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spiritual need among Muslms, from Turkey through central Asia

Hi.  Recently I was in Turkey and had a chance to connect with believers in Jesus working in or from many central Asian countries, including Turkey (which is on the far southwest of this region).  I want to give a few observations.  The first paragraph is copied from my own communications within a tool I use to communicate with those interested in following my trips called MissionMakr.

“My sense of the greatness of the need in both Turkey and central Asia has been heightened considerably. I don’t know if you can feel this with me, but the needs are severe.  And Turkey is very high on this needs list.  A reflection on this: a few years ago in discussion with a brother who “had been to Turkey” he felt that Turkey (or perhaps Istanbul) was not really that unreached so the idea of doing ministry there for his particular group was not something he would recommend.  Having spoken now with people who have ministered there for many years I cannot disagree more.  He was wrong. The needs of Turkey and Istanbul are immense.  Almost beyond understanding. If there are about 5000+ MBB’s in the country out of 79 million plus people, that would be like 20,000+ believers in the USA. Think about that. We have more than 1000x that many believers in the USA (and probably a lot more than that).  I just can’t emphasize enough to please be careful with how we speak about the needs of the world: speak out of understanding and real research.  I have to think that this brother in the past spoke out of his “general sense” of the situation. But he could not have been more wrong.  Yes, there are people working for the kingdom in Turkey; perhaps around 1000+. But that leaves plenty of room for more help and more work to be done.”

In the rest of central Asia out of perhaps 100 million people (leaving out Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and much of Russia), there are around 44000 believers not of Russian background.  Russian believers from the region may number about 100,000.  All of those together make 0.144% of the people as believers in Jesus. That means 99.856% are not. Taking out the Russian believers leaves 0.044 % believers. This is important from the standpoint that in Russia most people are not Muslim, but in central Asia the high high percentage of them are Muslim.  There is SO much to do.

A word regarding Muslims that I hope you can listen to: don’t be afraid of Muslims, simply befriend and love them. I know this was just one trip of about 2 weeks duration, but I also mingled with workers in the country who have been there for various periods of time, from about one to many, many years.  And one of them who has been there about 20 years would say that MOST Muslims are basically just regular people.  And living as close to Syria as they do, they are not unaware of the radical elements in Islam.  ISIS came close to reaching Turkey’s borders not that long ago.  And they have had their share of terrorist attacks in the country.  In my time there in Turkey I rode on trams, busses, and airplanes with Muslims, I ate in their restaurants, I shopped from them, I went into the Blue Mosque where they were praying (men and women in different places in the mosque), I rode on ferries with them, I walked through crowded streets of Muslims, I bought food and gifts from them, and often I am sure they knew I was an American. Or at least a foreigner. Even with the beard I had grown for this trip, my white white skin gives me away. Wearing my Bulls shirt while shopping and site seeing brought many, “Chicago Bulls, Jordan,” comments from the vendors. I never felt a sense of hostility toward me.  

 

And I had the privilege of meeting Turkish believers and at least one Kurdish believer in Jesus.  The word Yasam (with the , under the s is pronounced Yashaum) means “life”.

 

 

Yes, there were staring eyes more than once, but you just experience that more outside the US than in it.  I saw perhaps 3 women fully covered in a burka and with only their eyes showing.  Many wore scarves, but many also in both Istanbul and Antalya were very western in dress. Now Turkey is a secularized state according to their constitution, and this freedom showed in the two cities I was in (for example in terms of dress and the presence of alcohol). But the people are still at least culturally Muslim, and certainly many are more serious about their faith.  And yet, they simply need good neighbors who are Jesus followers and who will love them and spend time with them. They need a loving witness of people who will tell them about the Savior, and help them with questions they might have to understand our faith and to make sense of things that are disputed within Islam or the Koran.  I want to really encourage us to be those people, and to keep praying, or start, for people within Islamic cultures or countries who are seeking to do these very things.

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Our life and mission

  1. What is life for?

2. What is your mission?

3. What do you spend your energy and time and thoughts on?

If numbers two and three above don’t match, you are distracted.

For a Jesus follower, #1 is for Jesus.  2 Corinthians 5:14-15, “For Christ’s love compels us because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.  And he died for all that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”

Jesus is our life: “”When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you will also appear with him in glory.” Col 3:4

So anyone and everyone who follows Jesus, these are true.  From Stephen Curry to an Amazonian Christian living in the rainforest in a hut.  Jesus is our life.  And if we do not live for him then we are distracted and living in sin.

So what is the mission of every Christian?  Is it the same or different?  I believe the mission is the same, but our parts in that mission are as varied as there are people.

