Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Defining Spiritual Moment of My Summer...

...Happened in Istanbul, Turkey on July 17th at about 4:00 am (?). It was one of the most vivid and real dreams I've had. It didn't feel like a dream in the sense that it felt more like reality- the spiritual intersecting the natural. Here it is as I recorded it in my journal...

"I heard a terrible noise outside. I can't remember the exact sound, but the feeling it evoked was fear. A frightening, "I'm about to die" kind of fear. I have a clear vision of this demonic being who had the form of a man, but looked like a man mixed with beast. He was performing an unspeakable sexual act with two women. He sent in his buddy (similar to him in form and evil, but lesser in power). I saw him fly in though our window, which was open (and was also "physically" open). These demons seemed to have their home in this section of Istanbul. He came over me and I rolled over, pretending to be asleep. After reporting to his boss that I was asleep, the boss wasn't satisfied. So he came to see me for himself. As he came in the room, I heard the terrible stench of alcohol. He leaned over me, as I slept (actually pretended to sleep) with my mouth open. As he lowered toward me his alcohol breath became overwhelming. He was trying to go mouth to mouth (not to kiss, but to breath into me). I awoke (in my dream) and saw his hellish figure over me. He raised his hand and came in to kill me. I could only get out the words, 'Help me. Help m...' I seem to remember trying to say the name 'Jesus' but I couldn't get it out. All I could say was "Help me." But before I could even get out the second 'me' something from behind tapped (clubbed?) him on the back. Whatever or whoever hit him I don't know. I didn't ever see them, but their action was calm and effortless. The hellish demon fell to the ground. I seem to remember the beast dissolve into a pile of sand, which disappeared. My fear vanished, as I knew that God had commanded the devil to be struck down. The line from Luther's great hymn is what stuck out to me, 'One little word shall fell him.' I awoke, and immediately shared the dream with Tim."

The meaning of this dream or vision has given me great hope in the power of Jesus, whose Name is above all names. It has given me more resolve in praying, "your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

I'm also heading into a season of ministry where I'm expectantly optimistic about the work of the kingdom at Iowa State University and abroad. I'm convinced that "the arm of flesh will fail [us], we dare not trust our own." (click here for the old rhyme).

Moreover, I'm supposed to preach on Daniel 10 at Cornerstone in a month. I'm convicted of my need to be more aware of the spiritual battle around me and to be steadfast in clinging to Jesus.

I'll end with a toast to the God who is able to vanquish the enemy with a word... Soli Deo Gloria.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Shack

Although I haven't landed on my opinion about this book, Mark Driscoll has the best take I've heard yet on The Shack (click here).

Friday, July 25, 2008

My life in a nutshell

This is a good summary of my life.

I was on my way out to the compost pile with watermelon and egg shells stacked on a plate. 

Literally one second after Leatha said, "Mark, do you need some help?"...

Thursday, July 24, 2008


My sister and her family were in town. The kids love seeing their cousins from So Cal.

We celebrated my return from Turkey by going to the Story County fair. Here we are in with the Swine... if you're not from a farm community, you'll never fully appreciate how bad it sucked to be the Prodigal Son.
One of the dangers of any county fair in Iowa- poop on the wheel of your stroller. Who knows what animal it came from... As we walked into the hog barn, Leatha said, "this is why I don't eat pork."
You can never be too safe when learning to walk and ride your fisher price toys. I guess it's what happens when you're a one year old at the mercy of your safety conscious sister.

When I was little, the only helmet we wore was our skull. Speaking of which... I just got busted with an elbow playing basketball. This is the poor man's stitches... I was even too cheap (or lazy, one of the two) to go to Walmart to get some super glue.

Monday, July 21, 2008


This was my Turkey reading on the plane. I'm on a journey to not just be open to, but expecting God to do supernatural, unexplainable work among us.

Since I'm suspicious of most charismatics (due to my own pride, to be sure), I've had to read guys that I respect as scholars. Sam Storms is another great example (I already posted on J.P. Moreland's new book).

