Tony Cooke Ministries Meeting Reports
Sunday-Monday, September 22-23, 2002
After a one-hour flight from Tulsa to Dallas, a ten-hour flight from Dallas to Frankfurt, Germany, and a three-hour flight to Istanbul, Turkey, Jim Montgomery (an RMAI Traveling Minister and RBC member) and I arrived in this ancient city.
We enjoyed dinner with Larry & Kay Mills and Larry and Heidi Jones (ministering here in Turkey); Bob and Jackie Johnson (serving in Cairo, Egypt), and Russ Tatro (based out of Tulsa)
We begin teaching in the ministers’ conference tomorrow.
Bible History in this Region
The biblical history that has happened in this region is absolutely staggering!
* Noah’s Ark came to rest after the flood on Mt. Ararat, which is in eastern Turkey.
* When Abraham left Ur of the Chaldees, he settled in Haran, which is in southeastern Turkey.
* The Tigris and the Euphrates rivers, both of which are mentioned in Genesis 2, originate in modern-day Turkey, leading some scholars to believe that the Garden of Eden may have been located in this area.
* Tarsus, the city where the Apostle Paul was born, raised, and educated, is in modern-day Turkey.
* Antioch, was the “base” where Paul and Barnabas began their ministry travels (Acts 13). It is also the place where followers of Jesus were first called “Christians” (Acts 11:26). Antioch is now known as Antakya, in modern-day Turkey.
* Modern-day Turkey is the home of all seven churches of Asia Minor – the congregations Jesus addressed in the book of Revelation (Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea).
* Other Bible names associated with this region, especially involving Paul’s travels and letters, include: Galatia, Colosse, Troas, Miletum, Pisidia, Derbe, Lystra, and Iconium.
The “Berlitz” travel guide I purchased for this trip says of Istanbul, “This is the only city in the world to have been the capital of both an Islamic and a Christian empire. As Constantinople, jewel of the Byzantine Empire, it was for more than 1,000 years the most important city in Christendom. As Istanbul it was the seat of the Ottoman sultans, rulers of a 500-year Islamic empire that stretched from the Black Sea and the Balkans to Arabia and Algeria.”
I am excited about the opportunity of being able to minister God’s Word here, and I thank you for your prayers!
Tuesday, September 24, 2002
Teaching Begins… A Focus on Relationships
The church in Turkey is young and fragile, and there are many new believers. I was asked to teach on relationships here, as this is an area of great need. My first session of teaching was this morning at 10:30 a.m. (that was 2:30 a.m. in Tulsa).
The fall of man brought about corruption in how we relate to ourselves, each other, and to God. God’s plan for our life is not simply that we someday go to heaven, but that we are transformed in all of our relationships here on this earth. Because the love of God that has been shed abroad in our hearts, we can relate to ourselves, to others, and to God in a new and dynamic way.
- We examined 1 Peter 3, and saw that if our marriage relationship is not what it should be in can hinder our prayers.
- We looked at Mark 11:22-25 and saw that unforgiveness can undermine our faith.
- We also looked at Job 42:10 and saw that Job praying for his friends was a great key in the work of restoration that God desired to do in his life.
Russ Tatro and Jim Montgomery ministered in the afternoon. I would have loved to have heard them, but felt it better to rest and continue to adjust to the time difference. I’ll enjoy hearing them later this week.
The Relentless Pursuit of God – Evening Service
On Tuesday evening, I ministered on the fact that God loves us, has initiated redemption for us, and has relentlessly pursued us. Further, He has provided all things for us, and eagerly desires to bless us in every way. Tonight’s message stressed the goodness of God, His joy in blessing us, and His great benevolence toward us. I was privileged to pray for many people about a variety of needs, and three individuals responded to the altar call.
Wednesday, September 25, 2002
In today’s session, I continued teaching along the lines of relationship, stressing that “horizontal problems” (unresolved relationship issues with others) can affect our “vertical relationship” (our relationship with God).
We looked at James 5 where we are instructed to confess our faults one to another, and to pray one for another that we might be healed. We then did an overview of all the New Testament scriptures dealing with “one another,” (e.g., love one another, prefer one another, admonish one another, edify one another, exhort one another, etc.).
Three Ways that God Works in our Lives
I shared about the fact that God’s work in our life is to be three-dimensional:
1. Inward – This is what God does for me and in me… this involves a river of life flowing in us.
2. Outward – This is what God does through me for others… this involves a river of blessing flowing from us.
3. Upward – This is what God births in us that results in praise, glory, and honor being given back to Him… this involves a river of praise flowing unto Him.