One way to think of this is that God has given us different gifting according to Ephesians 4, that fits in one of 5 areas. WE are made into apostles (of the missionary type), prophets (of the truth telling type), evangelists, shepherds (pastors) and teachers.  But no one is all of these.  v 7 there clarifies however that we are each in one of these roles, at least.  But the reason He gave these gifts is given afterm to build up the body for works of service that enable the whole body to fulfill its mission. And what is that?

Our mission, together, is to obey Jesus in his commandment to make disciples of all peoples of the world.  From Genesis to Revelation, this is what God has desired for His people since he began to create a people through whom the Messiah would come.  From Genesis 12:3, to all the promises of the patriarch, to the story of Jonah, and the story and example of Daniel, God has wanted His light to go to the ends of the earth. Then in Rev 5:9-10 and 7:9-10 we see in John’s vision that God fulfills this mission He has had all along.  God wants people from all the peoples in His eternal kingdom, and we all have a role in that happening. Some are waterers, some are planters, but God is the maker and grower of life. See 1 Cor 3 for how Paul lays this out.

So, one point to understand: it is clear that the commands given to the 12 in each of the gospels are meant to be fulfilled by all of God’s people together.  Even the original 11 who went out did not each try to go everywhere.  They went ways as God opened doors for each of them. They understood that this was something we all share together.  So we should understand it that way.  Nevertheless, the impulse to go to all the peoples should be something we each find our part in. Some going means there are others sending.  We see this in Acts 13:1-3.  Not everyone went, nor did the Holy Spirit set aside everybody to go. Each had their part.

So we each must find our part in this great calling. And God will certainly give us the wisdom to see this if we look to him (see James 1 on the promise to receive asked for wisdom).  However, it is possible to get side tracked into what is NOT this mission.  We do that when we substitute other good causes, or bad ones, into the place this mission of Jesus should have.

 

In my next posts I will look at some distractions that we let get in the way of the mission.

 

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the nine Turkic people clusters form its highly unreached affinity block

the nine Turkic people clusters form its highly unreached affinity block

In central Asia there is an “affinity bloc” of peoples called the Turkic peoples.  

An  affinity bloc is defined at Joshua Project like this:All people groups, who either live in a particular region or have similar cultural roots. Peoples are broadly grouped into 16 blocs with affinities based on language, culture, religion, politics. In nearly every Bloc there are widely dissimilar and unrelated linguistic minorities, but often there is one particular culture that is dominant.”

Within this bloc of peoples are 9 clusters of peoples.

A “cluster” of peoples is defined also at Joshua Project: “Within each Affinity Bloc are a number of more closely related peoples which, for strategic purposes, may be clustered together. These relationships are often based on a common identity of language and name but sometimes on the basis of culture, religion, economy, or dominance of one group over another. Almost all People Clusters have total populations of over one million. It is likely that each People Cluster will need an international partnership of Christian churches and agencies for the effective evangelization of each constituent people group.”

(see the end of this post for further definitions)

affinity-blocs-fgc

As a whole the Turkic peoples affinity bloc are comprised of 360 people groups within countries. They are from the light purple areas in the picture here.  304 of these people groups are unreached. 172,582,000 of 176,719,000 people live within unreached people groups.  That is 97.7% of the people living within unreached people groups and is the second most unreached affinity block by this measure in the world.

 

The nine clusters of peoples that form the Turkic people affinity bloc are the following. You can read more at each link if you like about the various people groups within that cluster. 

Lu Lu Ren woman
Photo Source: Paul Noll

 

kyakala manThe Altaic peoples are composed of 13 people groups (within countries which means if we count across countries there would be 10). Within the Altaic peoples are 401,000 people.  349,000 of these people live in unreached people groups.

 

Northern Azeri
Photo Source: Azerbaijani Partnership
afshari woman
Photo Source: Frontiers

The Azerbaijani peoples are composed of 40 people within countries (if you count across countries there are 15).  ALL 40 of these people groups are unreached with the gospel.   There are 31,603,000 people within the Azerbaijani peoples.

 

 

kazak quinghai
Photo Source: Abdulrakhim Aitbayev

The Kkazakh manazakh peoples are composed of 35 peoples within countries (across countries there are 4). 32 of the 35 people groups are unreached. 14,758,000 of 14,764,000 people live within unreached people groups.  As a note, that is more people within unreached people groups than in ALL of the USA (10,575,000 people in the USA live in unreached people groups).

 

kyrgyz man
Photo Source: Doc Kozzak Creative Commons
Akto Turkmen woman
Photo Source: Paul Noll

The Kyrgyz peoples are composed of 13 people within countries (across countries there are 2).  All 13 people groups are unreached.  It is comprised of 4, 737,000 people.