This book was actually a lot more helpful than Moreland's. Although I'm not a huge fan of his writing style (he over does his disclaimers and often repeats himself), he covers most of the issues I have thought about. For example, the role of dreams, visions, deliverance, the voice of God in guiding us, etc.

Sam's voice is one we cannot ignore. I love his graciousness in giving the benefit of the doubt, avoiding harsh judgmentalism at all costs. I appreciate his desire to bring God's people together on this issue. It's well worth the read.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Turkey pics

These pictures are little "touristy" but it's the only time I thought to snap some shots w/ Tim's iphone.

This is overlooking an Armenian city that was hopping just 80 years ago- now is desolate. I thought of my friends, the Hartounian brothers. God bless you and your Armenian brothers.
An ancient minnerette on top of the castle. Great place to pray over the whole city.

The Grand Bizarre in Istanbul, where you could get lost so easily. It's basically a 400 year old mall.

Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom) church and center of Christianity for 1,000 years. It was overtaken and converted into a mosque. Otto Turk declared it a neutral historical sight about 70 years ago.
The Blue Mosque just a couple hundred years from the Hagia Sophia. They tried to make the Mosque bigger, but couldn't succeed- they fell about 15 feet short. Legend has it the architect was killed b/c of it.
This is one of the few mosaics left in the church. Christians tore them all down during the iconoclast controversy in the 10th century. Some were covered by plaster by the Muslims, and ironically the ones they covered are the few that survived.
This is one of the entrance doors to the church. You can see how the Muslims busted the sides off the cross and put them in the shape of an arrow.
This was where the guards stood in the church. You can't see it very well, but this marble is literally worn down where the guards stood. This marble is about 1500 years old. Apparently, if you stand in one place for 1500 years, you'll make a groove in solid marble. Amazing.
Inside the Hagia Sophia. Where my elbow is on the ledge, there is Viking graffiti.
Everyday we crossed the Bosphorus straight, which separates Istanbul and Europe and Asia. So everyday we crossed continents.
Tim snapped this while I was daydreaming on the train. The ride made us both sick, and Tim encouraged me, "Don't think of this as an unnecessarily long Metro ride, think of it as a cheap tour of Istanbul." Perspective is everything.

Highlights of the trip-
- seeing the Cornerstoners who are all doing an incredible job. I'm so proud of you guys!
- a vivid dream that I will never forget. Perhaps I'll share it when I speak on Daniel 10 at Cornerstone.
- sharing the good news with a Turk on the plane ride back. I've never shared with a more hungry person. It was a divine appointment for sure.
- praying over a city in Eastern Tky, a city of 500,000 with a handful of believers.
- hearing the testimonies of 3 Turks, which confirms that any time someone is saved, it's the greatest of all miracles.
- Hanging with Tim Lubinus, a great brother in the Lord. He is one of the sharpest m's I've ever talked to.
- Being reminded that reaching the nations should be a top priority of every church. Why? Because it's at the top of God's list.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Turkey Ironies and Questions...

Would a "building centered" church ever work in Turkey? Would having a building be imposing on the Turks a Western way of doing church? These are my questions.

The Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom- largest church in Christendom for 1,000 years) in Istanbul, Turkey (then Constantinople).

Anglicans, Armenians, and other news from Tky

I haven't had much time to blog. It seems like we're walking the whole time and everything is up hill both ways. It's ridiculous. If I were more of a servant it wouldn't be so bad. But my feet are dirty and someone needs to wash my feet. Tim isn't willing. Slacker.

Jeff- (excluding Leatha, of course) you know that no one will be able to replace you as my main overseas travelling partner. However, Tim L. is in the running. Dude is hilarious because he's so smart and such a clear thinker (sort of like myself)- he calls stuff as it is. I'm not smart and I just call stuff- not always as it is (many times as it isn't). But I'm blown away by his insight and ability to scope out, see the issues, then provide a solution. He's a "can do" "get it done" guy. The only dissappointment is that I used to think, "Well, at least Tim is in style in Turkey..." I've confirmed he's still two decades behind here as well. Don't worry Tim, soon your white socks w/ penny loafers, matrix glasses, and plaid shirts will be back (I've got friends in SoCal that say it's surging back- should hit the Midwest by '010.

