Turkey Time

I love this country because I love the people, love the culture, love the food, and love the history! Over the past several days, I have really enjoyed my time here with friends. We have had some great conversations about Jesus, and we have enjoyed Turkish hospitality.

Of course, I am greatly looking forward to being reunited with my family and, Lord willing, will be on my way home when this post is published.

Still, I wanted to share some pictures from my trip…

Breakfast at the hotel in Istanbul
Turkish flag
Çamlıca (overlooking Istanbul)
Asian side of Istanbul looking to the European side
Overlooking Istanbul
My dear friend Umut
On a walk to get some Magnum bars
Sea of Marmara
Riding on a ferry in Istanbul
Crossing from the European side to the Asian side
European side of Istanbul (old city)
Coming over to the Asian side
My good friend Necdet
First Bosphorous Bridge (connecting Europe and Asia)
Muş
1100-year-old church building in Muş
Old bridge outside Muş
Night lights
Van Lake
Enjoyed visiting Akdamar Church
Akdamar Church outside Van
The church building is on an island.
The Fortress of Van
Castle entrance
This castle is around 3,000 years old.
Looking down from the castle
The castle with Van in the background

How do you respond to the sexual revolution?

While “the sexual revolution” is widely regarded to have already taken place (beginning in the 1960s), you could certainly make a strong case that it continues today. Really, though, I would argue that, while the “revolution” of such things by cultural standards and societal norms took place then and continue to take place today, the very ideas of “the sexual revolution” have been happening since the days of Noah, the time of Sodom and Gomorrah, etc.

Regardless of the terms and the times, the revolution of sexual activity has been ongoing for thousands of years and will continue until Jesus Christ returns.

Any practice of sex outside of God’s perfect design, however, is sinful. Sex is a beautiful gift from God but is, per His perfect plan for humanity, meant to be practiced, enjoyed, and celebrated only between a man and his wife. Anything less (or more) will not satisfy and more importantly, will result in God’s judgment.

How many marriages, families, communities, churches, friendships, etc. have been destroyed by sexual sin (pornography, fornication, adultery, homosexuality, masturbation, pedophilia, rape, incest, etc.)? On the other hand, how many marriages, families, communities, churches, friendships, etc. have been destroyed by sexual fidelity? No genius is necessary to accurately answer those two questions (sexual infidelity destroys lives; sexual fidelity promotes and advances life).

THE GRACIOUS WARNING

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching from 2 Peter 2 on the “Grace to Know” God according to the truth of His Word. Unfortunately, the world is full of deception that seeks to push us away from God. By His grace, though, He has preserved and given us His Word to protect us and to teach us how to discern Truth from evil.

In the Bible, we are warned of the very things “the sexual revolution” has promoted and celebrated. Thus, the distortions and abominations should not surprise us, even though we should be saddened and prayerful. God help us!

In His grace, God has warned us not only that the world would be consumed by sexual sin, greed, idolatry, etc., but also what will happen if we turn to those things rather than to Him. Eternal destruction and damnation are the results of giving in to any sin, including sexual sin.

Since we are all sinners, this is really bad news. Praise God, though, that He has provided a solution.

THE WAY OUT

If you are trapped in the snares of sexual sin (or any other sinful lifestyle), please do not lose hope. Please do not give up. Please do not believe the lie that it is too late for your life to matter and for hope to be restored.

The Good News of the gospel is that God loves us so much that He sent Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. He took the punishment that you and I deserve, and then He rose from the grave and defeated sin and death for all of eternity. If we simply turn away from sin and trust in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection for our salvation, we receive forgiveness and a right relationship with God. And, that is more than just our eternal life; our life is different now.

Does that mean we will never struggle with sexual sin (or any other sin) again? Of course not. Rather, that means we will never be content to live in sexual sin (or any other sin) again. As the Holy Spirit of God changes our hearts and our lives, we will continue to grow in our desire to know and follow and obey God according to His Word. We will grow in our ability to discern Truth from evil. We will long to obey God’s Word and heed the advice of the Apostle Paul…

Run from sexual immorality! “Every sin a person can commit is outside the body.” On the contrary, the person who is sexually immoral sins against his own body. Don’t you know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).

