Wednesday, April 30, 2008

don't miss the talent show


at 7 p.m.
in our church in Gumushsuyu

Great program, good music,
tasty food and
excellent fellowship.


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Christ in Ajaria, Georgia

don't cry about it

We all can take so much more.
Whenever we experience disappointments, resistance
and pain, we are actually strengthened for even greater
attacks. Resistance is one of the best tools for exercise.
Instead of complaining about our problems we should
plan on getting the best out of them.
The old saying “no pain, no gain” is meant to encourage
people to try harder. It has even a deeper truth to it.
Easy victories don’t taste good for a long time.
In God’s plan problems smell the same as promises.
Jesus spoke about poverty, hunger and weeping as
a blessing in our life in Luke 6:20-21.
Without the future promises, these trials would look like
a punishment. With eternity attached to them they
turn into fantastic opportunities.
Let’s not complain and cry about the sinfulness around us.
Let’s throw more salt into the wounds of the world.
Healing comes with pain.
Victories come after battles.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Temuri with grapefruits from their family's garden

life is tough today in the former Soviet Ajaria

Ajar teens

the cross is everywhere in Batumi

Easter Celebration in Batumi


I arrived in Batumi just in time for the Easter Celebrations.
Thursday night the church was surrounded by hundreds of
people who came to the sanctuary to lighten their candle and
carry it home, carefully protecting the flame from quenching.
I saw a deep devotion and conviction in this valuable ritual.
They carried the candle as if their whole future would depend
on their ability to keep the fire burning.
I was still trying to figure out the demographics of this place.
Ajaria is the area that the Russians took from the Turks
at the end of the RussoTurkish war.
The people here have been known as the Muslim Georgians,
even though more than half of the population is Christian.
I was surprised to see the symbol of the cross everywhere.
People carried it around their neck, on their doors, in all public
places. Even the most popular graffiti seemed to be a cross
with the inscription INRI under it.
The first afternoon I went to walk on the boulevard.
I saw a man sitting by the water and staring at the sea.
I strongly felt prompted to go and sit next to him.
He was badly beaten by life. He had a life-less face with
no expectation for any change.
He introduced himself as Temuri.
I felt strongly God’s love for this man.
I was just sitting there with him and waiting for him to
become curious. We talked.
He invited me to his home to talk more.
We talked around the kitchen table.
I shared about forgiveness, the greatest power in our life.
He listened and asked me to talk more.
Finally it was time to go and I proposed for us to pray.
He had never prayed in his life.
During the prayer I sensed a strong presence of God to fill
the room. After the final amen I looked at him and saw his
face shining. It was the same light that I have witnessed in
so many times, when faith was born in a person’s life.
Next day he had thousands of questions. He wanted me to
sing him worship songs. He wrote down the words for
every song that I sung. He said, “When you’ll be gone,
I want to continue singing.”
Pray for Batumi.
People are broken and ready.
We will be back.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

"sometimes I wonder"

who is sitting next to you?

A strange thought amused me yesterday.
I pictured Mother Theresa sitting next to the Barbie Doll
in the church. I have not had any friendship with neither
of them, but I understood that the church is the only place
where they could be sitting together. I also understood that
I should be very careful not to judge any of them by sight.
They represent two different worlds, two kinds of value
systems. If they both come for the second time the church
has somewhat managed to minister to them. If they continue
coming , they will sooner or later start looking less like Theresa
and less like Barbie. They will be more like Christ.
Isn’t that what the church is all about?
We proudly say, “Come as you are.”
That is a bold invitation.
Shouldn’t we add, “as long as you are not smelling bad;
you have a steady job; you have a place to live in;
you promise not to ask for any money; you speak our language;
you are really honest, humble and sincere…
The unwritten list goes on in our minds.
“But we want to feel comfortable in the church.”
I agree, but I don’t agree with the church becoming
a comfort zone for our flesh.
“ and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and
say to him,” You sit here in a good place,” and say to
the poor man, “You stand there,” or, “sit here at my footstool,”
have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become
judges with evil thoughts?” James 2:3-4
I continued my thoughts and pictured Bin Laden and Santa Clause
sitting together in the second row.

Monday, April 21, 2008

fullness of joy in the science center, Garip spinning around

God cannot

It’s so comforting to know that we cannot change God.
This is the foundation for our security.
God cannot lie.
He cannot go against his own character.
God cannot contradict himself.
He cannot compromise nor ignore anything.
He cannot stop existing.
Jesus was very straight forward with Peter when he tried
to stop him from going to Jerusalem. He could not but go.
Quitting at this time would go against his character.
Other disciples were checking Jesus’ connections by
applying for a position through their mother in Matthew 20.
Jesus points out that he has chosen not to work that way.
The same happened in Luke 9 when they proposed to ask
for the fire to come down and consume those who didn’t
accept him. He told them that they were off. He came to save,
not to destroy.
In Matthew 26:39 Jesus , still learning things in his humanity,
asked the Father if there would be a way to avoid the sufferings.
I’m sure that if it would have been possible to provide salvation
in any other way God would have done it.
His character could not agree with anything less.
It seems clear to me that God cannot do certain things not
despite of who he is, but because of who he is.
God is not interested in forcing us to love, obey or worship him.
He is not that way.
He is so much better than what we ever even dreamed him to be.
We were created in his image.