We've got some great pics which I'll post as soon as Tim gets the iphone online. The battery went out right before the cuneiform on the ancient stone. No problem, Tim, I'll get it next time I come in 10 years.

We met with an Anglican pastor. He's Turkish and has an MDiv from Wycliffe in Canada. Brilliant thinker. I agreed with him on almost everything he said. I told him we had a coffee shop in our church. He said they have wineries. (Pete Matthews, if you're out there, I thought of you). Maybe Cstone needs to consider Anglican. Imagine Rectors Jeff and Troy...

I've had many social blunders. Like telling the priest I'd show him by butt to prove I was more white than him. (Turks also consider themselves "white") He said, "That's enough."

I cleaned my glasses with handsoap in a Turkish restaurant. I'll give you two guesses... they were dirty from all the travel around Turkey OR they dropped into the squatty potty and got 'dirty.' They were $12 Walgreens glasses, there was no way I was throwing them away...

Our friends who work here have just been added to my list of heroes. Bless them if you know them and their work here.

F-16s came close to us as we stood on top of this 2,900 year old castle. They were headed toward Iraq (just a few hours away). You'll probably hear on the news what they were doing.

There are many more stories to tell. Hopefully some will be through pics.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Today was refreshing. Any time I've met with fellow Cstoner's it always is.

Lunch with Scott Rank was awesome. He reminded me of the G.K. Chesterton quote, "Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly."

We can all agree on one thing. Anything that happens here won't be b/c of our skill and brain power. It will be an awakening of the H.S. God have mercy on Turkey.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Day 4 in the Ekklesialogical Octagon

There is something much more exciting than MMA.

"In this corner, with a seminary degree from Trinity, 8 years of overseas experience- give it up for the humble, hospitable, Jesus loving... Brian T..."
"In the other corner, with some sketchy church based training, 4 days (3 1/2 really) of experience in Turkey, with a big mouth, and just enough knowledge of Greek to be dangerous- put your hands together for the proud and arrogant...Mark Arant" (the crowd goes wild!!)

Okay, so it's not Ultimate Fighting, but watching me cage fight with the workers here about how to go about church planting has to at least be mildly entertaining. Last night I had Brian tapping out with the 1 Corinthians 14:22-26 hold. Tonight I got him with a practical example of another church that is working here (to which I was accused of being a pragmatist.)

If you are just browsing for one of Leatha's recipes or a family pic, please stop here.
If Mark has had you fooled into thinking he is a humble person and you want to keep that image of him. Please stop here.
If you want to hear a rant about church planting overseas. Read on.

The hip trend in overseas work is the house church movement. This involves contextualization (making church as normal as possible for the people group you're working with) and reproducability (don't help the locals out in any way financially). So, we can't do buildings, we can't have traditional church services and we can't pay their rent or salaries with foreign money.

So the solution to planting a church where there is no church is to share JC, disciple new followers for 6 months, then put the handful of people together and hope they figure out how to do church. Here's the problem: it's not working.

Here's the other problem: the traditional model (rent a building- worship through song and teach the Bible) is working. The Vineyard dudes blow into town, set up some drums, crank up their amps, teach them how to interpret the Bible, dreams, etc- and there are churches to show for it. The Presbyterians (the kind who believe in Jesus) say some chants, say the Lord's prayer (good for them!) teach the Bible, get some charisma from the Florida revival (I'm not even joking)- and boom the church is rockin'.

Granted, planting a church in Turkey isn't as easy as "just add water" but...

Of course the Turks don't know how to do church- they won't know unless we show them body life and what church even looks like. The workers here refuse to let the Turks be apart of their fellowships. They say, "church is for believers, not unbelievers." That's when I dropped the 1 Cor. 14:22-ff bomb.