What is your response to “the sexual revolution” and the destructive perversion of God’s plan for your life? Will you respond by fleeing from sin and turning to God? Seek Him through His Word. Depend on Him in prayer. Serve Him through His church. Declare Him to the world.

There is a way out from the trap of sin and death. Jesus is the Way. Turn to Him before it is too late. Plead with others to do the same.

The Story explains how we can be delivered from sin and death now and forever.

Having and Being a Micah

In the days of God’s prophet Micah (more than 2,700 years ago), the people of Israel were living in great sin against God, facilitating rampant rebellion and injustice among the people. Micah boldly declared in the midst of the wickedness, “But as for me, I am filled with power by the Spirit of the Lord, with justice and courage, to proclaim to Jacob his rebellion and to Israel his sin” (Micah 3:8).

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching through Micah 3 and challenging those at our outdoor worship celebration to “Respond Rightly to God’s Judgment.” God’s judgment is real and certain, so are you prepared? Are you following the trends of the culture and compromising biblical truth, or are you following Micah’s example with a counter-cultural commitment to biblical truth?

WHO’S YOUR MICAH?

While it was a very overwhelming and difficult task, Micah boldly confronted the sins of Israel. Who is your Micah? Do you have someone (or better yet, someones) in your life holding you accountable and confronting you when you fail to follow God faithfully? Do you have people who will speak up when you are blind to your own sin?

We all need accountability because we all fall short of God’s perfect standard, and we are all prone to the pride of self-justification for our shortcomings. Who is your Micah? Who is asking you the tough questions? Who is challenging you to turn from sinful tendencies and follow God according to His Word?

If you do not have people like Micah in your life, please do not delay. Make sure you are actively involved in a Bible-teaching church, and develop friendships with people you can trust to speak Truth into your life. You will not regret doing such an important, life-changing, life-giving thing.

WHERE’S YOUR MICAH?

Likewise, where is your Micah? In other words, where is the Micah inside of you? Are you walking with Jesus yourself and calling sin what it is – rebellion against a holy God? Are you involved in the lives of other Christ-followers, so that you can lovingly speak Truth into their lives?

Just like you need people to be Micahs in your life, others need you to be a Micah in their lives. We need one another.

If you have come to know and follow Jesus Christ, then you have received His Holy Spirit (see John 14:6, 26; 16:8; Acts 2-28; etc.). And, like Micah, you should gladly declare with purpose, “But as for me, I am filled with power by the Spirit of the Lord, with justice and courage, to proclaim…

The Spirit of God will not allow you to be content to live in sin (see 1 John), and the Spirit of God will not allow you to be content with others living in sin (see 2 Corinthians 5:17-6:2).

No, you will not come down on others in prideful condescension but rather with a loving urgency to respond to the Lord in faith and repentance. We all need Micahs in our lives, and we all – by the work of the Holy Spirit – are called to be Micahs in the lives of one another.

Are you compelled to stand up for God’s Word and declare His Truth? If not, would you turn to Him and ask Him to take over your life?

THE ONLY PERFECT MICAH

Only the Son of God, Jesus Christ our Lord, perfectly fulfilled the Law and the Prophets. Only He was and is the perfect Micah – the One who could always speak Truth into people’s lives because He is the Truth. And, only He can change your life in such a way that you too will desire to have people like Micah regularly speaking into your life, as well as being a Micah in the lives of others.

If you want to both have a Micah and be a Micah, make sure you have Christ. Make sure you faithfully serve Him and serve His church. Let us walk alongside one another to bring God the glory and to be a blessing to others.

Learn and trust the Good News of the gospel. Check out The Story.

Religion and the most meaningful gift

God's Grace
DrakeCity tends to be more of a family Website than a blog where I share my thoughts, opinions and convictions. Tonight, though, I’m shifting the pattern and sharing, of all things, an essay I was asked to write this weekend. A local university student working on a project with English speakers asked me to answer the two questions below, and I decided to share my answers with the world…or the few people who follow DrakeCity.

