragging post...for family and close friends.

Just thought I'd warn you!

A couple of days ago, Gaelan came quietly into the room I was in after having arrived home from work. "I need to go run an errand, do you need anything?" I answered no and that dinner wouldn't be for a while.
Later that evening, I noticed that he was sitting at the table with his college diploma. I recalled that he had gotten notice that it was ready to be picked up and surmised that that was what his errand was. "That looks like your diploma, may I look at it?" He shrugged and slid it over to me. It is very pretty, but the thing I noticed was the gold banner that said, "Magna Cum Laude". "Gaelan!, you didn't tell us that you had graduated at the top of your class!" Another shrug.

As I was telling the story to his father, Gaelan lounging in the library with us, I remarked that like a good homeschooler, Gaelan didn't set much store in what the "educrats"say. He obviously didn't think it was significant that he had earned a "Summa Cum Laude". Gaelan says, apparently disinterested from his chair, "that's Magna, Mom."

Monday, April 23, 2007

Prayers of the Church

This prayer was prayed at church yesterday during worship. I want to meditate on it this week.

Father in heaven, we raise our voices in thanksgiving to You, confessing that we are unable in ourselves to do good or to seek after You. Left to ourselves, we seek only our own peace, our own comfort, our own pleasure. It is Your Holy Spirit who works in us, giving us hearts to love You, changing us, and sanctifying us and our desires so that we may truly seek to glorify You in all that we do. So we pray, dear Father, that You would soften our hearts to hear Your Word, and quiet our wills that we may be guided by Your Spirit. Enable us to see past our own fleshly desires so that, in all we do, Lord, may we seek Your honor and glory.

We pray for the hastening of the day when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that You are the One, True God and that salvation is found in none other than Your Son. Continue to work in Your people to make our efforts effective for the advancement of Your kingdom. Use us as leaven to work in the world around us, transforming lives, throwing down everything that sets itself up in opposition to You, and bringing all things into subjection to Your throne of grace. Give us boldness to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to those around us, and grant that our words would go forth in power to bring the multitudes into Your Church.

Give us also a burning desire to see Your Church built up in faith and good works, washed by the water of Your Word, and cleansed from every spot and wrinkle, that we might be presented to You perfected at the end of time as a Bride for our Bridegroom, Christ Jesus. Give us a sense of urgency to minister within your Church, seeking not only to bless, but also to edify and to exhort one another unto holiness in our lives. Use our worship—the preaching of Your Word, the singing of praise, our prayers and the celebration of the sacraments—to nurture in us an abiding desire to walk worthy of our calling as Christians. Remind us of the privilege that is ours to lift up before You our fellow saints throughout the world, and especially those who worship in the face of persecution and martyrdom. Comfort them with the knowledge that their trials are a fleeting thing compared to the glory that awaits them in the world to come.

Lastly Father, we pray for our needs. We lift up to You all those who suffer from illness, infirmity, and difficult circumstances. We pray first of all for peace and a faithful witness in the midst of trials. We pray that You would be glorified in how we respond to adversity, and that Your strength would be made perfect in our weakness. Remind us that You love us, and that everything You bring into our lives is done out of love for us, Your children. Keep us faithful to You as we seek after healing, as we seek after work, as we look forward to moving and to the birth of new children. And in all this, Lord, grant us what we need. Give us this day our daily bread. In Your mercy, grant us healing, jobs, homes, and safe delivery of children.

Heavenly Father, where there is sin in our lives, root it out and grant us repentance. Where there is complacency, give us zeal for You and Your kingdom. Where there is pride, humble us. Where there is corruption, grant us a desire for purity in thought, word, and deed. Where there is anger and bitterness, grant us a desire for peace. Where there is selfishness, grant us generosity and abundant love. Where there are idols in our lives, give us the desire and the determination to cast them down. And in their place, may we exalt You, our glorious God and King.

We ask all this in confidence, knowing that as we seek Your will for our lives and as we sincerely desire to obey You in all things, we know that You will lead us not into temptation but will deliver us from the Evil One. And so we lift all these prayers up to You and rest in the knowledge that You are our faithful covenant keeping God, praying through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Trying out Blogger

I'm trying out the blogger account I have. I have stuck with Xanga because it's not very complicated and I don't want to spend more time than I already do blogging...or figuring out blogging.
I would like some of the features I see at blogger though. So, here goes!