It's this ecclesiological (beliefs about church) haze that bothers me. Or maybe it's an opinion (they need to do church this way) that is not working. I know we've had a few disagreements about how to do church over the years, but when I think the Anglicans, Presbyterians, and Vineyard brothers (ok, that's not such a stretch) are leading the way in fulfilling the Great Commission, shouldn't we humble ourselves and do it the way we do it in America (GASP!)

How many stories do we have in Cstone of people driving into the parking lot and saying, "God is here" or weeping through the service? Hundreds. (that's not exageration)

Here are some findings I have unearthed in 4 days:
- Turks think going to a house meeting is wack. That's what the communists did.
- A building makes the meeting/church service feel legit.
-Turks want a place to visit and see church firsthand (the only 3 Turkish testimonies I heard involved observing the church in action and being compelled by it. One even saw a vision of the Vineyard church building that God would lead him to weeks later).
- When our student was asked by a Turk, "Can I visit your church?" our student had to say, "Sorry you can't come." Isn't there something wrong with that?

Are you kidding me?!!! It's 1:21 am?

Brian, I know you're reading. You have been an awesome host to me this week and an example of Christ in flesh.

Now get back into the cage and let the readers hear your side (Fair warning- this blog is not a level playing field, as I will delete any comments I don't like or think will give you the upperhand) :)

Turkish bath statistics

65% American men laying in birthday suits on hot marble

17% Old, angry masseusses (give them a break- you would be angry too if you had to scrub down naked men in a 160 degree steam room)

9% 430 year old Hamam (Turkish bath)

9% Turkish German who spoke English (and wanted me to know Poland is where all the pretty women live. "After all," he said, "Monika Lewinsky is from Poland." I responded to him, "No, you can't be right about Poland- my wife is from Iowa." Most Americans wouldn't even get that joke. Iowa? Famous for potatoes?

0% SUV's parked out front

Here is the high school team with Turan, a Turkish believer on trial for his faith. His testimony could've been a story from Acts 29. He came to Christ through a vision and God connected him to Christians through a newspaper ad meant to deride Christians in Turkey. Oops, the enemy overplayed his hand on that one.

I think what the workers need here is a shot of vision. When you work in a place where the work is as hard as it is here, you can't stop expecting. We all need a shot of Habakkuk, "Lord, I have heard of your fame. I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord. Renew them in our time and in our day. In wrath, remember mercy."

Don't stop believing...

That's like a crash landing end to a blog post- trite lyrics from an 80's hair band...

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The blessing of jetlag is...

...You wake up at 2 a.m. with nothing to do but pray. It's especially good if you have the Hillsong pre-release (thanks Jamie!) to offset the Imam's call to prayer. I've said it before and I'll say it again- the song "You'll come" is anointed. What a blessing it was to my restless, desiring to go back to sleep (but couldn't) soul! I prayed for my friends who are having a hard time sleeping at night. May God give you rest.

Here's my friend Scott Rank, who is studying here. Dude is hilarious. He's in the "Ben Bradley" genre of people.

He has a sharp mind and knows everything there is to know about Turkey. Funny story... he has a friend who converted to Catholicism, so as a prank, every October 31st (anniversary of Reformation) he posts the 95 things he doesn't like about him on his door.

Here's Tim and on the Asian side of Istanbul, overlooking the Bosphorus/European side of Turkey. I saw Tim hug some team members, but not others. I learned that there was a formula for getting a hug from Tim: If he hasn't seen you for more than a week and you're in a foreign country overseas, then you qualify. Right before this picture was snapped, he said, "You don't need to get too close, we don't want to obstruct the view."

Our fellowship with the team (about 20 from Cstone and 10 others) was awesome this morning. I had the privilege of leading worship and sharing from the Word- a challenge to "live in the Lord's prayer." (an idea borrowed from Dallas Willard, who borrowed it from Jesus) Tim did a great job sharing from Daniel 7 and Matthew 13- the gospel will prevail among the nations!

Friday, July 11, 2008


I'll update as I'm able to find internet.