1. During a Turkish religious holiday, what procedures are done? What did you feel during this time?

The religious holiday that stands out most to me in Turkey is the Kurban Bayram? (Sacrifice Holiday). During this holiday, Muslim people sacrifice an animal, such as a sheep, goat or cow, and they keep a portion of the meat for themselves, give a portion to their friends and neighbors, and then give a portion to the poor. Remembering when God provided a ram for Abraham to sacrifice in place of his son, the sacrifice holiday is a very special holiday for Muslim people.

Having lived in Turkey more than five years now, I’ve experienced five of these holidays and learned many things about religion and culture as a result of them. What I first understood to be a “sacrifice” for right-standing before God and forgiveness of sins, I later learned from most of my Muslim friends is really more of an offering to others. In other words, the word “sacrifice” means something different in this context than what I first thought. Whereas the ram God provided Abraham was a replacement sacrifice to take the place of Abraham’s son on the mountain, the “sacrifices” done during the Sacrifice Holiday for Muslims is a way for people to show their devotion to God and to help others.

In fact, I was surprised to learn that many of my friends don’t even really consider the religious implications behind the holiday. Rather, they do it more as a cultural tradition. Many of my friends even said that although they used to do it, they don’t purchase a sacrifice anymore because they just don’t have the time, the money and/or the desire to participate.

Yes, the first sacrifice holiday I experienced while living in Adana, Turkey, was definitely a bit of a culture shock for me. For a few weeks leading up to the holiday, we saw sheep being gathered in a parking lot across the street from our apartment building. My sons enjoyed watching the sheep out the window and talking about them. On the first day of the holiday, though, the sheep were led out to the street where a butcher slit their throats and prepared the bodies for edible meat and delicacies. This was definitely a new cultural experience for us WesternersJ!

I also had the opportunity to go along with my neighbors to another field a few blocks away, where the sheep they had purchased was sacrificed and butchered. Walking through the bloody field with sheep and goat legs scattered everywhere and doing my best to avoid stepping in piles of sheep dung and guts, I will admit I struggled to understand the reality of all of this.

Honestly, though, my biggest struggle was that the people around me didn’t accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, who freely gave Himself to die on the cross for our sins, so that if we call on and trust in His name, we could be saved. This continues to be what I feel every year during the Sacrifice Holiday and every day when I talk about my faith with Muslim people. Do I look down on them for what they believe or do? Absolutely not! I do hope and pray, though, that they will one day believe in the most amazing and gracious sacrifice ever given. I am no better than them or anyone else. We are all sinners in need of God’s sacrificial love.

2. What is a meaningful gift you have given or received?

The most meaningful gift that comes to mind is what I believe to be the most meaningful gift ever given in all of history – the gift of salvation. Of course, only God can give this gift, and it will not be fully realized and understood until Jesus Christ returns to earth to judge the living and the dead.

I am beyond grateful to share, though, that I have received this gift. During my sophomore year of college, when I was 20 years old, I came to the realization that I had been living my life only for myself. Although I claimed to love God, I really only cared about girls and sports and becoming successful in life. Frankly, I was on the path to hell and did not to that point realize it.

Thankfully, though, God opened my eyes and my heart to understand His Truth. I began studying the Bible like never before, began asking many questions to my friends and others, and was continually praying for God to reveal the Truth to me. Well, He did just that when through reading His Word and talking to a Christian pastor, I realized that I was a sinner in need of a savior. There was no hope for me, even though I had lived a “good life.” No, I didn’t do drugs; I didn’t drink alcohol; I didn’t smoke; I didn’t sleep around; I didn’t steal; I didn’t kill anyone; I went to church; I tried to be nice to others; I believed in God; etc.