Finally, we looked at such verses as, “Freely you have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8), and “such as I have, give I thee” (Acts 3:6). The principle is that the believer can only give to others what he has received, and it is the love of God, shed abroad in our hearts, that is to be the basis for all of our interactions and dealings with others.
After lunch, I listened as Russ Tatro shared an outstanding message on the subject of Authority. It was great, and applicable to believers everywhere, not just in Turkey.
The Hagia Sophia (the Church of Holy Wisdom)
Larry Jones then took me to the Haghia Sophia, a massive and awe-inspiring church built by the Emperor Constantine in A.D. 325. The last Christian service to be held in this building was on May 28, 1453, the day before Constantinople fell to the Turks. It was immediately converted into an imperial mosque, and served as a place of worship for Islam before it was turned into a museum in 1935.
The vaulted ceiling in this building is 180 feet high, the same as a 15-story building. It is truly an architectural wonder.
In the evening, Jim Montgomery shared an excellent message on the subject of the redemptive work of Christ, and then laid hands on a number of people who came forward to receive healing.
People From All Over
One of the things that impresses me about these meetings is the rich cross-section of people who are here. In addition to Turks, there are a number of Iranians, some missionaries to Egypt, a couple of Kurdish believers, as well as individuals from Armenia, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, etc. We are blessed to be able to share with people from a wide variety of nationalities.
Thursday, September 26, 2002
I continued today teaching on relationships in the morning session. We examined 2 Timothy 4:6-21 as a cross-section of Paul’s relationships. We first examined verses 6-9 as they portray Paul’s relationship to his own calling… to himself.
We pointed out how that Paul had a solid grasp on his past (I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, etc.), on his present (I am already being poured out as a drink offering, the time of my departure is at hand), and his future (there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day).
It is vital for believers and leaders to have a sense of security in who they are, in their calling, and in their function. Those who are unsettled and discontent within themselves will almost always have difficulty relating to others. They take out their frustrations and their disappointments on those around them. Believers who are frustrated will lash out at their pastors, and pastors who are unhappy within themselves will often take out their frustrations on the congregation.
“Come Before Winter” – Relationships that we Really Need
Then we looked at Paul’s relationship with Timothy. It was a relationship that Paul greatly needed. Writing from prison, he asked Timothy to bring him his cloak and his books, and to “come before winter.” Investigating Paul’s relationship with Timothy closer, we found that Paul put Timothy in a unique class. He said in Philippians 2:20-21 that he had no one else who was “likeminded, who will sincerely care for your state.” The word, “likeminded” comes from two Greek words meaning “equal soul.”
We spent a good bit of time talking about how God works through teams of people, but they must have a common heart, even though they may have differing personalities, styles, and gifts. We’ll look at the other relationships Paul described in this passage of Scripture tomorrow.
Teaching Begins on the Holy Spirit
In the afternoon session, I spoke about the Holy Spirit, listing 38 specific functions that He performed in the Bible. I spoke about the relationship Shopping at the Grand Bazaar between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and how they work harmoniously and in conjunction with One another. In short, the Father plans, the Son performs, and the Spirit reveals. We focused on the need for believers to have an awareness of the great diversity and variety of roles the Holy Spirit desires to have in our lives, and how we can yield to Him and allow Him to bring to pass the full plan that God has for us.
I was also able to go to “The Grand Bazaar” briefly today. This is the world’s largest covered market with over 4,000 shops (I did not go into them all)! The original building was built in 1461, and its narrow streets total 5 miles in length. Shop owners here will stand at the entrance of their stores and call out to potential customers, urging them to come in and buy. Negotiating on prices is expected here (and can be quite animated). You can usually make a purchase for about one-half of the original asking price.
Friday, September 27, 2002
Getting Around in a City of Seventeen Million People
Just a word about getting to and from the church meetings… the hotel I’m staying in is in the very old, historic section of Istanbul. I ride a tram, which is about the equivalent of four train cars, to and from the services. These run constantly, and every car is very crowded, usually jam-packed. It’s a relatively short ride to the area where the church is, but on the way we pass the renowned Blue Mosque and the Topkapi Palace (the former residence and seat of government of the Ottoman sultans – construction on this palace began in 1462).
Conclusion to Teaching on Relationships
This morning I concluded the series on relationships from 2 Timothy 4, and spoke about Paul’s relationship with Demas (disappointment), with Luke (the faithful), with Mark (damaged relationships), with Alexander (the deadly), and with Jesus (the friend that sticks closer than a brother). To be successful in life and ministry, we need strong people skills and depth of character to guide us through all of the relationships we encounter, both the good and the bad.