 

 

Gagauzi turk girl
Photo Source: Maria Karanfil
Turk man
Photo Source: Charles Fred Creative Commons

The Turkish peoples are comprised of 95 people groups within countries (9 peoples across countries). 88 of these people groups are unreached, and that is comprised of  58,333,000 of the 58,606,000 total people within the Turkish people group cluster.  The Turkish peoples are the largest cluster of peoples within the Turkic peoples affinity bloc.  Over 53,000,000 of these people live in the country of Turkey.

 

A Turkmen girl

turkmen children

The Turkmen peoples are comprised of 14 people groups within countries (1 people across countries). All 14 of these people groups are unreached and are comprised of 9,240,000 people.

 

tatar chulym
Photo Source: Bethany World Prayer Center
nogai woman
Photo Source: Bethany World Prayer Center

The Ural-Siberian peoples are comprised of 102 people groups within countries (41 across countries). 59 of these people groups are unreached.  7,377,000 of the 11,183,000 people in the Ural-Siberian cluster live in unreached people groups. This is the most reached of the people clusters within the Turkic peoples affinity bloc.

 

 

salar woman and girl

Uyghur man
Photo Source:EnricX Creative Commons

The Uyghur peoples are comprised of 26 people groups within countries (9 peoples across countries). All 26 of these people groups are unreached and are comprised of 15,685,000 people.

 

 

 

southern uzbek man
Photo Source: COMIBAM / Sepal
uzbek girl
Photo source: Paul Bartlett

The Uzbek peoples are comprised of 22 people groups within countries (2 peoples across countries). All 22 of these people groups are unreached and are comprised of 30,496,000 people.

 

 

 

For clarity, Joshua Project defines a people group as follows: “A significantly large grouping of individuals who perceive themselves to have a common affinity with one another. “For evangelization purposes, a people group is the largest group within which the Gospel can spread as a church planting movement without encountering barriers of understanding or acceptance.”  In many parts of the world lack of understandability serves as the main barrier and it is appropriate to define people groups primarily by language with the possibility of sub-divisions based on dialect or cultural variations.  In other parts of the world, most notably in portions of South Asia, acceptance is a greater barrier than understandability. In these regions, caste, religious tradition, location, common histories and legends, plus language may be used to define the boundaries of each people group.  Joshua Project uses the terms “people”, “people group” and “ethnic people” synonymously.”

 

For further clarity, Joshua Project gives the following definition for unreached people group: “Joshua Project uses the terms “unreached” and “least-reached” to mean the same thing. The terms are used interchangeably on this website.  An unreached or least-reached people is a people group among which there is no indigenous community of believing Christians with adequate numbers and resources to evangelize this people group.  The original Joshua Project editorial committee selected the criteria less than or equal to 2% Evangelical Christian and less than or equal to 5% Professing Christians. While these percentage figures are somewhat arbitrary, “we should not underestimate the significance of the small group of people who have a vision of a just and gentle world. The quality of a whole culture may be changed when two percent of its people have a new vision.” – Robert Bellah, Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University, originally quote in Psychology Today in the 1970s, currently quoted in Christianity Today Oct 2011: 42.”

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Lifting Us Up to Joy

You made the worlds, Glory crowned you
You put twinkle lights above this one
I was a happy thought under a tree
But began to darkenYou knew, you knew, you knew
I went one way
You came down
To find meI ran farther, I run sometimes still
You went lower
Wrapped at birth by your mom and laid in a feed trough
You wrapped a cloth yourself
To clean my feet

I pulled them away
You let others wrap you
In a scarlet robe
In a crown of pain

I yelled crucify
Away with you
You said, “Ok-  for you-
I give my life away”
You became the lowest
Sin- forsaken
Dying – Dead

Why would you do that
for me?
Why go so low
for me?
I wouldn’t have
for you
I couldn’t have
for you
But you did
for joy

Risen to life- to joy
So my eyes lift again
To you
The joy to my world
You are
The One who went lowest
from the highest
To save the lowest
like me
To be with you
the highest
That my joy can now be full.

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The Holy Spirit: a paper from my Gateway theology class

The Holy Spirit

We believe that the Holy Spirit, in all that he does, glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ. He convicts the world of its guilt. He regenerates sinners, and in Him they are baptized into union with Christ and adopted as heirs in the family of God. He also indwells, illuminates, guides, equips and empowers believers for Christ-like living and service (this statement is from the Evangelical Free Church statement of faith. The following paper discusses and explains this statement).