BUT, none of that erased the fact that I was still a sinner. I was (and still am) a sinner, and God is perfect and holy. There is no way for a wretched sinner like myself to spend eternity with a holy God in heaven. Well, there is no human way possible. God, though, made a way for us. He sent his One and only Son to live a perfect life, die on the cross for our sins and rise from the dead, so that anyone who believes in Him as Savior and Lord will not spend eternity in hell but will instead spend eternity in heaven.

When I came to that realization in November 4, 1998, it was the best day of my life. I had been given the greatest gift any person could ever possibly receive – the removal of all my sin debt and eternal life with Christ Jesus my Lord. Wow!

Sometimes when we receive gifts, we say things like, “Thanks! This is perfect!” In reality, though, nothing is perfect. Nothing, of course, except for the love of God given through His Son Jesus Christ. This perfect gift of endless love is said so well in Paul’s letter to the Romans nearly 2,000 years ago: “God demonstrates His own love for us in this – while we were still sinner, Christ died for us.”

Do we deserve this perfect gift of love and sacrifice? No, we deserve wrath and damnation. Can we earn this amazing gift? No, it’s a gift that cannot be earned. The only thing we have earned is eternal death and separation from our holy God. Can we buy this precious gift? No, a gift this amazing cannot be purchased with money. It was already purchased with the blood of Jesus Christ. It was sealed with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And, it will one day be fully realized by those who put their faith in Jesus Christ. Praise God for this perfect gift!

Papa, Uncle Scot and Church History

The same day my mom, sister Steph and nieces left, Marsha’s dad and our brother-in-law Scot arrived in Istanbul. While it was very difficult to say goodbye to the Drakes, we were excited to see “Papa” and “Uncle Sockey.” They did come, though, with a group from Midwestern Seminary, so they unfortunately did not get to spend a lot of time in Istanbul. I joined them and the rest of the group as we toured the sites of the seven churches of Revelation and some other historical biblical sites near the Aegean Sea. Below are some pictures from our time together, both at home in Istanbul and on our tour.

Noah and Levi can never get enough quality time with their Papa.
Noah and Levi can never get enough quality time with their Papa Tony.

Noah had fun playing with his Uncle Scot and wearing his glasses.
Noah had fun both playing with his Uncle Scot and wearing Scot's glasses.

Noah was trying to look like Papa with his shirt, glasses and pen.
Noah was trying to look like Papa with his shirt, glasses and pen in the shirt.

Dr. Tomlinson (from MBTS) was acting like Jesus and cursing the fig tree.
Dr. Tomlinson (from MBTS) was acting like Jesus and cursing the fig tree.

This had the steepest seating of any known theater in the ancient world.
The steepest seating of any known theater in the ancient world.

Standing on the ancient road in Ephesus leading to the Library of Celsus.
Standing on the ancient road in Ephesus leading to the Library of Celsus.

I was pondering life, education and religion in front of the Library of Celsus.
Pondering life, education and religion in front of the Library of Celsus.

Looking down into an ancient latrine and imaging what life was like back then.
Looking down into an ancient latrine and imagining 1st Century life.

This 44,000-seat theater is the location of the persecution in Acts 19:29ff.
This 44,000-seat theater is the location of the persecution in Acts 19:29ff.

Once one of the ancient wonders of the world, this is all that remains.
Once one of the ancient wonders of the world, this is all that remains.

Scot enjoying an ancient latrine (pretending, of course) in the city of Sardis.
Scot enjoying an ancient latrine (pretending, of course) in Sardis.

These ancient hot springs and travertines Pamukkale were incredible.
These ancient hot springs and travertines in Pamukkale were incredible.

This was the focal point of Aphrodisias and later became a Christian basilica.
Once the focal point of Aphrodisias & later a Christian basilica.

No, this is not an ancient trash can, but it's always nice to have them around.
No, this is not an ancient trash can, but it's always nice to have them around.

This ancient stadium was, in my opinion, the most impressive of all the remains.
This ancient stadium was, in my opinion, the most impressive of all remains.

Dr. Wilder (MBTS, Lifeway) and our tour guide posing for a pic in Thyatira.
Dr. Wilder (MBTS, Lifeway) and our tour guide posing for a pic in Thyatira.