Our church in Antalya today was St. Paul Union Church. It was a five minute walk from our hotel. We went to the 10:30 English service but they also have a Turkish service at 1:00 and Iranian service at 5:00.
Their stated purpose: to glorify and enjoy the one true God, to grow together in Christ-focused faith, to give grateful service to God and people, and to share Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
As I perused the worship program, I noted that the sermon today would be given by Mark Wilson.
I had asked Ertunga, who is not a follower of Christ and more of an agnostic, how he was so knowledgeable about the Bible. He pointed to a book called The Spirit Said Go by Mark Wilson. (I highly recommend it for individual reading and group study of Acts.) He said that he learns a lot by reading his books. As I am reading the program, I see that the sermon will be given by none other than Mark Wilson!! He even gave me a signed copy of his book. Small world, Big God!
Sidenote: It is a mystery that many guides in Turkey and even Israel know about Jesus, study the Bible, yet don’t walk away changed. My prayer is that Ertunga and other Turkish guides meet Jesus in the pages of the Bible that they carry and read to us. May they receive the blessing of truly and personally knowing Him.
St. Paul Union Church (SPUC) was founded in 1999. It provides a place of Christian worship. They also have Paul’s Place Cafe, an air-conditioned space and adjoining gardens for coffee, lunch and desserts. They are involved in cultural learning, compassionate service and winsome outreach. Here is a picture of their announcements outside the church.
Andrew and Katie lead us through an amazing section of familiar contemporary songs where each builds on the truths of the last song as opposed to a selection of favorites. I really felt my heart preparing.
- You Are God Alone
- You Never Let Go
- Above All
- Lord, I Give You My Heart
Above All has always been a favorite. My late mother loved this song and wanted her granddaughters sing it at her funeral which they did through tears. Today it brought tears to my eyes as it recounts kings, powers, treasure, etc. which we are seeing and hearing about every day. Jesus is above all all these things!!
These lyrics really sum up our trip.
Above all powers
Above all kings
Above all nature
And all created things
Above all wisdom
And all the ways of man
You were here
Before the world began
Above all kingdoms
Above all thrones
Above all wonders
The world has ever known
Above all wealth
And treasures of the earth
There’s no way to measure
What You’re worth
Laid behind a stone
You lived to die
Rejected and alone
Like a rose
Trampled on the ground
You took the fall
And thought of me
Above are some of the stain glass windows representing the seven churches.
There are about 75 adults in attendance. Children came to the front. A blessing was prayed for them and their parents, and then they were excused to attend a children’s church. The children’s faces beamed as they know the they are being prayed for. Children are a blessing and it is a blessing to be in God’s presence.
Judges 11:1-6, 11, 29-37
By his own admission, this is a controversial passage but we shouldn’t ignore it. We must dig deeper.
The pastor, Mark Wilson, came forward and the reader of the scripture laid his hands on the pastor and blessed the message that he would be preaching on the Word of God.
Sermon: Jephthah the Judge
Mark said that he often has vivid dreams. Last night he dreamt that he was getting ready to preach at the church and there were children holding his hands praying for him.
The faith a child is a precious thing.
He had a DNA test done that not only determined that he was 60% Swedish, but could even identify the county he was from – Mora. it is famous for the Dola horses but also for the famous artist, Anders Zorn. His cousin worked on a documentary of his life: Anders Zorn in the Gilded Age (2013)
Born as the illegitimate son of a working class woman, life was not particularly easy for the young Anders. He had never met his father though the man had acknowledged him as his son and given him his name. From a young age Anders was fascinated by all forms of art and displayed artistic abilities. Through his determination and sheer hard work he rose from his humble beginnings to become one of the most famous artists to have been born in Sweden. He is credited with painting the portraits of three US Presidents.
Zorn has a lot in common with Jephthah from our scripture.
Background information can be found in Judges 10. Verses 6&7 describe the problem. (All of this took place east of the Jordan River in the land that is present day Jordan. This is where two tribes of Israel settled.) Verses 15-18 described the solution (and is our solution today.)