 

The Holy Spirit is a person of the Godhead. (Ac 5:3-4; 2 Cor 13:14)  He is co-equal to the Father and the Son (2 Cor 13:14).  Similarly to the Son of God submitting to the Father (Jn 5:19-23, 30), the Holy Spirit submits to the Father and the Son (Jn 14:25,16:7). He does not speak to people on His own, but only what He hears from the Father and the Son (Jn 16:13-15).  The Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus in what He says (Jn 16:13-14).

The Holy Spirit is the Person of God who works in people to reveal spiritual truth to them (1 Cor 2:9-12; Jn 16:7-11).  He convicts the people in the world of guilt in regards to three areas: their sin (Jn 16:8-9), their lack of righteousness (Jn 16:8, 10), and that a judgment is coming upon them (Jn 16:8, 11).  People are convicted by the Holy Spirit about their sin because they do not take the Savior for themselves, and so are still in their sin (Jn 16:8,11). But this same Spirit will also testify to them of Jesus (Jn 15:26), pointing them to the one who has died and been raised to save them (2 Cor 4:3-5, 2 Thes 2:13-14).  People are convicted by the Holy Spirit about their lack of righteousness because Jesus is no longer here to show them a righteous life (Jn 16:8, 10).  God now wants us to know we are unrighteous in ourselves (Rom 3:23), and to look to Christ as our righteousness (1 Cor 1:30; 2 Cor 5:21). People are convicted by the Holy Spirit about a judgment coming upon them because Jesus has already judged the ruler of this world, their leader (Jn 12:31; Jn 16:8, 11).  God would have us flee the wrath to come and receive the salvation that is in His Son (1 Thes 1:4-10, 5:9-10).

The Holy Spirit is involved in the salvation of sinners (Ti 3:4-7).  We are spiritually dead before God gives us new life (Eph 2:1-3), and it is the Holy Spirit who regenerates us (Ti 3:4-7), making us alive to God (Jn 3:5-8; Rom 6:11).  This regeneration happens when we are baptized with God’s Spirit (Matt 3:11; Ac 11:16-17) by Jesus at our conversion (Eph 1:13-14).  The Holy Spirit renews us and gives us spiritual birth (Ti 3:4-7).  He not only regenerates us, He also comes to live in us (Jn 14:17; Jn 7:37-39)!  If the Spirit of God is not indwelling a person, that person is not actually saved (Rom 8:9).  When the Spirit comes to dwell in us, we become united with Christ (1 Cor 6:17-20) and become “saints”, or people set apart for God (Philip. 1:1-3; 2 Thes 2:13-14). This is a believer’s initial sanctification (2 Thes 2:13-14; 1 Cor 6:9-11). The Holy Spirit seals us into Christ as a King’s insignia would seal a document as officially from the King (Eph 1:12-14). The Holy Spirit is a down payment in a Christian guaranteeing that we will be fully redeemed and glorified in the future  (Eph 1:14; Rom 8:30). The Spirit of God brings about our adoption as children into God’s family (Rom 8:14-17).  We actually become God’s children, not just in name (1 Jn 3:1-2).

Once we are a child of God, the Holy Spirit accomplishes many things within the Christian to create Christ-like living and service (Jn 7:37-39; Jn 14:12).  The Spirit of God indwells the believer (Jn 14:17), and so the believer becomes the temple of God now (1 Cor 6:18-20).  This is true both individually and corporately of believers in Jesus (1 Cor 6:18-20; Eph 2:19-22).  The Spirit of God illuminates the believers regarding the truths of God so that we can understand them (1 Cor. 2:12-14).  The Spirit of God guides believers in knowing and understanding truth, and in living righteous lives (Jn 16:13; Rom 8:12-14).  He also equips the believer with gifts (Rom 12:4-8; 1 Cor 12:4).  The gifts of the Spirit will all endure until Jesus returns (1 Cor 13:8-12). These gifts enable the people of Jesus to serve each other (1 Pet 4:10), to strengthen, encourage, and comfort each other (1Cor 12:7, 14:3, 12), and to equip the people of God to build up His body (Eph 4:11-12). The Holy Spirit also empowers Christians (Ac 1:8).  One of the ways He does this is in our witness to Christ (Ac 4:31; Jn 15:27).

The Christian is commanded to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph 5:18).  This is to be an on-going experience of the presence, power and control by the Holy Spirit of the Christian (Ac 4:8, 23-31; Eph 5:18). The Spirit of God also desires to produce fruit through the Christian (Gal 5:22-23). The fruit of the Spirit are traits, attitudes and actions in a Christian that honor and please God (Jn 15:8, 16), the main one being love (Matt 22:37-40; Gal 5:22).

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