So far the trip was good. The benefit of travelling with Tim Lubinus, in addition to the fact that his IQ is just shy of omniscient (he took me to peruse the art museum in the Amsterdam airport- if you enjoy that stuff, congratulations- you're smart. That and if you like classical music, as Tim did on the way to the airport. I was thinking "yeeehaaw, we got 'r dun"...wow...Redneck meets Rembrant...is that ever a clash of worlds) is that we got upgraded to business class from Amsterdam to Istanbul. He's got some silver status with the airline. Basically, it means we got Ben & Jerry's ice cream with our meal. It was all worth it.

Rab'be Beraketlisin! (let it be w/ the L's blessing)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Swimming in the Backyard

The kids have been wanting to set up the pool all summer but I've been holding out. Mark left for Turkey today so I figured the blow-up pool would be a good distraction.  It's  a lot more manageable than taking all four to the real pool by myself.

Tonight we went to Aldi and I let them pick out a few treats for the week ahead. Cameron wanted chocolate cookies so we got them. He was very disappointed when he tried them later. He said they tasted like raisins. 

This may sound pathetic to some but having Mark gone is somewhat traumatic for us. Normally if Mark is home he will put the kids to bed but in preparation for this trip I've been doing it for the past couple of weeks. I always ask the kids for prayer requests and then we pray. The general theme tonight was that Mark wouldn't get killed. Beck prayed that Dad wouldn't slide off the plane.  I keep reminding them that the time will go fast and we're going to do lots of fun things. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A blog I've really enjoyed having on my Google Reader is Adrian Warnock (click here). He is a theologically minded, reformed, charismatic. I have those same inclinations.

He is in London and apart of a cool movement of churches called Newfrontiers. He has some great interviews with people like John Piper, Mark Driscoll, Wayne Grudem, etc, along with sermon links and other cool stuff.

It's more than you will ever have time for. But I've discovered reading the right blogs is more productive than the morning newspaper and evening news. It becomes a case of iron sharpening iron (wisdom, as opposed to just taking in more information). I haven't decided if ours is one of those yet. Ours may be like one butter knife sharpening another.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Anglican's Dilemma

There is quite a bit in the news about the Anglican church and how they will land on the homosexuality issue.

We were discussing this in the aforementioned Augustine class. You might not know that the African branch of the Anglican church is a radical, evangelistic, Bible preaching group. So they are holding the line on this issue (i.e. "homosexuality is a sin- we should not condone it among our clergy"). The African Anglicans also outnumber those in the "West."

Alex commented, "So you've got the liberal Anglican Church of England, trying to be so tolerant of the views of the Africans... They're already carrying the colonial guilt of the past. So now, how will they respond to the Africans Christ followers? Will they ignore the conservative black majority? You can imagine God in heaven, 'Check mate.'"

So true.

Monday, July 7, 2008

St. Augustine

I just finished the first 9 books of Augustine's Confessions for a "Christian classics" reading group. It's the closest extra-biblical writing that I've been tempted to consider my daily devotion. Augustine's love for God sets a new standard for me. I'll give my favorite paragraph from the book, followed by some lessons:

"Let the proud deride me, O God, and all whom you have not yet laid low and humiliated for the salvation of their souls; but let me still confess my sins to you for your honor and glory. Allow me, I beseech you, to trace again in memory my past deviation and to offer you a sacrifice of joy. Without you I am my own guide to the brink of perdition. And even when all is well with me, what am I but a creature suckled on your milk and feeding on yourself, the food that never perishes? And what is any man, if he is only man? Let the strong and mighty laugh at men like me: let us, the weak and the poor, confess our sins to you."

Here are some highlights from our reading group/class, led by Alex Tuckness, a political philosophy professor at Iowa State (and one of the smartest and most devoted Christ followers I know):
- Augustine basically invented the autobiography with this book

- He is brilliantly introspective and clearly entranced by the glory of God. Augustine's view of life was that everything flows out of love for God. His relationship with God seems effortless. As Alex said, "when you're in love with something, you don't have to work hard to want to know it."

