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…
I am not sure about you, but I take a lot for granted when it comes to worship and my relationship with God. When I worship God with my great church family, I get to do so in a really nice building, in a country with religious freedom, without the threat of credible persecution, in the midst of relative financial stability, and with hardly any opposition. Very little sacrifice is required, at least in comparison to what many Christian brothers and sisters around the world are asked to sacrifice in order to worship the Lord in faithful obedience.
Do I rejoice in this reality? More importantly, though, do I rejoice in the Lord?
On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching through Ezra 3 on “Reclaimed Joy” when life lets us down. For the people of Israel in Ezra’s time, worshiping God was not nearly as “comfortable” as it is for people in our setting, particularly here in America. Does that mean they did not rejoice, though? Does that mean they had no reason to celebrate? No, of course they rejoiced and celebrated because their situation was not their reason for joy. God was. Yes, they wept over their sin and the devastating effects, as should we, but they rejoiced in their God, as should we.
What if things change in this country? What if we lose our religious freedom? What if our beautiful facilities are destroyed? What if opposition to the gospel continues to rise and persecution drastically increases? Will we no longer be able to rejoice? Should we no longer rejoice? No, just like the people of God in Ezra’s time and just like the people of God throughout history, we never stop having the reason to rejoice – God. For He is good; His faithful love endures forever (see, for example, Ezra 3:11; Psalm 100:5; 136:1).
Nothing and no one else – no person, no country, no culture, no building, no job, no treasure – is perfect with faithful love that endures forever. God alone is, and He alone is the One who enables us to reclaim the joy He created us to have. Rejoice because of Him, and in Him you can always rejoice.
When Paul wrote the following words, he was in prison for his faith:
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things” (Philippians 4:4-8).
He did not say (nor does the rest of Scripture teach), “Rejoice in the Lord sometimes. Rejoice only when you are comfortable, safe, and secure.” Rather, rejoicein the Lordalways.
God is our reason for joy. He is the point. Is your life marked by joy? Why or why not? If your answer is not yes because of Jesus, then you will end up devastated, if you are not already. Turn to the Lord and rejoice in Him today.
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.
We had a great day in Tarsus and Mersin today, spending our last day with Nick’s mom before she heads back to the U.S. on Wednesday morning. Hold your cursor over the pictures to see what they are, and you can click on them for a closer view. Also, check out the photos page for more pictures.
Please pray for Nick’s mom to have a safe and smooth trip back tomorrow. She is feeling a little ill today, so pray that her health will improve and that the flights and layovers will go well. Thank you!
Our second trip to Cappadocia proved to be another blessing. We got to go there in July with Marsha’s parents and then went again with Nick’s mom this past weekend. What a blessing it is to experience the beauty of God’s creation and learn about the amazing hand of God in history.
First, we went to an underground city in Derinkuyu. Parts of the underground city date all the way back to the Hittites almost 4,000 years ago. Then, we climbed up the ancient Uçhisar Castle, where one can get an incredible view of the surrounding area. Next, we went to Göreme, the little city in Cappadocia where we stayed in a cave hotel, which was a fascinating experience in itself. The next day we went to the Göreme Open Air museum, a tourist site that has amazing scenery and history with lots of fairy chimneys (cave dwellings) and ancient churches. We also hiked around through some of the valleys, enjoying the exercise and surrounding views.
Unfortunately, Noah caught Levi’s sick bug the second day we were there, so we spent a little more time in the hotel room than we planned. Still, it was a great trip and fun for all of us. See more new pictures on our photos page.
Grandma Jo arrived for the first time in Turkey last Thursday. What a blast Noah and Levi are having with their grandma. Reading books, playing hide-and-seek, going for walks, playing at parks, building “sky-scrapers” with blocks and eating lots of food are just some of the fun times the boys are sharing with Grandma Jo. Of course, Nick and Marsha are loving their time with her, too, and they certainly do not mind all the help she is around the house and with the boys.
While we have not left Adana for any major site-seeing yet, tomorrow we will take a trip to Cappadocia, which is one of the most incredible spots in the world for Christian history and gorgeous scenery. We were fortunate to get to go there in July with Marsha’s parents, so we are excited to go again with Nick’s mom. Of course, the weather will be much more comfortable now than it was during the summertime. Regardless, what a blessing it is to live so close to such an incredible display of God’s creation and His work in history.