Friday, April 18, 2008

what's the plan?

led by the Spirit

What an exciting thought, to be supernaturally led by God!
Paul makes a difference between living in the Spirit and
walking in the Spirit in Galatians 5:25.
To have the Holy Spirit indwell us doesn’t yet guarantee
that we live a life that agrees with him. He wants to initiate
God’s character to our will. He doesn’t want to overpower
our will , but direct it to be in the light.
The disciples were with Jesus daily, but they had to learn
to trust him in order to be led by him.
In Luke 22 Jesus asks them to go and prepare a Passover
supper for them. They follow his incredible instructions and
“found it just as he had said to them”. Luke 22:13
In Acts 8 Philip hears God’s specific directions and ends up
meeting with a man whom God had prepared to respond
positively to the call of salvation.
In Acts 10 God prepares an unsaved, but God-fearing, Cornelius
to meet with Peter.
In Acts 16 they meet with Lydia in a place of prayer.
We have witnessed this supernatural work of God around
the world. In heaven we will continue sharing these
testimonies of people being led to people.
Any born-again believer , being in the right place in the right
time, can change the eternal destiny of an entire nation.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

everybody wants something

it's grace

People are so funny with people.
We are, I am.
It’s obvious that God is very much involved in leading us all.
When we become selective and exclusive
in our relationships, God sends us those who challenge our
subjective worlds. True spirituality cannot flourish in a remote
place, separated from the world. It is manifested when people
meet people. Iron sharpens iron with God’s permission. Pr.27:17
People are not what they are supposed to be.
That’s what grace is all about.
On the other hand it’s very comforting to know that no one
is without sin. We all have a continuing need to be
forgiven. It’s not a sign of failure. It’s a sign of strength.
We need grace again and again.
If we continue receiving grace from others, we will grow in
our own ability to minister grace to those around us.
A spiritually minded person doesn’t rejoice in other man’s
failures. He knows the weaknesses of his own heart and his
continuing dependency on God’s grace.
Only grace can bring true security to people’s relationships.
If I reject grace, I will become very small in my soul.
My world shrinks and my relationships stagnate.
Grace leads me out of my false security zones to the shores
of the Red Sea where I have to trust that God will divide
the waters.
His grace still amazes me.

Monday, April 7, 2008



One person’s opinion should not discourage us.
Even the opinion of the majority should not move
us too much.
Opinions are like fashion clothes.
People change them according to their modes and
changing surroundings.
So what, if one knows a lot of words, if none of them
connect with the reality of his life.
Words with authority don’t fall to the ground.
They connect and reach the desired goal.
You might easily get another believer’s opinion about
another church or an individual, but have you ever heard
them edify others. Have they ever ministered mercy
to those who have fallen?
If not, their opinion weights no more than a passing wind.
Shake those opinions off and you’ll be able to see
again the Word of God as the light to your path.

team work


Azerbaijan, America, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan


Disobedience brought pain into the world.
Against all the alternatives that we could have come
up with, God chose to save the world by suffering.
Nobody likes suffering and pain.
No wonder that the prosperity theology that is promoted
by most of the television preachers continues to be so popular.
Unfortunately most of them teach just self-improvement
methods that encourage selfish materialism.
Everything is wrapped up with a superficial niceness where
Christian faith is considered as just another way to gain
something for ourselves.
I don’t think that Paul’s message in I Tim.6:7-10 would
pass the censorship of these channels.
Pain cannot be avoided. It can be wasted or redeemed.
It’s a tragedy when we suffer because of our own mistakes.
It’s a challenge to our spirituality when we suffer
from other people’s faults.
It’s an honor when we suffer for righteousness’ sake.
It’s a special call when are led to a place of suffering
with no definition of it’s reason or duration.
Don’t let the little inconveniences and pain of life
slow down your commitment to follow him.
Draw near the body of Christ when it hurts.
Growth seldom happens without pain.
“Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God
commit their souls to Him in doing good,
as to a faithful Creator.” I Pet.4:19

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Istanbul spring

step by step

In chaotic life situations God doesn’t want us to give up.
He has prepared a way out. The way might include hundreds
of smaller decisions that we have to make to the right direction.
Miracles sound like an easy way out.
Should we expect miracles from God or should we make more
efforts on our behalf? This is the dilemma of faith.
In a fatalistic faith structure believers recognize the sovereignty
of God but think too little of themselves.
In living faith everything is connected with our personal
relationship with God.
We are not just brainless victims in his irresistible kingdom,
we are his friends.
For some religious people it is an abomination to call God a friend.
They would argue that this attitude diminishes the authority of God
and makes him too human.
The incarnation of Christ is the true evidence that God is not
afraid of becoming human.
He has chosen to lead us step by step, thought by thought,
day by day. It almost looks like he wants to guarantee that we
talk with him daily.
“ and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Matt. 28:20
“He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”
Psalm 23:3

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

another coming to Eminonu

thinking about bread

The Jews could not figure out Jesus because they were
not spiritually oriented. When Jesus spoke of himself being
the bread from heaven they responded saying, “ How can
this man give us his flesh to eat.” John 6:52
Jesus didn’t explain too much, just continued speaking about
people’s need to eat his flesh and drink his blood.
Many got offended and followed him no more. John 6:66
Even the disciples were so often missing the amazing
revelations that Jesus taught them.
In Matthew 16 Jesus is teaching them to be on their guard
against legalism and the self-righteous teachings of the
Pharisees. They thought that he was rebuking them because
they had forgotten to take the bread.
Isn’t this often the situation with us, too? Our failures influence
our relationship with the Lord. We expect him to express his
disappointment with us when he actually sees us spotless and
beautiful and ministers to us accordingly.
In order for us to be spiritually minded we need to finally
accept the truth that “He chose us in Him, before the
foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without
blame before him in love…” Eph.1:4
“ For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually
minded is life and peace.” Rom.8:6