Several Receive the Infilling of the Holy Spirit
In the afternoon, I did a second session concerning the infilling of the Holy Spirit. We basically went through the book of Acts and taught about the consistency of this Bible experience. It was something Jesus commanded, and is called both a promise and a gift. At the end, I invited people to come and receive the infilling of the Spirit, and nine or more individuals – Iranians, Turks, and Africans – responded and received. It was wonderful!
This has been a great week of ministry, and it’s been a joy ministering alongside of Russ Tatro and Jim Montgomery. They’ve both done an outstanding job ministering the Word to these hungry and appreciative people.
Saturday, September 28, 2002
I spoke today for two different Bible schools. One was for native Turks, and the other was for a group from a nearby, closed country. The unemployment rate is very high in Turkey, and those that have jobs are often required to work very long hours, six days a week. There are not many “part time jobs” as we would understand them in the States. As a result, the only day it is feasible for them to have Bible school here in Turkey is on Saturday. As a result, they make the day quite concentrated in terms of Bible study.
A very clear observation this week is that this culture is not as conducive toward and supportive of Christian ministry. It could be a bit intimidating and daunting for those aspiring to Christian service.
A Nervous Minister?
In my sessions today, I dealt with the fact that Timothy appears to have needed to overcome a lot of nervousness, anxiety, and fear in fulfilling his ministry. Can you imagine trying to fill Paul’s shoes, and follow in his footsteps? Paul was older, had significantly more experience, had a powerful personality, and had deep spiritual experiences. It’s possible that when Paul moved on and left young Timothy in charge, believers may not have been as respectful to him. This could have been very challenging to young Timothy.
- Paul told Timothy not to let anyone despise his youthfulness, but to be an example of believers (1 Timothy 4:12).
- He told him that God had not given him a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).
- Is it possible that Timothy’s stomach problems (1 Timothy 5:23) were not so much related to a “disease” as they were the consequences of shaky nerves and anxiety?
- Paul even went so far as to tell the Corinthian church, “…if Timothy comes, see that he may be with you without fear… let no one despise him. But send him on his journey in peace” (1 Corinthians 16:10-11).
It sounds like Paul knew that Timothy was inclined toward excessive timidity, and he did not want insensitive people making Timothy’s ministry more difficult.
We concluded the sessions looking at the insecurities Peter faced in his life and ministry. Peter was different than Timothy in that his personality was naturally bold and impulsive. Peter was the one to always have an opinion, the one to step out of the boat, the one to boldly claim that he would never deny Jesus, the one to take out his sword and swing it.
Peter was also one who failed, who denied Jesus, and then felt the pain of his failure deeply.
In John 21, we see the “restoration” of Peter and the reaffirmation of his calling. There had always been an element of competition among the disciples and this surfaced again in this post-resurrection appearance of Jesus to Peter. Jesus had told him, “Feed my sheep,” and “follow me.” Peter responded by saying, “What about this man? (referring to John). Jesus responded to Peter sharply, and said, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me” (John 21:22).
Insecurity will not only produce nervousness, fear, and timidity as it did with Timothy, but it will produce comparison and a sense of competition as it did with Peter.
The Solution to Overcoming Insecurity
The solution is found in recognizing that God has called each of us to serve Him in different ways, and not trying to be like anyone else. If you are Timothy, you don’t have to try to be a carbon-copy of Paul. If you are Peter, you don’t have to worry about what God has called John to do.
- Be yourself!
- Be who God made you to be!
- God has given you unique gifts and assignments.
- Know that God will equip you and empower you to accomplish what He has called you to do.
A One-Day Trip to Ephesus – Walking Where Paul, John, and Timothy Walked
Tomorrow, I will be taking a flight to Izmir, Turkey (this was Smyrna in Bible days), and taking a car over to Ephesus. I am very excited about being able to spend the day touring the remains of this ancient city. Consider the following about Ephesus:
Once Paul began his apostolic ministry, he spent a longer period of time in Ephesus (3 years) than he spent anywhere else. Paul’s moving and impacting statements to the elders of the church at Ephesus are found in Acts 20:17-38.
Paul’s ministry was extremely powerful and influential in Ephesus:
* As a result of Paul’s daily teaching at the lecture hall of Tyrannus, “all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 19:9-10).
* It was from Ephesus that God did special miracles by the hands of Paul, so that aprons and cloths were carried from his body to the sick, and diseases and evil spirits departed from the people (Acts 19:11-12).
* It was in Ephesus that “many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds. Also, many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver” (Acts 19:18-19).
* It was in Ephesus that Paul’s ministry affected so many lives, that the craftsmen who fashioned souvenirs of the goddess Diana, feared that the preaching of the gospel would result in the demise of their trade and in the downfall of the great temple dedicated to her. As a result, one of the silversmiths, a man named Demetrius, stirred up a riot against Paul (Acts 19:23-41).