- He believed in the total depravity of man (he confesses his selfishness as an infant, screaming for his mother's milk), which made him love and cherish the gift of grace all the more. He was one blasphemous, immoral, depraved maama jamma before Christ (at one point he made fun of his friend for getting baptized on his death bed)

- His mother's example as one who prayed without ceasing and with great anguish and tears was inspiring, to say the least. Her husband (Augustine's dad) was not a Christian, and she honored him. It was so instructive to parents who have wayward children and/or unbelieving spouses- keep praying for and honoring them. She didn't try to comfort herself with ("When he was 4, he prayed the prayer..."). Books 8 and 9, about his conversion are so worth the read.

- Augustine (in his book, City of God) reminds us not to use the newspaper to inform our theology of end times. Every Christian in Rome was a post-millenialist, convinced that God was using Rome to bring mass conversion before his return. Then, Rome was overtaken in 410 and all of a sudden everyone blamed the Christians for its demise ("we were doing fine for 500 years as a pagan nation until everyone started converting to Cnty.") We do the same thing. Someday I'll get around to posting about why I think we're in the millenium, why I don't believe the anti-Christ (or rather why I believe in many...), why there is no future tribulation, and why you don't have to worry about getting a 666 stamp/computer chip on your wrist and forehead.

- His view of entertainment was so convicting I can hardly think about it too much.

- His critique of science could've been written today.

- Augustine had some wacked interpretations of Scripture. But it's humbling to me, to be careful about the things I choose to be dogmatic about.

- His apologetics were more historically situated than, say Anselm, whose thoughts don't need as much historical context to be understood.

- We are indebted to Augustine for his thoughts on Just War Theory and the Inquisition. Crazy enough, his ideas were used to advocate persecution. It sounds absurd, but his reasoning was something like, "If making the Donatists go back to church is working, why would we let them go to hell if we can do something about it? If we can save people by "compelling them" (he used the Banquet story of Jesus to justify this), why not do it?"

Summary: I hope to be more like Augustine in his love for God, while learning from his flaws.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Discussions regarding the Holy Spirit

I mentioned earlier this week that a handful of our elder team would be meeting to discuss Kingdom Triangle by J.P. Moreland. We met yesterday. The discussion centered around the supernatural workings of the Spirit and how that looks in our church.

Let me just say, if you're a person who has to have closure- you'd be frustrated by our meetings.

We floundered around for awhile, then never really landed the plane. There were passionate discussions followed by a resolve to keep seeking God for all he wants to do in our church.

So if you're looking for a "as a result of this meeting, we are going to..." I think the closest thing I can say is "...pray with more faith."

We have a beautiful diversity of elders that work as a team to shape our church. Sometimes for young guys like me, it's beautifully frustrating. But I think God is more concerned about me learning to submit than he is about me being right (which I am).

So today, in typical Cornerstone fashion, Paul Sabino comes strolling into my office with an idea for a practical joke. I've already told you he's one of the funniest human beings I know. The context is that I wanted us to read Moreland's book because he is so respected as a great Christian thinker. I knew some of our elders were more likely to give him a listen than, say, John Wimber (he has a flaming charismatic stigma to many conservative Christians).

Anyway, Paul found a fellow pastor's Kingdom Triangle book cover in the trash. So we used it as the cover for Wimber's book Power Healing, then attached this note and put it on this person's desk:

"I hope you enjoy my new book that will surely shake the foundations of your 'open but cautious' stance regarding supernatural signs and wonders. Stop straightjacketing your college pastor, and enjoy my new book (a follow-up to KT)- The Kingdom Rhombus: Releasing Your Theological Death Grip. Best Wishes- J.P. Moreland (in my best impression of his autograph).

Nothing communicates like some good 'ol mockery and practical jokes... I love this church!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Anthem DVD and website

We just finished the Anthem DVD and (new) website!

Just click the playlist to hear the 6 original songs we wrote for this event. As I said in a previous post, we are currently awaiting studio time to record the full Anthem album. In the next couple days there will be a video montage on the website, along with a place where you can purchase the DVD.

For the website, click here or copy and paste www.anthemworship.com in your web browser.

May the generations to come surpass us in passion for God.

Barukh sheim k'vod malkhuto l'olam va'ed