1. Only after repentance (Humbleness before God is hard but absolutely necessary.)
2. Turn away from false gods. (We have many. Things other than God that we think will make us happy.)
3. Leader of God’s choosing. (Today, that is Jesus.)
4. Allow spirit to work in us. (Let the Holy Spirit work through you.)
Jephthah was the illegitimate son of Gilead and a prostitute but he lived with the other legitimate sons. He was a threat to their inheritance so they drove him away. The Bible is silent on the relationship with his parents; only rejection.
He had to find his own way and settled in the land of Tob and lived with other outcasts and became their leader. He was a mighty warrior but he had some personal problems. He had been raiding cities and knew how to fight and use weapons.
The elders asked him to be their leader against the Ammonites.
Why are you elders asking me to help you when you cast me out? Now you want me to be your negotiating partner.
I will do it if you restore me and elevate me.
First, he was peaceable with the king. Why are you fighting us? He tried to negotiate by messengers. Jephthah did not want to fight. He just wanted safe passage.
The Ammonite King felt that the Israelites took his land and he wanted it back.
Jephthah answers with historical review. (In the Middle East, they have a LONG memory of rights and wrongs.)
Where did Jephthah learn the entire story? He was knowledgeable of the scriptures and able to refute the claims of the Ammonite king.
The Ammonite king opposed. Israel had to fight.
The Holy Spirit came upon Jephthah. He empowered his people then and He empowers them today. In the Old Testament, it was temporary and specific. In the New Testament, He is with us and in us. It is the same Holy Spirit.
Jephthah made a vow to God that if he was victorious against the Ammonites, he would sacrifice whatever first came out of his house as a burnt offering.
Did he make a mistake by making a vow? No. We have seen these in the Bible.
Jacob: Genesis 28. God has no problem with making a vow. He honored it. Jacob made a vow in return. It was marked with a stone of remembrance.
Hannah: 1 Samuel 1. She asked God to give her a son and if he did, she would give that son to temple service.
David: Psalm 132. He made an oath to God and he was a man after God’s heart.
Sadly, his daughter came out of the house. He tore his clothes in sadness. His daughter told her father that he must honor the oath he made with God. She asked to go to the mountains with her friends for two months to mourn that she would never have children.
Was his vow too vague or too specific? Regardless, it was unwise. How he framed the question seemed to be the problem? Don’t we bargain with God with the problem of the day. We don’t need to negotiate with God. He knows. Our job is to ask. His job is to answer.
What happened to his daughter?
1. We know that he clearly knew history. Israelites specifically forbade the sacrifice of children that was taking place in other nations. Deut. 18:10.
2. The word whatever is masculine so what he said was an anticipation of an animal. Lev says that a sacrifice must be a male without defect. Female would have been unacceptable.
3 Her virginity is mentioned several times. One needs sons to carry a legacy forward. He lost a daughter and the ability to have offspring.
Did he sacrifice his daughter as a burnt offering? I don’t think so.
1. He dedicated his daughter at sanctuary at Shiloh – Not stated
2. He is listed as a hero of the faith in Hebrews 11: 32-33.
3. Her obedience is celebrated each year by young Jewish girls. Would an act of abomination be an annual celebration?
4. Jephthah continued to be a judge for 7 more years. Would they listen to a man who gave his daughter as a burnt offering?
Perhaps this would be a great story for those singles who have chosen a Godly lifestyle serving the Lord.
This is a praying church. When asked if anyone needed prayer, I jumped up and went forward. My dear friend has a son, Luke Henry, who has Stage 4 liver cancer. He is facing prep surgery in August and surgery in September. He has a wife and two young children. We prayed over Luke and the church will continue to pray. I noticed that they meet in their gardens to pray together on Tuesday mornings.
Two weeks ago we were worshipping at the Union Church of Istanbul. We met Fred and he was in worship with us today. Small world, Big God!!