* Paul wrote the book of 1 Corinthians from Ephesus.
After Paul departed from Ephesus, Timothy remained to combat false teaching (1 Timothy 1:3). Many traditions testify that the apostle John lived in Ephesus toward the end of the first century. In John’s vision from the island of Patmos off the coast of Asia Minor, Jesus described the church of Ephesus as flourishing, although it was troubled with false teachers and had lost its first love (Revelation 2:1-7). In the sixth century A.D. the Roman emperor Justinian (A.D. 527-565) raised a magnificent church to John’s memory in this city.
According to Eusebius, John spent his last years in Ephesus and superintended adjoining churches, using Ephesus as a ministry base. The traditional burial place of the apostle John is also located in Ephesus. Mary, the mother of Jesus, who was committed by the Lord to John (John 19:26) is also said to buried in Ephesus, as is Timothy.
It is estimated that Ephesus had a population of around 200,000 people. Today, Ephesus is one of the best-preserved and most visited of Turkey’s ancient cities. Its marble streets and monuments have been extensively excavated and restored by archaeologists. Of special interest is the Great Theater, the likely setting for the riot precipitated by Demetrius and the silversmiths in Acts 19.
Sunday, September 29, 2002
This was a phenomenal day! It was an absolute treat to be able to walk the streets of the city where Paul, Timothy, and John — my heroes — ministered! It was fascinating to walk into the still-standing Great Theater, an impressive ancient structure that seated 20,000 people, and imagine the mob that was there rioting, crying out, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians,” and to imagine Paul, right outside the facility, wanting to come in and speak, but being held back by the disciples and by officials who were his friends.
As I walked up and down the marble streets, I knew that somewhere along there Paul had a shop where he did some tent-making. Scholars believe it was actually his “sweat rags” and his work aprons that were taken to people who were sick, and they received healing when those items were laid upon their bodies. In addition, he taught daily, publicly and from house to house. The whole region was affected with the Gospel as a result of Paul’s labors.
We drove over to a small town on the Aegean sea and had lunch. As we ate, we looked out into the Aegean and knew that just 25 miles off the coast lay Patmos, the small island where the Apostle John was banished by the Emperor Domitian. However, Jesus visited him powerfully on that island, and we have the book of Revelation today as a result.
The Impact of this Trip on my Life Personally
This trip has impacted me personally in several ways. I have come to a greater appreciation for brothers in the Lord such as Larry Mills and Larry Jones, who are laboring in challenging areas, ministering in a part of the world where it’s not popular to be a believer. Operation World says that the population of Turkey is 99.64% Muslim.
I was also highly impressed to see just how transient and temporary worldly power can be. The Greeks, the Romans, and the Ottomans all had their days of “glory.” They are gone, but the Word of God abides forever.
As I stood outside of ancient Ephesus and saw ruins of the temple of Diana, it struck me… all that is left of what was once considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world is just a single column and some rocks strewn around a field. Men, such as Demetrius, clung to this false hope as a means of maintaining their sense of identity, their prestige, and their financial livelihood, but it could not and would not last.
Paul, John, and Timothy gave their lives, their energies, their times, and their talents serving a Risen Christ and proclaiming an everlasting message. As Handel said in his great work, “He shall reign forever and ever!” I was reminded of what martyred missionary, Jim Elliot, said: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
An Expression of Thanks – You Helped Make Great Things Happen!
In this final entry for this trip, let me thank those of you who diligently prayed. I drew so much strength from knowing that people were praying as we ministered here. Some questioned my coming here, but I knew it was the right thing to do. I just heard that as we were leaving, the Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq was on his way to Turkey to present their case to the Turkish government. Also, a container of enriched uranium was just confiscated by officials here in Turkey as it approached the Iraqi border. This part of the world, and especially the believers who live here, need our prayers!
Let me also thank those who have contributed financially to Tony Cooke Ministries in recent times. No offerings were received from believers in Turkey, and we made this trip entirely at our own expense. Your gifts not only made it possible for me to come here and teach God’s Word, but also to bring some substantial resources – ministry materials – that are valued and needed greatly in this part of the world. Some of these have already made it into highly strategic places, and the rest will follow. Pray for the successful delivery of these items to the appropriate destination.
Tomorrow, Monday, September 30, Jim Montgomery and I will get up at 3:00 a.m. to fly back home… a three-hour flight from Istanbul to Frankfurt, Germany, a ten-hour flight to Dallas, and then the quick flight home to Tulsa to once again be with family and friends.